December 5, 2020

Ascendency of the ‘’Native” after 628 years: SMA, a perennial source for introspection

Non- natives or foreigners, Call them by whatever name depending upon one’s political ideology, occupied the throne of Kashmir including its surrounding territories for about 1526 years of its recorded history of about 5000 years. During the Nature worshipers and Hindu periods of about 4200 years it were Pandawas, Muryas, Kushans, Gonanadia, Karkota, Utpala & Lohar and post Hindu period the Salatine, Mughal, Afghan & Sikhs.The despotic reign by the 4 rajput Dogra rulers from 1846 to 1948 is excluded for being the natives due to amalgamation of Jammu & Principalities annexed by Maharaja Gulab Singh, as feudatory of Maharaja Ranjit Singh the ruler of Greater Punjab, in Kashmir followed by the reorganisation of all of these territories into a country named Jammu & Kashmir under the suzerainty of British Govtt, as a consequence of the Treaty of Amritsar preceded by the Treaty of Lahore ending Sikh empire & occupation of the last bastion of resistance in India by the British. one can imagine the unabated pangs of koshur & their co-religionists from other ethnic groups from our ancestry having been ruled by foreigners moreso during the 2nd millennium and the deep yearning in them for a new order which in a way fructified on 05.03.1948 when Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah ( SMA) came to be appointed as the Prime Minister of the J&K being the only leader representing the popular aspirations of the absolute majority of stakeholders. Hari Krishen Koul and Ram Chand Kak the two Prime Ministers during Hari Singh’s rule can’t be equated with the appointment of a mass & charismatic leader like SMA as the former were overseeing the implementation of policies of the Monarchy without any overriding authority while the latter was harbinger for the beginning of the popular rule with political & economic Agenda formulated during the freedom struggle as a precursor for democratic order.
Harmonising the contradictions.
Having emerged as the champion of exploited & voiceless masses, who at times even contrary to their belief systems stood by him against bigotry and divisiveness of his opponents largely serving the interests of the State, SMA was keen & resolute for transforming the socio-economic status of people regardless of the consequences. It was this politico- economic philosophy around which revolved the contentious decisions taken by him which are summarised as under:-
i) The freedom movement was conceived, launched and sustained by the majority community without any support from members of major minority community excepting in the form of presence of a few individuals . At the crucible the leadership, confronted with limited options, took the struggle to achievable level in the circumstances the State was ensconced with in peculiar geo- politics of the sub-continent of mid twentieth century. While the minorities were not at all discomforted with the despotic rule & their presence & support for freedom struggle was tokenistic the roadblocks to the struggle were instead placed whenever the State interests demanded so. The conversion of JK Muslim Conference (MC) into JK National Conference (NC) in 1939 and relationship established with Indian National Congress before the tryst date of Pandit Nehru proved catalystic much to the chagrin of Maharaja and his entire coterie and members of his fraternity. Assuming the conversion of MC into NC was not the response to the situation faced by SMA; then in that scenario the characters like Master Ab. Aziz in Muzafferabad , Maqbool Sheerwani in Baramulla and many Ahmeds, Mohammads & Hasans enroute to Budgam would be amiss in the history of 1947 resulting in guided passage to the Lashkar of tribals for taking over the control of Srinagar Airport much before 27th October. How deep the secularism was in the ranks of NC can be gauged by what the Post Master in Anantnag Town had to undergo for hoisting the Pakistani flag. The father of Prof M.K.Tickoo, author’s teacher in Govtt Degree College Anantnag and resident in neighbourhood, was Post Master in P& T Deptt Anantnag who in compliance with the orders from the Divisional office Rawalpindi hoisted the Pakistani flag atop the post office building but got manhandled by the crowd representing NC workers who obviously did so in line with repudiation of two Nation Theory by their Party and the gentleman had to remove the flag against his conscience being believer in rule Book. Reverting to the role of political workers all along the Jehlum Valley Cart road from Dumail to Srinagar Airport the ‘’unwept & unsung’’ persons didn’t react momentarily to the happenings countenanced by them but owing to the ideological upbringing in NC;
