Kashmir conflict: Revisiting Nehru’s Legacy
With the end of British paramountcy on 15th August 1947 India’s towering leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, famously declared India’s ‘tryst with destiny’. What followed the aspirational beginning of a new India was light years away from Nehru’s democratic socialism or secularism. Hundreds & thousands of Muslim refugees were killed, if not with the consent of Nehru, but at least under his ‘benign’ gaze. Not long before, Redcliffe Award was manipulated by arbitrarily awarding Gurdaspore and Ferozpur areas of undivided Punjab to India with the active connivance of Nehru and Mountbatten. One cannot overlook the impact of Edwina Mountbatten’s ‘not-so-holy’ relationships with Nehru in shaping the aftermath of partition in India’s favor. It was due to the obvious fact that Nehru had second thoughts about Kashmir and never wanted to close the Indian routes to Kashmir. His possessive love for Kashmiri Shikararas and its lush green mountains was enough for him to conspire with all forces to have it, no matter how it affects the millions of its people. Moreover, ‘possessing’ Kashmir also meant giving Jinnah a ‘moth-eaten and truncated’ Pakistan. It is pertinent to mention here that during freedom struggle it was Nehru’s intransigence on the majoritarian nature of polity and his inability to allay Muslim League’s fears of reducing Muslims vulnerable that made the partition not only inevitable but bloody and vitriolic as well. Cabinet Mission Plan failed largely because of Nehru.
After the partition, the Princely states were given options to join dominions of India and Pakistan or to remain independent.The majority of the princely states joined India and three states -Kashmir, Junagarh, and Hyderabad- emerged problematic. The Nizam of Hyderabad wished to carve out an independent kingdom surrounded on all sides by India. The idea was not well taken by India and Hyderabad was integrated with the Indian union after military intervention. The princely states of Kashmir and Junagarh had a contrasting similarity. While Junagarh was a Hindu majority state ruled by a Muslim despot, Kashmir was a Muslim dominated state run by autocratic Hindu ruler- Maharaja Hari Singh. Disregarding the wishes of his people, the Muslim ruler of Junagarh wanted to merge his Hindu majority state with Pakistan. Nehru and his ‘democratic’ acolytes protested and after a plebiscite, Junagarh fell into the Indian kitty. Now, when it came to Kashmir, the unambiguous, black and white rules of the Mountbatten Plan which declared that ‘Muslim majority areas on the North West would be part of Pakistan’, were thrown to winds. After dillydallying for almost two months during which he had signed a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan, Hari Singh acceded to the Indian Union in foggy circumstances, thus brazenly disregarding the popular sentiments of its people. The dissident voices were crushed and the ‘accession’ hence signed was pushed down the public psyche as ‘internal autonomy’. Cries were made that accession was different from merger and accession itself was subject to ratification by the majority’s consent (who would forget Sheikh Abdullah’s demagogic rhetoric of mustard oil in a drop of water comparison).
Jawaharlal Nehru and his point man Shiekh Abdullah, pledged more than once at public forums that Indian control over the state of Jammu and Kashmir would be limited to subjects mentioned in the Instrument of Accession and peoples’ sentiments regarding the fate of the state would be duly considered. Ironically, the accession was confined to three subjects -Defense, External Affairs, and Communications.
In 1948 Nehru himself took Kashmir issue in the United Nations Security Council after aggression from Pakistan, therefore, internationalizing the issue.
On 2 November 1947, it was Nehru who promised the oppressed people of Kashmir that people of Kashmir will decide their own destiny.
On 25 November 1947 he promised in the Constituent Assembly that whenever Kashmiri people would want their rights, it would be under the watch of United Nations through a referendum.
In 1948 the government of India published the white paper in which it was mentioned that the matter of plebiscite should be resolved peacefully.
On 16 January 1951 the then the prime minister of India Pt. Nehru addressed the press conference in London in which he proclaimed that the people of Kashmir should be given their rights.
On 5 June 1951 Pt. Nehru addressed a rally at Lal Chowk and said that the Government of India stands by its commitments made with regard to Kashmir.
Prime Minister Modi while paying homage to Nehru on his birthday (14th November 2016) smelled prescient when he said that he would be taking Nehru’s legacy forward (it is besides the point that on other days he claims that his mission would be to undo Nehruvian idea of India). Then, what constitutes his legacy? Nehru’s legacy with regard to Kashmir is vividly written on the face of every traumatized Kashmiri. It is etched in the memory of dead and living alike. It is housed in the collective consciousness of every oppressed Kashmiri. It is starkly present in Shia-Sunni, Dogri-Kashmiri, Salafi-Barelvi, Maulvi-shopkeeper, and God knows how many other arbitrarily imposed divisions by the colonial state. The legacy is echoed in haunted Jamia Masjid (closed for prayers, sine die); it is reflected in the graffiti on walls and closed shutters of shops. The legacy is even internalized by a native class of Kashmiris who are relentlessly struggling for last four months, day in and day out, to keep the legacy flourishing. Bad guys call them collaborators. Historians call this legacy a brutal account of cheat, manipulation, and oppression.