By Lal Khan
Editor Asian Marxist Review, Lal Khan, wrote a book titled “KASHMIR’S ORDEAL, … A REVOLUTIONARY WAYOUT” in 2005. In the sight of recent developments in the region, we are publishing its excerpts for our readers.
During several decades – the end of the last century and the beginning of the present – the European population was being severely disciplined by industry. All phases of social education were dominated by the principle of the productivity of labour. This yielded stupendous results and seemed to open up new possibilities to people. But actually it only led to war. It is true that through the war humanity has been able to convince itself, in the face of the crowings of anaemic philosophy, that it is not degenerating after all; on the contrary, it is full of life, strength, bravery, enterprise. Through the same war, it realized its technical power with unprecedented force. It was as if a man, to prove that his pipes for breathing and swallowing were in order, had begun to cut his throat with a razor in front of a mirror.
Divide and Rule
The partition of India was one of the greatest crimes of British imperialism. This act was not intended to defend the interests of Muslims or Hindus but to split and wreck the national liberation movement, which they had failed to defeat by force of arms.
After the Second World War the world saw an enormous upswing of the colonial revolution. This was perhaps the biggest movement of the oppressed people in human history. This was an enormous awakening of the colonial peoples of China, Africa, Latin America the Middle East, Indonesia, India, and Pakistan. This was an inspiring movement in which countless millions of former colonial slaves rose up against their masters, fighting for their national emancipation. The reasons why Marxists supported the colonial revolution are obvious. It was a revolutionary movement, a blow against imperialism, and it aroused the masses and advanced the class struggle.
The partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan, apart from being a reactionary political act, caused one of the biggest bloodbaths of innocent human beings in history as well as extreme suffering for millions. It created mayhem for the whole of society. The memory of partition is still painful for those wounded by it.
Altogether, some half a million people were killed before the end of 1947. Many more were uprooted: four and a half million Hindus and Sikhs migrated from the West Pakistan to India, six million Muslims in the opposite direction. While there were relatively less killings in Bengal, some one million people were displaced there.
In the year 1700 A.D. roughly when the British arrived, India’s share of world income was 22.6%. At the end of the direct British rule it was reduced to 3.8% just after independence.
It took the British more than three hundred years to build up their Indian empire. They dismantled it in just over seventy days in 1947. The true weakness of the British was not widely appreciated. In fact, after the terrible winter of 1946-47 Britain was on the verge of financial catastrophe. In February 1947 the Attlee Cabinet had to adopt a policy of a drastic reduction of overseas responsibilities. The widespread revolt amongst the soldiers of the British army also weakened its capability of maintaining direct military control of its colonies.
This was the background to the Mountbatten Viceroyalty (March 22 to August 15, 1947), which not only brought the British Indian Empire to an end but also saw the first stage of India and Pakistan’s dispute over Kashmir.
The basic plan for the dividing up of the British Indian Empire was drawn up in four hours by V.P Menon and accepted by the British Cabinet after a discussion lasting all of five minutes.
The haste with which partition was executed guaranteed that there would be serious problems the successors to the British Raj would be left to deal with. Such traumatic surgery was unlikely to heal without complications. One side effect was the exacerbation of communal tensions in the subcontinent, resulting in massacre and migration on a colossal scale: another was the set of circumstances that resulted in the outbreak of the Indo-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir.
It is an extraordinary historical fact that at the time of partition, when most parts of the subcontinent (especially Bengal and Punjab two nationalities cleaved apart) were in the throes of communal slaughter and religious bigotry, Kashmir was relatively safe from this frenzy. But due to its geographical proximity violence from the carnage in Punjab did eventually spill over into Jammu.
The division first unleashed a ‘holocaust’ of communal killing, as well as mass migrations of Hindus and Sikhs eastward, and Muslims to the west. Some of the Punjabi refugees found their way to Jammu and Kashmir, carrying with them harrowing tales of killings, rape, etc. The presence of these refugees served to incite and intensify communal violence. In Jammu Province, to where the majority of Hindus had fled, there was a backlash by their co-religionists against the Muslim inhabitants. Lamb writes that by August 1947:
The communal situation in Jammu, the one part of the state where there was a large non-Muslim population, had deteriorated rapidly with bands of armed Hindus and Sikhs (including members of the RSS, Hindu extremists, Akali Sikhs and others) attacking Muslim villages and setting in train a mass exodus. It has been estimated that in August, September, and October 1947 at least 500,000 Muslims were displaced from Jammu: perhaps as many as 200,000 of them just disappeared.
