J&K’s Accession: An insider’s account – Punarvasu Parekh

Pandit Ram Chandra Kak & Maharaja Hari Singh
JournalistThe failure of the Indian state to find a solution to the J&K dispute is rooted in its refusal to face the facts. – Punarvasu Parekh

“What Sheikh Abdullah was really gambling for … was an independent principality whose continued existence would be guaranteed by the Indian armed forces and whose solvency was secured by the Indian treasury. There was, however, no idea of a quid pro quo from his side. He did not expect to be called to account either in respect of the internal administration of the state or the utilization of funds supplied to him by the government of India.”

How prophetic these words penned way back in 1955 have been! As Indian soldiers shed their blood to protect J&K from troublemakers of all sorts and as the Indian treasury bleeds to keep it solvent, only to be greeted by chants of “Azadi” from stone-pelting mobs and demand for “greater autonomy” from local sundries, we realize how farsighted the author was in warning us that “Sheikh Abdullah stood only for his own aggrandizement and had no affection for India and no use for her except to the extent she sub-served his ends.” The Abdullah tribe has multiplied several times since then, but its genes and DNAs remain unchanged.

The author Pandit Ram Chandra Kak was the prime minister of princely state of Jammu & Kashmir during the period leading up to the state’s accession to India in October 1947. He left behind a document that records the devious political games played to transfer authority over this Hindu-Buddhist kingdom to Muslims, specifically to Sheikh Abdullah.

Radha Rajan is the editor of Vigil OnlineUnsurprisingly, the document is barely known in “secular” India; its only known public copy is in UK. In a monumental piece of investigative journalism, Radha Rajan presents this document in full, along with her analysis of the communal political game played by Congress leadership in general and Nehru and Gandhi in particular, which has converted Kashmir into a festering sore in Indian polity.

Pandit Kak’s document traverses familiar ground, though it does highlight some less known facts. Its chief merit consists in providing a clear and consistent exposition of the dilemma faced by the State of J&K over accession to India on the eve of independence, by a perceptive patriotic powerful insider who was privy to overt happenings as well as covert machinations in the state, who was in the centre of the storm facing winds blowing from all directions. It tells us why things went the way they did and how India could have averted the current impasse. From the document, Pandit Kak emerges as a man of learning and character, a sterling patriot who had the courage to suffer for his convictions.

In her comments on the selected passages from the document, Radha Rajan shows that what happened in J&K was not accidental, but a logical culmination of the attitudes and policies consciously adopted by Gandhi, Nehru and Congress towards princely states, especially those with Hindu rulers.

The question of accession to India came up before J&K twice in less than a year, though in very different circumstances. Its decision on both the occasions was the same, but for different reasons. Then again, Prime Minister Kak and Maharaja Hari Singh concurred in their conclusion, but not for identical reasons.

Late in 1946, the state was sounded out by the Government of India on the accession to India after the Cabinet Mission had completed its consultations with Government of India and Indian leaders in Delhi. At that time, partition was not on the horizon except as a remote contingency and the accession was envisaged only to the newly-to-be-created Dominion of India.

Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru

Pandit Kak tells us that as regards welding India into a single unit, he was not opposed to accession pure and simple. But there was a problem: Sheikh Abdullah, Congress leaders’ (especially Nehru’s) complete identification with him and their refusal to see any other point of view than his.

Sheikh Abdullah started his political career in 1931 as one of the two protagonists of Muslim Conference, an unabashed self-professed communal body. Later he fell out with the other protagonist Ch. Ghulam Abbas and set up his own outfit National Conference. As Ghulam Abbas managed to get close to Jinnah and Muslim League, Sheikh Abdullah approached Pundit Nehru for support. This he received in ample measure and soon he found himself a leading luminary in Congress firmament and President of All India States’ Peoples Conference.

While paying lip service to Congress ideals, Abdullah never forgot his original aim and ambition: absolute control over the state. With the power and prestige of Congress behind him, he started resorting to coercion and bullying against those who disagreed with him, including dissident Muslim groups. Some residents of Srinagar were for years unable to visit other parts of the town for fear of harassment. A maulavi who favoured Muslim Conference was prevented from preaching at the mosque where he and his forefathers had preached for generations before. Hindus began to live in perpetual fear. During the so-called Quit Kashmir agitation in 1946, thousands-strong mobs would surround houses of respectable persons for hours together, terrorise inmates and hurl stones and filthy abuses not sparing women folk of the house. For this reason, he was arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to three years of imprisonment by the state administration.

