Kashmir’s Origin Story

TLDR: Picking a tiny page out of Kashmir’s violent history. Not going to talk about revoking Article 370, Kashmiri Pandits or the ruling party.

It is incredible how little we are taught about Kashmir in our textbooks even though the newspapers and the media have a story on it almost everyday. Most of the people don’t talk about it at all, probably because they don’t really know too much but when has that stopped anyone. August 2019 was different though. This time everyone was talking (read posting on social media).

On August 6, president Ram Nath Kovind issued an order declaring all clauses of Article 370 to be inoperative which resulted primarily in two things — misery in the then state of Jammu & Kashmir and a lot , A LOT of opinions. Whatsapp statuses, Instagram stories, chai-wallahs, standup comedians, colleagues, friends, parents, chowkidars everywhere I went and everyone I met had an opinion.

I have always been curious about the J&K conundrum, always wanted to know what had happened but most of the stories I heard were just that….stories. This made the history enthusiast in me start looking. When it comes to history, humans are quite powerless. Let me explain. Whatever we know about Ashoka comes from historical findings (none of us were alive back then) and very few people argue about it because it happened so long ago. But take something which happened just 20 years ago like the Babri Masjid Demolition, and you’ll find tons of debates around it. Thus, when we talk about Kashmir it is imperative that we stick to facts alone and comment on events that happened for sure.

ALRIGHT. LET”S BEGIN.

In 1846, the Dogra dynasty, a Rajput family conquered Kashmir and ruled till India gained independence. Hari Singh of the mentioned Dogra dynasty ascended to the throne in 1925 but apparently spent most of his time hunting, horse-racing and was unconcerned with the problems in his kingdom. A real pain in the ass for the ruler was this witty and smart man who held a Masters in Science degree from the Aligarh Muslim University, arguably the most important character of this story — Sheikh Muhammed Abdullah. Remember the photo above, with the tweet from Omar Abdullah ? He is Sheikh Abdullah’s grandson and Farooq’s son. All three men have held the position of Chief Minister of J&K.

Despite his qualifications, he was not able to get a job in the Hindu dominated administration, a damning communal prejudice that existed in the state of an oblivious maharaja. Sheikh Abdullah’s first major political involvement came in a protest in 1931 against the job inequality in the Hindu dominated administration. Communal violence followed and six years later Sheikh became the leader of this “National-Conference” which demanded equal representation in the administration. Around this time Sheikh Abdullah met another lead character of this story, another charismatic young man — Jawaharlal Nehru.They liked each other instantly and thus began one of the most dramatic love-hate relationships in modern India’s history.

L-R Nehru, Badshah Khan, Sheikh (1945)

As India edged slowly towards independence, Sheikh Abdullah’s popularity was growing everyday. So much so that in 1947 when like most princely states Kashmir was pondering over the question of joining the Indian Union, he asked the Dogra dynasty to leave Kashmir and transfer power to the people of Kashmir leading to him being imprisoned for sedition. Hari Singh was adamant on remaining independent i.e. not joining India or Pakistan. He despised Congress, hence he didn’t want to join India and joining Pakistan, an Islamic State would mean an end to his Hindu dynasty. On 15th August 1947, at the stroke of midnight hour when the world slept Kashmir would wake up independent but quiet unaware of the disaster awaiting the heaven on earth.

A couple of months later, on October 22 mayhem struck as several thousand armed men entered Kashmir from the north.

Here, the rumours and the opinions emerge. There is no clear source of information about who gave these men arms and why they came to Kashmir. Most of them were Pathans and they rushed southwards looting, raping and plundering the towns of Muzzafarabad, Uri (Yes, the same one), Mahuta, Baramula which was just less than 80 kilometres from Srinagar.
Maharaja Hari Singh (who was in Srinagar), now afraid for his life, asked the government of India for assistance. Nehru obliged and sent VP Menon.

Menon was on a tight schedule. He flew to Srinagar, realised how close the insurgents were, told the Maharaja to go to Jammu and flew back to Delhi. In Delhi, a Defence Committee meeting which included Jawahar Lal Nehru, Sardar Patel, VP Menon, Lord Mountbatten and Sheikh Abdullah decided that India will send troops. Mountbatten, with a typical British move, suggested that this would be a good chance to force the Maharaja’s hand and make Kashmir a part of the Indian Union. Menon flew back to Jammu, got the Maharaja’s signature for accession. This is the infamous Instrument of Accession which India believes is proof enough that Kashmir belongs to India while Pakistan believes that the king signed it because he had no choice. Mountbatten, to no one’s surprise made it worse.

Lord Mountbatten accepted the accession with a remark, “it is my Government’s wish that as soon as law and order have been restored in Jammu and Kashmir and her soil cleared of the invader the question of the State’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people.” His remark and the offer made by the Government of India to conduct a plebiscite or referendum to determine the future status of Kashmir led to a dispute between India and Pakistan regarding the legality of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India.

On October 27th with the first ray of the sun, Indian troops flew to Srinagar. The invasion ended by the end of next month. Now, in this (relatively) peaceful environment Kashmir was given four alternatives -

  1. a referendum for the people of Kashmir to decide which country they want to join (as if referendums have ever worked, fyi literacy rate of Britain was 99 percent when they voted for Brexit),
  2. complete independence,
  3. Jammu could go to India and rest to Pak
  4. Jammu and valley of Kashmir would stay with India while the rest went to Pakistan

Surprisingly, until Article 370 was revoked, these options seemed as realistic now as they were in 1947 (#Progress #IsThisAcheDin). Kashmir did accede.
26 October is celebrated as Accession Day and is a holiday in J&K.

That’s it for this one. Until next time.

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