Many of these then fled to Kashmir and Poonch, adding their tales of woe to those of the Punjabi Muslims who had preceded them. The predictable consequence was another communal backlash, this time by Muslims against Hindus and Sikhs.
The Poonch Revolt
In Poonch a rebellion against Dogra rule, based essentially on economic grievances (food prices and taxes), was encouraged to take on a ‘Muslim vs Hindu’ character a result of the killings in Punjab and Jammu. Further encouragement came from the direction of the North-West Frontier Province (Pashtonkawa). Pathans angered by reports of Muslim deaths went to Poonch seeking revenge against Hindus and Sikhs.
Poonch had come under the direct control of Maharaja Hari Singh in 1935-36, but the former jagir’s population had never reconciled themselves to Dogra rule. Ethnically they had few links with Jammu: they were much closer to Punjab. The Muslims of Poonch, notably the Sudhen tribe, had served widely in both the British Indian army and in the Jammu and Kashmir forces. In 1947, following the end of the Second World War, some 60,000 ex-servicemen had returned to Poonch. These men possessed both military experience and arms.
In June 1947, a revolt broke out over the state government’s exorbitant taxes. Some 10,000 Poonchis decided to march on Poonch City in protest at high food prices. Before they reached the city they clashed with state troops at Bagh. The government ordered the inhabitants to surrender their weapons. This was largely ignored. The situation was exacerbated on August 14, when Muslims attempted to celebrate Pakistan Day (also Kashmir Day) in defiance of a government ban. In addition, with the killings in Punjab after partition and the arrival of a large number of Muslim refugees in Poonch the conflict took on a communal aspect. By September the revolt had acquired a degree of organisation under Muhammad Ibrahim Khan (the Muslim representative for Poonch in the Praja Sabha and a Muslim Conference member), and had evolved into a secessionist movement. In October 1947, the ‘Government of Azad Kashmir’ declared the area independent of Dogra rule, and set up its capital in Muzaffarabad.
Once underway, the Poonch rebellion received support from a number of sources: defectors from the Jammu and Kashmir forces, former Indian National Army soldiers, and Punjabi Muslims from Jhelum. Initially most of the support came from Pathans of the North-West Frontier Province. The government of Pakistan was at first very reluctant to become involved. In fact it refused to recognize the Azad Kashmir government. However, by September it was providing unofficial aid to the rebels.
Looking at the wider picture, the communal violence in Punjab and later in Jammu and Kashmir generally served to harden the prevalent opinions of the three major groups. The state’s Hindu community was even more convinced that it had no future under Muslim rule; if the Maharaja could not retain control, they wanted to accede to India. The Muslim Conference supporters moved closer to joining Pakistan, though some still favoured an independent Muslim state.
Degeneration of CPI Leaders
The movement in Kashmir was in reality directed against the despotic and brutal rule of the Dogra Maharajas. In other words the class struggle was more prominent in the movement than religious and nationalist sentiments. Had there been a genuine revolutionary Marxist party and leadership, Kashmir could have given a lead to the national liberation struggle that was pulsating throughout British India in the last months of the Second World War. The Communist Party had a modest presence in Kashmir. Unfortunately a position of conciliation with the British imperialists during the later part of the war was adopted by the central leadership of the CPI (Communist Party of India). This was at the behest of the Stalinist bureaucracy in Moscow, which was pursuing its own agenda of compromise with imperialism to forward the “national interest” of the Soviet Union. These policies of the CPI leaders had a drastic impact on the significant forces of communism in all parts of India, including Kashmir.
