Latief U Zaman Deva
The ascendancy on the throne of Kashmir along with its surrounding territories by non-natives began in the early 14th century without any murmurs, owing to subsuming of nativity in all aspects by the rulers, but on arrival on scene of the Mughals during the reign of Akbar in the year 1586, due to a classic example of deception, the establishment comprising of non locals was the beginning of infliction of wounds on the local polity though to some extent benign.
The surrounding territories were actually principalities of Poonch, Rajouri, Kishtwar, Ladakh and Baltistan paying tributes to the Ruler of Kashmir barring seldom disruptions due to the Tibetan, East Turkistanian & North Indian forays till the invasions by Gulab Singh, a feudatory of Khalisa Darbar, Punjab, from 1822 to 1841, resulting in their annexation by occupation, and extension in the territorial map of the Lahore kingdom. The passing of political power, after demise of the Mughal rule, to the authoritarian kingdoms operating from Kabul, Lahore and London through their feudatories/vassals proved to be the most savage, from whose clutches the people got reprieve in 1947 followed by occasional misconceived, malicious and unconstitutional bouts of political violence under the subterfuge of constitution in 1953, 1984, 1986, and hence litany of ‘black days’.
The occupation by outsiders cumulatively for over a thousand years in recorded history of 4300 years, preceding Muslim rule is not referred to being out of context in this piece.
End of impasse with challenges
The Indian Independence Act, 1947 came to be enacted by the British parliament only after the infamous ‘Partition Plan’ was consented to by all major political parties and leaders and therefore both are interspersed for implementation of the scheme under consequential legal coverage provided by the Act of 1947.
The principles for partition of the sub-continent on communal grounds in the West and East covenanted with two-fold characteristics of demography and geographical contiguity were sine-qua-non for amalgamation of states/provinces, qualifying them for the purpose of constituting a separate country (dominion). Punjab and Bengal provinces got divided on the basis of demographic features of districts falling on western and eastern axis respectively except Gurdaspur with tehsil as a unit.
Khulna, a predominantly Muslim Bengali speaking district in Assam and NWFP (Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa today) subjected to referendum, the outcome whereof was merger of Khulna in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) and NWFP in West Pakistan, primarily due to perceptual differences amongst the parties about the political aspirations of majority of the people of these two territories viz. the two nation theory.
While accepting the partition plan the Congress took position about sovereignty, after end of British suzerainty, vesting in people in Indian States and the Muslim League countered it by holding a diametrically opposite view favouring the Rulers. Without any scope for a third option (independence) the rulers had to accede to either of the two dominions, but in J&K, Hyderabad and Junagadh the rulers took in literal sense the provisions of the Act of 1947 inasmuch as to conclude about empowering them in person (rulers) for whatever decision they may take on the question of accession.
Hyderabad being the belly of India and Junagadh a coastal territory of the Indian state of Gujarat, the operation Polo was launched by Indian army liquidating the resistance of untrained Razakars in Hyderabad and leaving no option for the Nawab but to surrender abysmally in face of colossal losses suffered by his main public constituency and state apparatus; and the accession earlier offered by Nawab of Junagadh, in contradistinction with popular sentiments, to Pakistan leading to its acceptance by the Governor General repudiated by the Indian government by itself conducting referendum. In both the cases the demography and geographical features were the main planks of defence before the world leaders and same coached skilfully in UN during the debates about the fall out of controversial accessions in the Indian subcontinent, no doubt Hyderabad subsists on the agenda of UN like Kashmir under non-enforceable provisions of UNSC charter.
Citadel of hope in communalism
The gradual communal outlook nurtured by the British in the aftermath of the ‘first war of independence’ for ruling the country by demonising especially Muslims had resonances in the Indian States where the support for freedom struggle by people depended upon the religion of the ruler. In Hyderabad, Junagadh, Bhopal and many other realms the minority community did not participate in the freedom movement spearheaded by the Congress and instead acted as a bulwark for the rulers.
The above replica in states/provinces under Hindu monarchies could not have been opposite as their co-religionists were religiously their devotees to the extent of worshipping them. J&K was not an exception to the prevailing state of affairs in the country.
Except a few identifiable persons from the minorities, the freedom movement was factually launched and carried forward by the majority community from the platforms of National Conference and Muslim Conference. Gulab Singh and Ranbir Singh during their tenures served the British with a few parallels in Indian history.