ii) The form & texture of ‘’Naya Kashmir’’, a socio- economic treaties, was Country oriented & changes effectuated only after the State Convention of revived NC held in Jammu in 1976.SMA in his speech at Lal Chowk on 7rd March 1975 in a mammoth gathering, after assuming the reigns of the State on 25th February 1975, reminded the stakeholders about the position the State would have been enjoying but for the misadventure of 22nd October 1947 which signifies non fulfillment of his vision and adoption of the strategy to make the best possible use of the available system for the State as a short term solution in the backdrop of emergence of Bangladesh as an independent Country exploding the myth of the ‘’Two Nation Theory’’ accompanied with the changes in the history and geography of the sub-continent but Bengali nationalists attributed it to the incompatibility of Punjabis with the linguistic diversities marginalising in the process their sub- nationalisation. During the campaign for Parliamentary elections 1977 SMA castigated Z.A.Bhutto, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, for his outbursts against UN resolutions relating to JK as being the waste papers while defending the ‘’Shimla Agreement’’ when by the logic of SMA these resolutions were the only achievement in our checkered history for popular aspirations to reign supreme. In his testament, released after his death on 8th September 1982, he bemoaned the past and exhibited his conviction in the generations following him to be resolute & determined & not to be cowed down by the mighty mortals and invidious in the path chosen for the State by the martyrs .His bequest stands fully vindicated by the kind of argumentative youngsters we have but may be taking turns in his grave over the misdirection in which we are caught up as the last thirty years have not thrown up a leadership capable of uniting & leading the masses instead of being led by them moreso by the street sentiments;
iii) In a program with Moti Ram Bhaigrah, one of the members from JK in the Constituent Assembly of India and later on a veteran Congress leader in State Congress Committee, broadcast by Radio Kashmir Srinagar during 1992/1994 he recalled his meeting with SMA in Bhaderwah Jail before latter’s release on 29.09.1947.While leaving Mr Bhaigrah sought the blessings of SMA being the last meeting, as in his sub- conscious he had drawn a foregone conclusion about the outcome of self determination, but SMA thundered by asking him ‘’to take care of Jammu & leave rest for me” which incidentally he did after his appointment on 27th October 1947 as Chief Emergency Administrator, but in allocation of jurisdiction Kashmir Division only earmarked for him retaining the rest of the State by the Maharaja with himself, where not a single soul from minorities was affected in any manner whatsoever while the apathy of Maharaja and his administration and later on the collaboration with the RSS saw the ethnic cleansing of Muslims from loop comprising of Distts of Jammu, Samba and Kathua.out of 2.5 lakh Muslim population uprooted and plundered one lakh are registered as refugees in the records of Relief & Rehabilitation Deptt Punjab Pakistan and the remaining killed mercilessly by the State forces joined by Patiala armed forces and rank & file of RSS with Pream Nath Dogra as the point man.After the release of SMA from Bhaderwah Jail he in his speech in Hozuri Bagh (Iqbal Park) public meeting inter- alia mentioned that ‘’ slaves can’t afford to decide freely their future’’ implying disposal of the monarchy in the first instance followed by the decision about joining either of the two Dominions but what happened in the integrenum till 4th October when in the meeting of the Working Committee of NC held in Srinagar he brushed aside the arguments advanced by a few individuals about need for going religiously by Partition plan as accepted by Congress Party. Similarly even as the construction of road from Kathua to Pathankot was in full swing immediately after the corridor to JK from Punjab was provided mischievously in the Redcliffe Award and the correspondence of Maharaja with GOI pointing out the compliance of State Administration with the suggestions/ advisories of MHA from ist September yet the Maharaja is said to have been a prisoner of indecision or alternately outsmarted the majority community by buying the precious time for execution of his plan when necessitated. One of Maharaja’s Private Secretary Thakur D Singh, who after superannuation from State services was a respectable figure & office bearer of Pradesh Congress Committee, once during 1998- 99 winter period disclosed in his conversations with the author that ‘’ after meeting with Ghandi Ji in Srinagar Palace on ist August 1947 the Maharaja revealed to his core staff about his deliberations having dealt with all issues other than the hot topic of accession’’ & on the basis of the said PSs assessment the Maharaja would have opted for independent State in the event of operational flexibility as he was conscious of the demographic and geographical features of the State but sudden sacking of R.C.Kak, a known protagonist of 2nd option as there was no scope for 3rd option in the partition plan, from the position of Prime Minister only to be replaced by Janak Singh on 10.08.1947 & later on appointment of Sardar Patel’s acolyte Meher Chand Mahagen in place of Janak also on 15.10.1947 coupled with the removal of British civil & Police officers, release of NC leaders but continued detention of MC leaders & workers deepens the mystery;