At the beginning of the Second World War, and especially after the Stalin-Hitler pact, the CPI launched an intensive anti-war campaign. It called the war an imperialist war, and the CPI was at the forefront of anti-British agitation. This was a golden opportunity for the CPI to present itself as a revolutionary alternative to the masses. At the start of the anti-war campaign, the CPI took the courageous step of organising mass strikes against the war. The first ever anti-war demonstration of workers in the world took place in India on October 22, 1939 with a one-day protest and general strike in which 90,000 people participated. The main slogans of the demonstration were “Defeat this treachery against the human race”, “Down With The Imperialist War”, “Long Live The Freedom Of India”, etc. The British colonialists increased state repression. Thousands of CPI workers were put in jail during this anti-war agitation. Congress was polarized, and a number of leftist groups, including those around Dr. Subhash Chandra Bose, identified with the CPI. While the process of unity amongst the left on the basis of the anti-war and anti-British posture of the CPI was forging ahead, changes in Moscow’s policy struck a devastating blow. On June 22, 1941 Hitler attacked the Soviet Union. The Stalinist bureaucracy made a 180-degree turn on its policies and analysis of the forces in the international arena. The masters of the Kremlin, having completely abandoned a revolutionary international perspective, were totally unaware that Hitler was preparing a devastating blow against them. This is what disarmed the Soviet Union in the face of its terrible foe. From the outbreak of the Second World War right up until June 1941, when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany received a large increase in exports from the USSR.
Stalin tried to make a deal with the imperialist powers between 1944 and 1945 at the Big Three Conferences at Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam. His humiliating capitulation at the altar of imperialist diplomacy sealed the fate of several Communist Parties and revolutions in a number of countries.
The CPI paid a heavy price for the opportunist turn. Apart from the attitude of appeasement towards the British, it started to develop a conciliatory attitude towards the national bourgeois leadership. In reality, large sections of the CPI were absorbed into Congress.
The CPI cadres should have exposed the real class interests of Nehru, Jinnah and Gandhi to the toiling masses. They should have striven to overcome and eliminate the images of the bourgeois leaders from the minds and consciousness of those who were taking part in the struggle to overthrow the Raj. Their main aim should have been to recruit the socialist youth and militants who were in Congress into the CPI and create a mass movement of the workers and peasants to put an end to imperialist rule.
The change in the CPI’s position on the war created disillusionment amongst the masses and confusion and apathy in the party ranks. One of the most prominent Communist leaders of India, E.M.S Namboodripad, admitted the damage done to the Communist Party by its sudden U-turn in its attitude towards war. In his book “B.J.P/R.S.S: In The Service Of Right Reaction”, he wrote:
“In the first phase of the war the Communists had launched a countrywide movement in demand for total independence. In the second phase they felt a change in the character of the war, the result of the attack of Nazi Germany on the Soviet Union. It had become a ‘peoples’ war. The CPI leadership opposed the ‘Quit India’ demand, and isolated themselves from the movement.”
The policy zigzags, the wavering and the political ineptitude of the CP leadership at local levels also created a vacuum, which was filled by accidental and populist individuals in the subcontinent, hence we see a plethora of parties and leaders come and go, eventually abdicating the political arena for Congress and the Muslim League.
However, in Kashmir, the National Conference and the Abdullah Dynasty filled the vacuum created as a consequence of this absence of a conscious revolutionary leadership.
As we described earlier the oppression and the class antagonisms had reached an explosive level. As history has shown several times, any event can trigger an explosion when the contradictions in society have reached a critical point.
In July 1931 mass anger burst open the accumulated contradictions. The anger that had been simmering and slowly building against the Maharaja exploded through this breach. Given the political vacuum, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was able to intervene with a reformist programme for the oppressed Kashmiris. In this intervention he cleverly articulated the problems of the peasants, workers and the artisans. He launched a movement of civil disobedience. Several activists were arrested and jailed in Hari Parbat Fort. The first reforms in Kashmir came as a direct consequence of this movement. Initially the party Sheikh Abdullah had set up was the Muslim Conference in 1930 (which still exists mainly in the Pakistani controlled Kashmir). But the class character of the movement had an impact and the party changed its name to the National Conference in 1939. It adopted a red flag with a white plough in the centre. The slogan given to the peasants was “when the plough moves, it tears apart the enemy”.
