A critique of AG Noorani's 'Kashmir Dispute 1947-2012' - II

  • By Mohan Krishen Teng
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The partition of India was the greatest betrayal of the Indian people by the British and the Muslim League. The British had ruled India for more than a century and when they decided to quit after the Second World War, out of their own compulsions, they divided India in collusion with the Muslim League. The Kashmir dispute is a legacy of the partition of India.

The Kashmir dispute does not have its origin in the Treaty of Amritsar, with which the author has tried to link it, without any historical justification. The Treaty of Amritsar was a fall-out of the defeat of the Sikhs in the first Anglo-Sikh War (1846), which the East India Company imposed upon Sikhs to dismember the Sikh Empire and in which Gulab Singh played a role to save the territories of the Sikh State from annexation by the British. The British finally succeeded in doing so, after the Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848).

The British offered the territories of the Sikh State - the province of Kashmir, Jammu, Ladakh and Hazara to Gulab Singh provided he paid the indemnity the British imposed on the Sikh State, on behalf of the Sikhs. Gulab Singh made good the indemnity on behalf of the State to save the Sikh territories from the British, in consequence of which the Treaty of Amritsar was signed between him and the British, in continuation of the earlier Treaty of Lahore between the British and the Sikhs. The Kashmir dispute is a part of the territorial claims the Muslim League made for a separate Muslim homeland of Pakistan to ensure Muslims in India a separate freedom.

The Muslim League claimed the part of British India which was inhabited by a majority of Muslims for the separate homeland. It claimed the Muslim majority Princely States as well as Muslim ruled Princely States for Pakistan on the same religious principle used as the anchor of their demand for inclusion of Muslim majority provinces of British India in Pakistan. The Kashmir dispute underlines the same religious principle, the claim to a separate freedom in which the Muslims of Kashmir are ensured the realization of their Islamic destiny.

Noorani (Kashmir Dispute) proceeds on the assumption that the partition of India was a legitimate process of the transfer of power in India. He attempts to re-write history beginning his narrative on Kashmir from a disconnect which he deliberately presumes separated the problem of Junagarh, Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir from the division of India, that broke up the unity of a nation and a people who had fought for freedom for half a century. Without expressly accepting it, his work underlines the British belief that India was only a geographical expression and not a nation.

He writes, “Truth to tell, India and Pakistan launched a cold war even when they were in the embryo of history. Restless to cease power, each leadership was out to do the other down. In the three cases of disputed accession, Junahgarh, Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir, each side adopted inconsistent stands on (1) the relevance of the instrument of accession; (2) plebiscite; (3) territorial integrity or the geographical factor; and (4) the religious factor. Both practiced deception. Both used armed forces as an instrument of policy.”

Not a cold war alone, it was a struggle for survival which commenced for the Indian people when the Muslim League and the British foisted the lapse of paramountcy on them. Indians were faced with the frightening prospect of the Balkanization of India with the reversion of the powers of the paramountcy and the power to determine the future of the States to their rulers, among them Muslim rulers whose States were spread across the length and breadth of India and who were dead set against the unification of their States with India.

Actually the cold war between the Muslim League and the Congress leadership had a longer history. Congress leaders out of sheer self-righteousness misread the League demand for a separate freedom as part of British strategy to contain the national movement in India. They went to the extent of offering to accommodate the separate freedom for the Muslims in India and to accept the Cabinet Mission Plan - a contrivance which could have never kept India united. Congress leaders did not realize that the Muslim demand for a separate freedom was the expression of an obscure commitment to reclaim a separate sphere of power in India if and when British left India.

Mohammed Ali Jinnah and the other Muslim League leaders cooperated with the Congress leadership only so long the Congress leadership professed loyalty to the British Empire and constitutional reform within the broad structure of British colonial authority. In the previous paper, it was clarified that the Muslim leadership drew away from the national movement as it drew closer to the demand for independence from British rule and finally gave a call for separate homeland constituted of territories of the Indian empire which were either populated by Muslim majorities or ruled by Muslims in the princely States. The demand for a separate freedom outside an Independent India underlined the Pakistan Resolution adopted by the All India Muslim League in 1940. The Pakistan Resolution formed the basis on which India was divided and the Muslim power of Pakistan created on Indian soil.