vi) Notwithstanding the unflinching support for the despotic regime by the minorities SMA harnessed all the available tools to assuage their aspirations even beyond the political realms of the sub continental political turfs of the times whose( minorities) criteria for sacrosancy of secularism hinged around not only to the disassociation by the NC leadership from Islamic events and major annual congregations but changing the narrative in favour of planks ordinarily the sheet anchor of liberal democracy but not even in present times adhered to in main bastions of democratic World and by those standards the existing systems in the Country would make India a pariah State.SMA struck a balance between the idealism and the ground realities without achieving the desired success for forging a united national movement. Congress & its leadership for them ill 15th August was a highly disdainful lot whose success would eventually replace the communal and clan centric order with the one meeting the ends of social justice but overnight after independence these communities became cynosure in centre-State relations.SMA changed MC into NC, shifted political discourse around non-communal contours with focus on socio-economic elements, opposed two Nation theory tooth & nail from the platform of All India State conference as its vice president, where Ghandi, Nehru and Sardar Patel surrendered it to SMA’s credit who singularly reversed the course of partition based on communal grounds, pleaded Indian case in UN and proposed & persuaded Nehru to facilitate the Constitution of State Constituent Assembly whose ratification of the accession in 02/1954 lent some degree of legitimacy to Indian case on Kashmir otherwise the conditional acceptance of the instrument of accession offered by the Maharaja has made both the instruments inconsequential due to non- fulfillment of the condition relating to ascertaining the will of the people through exercise of right to self- determination yet pygmies across the country honoured whose ideology in a secular and democratic order can be faulted being relic of bigotry and extremism, unscientific and contrary to the Constitutional mandate for promoting scientific temper and outlook & polarising and divisive in recent years and in contrast SMA’s secular credentials stand atop without a parallel & hence immortal but hounded without logic awaiting the opportunity for national conscience to stir up for according the due place to him in national history &
V) Determined to ameliorate the socio-economic plight of the masses irrespective of caste, colour and creed to which SMA found receptivity in leadership wedded to socialism and non- cognizance thereto by feudals who acquiesced with the revolutionary program for implementation in one part of the country only purely for protecting their fiefdoms in western part & in eastern part on communal grounds his support to accession provided moral & political weight to the Indian position on Kashmir imbroglio and in the process opportunity for enactment of Big Landed Estates Abolition Act 195.The State /Khalisa land in the State had remained uncultivated for long after 1846 & the Govtt with a view to raise the revenue decided to allow its cultivation through Jageerdars, Chakdars, Mukararies & Maufiuadars who organised the desired activities by forcing the peasantry for the purpose. The reluctance on the part of farmers was essentially due to unjust ratio for division of the produce & onus for payment of land revenue the rates thereof were also the highest. The class of intermediaries introduced by the Govt didn’t acquire the estates, entrusted with them for ensuring their gainful use through organised cultivation, on payment of consideration but purely as agents with sufficient muscle power for forcing the hapless peasants to work on terms and conditions arbitrarily imposed by the authorities. It is in this background that the law aimed at expropriation of 9000 landlords of their rights on / control over the land beyond the prescribed ceiling without payment of compensation, originally & actually owned by the State except in miniscule cases the owners had got the ownership on the basis of valid alienation deeds. This epoch making measure saw 18.30 lakh kanals of land getting transferred in ownership rights to the designated categories of tillers. Hence misplaced comparison with the land reforms introduced later on in the rest of the Country in the context of admissibility for compensation. while the holdings in the Kashmir Valley were largely culturable the position in Jammu and its adjoining Districts was different leading to