Problems of Populism
Since its inception the National Conference was a petit bourgeois populist party with socialist rhetoric. However, to prop-up and expand its mass base, it had to wage a consistent struggle against the despotic rule of the Dogras.
In 1944 Sheikh Abdullah announced his blue print for the future of Kashmir. The clear class character and pressure of the movement amongst the Kashmiri masses is evident from the statement of the NC leaders themselves. Sheikh Abdullah himself proclaimed,
“Wherever I looked I saw a relentless struggle between the oppressor and oppressed. I yearn to become their saviour and sacrifice my life in their cause”.
Abdullah described the class-base of the new party in his autobiography:
Our movement had been thrown open to all religious groups. It became imperative to develop new political and economic rallying points. We had learnt from experience that the real reason for conflict was not religion but a clash of interests between different classes and groups. The primary objective of our movement was to oppose oppression and support the oppressed.
The aim of the socialist creed was explained in the document titled in “New Kashmir”:
To perfect our union in fullest equality and self-determination, to raise ourselves and our children forever from the abyss of oppression and poverty, degradation and superstition, from medieval darkness and ignorance, into the sunlit valleys of plenty ruled by freedom, science and honest toil.
Pyare Lal Handoo, Minister of Law under the Sheikh Farooq Abdullah, describes the situation in 1944:
“The battle for political freedom (had to) mean the battle for economic emancipation…. once he (Sheik Mohammad Abdullah) got this programme adopted as the charter for political and economic emancipation of our state, a swift change swept the countryside till it culminated in the historic slogan of quit Kashmir in 1946…
…But in spite of this populist programme they made several compromises and capitulations to the rulers under the Raj. It was later proved that even reforms to this system could not deliver the masses from misery or create social stability.
…Sir Gopalswami Ayyangar was Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir from 1935 to 1943. The British describe him as ‘a strong Hindu and a strong nationalist with not unsympathetic leanings towards the congress.”
Iffat Malik elaborates,
In August 1942, Sheikh Abdullah began organizing strikes, processions, etc., in support of the congress movement in India. Through subordinate officials, Ayyangar advised him not to attack the Maharaja or the British. Heeding this advice Abdullah limited his followers’ activities to expressing support for Congress. As a result unlike in British India there were no significant arrests in Jammu and Kashmir. In November 1942, Ayyangar held a meeting with Abdullah, the first after several years: ‘after which the latter made more protestations of his loyalty to His Highness, and rumours of constitutional reform in Kashmir began to become prevalent…Shortly afterwards the Kashmir Government entrusted the work of issuing Rice ration ticket and permits for fuel in Srinagar to Committees composed almost entirely of non-officials. The National Conference was represented on these committees at the instance of the Kashmir Government but no representative of the Muslim Conference were appointed’.
Although they rejected the religious segregation of the subcontinent and opposed a theocratic state, this was not good enough. They did not understand that post-British India could not achieve genuine democracy, secularism, or “socialism” under the capitalist system.
Despite the glaring need for a socio-economic transformation of the subcontinent, the National Conference and its leadership lacked a clear revolutionary perspective and the ideological foundation to carry it through. They were basically radical bourgeois liberals and their programme was restricted to the demands of the national democratic revolution.
The leadership of the National Conference was ideologically closer to the Congress and the Gandhi-Nehru leadership, so they teamed up with them. They were opposed to joining “theocratic” Pakistan. At the same time they were in the struggle against the Dogra Monarchy.
According to the Independence Act, the rulers of the princely states were given the right to decide on joining one of the dominions or remaining independent. The Dogra ruler Hari Singh was ambiguous and wavered.
Intrigues and Treachery
In mid-September, Jinnah instructed his secretary, Colonel William Birnie, to go to Kashmir and arrange for him to spend two weeks of resting and relaxing. Choosing Kashmir for his holiday was entirely natural. To Jinnah, as to most of his countrymen, it seemed inconceivable that Kashmir, with the population over three quarters Muslim, could become any thing but a part of Pakistan.