The former stooped low by indulging in treachery with the British resulting in annihilation of the Lahore kingdom and the latter by joining the forces of East India Company in the ‘first war of independence’ against the freedom fighters. The other ruler being from the Scindias of Gwalior whose malafide resulted in the death of Jahnsi ki Rani after the ruler clandestinely fled to Bombay by denying the logistical support, let alone joining the freedom fighters.
Mahraja Hari Singh being chip of the same block followed a definite plan which got manifested with sacking of R C Kak from prime ministership for succession later on by M C Mahajan, a protege of Hindu Mahasabha.
His unabashed conduct during the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Jammu narrated by none other than a highly acclaimed personality of J&K, Ved Bhasin, would send shivers down the spine of listeners. Contrary to the impression in some quarters about the option Hari Singh would have exercised but for the uprisings in Gilgit and Poonch with final trigger due to invasion by the tribals from Waziristan on 22 October 1947 in Muzaffarabad is far from reality after appreciating the account surrounding the disarming of Muslims and arming Hindu chauvinists under tutelage of RSS monsters in areas of total uprising against him. The grounds advanced for justifying the operations in Hyderabad and Junagadh feebled the Kashmir story as Hindus constituted over 20% of state population with 5% in Kashmir Valley, 36% in Jammu division, 20.55% (Buddhists) in Ladakh, Astore, Gilgit (leased area) and Gilgit Agency almost 100% Muslim inhabited coupled with connectivity through corridors/networks namely Srinagar-Rawalpindi, Rajouri-Poonch-Mirpur, Jammu-Sialkot, Gilgit-Manshera with Pakistan and none with India – all river systems drained into western Punjab as Indus basin, Railway line Jammu-Sialkot and changed popular aspirations post holocaust in Punjab and Bengal.
Conscious of these limitations and the fact about the freedom struggle in the State having been essentially against the despotic regime of Hari Singh who was not in control of the entire J&K except Kathua, Jammu, and partly Udhampur upto Kud heights after he fled from Srinagar on 26 October 1947 and highly acclaimed policy of Congress about sovereignty vesting in masses in Indian states together with partition plan: NC lead by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah emerged as a supplementary substitute for overcoming the deficiencies pitted against Hari Singh who indeed had consciously delayed the decision about accession to pave the way for construction of road between Kathua and Pathankote in eastern Punjab and arrival of Patiala forces in September 1947, even as the said State had joined Indian union much before 15th August and technically these forces formed a component of Indian Army, supplemented by hordes of fanatic and savage RSS workers fanning in different parts of Jammu under supervision of Kidhar Nath Sawhney and his ilk with Prem Nath Dogra as a local point man.
Hari Singh in his own correspondence with Ministry of Home admits of acting on their advice from 1 September 1947 whose debilitating legal and lack of political and moral authority created genuine framework and space for accommodating NC in concluding the constitutional relationship between the Union of India and J&K.
The instrument of accession signed by Hari Singh was accepted by the Government of India conditionally which turned the instrument into a provisional arrangement and in absence of fulfilment of the conditionality both the documents would be inconsequential but for the ratification of the accession by the J&K Constituent Assembly which conclusively establishes that its final enactments are inviolable and attempts about disruptions could unfold falling apart the constitutional edifice.
Unlike the position of autonomous regions in the world like Quebec in Canada and Catalonia in Spain whose autonomy flow through the laws enacted by the federal legislatures, J&K is distinctly placed due to peculiar constitutional developments conferring the authority to President of India in the matter of application of various provisions of the Constitution of India to J&K on the specific recommendations made/approvals accorded by J&K’s Constituent Assembly.
This scheme of constitutional guarantees are peculiar to ‘associating/federating’ units in emerging post-colonial democracies confronted with integration of the multi-ethnic and national entities having nothing in common except occasional occupations in distant past by the national majority. The unilateral revocation of the special status on 5 August 2019 which had evolved after deliberations and finalised by the J&K Constituent Assembly is a solitary case in parliamentary democracy where ‘grantor’ is finished ab-initio by the ‘grantee’ and more so brazenly conflating the ‘constituent powers’ of a constituent assembly with those of the legislature. What adds to this brazen illegality is the concurrence given by the Governor during President’s rule as an ‘agent’ of the centre, who before donning the gubernatorial mantle was a prominent figure of Hindutva brigade.
