Kashmir is a flashpoint endangering security of Asia
23 February, 2012
By Asif Haroon Raja
Under the partition plan worked out by the British in June 1947, the 600 princely states had been given the choice of either joining up with India or Pakistan, giving credence to communal demographic milieus and geographic proximity. India in connivance with British Viceroy Lord Mount Batten annexed all the princely states including Junagadh, Hyderabad Deccan and Manavadar whose Muslim rulers had desired accession to Pakistan. India annexed these states on the pretext of communal affinity and contiguity. However, the same approach was not adopted in Kashmir which was heavily Muslim populated and contiguous to Pakistan but was ruled by an autocratic Hindu Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh.
Jawaharlal Nehru led Congress leaders who opposed division of India tooth and nail till the very end didn't want to part with Kashmir at any cost. In connivance with Viceroy Lord Mount Batten and Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a plan was hatched to falsify Two-Nation Theory, negate the partition principle of self-determination and to cripple Pakistan at its birth by means of mischievous Radcliffe Award. After blatantly dividing Punjab and Bengal and further depriving Pakistan of its rightful lands to convert the newly born state into moth eaten Pakistan, Boundary Award was deviously altered by Radcliffe at the behest of Mount Batten to make predominantly Muslim majority district of Gurdaspur district in East Punjab part of India.
This treachery was committed to make Kashmir contiguous to India and give a reason to Indian leaders to lay claim over it. By this perfidious act, which Mount Batten himself admitted at a later date, he not only subjected Muslim majority area to the eternal curse of Hindu domination, but also sowed the seed from which was to grow the Indian domination of State of Kashmir inhabited by 80% Muslims.
On July 19, 1947 All J&K Muslim Conference unanimously adopted a resolution that their sole goal was accession to Pakistan. Maharaja was asked to respect the wishes of the people. While the people of Kashmir yearned to become part of Pakistan, the Maharaja under the heavy influence of Congress leaders and Mount Batten kept dilly dallying. To placate the people he entered into a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan. This was a ruse to buy time since his inclinations were to either remain independent or as a last resort join India. Top Congress leaders including Mahatma Gandhi held meetings with him in Srinagar to influence his decision. Hari Singh obliged them by meting out harsh treatment to those favoring accession to Pakistan. Thousands of armed members of infamous RSSS comprising extremist Hindu thugs and Sikhs Jathas infiltrated into Kashmir and started a wave of unprovoked calculated terrorism against the Muslims in order to subdue them into surrendering their democratic aspirations to the fanaticism of their despotic ruler.
The Maharaja undertook construction of Road Pathankot-Kathua-Jammu to link India with Kashmir. In collusion with India, Hindus were inducted in Jammu province, heavily populated with Muslims, and were secretly armed. In conjunction with Dogra police, the terrorists forced the Muslims living in Jammu to flee to Pakistan and in matter of days the province was cleansed of its Muslim population. (That is how Muslim majority Jammu was converted into Hindu majority province). The Maharaja after disarming Muslims in Poonch, repeated this experiment in that town as well, which housed 90% Muslim majority. 200,000 Muslims were butchered and thousands of girls abducted. It was a deliberate act of Maharaja to provoke Pakistan to react so that he could find an excuse to seek India's military assistance.
Fearing similar fate of Jammu Muslims, 50,000 ex servicemen in Poonch resorted to armed struggle in first week of October 1947 against Dogra troops at their own without any support from Pakistan. Impassioned appeals of hapless Kashmiris for help went unheard. The ones who managed to reach Pakistan in pathetic condition narrated harrowing tales perpetrated by Hindu extremist gangs, causing deep resentment and anger among the Pakistanis. When the sorry plight of the Kashmiris could no more be tolerated by the tribesmen of NWFP and FATA, they formed a Lashkar and rushed to their rescue on 24 October. They battled their way through Muzaffarabad and then advanced along the road leading to Srinagar, clearing series of towns and reached Baramula, 35 miles away from Srinagar on 26 October.
On that day, the marooned Maharaja who had fled to Jammu wrote a frantic letter to Mount Batten seeking his help. Governor General Mount Batten in consultation with gleeful Nehru promised him the desired help but subject to his accepting the accession of the state to the dominion of India. Instrument of Accession was coercively obtained from him by VP Menon with the approval of Sheikh Abdullah after the Indian troops had been air dashed to Sri Nagar on 27th. Accession letter was otherwise provisional and subject to ratification by Kashmiris. Maharaja was flown to India and detained where he died unwept.
But for the valiant resistance put up by Azad forces of Kashmir and the tribesmen, Hindu terrorists in concert with Dogra Army would have cleansed whole of Kashmir of the presence of Muslims. Azad forces after liberating Poonch, Bhimber, Mirpur, Jhangar, Naushera and Kotli, joined up with tribal lashkar in Muzaffarabad and started advancing towards Srinagar. Had the tribesmen not wasted two days at Baramula and had entered Srinagar on 26th, which was only two hours journey, or even on 27th when Indian troops were being air landed through an air bridge, story of Kashmir would have been different. By the time they moved forward on 29th, Indian forces had gathered sufficient combat strength in the capital city to turn the tables on the tribesmen.
