Remedy lies in Kashmir’s merger with India
By J N Raina
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s disparaging statement about the state’s accession with India is ill-advised. It cannot be taken lightly. His churlish and sensational observation—that too on the floor of the state Assembly—that “Kashmir has not merged with India, but only acceded to it under certain conditions and under an agreement”, is nutriment to hard line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and many people of that ilk. Ostensibly, the latter has claimed victory in Omar Abdullah’s obtrusive admission that Jammu and Kashmir is a ‘disputed’ territory.
Instead of taking up the gauntlet and hauling him for his secessionist activities, Omar Abdullah literally toed Geelani’s line, fuelling Hindu angst in Jammu region. May be he was overstressed and carried away by recent events of ‘civil unrest’. Just a week earlier before making this vituperative statement, the Chief Minister in an interview had said that he is ‘stressed out’ dealing with the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, because “logic and reason does not work these days”. Explaining it further he had said: “Kashmir surprises us all, we are working hard and let us hope for the best”.
Otherwise, what compelled him to make this diabolical statement to stir up a hornets’ nest in the Assembly The opposition BJP has taken serious view of it. As a responsible Chief Minister, Omar should have pruned and weighed his words carefully before indulging in saber-rattling exercise, to the merriment of his bete noire, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti and the two factions of the pro-Pakistan Hurriyat Conference. ISI must have had a hearty laugh to listen to his diatribe, because it is in its scheme of thinking. Omar is being deliberately provoked to make such silly remarks to create a rift between him and the Centre. He should have consulted his peers before raising such issues. He is being considered a weakling for lack of political experience.
Omar Abdullah’s garish statement that “Kashmir is an outstanding dispute” must have irked the Congress, an ally of the National Conference-led coalition government. But outwardly Congress put on a brave face as if nothing was said. AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh saw ‘nothing wrong’ in the statement. Obviously, he parried away the main objectionable narrative. There is nothing new in his rhetoric that Jammu and Kashmir’s accession with India occurred ‘under an agreement’, but to say ‘we have not broken that agreement, nor have we taken it back’ is preposterous. He should understand that such agreements are fully nurtured for the people’s benefit. They are never meant to be broken or taken off the shelf. His grandfather, legendary Kashmir leader Sheikh Abdullah and the latter’s lieutenant, Mirza Afzal Baig, exhibited true statesmanship by discarding plebiscite as a ‘dead issue’, soon after the breakup of Pakistan in 1971 war with India. They were shrewd politicians. They dissolved the ‘Plebiscite Front’, negotiated with then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and regained power after remaining in political wilderness for 22 years.
A similar situation has obtained in Pakistan, the epicenter of international terrorism. It is a failed state on the brink of disaster. Omar Abdullah should listen to former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, for his observations on the current ugly situation in Pakistan.
Omar should work for the state’s total merger with India and understand the gravity of the situation. There is no chance of Jammu and Kashmir merging with Pakistan. Its independence is out of question. Now enough is enough. The remedy lies in Kashmir’s total merger with India, so that there is no room for blackmailing or bullying tactics. Omar has alluded to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram’s remarks that ‘accession of Jammu and Kashmir had occurred in unique circumstances and the settlement of the issue requires unique action’. Yes, it is true. The state’s accession was thrust upon then Indian leadership. As such, a ‘unique action’ should come from young Omar Abdullah to finally resolve what remains unresolved. Instead of confronting with the Centre, he should ask Pakistan and China to vacate from the occupied territory. If he works in unison with New Delhi, he cannot be considered a puppet. That would be sagacious on his part. He should persuade anti-national elements to join the mainstream of national life and shed off the Churchillian aversion towards India.
What has Pakistan given to the Muslims of the sub-continent except bloodshed? Pakistan did not even recognize the leadership of the Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who had obtained a landslide victory in the then general elections in erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).Thirty lakh Muslims were killed by the Pakistan Army before accepting defeat in Dacca. A similar situation is prevailing in the North West Frontier Provinces.
Sheikh Abdullah had grasped the ground situation after the formation of Bangladesh. He possessed sharp powers of judgment. He had at the time of partition spurned the hand of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, who had insisted for Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan because of religious affinity. But Sheikh was broadminded and he opposed Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan. He was ‘desperately’ in favour of the state’s accession with India and pleaded fervently with Jawaharlal Nehru to accept the state’s request for accession. He opposed even ‘reference to people’ as suggested by Nehru, on the plea that he himself represented the people of the valley and headed the mass-based party, the National Conference. Jinnah had even refused to accept an independent or autonomous Kashmir. Just imagine what would have been the lot of Kashmiri Muslims, had Kashmir merged with Pakistan.
Jammu and Kashmir enjoys autonomy under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, guaranteeing special status to the state, which has a separate flag and a separate constitution. Jawaharlal Nehru had once observed that “Art 370 is a temporary provision …it is not permanent…”.
The instrument of accession was signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, which was endorsed by the Sheikh. Till then, the Indian Army did not land in Srinagar to drive away the Pakistani tribal raiders, who had killed several hundred Muslims and Hindus in Baramulla.
Omar must ponder for a while and see the difference in the scenario that existed at the time of the state’s accession and now. Who has brought demographic changes in the Kashmir valley? Not India but the vested Kashmiri leadership, in association with the fundamentalist Jamaat-i-Islami. They are responsible for eroding Art 370. They have destroyed the fabric of secular society in a planned manner. The aim was to establish Nizaam-e-Mustafa (Islamic way of life). What kind of secularism are they claiming after driving away over seven lakh Kashmiri Hindus from the valley?. Who settled Tibetan Muslims in Srinagar? Who issued fake state subject certificates to non-Kashmiris? The Congress and other fissiparous elements helped in the steady growth of the Jamaat , resulting in the present chaos.
Omar should know that Pakistan is not interested in a lasting solution because it has no locus standi in Kashmir It only maintains that Kashmir is a disputed territory. For India the entire undivided state is an integral part of India.
*(The author is a senior journalist based at Pune).