This was the man backed to the hilt by Congress and its leaders right from the beginning. Nehru, Maulana Azad, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and others visited Kashmir and participated in deliberations and demonstrations of National Conference, which often culminated in violence. After Sheikh Abdullah’s arrest Pundit Nehru insisted on visiting Srinagar despite being told that his visit would be most undesirable in the prevailing circumstances. Nehru was detained in the Dak Bangalow at Muzaffarabad, provided all the facilities possible and the state arranged for his return to Delhi when he so decided. Indeed, after a meeting with Sardar Patel in Mumbai where Gandhi also was present, Pandit Kak facilitated Nehru’s visit to Srinagar in July 1946. Yet, it seems, Nehru never forgave Maharaja and Pandit Kak for his detention.

Against this background, it is not surprising that the decisive factor which influenced Pandit Kak in rejecting accession was the attitude of the Indian National Congress as regards the affairs of the state.

Radha Rajan points out that in the attitude of the Indian National Congress towards princely states, there was nothing peculiar to J&K. It is strange but true that Congress under Gandhi who reached out to the likes of Ali brothers, Muslim League, Jinnah and even Britishers nurtured undisguised hostility towards princely states and sought to undermine them on every conceivable occasion. J&K is the best example to show that this hostility has cost the country dearly.

The issue of accession came up again on the eve of independence when partition had been agreed upon and princely states, which were to regain sovereignty after the lapse of the British paramountcy, were advised to join either India or Pakistan.

J&K again found itself on the horns of a dilemma. It was Jinnah or Nehru-backed Abdullah. Lord Mountbatten told Pandit Kak “you must consider your geographical position, your political situation and composition of your population and then decide.” Pandit Kak rejoined “that means you advise us to accede to Pakistan. It is not possible for us to do that. And since that is so, we cannot accede to India.”

India was divided on communal lines and the only rational course of action for any state before deciding on accession was to ascertain whether its people would support the accession. And with 76 per cent Muslim population, J&K could not be sure of the support of its people if it acceded to India. Accession to India was also hobbled by Congress’s infatuation with Sheikh Abdullah. Sheikh Abdullah was in prison at the time of independence. Top Congress leaders were insisting not merely that he be released forthwith, but also that a new constitution be drafted for the state with their advice and power transferred to Sheikh Abdullah. Accession to Pakistan was ruled out because Pandit Kak had no illusions about the nature of Islamic state that was coming up. In other words, Kashmir would not accede to Pakistan and could not accede to India.

Pandit Kak met Jinnah who advised him to join Pakistan and offered favourable terms. However, when Jinnah was told that J&K’s decision not to accede was final, he said so long as the state did not accede to India he would not mind if it did not accede to Pakistan. Of course, he had no intention of honouring this assurance. Less than ten weeks after its formation, Pakistan invaded J&K.

From Government of India side, V. P. Menon, secretary, Ministry of States, had a lengthy discussion with Pandit Kak in Delhi and it was decided that Menon would pay a visit to Srinagar after 15 August 1947 to discuss the future course of action. Pandit Kak, therefore, resolved that under the given circumstances, it would be ideal for all stakeholders if J&K became an independent state, maintaining good relations with India and Pakistan.

Maharaja Hari Singh came to the same conclusion, though for more grandiose, if irrational, reasons. He was dreaming not just of remaining independent, but also of ruling over a larger territory. Fuelling his ambitions was Swami Sant Dev, part of the assortment of swamis, gurus, astrologers and others claiming direct communion with the supernatural collected by Maharaja Hari Singh’s uncle and predecessor Maharaja Pratap Singh. Such was the influence acquired by the Swami on Maharaja that even Pundit Nehru paid him a visit when he came to Kashmir in 1946.