Once the tribesmen started withdrawing with the same speed with which they had moved forward and the Indian columns supported by air started to advance towards Muzaffarabad and had reached up to Chakothi, Maj Gen Akbar Khan reorganized the defences with the help of ex servicemen and the tribesmen and blocked their advance and also pushed them back beyond Uri. Gilgit Scouts captured Gilgit, Skardu and surrounding areas.
Plunging fortunes of the Indian military compelled Nehru to rush to the UNSC on 01 January 1948 to make a complaint against Pakistan and seek ceasefire. However, his real purpose was not to disengage but to portray Pakistan as an aggressor and supporter of tribal lashkar and project Indian intervention as a defensive act to save Kashmir, which in his perverted logic was part of India. Contrary to undertaking given to UNSC that Kashmir situation will not be aggravated, Indian military launched a two pronged offensive in April 1948. The offensive in Jhelum and Neelum valleys directed towards Muzaffarabad directly threatened the security of Pakistan. At that stage Quaid-e-Azam had to ultimately order dispatch of one infantry brigade of Pak Army into Kashmir on 20 April 1948. Beefing up its strength with irregulars, it took up positions in Jhelum and Neelum Valleys in May and successfully contained the Indian Summer Offensive in the two Valleys. With induction of additional brigade, a counter offensive launched in July in both the Valleys succeeded in recapturing Pandu complex and Pir Kanthi in Jhelum Valley and Chunj-Pir Sahaba complex in Neelum Valley.
The UNSC then affected ceasefire through its resolution dated 13 August 1948 and another resolution dated 5 January 1949, which was accepted by India. PM Liaquat Ali Khan agreed to ceasefire since Nehru had pledged that a plebiscite will be held under the supervision of the UN to allow chance to the people of Kashmir to decide their future. The UN also accepted rights of self-determination and demilitarization of the state and declared Kashmir a disputed territory.
In spite of the adverse relative strength of the two sides, Pak forces were well poised to make further progress since by then the Indian forces had started to suffer reverses on several fronts. The military situation after 15-month war of liberation had become precarious for India because its Army had lost its cream. Had Jammu road, the sole entry into Kashmir from India been blocked, Indian troops would have got locked for eventual destruction and Kashmir would have fallen in the lap of Pakistan like a ripe apple. 1951 mutiny was attempted by Gen Akbar and his team because he was convinced that ceasefire was uncalled for and victory could easily be achieved. He felt if Jinnah was alive, he would never have accepted ceasefire.
While ceasefire took place, demilitarization couldn't be realized due to India's intransigence. Without withdrawal of troops plebiscite couldn't be held. While Pakistan accepted all the proposals floated by UNSC so that a plebiscite could be held, India rejected all and refused to pull back its troops. Even arbitration proposal was discarded. India kept changing goalposts to buy time and balk a solution of the dispute. Nehru dragged his feet by saying plebiscite would be held as soon as law and order was restored in Kashmir.
Having achieved the desired objective of averting the danger, the Indians then began to slip out of their commitment to hold plebiscite. Nehru after making pledges on several occasions backtracked from his commitment in March 1956 on the plea that Pakistan by joining SEATO and CENTO had become a threat to India and that Pakistan armed forces were receiving American aid. (Six years later, India felt no compunction in receiving massive military aid both from USSR and USA and western world after its border clash with China). Nehru then absorbed Kashmir within Indian dominion by drafting a new constitution and advanced a bizarre claim that Kashmir was part of India since it was mentioned as such in Indian Constitution. About plebiscite he brazenly said it was no more valid and also took the plea that it would disturb law and order in Kashmir.
Sheikh Abdullah heading National Conference who had been duped by Nehru by calling him his personal friend was installed as PM in Kashmir soon after Indian troops occupied it. When he showed reluctance to ratify Article 370 of Indian Constitution through the Kashmir Assembly, which would have meant extension of jurisdiction of Indian Supreme Court and the Election Committee to Kashmir, doing away with separate president, flag and national anthem, it angered Dogra Hindus and Nehru had to arrest him in 1953 on a trumped up charge. Intriguer Abdullah languished in jail for 11 years and so was the case with leaders belonging to Muslim Conference.
Another puppet Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad was chosen by Nehru as his replacement because he agreed to what his predecessor was not willing to do. He ratified Kashmir's accession to India through Jammu & Kashmir Constituent Assembly in February 1956 and in May Indian President promulgated constitution order. Bakhshi ruled for ten years and helped India in consolidating its hold over occupied Kashmir by holding bogus elections and forcing people to vote for puppets under the barrel of gun. He closed Defence Services for Muslim Kashmiris and made Pundits and Dogras eligible for induction. In order to please his mentors in Delhi, he upgraded the fortunes of Hindus and reduced the Muslims to serfs. His successor GM Sadiq went a step further to please his mentors in Delhi by fully supporting integration of the state with India. Another Indian tout Mir Qasim replaced him in 1972 and after his death Sheikh Abdullah was released from jail and made the PM. Other string-puppets who followed him after 1982 kept dancing to the tunes of India and are still dancing.
