The Tribune - Spectrum

, April 7, 2002

Trying to get to the roots of the Kashmir problem
Padam Ahlawat

Towards the future — Jammu & Kashmir in the 21st Century
by Vernon Hewitt. Granta Editions, Cambridge, UK. Pages 236

Towards the future --- Jammu & Kashmir in the 21st CenturyIN his earlier book, Hewitt had raised the question if it was possible for the Kashmiris to reclaim their past. His effort was to find out how a region replete with overwhelming natural beauty, steeped in religious, cultural and ethnic diversity, had become a land of violent conflict. Six years later, Kashmir is still a land of violent conflict and international concern over open conflict is more focused.

In this book, he sees a possible peaceful solution to the problem. He says: "It is my contention that we are on the brink of quite a major transformation in the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir". But to all those concerned, Kashmir’s solution seems as remote as it ever was, notwithstanding the recent military buildup and looming war clouds. There is no conscious effort to resolve the issue, unless some dramatic event happens to change the course of history.

The roots of the problem lie in the creation of Pakistan, which was a consequence of the ‘two-nation’ theory. For a nation to be based on religion was as absurd as it could be. This confused demand was directed at widely disparate areas, which had serious differences of language and culture. By no stretch of imagination could it be conceded that the Muslims constituted a separate nation. Yet the demand came to be taken seriously. The Muslims came to be taken as a separate nation because of its violent communal approach. The violence reached such a scale that the British conceded the demand to avoid total chaos, and the congress leadership acquiesced in the demand for the same reason. Ironically however, Partition resulted in unprecedented violence and in total chaos— the very same situation that an effort was being made to avoid. Another irony was that the demand for a separate state of Pakistan came from the areas that would remain in India.


On the eve of Partition, the princely states were given the option to accede to Pakistan or India. There was no other option of remaining independent. Moreover, it was the princes who were to decide, without any need for ratification or plebiscite. They were, however, to be guided by the principle of contiguity. Thus, Hyderabad had no other choice, but to accede to India. J&K could opt for any of the two nations. So could tiny Junagadh. Some writers have questioned the inclusion of Gurdaspur District, despite its Muslim majority, with India as a favour to make J&K’s accession possible. This is a needless controversy as even without Gurdaspur, J&K would have been contiguous with India. All it did was to make the road and rail connection easier.

Controversy has raged over the question whether Pakistan was behind the invasion. Pakistan insists it was a tribal attack and the Pakistan army had yet to be remoulded and created into regiments. Also, some officers may have taken part in the attack without authorisation, given the chaos and unsettled conditions. Lord Birdwood stated, that while there was no plan of control by the Pakistan Government at the highest level, there was knowledge and tacit consent.

There is, however, evidence that there was a measure of high-level control. Major General Akhbar Khan in his book, Raiders in Kashmir, describes how he drew up the plan and leaves little doubt that Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan were involved.

Another controversy recently raised by one author is about the date of accession. This writer brings out that V.P.Menon went to Srinagar on October 25, and returned on October26, with a letter dated October 26, from Hari Singh, along with the Instrument of Accession. There can be no issue about the legitimacy that the Maharaja’s signature carried.

Pakistan occupied Kashmir too had its share of political instability. Gilgit and Baltistan were separated from Azad Kashmir in 1972 and directly administered from Islamabad. In 1974, the former princely state of Hunza was merged with Gilgit and Baltistan. At critical moments, Muslim Conference Leaders have denounced the constitutional status of Azad Kashmir, as bogus.

It was the 1984 dismissal of an elected government by Jagmohan and the rigged 1987 election that are regarded as critical turning points in Jammu and Kashmir.

The discontent was exploited by Pakistan to foment terrorism. It saw induction of war veterans from Afghanistan. In the writer’s words, "The most dramatic use of such left overs by Pakistan was to occur in Kargil, in May 1999, when the Indian Army discovered over 600 Mujahideen well on the Indian side of the LOC, ironically housed in India’s own security bunkers abandoned for the winter". Kargil was just that and nothing more. The book is immensely readable and revealing.