( August 10, 2017, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) A soft approach of a sizeable section of Muslim intelligentsia in Kashmir including the political players towards the seditionists confirms the fact that despite accession of the biggest Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir to India under Indian Independence Act 1947, they are still carrying the mental baggage with the feeling of the Muslim-majority Kashmir’s separateness from the Hindu-majority India.
This was first generated by Sheikh Abdullah himself when he was the founding president of Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference in 1932.
Irrespective of their political affiliation many of the leaders from Kashmir were found to be avoiding a direct reply when confronted in TV debates of the exposure of the separatist leaders’ link with the terrorists operating in Kashmir. Their vague and irrelevant reaction over the arrest of Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani who was exposed as ‘chief of all terrorist groups operating in Kashmir’ and other separatist leaders suggests their soft attitude towards the separatists.In post-accession political history of Kashmir, no Muslim political leader from Sheikh Abdullah to Mehbooba Mufti, the present Chief Minister ever gave up their feeling of Kashmir’s separateness from India. After exposure of seditionist leaders for their Hawala connection and use of Haj money for financing the ongoing violence in Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti went to the extent of saying that if special status to Kashmir is withdrawn, there will be no one to hold the tricolour flag in Kashmir. So much so in her party rally at Srinagar on July 29 she said, “You cannot kill an idea. You cannot jail an idea”. It gives rise to the suspicion that she too perhaps has a soft corner for those who are behind the idea of Azadi’(Independence) though factually, technically and legally the State of Jammu & Kashmir became free from the suzerainty of British Empire as well as from the rule of Hindu monarchy; the day its ruler Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession to accede to India. Such an attitude of Muslim intelligentsia in the valley appears to be a major blockade to resolve the Kashmir problem.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir has a history of troubled times ever since the Muslim conquest of this region and mass conversion of its people to Islam particularly in the valley. Since then, the Kashmiri peasantry have suffered from the repressive Mogul, Afghan and other rulers. It is a historical irony that since 13th century when Kashmir became a Muslim majority region, the syncretistic culture of Kashmir like other parts of India which the natives called as ‘Kashmiriyat’ started losing its shine to ‘Muslimiyat’ or hate non-Muslim which dominated the administrative policy of the Muslim rulers. However, despite the peoples’ representative government in Kashmir following the instrument of accession to India signed by the Maharaja of the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir in October 1947 and Jammu & Kashmir becoming part of the democratic and secular India, the descendents of the Hindus now want to restore the administrative policies of the Muslim rulers.
It is a fact, though it may be vigorously denied that of the Muslim leaders- particularly Sheikh Abdullah due to his political ambitions to become the ruler of this former princely state played the politics of Muslim separatism and kept the Muslims of this region alienated from India. The problem started there and could he be called as the ideological father of the separatists?
About Sheikh Abdullah even the Central Intelligence Agency in its ‘special report on Sheikh Abdullah and Kashmir issue’ dated April 24, 1964 which was approved for release in December 1999 suggests that Sheikh Abdullah though agreed to Kashmir’s accession to India never gave up the idea of independent or quasi independent role for Kashmir. The report says: “Abdullah was also moved strongly by Kashmir’s feeling of separateness. Conversations with him in 1947 – and more particularly with his wife and some close associates – bear out that he then favoured some solution in which state will go its own way. He seems to have agreed to accession to India out of his regard for Nehru and his fear that otherwise the state would be overrun by Pakistan”
Although, Sheikh Abdullah realised the political reality of the day and had entered into an accord later with Indira Gandhi the then Prime Minister in mid seventies, a group of self-seeking and politically ambitious group under the patronage of Pakistan continue to harp on Azadi.
