Saturday, 18 April 2015


Given that the rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Hindus (also known as Kashmiri Pandits), most of whom felt compelled to leave the valley owing to a very real threat to their lives, is becoming a major issue of national debate, the national media has some left-liberal voices that are resorting to whataboutism, pointing to the genuine grievances of Kashmir’s Muslim majority vis-à-vis the Indian state (primarily human rights violations by rogue elements in the Indian military and paramilitary forces) to suggest that the idea of rehabilitating Kashmiri Hindus in separate colonies is a bad idea. One typical example of the same is this piece by one Najeeb Mubarki. 

For a background of what these left-liberals sympathetic to Muslim communalism stand for, you can read this piece by me on this very forum, which even specifically addresses the issue of the Kashmiri Hindus, and I may also clarify that I am not a Hindu rightist, having written a book aimed at addressing and dispelling anti-Muslim prejudices in the Indian context, which I would request everyone with even the mildest anti-Muslim resentment to persuse with an open mind. That said, let me reiterate the background of the problem of the Kashmiri Hindus here. When the secessionist Islamist militancy (the terms ‘Islamist’ and ‘Islamic’ are not the same, ‘Islamist’ referring to a totalitarian ideology of imposing supposedly Islamic values as also a sense of hostility to non-Muslims) erupted in Kashmir in 1989-90 as a reaction against an allegedly rigged election and suppression of peaceful protests against the same by the Indian state (no, I am not absolving the Indian state of wrongdoings, and it is indeed necessary for all sides in a conflict to accept the truth for there to be reconciliation), hundreds of innocent Kashmiri Hindu civilians were killed on account of their faith and pro-India political convictions, being seen as extensions of the Indian state (like innocent Tamil Muslims in Sri Lanka were targeted by Tamil Hindu secessionist insurgents, for not having shared the same secessionist aspirations), which was especially sad, given there had been near to complete Hindu-Muslim harmony in the Kashmir valley when the subcontinent was engulfed with riots during the partition of India (that led to the creation of Muslim-majority Pakistan) back in 1947, and a Kashmiri Hindu friend of mine once shared with me how his maternal grandfather, who was in Lahore in Pakistan at the time of the partition riots, traveled to his also Muslim-majority Kashmir, where it was safe. Many Muslim doctors in the Kashmir valley refused to cure the Kashmiri Hindus injured in attacks by militants in 1989-90, leading them to succumb to their injuries, and the refusal by those Muslim doctors had to do either with endorsement of the militants’ activities or out of fear of the militants, for the militants didn’t hesitate to shoot down even Muslims they perceived as enemies (and indeed, many Kashmiri Muslims seen as having a pro-India posturing, like ailing bed-ridden cleric Maulana Masoodi, were actually gunned down by the militants, similar to Professor Asali, a Middle Eastern Muslim, having to pay for his critique of the ISIS for its maltreatment of Middle Eastern Christians with his own life, or how many moderate Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus were killed by terrorists from their own community). The killings were often accompanied by rapes and other atrocities, other than many non-combatant Kashmiri Muslims shouting slogans from mosques asking the Kashmiri Hindus to leave, leading an overwhelming majority of the Kashmiri Hindus who had till then survived the militancy to make an exit from the valley (some tolerant Kashmiri Muslims gave their Hindu friends asylum in their homes in those troubled times and helped them escape safely, just like Kurdish Muslims in the Middle East have recently been trying to protect Yazidis from the ISIS), which had been their homeland for centuries. Some Hindus, on leaving the valley, died of sunstroke and stress, and on making the exit from the valley, they were made to live in shoddy tents in the midst of insects and scorpions, by the Indian government.

Strangely enough, there is a conspiracy theory circulating in Kashmir that there was no major threat to the Hindu minority and they left their homes only to malign the Muslims in the valley, and here’s a well-written piece by Kashmiri Hindu writer Rahul Pandita (who has, by the way, also taken a firm stand against wrongdoings by rogue elements in the Indian security forces against Kashmiri Muslims, saying that he has lost his home but not his humanity) exposing the hollowness of this theory. There are, however, several rational and intellectually honest Kashmiri Muslims (including some I know personally, such as pro-India Kashmiri Sunni writer Sualeh Keen, whose brilliantly articulated defence of Rahul Pandita’s book Our Moon Has Blood Clots against the allegations levelled by one Kashmiri separatist Gowhar Fazili is a must-read!), even among the separatists, who do not subscribe to this ludicrous conspiracy theory. Basharat Peer, a Kashmiri separatist writer, author of the acclaimed non-fiction novel Curfewed Night belongs to this category, and even a prominent former militant Yasin Malik has acknowledged that militants had targeted the Kashmiri Hindus in those “dark” days of 1989-90 (interestingly, there is as much rationale to hold Malik, a hero of very many Kashmiri Muslims, guilty, certainly at least by association, of the Kashmiri Hindus’ killings, as to hold Modi guilty of the anti-Muslim carnage in Gujarat in 2002, but there is a deafening silence against Yasin Malik in ‘liberal’ circles) and some of them have even taken up the Kashmiri Hindus’ cause in the United Nations human rights bodies. Unlike in the case of the carnage in Gujarat in 2002 in which hundreds of Hindu rioters have been convicted for massacres like the ones in the Best Bakery, Ode, Sardarpura and Naroda Patiya, none of the militants who targeted Kashmiri Hindus have been convicted. In fact, the local Kashmiri Muslim policemen didn’t even pursue the cases against the murderers of the Kashmiri Hindus seriously, leading the perpetrators of these crimes to not be convicted. In one such case involving militant Bitta Karate, who had confessed to his crimes in a recorded interview, the judge was led to remark–