retention of large holdings by the Dogra landlords being classified as Gair mumkin Khud /non- culturable growing fuel and fodder etc and exempted from the sweep of the Act of 1950 & this was the principal reason for skewed outcome in terms of beneficiaries in 05 regions of the State but the shortfall was addressed by allowing the occupation of evacuee land measuring 4.85 lakh kanals by the locals without payment of rent or share of produce to the Custodian apart from 7.19 lakh kanals allotted to 26309 Displaced families from Muzafferabad-Punch-Mirpur tract which practically resulted in availability of more land to occupants and landless agricultural workers in Dogra track of Jammu as compared with the position in remaining 04 regions. The 2nd phase of land reforms under J&K Agrarian Reforms Act 1976 has resulted in transfer of more land in Jammu Division in ownership rights to the prospective owners due to availability of land expropriated from the owners as was also the outcome of the implementation of the recommendations of the land Commission in 1966 where under the illegal occupants of State land were initially conferred the status of tenant -at- will under LB-6 & LB-7 followed by conferment of ownership rights under S. 432 of 1966. Another revolutionary measure was the debt relief to the distressed akin to present day loan wavers.
Victim of deception & betrayals.
With implementation of revolutionary measures by ending 1950 empowering people economically with inherent scope for political awareness & prowess also SMA was partly satisfied & started parlays within & without the State for negotiating the basis for constitutional relationship between union of India and the State of J&K as pending the Constitution of the Constituent Assembly the quantum of autonomy fixed in Article 370 on 17.10.1949 by Indian Constituent Assembly was transitory which is corroborated by the speech of M.A.Begh on 19.08.1952 in the State Constituent Assembly , Revenue Minister in State Govt from 1948 to 09.8.1953 & later President JK Plebiscite Front for 22 years till 1975, where under he made out a strong case for recommending the alterations in Article 370 once the State Constitution is finalised & as such this move would have foreclosed in perpetuity the scope for fiddling with the Constitutional status of the State by Union Govt & neither the erosion of special status would have taken place from 1957 nor the occasion arisen for de- operationalization of Article 370 On 5th August 2019. (Constituent Assembly Official Report Vol I 1951-57 – Pp 694 & 95). SMA joined Pandit Nehru in umpteen public meetings across northern India to douse the communal flames in the aftermath of partition and Dr Agha Ashraf Ali in his autobiography( Kuch Tou likhyay ki Loug Kehtay Hein) provides vivid memories of the mesmerising scenes, as a student of Jamia Millia, developed eloquently by the contents of the speeches of SMA who had imagined a unique relationship with Pandit ji little realizing the Chanakya in him which is substantiated in ‘’ Heir Apparent’’ by Dr Karan Singh from the account of his meeting with the former before accepting the offer of the office of Sadri Riyast made by SMA when he technically was a novice Prince Regent from 20.06.1949 after abdication by Hari Singh but took the que from the remarks of Pandit ji about the historic role awaiting the Prince & same self reminisced by him on 9th August 1953. Much before the ominous day a multi- pronged course of action had been drawn for promoting tourism especially world famous Kashmiri handicrafts which included its marketing in the foreign countries. During those days the recruitment against almost all services in the central Govt covered bulk of posts falling within the ambit of Ministries for making the appointments independent to the recruiting agencies & SMA also submitted a list of highly qualified candidates from the State for their appointments in missions of Indian Embassies in foreign countries for discharging the official duties & simultaneously to promote tourism and handicrafts of home State but after a considerable time on query about his proposals he was told about legal framework coming in the way when by that time a number of co-religionists of central leadership from JK had got treatment similar to the one suggested by the State Govt & the appointees included persons dismissed earlier from State services for misconduct and embezzlements. Meanwhile the Delhi Agreement was finalised & signed by the two towering leaders in 07/1952, one PM of the country & the other PM of JK, which came to be ratified by the State Constituent Assembly followed by its approval by the Parliament. With the finalisation of the nature of Constitutional relationship between the two entities the roadmap for its implementation became thorny as central Govt was keen to retain overriding control beyond the tenets of the Agreement and contrary the State to close the chapter thereat by appropriate modifications in 370.
