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NEHRU ISSUE

14 November 2014

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How the Pandit Lost ; Certificate of Exc...

the Valley
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22
NOVEMBER
2014

IN THIS
ISSUE

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How the Pandit Lost the Valley | OPEN Magazine

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(/article/india/why-
he-still-matters)

Sumantra Bose (/User/926)


Sumantra Bose is Professor of International and
(/article/india/homeless-
Comparative Politics at the London School of in-allahabad)
Economics and Political Science. His next book,
Secular States, Religious Politics: India, Turkey, and
the Future of Secularism, will be published in early
2018 by Cambridge University Press

TAGGED UNDER -  J&K (/category/tags/jk)


 Sheikh Abdullah (/category/tags/sheikh-abdullah)
 Jawaharlal Nehru (/category/tags/jawaharlal-nehru-14)
HIGHLIGHTS

It was in 1953 that Kashmir’s estrangement from the


Indian Union began. Blame it on Nehru

(/article/locomotif/among-
the-brahmins)
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s tryst with Kashmir, his
ancestral land, spanned the last quarter-century of his
life. In 1940, he visited the Kashmir Valley at the
invitation of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. The 1930s
had witnessed a mass awakening in the Valley, starting
(/article/locomotif/the-
with the incident on 13 July 1931 when the princely evil-joke)

state’s police fired on demonstrators in Srinagar, killing


22 people. Sheikh Abdullah was the charismatic face of
the popular movement for change that developed in the
Valley through the 1930s. In 1938, Abdullah’s group was
behind the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference’s

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resolution to ‘end communalism by ceasing to think in


terms of Muslims and non-Muslims’ and its invitation to
‘all Hindus and Sikhs who believe in the freedom of their
country from an irresponsible rule’ to join the struggle. (/article/a-
moveable-
In 1939, the Muslim Conference was re-named the feast/taste-is-
emotional)
National Conference to reflect this spirit of inclusivity.

Tech Startup?
Exhibit at RISE BY THE
AUTHOR

In 1945, shortly after his release from prison, Nehru


returned to the Valley to attend the National
Conference’s annual convention. He was accompanied
by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Khan Abdul Ghaffar
Khan. A year earlier, in September 1944, the National
Conference leadership had met in Sopore and declared
the ‘Naya Kashmir’ manifesto, a republican and socialist
charter. Nehru’s convictions made him a natural
sympathiser of this political line.

By then, the princely state’s popular politics was


becoming polarised between the National Conference
and the Muslim Conference, revived in 1941 by religious
and social conservatives based mostly in the Jammu
region with support from anti-Abdullah elements in the
Valley. The National Conference was dominant in the MORE IN
THIS
Valley, but its rival had much influence in the Jammu SECTION
districts, on both sides of what was to become the
Ceasefire Line in 1949 and the Line of Control in 1972.
In 1944, Jinnah had visited the Kashmir Valley, and, in
an address to the Muslim Conference’s annual
gathering, proclaimed it to be representative of “99 per
cent” of the princely state’s Muslims. This snub to
Abdullah’s party reinforced its tilt towards the Indian
National Congress. When in April 1946 the National

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Conference launched its ‘Quit Kashmir’ mass agitation


against the Dogra monarchy—a movement inspired by
and modelled on Congress’s ‘Quit India’ call of 1942—the
Muslim Conference leader Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas
described it as “an agitation started at the behest of
Hindu [read Congress] leaders”. The battlelines had
been drawn for the events of late 1947 in Kashmir.
When the accession of the princely state to India was
sealed on 26-27 October 1947, Abdullah was staying at
Nehru’s residence, having arrived in Delhi on the
evening of 25 October.

Had Nehru’s government not taken the Kashmir issue


to the United Nations in January 1948—a move which
eventually led to a ceasefire in Kashmir on 1 January
1949—it is possible that the Indian Army would have
rolled back regular and irregular Pakistani forces further
towards the borders of the princely state over one or two
years of continued hostilities. There is no certainty,
however, that this counterfactual scenario would have
materialised, and pursuing it would have been risky and
bloody. It is also flawed to assume that had it
materialised, the Kashmir issue would have been laid to
rest. India would have had to deal with a much larger
pro-Pakistan population had possession of all or almost
all of the princely state been regained. Concentrated in
the western Jammu districts comprising the so- called
‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’, the strongholds of the
Muslim Conference and pro-Pakistan sardars (landed
chieftains), this population would have meant trouble,
whether from within or as refugees in Pakistan. That
would have compounded the thorny dilemma
represented for Indian policy by Abdullah, who, as

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events by the early 1950s revealed, viewed himself as an


equal ally rather than a docile subordinate of Nehru’s
government in New Delhi.

That dilemma came to a head in 1953, when Sheikh


Abdullah was summarily ejected from office and
imprisoned. While he was formally dismissed by Karan
Singh, the sadr-e-riyasat (titular head of state), the
extraordinary turn of events in August 1953 could only
have happened with the sanction of Nehru, at the very
least, and given its magnitude and ramifications,
Abdullah’s ouster was likely choreographed in New
Delhi. The ideological affinities and personal ties
between Nehru and Abdullah proved flimsy in the cold,
cruel light of realpolitik. In September 1953, Nehru
justified the change of regime in Srinagar in the Lok
Sabha on the grounds that Abdullah had lost the
confidence of three of his four cabinet colleagues—
Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, Pandit Shyamlal Saraf and
Giridharilal Dogra, leaving Mirza Afzal Beg asMarch
his03,
only
2019 Search Open Keyword
supporter—and
(/) that Abdullah’s actions had caused
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“distress to the people”.
(https://www.facebook.com/openthemagazine)
Certainly, Abdullah’s behaviour inthe run-up to August
(https://twitter.com/Openthemag)
1953 presented plenty of cause for alarm in New Delhi.
In negotiations with Nehru in Delhi in June- July 1952,
Abdullah dug in his heels on ‘maximum autonomy’ for
J&K and rejected most of the Government of India’s
proposals for greater integration with the Union.
Nehru’s report of the talks to the Lok Sabha in August
1952 had a tone of weary resignation—he wanted “no
forced unions”, he said, and if the government of J&K
wished “to part company with us, they can go their way
and we shall go our way”. In summer 1953 Abdullah—
fortified by the massive public response in the Valley to