“The court is aware of the fact that the allegations levelled against the accused are of serious nature and carry a punishment of death sentence or life imprisonment but the fact is that the prosecution has shown total disinterest in arguing the case...”

Like the killings of Muslims by Hindu extremists in Gujarat, this too has been a sad Indian reality. Even the writer Arunadhati Roy, who has been a strong supporter of the Kashmiris’ right to secede from India (a conviction I do not share), has, to her credit (and I say so despite not in the least being her fan), unlike many of her somewhat like-minded comrades, been intellectually honest enough to state clearly that what she describes as the freedom struggle in Kashmir “cannot by any means call itself pristine, and will always be stigmatised by, and will some day”, she says she hopes, “have to account for, among other things, the brutal killings of Kashmiri Pandits in the early years of the uprising, culminating in the exodus of almost the entire Hindu community from the Kashmir valley.”

Even after most of the Kashmiri Hindus left the valley in 1989-90, there have been sporadic incidents of mass murders of those who chose to stay back, perhaps the most significant example being the Wandhama massacre of 1998. However, it is noteworthy that even prior to the eruption of the militancy in 1989, in spite of largely peaceful relations between the Hindus and Muslims of the valley, the minority Hindu community had seen its share of violence and vandalism, for example, in 1963, when the Mo-e-Muqaddas, which is believed to be a strand of Prophet Muhammad’s hair, was stolen from a shrine in the valley or in 1986 in the town of Anantnag, and sporadically on other occasions too, like stones being thrown at their houses if India won a cricket match against Pakistan.

Coming to the current scenario, while I am against any kind of ghettoisation normally, be it even intellectual ghettoisation in terms of schools of thought, the repeated assertion that Kashmiri Hindus must be willing to live in live in mixed settlements if they want to return is similar to Subramanian Swamy's rants that every Indian Muslim must proclaim himself/herself to be of Hindu ancestry to enjoy voting rights. It is not for the majority to dictate to the minority as to how the latter must choose to integrate, isn't it? And Kashmiri Hindus are an injured minority of Kashmir, and while I won't deny that a certain section of Kashmiri Hindus has become bitterly communal (though there is no dearth of them who are rational and impartial, in spite of what they underwent, and the rather violent protests by some communal Kashmiri Muslims only strengthen the communalists among the Kashmiri Hindus, though it must be noted that there are rational and impartial Kashmiri Muslims, including some I know personally, raising their voices against their communal co-religionists too) owing to what was inflicted upon them, the fact is that no section of Kashmiri Hindus has, asserting its communitarian identity, been involved in harming Kashmiri Muslims, and so, any attempt at a 'welcome back' for Kashmiri Hindus should be without 'if's and 'but's.

Now, coming to the article from the mainstream media cited at the outset of the piece. The author of that piece, who has a Muslim name, uses the well-known abbreviation ‘KP’ for ‘Kashmiri Pandit’ and ‘KM’ for ‘Kashmiri Muslim’, and accepts that KPs were “forced to leave their homes”. However, further, he contends that given that KMs refuse to accept the fact that KPs were forced to leave their homes, and in general, believe in a narrative antagonistic to KPs (that only recalls those of them who subjugated KMs in collaboration with the Dogra monarchy, but not those who protested against the Dogra monarchy alongside the KMs), and assert that they suffered more, the idea of a KP return in separate enclaves is not a good idea, and while KP return is desirable, their security should be entrusted to the Muslim majority of the valley but not policemen or army men. How does he expect even a well-intentioned non-combatant KM to protect KPs in times of crisis? Who is he to decide for KPs how they would like to exercise their legitimate right to return? He also makes a sweeping generalization about KPs who didn’t leave the valley being in opposition to such separate zones, though Sanjay Tickoo, their perhaps most prominent leader, has said that even the KPs of his ilk should be accommodated in such settlements. And so much for some KPs joining KMs in the protest against separate colonies, it actually turned out that some of those Hindus were Biharis and not KPs! He has also made passing references to UN resolutions and the issue of Kashmiri self-determination, and that has been delved into later in this piece.