Muhammad Amin, a respectable non- ethnic koshur transporter owning the Passenger Services Fleet( Srinagar -Rawalpandi) opted to settle in Pakistan but returned back & before leaving for Srinagar he called on Sir Zaffrulah Khan Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Govtt headed by liyaket Ali Khan, who asked Mr Amin to convey to SMA, among other subject, the imperative of empowering muslims through quality education and other State sponsored interventions which he did once he got an opportunity in a wedding function at the residency of Geelanies of Khanyar but found no response from the addressee and instead Bakshi against the protocol spoke about his resolve for implementation of the same strategy even as he lacked the authority to do so. After 9th August coup Bakshi in a chance face to face encounter recalled his reaction at Geelanies one year back & reiterated his determination for accomplishing the task of great Khan through free education upto PG level and proportionate share in employment for all sections of the society. During exile in Punjab after Quit Kashmir Bakshi is said to have come closer to Congress leadership including Sardar Patel. Similarly the peace Brigade under him as Home Minister was an extension of MHA for multiple uses to the complete ignorance of State Prime Minister as for as the use for stiffening the opposition was concerned.
The letter Dated 31.01.1948 from Maharaja to Sardar Patel exposes the vulnerability of Indian case in the event Plebiscite is held & to filibuster the prospectus of an outcome not to his liking he proposed an alternative where through he would withdraw the accession for nullifying the decisions of the UN as the only way out for protecting the interests of royal dynasty, Hindus & Sikhs & insistence on adoption of Mysore model with a Dewan in the Cabinet for overseeing the interests of non- muslims in contradistinction with democratic order envisaged for the Country as a whole paradoxically forfeiting in the process his claim if any for being a neutral stakeholder as the Monarch of the State particularly by questioning the competence of NC to supervise the Administration forgetting about his position & the Govtt headed by his handpicked PM were de -facto & de- jure Authority aided by the Chief Emergency Administrator in Kashmir Division only and governance deficit was at its peak in Dogra region. Pandit Ji by his own admission had already given up in 1948 on the promise for ascertaining the free will of the people and synchronized the debate about it as academic only when he instead contemplated on ratification of the accession by the Constituent Assembly once established as a substitute to right for self determination & to back out from it against the evolving proximity in USA and Pakistan strategic relationships was just a ruse only.. At a later stage delay in the ratification of the accession by the Constituent Assembly pending redressal of the demands of SMA including consideration on other three options was overcome by subversion of democracy on 9th August 1953 through tamed /planted characters.
