The casualty of Major Kamlesh Pandey, whose father had served with me on Siachen in 1984, made people ask me if there is a way we can resolve the Kashmir problem. I asked them how much they know of the problem. They told me that the Muslims in Kashmir were aided by Pakistan and that they wanted Azaadi (freedom). I probed further, to know who wanted Azaadi and if the problem would be resolved by giving them freedom. Some said Kashmiris wanted Azaadi, so I told them that the state did not have only Kashmiri Muslims, but also Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, nomads and some other minorities, and that Muslims were in a majority in the state of J&K. A historical perspective would be in order to understand the Kashmir problem.
Kashmir was ruled by Hindus till 1339 (idol worshippers) and the last of the Hindu sovereigns was Kota Rani. Shah Mir and his Sultanate, followed by the Mughals, ruled till 1752, and thereafter the Afghans till 1819. After that the Sikhs took over till 1846, meaning for over 500 years Kashmir was ruled by followers of Holy Books and then, after the defeat of the Sikhs in the Anglo-Sikh War, Kashmir was ceded to the Raja of Jammu, Gulab Singh, for a princely sum of Rs 75 lakhs, after which he became the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. The British, as was their practice, placed a political resident in the kingdom. Gulab Singh had a military genius in General Zorawar who, despite the snow clad ranges of Ladakh and Baltistan, conquered them and the boundary between Ladakh and Tibet was fixed.
Unable to grasp the expanding kingdom which they had ceded for 75 lakhs to the Dogra ruler, the British wanted tight control over the Maharaja and wanted to acquire the Gilgit Agency. Maharaja Hari Singh refused to part with it, but cunning as they were, the British exploited the Achilles heel of the Maharaja. They knew that Kashmir was the only Kingdom which had a Hindu ruler with a majority of Muslim subjects. The Dogra rulers were rather strict and sometimes merciless. The Maharaja’s advisors were also predominantly Hindus, as Kashmir was ceded to the Raja of Jammu, primarily a Dogra principality.
The Britishers, keen to acquire the Gilgit Agency, planted a person by the name of Abdul Qadir who raised slogans against the Maharaja and instigated the Muslims against the Hindu Ruler, claiming that an idol worshipper cannot rule the followers of the Holy Book ‘Quran’, that the ban on cow slaughter must be lifted, and that the Muslims have no guns and hence must throw stones at the Palace. He was charged with treason, and the public which had gathered outside the Central Jail to protest this charge was fired upon by the Dogra Army, resulting in the death of 21 Muslim protestors. The aftermath was mayhem: mass killings, rape, loot, conversions of people to Islam, and massive migrations of Sikhs and Hindus. July 13th is observed as Martyrs Day in J&K in honour of those 21 people dead.
In 1935, Maharaja Hari Singh handed over the Gilgit Agency to the British. The Vale of Kashmir had 97 percent Muslims and continues to hold the same or higher percentage even today. When the nation was protesting the British rule and rallying under Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India Movement, the Kashmiris, under Sheikh Abdullah — who headed the All J&K National Conference — were rallying against the Maharaja and launched the Quit Kashmir movement. He was imprisoned, and in his defence came Pandit Nehru, who was also arrested. Sheikh Abdullah exploited the sour relations that existed between the Maharaja and Pandit Nehru and — fully conscious of his own ambiguous relations with Jinnah, and not to be left out — he wrote a letter of support to the Maharaja expressing his deep allegiance to the throne.
From all of the above, the reader would have sensed that the seeds of what they are witnessing today were sown nearly a century ago. The above notwithstanding, Maharaja Hari Singh, when told to exercise the option of joining either of the two partitioned countries i.e. India or Pakistan, dillydallied and toyed with the idea of making Kashmir the ‘Switzerland of the East,’ wishing independence. His indecisiveness led to his signing a standstill agreement with Pakistan. When invaded by Razakars with the help of the Pakistan Army, the Maharaja was just about to lose Srinagar when he escaped and requested India for help to beat back the invaders. Sardar Patel refused to intervene, saying he would not interfere in Kashmir until the Maharaja had decided the status of his kingdom. The Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession with India on October 26th, 1947, which resulted in the Indian Armed Forces landing in the Valley and beating back the invaders in the nick of time by denying them the Srinagar Airfield.
J&K has a total area of about 2.2 million sq kms, of which just over 1 million is J&K. 78,114 sq kms is Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, 5180 sq kms has been ceded to China by Pakistan to seal their friendship, and 37,555 sq kms is occupied by China. Jammu comprises 26 percent of the area, Srinagar occupies 15 percent of the area (over 90 percent of the state’s Muslims reside in the Vale of Kashmir), and Ladakh occupies 59 percent.
