Finally, it appears that the Narendra Modi government with its political heft is looking at resolving the Kashmir imbroglio. There have been innumerable plans and blueprints in the past on solutions to the Kashmir problem. The growing estrangement between Sheikh Abdullah and Pandit Nehru was one of the most unfortunate happenings in the years that followed Independence.
Kashmirs accession, though controversial, Mountbattens unfortunate advice to go to the UN, something that Nehru regretted and finally Sheikhs arrest and Bakshis installation, the wheel had come full circle in a short span of six roller coaster years. The ever growing Jammu-Kashmir divide had taken its toll and the biggest casualty was Abdullah himself. He was someone who had never reconciled to Jammu for he regarded it as a symbol of the Dogra dynasty. The agitation by the Praja Parishad, Jan Sangh combine and the controversial death of its founder icon Shyama Prasad Mookerjee while in jail in Kashmir acted as catalysts in his decline and mental disintegration.
By December 1952, the entire Jammu province was in disarray. Businesses and shops were shut as the clarion call — “Ek desh mein do nishan, ek desh mein do vidhan, ek desh mein do pradhan.. nahin chalega, nahin chalega” — kept the cauldron boiling. Samba, situated on the Pathankot-Jammu road, was the scene of the worst rioting — after all, it was the Dogra epicentre.
The confusion in Abdullah’s mind at this stage did not help. With all this drama taking place at the speed of knots, Sheikh was increasingly becoming a prisoner of his own thinking. He was of the opinion that Jammu would never reconcile with the Valley. The seeds of Kashmir’s continuing descent were sown at this time as the religious divide simmered.
J&K from the beginning did not function as a whole, but in parts and till this day, this situation persists. In a confidential note to PM Nehru after conversing with Sheikh, top government functionaries claimed that he was convinced that Jammu wanted to separate with external support from India. The demons in Sheikh’s head were playing tricks with his mind. Rattled, he said the unthinkable,”It is my definite view that I cannot deliver the goods anymore. Nobody in Jammu is with us and will never be with us.”
In a reassessment and readjustment of options on his playlist, he argued, “Even the Delhi Agreement is not going to satisfy certain elements in India. Mookerjee has already indicated that the agreement in full without any proviso must be implemented. I cannot continue to keep people in the Valley on tenterhooks. So far the people in the Valley have been silent because they know that I will not barter away their interests. Moreover, how can we have peace in the State, if the solution which India and Kashmir adopt is not acceptable to Pakistan?
Sheikh battling the demons actually came up short; he was proving to be a narrow minded leader for Kashmiris and not a universal chief of the State of J&K. “If today Jammu has rebelled, it is not far off when we will lose all sympathy in the Valley. In the circumstances, independence is best because Pakistan would never agree to a unilateral arrangement and our borders will always be attacked by them. Tell Panditji to have a solution which will be honourable to all — India, Pakistan, Kashmir and him. Once again providing an insight into how Nehru had staked everything on
Kashmir, he averred, “Panditji has made this question too personal which it is not. It is a complicated question where so many countries are involved. Panditji has to suffer every time for us. The PM must do this for the land of his forefathers and let him see us settled in peace. I feel we must take advantage of Panditji, he is at the helm of affairs now and has so much influence in the world. UN cannot give us any solution.”
When Sheikh was quizzed further on how the logjam could be resolved, he said, “During the last five years, several solutions have been provided. To me Plebiscite is out of the question. Keeping Jammu people with us is not at all possible. War is ruled out. Let Panditji look at the probable solutions, including that of Jammu and Ladakh (with river Chenab at places as boundary completely merged with India and the Valley acceded for three subjects only. Elaborating further, this is the Kashmir plan that Sheikh outlined.
India — Jammu: Jammu, Poonch, Rajouri, Badarwah, part of Kishwantar and Reasi
Ladakh — via Kulu Manali — Dividing Line – Valley side of Zojila
Kashmir — Uri, Titwal, Gurais, Zojila, Tragabal and Jammu side of Ramban [Doda district]
The Plan was discussed by Sheikh and Mirza Beg with a senior government official in Jammu on February 20, 1953. The same was communicated in toto to PM Nehru three days later. It is believed that this Plan was a tent pole in convincing Nehru about the prevailing confusion in Abdullah’s mind and accelerated his arrest by the Director of the Intelligence Bureau B. N. Mullick.
There were other alternatives to the Kashmir Plan that Sheikh was advocating. These were drafted for another note to the PM in April, a copy of which was provided to Delhi by National Conference leader Bakshi Ghulam Mohd. While some of it may sound like ramblings, the contours of the Kashmir Plan are visible here as well. Titled Possible Alternatives for an Honourable Settlement between Indian and Pakistan on the Kashmir Issue, it included:
*The people of the State may be given full and unfettered freedom to express their desire whether they wish to acceded to India or Pakistan.
