Kashmir: The UN Conundrum
Peace would abandon Kashmir and its people forever. The valley would be marred by violence and exploited by politicians for years and years to come. After the events in October 1947 there were a lot of questions in everyone’s minds regarding the future of Kashmir (mentioned at the end of the last blog) but more importantly— Who were these Pathans ? Who sent them ? What did they want to achieve ? If they were sent by Pakistan then it was an act of war and would hurt a country that had already gone through a bloody partition.
In search for some answers, Lord Mountbatten went to Lahore to meet the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Jinnah claimed that the accession was based on “fraud and violence”. Mountbatten pointed out that violence was a strong word to use when Pakistani citizens had attacked a defenceless state leaving the Maharaja no other option but to take India’s help. The Prime Minister posited that the Maharaja had “ brought it upon himself by his ill treatment of the muslims in Poonch ”.
On January 1, 1948 India decided to bring the UN into the situation, which would turn out to be the worst possible decision unsurprisingly taken on the advice of Lord Mountbatten. Since Kashmir had acceded to it, India wanted the UN to help clear the northern parts of what it said was an illegal occupation by groups loyal to Pakistan.
Pakistan wanted a plebiscite — a simple vote by the people of Kashmir under no military whatsoever. The British even supported Pakistan in the UN discussions. At first glance, this was extremely surprising at least to me. Why would the British and UN support Pakistan, a thoroughly theocratic state? One of the theories floating around back then was that British considered Pakistan to be a more reliable ally against the Soviet Union. Pakistan was also very close to their air bases in the middle east. Little did Nehru know that even 50 years after his death, he would still be criticised for his decision to involve the UN.
In Hind Swaraj, Gandhi, criticising the profession of lawyers wrote that all disputes must be solved by the concerned parties peacefully among themselves because whenever a third party enters as moderator, it is bound to think only about itself. When I first read the book as part of a course, I was convinced that the author and the teacher were just another bald frauds. I was always led to believe that being a lawyer meant worshipping the law and working for justice. Now that I think about it, lawyers like Ram Jethmalani don’t exactly serve the law, do they ? Who is he ? Let’s just say that Ram Jethmalani is the answer to the following quiz question— Who defended
Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Encounter Case ? Asaram Bapu in the sexual assault case ? Lalu Prasad Yadav in the Fodder Scam ? Shiv Sena in the Krishna Desai murder ? etc etc ……you get the idea.
Is it right to label all lawyers as corrupt ? Maybe there are just “a few bad apples” ? Well then, why would the Chief Justice of India be nominated to the Rajya Sabha by a party that has absolutely no regard for the law or morals or even humanity for that matter ? Don’t know about this ?
Okay, where was I ? So Jan 1948 India goes to UN, which surprisingly supports the other team. In May, as the winter made way, the snow melted and the war commenced. Pakistan created the Azad Kashmir Army manned by the people of Kashmir (who wanted to join Pak) and helped by the Pak army officers. When a member of the UN met Sheikh Abdullah (who was now the Prime Minister of Kashmir) he dismissed both a referendum and independence. According to him,
the only solution was the partition of Kashmir. Otherwise the fighting will continue; India and Pakistan will prolong the quarrel indefinitely, and our people’s suffering will go on.
Sheikh Abdullah’s popularity was at its peak, and his opinion shaped the opinion of the people of Kashmir. His ideas about what was best for his state and his people would change later but for now he was sure he did not want to join Pakistan. Did he want to join India ? He couldn’t possibly dream of an independent state after seeing what Pakistan would do to a defenceless Kashmir (tribal invasion in October 1947) ?
Finally, in Feb 1950 the UN security council asked both the countries to withdraw their forces from Kashmir. India wanted Pakistan to remove their troops first while Pakistan wanted India to remove Sheikh’s government. It was clear. Both countries would not give an inch.
The Constitution of India came into effect in 1950 and allowed the state of Jammu and Kashmir to have its own flag, autonomy over internal matters and a separate constitution which they would draft themselves.
The United Nations had failed to solve the issue.
Credit Where credit’s due: A lot of this blog has been taken from Ramchandra Guha’s book India After Gandhi. A quintessential piece of literature on India’s story after 1947.