Friday, 7 November 2014
A letter to UN Security Council written during his imprisonment By Sheikh Abdullah.
A letter to UN Security Council written during his imprisonment By Sheikh Abdullah.
A leaf out of history.
In a detailed letter to the UN Security Council written during his imprisonment, Sheikh Abdullah clearly outlined the steps leading up to the coup d’état of 1953. I have incorporated this letter into my article in the Journal of Race and Class and the Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies (Forthcoming).
"To: The hon’ble Members
United Nations’ Organisation,
1. Fast developing events indicate that the nine-year old Kashmir question is very likely to come up for your consideration very soon, and in all probability you will give your most earnest attention to it with a view to affect a final settlement of the Dispute. Quite naturally, on such an important occasion I would have very much liked to be able to personally present before your Excellencies some outstanding aspects of the question and explain the urgent and immediate need for a final settlement and early termination of the protracted agony of my people. But that is not to be! your Excellencies are perhaps aware that I am completing my third year of incarceration in a detention camp in the State where I have been whisked off as a result of coup-d’etat of 9th Aug. 1953. Accordingly, the only course available to me is to send out this letter and pray for your Excellencies indulgence in the hope that facts stated here will receive your Excellencies’ earnest consideration.
2. As a spear-head of people’s struggle against autocracy and economic exploitation I led a powerful mass-movement in Kashmir for over two decades. This movement which passed through various troubles and travails had always ‘sovereignty of the people’ as its bed-rock. Many of our comrades-in-arms laid their lives for this cherished goal and many others went through great sufferings in the pursuit thereof. With the tragic partition of the sub-continent of India, though the flames of communal orgy engulfed the sub-continent, taking a heavy toll of human life, the State of Jammu and Kashmir kept its head cool and considerably succeeded in maintaining communal harmony in Kashmir. Unfortunately, however, the parti- tion of India did not wholly spare Kashmir from its after effects and a tribal inva- sion on the State from the North-West followed in 1947. Under the stress of this invasion the then Maharaja of Kashmir appealed to India for armed intervention.
3. In order to make military intervention from India legally possible the Maharaja had to sign an instrument of Accession with India. This accession was, however, declared by India only a provisional and the disposal of the State was finally to be made in accordance with the free will of the people. On 27th Oct. 1947 Lord Mountbatten the then Governor General of India wrote to Maharaja in reply to his letter offering accession of the State with India that ‘… as soon as law and order have been restored in Kashmir and its soil cleared of the invader, the question of State’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people’.
4. On 2nd Nov. 1947 Pt. Jawahirlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India in his broad- cast speech declared ‘We are anxious not to finalize anything in a moment of crisis and without the fullest opportunity to be given to the people of Kashmir to have their say . . . The accession must be made by the people of that State . . . We will not and cannot back out of it.’ (See appendix No. 2.).
5. On behalf of India there are innumerable commitments made to the United Nations Organization as well as to the people of Kashmir that the latter alone can decide their fate through an impartial plebiscite. Thus, India came to Kashmir as the champion and protector of our right of self-determination and under that slogan fought back the invaders with our support.
6. On 13th Aug. 1948 and later on 5th Jan. 1949 the U.N. Commission on India and Pakistan passed two historic resolutions incorporating the solemn agreements of the two countries that accession shall be decided through a free and impartial plebiscite under the aegis of U.N. organization. These international commitments to the people of Kashmir are categorical and unambiguous.
7. In 1951 a Constituent Assembly was convened in the Indian-occupied part of the State with a view to give constitutional shape to the Govt. Pakistan, suspecting backdoor decision on accession through this Constituent Assembly, took strong exception in the Security Council to the convening of this Assembly and its competence to decide the question of accession. Sir B. N. Rau, leader of the Indian Delegation in the United Nations, in his speeches before the Security Council delivered on 12th and 29th March 1951, made the object of the Assembly abundantly clear and declared unequivocally that in reference to accession the Constituent Assembly can take no decision and his Government will be bound by her commitments made to the United Nations in this regard. The Security Council on the basis of this international commitment registered its verdict on these terms ‘… and any action that Assembly might attempt to take to deter- mine the future shape and affiliation of the entire State, or any part thereof would not constitute a disposition of the State in accordance with the above principle’. (Resolution of Security Council of March 1951). ‘Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru while answering questions in the Indian parliament in Feb. 1955 characterized the Kashmir Assembly’s pronouncement on accession as ‘unilateral and there- fore of no consequence’. Meanwhile the Security Council had suggested that the two countries should try to effect a peaceful settlement of this dispute through direct negotiations.
