Kashmir: The Storm center of the World
Table of Contents
   About the Author
   Abode of Kashyap
   The Making of J&K
   Hundred Years of Dogra Rule
   Quit Kashmir Movement
   Hari Singh's Dilemma
   Accession to India
   First Indo-Pak War
   Bungling at U.N.
   Kashmir Divided
   The Dixon Proposals
   Shadow of Cold War
   The Chinese Factor
   Indo-Pak War of 1965
   Indo-Pak War of 1971
   The Great Betrayal
   Back to Square One
   War by Proxy
   The Way Out
   Book in pdf format  
   Official Site  

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir


Symbol of Unity


Chapter 16

Back to Square One

Shimla agreement almost brought the Kashmir question to where it stood in 1949. All the gains of the war had been lost. Realism, therefore, demanded that steps were taken to end the uncertainty in regards to the parts of the State under Indian control by fully integrating it with the rest of India. This demanded abrogation of the temporary Article 370 of the Constitution, scrapping of separate Constitution for the state and extension of the Indian Constitution and law of citizenship to it. Situation was favorable for taking these steps. Defeat and dismemberment of Pakistan had demoralized the protagonists of Pakistan in the valley. They were in a mood to accept the finality of the accession of the State to India and reconcile themselves to the political realities.

Sh. Abdullah, who was cooling his heels in detention at Delhi, had also learned the lesson of the war of 1971. He had realized that he could no longer bank on Pakistan for estahlishment of an independent Islamic Sheikhdom in Kashmir.

Had Mrs. Gandhi shown vision and realism she could have awaited the opportunity and taken steps to fully integrate the India held part of the state with the rest of India with an open mind and clear conscience.

But that was not to be. Mrs. Gandhi was conscious of the desire of her father, Pt. Nehru, to make peace with Sh. Abdullah more or less on the latter's terms and the efforts that he made in that direction just before his death.

Some of her Kashmir advisors, particularly Mir Kasim, the Congress Chief Minister of the state, were really Abdullah's men. They began to goad her to settle with Abdullah because of their behind the scenes effort. Abdullah, when he was still under detention, called on Mrs. Gandhi. As a result of what transpired between them, he was released and parleys for a new political settlement between Abdullah and government of India began. They were carried on by G. Parthsarathy on behalf of Mrs. Gandhi and Mirza Afzal Beg on behalf of Sh. Abdullah for about two years.

On getting reports about these parleys and terms of agreement under which Abdullah was to be inducted into office once again, I wrote to Mrs. Gandhi warning her about the dangers of his contemplated move. I gave her my frank assessment of Sh. Abdullah and reminded her that leopards do not change their spots. She replied that she was taking a "calculated risk."

Mrs. Gandhi announced in the Parliament on February 24, 1975, that a settlement had been made with Sh. Abdullah under which he would be installed as Chief Minister of the state and relationship between Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Government would be guided by the six point conclusions of the protracted talks between Parthsarathi and Afzal Beg. Parliament was also informed that Sh. Abdullah wanted the 1953 position to be restored. Even though this request was not granted, many concessions were made, including the power to review some of the Central laws extended to the states after 1953.

Whatever the languages of the accord, the very fact that Sh. Abdullah was being put back in power even though he had not a single member in the state legislature sent wrong signals to the people of Kashmir. There was a general feeling that hands of the clock had been put back and things had returned to square one after 22 years during which Pakistan had forced two wars on India to grab Kashmir and Indian people and armed forces had made huge sacrifices to foil her plans.

Abdullah was sworn in as Chief Minister on February 25, 1975. It was only a formality. He had in fact been Qcting as de facto chief Minister since his return to Kashmir. Mir Kasim had been carrying on as de-jure Chief Minister under his guidance. Mrs. Gandhi was either blissfully ignorant about this reality or was winking over it out of expediency.

Congress Party which had absolute majority in the state Assembly extended its full support to Sh. Abdllllah. Mrs. Gandhi expected Sh. Abdullah to reciprocate this gesture by joining the Congress. But Sh. Abdullah, refused to oblige her. He revived National Conference in the teeth of opposition of Mrs. Gandhi and was elected its President. Rank and file of plebiscite Front joined it en block. As a result National Conference returned on the Kashmir scene as a dominant political force with a bang. He then invited Congress legislators to join National Conference.

He began to put loyalists committed to him and his ideas about Semi-independent Kashmir at key posts and discontinued the practice of appointing nominees of the center to the posts of Chief Secretary and Inspector General of Police.