For all his supposed spirituality, the Swami did not neglect the mundane. He was keen to earn jobs, contracts and other favours for his large but non-descript followers and constantly made suggestions to the administration on behalf of his cronies. On most of the occasions, Pandit Kak found it hard to oblige him. The enraged Swami started looking for an opportunity to get rid of the “obstinate” prime minister.

The opportunity came when accession became a live issue. The Maharaja was convinced that after the departure of the British, with the potency of Swami’s supernatural powers, he would be able to extend his rule to new areas. In June 1947, he met with rulers of some adjoining princely states and planned a federation of J&K and some areas now in Himachal Pradesh. When Maharaja Hari Singh sought Pandit Kak’s opinion about his plan, the latter explained to him that it was a futile and impracticable idea; it was utterly unrealistic to imagine that forces which had compelled the British to leave India would allow the creation of a new empire in their midst.

Neither Maharaja nor Swami forgave Pandit Kak for this candid advice, the cold douche he administered to their towering aspirations. Machinations started to remove him from the office. Matters reached Sardar Patel who asked Pandit Kak to convey to the Maharaja that in those crucial days it was essential that the Maharaja and his Prime Minister pulled together, and if that was not possible the situation must be brought to an end immediately. In other words, Maharaja Hari Singh had to choose between swami and Kak. Inevitably, he chose the Swami.

From that point, it was a downhill journey. On 11 August 1947, Maharaja gave Pandit Kak “permission to retire.” It was followed by decapitation of the entire administration. Top officers including Chief Secretary, Chief of the Army Staff, the IGP, Governor of Kashmir, Director of Civil Supplies, the Chief Engineer and several other important officers were removed and replaced by people of little or no experience. Sheikh Abdullah was released in September and lost no time in spreading his tentacles. These developments disheartened and alarmed the citizenry. The result was that when Pakistan attacked the state around 22nd October, it was in no position to counter it. Its helplessness was aggravated by perfidy of the British officers and treachery of the Muslim soldiery.

Pandit Kak had to pay a heavy personal price for his love of truth and candour. Charges of trumpery were forged against him and he was denied permission to leave the state even though he feared for his safety. This enabled Sheikh Abdullah to have his revenge when he paraded Kak and his elder brother through the streets of Srinagar with their hands tied and residents asked to shower shit and filth on them. Kak was pressured to give statement against Maharaja Hari Singh rule. But he did not utter a single word against the Maharaja. Kak later migrated to Kasauli.

The Hindustan Times

With the benefit of hindsight, we can say that Pandit Kak’s idea of an independent state of J&K was not viable. Pakistan would not let it remain in peace. Given its location, onset of the Cold War and China’s ambitions, it would have been a hotbed of international intrigues and a constant source of anxiety to India.

Ideally, J&K should have been fully integrated into India, just like hundreds of other states, small and big. What we now have is a halfway house, an arrangement in which India has the worst of both the worlds. For all nationalist objectives, J&K is an alien state—the steadfast refusal of Sunni Kashmiri politicians to the return of Kashmiri Pundits, establishment of sainik colonies or even temporary facilities for Amarnath pilgrims should clinch the issue. However, India has all the obligations regarding its security and solvency.

Pandit Kak’s document tells us how we could have avoided landing in this position of no rights and all responsibilities. India could and should have insisted that accession of J&K to India would be on the same terms as that of any other state. There was no insurmountable reason why it should be on a different basis. There was no need for India either to accept Mountbatten’s suggestion to make accession conditional upon a plebiscite or transfer power to Sheikh Abdullah or agree to a separate constituent assembly for the state. The Indian army was fighting the state’s battle and the simplest thing was to set up a military administration as was done subsequently in Hyderabad. By the time the military operations ended, a lot of things would have become clear. Then again, there was no need to allow Sheikh Abdullah to oust Maharaja Hari Singh and elect a new Head of State when the issue was being debated in the UN Security Council.

The failure of the Indian state to find a solution to the J&K dispute is rooted in its refusal to face the facts. The two-nation theory was false and pernicious, but after conceding Pakistan Congress lost moral right to oppose it. The country was divided on communal lines and the logic of partition has to be accepted. The existence of a large Muslim population in India does not alter the reality that after the secession of the Muslim component, what remained was and is Hindu Rashtra.

