By Ghulam-Nabi Fai
Ambassador Yusuf Buch, former senior advisor to the United Nations Secretary General has elucidated that f there had been popular support in Kashmir for joining India, the dispute over Kashmir would have lasted for a year or so at the most. It would have dissolved long ago.
“The situation in Kashmir has nothing to do with passivity or docility in the Kashmiri character – that myth has been shattered now. Kashmiris hardly showed themselves as resigned to Indian occupation. Some discontent notwithstanding, Kashmir never felt itself to be part of India before 1947 and feels even less so after its forcible seizure by the Indian troops. The de-annexation process is inevitable in the post-colonial age. The only question is whether it is accomplished by armed struggle, resulting in a spiral of violence and counter-violence, or through negotiations and / or other means of peaceful settlement. The choice always lies with the occupying power,” Ambassador Buch said in a meeting at his residence in New York with Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, Washington-based World Kashmir Awareness Forum. Ambassador Buch who is a living encyclopedia on Kashmir expounded that Kashmiri Pandits regarded Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah as a Muslim chauvinist and Muslims suspected that he had struck some kind of deal with the Dogra regime despite its practice of open discrimination against the Muslims. Both were right not because Sheikh Abdullah was taking the middle position but because he easily swung from one extreme to the other.
“As early as 1934, however, a streak of opportunism in Sheikh Abdullah became visible when he stayed away from an agitation directed by his more steadfast and less theatrical colleague, Choudhary Ghulam Abbas, against the limitation of the franchise for the legislative assembly and the restriction of the assembly’s powers. From that time onwards, although he retained his unsurpassed capacity to arouse the emotions of the masses, his political position zigzagged and his popularity began to wane,” Buch added.
Responding to a question, Ambassador Buch said two things affected Sheikh Abdullah’s public standing. First, he betrayed pronounced fascist proclivities and frequently resorted to strong-arm methods in bullying his opponents. This became a scandal in the late 1930’s and the early 1940’s; he had to suffer physical reprisal for his hooliganism. Second, while still employing his emotive rhetoric, he veered more and more towards cooperation with the Maharaja’s autocratic regime.
He reminded that after the partition of British India in August 1947, Sheikh Abdullah wrote letters to his friends from jail recommending Kashmir’s accession to India, making sure that the letters would be seen by the Maharaja’s officials. This reinforced the assurances that the Maharaja had received from the leaders of the Indian National Congress, including Mohandas Gandhi, that Abdullah would help him to join India. Abdullah was granted ‘royal clemency’ and released from jail in return for colluding with the Maharaja in maneuvering accession to India. He flew immediately to Delhi to confer with the Indian leaders as did the Maharaja’s courtiers.
“Later when doubts began to grow in Delhi whether Sheikh Abdullah’s presumed popularity would swing the vote in India’s favour, India began to wriggle out of its pledge to a plebiscite. The doubts about success turned to certainty of defeat when Abdullah had to be ousted as Prime Minister and jailed in 1953. From that time, Indian policy was set dead against any ascertainment of the wishes of the people of Kashmir as the outcome was not in any dispute,” Buch maintained.
“If Sheikh Abdullah who in 1947 supported India taking over Kashmir by force had been at one time the most popular leader in Kashmir, Marshal Pertain, who capitulated before Hitler and cooperated with him, had been the most respected war hero of France. All occupation regimes find collaborationists in the occupied countries; there are Quislings and Lavals and Najibs in every society. Kashmir could not be an exception” Buch reminded.
Dr. Fai is the Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness Forum