The Government of India and the J&K Constituent Assembly, as the two parties to evolution and formulation of constitutional relations between India and J&K, alone could mutually relook into the scheme of the relationship in the event of impasse sans transcending the respective constitutional guaranteed positions.
The unilateral measures of one party only by obliterating the second party through manipulative exercises got initiated by their appointee can by no yardsticks of democracy representing popular aspirations be clothed as democratic and transparent culmination. The discord between the parties recognised under the Constitution about the course of action for abrogation of Article 370 alternately could have been settled by conducting a referendum in J&K which modus operandi alone would be democratic. The mandate if any at national level can’t eliminate the constitutional position of the second party who is not subject to changing politics aiming at knocking down the bottom of negotiated constitutional relationship with a party not part of pan-India freedom movement including its leadership as inspiration but quite distinct under separate leadership.
The resilience of Indian Constitution to meet the diverse aspirations of federating units was a moral authority in the armour of our leaders while sermonising the States in our neighbourhood enmeshed in turmoil due to centralisation of political authority without respect for meeting the aspirations of people with distinct geographical, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds.
In ‘One Nation, One System’ syndrome back home in a highly diverse country how can the case of Madheshi in Nepal and Tamils in Sri Lanka for share in National Assembly commensurate with population and autonomy to people with different religion and ethnic linguistics respectively find favour, more so justification as the discourse propounded can be put at rest with a convenient retort from the other sides on the basis of home turf uniform policies currently in vogue.
Ground swell support
During the last three decades of unprecedented disturbed conditions the street strikes and hartals observed in the Valley had more often than not reverberations only in Chenab Valley except on the killing of Mirwaiz Moulana Farooq in 1990 and reducing to ashes in 1994 the mausoleum of highly revered shrine of Sheikh Noordin Wali when the spontaneous response also evoked from many areas of Peer Panchal and Kargil but the response to calls twice made against the fiddling of Articles 370 & 35A during the year 2018 through litigation in the courts was complete in the State except in Leh and Dogra belt comprising Udhampur, Jammu, Samba and Kathua which further established the popular mood for continuous of the special status as also almost all existing and former members of parliament and state legislative assembly from those areas were on same page including local Bars and other socio-cultural organisations.
The people in Kargil observed complete shutdown for one week against separating Ladakh from J&K without ascertaining public opinion and quite recently laid bare their vision for restoration of State of J&K as it was before 5 August 2019 and contours of division for Ladakh in the revived State. Kargil town and other places in the district are observing today total shutdown by declaring August 5 as a ‘Black Day’.
The romance amongst the Buddhists with bifurcation has proved to be a short-lived stint with visible brewing disenchantment and craving for ‘new order yielding to old’. National Panthers Party headed by Prof. Bhim Singh has come out with statements for revival of special provisions of the Constitution protecting land and employment avenues. This political party has a highly dedicated cadre in districts of Udhampur and Samba of Jammu division. Carving out Ladakh from J&K, at the behest of Ladakh Buddhist Association amounted to yielding to non-unity in diversity with inherent negative ramifications for national unity.
A poignant feature of succumbing in Leh has led to demands for inclusion of Buddhist speaking areas of Himachal Pradesh and district Kishtwar in Ladakh by the Buddhist Association and commentaries in the press of Buddhist countries should unnerve those interested in well-being of the country. Almost pan-State alignment towards it ought to have been reckoned apart from constitutional limitations on Hindutva mission the execution of which even Atal Bihari Vajpaiye as PM had linked to bilateral process when he maintained that ‘even though BJP is committed to abrogation of Article 370 but we will not do so unilaterally’.
The tumultuous response for the revival would indeed be popular ratification of the constitutional relationship which in absence of exercise of right of self determination referred to in the acceptance letter from GOI in response to the instrument of accession is declared to have been over taken by the subsequent events more particularly the ratification by J&K Constituent Assembly.
Actions with speed like apparitions in Shakespeare’s tragic plays would be repulsed democratically by masses, even though overwhelmingly in utter shock and disbelief due to rupture in spiritual cord so assiduously ingrained in 1939 and 1947. Where arrogance laced with divisive poisonous rhetoric abounds, the cosmic justice is inevitable but not necessarily in a time frame of aggrieved party’s longings.
The author of this article is former Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission. Opinion expressed by him are his personal and does not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of this newspaper)
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