Next, while this is not a narrative from the mainstream media, let me cite another narrative from the social media-

“The only anxiety that exists is around separate townships for them, and it's a valid concern. It's humiliating and communal, and casteist. Safety is ensured by living together, not by segregation. Fanatics sponsored either by Pakistan or by India can attack these settlements, and create communal frenzy, resulting in subsequent butchering of Muslims as collective punishment. Let's admit it, this has happened. Plz recollect Chhitisinghpora and Pathribal. Also, traditionally Brahmins have lived in segregated areas known as Agraharams. All the non-Brahmans in Kashmir are Muslims, and there was minority rule in Kashmir, by the Hindu Brahmins over the lower caste Muslims (until the workers movement of 1930s, Sheikh Abdullah's land reforms and educational reforms, that is). This is no different from the caste system elsewhere. Having separate settlements for them is as idiotic as it's communal and casteist.”

My reaction to the same, written on Facebook (, is stated hereunder-

“fanatic hindus butchering muslims in overwhelmingly muslim-majority kashmir, with an overwhelmingly muslim-majority police and an almost inevitably muslim CM answerable to a muslim-majority electorate! and fanatics from pakistan attacking these settlements? so, no faith in the local muslim policemen, many of whom have died fighting separatist militants?

what about fanatics among kashmiri muslims killing innocent kashmiri pandits in their settlements as collective punishment for wrongs by the indian state or imagined wrongs by KPs? *that* is something that has happened, even on occasions like the disappearance of the mo-e-muqaddas in 1963, in spite of no evidence of the involvement of KPs or the indian state!

and why is every non-dalit hindu like me branded as casteist by these leftists? isn't that a communal stereotype, like imagining all muslim men to be sexist? and why is she going back to the dogra period of history, neglecting that KPs certainly did not rule kashmir after 1947?

and KPs, being the injured minority that they are, deserve rehabilitation on their own terms, without 'if's and 'buts's, so long as the legitimate rights of kashmiri muslims are not violated...”

Further, given that the 25th anniversary of the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits was observed in 2014, there was a piece by Swaminathan Aiyar, a noted columnist, on their problem, but he side-tracked into whataboutism pertaining to what the Jammuite Muslims suffered during the partition riots of 1947 and at the hands of the Dogra monarchy in the wake of a pro-Pakistan rebellion by Muslims in the Poonch district of Jammu, citing the book Kashmir: The Unwritten History by Australian strategic analyst Christopher Snedden, which has been hailed by Kashmiri separatists, and Aiyar suggests that this has been concealed by the Indian media in furtherance of India’s national interests. However, this contention of his doesn’t hold water, for Indian narratives do acknowledge the partition riots across the subcontinent being horrendous (while Jammu was affected, Kashmir hardly was) and the rule of the Dogra monarchy as being oppressive.

Let us then begin the story from when the “Kashmir issue”, as we know it, began, and subsequently, even examine the UN resolutions and the issue of Kashmiri self-determination. To start with, it was the Pakistani establishment that tried to coercively capture the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, which had been a part of Britain’s Chamber of Princes in undivided India (unlike Nepal, Bhutan and Balochistan), and the Pakistani tribesmen and soldiers raped and plundered people of all faiths, though the Hindu minority of Kashmir was particularly targeted. The claim of the Pakistani and pro-Pakistan propagandists that the invasion was legitimate, for Jammu and Kashmir was a Muslim-majority province with a Hindu ruler, with the Muslim majority unanimously desirous of joining Pakistan, to start with, is dubious. Why do I say so? To examine this, let me cite certain passages from the book  by  Christopher Snedden, which is, by no means, pro-India on the whole and as mentioned earlier, has been hailed by many Kashmiri separatists (some of the excerpts are lengthy but definitely make an interesting read and are highly relevant to the topic)-

“despite the fact that J&K had a Muslim-majority population, the political inclinations of the people of J&K were far more complex and uncertain” (page 10)

“neither India nor Pakistan was guaranteed majority popular support” (page 12)

“J&K was politically disunited by forces that had strong- and differing- post-British desires for the princely state's status.” (page 27)

“Despite J&K’s inherent disunity, Hari Singh’s accession would have been much simpler had Muslims in J&K been united in their desire for the state’s future status.  Indeed, Muslim disunity is one of the most significant explanations of why the so-called Kashmir dispute began – and continues.” (page 35)

