“…the core of the problem in J&K was its people. They were ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse, diffuse and different; they lacked religious and political unity; they were divided in their aspirations for J&K’s future international status.” (pages 35, 36)
“An important trait evident among Kashmiris partially explains why Kashmiri Muslims were ambivalent about Pakistan in 1947. Called ‘Kashmiriness’ or ‘Kashmiriyat’, a newer term with Perso-Arabic roots, this trait was a fundamental and apparently long-held part of Kashmiri identity and culture. Kashmiriness emphasises ‘the acceptance and tolerance of all religions among Kashmiris’. It is ‘manifested in the solidarity of different faiths and ethnic groups in the state’. The concept was apparently epitomized by the patron saint of Kashmir, Sheikh Noor-ud-Din, a Muslim born in 1375 of a Hindu convert to Islam. Popularly known as Nund Rishi, he repeatedly poses a question in a poem; ‘How can members of the same family jeer at one another?’ The answer is the essence of Kashmiriness; Kashmiris, whoever they are and whatever their religious backgrounds and practices, are all members of one indivisible Kashmir Valley ‘family’. It is a recipe – or even a requirement – for tolerance.
“A further factor that caused Kashmiris to be ambivalent about Pakistan was the significant role played in 1947 by Sheikh Abdullah and the political party that he dominated, the National Conference. Abdullah’s role in J&K is very important. For over fifty years (1931-82), he was Muslim Kashmiris’ most popular politician, whether in power or denied it. (Abdullah was jailed for long periods by the Maharaja, by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, his successor as Prime Minister in J&K, and by the Indian Government). According to his autobiography, Abdullah’s political career began as early as 1926, when he joined the ‘relentless struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed’ and, desiring the become the people’s savior, began to oppose the Maharaja’s regime and its practices on an individual basis. He disliked a number of the Maharaja’s practices, including discrimination on religious grounds, exploitation of the people through taxation, corruption, the inequitable land system, and the people’s lack of political freedom. Abdullah sprang to prominence in 1931 during the major anti-Maharaja agitation in Srinagar, and event of ‘seminal importance’ that temporarily – but severely – challenged Hari Singh’s rule. Indeed, it was due to Abdullah’s bold part in this uprising that he became known as the Lion of Kashmir. A further consequence of this major uprising was that, as a result of the Glancy Commission formed in order to investigate the uprising’s causes, the Maharaja allowed the formation of the first political party in J&K. In October 1932, the All J&K Muslim Conference was formed in order to safeguard Muslim interest in J&K. Abdullah, a Muslim, later remained this party the All J&K National Conference. Espousing secularism, it would later play a significant role in delivering a large part of J&K to India and in ending the Maharaja’s rule.
Speaking of the pro-Pakistan Muslim Conference formed in 1941, Snedden says-
“…the Muslim Conference faced a major challenge in the numerically and politically important Kashmir Valley; it lacked a charismatic Kashmiri-speaking politician who could rival Sheikh Abdullah and his coterie of Kashmiri colleagues. The Muslim Conference’s stance also was unpopular elsewhere, especially among the non-Muslim majority in eastern Jammu, as its killings of Muslims were clearly showing.” (page 24)
The Muslim Conference’s pragmatic approach towards the Maharaja built on a previous stance Jinnah instigated during the National Conference’s ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign that started on 20 May 1946 with the aim of ridding J&K of Dogra rule. This campaign was significant between the positions of Jinnah and Nehru on J&K. Jinnah opposed Quit Kashmir as a movement ‘engineered by some malcontents’. This stance, coupled with his lack of criticism of J&K’s unpopular ruler, particularly when compared with criticisms made by Nehru and the Indian National Congress, made Jinnah appear pro-Maharaja. This lost the Muslim League leader support among Kashmiri Muslims, especially among the ‘malcontents’, most of whom were National Conference members. Indeed, one such National Conference member, Mir Qasim (who later became the Chief Minister of Indian J&K), believed that Jinnah’s unpopular and insensitive attitude ‘killed the chances of Kashmir going to Pakistan’. The Muslim Conference lost credibility because it did not initially oppose the Maharaja when Quit Kashmir commenced in May 1946 – a policy Jinnah ordered because he believed that the party would do better working through constitutional channels.” (page 26)
“…the Muslim Conference appeared to be steadily lose support, certainly in the Kashmir Valley, owing to poor leadership and increased factionalism; conversely, support for the National Conference increased because it was united and had strong leadership.” (page 27)
I may add to this that Jinnah, in his visit to Kashmir in 1941, received much hostility from sections of Kashmiri Muslims and conceded that he did not get unanimous support. To add to that, when he sent an envoy to Kashmir in 1943 to assess whether Kashmiris would be willing to join Pakistan, his envoy gave him a response, which, to use the language of acclaimed historian Alex von Tunzelmann, was "disheartening" (The Indian Summer, p. 284). Jinnah tried to play his own politics in Kashmir, using the minister Ramchandra Kak, a Kashmiri Hindu, as a Trojan horse, but failed, and you can read about the same here.