The transfer of power underlined the division of the entire British Empire into two successor States: the Indian Dominion and the Dominion of Pakistan. The Dominion of Pakistan was created out of Muslim majority provinces or Muslim majority parts of Muslim majority provinces and the Sylhet Division of the Hindu majority province of Assam. The Princely States which spread over one-third of the territory of India and constituted one-fourth of the population, were left out of the partition plan to be integrated with either of the two Dominions.

Presumably, States which were situated within the territories of Pakistan were expected to join the state of Pakistan and the remaining States, spread across the rest of India including Jammu and Kashmir, which were contiguous to the borders of India, were expected to be integrated with India. That was exactly the spirit of the agreement on partition arrived at in Simla, among the British, Indian leaders and leaders of the Muslim League. In fact, Nehru and other Congress leaders who expressed misgivings about the lapse of paramountcy and the reversion of powers to the rulers, vesting in them the power to determine the future disposition of their States in respect to accession, were given assurances by the British that the Indian leaders would be free to unite the rest of India - the British Indian Provinces and the Princely States into one indivisible Union of India.

Evidently, the British gave assurances to the Congress leaders to force the partition of India down their throats. However, after the June 3 Declaration of 1947, the Muslim League leaders lost little time to smother into submission the Princely States situated within the territories of Pakistan with the support of the British, and no sooner had they completed that task they turned to claim the Muslim majority Princely States as well as the Muslim ruled Princely States situated all over the territories of India, for the Muslim homeland of Pakistan.

As the plan of Muslim League, surreptitiously supported by a section of the British leadership at home and British officials holding the reins of the Indian Government unfolded, Congress leaders and the people of India realized they were facing a major offensive by the Muslim League to create territorial pockets of Pakistan all over India. While Indian leaders grappled desperately with the problem of integration with Mountbatten laughing in his sleeves, the people of the Indian States, whom the British and the Muslim League had left out of their reckoning, rose to the occasion and drove their recalcitrant rulers to join India.

The Muslim League had insisted on the lapse of paramountcy and refused to accept the right of the peoples of the Princely States to determine their future in respect of accession to either of the two Dominions in pursuit of its plan to use Muslim ruled States spread across India to Balkanize the country and establish territorial pockets of Pakistan everywhere on the sub-continent. Pakistan invaded Jammu and Kashmir, occupied nearly half the State and was pressing to annex the remaining part of it, and then deal with Junagarh and Hyderabad from a position of strength. In both States, the people revolted against their rulers: in Junagarh because of accession to Pakistan and in Hyderabad because of intransigence and an attempt to remain out of India and align with Pakistan against their wishes.

The Indian people fought with their backs to the wall to retrieve Junagarh and Hyderabad to keep south and west India united and struggled to save Jammu and Kashmir to protect their frontier in the north. The Muslim League and the British sought to impose a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir on terms laid down by Pakistan and not in accordance with the United Nations resolutions on Kashmir. Alternative proposals made by the British and their allies in the Security Council, which virtually proposed the holding of a plebiscite while half the State remained under occupation of Pakistan, including the McNaughtan proposals and the Dixon Plan, were a prescription to handover the State to Pakistan on a platter.

Noorani, intriguingly, does not mention what the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan did behind the scenes in the State, in sheer transgression of its terms. He does not question the necessity of revising the original proposals envisaged for the withdrawal of Pakistan’s invading army. Nor does he explain the reasons for the UNCIP to propose “a modification in the original plan of demilitarization.” He makes no comment on the recommendations that, “the problem of demilitarization should be treated as a whole, eliminating all distinctions, and comprising questions concerning the final disposal of all armed forces in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.”

No Government of India could have accepted the British and American proposals to throw out Indian troops from Jammu and Kashmir, allow the State government to be set aside, and hand over the State to them to decide its fate in a way that suited their strategic interests in the new bipolar balance of power in the post-War world. Why should Nehru have agreed to accept the McNaughton proposals and Dixon Plan which virtually divided the State to suit their interests in Asia? Nehru was saved by his intuition or intelligence he must have received, which he kept to himself, about the role the British were surreptitiously preparing to play in respect of the Chinese preparations to annex Tibet and expose the Himalayas, more specifically the Sanskrit Himalayas, to hitherto unknown pressures.