After the end of the Muslim rule, though ‘Muslimiyat’ took a back seat following the rule of Sikh and Hindu rulers, it again raised its head during India’s freedom movement against British Empire particularly after the formation of All India Muslim League. Drawing inspiration from the communal ideology of AIML, the Kashmiri Muslim youths under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah formed the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference to launch a movement against the then Hindu ruler Maharaja Hari Singh of this State with an objective to restore the lost Muslim rule, revive ‘Muslimiyat’ as administrative policy and to represent the hopes and interests of the Muslims. Abdullah’s speeches always started with verses from Quran indicating. One need not guess that he carried the day with Islamism in his consciousness. This was the beginning of Kashmiri Muslims of being encouraged to feel of having a separate identity.
The present separatist movement is in fact rooted to the same ‘Muslimiyat’ ideology of Muslim Conference and of the Muslim rule in the region when Islamists’ cruelties were carried out on the non-Muslim subjects for the purpose of their conversion to Islam. Driving out the Kashmiri pundits from the valley in 1990 was also a planned campaign of the Islamists which was rooted to the ethnic cleansing to free the valley from the Hindu minority and carry forward the legacy of ‘Muslimiyat.’
Sensing the trouble from his Muslim subjects, Maharaja Hari Singh armed himself with J & K constitution effective from September 1939 with all the powers including legislative, executive and judiciary vested in him and thereby became an absolute monarch of the State. Sheikh Abdullah reportedly on the advice of Nehru with a view to hide the communal image of his political organisation is said to have changed its name from Muslim Conference to National Conference in 1939. It was a tactical move of Sheikh Abdullah to project a secular character of the party by dropping the word “Muslims” from the title and opening its membership for Hindus and Sikhs also. He however, didn’t give up his feeling of separateness of the Muslim-majority Kashmir and always remained obsessed with ‘Muslimiyat’.
Thus, from All Jammu & Kashmir Muslim Conference to National Conference there was hardly any change in the ideology of restoring ‘Muslimiyat’ in Kashmir. He favoured an ultimate solution in which this Muslim-majority state will go its own way.
Ironically, even after Kashmir’s accession to India, Sheikh Abdullah remained obsessed to the ideology of independent Kashmir and influenced Nehru for a special status to his Muslim-majority state after incorporation of Article 370 in Indian Constitution.
Although, there were many political players besides Sheikh Abdullah who were responsible for the Kashmir problem but the closeness between Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah is said to be the one of the major reasons behind the initial indecision and hesitation of Maharaja Hari Singh to accede his State to India.
“Maharaja Hari Singh’s indecision to cast his lot with Indian dominion before the dead line of 15th August 1947 did complicate the matter. His initial indecision and hesitation to accede his state with India was due to his presumed hostility of Nehru towards him. This in effect was the beginning of the Kashmir problem, which we are facing even today…”
It is a fact that the State of J & K acceded to the Dominion of India under unique circumstances when many political players particularly Maharaja Hari Singh, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Lord Mountbatten, Sheikh Abdullah and Mohammad Ali Jinnah played their respective politics and created such a problem for this State that even after its seven decades old accession the successive governments have failed to resolve it.
Incorporation of Article 370 in Indian Constitution and addition of Article 35A by a Presidential Order provided a special status to this State and power to its legislature to define ‘State’s permanent residents’ and special rights and privileges created a political and emotional gap between J & K and rest of the states in the country. People of India including Kashmir are paying for this political blunder committed by the then political leadership which encouraged a section of Kashmiri Muslims including politicians, intelligentsia and a few seditionists for talking about their separate identity. They are raising slogans for Azadi but are not clear about its meaning. If they want an independent sovereign state, it is not clear as to why their supporters are raising the slogan of Pakistan Zindabad?
It is unfortunate that the Muslim political leaders of this state are not even ready to debate the two controversial Articles which were intended to be transitional and temporary in nature. Sooner the continuance of these Articles are debated and reviewed, the better is the prospect for the development and progress of this State at par with other states in India. Simultaneously, the trouble makers including a section of Kashmiri Muslim intelligentsia under the patronage of Pakistan should be strongly dealt with as per law. Their complete isolation from the Kashmiri masses to transform the prevailing mindset of the Muslims in the State from ‘Muslimiyat’ to ‘Kashmiriyat’ is also the need of the hour to integrate them emotionally with rest of the country and bring peace in the region.