“…the core of the problem in J&K was its people.  They were ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse, diffuse and different; they lacked religious and political unity; they were divided in their aspirations for J&K’s future international status.” (pages 35, 36)

“An important trait evident among Kashmiris partially explains why Kashmiri Muslims were ambivalent about Pakistan in 1947.  Called ‘Kashmiriness’ or ‘Kashmiriyat’, a newer term with Perso-Arabic roots, this trait was a fundamental and apparently long-held part of Kashmiri identity and culture.  Kashmiriness emphasises ‘the acceptance and tolerance of all religions among Kashmiris’.  It is ‘manifested in the solidarity of different faiths and ethnic groups in the state’.  The concept was apparently epitomized by the patron saint of Kashmir, Sheikh Noor-ud-Din, a Muslim born in 1375 of a Hindu convert to Islam.  Popularly known as Nund Rishi, he repeatedly poses a question in a poem; ‘How can members of the same family jeer at one another?’ The answer is the essence of Kashmiriness; Kashmiris, whoever they are and whatever their religious backgrounds and practices, are all members of one indivisible Kashmir Valley ‘family’.  It is a recipe – or even a requirement – for tolerance.

One significant consequence of Kashmiriness was that, compared with Hindus and Muslims in Jammu or northern India, Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits) had relatively few social divisions or antagonisms.  While they nevertheless had disputes and rivalries, the two groups generally were more liberal and more tolerant and, in many cases, had amicable, even close relations.  This harmony arose because both shared the same ethnicity, language and geographical region and the same recent history under repressive rulers comprising Muslim Afghans (Durranis), Punjabi Sikhs (Ranjit Singh’s empire) and Jammu Hindus (Dogras), although the latter was less repressive for Pandits.  It was important that Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits also enjoyed a similar culture, including revering each other’s religious figures and festivals, eating halal mutton instead of beef or pork (even though Pandits were of the Brahmin or priestly caste that elsewhere usually practised vegetarianism), and not being particular about ‘defilement or pollution by touch’.   As a leading Pandit put it, ‘Racially, culturally and linguistically the Hindus and Muslims living in Kashmir [were] practically one’.  That said, Kashmiri Pandits also enjoyed greater influence and economic wellbeing than Kashmiri Muslims.  This was due to the Pandits’ position as Hindu subjects of a Hindu ruler, from which flowed benefits such as being landowners and their numerically large involvement as state employees.  Nevertheless, relations between Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits generally were far more amicable than the relations between Hindu and Muslims in Jammu Province.

One significant result of the concept of Kashmiriness was that Kashmiris may have been naturally attracted to secular thinking.  This was partly because they were apparently nor afflicted by the ‘majority-minority complex’ that was evident among Muslims in other parts of the subcontinent, and partly because they were ‘a deeply religious people who abhor[red] politically exploitation of their faith.  Hence, the pro-Pakistan stance of the major pro-Pakistan party in J&K, the Muslim Conference, and its Pakistan ally the Muslim League was not automatically popular with Kashmiri Muslims.  To join Pakistan simply because it would be a Muslim homeland was an insufficient reason.” (pages 18-20)

“A further factor that caused Kashmiris to be ambivalent about Pakistan was the significant role played in 1947 by Sheikh Abdullah and the political party that he dominated, the National Conference.  Abdullah’s role in J&K is very important.  For over fifty years (1931-82), he was Muslim Kashmiris’ most popular politician, whether in power or denied it.  (Abdullah was jailed for long periods by the Maharaja, by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, his successor as Prime Minister in J&K, and by the Indian Government).  According to his autobiography, Abdullah’s political career began as early as 1926, when he joined the ‘relentless struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed’ and, desiring to become the people’s savior, began to oppose the Maharaja’s regime and its practices on an individual basis.  He disliked a number of the Maharaja’s practices, including discrimination on religious grounds, exploitation of the people through taxation, corruption, the inequitable land system, and the people’s lack of political freedom.  Abdullah sprang to prominence in 1931 during the major anti-Maharaja agitation in Srinagar, and event of ‘seminal importance’ that temporarily – but severely – challenged Hari Singh’s rule.  Indeed, it was due to Abdullah’s bold part in this uprising that he became known as the Lion of Kashmir.  A further consequence of this major uprising was that, as a result of the Glancy Commission formed in order to investigate the uprising’s causes, the Maharaja allowed the formation of the first political party in J&K.  In October 1932, the All J&K Muslim Conference was formed in order to safeguard Muslim interest in J&K.  Abdullah, a Muslim, later remained this party the All J&K National Conference.  Espousing secularism, it would later play a significant role in delivering a large part of J&K to India and in ending the Maharaja’s rule.

