Alienation of Kashmiri people was accentuated by Congress manoeuvres of 1983. The need of the hour is to integrate Kashmir.
Squarely placing the blame for the Kashmir imbroglio on Jawaharlal Nehru the BJP leaders repeatedly stated in Parliament that while promoting the use of Article 370, which was enacted in 1949, two years after the accession of Jammu & Kashmir in October 1947, the first Prime Minister had said that Article 370, a temporary and transient provision, will “corrode and erode itself”. Nehru’s prophecy evolved over the past 70 years as many provisions of Indian law were pushed through the backdoor into J&K and finally proved prophetic when Amit Shah introduced legislation in Rajya Sabha on 5 August 2019, which received overwhelming support cutting across party barriers both in Rajya Sabha and the next day in Lok Sabha. Congress found itself isolated in Parliament and later rift appeared in party forum as well, with the younger generation, sans Rahul Gandhi, raising the red flag against the party’s archaic stand. Ironically, corrosion and erosion of Nehru’s party, Indian National Congress (or the dominant faction of it which emerged as Nehru-Gandhi family fief since the 1969 split) became all too evident as Parliament passed the historic resolutions which completed the process of integration of India begun by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in 1947.
The most telling support to the abolition of Articles 370 and 35A came from 88-year-old scholar and scion of the erstwhile Dogra ruling family of J&K, Dr Karan Singh, who had served as Sadr-i-Riyasat and later the first Governor of J&K. He said 35A created gender discrimination and hoped that a delimitation of Assembly constituencies now will create a fair division of political power between the Jammu region and Kashmir region—thus far skewed in favour of the later. Dr Karan Singh also disclosed that way back in 1965 he had advocated the formation of a Union Territory for Ladakh. Thus the Narendra Modi government, in one stroke, has implemented the manifesto promise of erstwhile Jan Sangh and present BJP, reiterated and repeated since 1952. The overwhelming second victory of BJP in national elections perhaps provided justification for the implementation of a long standing promise made in the Sangh manifesto.
What Dr Karan Singh did not state in his 8 August public articulation had been asserted by him in a speech in the Rajya Sabha in 2016: he had said that as Yuvraj he was in the room when his father Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Document of Accession on 26 October 1947; it was the same document which had been signed by 562 other former princely states. Karan Singh had wondered in his speech that while the rest of the states subsequently merged into the Indian mainstream why J&K was yet to do so.
Two statements by leaders of Congress in the two Houses of Parliament have laid bare the party’s apparent disconnect with popular mood and discourse. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the Lok Sabha floor leader, made even Sonia Gandhi blush when he compared the present situation in J&K to a “concentration camp” and reminded the government that Kashmir was an “international issue”. This at a time when no foreign government has raised its eyebrows on the developments of the past week. United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka have even hailed the move. The United States has treated it as India’s internal matter. Some concerns have been raised on human rights front by the US and even UN agencies on the preventive detention and communication curbs, but no condemnation or censure has ensued. The assertion of the Congress floor leader in Lok Sabha was perhaps in sync with the sentiments in Pakistan, which was basking in the glory of the recent visit by its civilian leader Imran Khan in the shadow of military head General Bajwa to Washington where Donald Trump offered to mediate on Kashmir, an offer which Narendra Modi chose to wink away. (External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar lost no time in having a plain speak with his counterpart, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit prior to the 5 August move by New Delhi.)
Similarly, the issuance of a whip by the leader of the party in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, on voting against the government move caused the resignation of the party’s chief whip, Bhubaneswar Kalita. In a statement from Guwahati later this veteran Congressman said that he as chief whip was unaware of the whip which Azad issued. On 8 August, Azad dismissed the effort by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to engage with the common people at the troubled south Kashmir town of Shopian by saying, “paise de kar aap kisi ko bhi saath le sakte ho”. It was an unfortunate statement coming from a former J&K Chief Minister, that too the only former CM who does not occupy a spacious government mansion in Srinagar’s elite Gupkar Road, unlike Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. Azad, who belongs to the Doda region of Jammu had emerged as a leader in J&K from his days in the Youth Congress—the only Jammu person who became CM of the state ever.
The money power Azad suspected was perhaps a fallback on his own role in 1983 when after failing to oust Jammu & Kashmir National Conference in the first state election in the post Sheikh Abdullah era Congress devoted its energy on engineering defections from JKNC and ultimately toppled the government of Farooq Abdullah in July 1984, lending its legislators to Farooq’s estranged brother in law Ghulam Mohammad Shah. Journalists like Arun Shourie had extensively reported how Congress attempt to rig the 1983 elections had failed. When voters did not help Congress, Arun Nehru led operation topple. Azad was a prominent member of this team.
Brouhaha made by Azad over the deployment of security forces now is ironical—prior to toppling Farooq paramilitary forces had been airlifted from Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh in Indian Airlines Airbus and Boeing 737 sorties in end June 1984. The attempt to rig the 1983 poll and the subsequent operation topple, which installed what the then BJP under Atal BihariVajpayee described as a “rump government”, created a situation in which people of Kashmir started losing faith on New Delhi.
This writer was present in Srinagar on 8 September 1982 when Sheikh Abdullah passed away, and was in Srinagar covering the events in 1983 and 1984 as well. Sheikh Abdullah, on the advice of powers that be in New Delhi, had anointed Farooq as his successor in August 1981 (just as Farooq anointed Omar in 2002 by making him JKNC president). When Sheikh died, D.D. Thakur, the senior most minister in his Cabinet, led a resolution by all ministers refusing to be sworn in as CM—only Farooq, who held the health portfolio, was the exception—thus Governor B.K. Nehru had little choice but to swear in Farooq as CM. Sheikh’s son-in-law Ghulam Mohammad Shah (popularly called Gulshah) had quit the Cabinet a few days earlier and thus was out of the race. Sheikh’s body was placed at the Polo Grounds for public to pay respects. When Gulshah went to the Polo Grounds, JKNC workers shouted slogans against him and he was turned away. Later, when Gulshah became CM the slogans raised on the streets was “Gulshah chor hai; markazi sarkar muradabad”. Alienation with New Delhi was reinforced by Congress machinations of 1983-84.This alienation led to the events which ensued after three policemen were shot dead in Srinagar in 1989. Three decades of bloodlettings followed.
The slogan, which was the clarion call of JKNC, reverberated in the funeral of the Sheikh: “Sher-e-Kashmir ka kya irshaad: Hindu Muslim Sikh ittehad ( unity of all communities is the legacy of Sheikh Abdullah)”. On 5 July 1984, when pro Pakistan slogans were raised by a section at a JKNC meeting at Mujahid Manzil to protest the installation of the rump government, JKNC workers beat up the sloganeers with shoes. This writer was witness to this.
Narendra Modi in his 8 August broadcast paid tribute to Maulavi Ghulam Din of village Dalan, Poonch district, who was awarded the Ashok Chakra as he alerted the Indian Army of the presence of Pakistani infiltrators in 1965, thus foiling Ayub Khan’s Operation Gibralter. Padma Shri was awarded to Mohammad Din of Dara-Kassi, Gulmarg, as he had tipped off the Army of a thousand Pakistani infiltrators in 1965. The Peoples’ Militia of JKNC had held out against Pakistani marauders in 1947 till Indian Army landed. The Kargil intrusion became known as Bakarwal shepherds spotted them and informed the Kargil Brigade headquarters in 1999.
The need of the hour is to integrate Kashmir. Legislation done, now development and empowerment of the genuine political class in J&K can achieve that.