McNaughton proposals, Dixon Plan, and Graham’s 12-point scheme, all aimed to neutralize the Indian position in the State. New Delhi had by this time learnt enough of how to safeguard its vital interests and was able to see through the proposals which the UN mediators made. In 1958, Graham was deputed again to resume his mediatory efforts to bring about an agreement on demilitarization of the State. He drew up a four point formulation, which in essence underlined the stationing of UN troops in the occupied territories of the State after the invading forces were withdrawn from there. India rejected Graham’s proposals outright.

The process of the division of India came to its end with the British withdrawal from India. The Muslim League leaders as well as the British themselves realized to their chagrin that with whatever leverage the British and their allies had in the Security Council, they could not influence the events in India. The rendition of Junagarh and Hyderabad followed as a matter of course. A plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir was never a “moral imperative” and “democratic necessity” for India. For Indian policy in respect of Kashmir, strategic considerations were a political necessity which no Government of India could overlook.

As already noted, the people of the Indian States played a central role in defeating the designs of the Muslim League to use the Princely States to break up India further. Had the people of the States not fought their way to unite the States, particularly those whose rulers were opposed to unification with India (including Junagarh and Hyderabad), the Indian army would not have been able to retrieve them. In Jammu and Kashmir as well, the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Muslims who supported the National Conference, fought shoulder to shoulder with the State Army which kept the invading hordes at bay for five days so that the Indian Army could reach Srinagar and beat back the invasion.

Noorani asks, “Did Sheikh Abdullah indeed wish to accede to India? How strong were his representative credentials on the accession? What was the people’s reaction to the accession to India, once the immediate menace of the tribal raid was over?” These are sheer clichés to twist the history of those fateful days. The author cannot be unaware of the meeting between Mehr Chand Mahajan, the Prime Minister of Hari Singh, whom the Maharaja had sent to Nehru with the offer of accession to India while the State army was fighting a last ditch battle to check the invading army on the Jhelum Valley road. Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, who was present there, nudged Nehru, asking him not to waste any more time in unnecessary argument with Mahajan and accept the Maharaja’s request and send Indian troops without delay to save the State. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah knew what he was urging Nehru to do. The author could have read the accounts of the National Conference leaders or met them in order ascertain the support Abdullah received not only from the Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists in the State, but Muslims of Kashmir as well.

Noorani underlines the inevitability of partition as a historical necessity because the Muslims in India demanded a separate freedom for themselves on the basis of territorial claims to that part of India where they formed a majority. He underlines the inevitability of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan on the same basis that it was a Muslim majority Princely State and therefore rightfully belonged to Pakistan.

The Hindus and other non-Muslim communities in India did not claim freedom from British rule on the basis of demographic composition. They claimed freedom on the basis that India was an indivisible unity, with a right to freedom from colonial rule. The division of India, imposed by the Muslim League in collusion with the British, was an irreparable wrong done to them. The territorial claim made by the Muslim League on the basis of the Muslim majority composition of British Indian provinces and Muslim majority States or Muslim ruled States, was a fictitious claim, original to the Muslims of India, a distortion of history. The allegation that wrong was done to the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir for not recognizing their separate freedom is also a distortion of history and a part of the fictitious claim to a separate freedom which formed the basis of the foundations of Pakistan.

The argument which pervades the whole length of the author’s study was then, as it is now, inconsistent with the way, the partition of India was foisted on the Indian people and the insistence of the Muslim League on the lapse of Paramountcy, which the British supported in their own interests. The author is, however, unable to come out of the time- warp in which the Muslim homeland of Pakistan was not able to assume the territorial proportions, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League envisioned for it. He notes in his study: “Myths were spawned and still persist. Few know that it was India which invoked the religious factor in a formal proposal on Novemeber1, 1947, and spoke stridently of the religious principle underlying the partition. India’s pain at the dismemberment of its territorial integrity was justified. But that very factor justified Pakistan’s pain at Kashmir’s accession to India, which only Cyril Radcliff’s controversial award of Gurdaspur in August 1947, made possible. Genuinely or otherwise Mountbatten rued the award later in his talks with Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins. The road and river communications were with Pakistan exclusively.” The content of the quote from the author’s study formed the main burden of the Pakistan’s propaganda broadcast from its radio network in Pakistan as well as the “Azad Kashmir Radio” from Muzaffarabad in the occupied territories those days in 1947, which followed the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India. Obviously, except propaganda and perpetration of falsehood, who in India and Pakistan believed then or would believe now, that the religious criterion for the transfer of power in India, was not made on the foundation of the demand for a separate homeland of Pakistan, or the inclusion of the Muslim majority princely States, as well Muslim ruled princely States in its territories.