Because Sheikh Abdullah had a strong aversion to autocracy, he regarded the concept of Pakistan negatively.  Abdullah disliked the Maharaja absolutism.  The United States’ Consul in Lahore agreed: saying, ‘according to all disinterested informants [the Maharaja] has never displayed the slightest interest in the welfare of the people over whom he has maintained an autocratic rule.  For Sheikh Abdullah, both Jinnah and the Islamic Pakistan that the autocratic Muslim League leader envisaged establishing were also unappealing.  The influential Kashmiri leader considered that Pakistan was the result of an emotional Muslim reaction of Hindu communalism and ‘an escapist device’.  Abdullah and his colleagues, many of whom were Muslims, also received (correctly) that Pakistan would be dominated by feudal elements, as well as being a society in which Kashmiris and their reform agenda would have little power: ‘Chains of slavery will keep us in their continuous strangehold.  Conversely, Abdullah considered that secular India would be different.  It would have people and parties, including India’s major party, the Indian National Congress, whose views largely coincided with Abdullah and his party. India also represented an option that would accept the National Conference’s enlightened and progressive ideas’.  It embraced more democracy that either Pakistan or the Jinnah-dominated Muslim League, ‘whose leader had a very high opinion of himself’.” (page 21)

Speaking of the pro-Pakistan Muslim Conference formed in 1941, Snedden says-

“…the Muslim Conference faced a major challenge in the numerically and politically important Kashmir Valley; it lacked a charismatic Kashmiri-speaking politician who could rival Sheikh Abdullah and his coterie of Kashmiri colleagues.  The Muslim Conference’s stance also was unpopular elsewhere, especially among the non-Muslim majority in eastern Jammu, as its killings of Muslims were clearly showing.” (page 24)

“Although Jinnah (falsely) believed that J&K would fall into Pakistan’s ‘lap like a ripe fruit’ once the Maharaja realized his and the people’s interests and acceded to Pakistan, and although he was prepared to allow the Maharaja’s ‘autocratic government’ to continue, support for independence enabled pro-Pakistan forces to woo the decision maker rather than the people.  This approach was pragmatic.  However, it also made the Muslim Conference appear keen to gain the Maharaja’s support at any cost.  And although this tactic adhered to Jinnah’s statement in July 1947 that princely rulers were free to join Pakistan, India or remain independent, many Muslin Conference members wanted their party’s support for independence reversed.  Also, by allowing the ruler to decide the issue, the Muslim Conference enabled its National Conference rival to advance the populist – and eminently mire ‘sellable’ – view that the people should be given self-government so that, ‘armed with authority and responsibility, [they] could decide for themselves where their interests lay’.  Apart from advancing its own popularity, the National Conference’s stance also served to reveal the Muslim Conference as simply an appendage or surrogate of the Muslim League – as it was.

The Muslim Conference’s pragmatic approach towards the Maharaja built on a previous stance Jinnah instigated during the National Conference’s ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign that started on 20 May 1946 with the aim of ridding J&K of Dogra rule.  This campaign was significant between the positions of Jinnah and Nehru on J&K.  Jinnah opposed Quit Kashmir as a movement ‘engineered by some malcontents’.  This stance, coupled with his lack of criticism of J&K’s unpopular ruler, particularly when compared with criticisms made by Nehru and the Indian National Congress, made Jinnah appear pro-Maharaja.  This lost the Muslim League leader support among Kashmiri Muslims, especially among the ‘malcontents’, most of whom were National Conference members.  Indeed, one such National Conference member, Mir Qasim (who later became the Chief Minister of Indian J&K), believed that Jinnah’s unpopular and insensitive attitude ‘killed the chances of Kashmir going to Pakistan’.  The Muslim Conference lost credibility because it did not initially oppose the Maharaja when Quit Kashmir commenced in May 1946 – a policy Jinnah ordered because he believed that the party would do better working through constitutional channels.” (page 26)

“…the Muslim Conference appeared to be steadily lose support, certainly in the Kashmir Valley, owing to poor leadership and increased factionalism; conversely, support for the National Conference increased because it was united and had strong leadership.” (page 27)

I may add to this that Jinnah, in his visit to Kashmir in 1941, received much hostility from sections of Kashmiri Muslims and conceded that he did not get unanimous support. To add to that, when he sent an envoy to Kashmir in 1943 to assess whether Kashmiris would be willing to join Pakistan, his envoy gave him a response, which, to use the language of acclaimed historian Alex von Tunzelmann, was "disheartening" (The Indian Summer, p. 284). Jinnah tried to play his own politics in Kashmir, using the minister Ramchandra Kak, a Kashmiri Hindu, as a Trojan horse, but failed, and you can read about the same here.