These developments upset Mrs. Gandhi and created a stir in her Party. Declaration of internal Emergency on June 25 and arrest of all opposition leaders including J.P. Narain, added another dimension to the growing tension and distrust between Sh. Abdullah and his National Conference on the one side and Mrs. Gandhi and her Congress Party on the other. Sh. Abdullah refused to arrest opposition leaders in the State and enforce censorship on the press.

Things came to a head after Janta Party victory in the general election of 1977. Congress Party withdrew its support to Sh. Abdullah and staked its claim to form a new Government in the state. But Sh. Abdullah proved too smart for the Congress. Taking advantage of a provision in the state constitution, he as Chief Minister recommended dissolution of the State Assembly. The Governor, L.K. Jha, had to comply.

National Conference contested the fresh election held in July 1977, under its own banner.

There was a triangular contest between National Conference, Janata Party to which many Congress men and disgruntled National Conference men had drifted and the Congress. Even though Sh. Abdullah suffered a heart-stroke on the eve of election and could not campaign actively, his party swept the polls in Kashmir valley and won some seats in Jammu as well. He thus rode back to power in his own right as National Conference Chief Minister of the State with a strength of fifty members in a house of seventy five.

This was the crowning glory for Sh. Abdullah. It proved that his sway over the hearts and minds of Kashmiri Muslims had not been affected by the developments since 1953. It was a big personal blow for Mrs. Gandhi.

Having been bitten twice in 1953 and 1977 by his patrons in New Delhi, Sh. Abdullah now moved cautiously. He did not want to go on his travels again particularly in view of his growing years and failing health. He utilized this last spell of power, mainly for two things.

He tried to cut down the dependence of Kashmir on the center as far as possible. He asserted his right to have Chief Secretary and Inspector General of Police of his own choice instead of accepting the nominees of the center for these key posts. He dispensed with the central food subsidy which ensured supply of wheat, rice and sugar to citizens of the State at cheaper rates as compared to the rest of India. The process of Islamization of the state which he had begun, as soon as he came to power in 1947, which was continued more or less by his successors, was now accelerated. His distrust for Kashmiri Pandits also grew. He began to look upon them as fifth column of New Delhi who could desert him again in any new confrontation with the center.

Secondly he wanted to create proper condition for ensuring a smooth dynastic succession of his eldest son Dr. Farooq Abdulla to his 'gaddi' after his death. He soon realized that Mrs. Gandhi who returned to power at New Delhi in 1980 could be more helpful to him for achieving this objective because she also was interested in dynastic succession at New Delhi.

The situation created by Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 also proved helpful to him. Rulers of Pakistan became absorbed in backing the Afghan insurgents against the Soviet backed new Afghan regime with direct and indirect support of USA. As a result Pak interest in Kashmir got somewhat diluted for the time being.

The military coup in Pakistan which brought General Ziaul Haq to power in the place of Z.A. Bhutto who was later arrested and executed had a sobering effect on Abdullah. He realized that only a democratic India could put up with all his pranks bordering on sedition for over twenty years and put him back. He therefore adopted a new strategy which had two planks. The first was to build up his own strength internally. He considered the growing Islamic consciousness and self-assertion in the Kashmir youth as an asset. He began to encourage it. The second was to keep Mrs. Gandhi in good humor so that she should lend her active support for his ?lan to ensure succession of Farooq Abdullah. This support had become vital for him because of opposition of a section of his party led by his own son-in-law G.M. Shah, who aspired to succeed him. Shah was senior to Farooq Abdullah in age and experience. He had been closely associated with Sh. Abdullah's struggles and was a senior member of his cabinet. He had a sizable support in National Conference Legislative party. Farooq Abdullah on the other hand was an upstart. He had spent long years in U.K. where he had married an English woman, taken up British citizenship and was closely associated with Jammu and Kashmir Liberation front (J.K.L.F.) a seccessionist organisation which some Kashmiris settled in U.K. had set up with active support of Pakistan. Abdullah got Farooq elected President of National Conference in 1981. It was a clear signal to G.M. Shah and his supporters. Shah resigned from the cabinet and began to organize his forces. He banked on pro-Pak elements in the ruling party and the general Public.

Sh. Abdullah died on September 8, 1982. Pro-Pak elements had planned to bury him in Pakistan's flag. They had mobilized their support in the whole valley who thronged to Srinagar. But the situation was saved. News of Abdullah's death was suppressed until Farooq Abdullah was given the oath of office as Chief Minister. It was a hush hush affair. At the same time the army was alerted to thwart the plan to bury Abdullah draped in a Pakistani flag. Mrs. Gandhi herself moved to Srinagar and supervised the whole operation.