8. As leader of the National Conference prompted by the sole desire of facilitating a settlement with due regard to the wishes of the people I, in consultation with the Executive of my organization and with the full approval of a top-level committee nominated by the Executive of the National Conference for the purpose, drew up a list of possible alternative means of settlement of this dispute. Accordingly, I communicated these alternatives to the Prime Minister of India early in July 1953, so that in the forthcoming talks between the two Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan our approach to the peaceful settlement of the dispute would not be lost sight of. Unfortunately India did not seem to like this and turned hostile.
9. A deep and carefully screened conspiracy against me and my followers was the result. Kashmir, unfortunately, is the root cause which deeply embitters the relations between India and Pakistan and in any conflict this State is bound to be the first casualty. No peaceful progress is possible within the State unless this dispute is finally and amicably settled. These are weighty considerations and no one who has the real good of the State at heart can lose sight of these factors. For some time past I had therefore been pressing for an early settlement of this dispute with Pakistan … Indian reaction was averse to this approach and her resentment towards me gradually culminated in positive hostility.
10. Disruption and factionalism in our ranks and corruption of our people was therefore resorted to by India for breaking our unity and thus achieving its nefarious end. The plot culminated in the coup-d’état on 9th Aug. 1953. In the early hours of that night I and my cabinet were dismissed without a confidence motion of the Assembly by the legally and constitutionally questionable fiat of the head of the State. I was put under arrest along with another Minister of my cabinet and am now under continued detention nearly for the last three years without trial and without even a charge.
11. Simultaneously with my arrest thousands of my followers and co-workers, including Deputy Ministers, high ranking Gazetted Officers, respectable businessmen, lawyers, Members of the Assembly and public men of high position in life were clapped into prison. All manner of repressive measures were let loose in order to crush the spontaneous uprising of the people throughout the valley. Indian Central Reserve Police and army as well as the militia, and the special police were given a free license to shoot at sight and commit all other possible atrocities on the defenseless people – thousands were beaten or starved in the jails in order to break them into submission – the number of those killed was officially reported to be 36 although the public version puts it very much higher. No judicial enquiry was held to investigate into these atrocities which include among their victims even pregnant women and children. More than a score of Assembly members was detained without charge and many others kept under house arrest.
12. It was under these bloodcurdling circumstances that a session of the Assembly was called to record its approval of the coup and a vote of confidence in the new government. From prison I sent telegraphic requests to the President of the Union of India, to its Prime Minister and to the Speaker of the Assembly to allow me to appear before the house and face a motion of no-confidence in a democratic manner but no heed was paid to it. Thus almost with a pistol on the necks of the Assembly Members and with massacre and terrorism all over the Valley, a vote of confidence for the Govt. pitchforked into office with the help of Indian bayonets was secured. No greater fraud on democracy can be conceived! What moral, legal or constitutional value this fraudulent act has need hardly be explained.
13. Thus India maneuvered to remove those elements from the Kashmir scene which she thought stood in the way of her anti-Kashmiri designs and subsequently sought ratification of accession through the Assembly. To say the least, it is a fraud upon the people, betrayal of their right of self-determination and gross breach of international commitments and promises.
14. In March 1956, the Prime Minister of India made a public declaration ruling out plebiscite in Kashmir. It has shocked the world conscience and stunned the people of Kashmir to whom innumerable assurances had been held out that they will shape their own destiny through a fair and impartial plebiscite. Reasons advanced for this volte face are that Pakistan has joined SEATO, received Arms Aid from America and signed the Baghdad Pact. The absurdity of the argument is patent. Whatever Pakistan may do or might have done, that can be no valid reason for denying the Kashmiris the exercise of their right of self-determination in order to shape their own future. Secondly India’s Prime Minister has hinted that a vote in favor of Pakistan will rouse communal passions in India and endanger the security of its Muslim minority. This argument is also untenable. Is India’s secularism so skin deep that it will collapse like a pack of cards as soon as Kashmiris exercise their right of self-determination. One may as well ask: Are Kashmiris to be held as hostages for fair treatment of Muslim minority under the so-called Secular Democracy of India. Were India’s oft repeated promises to the people of Kashmir that they alone shall have the right to decide their own future through an impartial and fair plebiscite intended to be implemented only in case a vote in her favor was certain? India has repeatedly claimed that Kashmir is fast progressing and that the political uncertainty has ended. Nothing can be farther from truth. Kashmir is at present ruled by monstrous laws which have crippled all political and social life in the State and paralyzed all progress. A lawless law of Preventive Detention has been promulgated in the State with the sanction of the President of the Republic of India which has stifled all civil liberties. This law authorizes arrests and detention for a period of five years without trial or even without disclosing the grounds of detention. Free and frequent use is made of this law of the jungle.
