Thursday, March 01, 2012

Kashmir Problem Nehru’s Special Gift? By Balraj Puri

Seniormost BJP leader Lal Krishan Advani slammed family of Jawaharlal Nehru “whose lack of courage led to Kashmir issue remaining unresolved.” In his blogged statement, the BJP leader also slammed the late Chief Minister, then called Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir whose ambition to be the leader of an independent Kashmir also contributed to the issue.

According to Advani, India had two opportunities to settle the issue once and for all—one in 1947 when Nehru ruled the country and the other in 1971, when his daughter Indira Gandhi was at the helm of the affairs. Thus, “Kashmir problem is Nehru’s special gift to the nation,” he wrote in his entry blog: http/

No quotation will remain as important as this statement of Advani. For no other Advani is ever likely to become as important in the family as Lal Krishan has become. Nor Kashmir is likely to remain as controversial for ever as it is today.

Political generalizations are always a hazardous task. Who could, for instance, have predicted that a Hindu ruler of a Muslim majority state of princely states of India, would opt to accede to India at the time of the partition of the subcontinent into two countries of India and Pakistan in 1947? And an attack by tribes of Muslims of Pakistan would be so resolutely opposed by overwhelming Muslim population of Kashmir. Indeed Gandhi saw a ray of light in the benighted subcontinent of India and Pakistan during the partition of India in 1947. Kashmir provided a ray of hope to the apostle of non-violence at his darkest hour.

Nehru had cultivated people of Kashmir over decades. He fell in love with the beautiful damsel of Kashmir which was adequately reciprocated. By championing the cause of self-rule of Kashmiri Muslims against rule of outsiders—Mughal, Afghan, Sikh and Dogra rulers—extending to 400 years—Nehru established the principle that soveignty belonged to the people and not to the rulers as announced by the British rulers while granting independence to India. Thus India established superiority of its moral and political case during crucial cold war era—the effects of which are still being felt. This qualitative change in world politics is the most tangible gain for forces of moral principles is to change the rules of the game. Who is the greater gainer? A nation that establishes a higher rates of growth? Has acquired more powerful weapons of destruction? Is more influential rule in world affairs? And so on.

India under Nehru’s leadership aspired to change the rules of the game? And moved ahead of what were so far considered to be more powerful or, richer or more prosperous nations. The new rules may be more humane, nobler, more moral and civilized? Unless rules of the game are settled, it is difficult to pass a judgment on who has performed better?

For as a constitutional head, Maharaja, had no power nor he could provide leadership to the region and his presence would inhibit growth of any political leadership. I submitted that what Jammu needed was not a psychological illusion but tangible and institutional arrangement for the purpose.

Nehru appreciated the line of reasoning and anomaly of the situation. But he averred that Hari Singh-Abdullah cart still represented a sort of “stable instability.” That the cart did not prove stable instability became evident when Maharaja had to abdicate on May 25, 1949.

From 1949 to 1952, I had several meetings with Nehru in which, inter alia, I urged appreciation of secular character of urges of Jammu and for constitutional and institutional arrangement for satisfaction of its regional aspirations..

In my meeting with Nehru on April 14, 1952, I reminded him in a written note that, “greatest internal problem of the state is to maintain cordial relations between its constituent units.” I demanded regional autonomy for this objective. On the eve of the Delhi Agreement between Nehru and Abdullah, I argued, in my meeting with Nehru on July 15, 1952, that in his talks with Kashmiri leaders whatever status agreement was arrived on centre-state relations, its logic should be extended to the state-region relations. Nehru asked me to give him a week to discuss the matter with Sheikh Sahib. Meanwhile I met the Sheikh also, who, too was convinced. Thus the Delhi Agreement signed by Nehru and Abdullah on July 24, 1952 provided for autonomy for the state within India and for regional autonomy within the State.

But complications were added in regional relations and centre-state relations by the agitation launched by Praja Parishad against that Agreement and for ek vidhan, ek pradhan and ek nishan (one constitution, one president and one flag) and for abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which granted a special status to the state.

Discussing the situation in Jammu Hind Samachar on December 25, 1952, editorially commented, “In this connection Balraj Puri, who feels concerned over the Jammu agitation, has suggested regional autonomy which deserves consideration. For no other solution is in sight.”

A similar observation was made by the Tribune on February 11, 1952. It observed, “as Sheikh Abdullah is entitled to demand autonomy and we appreciate his position, similarly Sheikh Abdullah should appreciate the demand of people of Jammu. They must be given genuine autonomy.”

Sheikh Abdullah offering negotiations with Jana Sangh repeated his stand for giving regional autonomy “as would be provided in the constitution that was being drawn up.” Broadcasting from Radio Kashmir on April 17, 1953, he said, “this will remove all the fears of domination of one unit over the other and will make for voluntary unity and consolidation of the people of the state.”

Indira Gandhi’s agreement with Sheikh Abdullah undid all the wrongs that were done by Nehru to the Sheikh and internationalized the Kashmir problem for war 21 years. India would have missed that opportunity if it had persisted with the demand, of Dr. Mukerjee. And continued to oppose Kashmir’s accession to India if Kashmiris had persisted in opposing Article 370.

Nehru had led India when values and system were fast changing. From feudal age, capitalist liberalism became popular. Nehru also realized the importance of egalitarian urges of the people and in 1955 the Congress party, which he led, adopted socialistic pattern of society as its objective. Thus his leadership remained relevant throughout.

Had Nehru yielded to the demand of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, the founder president of the Bhartiya Jana Sangh, the predecessor of the BJP, case of secularism, federalism and democracy in India would have been much weaker and India would not have been able to acquired the position it had acquire in the world.

Nehru succeeded in getting the accession of all the three disputed princely states—Hyderabad, Junagarh and Kashmir to India with full legally and moral validity. For it had the support of the ruler, who had the legal authority to do so as well as the peoples of these States. The alternative approach of the Hindu requisites, who tried to exchange Hyderabad with Kashmir would have made India much weaker. Many complication have been added to Kashmir problem since then. But BJP, has played no small role in weakening India’s case on Kashmir as is evident from its role what is called full integration of the state with Indian Union.

Balraj Puri, a noted author and activist, is based in Jammu


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