Death of Sh. Abdullah, who had become a legend in his lifetime, marked the end of an era in Kashmir. He had been dominating the Kashmir stage like a colossus since 1931 when he began his political career as founder President of Muslim conference under the patronage of the British. He then set his heqrt to gaining power in Kashmir and pursued this aim with single minded devotion until his death. He changed his patrons, postures and tactics to suit the needs of the changing situation but never deflected from his objectives. That was his real strength. All his life he remained Muslim first, Kashmir next, andIndian when convenience demanded it. He embodied Islamic consciousness and Kashmiriat of his people.

Sh. Abdullah was a controversial man as any effective leader has to be. Controversy about the political line and public postures of a politician who does not follow the dotted line is natural. It is unavoidable. Therefore to be controversial is not a handicap but an asset for a political leader ~ith a mind and base of his own.

"Atish-e-Chinar," his voluminous autobiography in Urdu published after his death, presents him as he wanted to be known to posterity. It has revealed his real self as "India wins Freedom" the autobiography of Maulana Azad, revealed the Maulana. Like Maulana Azad, who is the only Indian leader besides Gandhi for whom he has shown some admiration and regard. Sh. Abdullah was a self centered and a self righteous man who considered himself to be a paragon of all virtues and true embodiment of Islamic ethos. That brings him out as an Islamic fundamentalist. His command over Koran which he could recite in a melodious tone was his greatest asset in keeping his Muslim flock with him. He invariably began his speech with recitation from Koran and punctuated them with recitation of "Kalma" at regular intervals. He thus combined the role of a religious leader, Imam, and a political leader, Khalifa, and mixed up his politics with Islam from the very beginning. Restitution to Muslims of some mosques like the "Pather Masjid" which is made entirely of the material of demolished temples, was the first major achievement of his political career. He made that Mosque in which performance of Namaz was taboo, because every pillar and stone of it smacked of idol worship. The head quarter of Muslim Conference, later converted into National Conference, and was given the name "Mujahid Manzil" the abode of fighters for Islam. Hazrat-Bal, another Muslim Shrine on the bank of the Dal lake was his main center for interaction with his followers. He built the first Arabic style mosque in Kashmir with a minaret in its compound.

His lslamic fundamentalist mind and communal outlook is evident from the fact that he has not written a word in condemnation of the killing of Kashmiri Pandits and dishonoring of their women by his followers in the first communal riot at Srinagar in 1931. All through his biography with one single exception, he has referred to Anant Nag, the district headquarter of the southern part of the valley, as Islamabad.

He is vociferous in his condemnation of the killings of Muslims in Jammu, particularly the few Kashmiri Tonga drivers, but has not said a word against killing of tens of thousands of innocent Hindus in Mujaffarabad, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Kotli, Bhimber, Rajauri and other areas that were over run by Pak invaders with the help of local Muslims. He had used choicest invectives against RSS, Praja Parishad and Bhartiya Jan Sangh forgetting that RSS workers bore the brunt of Pak agents and soldiers when he had fled from the valley and his followers were vying with one another in welcoming Pak "Mujahids."

It is an irony of fate and travesty of facts that the people who really worked and died for defense and integration of Jammu and Kashmir State with India are projected by him and his apologists as communalist and anti-National while those who first sided with Pak invaders and then worked for undermining the accession of the state to India and have continued to harp upon right of self determination ever since, are projected as nationalists and secularists by him.

In fact his understanding of the concept of secularism was even more distorted than that of Pt. Nehru. As a devout Muslim who considered Koran to be the last word of Allah, he could not be secular because Islam does not accept relevance of any form of worship other than the Islamic form and prohibits co-existence with non- believers, the Kafirs, in peace on equal terms. That explains why he did not persuade Hindu and Sikh refugees from even Pak occupied areas of the state to settle in Kashmir valley. He pushed them toward Jammu. He persistently refused to give citizenship right to over fifty thousand Hindu Sikh refugees from Pakistan who have settled in Jammu since 1947.

He did permit Kashmir Pandits to stay on in Kashmir. There were reasons for it. He himself was a scion of a Kashmir Pandit family. His great grandfather had been converted to Islam. Like Dr. lqbal, who was his hero, he too, took pride in his Brahmin ancestry. But just as Iqbal used his inherited intelligence for the service of Islam and propounded the idea of Pakistan long before Rehmat Ali and Jinnah took it up, Abdullah used his intelligence to Islamize the administrative structure as no other Muslim ruler of Kashmir had done before him.