It may be added that Shaikh Abdullah continued to be popular with Kashmiri Muslims after his having taken a stand in favour of India and after the Dogra monarchy was displaced, Abdullah ensured that land reforms were carried out by abolishing landlordism and giving peasants ownership over land, which won him tremendous affection from the people of the valley. Pakistan had retained the feudal system of landlordism, as it still has, and many Kashmiri Muslims realized that the land reforms in Kashmir were possible owing to Kashmir being a part of India rather than Pakistan. To quote the noted scholar Michael Brecher from his book The Struggle for Kashmir-
“The vast majority of Kashmiris have benefited from these reforms and many of those interviewed by the author expressed the feat that in Pakistan, where no comparable land reforms have taken place, the land recently given to them might be returned to the landlords or, in any event, that further implementation of the 'New Kashmir' programme will be impossible.” (cited in the 2002 paperback edition of MJ Akbar's book Kashmir - Beyond the Vale on page 139)
Abdullah had clearly stated in the context of Pakistan-
Even today, there are Kashmiri Muslims, including those who want their region to be an independent country, who acknowledge that back then, Abdullah had made the right decision by opting for India. As one such person has articulated-
“The first question that comes to mind is would the Pakistani establishment quash the Feudal or Zamindari systems in Kashmir handing the land over to the tillers? Do keep in mind that even today Pakistan is a feudal society with most of the land in the hands of the Punjabi Chaudhrys. I mean all that the Kashmiri Hindus and Dogra land owners had to do was convert to Islam and just like the Punjabi Chaudhrys of Pakistan continue with the feudal system.”
He further says-
“Now picture yourself as a common Kashmiri filling the chillum of a Punjabi Pakistani Chaudhry or that of a Kashmiri Hindu/Dogra Feudal lord with tobacco and ask yourself this question.............how smart was Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah?”
And by the way, Islam as a religion emphasizes socioeconomic egalitarianism and the first land reforms in world history were carried out by the caliph Hazrat Umar Bin Khattab, and so, it is particularly shameful that Pakistan, calling itself an Islamic state, still has an institutionalized zamindari system, as Pakistani liberal Hasan Nisar points out!
Also, when Shaikh Abdullah had later started vacillating in the 1950s between Kashmir being a part of India with some autonomy, and being an independent country altogether (Pakistan was still not an option for him, and a reason for vacillating from his firm pro-India stance was his concern over Hindu majoritarianism in India, which had manifested itself even in the killing of Mahatma Gandhi), and Nehru had him imprisoned, Nehru did, on the other hand, again offer Pakistan a plebiscite! To be quote the eminent writer MJ Akbar on this point, from his highly acclaimed book Kashmir – Behind the Vale (2002 paperback edition)-
“If there were any doubts about Nehru’s sincerity in those years about the plebiscite commitment, then surely they should have ended with this proposal.” (page 154)
(a) a permanent population;
Other than the Poonch rebellion, Snedden has also highlighted that in Jammu, there were communal riots in 1947-1948 as a result of the partition of India, in which both Hindus and Muslims lost their lives (though Kashmir was largely free from such violence), but again, that only goes to show that there was a section of pro-Pakistan Muslims in the erstwhile princely state, and as we have discussed above, that is something no one denies and doesn’t take us very far. However, moving on from here, obviously, any sincere attempt at resolving the Kashmir issue would mean respecting the Line of Control as a de facto border, as India and Pakistan have officially agreed to, and seeking the path of negotiation for conflict resolution.
As I stated at the outset, this piece was meant to make a summary of the historical record, and I hope that it has served that purpose well.