Pakistan continues to fish in troubled waters since 1947, and the demand for azaadi has existed even before 1931, and after the loss of East Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh. Zia ul Haq tasked ISI with the dismemberment of J&K from India, an operation ongoing since 1977. The Afghan aid from USA came in handy to Pakistan to arm militants (the Museum in Srinagar of the captured arms in J&K is an eye opener). We can comfortably equip an Infantry Division with the captured AK 47s and machine guns. The ouster of Farooq Abdullah in 1984 and the rigged elections in 1987 held after the Rajiv-Farooq Accord further alienated the Kashmiris from the main land, abetted and aided by Pakistan and the duplicitous and deceitful conduct of Valley politicians. All in all, a Molotov cocktail. The Azaadi agenda, they say, has been hijacked by the Wahabis and Islamists keen to establish the Caliphate. Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba are Hurriyat supporters, and Al Qaida and ISIS are led by Zakir Musa, friend of killed Hizbul militant Burhan Wani.
It is an ideological war being fought in Kashmir, and no amount of appeasement will help until the ideology is extinguished for good. Eliminating these militants is a must to ending the gun culture, to prevent fear from gripping the valley, and exploitation of women by the so called Mujahideen’s, both local and foreign. What, then, is the way forward to solve the Kashmir problem?
Dialogue? Probably yes, to resolve the crisis for good and not to postpone the trouble. But who are the stake holders in the state that the Central Government can talk to, and what is the guarantee that they represent the aspirations of the people? The Chief Minister of the state is recommending “Talk and Trade.” What an irony that she is unable to resolve the problem by talk to prepare the state for trade, despite being the political head of the state. Instead, she is virtually acting as a representative of the separatists. This has been the scene since the days of Sheikh Abdullah despite many agreements.
Grant azaadi? The problem is that not all subjects of the state of J&K want azaadi. A referendum would only meet the aspirations of most Muslims of the valley, and we would be back to square one, just shifting the borders of insurgency and making the lives of Muslims in other parts of the country suspect, fermenting trouble in neighbouring states after yet another partition on religious lines and mass migration of non-Muslims from J&K.
Surgical Strikes? Abrogating Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution may encounter stiff resistance because of Pakistan’s determination to bleed India by a thousand cuts, with the help and support of a sizeable number of traitors in the Valley. Therefore, striking all locations in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir that are aiding and abetting the insurgency in J&K, and defeating them decisively, thereby amalgamating POK into J&K, is imperative. Punitive deterrence against Pakistan will prevent Pakistan from exporting terror and providing moral support to the separatists and militants in J&K. After having restored the original boundaries of the state, revoke all special privileges and status to the state of J&K permanently, and merge the state in the mainstream like any other. Article 35A is only benefiting the people of the Valley, restricting the demography of the districts by settling down in Jammu, Doda, Kishtwar, Bhadarwah, Leh and other districts, not allowing the demography of the valley to change. This is forcing the legitimate Hindu residents to forcibly migrate. Incidentally, this is the seventh migration of Kashmiri Pandits in the last 400 years. Can we justify the migration of Rohangya Muslims from Myanmar to Jammu? The Supreme Court has referred the matter of Article 35A to a three-judge bench and set a six week deadline for disposal. The final verdict is expected in September this year.
The fight is ideological from time immemorial. Even the Hizbul Mujahideen, the local militant organisation supported recently by the former CM of J&K, Omar Abdullah — stating that they were fighting for their rights politically and have nothing to do with Islamists — is trying to keep itself relevant, lest they all become redundant and lose all their property in the state to the radical clergies of ISIS supported by Al Qaeda. The HM has, in 1990, published their aim in a local Urdu daily stating, “The aim of the present struggle is the supremacy of Islam in Kashmir in all walks of life, and nothing else. Anyone who puts any hurdle in our way will be annihilated.” At the same time, the Kashmiri Pandits were warned to leave the state within two days in a headline in another daily. In 1990, forty-four known militant organisations were identified to be active in the Valley. Hurriyat is the front for the separatists. It is a heady cocktail. No amount of appeasement will help. Liberal Saudi funding to spread Wahabism and radicalise the minds of the impressionable youth, ably supported by ISI and the traitors in J&K, require very strong measures to expose double talk and deceitful conduct by naming and shaming these anti-national elements.
The steps being taken militarily, or by squeezing the money trail, or arresting the leaders for treason, or winning the hearts and minds of the locals, generating employment, or even ‘paving the roads of the valley with Gold’, in my opinion, are steps to bring in normalcy in the short run only. To bring normalcy in the state for good, some very hard steps would have to be taken to eradicate the militancy and let nobody feel that the state of J&K has ‘Acceded to, and not merged with, India.’ At the time of writing this, an earthquake of magnitude 3.2 hit J&K. If we don’t want an earthquake of magnitude greater than 8 to hit India, we might as well act now, even though the all-weather friend of Pakistan has just about started meddling in Kashmir. China has followed the Sun Tzu dictum, “Subdue the enemy without fighting.” He further said, “A clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.” Does Chanakya have to be told by Sun Tzu what he must do to restore normalcy in Kashmir? Saam, Daam, Dand, Bhed is the only way forward.
The author, Lt. Gen. Sanjay Kulkarni, is a retired officer of the Indian Army.
He served as the Commanding Officer in Leh, Laddakh, and planted the first Indian flag on Siachen in 1984.
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