How could India expect to retain the valley of Kashmir with a 95 per cent Muslim population contiguous to the entirely Muslim province of NWFP? Replying to this poser in 1950 by Gordon Walker, then secretary of state for commonwealth relations, Pandit Kak pointed out that it was wrong to assume that the status of the valley affects only its residents and therefore they alone could decide its future. From time immemorial, Kashmir has been cradle to a vital corpus of Hindu thought and rituals. For that reason all the Hindus in India and beyond have a stake in the fate of Kashmir. Kashmir has always been a part of the Hindu Holy Land (punyabhoomi) and the question of handing it over to those who are hell-bent on destroying its Hindu ethos does not arise.

To sum up, reading this book would be a sobering, painful experience for any patriotic Indian. It narrates a sordid tale of historical vicissitudes and human weaknesses from which no player emerges unscathed. But truth, however unpalatable, must be faced. For truth alone liberates from bondage of fear, from folly and its consequences. That is the significance of Radha Rajan’s book.

»  Punarvasu Parekh is an independent journalist in Mumbai.
» Radha Rajan is a political commentator and animal rights activist in Chennai. Pandit Kak’s original document (PDF) is available on Radha Rajan’s website Vigil Online.

Jammu and Kashmir: Dilemma of accession: A historical analysis and lesson by Radha Rajan and Krishen Kak

       Published by Voice of India, New Delhi.  Pages 140, Maps 2, Price Rs 300 

Order from Voice of India or Amazon

New Book: Jammu and Kashmir Dilemma of Accession: A Historical Analysis and Lesson – Radha Rajan

Jammu and Kashmir Dilemma of Accession: A historical analysis and lesson by Radha Rajan

Radha Rajan is the editor of Vigil OnlineJammu and Kashmir Dilemma of Accession: A Historical Analysis and Lesson authored by Radha Rajan analyses Prime Minister Pandit Ramchandra Kak‘s first-hand narrative of the tragic events which shook the Kingdom of Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and the Tibets in the critical years of 1946-47 when Pandit Ramchandra Kak was Prime Minister of the kingdom.

Prime Minister Kak describes the role played by the Indian National Congress in the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir from 1938 onwards and explains why the Kingdom could not accede to India in 1946 when the offer to accede was first made and again in 1947 when the Prime Minister came under pressure from several quarters to accede to Pakistan and to India. While V. P. Menon’s book for reasons unknown does not touch upon the critically important details which culminated in the tragedy of absolute power and total control over the entire kingdom being transferred to Sheikh Abdullah, it nevertheless provides critical insights and information which supplement Prime Minister Kak’s narrative; and read together, they provide all missing links in the official history of the tragedy.

Pandit Kak’s document is not available in India and while the original is with a family member, a copy of the original is housed in the India Office Library and Records, London. (A copy of the original is available on Radha Rajan’s website.)

Voice of India Publications through Radha Rajan’s book places this document for the first time since independence in the public domain in India.

ISBN 9789385485107, Voice of India, New Delhi,  Pages 140, Maps 2, Price Rs 300 

Order from Voice of India or Amazon

Hey Omar! Article 370 can be repealed! – K.N. Bhat

Hindustan Times, New Delhi, Oct. 28, 1947

K. N. Bhat“The assertion by any citizen that J&K or any other state is not governed by the Indian Constitution may amount to an act of sedition. The seemingly unending Kashmir problem was born out of a single folly of a single man — Nehru stopping Sardar Patel from dealing with Kashmir. Through a series of more such follies, a Frankenstein of a state has been created that dares the nation even to discuss an issue relating to it.” – K.N. Bhat

J&K CM Omar AbdullaMark my words and save this tweet — long after Modi government is a distant memory either J&K won’t be part of India or Article 370 will still exist,” Omar Abdullah, the Chief Minister of India’s 15th state, tweeted in his response to a minister’s statement on the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir.

Audacity unlimited! And ignorance unbounded! The Chief Minister appears to be under the wrong impression that he can give talaaq and separate Jammu and Kashmir from India at will.

According to the Omar school of thought, Article 370 of the Constitution of India cannot be touched except with the consent of the J&K Assembly. And if that Article is abrogated, the status of J&K before accession would automatically stand restored. Should that mean that Dr Karan Singh, son of the last ruler of Kashmir, will be recognised as the ruler of J&K, and everything that happened after the accession would be void? No, that may not be acceptable.

