KASHMIR : GENESIS

In January 1948, the Security Council adopted resolution 39, establishing the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) to investigate and mediate the dispute. On 1 January, a ceasefire between Indian and Pakistani forces left India in control of most of the valley, as well as Jammu and Ladakh, while Pakistan gained control of part of Kashmir including what Pakistan calls “Azad” Kashmir and Northern territories. Pakistan claims it is merely supporting an indigenous rebellion in “Azad” Kashmir against repression, while India terms that territory as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). In July 1949, India and Pakistan signed the Karachi Agreement establishing ceasefire line to be supervised by military observers. These observers, under the command of the Military Adviser, formed the nucleus of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). On 30 March 1951, following the termination of UNCIP, the Security Council, by its resolution 91 decided that UNMOGIP should continue to supervise the ceasefire in Kashmir. UNMOGIP’s functions were to observe and report, investigate complaints of ceasefire violations and submit its finding to each party and to the Secretary-General.

On 17 October 1949, the Indian Constituent Assembly adopts Article 370 of the Constitution, ensuring a special status and internal autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir with Indian jurisdiction in Kashmir limited to the three areas agreed in the IOA, namely, defence, foreign affairs and communications.

The IOA has become a major issue in the later decades, with concerns regarding article 35A. The outrage and criticism generated over the article fails to look at the historical standpoint where the agreement was signed. It was not an agreement designed to give special powers to Kashmir, nor was the subsequent changes made to the constitution. The article was passed with much celebration and aimed at giving the Indian government control over the valley like never before. For the first time Indian constitutional principles and directives were applicable for Kashmir and so did the judiciary acquire certain reach into the valley. For the first time Delhi penetrated the legal proceedings and state machinery of the till now secured valley. For a state that had its own parliament and foreign policy, separate force of defence and a sperate flag flying, this was a major achievement for the Delhi regime in validating their control over the valley.  The jubilant architect of Article 370, Gopala swami Ayyangar, said: “Article 370 will provide basis for merging J&K with India and, henceforth, Kashmir’s freedom and right of self-determination will be impossible”. [Shabnum Qayoom, History of Kashmir(2014) page 300)]

1951 saw the first post-independence election in Kashmir. The election was merely an exercise in establishing formally a government that was already in power. Out of the 75 assembly seats, only two where actually contested. In all other states the opposition parties where prevented form contesting. Abdullah played the role of poster boy for Nehru, as the hero who was going to help India retain Kashmir and deliver peace to the valley and he cruised to victory. The election was haunted with widespread charges of rigging, as is the case with every election thereafter. Nehru had the world looking at him to deliver on Kashmir, and he needed to display results. But in the subsequent years, Sheik Abdullah started to drift from openly endorsing the accession to insisting on self-determination by the Kashmiris. The UN clearly mentioned that the election conducted doesn’t count to be a plebiscite.

Nehru soon invited Abdullah in 1952 to discuss how Kashmir can be more integrated to India, and thereby was born the Delhi agreement of 1952. In this agreement, the central government agreed that in case of all other states, the residuary powers remained with centre, but in case of Kashmir, the state could retain the residuary powers of legislature. The agreement also stated that all the citizens of Kashmir be recognized as Indian citizens, but the state legislature was encouraged to make laws conferring special rights and privileges to the state’s subjects. The agreement also provided the provision that governor be elected by the state assembly instead of being nominated by the president. It further states that in view of the peculiar position the state is placed in, the chapter relating to fundamental rights cannot be made applicable for the state and has to be given to the people through state legislature and also, did not finalize on financial integration.

Article 370 was accepted to the constitution at the request of Abdullah and his ministers. The policy was designed to ensure Kashmir stays with India. But Abdullah was contended wit the fact that the article empowered the state with sufficient autonomy, with central intervention limited to the specifications of IOC. The article gave him enough power to stay the in-effect ruler of Kashmir, or so he thought. However, some members of congress and several right-wing outfits did not welcome this. They saw this as halfway measure and possible obstacle in the total integration of Kashmir with India and wanted Kashmir to be permanently secured and tied to India. They started mounting immense pressure on Nehru to come up with solid results on integration and this led to the Delhi agreement of 1952.  But this agreement still failed to please the hardcore communal elements as they still demanded for a total integration of Kashmir. This gave way to violent protest with demands of unification of Kashmir to the UOI. Securing Kashmir had become a matter of pride for the muscle flexing Hindutva political quota.

Sheik Abdullah was troubled by the Hindutva outburst and worried for the Muslim population that will come under the wrath. The possible state of valley once Nehru regime passes, troubled him. This planted the seed for his parting with the Nehruvian dialogue of integration. Abdullah tried reshaping public opinion of article 370, but at the same time he started venting his emotions on Kashmir-India relations. It culminated on July 13, 1953 into his emotional outbursts at public rallies at Naqshband Sahib Shrine, Jamia Masjid and Shahi Masjid, where he repeatedly declared: “I regret my mistake of coming in the way of merger with Pakistan. I had fears they won’t treat me well, but I was wrong. Now I feel back-stabbed, I no longer trust Indian rulers, we have different ways now”. [GK dated 09-08-2016; M M Isaaq, pages 249-251].

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