Is Kashmir India’s internal affair?

M Serajul Islam | Published: 00:00, Sep 22,2019 | Updated: 00:48, Sep 22,2019


An Indian paramilitary trooper stands guard in front of closed shops during a lockdown in Srinagar on September 20. — Agence France-Presse/Tauseef Mustafa

THE reaction of a certain quarter in Bangladesh to New Delhi’s decision to terminate Kashmir’s special status has been intriguing, to say the least. The quarter has defended New Delhi’s controversial decision on Kashmir more forcefully than the BJP and the Hindutva activists in India. The quarter claimed that the people of Bangladesh have no right to discuss the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution with which Kashmir had been given special status because it is India’s ‘internal affair.’

The quarter also made several other unbelievable statements to defend New Delhi. First, it stated that New Delhi’s decision was prompted from its desire for the welfare of the people of Kashmir, Jammu included, 68.7 per cent of whom are Muslims, to help Kashmir develop to the level of the rest of India. Second, it has also stated that the people of Kashmir, including the Muslims, do not want to become independent but remain a part of India.

It does not require any effort to establish these statements as fake because they are very obviously so. New Delhi’s decision to terminate Kashmir’s special status as its internal matter is fake because of well established historical facts to the contrary. Two telegrams sent by India’s first orime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to his Pakistani counterpart Liaqat Ali Khan shortly after their independence in 1947 while they were in the midst of a fully-fledged war, their first of four wars fought so far, suggest the utterly fake nature of this quarter’s claim that Kashmir is an internal matter of India.

Pandit Nehru’s first telegram was sent to Liaqat Ali Khan on October 27, 1947. It read as follows: ‘I should like to make it clear that the question of aiding Kashmir in this emergency is not designed in any way to influence the State to accede to India. Our view which we have repeatedly made public is that the question of accession in any disputed territory or State must be decided per the wishes of people and we adhere to this view.’’

Pandit Nehru’s second telegram was sent four days later that read as follows: ‘… our assurance that we shall withdraw our troops from Kashmir as soon as peace and order are restored and leave the decision about the future of the State to the people of the State is not merely a pledge to your government but also to the people of Kashmir and the world.’ The two telegrams, both implicitly and explicitly, underlined that New Delhi was aware that it had no right over Kashmir (including Jammu) when the telegrams were sent, a position, notwithstanding many developments meanwhile, had remained unchanged for seven decades till New Delhi abrogated Article 370 and 35A on August 5 this year.

Jammu and Kashmir was a princely state, one of the 565 such states under British rule in 1947. The instrument of accession under which the British decided the fate of such states stipulated, first, that Muslim majority states would accede to Pakistan; second, that Hindu majority states to India; and third, that the peoples of the princely states that did not want to accede to either could be independent by expressing their will to do so, unhindered. None of the three stipulations gave New Delhi any handle over Jammu and Kashmir and would have remained that way if an event in history had not occurred.

New Delhi entered into the affairs of Kashmir (and Jammu) because of a major mistake by Pakistan when it allowed its Pashtun tribal militias to cross the border on October 22, 1947. The crossings came after an uprising in Poonch by the Muslim subjects of Hari Singh, the Hindu Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir in which the princely state lost control of the western districts. The Maharaja appealed to New Delhi, which agreed to help only if the Maharaja acceded to India that he gladly did that led to the first of four wars between India and Pakistan. The step of the Maharaja was not legal that Pandit Nehru had underlined unambiguously in his two famous telegrams.

New Delhi never allowed Pakistan favour to sent the Pashtuns across the border slip from its grasp notwithstanding Pandit Nehru’s commitments. He himself went into denial over his commitment. He successfully led the world thereafter also to forget that New Delhi had only de facto control over Jammu and Kashmir. He did that by taking the Kashmir conflict to the UN during the war setting it on course towards the same fate that befell the Palestinian conflict. Thus nothing came out of UN Security Council Resolution 47 of April 21, 1947, which called for a plebiscite as from many other resolutions and initiatives at the UN thereafter for decades.

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan fulfilled their nuclear ambitions that sent the Kashmir issue almost into oblivion. The issue, nevertheless, remained alive because of the yearnings of the Kashmiri Muslims to become independent of India. Pakistan, after failing to make any headway in Kashmir, joined hands with those Kashmiri Muslims that had adopted terrorist tactics as groups in India and on the Pakistani side such as the Laskar-e-Tayba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hijbul Mujahadeen, et cetera, came into existence.

The terrorist groups that emerged had not encouraged merely by the yearnings of the Kashmiri Muslims for freedom from India but also from the cold facts of state terror to which they were subjected following the Maharaja’s illegal and infamous accession to India. One analyst articulated the extent and depth of that state terror in the following words: ‘India’s war in occupied Jammu & Kashmir is over 70 years long. It has been fought by an occupation force of 700,000, seven times the maximum number of troops deployed at any time by the Soviet Union or US-NATO in Afghanistan.’ And in that long occupation, the Kashmiri Muslims were subjected to massive violations of human rights documented by the United Nations, international and Indian human rights organisations.

Thus, the major premises upon which this quarter in Bangladesh backed New Delhi on its controversial action in Kashmir are all fake; the premise that Kashmir is an internal matter of India is the most fake. The other premises namely New Delhi was motivated by the love of development of the predominantly Muslim Kashmir and that the Kashmiris including the Muslims wanted to remain a part of India are also absurd given the massive human rights violations theat the Kashmiri Muslims had faced for seven decades at the hands of Indian security forces. The Hindutva activists supported these premises because all of them fit in with their fantasy of Akhand Bharat, leaving scopes for surprise as to why this quarter would support these premises.

This quarter has inadvertently compromised its political capital as the pro-liberation forces in Bangladesh in supporting New Delhi blindly on Kashmir. It failed to realise that its claim that Kashmir is an internal matter of India echoed what Islamabad had claimed after their genocide in Bangladesh that what they had done in East Pakistan was their internal affair. Notwithstanding Bangladesh’s declaration of independence on March 26, 1971, Islamabad had prima facae claim over East Pakistan that was acknowledged by the UN and the international community when it was made. The same is not the case with New Delhi’s claim over Jammu and Kashmir. History suggests otherwise.

New Delhi’s decision on Kashmir was taken for reasons that this quarter failed to comprehend because it wanted to please New Delhi at any cost. New Delhi was bogged down too long against the Kashmiri Muslims fighting for freedom and wanted to end it. It also wanted to please the Hindutva activists who had a big hand in ensuring the BJP’s landslide victory in the past elections to believe that Kashmir was brought directly under New Delhi’s rule to punish the Muslims whose predecessors had ruled Hindu India for a thousand years and that the ‘annexation’ of Kashmir has been a step towards achieving Akhand Bharat of the Hindu mythology.

Postscript: Arundhati Ray, Booker Prize winner and internationally acknowledged voice of conscience of India, articulated the vast opposition in the country to the controversial action by New Delhi in an article on August 15 in the New York Times. She wrote: ‘As India celebrates her 73rd year of independence from British rule, ragged children thread their way through traffic in Delhi, selling outsized national flags and souvenirs that say, “Mera Bharat Mahan.” My India is Great. Quite honestly, it’s hard to feel that way right now, because it looks very much as though our government has gone rogue.’


M Serajul Islam is a former career Ambassador.

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