On the eve of India and Pakistan becoming separate dominions, Indian Independence Act 1947, read with the Government of India Act 1935, gave the rajas and maharajas of British India three options: become part of India, become a part of Pakistan or remain independent states. Within the specified period — between August 15 and October 6, 1947 — 560-plus erstwhile rulers signed documents with the title “Instrument of Accession”, and thereby agreed to become part of the dominion of India. This was to be followed by instruments of merger, thereby becoming part of India and ending the original identity of the princely state — many princes executed both the documents one after the other, while some had hesitation to sign the merger treaty.

The process of merger in respect of all except J&K was completed in October 1949. At the insistence of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the agreement to pay compensation to the princes for merging with India — the privy purse — was given a constitutional status through the introduction of Article 291. The ruler of Jammu and Kashmir wanted to remain independent, but when the Pakistanis were about to capture his kingdom, the raja in distress executed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947 — the offer was accepted by Governor- General Lord Mountbatten the very next day with a gratuitous condition that after peace returned to the state, the people’s wish would be ascertained on the issue of accession. This was just a wish in view of the belated accession, not a precondition for accession authorised by law.

Hari Singh The Instruments of Accession were cyclostyled documents — the one signed by Raja Hari Singh was no different from the one signed by, say, Maharaja of Mysore. So much so the Kashmir king’s impressive string of titles — Shriman Inder Mahender Rajrajeswar Maharajadhiraj Shri Hari Singhji, Jammu and Kashmir Naresh Tatha Tibbetadi Deshadhipathi, Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir — had to be squeezed into the long enough blanks allotted in the specified form. So the document executed by Raja Hari Singh was just another Instrument of Accession with no special concessions or reservations.

In normal circumstances, merger of J&K with India  should have taken place before October end, but a brilliant self-goal scored by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, in the form of a complaint to the UNO and the consequent UN intervention, prevented it. The merger had to be postponed until the dispute was settled — and that dispute is still pending.

Again, at the insistence of Nehru, Article 370, according special status to J&K, was added at the fag end of the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly. B.R. Ambedkar openly opposed the idea and refused to take part in drafting Article 370, while other members of the Constituent Assembly, according to Gopalasway, a member of the Constituent Assembly, condescended to this “gift from Nehru to his friend Sheikh Abdullah” in the firm belief that this was a temporary measure.

Recall the privy purse case. Indira Gandhi, following the split in the Congress, resorted to measures intended to project her as the only champion of the poor. One such gimmick was abolition of privy purse in 1970 — at that time the total burden on the exchequer on this account was about Rs 4 crore per year. A blatant breach of a constitutional obligation and of a solemn promise was sought to be committed by deleting Article 291.

But the move was defeated by one vote in the Rajya Sabha. Bitterly bitten by this humiliation, the Indira government got a presidential notification issued, derecognising the princes. That notification was struck down by the Supreme Court (1971). Soon thereafter, equipped with the needed numerical strength in Parliament, the 21st Amendment Act was passed. It was the shortest amendment reading, “Article 291 be deleted”. The Amendment Act was also challenged. However, the Supreme Court upheld the abolition of privy purse by deleting Article 291 after observing that Article 368 permits such an amendment. “We are concerned only with the legality not morality,” said the court (1983).

Arguments on the scope and interpretation of Article 370 may end before the Supreme Court of India, or may be not if the issue assumes international colour. But what is not in doubt is that the Indian Parliament can amend the Indian Constitution even by deleting Article 370.

Sheikh Abdullah & NehruThe amending power under Article 368 is plenary and in exercise of it Parliament can simply delete Article 370. Article 368(1) reads: “Not withstanding anything contained in this Constitution, Parliament may in exercise of its constituent power amend by way of addition, variation or repeal any provision of this Constitution in accordance with the procedure laid down in this Article.”

So long as the basic structure of the Constitution is not altered, Parliament’s amending power is unlimited — what is the Constitution’s basic structure is not defined, but a temporary provision like Article 370 cannot be part of it. No agreement or treaty can restrict the scope of this constitutional provision.

