By Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai
”Jammu and Kashmir has been, is and will always remain an integral part of India. Indian people will no longer tolerate an unholy ‘global gathabndhan’ against our national interest. Amit Shah, Home Minister of India.: November 17, 2020
“Mr. Minister, Kashmiris have yet to assent to be part of India and then we could share the Indian national interest. Respectfully wish to remind you about your word of honor at the United Nations.” Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani: “The Governments of Pakistan and India have ample opportunities to articulate their positions and make them known to the world. Not so the people of Kashmir. I neither pretend impartiality nor claim a thorough knowledge of, or adherence to, the position of any particular section of Kashmiri opinion. But I think that an attempt to see the conflict from a Kashmiri – and human – perspective may not be useless in any mental exercise towards its resolution.” Ambassador Yusuf Buch
The insensitive comment by Mr. Amit Shah needs to be supplemented by some observations both from an objective perspective and also as Ambassador Buch suggests, from the viewpoint of the people of Jammu & Kashmir itself. These deserve to be borne in mind by policy-making agencies and personalities of major Capitols of the world.
To me the best answer that could be given to Amit Shah was provided by Greg Anderson, a National Basketball Association player, when he said, “The Law of Win/Win says, ‘Let’s not do it your way or my way; let’s do it the best way’.”
I believe the best way to resolve the Kashmir conflict is through listening to Mahatma Gandhi, who said on July 29, 1947 in Delhi, “The real sovereign of the state are the people. The ruler is a servant of the people. If he is not so then he is not the ruler. This is my firm belief, and that is why I became a rebel against the British – because the British claimed to be the rulers of India, and I refused to recognize them as such. In Kashmir too the power belongs to the public. Let them do as they want.”
Now, the question needs to be asked: at what point of time and by what reasonable means did Kashmir become an integral part of India?
The Indian officials have put forth various hypothesis at different times to justify their stand that Kashmir was the integral part of India. Let us analyze them one by one.
One: By the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharajah on October 27, 1947.
To begin with, it is a historical fact that when Britain was liquidating its empire in the subcontinent, the tripartite agreement of Britain, the National Congress and the Muslim League partitioned British India into two independent countries: India & Pakistan. As this settlement also meant the end of British paramountcy over the autonomous principalities called States, these were supposed to merge with one of the two countries in accordance with the wishes of the people and the principle of partition. Kashmir was a predominantly Muslim‑majority State; besides, it was far more contiguous with Pakistan than with India. It was therefore, expected to accede to Pakistan.
Faced with the insurgency of his people, the Maharajah fled the capital Srinagar, on October 25, 1947 and arranged that India send its army to help him crush the rebellion. India, coveting the territory, set one condition on its armed intervention, that the Maharajah must sign an Instrument of Accession to India. Maharaja signed but Lord Mountbatten accepted it subject to the reference to the people. Between October and December of 1947, the Azad Kashmir forces successfully resisted India’s armed intervention and liberated one‑third of the State. Realizing it could not quell the resistance, India brought the issue to the United Nations in January 1948.
There was much in the submissions at the United Nations that was controversial, but the proposal of a plebiscite was not. This is clear from the statement made on January 15, 1948 by Indian delegate, Sir Gopalasawami Ayyangar, at Security Council,”… Whether she [Kashmir] should withdraw from her accession to India, and either accede to India or remain independent, with a right to claim admission as a member of the UN – all this we have recognised to be matter for unfettered decision by the people of Kashmir after normal life is restored there.” So, it is clear that India itself acknowledge that the accession was subject to plebiscite under international auspices.
Second: By the decision of the Jammu & Kashmir Constituent Assembly?
Besides, UN Security Council resolution # 92 of 1951 and 122 of 1957, Ambassador Quevedo of Ecuador said it the best during the 539th meeting of the Security Council on March 30, 1951 that, “In the present circumstances, the constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be considered as representing the people as a whole or as a free manifestation of the people’s will, and the decisions of such an assembly can neither change nor deprive of their effect the international undertakings entered into by India and Pakistan in respect of the plebiscite.”
Third: By the sheer passage of time?
Much is being made of the fact that seven decades have passed since the principled solution was formulated by the United Nations with almost universal support. The passage of time cannot invalidate an enduring and irreplaceable principle – the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir. If passage of time were allowed to extinguish solemn international agreements, then the United Nations Charter should suffer the same fate as the resolutions on Kashmir. If non-implementation were to render an agreement defunct, then the Geneva Convention in twenty-first century in many countries is in no better state than these resolutions.
Fourth: By the elections held periodically in the Indian occupied Kashmir?
But these elections are known to have been rigged. Here are few illustrations;
“Elections in Kashmir have been rigged from the beginning… the methods changed from elections to elections.” PK Dave, Former Chief Secretary of Jammu & Kashmir – 1991
Arundhati Roy, Booker Prizewinner said on September 27, 2009, “Elections in Kashmir have had a long and fascinating past. The blatantly rigged state election of 1987 was the immediate provocation for the armed uprising that began in 1990.”
Dr. Shri Prakash in his book, ‘Twenty Tumultuous Years Insights in to Indian Polity’ on page 568 writes, “The Kashmiri anger actually began with the mass rigging of elections in 1987. There is no use putting life in a corpse. Kashmiri leaders from Farooq Abdullah downwards have lost their credibility, they are totally irrelevant.”
Amy Waldman wrote in the New York Times on August 24, 2002 that “Rigged elections in Kashmir in 1989 helped trigger the armed uprising.”
Doesn’t Amit Shah behave like prime minister Nehru about whom, President John F. Kennedy said, “Pandit Nehru has the ability to talk scholarly about every issue under the sun, but as soon as there is any mention of Kashmir, he instantaneously puts his head down and fixes his eyes on the floor fixed in the button-hole of his sherwani and keeps quiet and sinks deep into a state of meditation like a Yogi.”
Sounder minds must prevail. More rational methods of dealing with Kashmir conflict must be sought. Repeating the same mistakes while expecting different results has long ago been found to be the path of failure. Seventy-three years should demonstrate both India & Pakistan a need for a change in policy, a policy that accepts the need for coming together in a process that accepts the right of all people to determine their own destiny.
What should be the procedure for putting the dispute on the road to a settlement? The better way would be to ask the Secretary General of the United Nations, with the concurrence of the Security Council, to engage himself, directly or through a representative of high international standing, in a sustained effort of facilitation which should (a) ensure that the position of the people of Kashmir is fully taken into account and (b) aim at a settlement within a reasonable time-frame, providing for a transitional period, if necessary, for a calming effect.
Dr. Fai is the Secretary General, Washington-based World Kashmir Awareness Forum.