With the entry of new players, the Kashmir issue has been made far more complicated. A variety of proposals have been made without striking at the root of the problem. A sane voice has seldom been registered at the high echelon of power for unknown reasons, contends the author while digging out the rare historical records of contemporary politics in the troubled state.
There could be – political or constitutional reasons for Kashmir to remain an independent state. But who gave the idea of an Independent Kashmir and why? Is the accession of Kashmir to India final and irrevocable or not? These questions are being raised again and again when the Kashmir issue is discussed at national or international fora.
Purposely, the icons of Kashmir who have an in-depth study on Kashmir politics and Kashmiri psyche were always kept at bay and never involved in discussing any policy on Kashmir by Delhi. Instead, the self–styled experts and so-called opinion makers on Kashmir operating in Delhi, in connivance with the vested interests from Kashmir, manoeuvered to keep these genuine people away, fearing threat to their political gambit. The patch-work arrangements with new political players’ entry from time to time have made Kashmir issue more complicated, thus leading to nowhere.
Looking back, the first Kashmiri pandit R C Kak (Ram Chand Kak) who became a controversial prime minister of Maharaja Hari Singh’s regime had given the concept of “Independent Kashmir” keeping in view the changing political scenario at that time. After feeling the pulses of people of Kashmir he had come to this conclusion that the majority Muslim state of Kashmir will never join the Indian domain while the minority (Hindus) would not like to be part of Pakistan. The only option left was to keep Kashmir an independent state with friendly relations with India and Pakistan.
In 1931 at the round table conference held in London, Maharaja Hari Singh had decided to give up his state for Indian union. After independence, Lord Mountbatten had also offered Maharaja Hari Singh to join Pakistan, as his state was surrounded by Pakistan with majority of Muslims or third option of declaring Kashmir as an independent state. According to Capt. Dewan Singh, the accession to India was final.
He had that foresightedness as described by late Moti Lal Razdan “Saqi” in his book “Hamara Adab”. The book said he (Kak) was very close to Maharaja Hari Singh but was removed unceremoniously from the prime minister’s post when Sheikh Mohd Abdullah, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Acharya Kripalani hatched a conspiracy and poisoned Maharaja’s ears against him. Kak had risen from the post of a librarian to prime minister’s position by dint of his sincerity and ability. He was appointed as Prime Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir on 1st July 1945 and arrested of the 12th August 1947 when Maharaja Hari Singh was leaving the state. Janak Singh took over his post. Moti Lal Saqi, Padmashree Awardee, in his book had also mentioned how R C Kak was humiliated by the late Sheikh Mohd Abdullah, when he was paraded through main bazaar of Harisingh street in Srinagar city, with both his hands tied with a cord made of twisted paddy hay and people were ordered to shower shit and filth from their housetops over R C Kak. Kak was forced to give statement against Maharaja Hari Singh rule. But he did not utter a single word against the Maharaja. It is sad to notice, when Kak died on 10th Feb 1983, in Srinagar his death was not even condoled. The political enmity between R C Kak and Sheikh Mohd Abdullah had begun when the latter was arrested on 24th May 1946 on the charges of opposing the Maharaja’s rule.
There are different versions about Maharaja’s remaining as independent or not. According to D C Prashant, former Member Parliament and veteran journalist, who had covered Maharaja’s regime, “Maharaja Hari Singh was against Pt Jawaharlal Nehru’s Policy. During “Quit Kashmir Movement” in 1946 about 8 persons were killed and 15 injured in Srinagar. Pt Nehru on this situation described Srinagar as “city is dead”. Hari Singh was annoyed over Nehru’s statements. “I will never accede to Nehru’s India” was Maharaja Hari Singh’s reply to Pt. Nehru’s statement. But the circumstances led him to accede to India, according to Prashant. Maharaja Hari Singh had three dreams - to see his son Dr Karan Singh as a father, Sheikh Mohd Abdullah’s downfall and Pt Nehru’s downfall too. First two dreams came true in his life time. But he could not see the downfall of Pt. Nehru. Maharaja Hari Singh died in 1961 and Pt. Nehru in1964.
The late B P Sharma, again a veteran journalist of J&K state who had also reported in various newspapers on Maharaja Hari Singh and Sheikh Mohd Abdullah’s regimes in his write-ups had said that in a forwarding letter to Governor General Lord Mountbatten, Maharaja Hari Singh had mentioned “ I wanted to keep my state independent but am forced to accede to India” . His deputy prime minister Ram Lal Batra had given a statement in Delhi “ we want Kashmir as Switzerland of Asia and independent state”. According to him, Maharaja Hari Singh’s bitterness against Sheikh Mohd Abdullah and Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru never decreased. When Pt. Nehru had declined to accept the offer of J& K state to join India, Mehar Chand Mahajan , as prime ministers of Kashmir representing on behalf of Maharaja Hari Singh in Delhi replied “then the standing orders from Maharaja for him were to negotiate with Jinnah”. It perturbed Delhi and Sardar Patel had to intervene to make the offer accepted.