Perhaps the author is unaware of the whole context of the religious factor being introduced into the discussion on the accession of the States, or has deliberately tried to hide the ugly truth behind it. Mountbatten was no votary of the unity of the Princely States with India and immediately after the 3 June Declaration of 1947, he conveyed to the princes that those among them who wanted to continue their existing relations with the British Crown could convey their requests to him to forward to the Home Government. After the British Government made it clear that it would not recognize either independence of the Princely States or accord them Dominion Status, he lost no time to pay a visit Kashmir to persuade Hari Singh to come to terms with Pakistan.

A bewildered Maharaja, who collected himself sooner than Mountbatten expected, sent the Viceroy back empty handed. The British and their Crown Representative in India were interested in including Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan, to protect their interests in Asia and for the protection of the sea routes across the Indian Ocean from the Gulf to the Malacca Straits. Hence Mountbatten proposed the settlement of States on the basis of demographic composition. A section of the Congress leadership approved of his proposals, reluctantly and out of the fear created by the activities of the Muslim princes and the unscrupulous dealings of British officials, including British Resident officers posted in the Princely States as well as the State Department and its chief Conrad Cornfield. Mountbatten made a public announcement of his proposals when in his last address to the Chamber of Princes he urged them to accede to either dominion on the basis of the geographical position of their States as well as the composition of their population.

Jammu and Kashmir was not part of north-western India. It formed part of the north of India and its borders in the north-west and north were rimmed by Afghanistan, Chinese Sinkiang and in the north-east and east by Tibet and India in the south-east and south. Controversy over the Radcliffe Award was sheer propaganda by Pakistan and did not form a part of the discussions in the Boundary Commission of the Punjab, which was constituted of Justice Din Mohammad and Justice Mohammad Munir representing the Muslims of the Punjab and Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan and Justice Teja Singh representing the Hindus and Sikhs of the Punjab respectively, and Sir Radcliffe, Chairman.

Radcliffe was not a British politician or an official of the British Home Department. He was an Englishman who was independent in his outlook, with a great reputation in England. To the chagrin of Muslim League leaders, he did not listen to their remonstrations as friends of the British Empire in India. The discussion in the Commission and the Award Radcliffe made, show that all the members of the Commission knew of the actualities of the borders of Jammu and Kashmir and their contiguity to India and Pakistan. In fact, Din Mohammad and Muhammad Munir, unmatched in their intelligence and understanding, told Mahajan and Teja Singh, when they made a mention of keeping the road link between Jammu and Kashmir and Madhopur and Pathankot Tehsils of the Gurdaspur district open, that Jammu and Kashmir could build a road which would connect Kathua on the Jammu Madhopur road directly with the nearest of the Punjab Hill States which had acceded to India.

The Tehsil of Pathankot could not by any means be included in West Punjab because it was predominantly a Hindu majority Tehsil, and the Punjab Boundary Commission had not followed district boundaries as a basis of demarcation of the boundary line between East and West Punjab, and at many places it cut through district boundaries. Radcliff was conscious of the security of the district of Amritsar, which could not go to West Punjab as well as the laying down of defensible borders between the two countries. He gave contiguous Tehsils of the district of Gurdaspur to East Punjab, leaving the Tehsil of Shakargarh for West Punjab.

Maharaja Hari Singh played his part to thwart the efforts of Muslim League leaders to deprive him of access to Madhopur in Pathankot. He read the intention of League leaders to choke him and his State by closing all communication lines which connected his State with India and ran into West Punjab. The Jhelum Valley Road was not the only channel of communication between the State and the outside world, as Noorani claims. A railway line connected Jammu and Sialkot with a tarmac road running alongside from Sialkot to Jammu. Both ran into Pakistan.

