The State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) comprises three “Divisions” – Kashmir valley (55% of the state’s total population), Jammu (42.6%) and Ladakh (2.4%). About 96.4% of the population of the Kashmir valley are Muslims, where the Hindus are only 2.5% and Sikhs about 1%. In Jammu, Hindus constitute 62.6% of the population, Muslims 33.5% and Sikhs, 3.3%; In Ladakh, Muslims constitute about 46.4% of the population, Buddhists 39.7% and Hindus 12.1%.
Thus, Muslims comprise about 69% of the total population of J&K state.
Does this 69% majority justify J&K being a part of Pakistan, instead of India? Maybe. Or, maybe not! The problem does not stem from the percentage of population alone. There is much more to the Kashmir “issue” than just the Muslim majority.
Let’s go back to history. In 1946, after his election as Congress President, JL Nehru gave support to his friend Sheikh Abdullah, who he called his ‘blood brother’ (there are also many rumours that they were actually step-brothers).
Abdullah had been jailed by Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir. In June 1946, Nehru decided to go to the valley to free Abdullah. To take on the Kashmir Maharaja at this point in time was a serious mistake on Nehru’s part.
In August 1947, the Maharaja’s forces fired upon demonstrations in favour of Kashmir joining Pakistan, burned whole villages and massacred innocent people.
Rebels in the Poonch district declared an independent government of “Azad Kashmir” on October 24. J&K’s population at that time was 77% Muslim and 20% Hindu. To postpone making any hurried decision at that time, Maharaja Hari Singh signed a “Standstill Agreement” with Pakistan, which ensured continuity of trade, travel, communication, and similar services between the two “territories.”
Following huge riots in Jammu, in October 1947, Pashtuns from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, recruited by the rebels from Poonch, invaded J&K. The tribesmen engaged in looting and killing along the way. The ostensible aim of the guerrilla campaign was to frighten Maharaja Hari Singh into submission (and accession to Pakistan).
On October 26, 1947, they had reached the outskirts of Srinagar. On the same day, a historic Defence Committee meeting was held in Delhi, with the Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten presiding.
A young Indian army Colonel by the name of Sam Manekshaw (who became Chief of Army Staff in 1969 and was promoted to the rank of India’s first Field Marshall in 1973), who attended that crucial meeting, recalled: “As usual, Nehru talked about the United Nations, Russia, Africa, God Almighty, everybody, until Patel lost his temper.”
I must mention here that I have had the privilege of meeting with the highly distinguished Field Marshall Manekshaw in his Coonoor (Tamil Nadu) home, a few years after his retirement, and a few years before he passed away.
The Maharaja appealed to the Government of India for assistance, and Lord Mountbatten agreed on the condition that the Maharaja accede to India.
Once the Maharaja signed the “Instrument of Accession”, Indian soldiers entered J&K and drove the Pakistani-sponsored irregulars from all but a small section of the state. India accepted the accession, regarding it provisional, until such time as the will of the people can be ascertained.
Sheikh Abdullah was appointed the head of the emergency administration by the Maharaja. Quite obviously, the Pakistani government immediately contested the accession, suggesting that it was fraudulent, that the Maharaja acted under duress and that he had no right to sign an agreement with India when the Standstill Agreement with Pakistan was still in force.
In early 1948, on the insistence of Nehru, India sought a resolution of the J&K conflict at the United Nations. A few more days, and the whole of Jammu & Kashmir (including what is now PoK and Gilgit Baltistan) would be part of India, as Indian troops were winning.
Rumours were ripe about a “bond” between Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten, wife of Lord Mountbatten. Their daughter Pamela admitted in an interview that her mother might have catalysed her father’s efforts towards convincing Nehru to refer the Kashmir issue to the United Nations. That referral, many believe, has cost India a peaceful Kashmir.
Following the setting up of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP), the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed “Resolution 47” in April 1948. The UNSC insisted that the opinion of Kashmiris must be ascertained.
India however insisted that no referendum could occur until all of the state had been cleared of irregulars.
In January 1949, a UNCIP resolution stated that the question of the accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through a free and impartial plebiscite.
As per the 1948 and 1949 UNCIP resolutions, both countries accepted the principle, that Pakistan secures the withdrawal of Pakistani intruders followed by withdrawal of Pakistani and Indian forces, as a basis for the formulation of a “Truce Agreement”, whose details are to be arrived in future, followed by a plebiscite.
Both countries failed to arrive at a Truce Agreement due to differences in interpretation of the procedure for and extent of demilitarisation.
The ceasefire between Indian and Pakistani forces left India in control of most of the Kashmir valley, as well as Jammu and Ladakh, while Pakistan gained control of part of Kashmir, including what is now PoK and Gilgit–Baltistan.
In October 1949, the Constituent Assembly of India adopted Article 370 of the Constitution, ensuring a special status and internal autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, with Indian jurisdiction in Kashmir limited to the three areas agreed in the Instrument of Accession: defence, foreign affairs and communications.
By the end of 1950, jihadi rhetoric had started in Kashmir. In November 1951…
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