Islam sat lightly on Kashmir Muslims ever since they were forcibly converted in the 14th Century. They were Muslims but their psyche had continued to be pagan, Kashmiri language, customs, traditions and Saints like Lall Did and Nand Rishi bound him to their Hindu heritage and Hindu kinsmen. Abdullah Islamized their psyche with the help of Aligarh trained bureaucracy, Jamate-lslamic and Arabized Urdu. He talked of Kashmir's distinct identity to justify his demand for special status to Kashmir. But he took pains to side line Kashmiri language which has a rich literature and is recognized as one of the national languages of India in the 8th schedule of Indian constitution. He did so consciously. Kashmiri language is derived from Sanskrit and links Kashmiris and other cultures with their Vedic Hindu past and Hindu compatriots. He wanted to cut this link. That is why he implosed Urdu as the state language to the exclusion of Kashmiri. With its Persian script and vocabulary drawn from Turkish, Arabic and Persian, Urdu which itself is a Turkish word, meaning "Laskar" or army has been one of the most important nedia of Muslim separatism. Muslim League made full use of it for partitioning India and rulers of Pakistan have been using it to estahlish a distinct Islamic identity of Pakistan. This one fact is enough to understand the mind and motivation of Sh. Abdullah.

Second reason why he suffered Kashmiri Pandits, was their utility for projecting himself and his followers as secular and for creating confidence in the minds of his Kashmiri patrons at New Delhi. But his experience of 1953 and 1977 created distrust for them in his mind. He came to believe that self-interest and cultural roots would drag them toward India and that they could become a hindrance in the way of realization of his dream of an independent Kashmir. This is evident from the advice he has given to Kashmiri Pandits in the last chapter of his autobiography which is devoted entirely to Kashmiri Pandits. He has urged upon them to "give up the role of spies and fifth columns of Delhi that they have been playing for years." No wonder that Kashmiri Hindus have been forced out of the valley so soon after his death. He had developed a love hate attitude toward Nehru dynasty. This is evident from his references to and assessment of Pt. Nehru, and Mrs. Gandhi all through his autobiography. He had no love lost for Sardar Patel but he respected his firmness and administrative capability. As a realist he might have behaved differently if Sardar Patel had been allowed to handle him and Jammu Kashmir State.

He had some soft corner for J. P. Narain. But it evaporated when J. P. debunked him for harping upon self-determination in a public meeting during J. P.'s only visit to the valley in the early seventies.

He mixed up Kashmir valley with whole of Jammu and Kashmir state whenever it suited him. But he remained rooted in Kashmir valley. He loved Kashmir and served it to the best of his capacity all his life. Kashmiri Mluslims reciprocated his love. But toward the end of his life, there was growing feeling among educated and politically conscious Kashmiris that he had amassed huge wealth and property and that basically he was for himself and his family and that but for his self-interest which pushed him toward India time and again, Kashmir might have become a part of Pakistan which has had a special emotional pull for most Kashmiri Muslims since the partition of India in 1947. That perhaps explains the wrath of Pak trained and inspired terrorists toward him. His "Mazar" has now to be guarded day and night by Indian security forces to prevent its destruction or defilement at the hands of Pro-Pak Kashmiri Mujahids.

So long as Abdullah lived he remained some kind of an enigma to his followers and critics alike. He was adept in speaking differently at different places. For Kashmir Muslims he was "Baba-i-quam" - father of the nation. He kept his hold on them till the last. Most of them thought that he would bring them independence. He did not want the valley to come under the grip of Pakistan. But his harangue about self determination for the people of Kashmir suited the rulers of Pakistan who rightly believed that Kashmir has to be part of India or Pakistan and that independence is not a feasible alternative. Sh. Abdullah shared this assessment of Pak rulers. That is why he preferred some link with India till he was able to secure full independence.

He wanted Kashmir to be an Islamic Sheikhdom and took planned steps to Islamize it. He wanted to Islamize Laddakh and Jammu region as well. That was the real reason for his insistence on Article 370 and separate law of citizenship for the state. He used Muslim majority of Kashmir as an effective lever to influence the policies of the government of India in favor of Muslims in the name of secularism.

Even though Sh. Abdullah failed to realize his dreams of independent Kashmir in his life time, he left behind an administrative apparatus and a successor committed to realization of his dream. The developments in Kashmir since his death which have made it a theater of war against India by proxy are a direct legacy. He prepared the ground for it during his seven year rule of Kashmir from 1975 to 1982.

Kashmir: The Storm Center of the World



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