The British officer, nonetheless, returned five days later with a story that stunned Jinnah. The Maharaja Hari Singh had refused Jinnah permission to set foot on his soil, even as a tourist. This gave Pakistan’s leaders their first indication that the situation in Kashmir was not evolving as they had complacently assumed. Forty-eight hours later, Jinnah’s government sent a secret agent into Kashmir to evaluate the situation and determine the Maharaja’s real intentions. The report he brought back told them that Hari Singh had no intention of acceding to Pakistan. In mid-September, Liaqat Ali Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, arranged a secret meeting of a select group of collaborators in Lahore to decide how to force the Maharaja’s hand. The collaborators immediately dismissed the idea of an outright invasion. The Pakistani army was not ready to start a war over Kashmir that could escalate into a war with India. Two other options were considered. Colonel Akbar Khan, a Sandhurst graduate with a taste for conspiracy, outlined the first. He proposed that Pakistan should supply the arms and money to foment an uprising of Kashmir’s dissident Muslim population. The preparation would require several months, but would result in forty or fifty thousand Kashmiris descending onto Srinagar to force the Maharaja to accede to Pakistan.
The second option was far more intriguing. Its sponsor was the chief minister of the Northwest Frontier Province, and it would involve Pakistani tribesmen. The gathering closed with a stern warning from the Prime Minister that the operation must be a complete secret and that the finance would be provided by secret funds from the Prime Minister’s office. Neither the officers of Pakistan’s army, her civil servants nor the British officers and administrators in the service of the new state were to be given access to this secret. Just before five o’clock on the afternoon of October 24, 1947, Major General Douglas Gracey, who had replaced General Messervy as Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan army, got his first intimation of what had happen in Kashmir through a secret intelligence report. It gave the raider’s strength, armaments, and their location. Gracey did not hesitate. He immediately went to his predecessor’s private quarters and communicated precious information to the man who commanded the only force that could deny Kashmir to the raiders… the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian army, Lieutenant General Sir Rob Lockhart, a Scot and Sandhurst classmate of Gracey. Lockhart was stunned by his old friend’s report. He in turn communicated it to two more people, both of them British: Governor General Mountbatten, and Field Marshal Auchinleck.
Mountbatten received the news as he was getting ready for a banquet in honour of Thailand’s foreign minister. When the last guest had left, he asked Nehru to stay behind. The Prime Minister was shocked by the news.
The Governor General was to discover another side of Nehru on Kashmir. The cool detached intelligence, so admired by Mountbatten was replaced by an instinctive, emotional response driven by passions that even the Kashmiri Brahmin could not control.
“As Calais was written upon the heart of Queen Marry”, Nehru would cry out to him one day to explain his attitude, “so Kashmir is written upon mine”.
The following afternoon a DC3 of the Royal Indian Air Force landed on the abandoned dirt strip of Srinagar Airport. It carried VP Menon, the civil servant who had presided over so many princely accessions to India, Colonel Sam Manekshaw of the Indian army, and an air force officer.
As soon as they returned to Delhi, V.P Menon and the two officers that had accompanied him to Srinagar made their report to another meeting of the cabinet’s Defence Committee. Their words were sombre. The Maharaja was ready at last to present Kashmir to India, but the Pathan raiders were only thirty-five miles from Srinagar and could at any moment seize the only airport in Kashmir on which India could land her troops. While the frenzied preparations for the operation were underway, Lord Mountbatten ordered V.P Menon to fly to Jammu. He carried with him, awaiting only Hari Singh’s signature, the Act of Accession, which would provide a legal framework for India’s invasion.
V.P Menon was back in his Delhi home late in the evening of that same Sunday, twenty-six October. Alexander Symon, Britain’s Deputy High Commissioner joined him for a drink a few minutes after his return. Menon was jubilant. He poured them each a stiff drink. As they sat down, an enormous smile spread across his face. He raised his glass to Symon. Then he pulled a piece of paper from his jacket pocket and waved it gaily towards the Englishman. “Here it is,” he said. “We have Kashmir. The bastard signed the Act of Accession and now that we have got it, we will never let it go.”
Mehr Chand Mahajan had been a member of the Radcliff Boundary Commission in Punjab. Hari Singh appointed him Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir on the recommendation of Sardar Patel. In Alistair Lamb’s opinion Mahajan’s appointed task was to see through accession to India. This impression is confirmed by Mahajan’s visit to New Delhi on 11th October 1947, just before formally taking office as Prime Minister, when he called on Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi.