15. Respectable citizens and political workers have been arrested under this law on the excuse of having publicized the speeches of opposition members delivered in the legislature or even legitimately organizing support for the opposition in the house. Members of the Assembly who expressed their intention of crossing the floor in the house were put under arrest. In certain cases resignations were extorted under the pressure of this monstrous law and instances are not wanting where the members were publicly threatened of getting them involved in fabricated criminal cases if they failed to support the Govt. party. Indian money is being lavishly used for organizing gangsters for looting, insulting and publicly flogging respectable citizens who do not see eye to eye with the ruling party. Colossal amounts borrowed on interest from India are used in corrupting public life and thereby purchasing the public conscience. It is however, gratifying to note that all these dirty methods have so far failed to corrupt the people into submission, and with one voice they demand the fulfillment of the promise made to them by India, Pakistan and United Nations to exercise their right of self-determination in a free and democratic manner. The Indian press almost without exception, is positively hostile to all tendencies in favor of the plebiscite. Any Indian newspaper writing in favor of the fulfillment of the promise held out by India to the people of Kashmir or criticizing the present administration in Kashmir is immediately bribed or blacklisted and its entry into the State banned. Foreign correspondents are seldom allowed in and if and when such a journalist finds his way to the Valley every precaution is taken that he does not get a peep into the realities of the situation. There is a virtual Iron Curtain over the Valley. No citizen dare to approach a visitor to acquaint him with the tale of his misery for fear of gestapo and subsequent torture. I challenge anyone to refute it. Under an impartial agency the scathing sea of resentment of Kashmiris will be unleashed and a real picture will come to light in those circumstances alone. Recent civic elections held in Srinagar and in Jammu afford a proof positive of oppressive and fraudulent practices of the ruling party in Kashmir. Muslim organizations and political bodies with overwhelming Muslim membership completely boycotted these elections. Some hindu opposition organizations however contested these elections against the ruling party. The hindu press both in and outside the State has published a surprising account of corruption, malpractices, impersonation and fraudulent methods used in these elections by the ruling party. It was through these shady means that the ruling party has secured all the seats in the Srinagar Municipal Corporation and majority in the Jammu Corporation.
16. Kashmiris are facing untold miseries during the present phase of their history. No progress – economic or political – is possible under such circumstances. Kashmir has become an oozing sore in the body politic of the subcontinent. It has embittered beyond measure relations between the two countries. The two armies facing each other across the cease-fire line constitute a potential powder magazine which may flare up any time into a devastating war. Its consequences are too grim to imagine. In such an eventuality Kashmir will be wiped out completely and far worse may happen. Is the world conscience so dead as not to wake up in time? If a member of the world organization is so easily to denounce international commitments and trample over without qualms the human rights of millions it will, I am afraid, deal a death blow on the effectiveness of the Security Council, will shock the confidence of small nations in the world organization and endanger world peace.
17. On behalf of the millions of Kashmiris and in the name of peace and progress of hundreds of millions of the sub-continent I appeal to your Excellencies to firmly stand by the pledges of the Security Council and execute its decision. I also appeal to the freedom loving countries of the world, to those who have signed the United Nations Charter and pledged themselves to honor it in word and deed as well as to those nations whose leaders have fought and given their lives to establish people’s right of self-determination, to rise above international differences and disputes and lend a firm and unanimous support to the right of four million down-trodden Kashmiris and allow them to decide their own future in a free and democratic atmosphere. That alone will end the agony of the people of Kashmir and eliminate a grave danger to peace.