Capt. Dewan Singh, the then ADC to Maharaja Hari Singh, who is alive, has different view about independent Kashmir. According to him, Maharaja Hari Singh was never in favour of an Independent Kashmir. In 1931 at round table conference held in Landon, Maharaja Hari Singh had decided to give up his state for Indian union. After independence, Lord Mountbatten had also offered Maharaja Hari Singh to join Pakistan, as his state was surrounded by Pakistan with majority of Muslims or third option of declaring Kashmir as an independent state. According to Capt. Dewan Singh, the accession to India was final. The delayed accession was due to certain unavoidable circumstances and the prevailing situation in India and Nehru’s insistence that Sheikh Mohd Abdullah be released and Maharaja Hari Singh should quit. Hari Singh had already told Pt Nehru that Sheikh Mohd Abdullah would prove useful, undisputed and undoubted leader of Kashmir provided he is kept under check. Pt. Nehru did not tolerate the comments of Maharaja Hari Singh. Pt. Nehru, Acharya Kriplani had blind faith in Sheikh Mohd Abdullah. But Hari Singh’s prediction came true when Sheikh Mohd Abdullah shifted from his stand and was arrested 1953. Hari Singh was in Bombay at that time.
When Sheikh Mohd Abdullah was re-installed as chief minister in 1975 by Mrs Indira Gandhi, he constituted a cabinet sub–committee, under his finance minister D D Thakur to examine the central laws, including the provision of the Constitution of India and to find out which portion of them was not beneficial in the interest of the state. The committee would examine a) instrument of accession signed by the then Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir b)Delhi agreement executed between political leaders at the centre and those in state in the year 1952 c) Article 370 of the Constitution of India and the Accord entered into between political leaders at the center and the state in the year 1975
(G.Parthasarthy-Afzal Beg negotiations, known as Indira-Sheikh Accord later ) . This sub-committee, in fact, was constituted in the backdrop of “Greater Autonomy” to Kashmir. This sub-committee report known as GM Shah-G N Kochak, never saw the light of the day since. But Awami National Conference (ANC) president Begum Khalida Shah has put forward this report before the nation to disuses along with other reports from different political parties which are in circulation.
While commenting on the interim report of “The Basic Principles Committee,” submitted on 10th June 1951 for acceptance in the constituent Assembly, Sheikh Mohd Abdullah ,said “ freedom cannot be achieved by requesting but by the struggle. Only that nation attains freedom which sheds its blood for this cause. This again cannot be achieved by begging. Freedom can be obtained only when people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh – say of the whole state –make scarifies in the manner in which lakhs of people like Luther have struggled for their liberation”. He had also said “people on the other side of the cease- fire line Muzaffarabad, Mirpore, Poonch and Gilgit etc had to struggle jointly with us. This principle will not, therefore, apply to only one part of the state but also to all people of the state including those brethren of ours who have been separated from us and those eyes have been shut and tongues gagged in Pakistan.”
The constituent assembly had adopted the report by a unanimous resolution on 11th June 1952. The state convened a meeting in November 1951 and had readily set up basic principles committee and Fundamental Rights and Citizenship committee.
However, accession took place. It was against the wishes of Maharaja Hari Singh when India approached UNO. This irritated Maharaja Hari Singh and he wrote to Pt Nehru that accession was final and he has no business to approach to UNO as it will complicate the matter. R C Kak’s role was found dubious and made suspects in the eyes of Maharaja Hari Singh. That was the reason Kak was removed from the prime minister’s post says Capt. Dewan Singh.
According to Capt. Dewan Singh, Maharaja Hari Singh was against the British rule. He had even ordered his state force not to wear neckties. To keep Englishmen at arm’s length he had introduced “State Subject” provision because he knew that they would buy land and capture Kashmir. The state subject still exists. And job opportunities for the people of the state would be minimized as the foreigner would become the masters. About Maharaja Hari Singh’s nationalism, Dewan Singh says when he was in Bombay in 1949 he was persuaded by top industrialists and leaders of the country to speak against Pt Nehru’s follies . Maharaja Hari Singh declined to do so because, in his opinion, Pakistan would take advantage of it. Maharaja Hari Singh was very sincere and loyal to the Indian Union but Delhi had never wished him well. On the instrument of accession, B P Sharma has said that accession was legally and continually final but it was India which made it complicated by inserting a paragraph in the forwarding letter of acceptance that it would require confirmation of the people as soon as peace was restored in Kashmir.
The late Moti Lal Razdan “Saqi,” authority on Kashmir history, had said that Kashmir has strategic importance in the Indian subcontinent. It is mentioned in the Gazetteer of 1888 that whosoever keeps Kashmir with him would control the subcontinent.