Whenever the situation got out of control of the dummy state government, governor rule was imposed by Delhi and a reign of terror let loose upon luckless Kashmiris by applying draconian laws. 1965 Indo-Pak war took place essentially because of India's intransigence to settle the dispute as per UN resolutions. Had the Kashmiris risen in revolt as they had done in 1989, Operation Gibraltar followed by Operation Grand Slam would certainly have succeeded and Kashmir would have become part of Pakistan. In the 1971 Indo-Pak war, a deliberate effort was made by 23 Division under Maj Gen Iftikhar Janjua to make a decisive push into Occupied Kashmir across River Tawi, but the offensive got stalled since the brave General died in a helicopter crash.
After 1972 Simla agreement, ceasefire line was renamed as Line of Control (LoC), which was to be respected by both sides. Policy of bilateralism was enforced by India so as to keep third party mediation out. While India kept preaching resolution through bilateralism, it simply refused to discuss Kashmir issue, stubbornly maintaining that Kashmir is not a disputed territory but an integral part of India and any discussion on it amounted to interference in its internal affairs. It was like 'heads you lose, tails I win'. When India was reminded that ingresses in Siachin Glacier in June 1984 and in several other areas across the LoC had killed the spirit of Simla agreement, it looked the other way. Bilateralism otherwise had little chance of success since it excluded the main party to the dispute – the Kashmiris.
All peaceful efforts aimed at changing the status quo have met with outright obduracy. Armed uprising from 1989 onwards followed by unarmed movement in 2008-10 in the bleeding vale of Kashmir resulting in deaths of tens of thousands at the hands of Indian security forces didn't soften up cold-blooded Hindu Brahman rulers. After killing over 100,000 Kashmiris, men, women and children and incapacitating the same number in a mad frenzy to crush the movement, neither there is any let up in Indian atrocities nor in the freedom struggle of the Kashmiris. Thousands have gone missing or killed in fake encounters and not a single killer has ever been made accountable. Indian soldiers, paramilitary forces and police employed in Occupied Kashmir are above law.
India falsely claims that secession of Kashmir, for that is precisely what a plebiscite in the State would mean, would become a precedent for other Indian states to secede from the fractionally divided, internally restive, artificially cemented Indian Union. This weird logic is preposterous and it is mockery of justice. Why the Kashmiris should be made the sacrificial lamb for the sake of unity of Indian Union which has been unable to overcome factionalism and communalism. Dozens of insurgencies and separatist movements in about 20 Indian States out of total 28 States speaks for itself that there is something terribly wrong in so-called shining India which the advanced world never tire applauding.
The impotent UNO has failed to implement its own resolutions since the sufferers are Muslims and the perpetrators are non-Muslims. East Timor and South Sudan have been made independent through the UN arbitration since the inhabitants of the two regions are Christian heavy. In case of Kashmir, the sole super power callously says that the UN resolutions are outdated. It has ganged up with India and dubs the Kashmiri freedom fighters as terrorists. Even unarmed teenagers are dubbed as Pakistan motivated terrorists. Instead of restraining India, it is encouraging India to crush the movement with full force. Pakistan's moral, political and diplomatic support irritates India and the US. The duo dubs it as interference and goes a step further by alleging that Pakistan is involved in cross border terrorism.
While duplicitous USA considers the whole lot of Kashmiris, suffering state terrorism of Indian forces for over six decades, as terrorists deserving no mercy, it considers 2000-2500 terrorist Balochis supported by foreign powers involved in sabotage, abductions, target killings, killing of security forces and demanding independence of Balochistan as freedom fighters. Pak security forces are censured for carrying out human rights abuses. In collusion with India, the US is actively working on a sinister conspiracy to make Balochistan independent as is evident from the bill moved in US Congress for independent Balochistan on 17 February 2012. The bill states that Balochi people subjected to violence and extrajudicial killing have an innate right to self-determination and their own sovereign country. Instead of worrying over the fate of the Kashmiris and trying to solve the oldest dispute of Kashmir, the unjust and callous US leaders are more worried about Balochistan which is integral part of Pakistan and 97% people of Balochistan are patriotic Pakistanis.
The world as a whole has turned a deaf ear to the cries and shrieks of the Kashmiris agonizing in open hell and overlooks India's atrocities. They have been denied their indisputable right of self-determination as promised by the UN and the Indian leaders. India's belligerence and apathy of the world powers to resolve the oldest dispute of the world has bred extremism and poses a serious threat to the security of the entire continent of Asia. Kashmir has now become a flashpoint with nuclear overtones. Instead of fishing in troubled waters of Balochistan, the US should worry about the molten lava simmering in Kashmir, which is now at the brink of eruption.
The writer is a defence analyst, a freelance columnist and author of several books.