It may be added that Shaikh Abdullah continued to be popular with Kashmiri Muslims after his having taken a stand in favour of India and after the Dogra monarchy was displaced, Abdullah ensured that land reforms were carried out by abolishing landlordism and giving peasants ownership over land, which won him tremendous affection from the people of the valley. Pakistan had retained the feudal system of landlordism, as it still has, and many Kashmiri Muslims realized that the land reforms in Kashmir were possible owing to Kashmir being a part of India rather than Pakistan. To quote the noted scholar Michael Brecher from his book The Struggle for Kashmir-

“The vast majority of Kashmiris have benefited from these reforms and many of those interviewed by the author expressed the feat that in Pakistan, where no comparable land reforms have taken place, the land recently given to them might be returned to the landlords or, in any event, that further implementation of the 'New Kashmir' programme will be impossible.” (cited in the 2002 paperback edition of MJ Akbar's book Kashmir - Beyond the Vale on page 139)

Abdullah had clearly stated in the context of Pakistan-

“The most powerful argument which can be advanced in her favour is that Pakistan is a Muslim State, and, a big majority of our people being Muslims the State must accede to Pakistan.  This claim of being a Muslim State is of course only a camouflage.  It is a screen to dupe the common man, so that he may not see clearly that Pakistan is a feudal state in which a clique is trying by these methods to maintain itself in power...” (cited in the 2002 paperback edition of MJ Akbar's book Kashmir - Beyond the Vale on page 139)

Even today, there are Kashmiri Muslims, including those who want their region to be an independent country, who acknowledge that back then, Abdullah had made the right decision by opting for India. As one such person has articulated-

“The first question that comes to mind is would the Pakistani establishment quash the Feudal or Zamindari systems in Kashmir handing the land over to the tillers? Do keep in mind that even today Pakistan is a feudal society with most of the land in the hands of the Punjabi Chaudhrys. I mean all that the Kashmiri Hindus and Dogra land owners had to do was convert to Islam and just like the Punjabi Chaudhrys of Pakistan continue with the feudal system.”

He further says-

“Now picture yourself as a common Kashmiri filling the chillum of a Punjabi Pakistani Chaudhry or that of a Kashmiri Hindu/Dogra Feudal lord with tobacco and ask yourself this smart was Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah?”

And by the way, Islam as a religion emphasizes socioeconomic egalitarianism and the first land reforms in world history were carried out by the caliph Hazrat Umar Bin Khattab, and so, it is particularly shameful that Pakistan, calling itself an Islamic state, still has an institutionalized zamindari system, asPakistani liberal Hasan Nisar points out!

However, coming back to Kashmir, the pointers raised  as justifications for Pakistan’s armed actions either take the form of whataboutism with respect to India’s stand on the Muslim-ruled, Hindu-majority Hyderabad and Junagadh, or cite the pro-Pakistan rebellion in Poonch before the Pathan tribal raid (the latter point became popular to cite after Snedden’s book mentioned it).

The Poonch rebellion does go to show that the Dogra king was unpopular among his subjects, but that is something already acknowledged by Indians and Pakistanis alike. From the Indian point of view, Jawaharlal Nehru’s trips to Kashmir in which he peacefully took on the monarchy and even faced arrest in the princely state are well-known. But when he assumed the role of India’s prime minister, Nehru did not engage in such adventures and did not interfere, at least blatantly, in the internal affairs of Jammu and Kashmir, which would amount to disrespecting sovereignty.

It may have very well been legitimate for the pro-Pakistan Muslims of Poonch to rise in armed revolt against their king, just as it may have been legitimate for the pro-India Shaikh Abdullah to lead peaceful movements against the monarchy in the valley (and Shaikh Abdullah’s mass struggle had a history predating the Poonch rebellion in 1947), but how do these become the starting point of what we conventionally understand as the “Kashmir issue” involving India, Pakistan and the people of the (now erstwhile) princely state? And if the Poonch rebellion is indeed taken as the starting point, it can only be on two grounds - the first being that these rebels wanted accession to Pakistan [in Snedden’s words-“The only way the Maharaja could possibly appease Poonch Muslims would be to accede to Pakistan; they would not have settled for anything less.” (page 32)] and the second being that there were elements in Pakistan that supported the rebellion. To quote from Snedden’s interview given to Tehelka correspondent Baba Umar (who is a Kashmiri separatist and happens to be an acquaintance of mine)-“there was some degree of support from the Pakistan government”.

Let us examine both points one by one. As regards Poonch Muslims wanting accession to Pakistan, this hardly goes very far in suggesting that the majority of the populace in the whole of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir favoured accession to Pakistan, as the excerpts from not only Snedden’s book but even other sources stated above, demonstrate.