“V.P Menon (Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s right hand man in matters of the accession of states to the India) ensured that Mahajan did not seek an interview with any senior Pakistani politician or official before assuming office.”
Lamb writes that the Indian Government was making preparation for military intervention long before the instrument of Accession was signed:
The first volume of Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s correspondence which was published in 1971, makes it clear that both Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Baldev Singh were heavily engaged in the planning of some kind of Indian military intervention in Jammu and Kashmir, if only on a contingency basis, by at least 13 September 1947; and that by the third week of October a substantial foundation for such an operation had been laid. Much later in March 1951, Nehru admitted in a statement to Parliament that India would have sent her troops into Jammu and Kashmir even if Hari Singh had not signed the instrument of Accession: ‘irrespective of accession we would have had an obligation to protect the people of Kashmir against aggression’.
On March 26, 1935 Maharaja Hari Singh had leased the Gilgit Wazarat, north of the Indus and its dependencies, to the British for a period of sixty years. However, in April 1947, after just twelve years, Mountbatten decided to hand the area back to direct Jammu and Kashmir control before the subcontinent became independent. This handover took effect on August 1, 1947. Hari Singh’s Governor, Brigadier Ghansara Singh, reached Gilgit one day before this transfer. The local population, who had not been consulted about the handover, had no desire to return to Dogra rule. The local military force, the Gilgit Scouts, shared these sentiments. Faced with impending mutiny plus a Pathan tribal incursion, the Scouts’ British Officer, Major Brown was to put the entire region under Pakistani control. Ghansara Singh was placed under house arrest and, on November 3, 1947 Brown announced Gilgit’s accession to Pakistan.
Insurgency and the First Indo-Pak War
The Pathan tribesmen crossed the Jehlum River into Kashmir on the night of October 23-24,1947. Instead of marching straight to Srinagar, they indulged themselves in arson and plunder in Muzaffarabad and nearby towns. The plan was to capture Srinagar by October 26, in time for Eid celebrations. However, they fell short of their target, getting only as far as Baramulla (though they did manage to cut off the power supply to the Kashmiri capital). This gave the Indian army crucial time to amass troops and push back the raiders advance to Srinagar and beyond. Hence the history of the subcontinent took a strange twist. More than two thirds of Kashmir was taken by India and the other one third of mostly rugged terrain came under Pakistani control.
Indian troops, replacing National Conference supporters in the defence of Kashmir, succeeded in halting the tribal advance before Srinagar was captured. They also launched a counter-offensive, recapturing Baramulla. Once India had sent her forces into Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan’s Governor General M.A. Jinnah wanted to send his country’s regular troops in as well. But such a move was blocked by the Pakistan Army’s acting Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Douglas Gracey, who feared that it would spark off a war between the two new states (the two armies were still under the same supreme command). Jinnah still attempted to send help to the pro-Pakistan “Azad Kashmir” forces, for example encouraging Pakistan regulars “on leave” to make their way to the state. In May 1948, Gracey reversed his earlier decision, and Pakistan “officially” sent its troops into Jammu and Kashmir.
A series of offensives and counter-offensives ended with Pakistan controlling Gilgit (which had “acceded” to that country on 3 November 1947), Baltistan, part of the Vale, most of Poonch, and the Mirpur area of Jammu. Indian forces controlled Ladakh, most of the Kashmir and Jammu provinces, and a small part of Poonch. By the end of 1948 the war, which had so far been confined to Jammu and Kashmir, threatened to spread to “proper” India and Pakistan. Such an escalation was avoided by the declaration of a ceasefire, partly the result of the intervention of the United Nations which took effect on January 1, 1949. The ceasefire line was defined in an agreement between Indian and Pakistani military representatives on July 27, 1949 and remained unchanged until the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War.