*In order to achieve this objective, the most vital and controversial issue is the conditions under which the wishes of the people will be ascertained.
*The entire State of J&K to be made independent with full guarantee of India and Pakistan as well as the UN.
*The entire State of J&K may be kept under trusteeship of the UN for a period of 10 years after which the people may opt for India or Pakistan.
*The entire State of J&K under the condominium of India and Pakistan.
These were ludicrous ideas and Abdullah kept pushing the envelope, saying that failing an agreement on the basis of overall disposition of the State.
Another set of alternatives could be considered:
*The Hindu majority areas in the south may go to India and the Muslim majority areas in the northwest to Pakistan and the Kashmiri speaking areas may be held under the condominium of India and Pakistan.
*The State may be divided into different zones. The Hindu majority areas in the south may go to India and the Muslim majority areas in the north west may go to Pakistan. The Kashmiri speaking areas may be demarcated with due regard to viability and security of this unit and the wishes of the people in this zone may be ascertained through a plebiscite.
*The Hindu majority areas in the south may go to India and the Muslim majority areas in the north west to Pakistan and the Kashmiri speaking areas may be formed into an international unit with treaty relations with India and Pakistan.
*The State may be partitioned on the basis of religion and the Hindu majority areas may be transferred to India and the Muslim majority areas to Pakistan.
*The present cease fire line may be established permanently with suitable adjustments.
Abdullah was by now obsessed with his insular and myopic view of an independent Kashmir Valley which he could preside over, not caring two hoots about the rest of the truncated state left with India. The entire doctrine went against the grain and was a volte face from the man who had opposed Jinnah for his two nation theory built on the edifice of religious identity and division. It sent alarm bells ringing.
Then came the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back — Abdullah writing to Nehru on July 4, 1953:
“I realise that you must be having an unusually crowded time after your return to Delhi. I would have certainly come down myself to Delhi, but Bakshi and Beg will explain to you why it is not desirable for me to leave Srinagar at present. I would very much wish you to come to this place after the AICC session is over. Maulana Saheb (Azad) could also come with you. In any case, it would be useful that we meet here before you visit Karachi.. Objectively the State is subject to pulls from India and Pakistan. The external pressure naturally creates internal reactions in terms of divided loyalties. In order to neutralise these reactions, we had devised a formula and considered a restricted relationship with India as a suitable course conducive to internal consolidation. We believe that the accession of the State to India on the terms of the Instrument of Accession would provide necessary opportunities of allaying the fears of various sections of the people of the State.”
It is true that the choice before the State lay between full integration and full autonomy. It is not perhaps remembered that we may make certain concessions. The fact of transfer of three vital subjects viz. defence, communications and foreign affairs, to the Union is a sufficient guarantee to the minorities of the State that their interests would not be jeopardised in any way.
And so the emotional outpourings of a disturbed mind continued in the lengthy letter:
“When Article 370 was devised, we felt assured by the statement from Sardar Patel that the Instrument of Accession would be the final basis of India-Kashmir relationship. Subsequently, when the Delhi Agreement came up before the Council of State on August 5, 1952, Gopalaswami Ayyangar stated that Article 370 was not a permanent feature of the Indian Constitution and ‘when the time was ripe’, this provision could be removed from the Constitution.”
The litany of woes continued till he ended with a sense of victimhood, “My idea about secular democracy is not cramped or narrow minded, I believe in justice for all sections of the people and my attitude is conditioned by realities and by wishful thinking. I agree that personal relationship between individuals should not be a consideration where larger national interests are involved.”
In this battle between the road to integration and greater autonomy, the die had been cast by both sides. The split was defined and wide open. Not just between Nehru and Abdullah, but the cleave was now drawn within the National Conference where Bakshi Ghulam Mohd. was openly batting for India while Mirza Beg was batting for Abdullah. In an internal National Conference coup, Abdullah was toppled by Bakshi who took over the reins of the State.
Prime Minister Modi has to walk on egg shells in his quest for a lasting peaceful solution. Does he give Kashmir Valley or the entire State pre-1953 autonomy? Does he pave the way for greater integration or does he arrive at a geographical autonomy whereby Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh divisions pursue independent within the Indian Constitution structures? The stark reality of very few options other than the availability of limited autonomy at this juncture cannot be argued over. Does the PM bring the separatists to the confabulating table so that all stakeholders are addressed? An imminent and lasting solution for Kashmir to alleviate its heartache. At all times, the scope and size of dialogue has to be within the limits of our Constitution. Nothing else is acceptable.