Ch-03 Extracts: Kashmir - BCE to 1950s

Kashmir : BCE to 1950s

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Clement Attlee [PM of UK from 1945 to 1951], in his official as well as private correspondence, categorically stated that Kashmir was an issue so germane to ‘the Muslim world’ that they must support Pakistan keeping in view British interest in the Middle East [for Oil]...the western powers, including Britain, considered Pakistan ‘as a key factor in international politics by virtue of being Muslim’ and because of its proximity with the Middle East...

– DN Panigrahi, Jammu and Kashmir, the Cold War and the West

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Unknown at the time, Churchill played a key role in the creation of Pakistan... Churchill and his colleagues decided, at the same time, to save what they could out of the wreckage and it was this conviction that lay behind the offer to Jinnah of ‘Pakistan on a platter’. Pakistan was expected to give them a foothold in the sub-continent.

– Durga Das, India from Curzon to Nehru & After

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I am afraid Nehru is responsible for the prolongation of the [J&K] problem through his willingness to compromise at every stage. Had Vallabhbhai [Patel] been the man to handle the Kashmir question, he would have settled it long ago. At least, he would never have settled with a partial control of Jammu & Kashmir. He would have occupied the whole of the State and would never have allowed it to be elevated to international importance.

– NV Gadgil, a Minister in the Nehru Cabinet

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A clever man commits no minor blunders.

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

...only major ones!

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Kashmir got its name from Kashyap, the sage who founded it. Nilamat Purana, the oldest record, mentions that ‘Kashmir is Parvati; know that its ruler is part of Shiva.’ Rajatarangini—meaning the ‘River of Kings’—is a historical chronicle of Kashmir from the earliest times, written in Sanskrit in the twelfth century by Kalhana, a Kashmiri Brahmin.

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Regarding the environment of Kashmir as ideal for meditation and religious life, Buddha had desired it to be the focal point for the spread of his message. Ashoka founded the ancient capital, Srinagari, about 5 kilometres away from the current capital, in 3rd Century BCE and constructed a number of temples, Buddha Vihars and Stupas.

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Mahmud of Ghaznavi, who had wrecked havoc in Somnath, Mathura and elsewhere in India, was forced to lick dust by the king of Kashmir, Sangramraj, not once, but twice—in 1015 CE and then in 1021 CE, after which he did not dare to again attack Kashmir.

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Discarding Buddhism, Rinchin from Ladakh, who became Kashmir’s king in 1320 CE, adopted Shaivism to become acceptable to the public. But the Kashmiri Pandits opined his conversion was not feasible—a legend says they couldn’t decide which caste to put him in. As a reaction to the rebuff, and at the instance of Shah Mir, Rinchin then approached Bulbul Shah, who converted him to Islam. With the king converted to Islam, many others followed. This is how Pandits scored a self-goal.

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In the early fifteenth century CE, Sultan Sikandar seized wealth of Hindu temples and imposed Jiziya tax, and at the instance of Mullahs and fanatics and such hordes, and assisted by them, broke idols, engaged in forcible conversions, and enforced ban on music. He destroyed and set ablaze the famous Martanda Temple. Vijeshwar, another famous temple at Bijbehara, and scores of other temples around it were also demolished, and a mosque was built from their stones. Pushed by the Syeds, Sikandar set on fire all the books: mostly religious and cultural texts, history and literature in Sanskrit—Sanskrit was the Kashmiri language then. Sikandar decreed, “Either adopt Islam, or accept death or banishment.” Out of fear, many  Hindus converted, many migrated, and many committed suicide.

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Bud Shah—the Great King—ascended the Kashmir’s throne at the age of 19 in 1420 and ruled for 50 years. He ensured justice for all, banned state-sponsored conversion, abolished jiziya, gave religious freedom, and promoted education, architecture, arts, crafts and music. Something unique about Bud Shah was appointment of an official to oversee expansion of Hinduism, persuading the Hindus who had left the Valley to return, and state-supported reconversion!

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As Raja of Jammu, Dogra Gulab Singh extended his territory and annexed Bhimber, Rajouri, Bhadarwah and Kishtwar, and later Baltistan and Ladakh in the 19th century. All this was made possible by his brave Wazir, Zorawar Singh. It is thanks to Zorawar Singh that Ladakh is part of India; else China would have claimed it as part of Tibet. Wrote KM Pannikar: “To have marched an army not once or twice, but six times, over the snow-clad ranges of Ladakh and Baltistan, 15000 feet above the sea-level, where air is so rarefied that people from the plains can hardly live with comfort, is a wonderful achievement. To have conquered that country after successive campaigns and reduced it to a peaceful province is an exploit for which there is no parallel in Indian history.”