By the time the war ended, the Jammu and Kashmir State had been divided into three separate administrative regions. The first, consisting of Gilgit and Baltistan (the Northern Area), was controlled directly by Pakistan. These regions had, for all intents and purposes, been integrated into that country. The second region, known as Azad Kashmir, consisted of part of the Kashmir province, most of Poonch and the Mirpur district of Jammu. This was controlled by a far from united group, which included Poonch Muslims (mostly Sudhans), and former Muslim Conference exiles such as Mirwaiz Yousaf Shah and Ghulam Abbas. In theory, Azad Kashmir was independent, i.e. it was not part of Pakistani territory. In practice however, it had very close links with Pakistan, and was heavily dependent economically and militarily on Karachi (then capital of Pakistan). These links severely restricted its ability to act as a separate entity.
The third part of the state was that held by the Indian troops. Sheikh Abdullah, the leader of the National Conference, was freed from the jail of Hari Singh in September by the Nehru government and he was staying with Nehru in Delhi. He put his weight behind the decision to send Indian troops to “secure” Kashmir.
In October 1947, in accordance with the terms of accession to India, Maharaja Hari Singh appointed Sheikh Abdullah as the head of an emergency government. Though Mehr Chand Mahajan stayed on as Prime Minister, real power was in the hands of Abdullah. In June 1949, the Maharaja was “persuaded” to appoint his son Karan Singh as regent, and leave Kashmir for what turned out to be permanent exile in India.
The Facade of Legality
Sheikh Abdullah was installed as the head of the new government of Kashmir on October 31, 1947. This Government included his close lieutenants Mirza Afzal Beg, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, Sham Lal Saraf, and GM Sadiq. His subservience to India was to such an extent that in an interview published on November 5, 1947 in Hindustan Times, Sheikh Abdullah had said,
“The grave of Pakistan will be dug in the valley of Kashmir”.
Nehru, convinced of the legality of India’s case, took the problem to the United Nations on December 31, 1947. He would later come to regret this decision. The Indian constitution awarded Kashmir special status through Article 370. Even until the 1951 elections, with the landslide victory of the National Conference, Nehru and Abdullah were confident that due to the popularity of the NC, even if a referendum were held in Kashmir, it would vote to accede to India. That is why he accepted the UN resolution calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir.
When Nehru and Liaqat Ali Khan met again in Delhi toward the end of December 1947, Nehru informed him of his intention to refer the dispute to the UN under Article 35 of the UN Charter, which allowed any member “to bring to the attention of the Security Council a situation whose continuance is likely to endanger the maintenance of International Peace!” The Pakistani Prime Minister was unhappy with the accusatory tone of the reference but supposed he would have to accept it since the earlier it was brought before the UN the better.
On December 31, 1947 Nehru formally wrote to the UN General Secretary. In January 1948 the Kashmir issue was debated in the United Nations Security Council at Lake Success, New York with representatives from both India and Pakistan. Much to the annoyance of the Indians, on January 16, 1949 Sir Zafarullah Khan Pakistani Foreign minister, delivered a five-hour speech in favour of Pakistan’s position and against the continued rule of the Dogras over Kashmir:
What is not fully known is the depth of misery to which they have been reduced by a century of unmitigated tyranny and oppression under the Dogra rule until it is difficult to say which is a greater tragedy to a Kashmiri: his life or his death.
On January 20, 1948 the Security Council passed a resolution that establish a commission which became known as the United Nation Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP).
A further resolution was adopted on April 21, 1948 that called the Government of Pakistan,
“To secure the withdrawal from the state of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the state for the purposes of fighting.”
The government of India was requested “To reduce its forces to the minimum strength after which the circumstances for holding a plebisciteshould be put into effect “on the question of the accession of the state to India or Pakistan.”
On August 13, 1948 another resolution adopted by UNCIP once more stated that the final decision on the future status of Jammu and Kashmir
“Shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people”.
Nehru was already talking about the partition of the state on lines previously talked about, i.e. Western Poonch, Gilgit, and Chitral, most of Baltistan would all go to Pakistan. However, this suggestion was unacceptable to Liaquat Ali Khan, the main spokesman after Jinnah’s death in September 1948.
The ceasefire finally imposed on January 1, 1949 was signed by General Gracey on behalf of Pakistan and General Roy Bucher on behalf of India, two British officers on behalf of the respective Dominions to whom the British had granted independence sixteen months earlier.