Once Article 370 stands repealed, the Instrument of Accession may become operational to the extent that it is consistent with the Constitution — the proclaimed allegiance to the Government of India Act 1935 would extend to its successor, the Constitution of India.

The assertion by any citizen that J&K or any other state is not governed by the Indian Constitution may amount to an act of sedition. The seemingly unending Kashmir problem was born out of a single folly of a single man — Nehru stopping Sardar Patel from dealing with Kashmir. Through a series of more such follies, a Frankenstein of a state has been created that dares the nation even to discuss an issue relating to it. With the passage of time the problem may only get aggravated. What should be done? To begin with, try to win the co-operation of the Kashmiri politicians and MPs from the rest of India to suitably amend and attenuate Article 370; failing this repeal it. Hopefully, well before the Modi government is forgotten, the Kashmiri people would have forgotten Article 370. – Deccan Chronicle, 7 June 2014

» K.N. Bhat is a senior advocate of the Supreme Court and former additional solicitor-general of India. He can be reached at knbhat1@gmail.com

Omar and Article 370

 

Indian Army: Unprotected on the front – M.P. Anil Kumar

M.P. Anil Kumar“The armed forces are generally hurrahed, but this is episodic and does not translate into real regard for their wellbeing. Indeed, soldiers are venerated during wars and disasters and tolerated in peacetime. The apathy towards accoutring them with proper safety gear shows that we deem them to be mere cannon fodder. If only the country would foster a genuine culture of respect for the soldier. While the soldier has kept his terms of the contract, the state has let him down time and again, even for something as vital as essential equipment.” — Flt. Lt. M.P. Anil Kumar

Lt Manish Singh receives Saurya Chakra from President MukherjeeThe sniffer-dog squatted on its haunches. Lieutenant Manish Singh sensed the dog couldn’t scent the spoor of blood any more  He signalled his troops to crouch and scan sharply for their quarry — a terrorist who escaped after being shot by a squad of the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) — as one could easily hide in the terraced maize fields of Rajwar, Kupwara district. Gunfire rang out; he sighted the Afghan spraying bullets. As the six commandos returned fire, Singh felt the shooting pain of a bullet piercing through his lumbar and his legs went numb. Disregarding his state, he let off a burst from his gun and felled the quarry. Seeing his bloodied back, his men rushed to his side, but he ordered them to ensure the terrorist was dead.

He was evacuated to Srinagar. Severe blood loss and multiple organ failure had him on the ropes but he recovered remarkably. But the bullet smashed his spinal cord, paralysed him from the waist down, and condemned him to lifelong wheelchair mobility. He was decorated with the Shaurya Chakra for his bravery on September 25, 2012.

Rashtrya RiflesWhat rankled his parents most was the indifference of the government and the media. “Instead of recounting what our son did, rats biting off his toe made front-page news,” they resentfully lamented. A stray bullet hit a commando on the head in the same operation; the helmet yielded, the nerve damage he sustained has enfeebled an arm.

I asked Singh whether he wore a flak jacket. He said no, as the ordinary bulletproof jacket with its 8 kg metal plate not only encumbered but weighed you down as well. What if he had worn the lighter, more ballistic-resistant Kevlar vest? He said it might have prevented the spinal injury.

The flak jacket and combat helmet examples show how remiss the government is in not providing the troops engaged in counterinsurgency operations (CI ops) with the best protective kit. Singh and his buddy are from the Special Forces. So you can imagine how badly neglected the RR and regular troops deployed for CI ops are.

Bullet Proof VestKevlar body armour is rated as bang for the buck but the excuse trotted out is trite — the prohibitive cost. If you trawl the internet, you’ll find that these are produced in Kanpur, too, and it’s affordable. One per cent of the defence budget can kit nearly three lakh troops with both vest and helmet. In fact, ex-Kanpur stuff protects the forces of the UN and NATO.

Though they shot him, the RR could only hurt the Afghan terrorist. The reason is that we use 5.56 mm ammo. The basis for switching from 7.62 to 5.56 mm calibre was strategic; it was argued that the 7.62 mm round had overkill capability, apart from being relatively heavy. With its lower killing power, 5.56 mm bullets were likely to injure the enemy, thus necessitating the employment of more soldiers to evacuate the wounded, resulting in the insidious depletion of enemy fighting strength. The idea originated in the West. Their armies made the transition and we followed suit. But this make no military sense for us. Why not shift to bigger calibre weapons for CI ops?