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When the J&K problem is discussed, more often than not, the role of the Indian and the Pakistani leaders, and that of Maharaja Hari Singh, Sheikh Abdullah, the Pakistani tribal raiders and the Indian and the Pakistani armies are discussed, assigning a minor role for the British; when actually Britain was at the root of the origin of the problem and its subsequent complication. However, one has to admire the British cunning in managing to dissociate themselves from all the blame of either partition or the Kashmir problem, and squarely putting the blame on India and Pakistan. Had Britain not played the mischief, J&K problem would never have originated, and even if it had, it would have been solved in India’s favour long ago in 1947 itself! The J&K issue got stretched and complicated thanks to the vested interests of the UK.

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Nehru's sentimental attachment to the Mountbattens deeply vitiated the Kashmir issue. It was certainly the most important factor for the failure to find a solution in the first years of the conflict.

– Claude Arpi

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...Patel added that Nehru was unduly amenable to Mountbatten’s influence. Nehru had ‘always leaned on someone’. He was under Bapu’s protective wing and ‘now he leans on Mountbatten’.

– Durga Das, India from Curzon to Nehru & After

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What kind of independence movement was it that installed a British to the top-most position of independent India! Didn’t we have a Jinnah-equivalent for the post? If Jinnah could handle the responsibility as governor-general of Pakistan; couldn’t we find a competent Indian for the post? And, what was the contribution of Mountbatten? He created more problems for India. He was instrumental in creating the Kashmir problem, which still bedevils us. Left to him and Nehru, Hyderabad would have been a second Kashmir or Pakistan—right in the heart of India.

Bouncing the alternatives in a lighter vein...
If Mountbatten’s “royal blood” helped—as some claim—in netting the princely states; and if indeed the newly-independent, democratic India was looking for “royal blood”, why not the local variety, unless the freedom fighters preferred the “firangi” one. Perhaps they could have offered that post to Maharaja Hari Singh himself. It would have ensured timely accession—before 15 August 1947—of J&K into India and avoidance of the Kashmir problem altogether. Besides, the Maharaja was well-versed in military matters. Having the Maharaja himself as the governor-general would have given a further fillip for the other princely states to join India. Or, made the Nizam of Hyderabad the governor-general if he was ready to merge his state without ado. That would have made India automatically secular, and made states with Muslim rulers join India with lesser hesitation. Or, made Hari Singh the governor-general, and the Nizam the joint governor-general!

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In 1947, Mountbatten suggested “reference to the people” as an option to Jinnah, which Jinnah did not agree to! Pakistan has been insisting on a plebiscite, when actually it was Pakistan which refused it, when first asked!! Jinnah feared that given the atrocities committed by the raiders and the Pakistani Army in J&K, and the strong position of Sheikh Abdullah among the Muslims, people of J&K would not opt for Pakistan. He wanted merger purely on the fact that the majority population of J&K was Muslim. This contradicted his own stand in the case of Junagadh, whose accession he had accepted, even though Junagadh was a Hindu-majority Princely State, whose nawab was a Muslim. It was also strange considering that he had been wooing Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, the Hindu-majority states, to accede to Pakistan. It also contradicted his stand on Hyderabad, a Hindu-majority state.

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Chester Bowles, then the US ambassador, told me that India would have won the plebiscite if it had held it before 1953. Then New Delhi had popular backing in Kashmir, but things changed subsequently...

– Kuldip Nayar, Beyond the Lines

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India was prepared for an immediate plebiscite in mid-1949, but Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistani PM, refused the plebiscite, knowing that Pakistan was likely to lose the same. Plebiscite was earlier refused by Jinnah also, when Mountbatten proposed the same. The irony is that Pakistan now talks of plebiscite, although they themselves refused it twice!

Pakistan then sent a feeler to India suggesting J&K’s partition along the ceasefire line. This India refused, thinking that India could win the whole of J&K, if plebiscite was held! But, this is something which India now wants—the second irony!!

Pakistan’s position hardened after it made a deal with the US and the UK wherein for their support of its position on J&K, it agreed to join Anglo-American military bloc.

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BN Mullik, who was the then Deputy Director of the Intelligence Bureau with charge of Kashmir, and later head of the IB, wrote in his book ‘My Years with Nehru’ that Sardar Patel told him that he [Patel] apprehended that Sheikh Abdullah would ultimately let down India and Nehru and would come out in his real colours; and that probably things would not have come to this pass at all if Sardar was still alive, because Abdullah had a very wholesome respect and fear of Sardar.

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Even Ambedkar was opposed to Article 370 for Kashmir. Nehru had sent Abdullah to Dr Ambedkar to explain to him the position and to draft an appropriate Article for the Constitution. Ambedkar had reportedly remarked: “Mr Abdullah, you want that India should defend Kashmir, India should develop Kashmir and Kashmiris should have equal rights as the citizens of India, but you don’t want India and any citizen of India to have any rights in Kashmir. I am the Law minister of India. I cannot betray the interest of my country.” About Article 370, Sardar Patel had confided to his secretary, V Shankar, “Jawaharlal royega [Nehru will regret this].”