The terms of Article 35 under which India had referred the issue to the UN did not give the UN any mandate to impose a solution, only to make recommendations. Then as now, the Indian government considered itself to be in legal possession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir by virtue of the Instrument of Accession of October 1947 signed by the Maharaja and the then governor general, Lord Mountbatten.
The Ruler of a State… could, if he wished to join, sign an instrument of Accession in which he transferred to the appropriate Dominion what were deemed the three major powers, those over Defense, External Affairs and Communication.
On the other hand the state of Jammu and Kashmir had signed an agreement with Pakistan on August 15, 1947 that prevented the state from entering into any kind of negotiation or agreement with any other country.
According to the provisions of the 1947 agreement it was possible for a state deliberating accession or in the process of acceding while certain issues remained unresolved to sign with one or both of the Dominions what was termed as ‘Standstill Agreement.’ This would permit the continuation of various essential services even if their constitutional basis was now uncertain.
In October 1963 the Government of Pakistan once more referred the question of Kashmir to the Security Council and in the spring of 1964 the issue was debated for the 110th time in fifteen years.
The fact is that of the innumerable UN resolutions on Kashmir not one makes any specific reference to the “third option”, that of the independence of the Kashmiri people. After its early diplomatic initiatives in the 1950s and 1960s the United States has kept aloof from resolving the Kashmir issue till now.
To sow illusions in the UN and in the idea that it could solve the Kashmir issue and liberate its people is to betray the liberation struggle that the Kashmiri masses have fought for several generations. It is a defeatist policy designed to pacify the movement and maintain the status quo.
The great Greek philosopher Solane once said,
“Law is like a spider’s web, small and weak things get stuck in it, the big one’s pierce through it.”
This is all the more true for bourgeois international law and the character of the so-called United Nations. It is a symbol of legalistic and diplomatic hypocrisy. Lenin once called the League of Nations a “thieves’ kitchen”. The United Nations, if anything, is the greatest deceiver of all.
Kashmir is the oldest unresolved dispute on the agenda of the United Nations. It is still unresolved. Many later disputes put to the United Nations have not been resolved either. Two hundred and eighteen resolutions have been passed against the atrocities and the occupation of Palestinian land by the state of Israel. Not one of these resolutions has been implemented.
The recent imperialist invasion of Iraq is a glaring example of the impotence of the UN. The problem is that most conflicts around the world cannot be resolved on a capitalist basis. Hence, as a deviation or a delaying tactic, these politically decadent leaders refer them to the UN. Such is the case with Kashmir. The United Nations is financed by imperialist and reactionary bourgeois states. How could it dare confront them or impose any decision against their vested interests? The UN is simply the gossip club of the rulers of oppressive regimes that rule through an exploitative system. The UN was a rotten compromise between Imperialism and Stalinism in the past, now it is an instrument for justifying and legalising the economic and military aggression of imperialism, especially that of the United States.
The liberation of Kashmir will not come from UN resolutions or the charity of the imperialist masters. It will come through the revolutionary struggle of the Kashmiri masses, which they have carried on with such courage and bravery for so long. With all these sacrifices they have a huge treasure of experience of struggle. From this will emerge the exact path to take, in order to achieve their freedom.
- Leon Trotsky, My Life, pp. 495-6
- Iffat Malik, Kashmir: Ethnic Conflict, International Dispute, p. 84
- Alastair Lamb, Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy 1846-1990, p. 123
- Lal Khan, Partition Can it be Undone?, p. 48
- Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Flames of the Chinar, p. 13
- Ibid., p. 57
- Quoted in M.J.Akbar, Kashmir, Behind the Vale, p. 84.
- Quoted in M.J.Akber, India under Siege, p. 224
- as quoted in Iffat Malik, op.cit., p. 81
- Ibid., p. 82
- Collins and Lapierre, Freedom at midnight, p. 444
- Ibid., p. 448
- Lamb, op.cit., p. 129
- Ibid., p.130
- Quoted in Akbar, op.cit., p. 239
- Victoria Schofield, Kashmir in the Cross-fire, p.160
- Ibid., p. 7
- Ibid., p. 7
- Op.cit., Schofield, p. 161
- Ibid., p. 162
- Editorial, Tabqati Jedojehd, October 2001