Noorani seeks to create the impression (and quotes Mountbatten’s interview his support) that the Radcliff Award gave access to an otherwise landlocked State. But Jammu and Kashmir had a long border with the Punjab Hill States and a communication line could be built without much difficulty to connect with India. How does Mountbatten’s comment of Radcliff Award add weight to the author’s argument? Who of the British officers in India, including the Governor’s of the Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province, besides Mountbatten, were not angry with both Radcliff and Hari Singh? Noorani should realize that the historical forces which compelled the British to leave India were bound to take their course and the people of the Princely States determined their direction.

Noorani begins with a lamentation of the Muslims of Kashmir for a separate freedom they have been struggling to achieve for the last six decades: “If fifty seven years later the soul of Kashmir is in torment and cry for azadi, it is because despite the profuse professions and pledges, Nehru cared little for, still less Mohammed Ali Jinnah and the last of all the British. The people have been in revolt, pelting stones rather than bullets. Nobody alleges Pakistan’s aid and complicity. The harsh truth is that which Nehru and his successors, as well as Indian media and academia, suppressed for long, is now out in the open.”

The author is repeating the claim of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League leaders that the Muslim majority parts of India formed a part of the Muslim homeland of Pakistan and should be recognized so. Nearly half of the State is already a part of Pakistan. The Gilgit- Baltistan division of the Ladakh Frontier is now an integral province of Pakistan. The rest of the occupied part of the State is also a part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan though it has a separate constitution.

The Constitution of ‘Azad Kashmir’ says that “no law shall be repugnant to the teaching and requirements of Islam as set out in Quran and Sunnah.” The Constitution further provides that one-third of the total members of the Legislative Assembly of the State can refer for advice, questions of doubt, in respect of any issue to the “Council of Islamic Ideology constituted under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”

Noorani deftly refuses to admit but does not expressly deny that the occupied territories of J&K have joined Pakistan in accordance with the claims of Muslim League regarding the Muslim majority composition of the population. The Kashmir dispute, the author seeks to convey, is now reduced to the liberation of the part of the State under Indian occupation.

This finds expression in his rhetoric about the denial of freedom which Muslims in Kashmir aspired for. As he writes in the concluding part of the first volume, “the people are not bereft of souls. They have aspirations, feelings and memories of wrongs. 2012 is not 1986. It takes about a small incident that hurts the people’s feelings and revives memories of wrongs to set Kashmir aflame. It happened in 2009 and 2010 and can happen any time. Only a political settlement will satisfy the people.” The author identifies the people of the State with Muslims.

Four of the 10 million people living in Jammu and Kashmir on the Indian side of the Line of Control are Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. They have as sacrosanct a right on every inch of their land as the six million Muslims have. They are not “bereft of souls”, they also have aspirations, feelings and memories of wrongs. They have been living in the enslavement of a situation created by Pakistan and those who seek freedom for J&K from “Indian occupation”. But they are not a concern of the author, because they do not support freedom from India. Noorani’s main concern is to seek the freedom of Muslims of Kashmir from India, which would open the way for Pakistan to reach the Shivalik plains situated to the west of the river Ravi in the south and the Sanskrit Himalayas in the north.

Jinnah asked for the division of British India to carve out the Muslim power of Pakistan. After he had secured the division of British India, he foisted the lapse of paramountcy on the Indian people to find a way to unite Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan and break up the Princely States to spread Muslim power all over India in territorial pockets. But Jinnah had to contend with the people of the States and their aspirations for freedom in a United India for which they had fought for half a century. He failed despite British support to divide India further. To force the freedom of “Muslim Kashmir” on the people of India, Pakistan, the Muslim separatist flanks in Kashmir and their supporters, will have to contend with the Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists of the State along with Muslims who stand by them. They cannot be deprived of their freedom on the ground that Muslims form a majority of the population of the State on the Indian side of Line of Control.

The freedom that Noorani alleges that India has denied to Kashmiri Muslims is not the freedom which nations of the world have fought for: freedom from oppression and exploitation, and discrimination on the basis of religion, right to liberty and freedom, right to freedom of faith and right to protection against persecution.

The freedom Noorani waxes about so eloquently is “the separate freedom” which formed the basis for the creation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and which aims to grab the remaining part of J&K on the Indian side of the Line of Control. This freedom finds no resonance with the soil of Jammu and Kashmir, with Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists who aspired for and fought for freedom from the British.

First published click here to read.

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