Indian soldiers with tri-colour in KargilThe armed forces are generally hurrahed, but this is episodic and does not translate into real regard for their well-being  Indeed, soldiers are venerated during wars and disasters and tolerated in peacetime. The apathy towards accoutring them with proper safety gear shows that we deem them to be mere cannon-fodder. If only the country would foster a genuine culture of respect for the soldier. While the soldier has kept his terms of the contract, the state has let him down time and again, even for something as vital as essential equipment. Since the Indian Parliament was dreamt up as a clone of Westminster, let me cite an example to paint a contrast between their conduct.

In July 2009, Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, the commanding officer of 1st Welsh Guards, and a trooper were blown up by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Lt Col Thorneloe was the most-senior-ranked officer casualty in Afghanistan. The air was thick with recrimination, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown barely fended off the salvoes, but what glittered vividly Indian Parliament Buildingwas the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate, accountability and full-throated concern for the soldier.

Our parliament often gets overheated but, alas, never for the Indian soldier. You don’t have to be clairvoyant to foretell that Pakistan-abetted militancy will gather tempo once the US-led forces quit Afghanistan. Which calls for equipping troops with apt outfits and arms. Will Parliament compel the government to do so and show it truly cares for the soldier? – The Indian Express, 26 July 2013

» Flt. Lt. M.P. Anil Kumar is a quadriplegic officer in Pune Hospital. He types with a pencil in his mouth. His website is The Chairborne Warrior.

Wajahat Habibullah preaching Azadi for Kashmir – Hari Om

Prof. Hari Om“Had the BJP played the part of a responsible and effective opposition, New Delhi would not have dared … to promote the likes of Wajahat Habibullah who continue the unfinished task of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his ilk. But when the BJP, including its parent RSS, is unable to checkmate the towering ambitions of its Jinnah-loving leaders, this too, is no surprise.” – Prof Hari Om

Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat HabibullahNational Commission for Minorities chairman Wajahat Habibullah was in Srinagar on Sunday, 17 June, to take part in a seminar on “Jammu and Kashmir and the Federal Models of Shared Sovereignty”, organized by the Political Science Department of Kashmir University in collaboration with the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation. The CDR is a Delhi-based controversial think-tank; its activities have been funded by the Government of India from time to time.

The truth is that the CDR has been working for the separation of Jammu and Kashmir from the Indian constitutional framework. It, like the Kashmiri leaders of all hues, believes that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory, that New Delhi has brought Jammu and Kashmir under the ambit of various Central laws and institutions by questionable means, that New Delhi has willfully eroded the special status of Kashmir, that New Delhi has to “assuage the hurt feelings of the alienated Kashmiri people” (read Muslims) by accepting all of their demands, and that the solution to the Kashmir problem has to be such as is acceptable to both Pakistan and the Kashmiri people.

Jammu and Ladakh are conspicuous by their absence in all of the CDR’s formulations. In fact, the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation considers Jammu and Ladakh and nearly 50 per cent of the state’s population that lives in these two regions, as irrelevant.

Jammu & Kashmir State in India.As for Mr. Wajahat Habibullah, he has been advocating the division of Jammu and Kashmir into five geographical (read religious) zones, and the creation of five regional assemblies – one each for the plain areas of Jammu Pradesh, hilly and mountainous areas of Jammu Pradesh, Shia-majority Kargil district, Buddhist-majority Leh district, and Sunni-majority Kashmir.

Mr. Habibullah was one of the main speakers at the CDR seminar. Given his previous record, it was expected that he would speak the language of Kashmiri separatists and vouch for a solution that not only renders the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA) ineffective for all practical purposes, but also enables the people to enjoy an independent status with both India and Pakistan sharing sovereignty in Jammu and Kashmir, which is legitimately Indian. He lived up to these expectations.

