Thursday, November 22, 2018

Nehru, Abdullah and Kashmir

-- Nasir Khan, November 22, 2018

My introductory remarks to Dr Nyla Ali Khan's article:

Khan's article is well-written. She has given her views, fairly and judiciously, on the troubled history of the State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) since the 1947 Partition of India. The roles of Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah in the history of J&K are the focal points of her narrative.

Indeed, the tasks before Nehru as India’s prime minister after the independence from Britain were enormous. Among such tasks was the policy towards the princely states of the Indian Subcontinent and their incorporation into the Indian Union by all possible means. No one and nothing was to be allowed to stand in the way of the enforcement of such a policy.

However, the situation in Kashmir region was a bit more complicated for him for a number of reasons. Despite his personal friendship with the Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah, Nehru also thought himself a Kashmiri. Kashmir was not only part of India, but it was also his ancestral home! Consequently, he was not the one who would allow anyone, even a personal friend like Abdullah to assert an independent position for himself or for his people when it came to Kashmir. The state of Jammu and Kashmir had become an ‘integral part’ part of India. The legal fiction of ‘Accession’ was always at the back on Nehru’s mind! Many still believe in that false claim.

As long as Abdullah followed the path Delhi had decided for any political leader who held power in J&K, he was free to do some good work, including the land reforms, which Khan has mentioned in her article. But if he ever imagined that he could pursue an independent course for his state under the Union, then he was not being realistic. Perhaps, he knew he had not many options. In fact, his ouster from power and subsequent imprisonment, etc., were inevitable, and Nehru and his policymakers had no qualms about it.

Of course, Nehru and his successors always had the upper hand to use Kashmiri leaders as pawns as long as they thought them useful to their ends. Obviously, they are still in the same business, and they pursue the same policies towards J & K and its people. They can easily hire and fire any status-seeker politician in the Valley. There is not shortage of such self-serving political figures in Kashmir.

How many people remember or tell the simple facts that during the turbulent period following the Partition, the Indian army was sent to J & K, which, with the help of militant right-wing Hindu organizations, massacred from 300,000 to 400,000 Muslims in Jammu region to create a Hindu majority region versus the Kashmir Valley where Muslims were in the majority?

It was the famous British historian Perry Anderson who lifted the veil of secrecy on such pogroms in his groundbreaking three large papers in London Review of Books in 2012 which were later published as a book (LRB, Vol. 34 No. 13, 5 July 2012, LRB Vol. 34, No. 14, 19 July 2012, LRB. Vol. 34 No. 15, 2 August 2012).

These massacres took place when Nehru and Sardar Patel were adjusting the map of Independent India.

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