Does India have a case in Kashmir?

India’s case on the plebiscite is defensive, and rests on technicalities.

Aakar Patel February 04, 2012

If so, what is it?

The Pakistan case is straight: Let Kashmiris decide whether they want to live as Indians or as Pakistanis. This is supported by the United Nations Security Council resolutions beginning with No 38 in 1948 and going on to No 123 in 1957. The resolutions seek a direct vote, what is called a plebiscite, among people in Jammu & Kashmir on their future. The UN said it would administer this vote, and called for India and Pakistan to demilitarise the state.

The Kashmiri case is slightly less straight. Some of them want accession to Pakistan (the Jamaat-e-Islami’s Ali Shah Geelani of Sopore and Muslim Conference’s Mirwaiz Umar Farooq of Srinagar are its champions) through a plebiscite. Some of them (for instance Yasin Malik’s JKLF) want a vote that adds independence as a third option. Some of them (all Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, most Shias and some Sunnis, including the ruling National Conference and the opposition PDP) are fine with India.

Though Nehru agreed to the plebiscite plan at first, he later backed off. India’s case on the plebiscite is defensive, and rests on technicalities. One is the Security Council resolutions’ sequencing of troop withdrawal. Pakistani was asked to withdraw its troops first. Secondly, India points to the state Jammu & Kashmir Assembly’s acceptance of the accession to India in 1954. This is meant to be a substitute for the plebiscite (though the UN specifically said it could not be). A third, unofficial, reason is that much time has passed and the resolutions have somehow become irrelevant. Kofi Annan said the same thing when as secretary-general he was pressed on this matter. After the resolutions of 1957, the UN lost interest. Then the wars of 1965 and 1971 eclipsed the Kashmir issue. The world was more concerned that the subcontinent be at peace than it was about resolving the original problem.

Most Pakistanis may not be aware that the Kashmir issue went to the United Nations because Nehru took it there. Till that time, there were two parties to the dispute, India and Pakistan. The Security Council’s resolution added a third party, the people of Jammu & Kashmir. Nehru went there because he believed India was the aggrieved party. He believed that Hari Singh’s accession was legal and that the only matter for discussion was how to get Pakistan to vacate the raiders Jinnah had sent in. The other thing some Pakistanis might not know is that Maududi thought the jihad in Kashmir was un-Islamic. This was because it was launched with freelancers and not by the state officially, as Maududi thought was prescribed in Islam. In a letter to Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani, Maududi said that the April 1948 ceasefire signed by Pakistan was binding on all citizens, regardless of the merits. In prescribing the plebiscite, the UN took a broader, more humanitarian view of the problem than merely as some land dispute, and India was in trouble. After that, Nehru shifted focus from trying to get the bits Pakistan had won militarily, to trying to secure the acquiescence of the local population.

In time, even this did not work out. The state’s prime minister, Sheikh Abdullah sensed the unease of some if not most Muslims in staying with India. His politics began to reflect this, and an alarmed Nehru dismissed Abdullah and jailed him. This began a sequence of Indian meddling in the state’s politics. The Kashmiri complaint was that Delhi did mischief and kept upending its leadership. This was true.

This resulted in the Kashmiri revolt that began under Benazir Bhutto’s first term. A parallel development was the forming of the jihadi groups in Pakistan. One group, the Hizbul Mujahideen, was supported by the Jamaat-e-Islami under its third Amir, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, who broke with Maududi’s wisdom. The Deobandi Harkatul Ansar (later renamed Harkatul Mujahideen after an American ban, and still later renamed Jaish-e-Muhammad) and the Salafi Lashkar-e-Taiba rose to lead the jihad. The violence continued till India sent troops to the border after Jaish attacked its parliament. Under pressure, then president Pervez Musharraf backed down, and banned the groups in 2002. The jihad in Kashmir ended almost immediately and today the violence is almost totally gone. The theatre of these groups has now become Pakistan.

Next week we shall again pick up the thread of what, if any, case India has on Kashmir.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2012.


VINOD | 12 years ago | Reply

@Kashmiri: Dear Kashmiri ji are you aware that time Pakistan was shouting from the roof top that they have sent no troops in Kashmir and they have no connection with tribal people. So how come you have invented the line that only tribal had to vacate and not the troops. As you claim to be living in India and are my neighbour why do not move to "THE AZAD KASHMIR" And live in peace. Any way your heart and pocket is already there.

VINOD | 12 years ago | Reply @Rifat: The fact is that British had given all the princely states of India three choices. Remain as they were, Join India, join Pakistan. The states wanted some time to decide the issue which was agreed upon by the British. However Pakistan played a game of capturing some states by surprise attack. Within a short time after 14 Aug 47 an attack was planned and carried out in Baluchistan and Kashmir. Please read what the first chief of Pakistan Army has said about all this.They succeeded in Kalat but created such panic by sending regular army in the grab of kabailis in Kashmir that the Kashmir state, to save their soul, jumped to signed annexation with India. Now either we open the case of Kalat, Baluchistan and Kashmir again or we shut up. Say you what?The bottom line is that if Pakistan had not carried out a surprise attack the people of Kashmir would have, in their own time, decided what they wanted.
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