Speaking about the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act, he said: “I personally believe that AFSPA should be done away with. The Government of India is working on a model to frame rules that would govern the AFSPA as so far we have no rules to govern the controversial Act. A clause in the AFSPA even surpasses the powers of Prime Minister and President of India. There is a clause that a soldier can shoot without seeking orders from the superiors. This clause even exceeds the powers of two top dignitaries”.

Regarding the PSA, he said, “It is a matter (revocation) to be resolved by Jammu and Kashmir Government. The Act was passed in 1982 by the Jammu and Kashmir Government. The Government of India can’t interfere in it as it is a state Act. People demanding scrapping of this Act should approach the Jammu and Kashmir Government”.

Kashmir InterlocutorsThis is fairly obvious that the Minorities Commission chairman, like Kashmiri leaders, both “mainstream” and separatist, wants these two Acts to be thrown out root and branch. In other words, he wants the Army, paramilitary forces and state police to fight secessionism with their hands tied behind their backs, and suffer at the hands of the secessionists. He wants unbridled freedom for those in Kashmir who hate and despise India and everything Indian, including Indian laws, and want a dispensation independent of India.

Yet Mr. Habibullah continues to hold a constitutional post in New Delhi. Moreover, the Congress-led UPA Government had appointed him first as Chief Information Commissioner and then chairman, National Commission for Minorities, while knowing well that he is biased towards one community’s misplaced aspirations, and pro-separatist.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even appointed him as his emissary so that he could speak in the Working Group on Centre-State Relations and persuade the members of this Working Group to divide our Jammu and Kashmir into five communal zones and help the votaries of Greater Kashmir accomplish what they wanted: Establishment of Greater Kashmir comprising Kashmir and Muslim-majority areas of Jammu and Ladakh. The Working Group on Centre-State relations, appointed by Manmohan Singh in 2006, was headed by Justice Sagheer Ahmad, who submitted his report without discussing it with group members and wound up the group without further ado. To this day, members do not have a copy of the Report, which is simply unheard of, and a sad reflection on the manner in which the UPA has conducted itself on the sensitive issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

Indra Gandhi & Zulfikar Ali BhuttoMr. Habibullah also expressed himself on the issue of shared sovereignty: “While finding out a political settlement (read communal settlement) of Kashmir, two things need to be kept in mind. When Shimla agreement took place (in 1972), it was decided that what is with Pakistan would remain with it and what is with India will remain with it and the Line of Control (LoC) will also remain same… Kashmiri people need Azadi – feeling of freedom. I have been reiterating this again and again. Kashmiri people should move forward by feeling the freedom of democracy”. Since Pakistan never abided by the Shimla Accord, just as it disregarded the UN resolution on vacating occupied Kashmir, how can any agreement be unilaterally binding on India alone? Naturally Mr. Habibullah does not say.

Three things were crystal clear from his exposition on shared sovereignty. One, Jammu and Ladakh have no place whatsoever in his scheme of things. Two, the aspirations of the people of Kashmir (read Muslims) have to be respected; they need be given the kind of independence they want from India. Three, he remembers only the 1972 Shimla agreement, and not the February 1994 Parliamentary unanimous resolution which rendered the Shimla agreement redundant. The 1994 resolution has mandated the Government of India to integrate into the Indian Union Pakistan-occupied-Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, using all possible means. That no regime has been sincere in this quest is another matter.

Banana Republic FlagYet can one legitimately blame Mr. Habibullah for being so irrational and communal? No; because India permits anybody to say anything and go scot-free. We are not a Republic in the true sense of the term. We are a Banana Republic where the powers-that-be in New Delhi are least bothered to censure those who have been working overtime to disintegrate India or ensure yet another communal partition of the country.

The worst part of the whole situation has been the total and abysmal failure of the main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party. Had it played the part of a responsible and effective opposition, New Delhi would not have dared to do what it has done to promote the likes of Wajahat Habibullah who continue the unfinished task of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his ilk. But when the BJP, including its parent RSS, is unable to checkmate the towering ambitions of its Jinnah-loving leaders, this too, is no surprise. – Vijayvaani, 21 June 2012

» The author is former Chair Professor, Maharaja Gulab Singh Chair, University of Jammu, Jammu, & former member Indian Council of Historical Research.

Centre for Dialogue Reconciliation