The above instances conveniently throw light on how second in command had been long back tamed by the bosom friend of SMA. Even the fast receding Ek Vidhan eke Pradhan agitation had almost come to a standstill surreptitiously in early 53’s less due to sabre rattling but more by taming with assurances of B. N.Mullik IB Chief. Ealier in the Assembly koshak Bakola was lambasting SMA without any justification and the diatribe being in ladakhi got applauding by thumping the desks from members of the House without knowing the meaning of the contents except mention of SMA in the speeches was presumed to be laudatory of the leader of the House. The narrative of Pandit Ji about koshur population being comfort lovers was the common refrain of politicians in private confabulations to hoodwink gullible legislators and other politicians apart from materialistic favours likely to flow in a non confrontational atmosphere in centre- State relations. The emphasis in the State for gaining self sufficiency in food grains, changes in the food habits by opting for a balanced diet regime & lessening dependence on imports was thwarted through the puppets to make for good Kashmir as a consumerist economy. A sustained campaign through the Peace Brigade was underway to mock the votaries of gradual self reliance. Aatish e Chinar and My Years with Nehru by SMA & B.N.Mullik respectively establish how deeply the Cabinet colleagues of former had been influenced by invisible forces & slightest reluctance by Bakshi would have witnessed others in waiting performing the treachery but Bakshi outwitted them being also the first choice of authority who engineered the ominous event on the basis of his administrative abilities & greater acceptability dwarfing the other opportunists. Syed Mir Qasim former CM in his autobiography ‘Dastani Hayat” narrates how the authorities who matter in central Govtt prop up non-entities in JK in order to be omnipotent in all matters & weaken the local leadership. The two advocates( surgbash) practicing in Distt Court Anantnag known for their meaningful rapport with the relevant levers in the Union Capital for fostering the national interests in the State would always highlight in their talks with my late father in law the fervour of patriotism in SMA by obliging Indira Ghandi when she approached him for completion of some significant deficiencies in historic documents about JK even though he was yet to re-enter back into the mainstream politics.
Hindu Mahasaba under Vinayak Damodar Savarkar is known for sowing the seeds for the Two Nation Theory under the guise of civilizational diversity between those whose punya bhumi and matri bhumi were in India and those even though born in India of Indian origin patrimony and matrimony but Punya bhumi outside India, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his team falling in the trap of communalism espoused by Hindutva instead of reconciling with unabrogable constitutional safeguards and guarantees for proportional representation to Muslims in the legislative bodies & in Govtt services and Jawaher Lal Nehru & Sardar Patel failing Ghandhi due to their impatience & lust for early transfer of power to them without any inclination for leeway in favour of Muslim League in the interim Govt especially by the latter & all the three strains put together paved the way for partition of Bharat which should have marginalised all of them in history for their acts of commissions and omissions & instead Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah acknowledged as a visionary leader with foresight for withstanding the execution of unnatural & illogical partition plan & hence perennial in the political annals of the sub-continent and his contemporaries reduced to levels they deserved but it may sound cynical that we in JK awoke to realise his omission to fathom the sugar coated psyche & mind-set of prominent characters at the central stage in the Country being writ large in betrayal and deceit and to our discomfiture we had to witness the demise of his political legacy on 5th August 2019 which is however restorable in a democratic set- up more so in face of being a negotiated settlement between the two parties beyond the scope for drastic modifications or abrogation unilaterally by one party only without the agreement of the other party howsoever textual synergistic the plan may have been & hence no reason for despondency. The writings of Pandit Nehru graphically depict his concept of India writ large in grandeur with expansionism and hegemony as the two tools for attaining nationalism of his brand which had prompted Zhou Enlai the Chinese Prime Minister to suggest to Ayub Khan President of Pakistan to study Nehru’s literary works for understanding his schism ( Friends, Not Masters). An excerpt from the Ayab’s autobiography would be sufficient material for understanding the persona of Nehru which is as under:-
‘l later learnt from Sheikh Abdullah that Pandit Nehru told him at the time that Pakistan would disintegrate in a couple of years. He wanted to come to some arrangement with Sheikh Abdullah on the assumption that Pakistan would soon cease to be a political entity’.
The World leaders, intellectuals, humanists, peace nicks and students would detour their respective journeys in Greater Sub-continent to reach Srinagar for paying tributes to SMA for uniting people in extreme diversities as against those emerging as dividers/ obstructionists in a dispassionate survey of political and constitutional history of the unfortunate part of the globe.
(The author is a retired IAS & former Chairman J&K State Public Service Commission – J&K SPSC of erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir state. Views are exclusively his own )
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