So, even if the Muslims of Poonch were united in the demand for the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan, the people (even Muslims) of the entire princely state were not, and indeed, it has been no one’s case that there wasn’t a pro-Pakistan section among the people of the erstwhile princely state, but Snedden himself concedes that it cannot be said with certainty as to what the aspirations of the majority of the populace were. Hence, Pakistan’s case for claiming Jammu and Kashmir solely on the basis of its Muslim majority falls flat, as opposed to India’s case for a majority of people in the princely states of Hyderabad and Junagadh desiring to join India, which was proved by subsequent plebiscites. The hurdle in the plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir came not from India, which had already promised the Kashmiris a plebiscite, but Pakistan, which, in violation of the 1948 UN resolution, refused to withdraw its troops from the part of the erstwhile princely state it had occupied in the 1947-48 war following the Pashtun tribal raid, which, as per the resolution, was a precursor to the plebiscite. Nehru had, in fact, gone on record even later to say that he was willing to follow the UN resolution (i.e. conduct the plebiscite) in the whole of the erstwhile princely state if Pakistan complied with the precondition of withdrawing its troops, as can be seen from this video (watch 1:58 onwards). Now, it must be mentioned that many Kashmiri separatists who haven’t read the UN resolution and just know that it calls for a plebiscite often invoke the UN resolution, but when made to realize that the resolution is not exactly what they claim it to be, their entire stance changes to ridiculing international law itself being irrelevant and a conspiracy of Western powers, a stance diametrically opposite to the one they took before learning of what the resolution entailed!

However, if they support self-determination as an absolute right, which is to say that any part of any country should be unilaterally allowed to secede at will, would they support any household declaring itself as a separate country and not paying taxes, desiring to have diplomatic relations with their country, or any district of the independent Jammu and Kashmir they envisage to secede at will? Pray, quite the contrary, their leaders do not wish to give Hindu-majority Jammu and Buddhist-majority Ladakh that right in the independent country they envisage! And speaking of Pakistanis and those who are pro-Pakistan, given the secessionist voices in Sindh and the secessionist or pro-Afghanistan voices in Khyber Pakhtoonwa, are they willing to conduct plebiscites in these particular provinces?

Also, when Shaikh Abdullah had later started vacillating in the 1950s between Kashmir being a part of India with some autonomy, and being an independent country altogether (Pakistan was still not an option for him, and a reason for vacillating from his firm pro-India stance was his concern over Hindu majoritarianism in India, which had manifested itself even in the killing of Mahatma Gandhi), and Nehru had him imprisoned, Nehru did, on the other hand, again offer Pakistan a plebiscite! To be quote the eminent writer MJ Akbar on this point, from his highly acclaimed book Kashmir – Behind the Vale(2002 paperback edition)-

“Within a fortnight of arresting Abdullah for asking too much of Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru completely reversed India’s position and offered Pakistan a plebiscite!

The Prime Minister of Pakistan, now Mohammad Ali, came to Delhi on an official visit.  In the talks Nehru suggested that after the two Prime Ministers had finalized the preliminary issues, a plebiscite administrator could be named by April 1954.  He even told Mohammad Ali that voting could be done in the whole state rather than separate Hindu & Muslim regions, and if this meant the loss of the whole Valley, he was prepared for it!  The offer was confirmed in a letter to Mohammad Ali on 3 September.” (page 154)

“The only condition Nehru placed was that the American UN nominee Admiral Nimitz be replaced ad Plebiscite Administrator by someone form a smaller country.  Deeply suspicious of the US, he did not want this superpower’s hand in the plebiscite.” (page 154)

“If there were any doubts about Nehru’s sincerity in those years about the plebiscite commitment, then surely they should have ended with this proposal.” (page 154)

Akbar further mentions how Pakistan’s insistence on the US admiral led Nehru to withdraw the offer. For more on how Pakistan sought to avoid a plebiscite, see this.

In fact, Pakistan's stand was always to go purely by the will of the ruler, by virtue of which it had sought to engage Hindu-majority princely states like Hyderabad, Junagadh, and even Jodhpur and Jaisalmer (in Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, even the rulers were Hindu, unlike Hyderabad and Junagadh) to join it. It had never basically adopted the principle of a plebiscite, to begin with.

