By Ashiq Hussain Bhat
The erstwhile Finance Minister of J&K, Haseeb Drabu, speaking at an event organized by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry had said that he did not see Kashmir as a conflict state or a political issue; that the people of Kashmir cherished wrong notions about it and employed wrong methods to achieve their ends ( the end , by implication, being only a mirage) ; and that they should introspect over the nature and origins of the situation which had not improved in the last 70 years.
This is good advice. Kashmiris are a confused lot. Let them therefore introspect.
Introspection: Ending October 1947, the Maharaja of the former Princely State of Kashmir discovered the excuse of acceding to the Dominion of India subsequent to the blunderous tribal invasion of Kashmir. Instead of pocketing Kashmir, the Prime Minister Nehru of India declared that the final decision regarding the future disposition of Kashmir would be referred to the people of Kashmir. Ending December 1947, Nehru referred Kashmir to the United Nations. Thus, he rendered Kashmir into an international dispute. Exactly one year later, Nehru accepted a ceasefire with Pakistan which resulted in the bifurcation of the State into Indian administered Kashmir and Pakistan administered Kashmir.
Nehru who had converted Kashmir into an international dispute and talked day in and day out of a plebiscite for Kashmir, played foul with the plebiscite theme by forcing Maharaja Hari Singh to abdicate authority in favor of his son Karan Singh when actually, the Maharaja was obligated under UN Resolutions of 5 January 1949 to formally appoint UN-nominated Plebiscite Administrator with full powers.
Ending 1949, the Dominion of India adopted a Republican constitution. Instead of merging Kashmir with India as were all the other former Princely States merged, Kashmir was left in the limbo, when on 26 January, 1950, the Constitution of the Republic of India came into force. No Article of this Constitution applied directly to Kashmir except t Article 370 through whose Clause 1(c), the Article 1 of the Constitution of India also applied.
Since Article 1 of the Constitution of India did not apply to Kashmir by its own force and applied only through Article 370, Kashmir became an Indian administered territory (not Indian Territory the way other Princely States had become). Even so , the Indian administration of Kashmir was/is temporary because Article 370 that defined the relationship between India and Kashmir was/is temporary. This Article was/is temporary not only because it was titled “Temporary, Transitional, and Special” but also because it was/is temporary from within as it laid/lays down the procedure of its own abrogation.
As of now, no Article of the Indian Constitution applies to Kashmir by its own force. They were applied to Kashmir, in addition to Article 1, in May 1954 under Article 370 which was, is, and will continue to be temporary. So , the application of Constitution of India to Kashmir is only indirect and temporary.
Now, consider the (mis)adventures of what was/is called the “Mainstream”. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Afzal Beg, Mohiuddin Qarra, and so on who, in October 1947 , supported accession of Kashmir to India, later on reneged repeatedly. In June 1953, Mohiudding Qarra set up the first anti-India and pro-Pakistan organization in Kashmir called Political Conference. The inception of this organization was accompanied by chanting of pro-Pakistan slogans for the first time after 27 October 1947. (The same person established in , April 1977, the Janata Party, in Kashmir. Now he was pro-India, so to say)
Afzal Beg set up the Plebiscite Front in August 1955 and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah became its patron. Now onward, they were pro-Pakistan. For two decades they milled Kashmiris in the name of Pakistan and plebiscite. In July 1975, Afzal Beg re-established the National Conference. Sheikh Abdullah concentrated all power in his hands.. Now they were pro-India, apparently.
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was pro-India. He did not support the merger of Kashmir by properly abrogating Article 370. Instead, he recognized the external dimension of Kashmir dispute and demanded the Self-Rule Framework for Kashmir.
His daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, during the early stages of her political career, would visit the homes of slain militants and weep and whimper along with the women of the house. When she ascended the pinnacle of her political career by becoming Chief Minister, she likened militants to cats out to pounce upon pigeons.
Presently, she passionately demands dialogue on Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan. Her party’s manifesto revolves around the Self-Rule Framework of Mufti Sayeed. At the same time she is pro-India. But, she would not support abrogation of Article 370 with such exceptions and modification that would merge Kashmir with India.
At the other end of the political spectrum in Kashmir may be similar demagogues but it is/was the “mainstream” politicians who were/could be held to be responsible for the political morass Kashmir is in. They hoodwinked Kashmiris by raising slogans in which they never believed themselves. Plebiscite became the part of Kashmiri imagination because of Sheikh Abdullah, Autonomy because of his son, Self-Rule because of Mufti Sayeed and his daughter.
Despite all this, Haseeb Drabu accused Kashmiris of barking up the wrong tree. Yes, Kashmiris are liable to be blamed because their fault lay(lies) in listening to political demagogues. Had it been otherwise, the fate of the region would have been different.
Last, but not the least, yes, Kashmir needs investment. But before that happens, it needs a plebiscite and if thi is not possible then , at least, it deserves a final call on Article 370 because even under the Constitution of India, it is an unresolved issue.
—The author, a political analyst, can be reached at: [email protected]