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his government’s extensive land reforms between 1950


and 1952 and beleaguered by the Praja Parishad’s
escalating agitation for J&K’s ‘full integration’ with the
Union in the southern Jammu districts—upped the ante.
A National Conference sub-committee appointed to
examine options for J&K’s future status recommended
four options in June, all involving a plebiscite and
independence for part or all of the former princely state.
Abdullah refused to back down in correspondence
during July with Nehru as well as Azad. Instead, he
announced that his party’s working committee and
general council would discuss the proposals and also
take them to the public in the second half of August.

So Nehru can be regarded as having acted to protect


India’s territorial integrity and vital national interests in
1953. The problem was that the episode marked the
beginning of the Kashmir Valley’s bitter estrangement
from the Indian Union, as Abdullah had messiah-like
status in the eyes of the vast majority of the Valley’s
people. Syed Mir Qasim, a National Conference leader in
Anantnag, sided with the New Delhi-backed group and
immediately became a minister in Bakshi Ghulam
Mohammad’s cabinet; he was later J&K’s Chief Minister
from 1971 to 1975. He writes in his memoir, published in
1992, that the putsch ‘gave rise to a grim situation and a
bitter sense of betrayal… giving rise to widespread
agitations and protest marches. In Anantnag… I sat in
my law chamber for three days, watching wave after
wave of protest marches surge past. Some people were
killed in police firing’. On 12 August, Qasim set out for
Srinagar with GM Sadiq, a top National Conference
leader who also sided with New Delhi. As they passed
through the towns of Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama

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they ‘saw the people’s angry, rebellious mood’. In


Kulgam, crowds at a graveyard where people killed in
police firing were being buried asked on seeing him with
a police escort: “So you are also with them?” ‘In Shopian
we faced a graver situation’, as ‘a 20,000-strong crowd
menacingly surged towards where we were staying, to
attack us’. Sadiq and Qasim arrived in Srinagar to find
the city ‘in chaos’— ‘Bakshi Saheb’s own house, despite
the police guard, was under attack. He was nervous and
wanted to step down as Prime Minister in favour of Mr
Sadiq.’

Nehru was unrelenting. When in 1954 an attempt by the


Praja Socialist Party to open an office in Srinagar was
prevented by the Bakshi regime’s goons, the Prime
Minister of India reacted by accusing the PSP of
“join[ing] hands with the enemies of the country”.
Around the same time the late Jammu-based journalist
and activist Balraj Puri met Nehru and pleaded that pro-
Abdullah elements be allowed some political space to
operate in the Valley. Puri recalls that Nehru agreed in
principle but “argued that India’s case [on Kashmir] now
revolved around Bakshi and so…his government had to
be strengthened”. According to Puri, Nehru said that the
Valley’s politics “revolved around personalities” and
there was “no material for democracy there”. In 1955,
Abdullah’s supporters formed the Jammu & Kashmir
Plebiscite Front, which commanded mass support in the
Valley till its disbandment in 1975.

In the 1962 J&K Legislative Assembly elections, the


official National Conference won 68 of the 74 seats; the
Praja Parishad won three in Jammu and three other
seats went to independents, one of whom was the head
of the Buddhist clergy of Ladakh. Of the Valley’s 43
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seats, 32 were decided without any contest. Nehru then


wrote to Bakshi: ‘It would strengthen your position if
you lost a few seats to bona fide opponents.’

The last months of Jawaharlal Nehru’s life coincided


with the outbreak of a major crisis in the Kashmir
Valley. The mysterious disappearance of the ‘holy hair’
of Prophet Muhammad from Srinagar’s Hazratbal shrine
in late December 1963—the relic re-appeared just as
mysteriously a week later—sparked an uprising of
unprecedented proportions in the Valley, surpassed in
scale and intensity only in 1990. The relic issue was a
trigger for the resentment that had been festering in the
Valley for a decade at police-state repression and farcical
elections. The crisis led to the release of Sheikh
Abdullah who, The Times of India reported, ‘entered
Srinagar and was greeted by a delirious crowd of
250,000 people’ on 18 April 1964.

The ‘Srinagar Spring’ soon dissipated. A slew of


measures integrating J&K with the Union were
unilaterally enacted from New Delhi between December
1964 and March 1965, and in January 1965 the official
National Conference, led by Sadiq and Qasim, dissolved
itself and announced its new avatar—the Jammu &
Kashmir Pradesh Congress. Amid renewed unrest and
turmoil, Sheikh Abdullah was re- arrested in May and
the countdown to the opportunist Pakistani aggression
of autumn 1965 began.

The roots of the Kashmir Valley’s estrangement from


the Indian Union are located squarely in the Nehruvian
period of India’s democracy. The toxic legacy was carried

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forward and aggravated in the 1970s and 1980s by his


daughter and later his grandson. The nation lives with
the burden 50 years after Nehru’s passing.

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jinishans • 4 years ago


Let's capture POK and finish the job
man.
1△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›

SuchindranathAiyer • 4 years ago


The contrarian view. For those who
wish to remember Nehru kindly! But
why can we not finish the job now? A
host of excuses to cover up the lack of

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