Speaking of the second point of how the Pakistani state machinery supported or at least allowed non-state actors to support an armed rebellion in Poonch, does acknowledging this help Pakistan’s case? Certainly not, as it would amount to blatant disregard for international law! It is already embarassing for the Pakistani state to admit that its non-state actors (Pashtuns) had infiltrated into another territory! And on this point, we may delve a little more into the legal status of the erstwhile princely state following India’s independence. The princely states were, after the British government taking control over India from the British East India Company, following the Revolt of 1857, no longer the subsidiary but sovereign powers they were prior to that but subordinated officially to the British Crown, as Queen Victoria proclaiming herself to be the Empress of India, demonstrated as also the Chamber of Princes in New Delhi. However, once the British left India, the princely states re-emerged as sovereign entities, with the lapse of British paramountcy as becomes clear from Section 2 of the Indian Independence Act, 1947, meeting all the four criteria established under Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States, which are stated hereunder verbatim-

(a) a permanent population;

(b) a defined territory;

(c) government;


(d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

As regards the first three clauses, little explanation is required. But if there’s any ambiguity about the last one, mention may be made of the standstill agreements many of the princely states entered into with India and Pakistan, which they were authorized to do by the British.  In this connection, those who understand Hindi can watch this video (from 11:12 to 13:06).

And Jammu and Kashmir had entered into a standstill agreement with Pakistan (something that Snedden mentions in his book on page 9), which was violated by the latter during the 1947 aggression. The very fact that the princely states could voluntarily accede to any country again reflects their sovereign character. However, the British had made it clear unofficially that the princely states must opt for India or Pakistan. To quote Snedden on this point-

“Powerbrokers in 1947 also were influenced by the method used to decolonize Princely India (as against British-controlled India), whereby each ruler was deemed to have the power – and, indeed, was expected – to accede to either India or Pakistan.  Princely states therefore were considered to be indivisible and without any independent future.  Neither the departing British nor the future leaders of India and Pakistan sought partition of any princely state along religious lines, nor would they countenance independence for any of them.  Instead, the British encouraged each princely ruler to consider geographical factors and the will of his subjects in deciding his accession.  Even though the accession would clearly impact on all of the prince’s subjects, nevertheless there were no legal requirements or popular pressures for the ruler to consider either factor.  He alone would decide the accession.  And, once it was decided, the expectation was that all of his princely state would, along with the ruler, join the new dominion of his choice.” (page 7)

While the British did convey to the princes that they must opt for India or Pakistan [this is testified by great Indian nationalist leader Maulana Azad’s account in his autobiography India Wins Freedom that as early as in 1942, Sir Stafford Cripps, a British politician representing his government, on a visit to India, “told the Maharaja of Kashmir that the future of the States was with India”, that “(n)o prince should for a moment think that the British Crown would come to his help if he decided to opt out”  and that “(t)he princes must therefore look up to the Indian Government and not the British Crown for their future” (page 61 of the 2009 reprint) – the  demand for Pakistan wasn’t being seriously considered then; if Lord Mountbatten's account as narrated to Larry Collins and Domique Lapierre in their book Freedom at Midnight is true, then Mountbatten had also tried hard to convice Raja Hari Singh to not entertain fancies of independence], there was no legal obligation upon them to do so. Thus, legally, it was for the ruler to decide and in this case, he opted for India, and Alistair Lamb’s contention that the instrument of accession did not exist on paper has now been disproved with the document being brought out in the public domain. If the counterargument is made to run that popular support ought to have been the basis, as was the case in Hyderabad and Junagadh, then the rebuttal to that has already been stated above (i.e. that Pakistan did not withdraw its troops, and having to do so was a precursor to the plebiscite), and it may be added that Pakistan did not conduct any plebiscite while getting the ruler of Balochistan, which, like Nepal and Bhutan, was not even legally a part of India, to coercively sign the instrument of accession in its favour.

Thus, with all the emphasis given by Snedden to the Poonch rebellion, his contention that it would suit Pakistan to highlight the same or that it, in any way, tilts the narrative in its favour, is a flawed conclusion, even in the light of much of what he has said in that very book! In fact, on the other hand, the Pakistani narrative so far had only stressed the atrocities of the king's army in Poonch (to justify the Pashtun tribal raid), trying to overlook that they were armed rebels backed by the Pakistani state, and this fact exposed by Snedden only makes Pakistan guilty of violating sovereignty, which is the cornerstone of international law!

Other than the Poonch rebellion, Snedden has also highlighted that in Jammu, there were communal riots in 1947-1948 as a result of the partition of India (something Swaminathan Aiyar has also highlighted), in which both Hindus and Muslims lost their lives (though Kashmir was largely free from such violence), but again, that only goes to show that there was a section of pro-Pakistan Muslims in the erstwhile princely state, and as we have discussed above, that is something no one denies and doesn’t take us very far.

The tragedy of the Kashmiri Hindus is very real, and so is the issue of their legitimate right to return to the valley. The Indian civil society cannot choose to be silent on this crucial issue, also because silence on legitimate concerns like these cedes the space to the Hindu right.

Karmanye Thadani

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