Kashmir Story

The Historical Background:

Jammu and Kashmir has three distinct components - Hindu majority Jammu, Buddhist dominated Ladakh in the North and predominantly Muslim populated Valley, besides what is under Pakistan occupation. Pakistan\'s eyes are set on Kashmir on the pernicious two-nation theory. Never mind the fact that despite partition of the sub-continent into India and Pakistan in 1947 by the British, India still has the world\'s second largest Muslim population, around 120 million, next only to that of Indonesia.

It is a fact of history that Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Buddhists have lived in peace and amity in the State for centuries. When the rest of the subcontinent was up in flames, lit by the communal torch, it was Kashmir which stood out of the circle of holocaust, a "shining example", in Mahatma Gandhi\'s words of "secularism". Not a drop of blood was shed in Kashmir while thousands perished in communal fury all around.

First I would like to talk about the History of Jammu and Kashmir. The State has been ruled by the Mughals, followed by Afghans, Sikhs and finally the Hindu Dogras. The Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh entrusted the principality of Jammu and adjacent areas to Gulab Singh, his Dogra General. Gulab Singh brought large areas including Ladakh, Zanskar, Gilgit and Baltistan under his control. Maharaja Ranbir Singh succeeded Gulab Singh, who in turn was succeeded by Maharaja Pratap Singh whose reign opened a new chapter in the history of modern Kashmir. The British wanted a strong government to tackle the socio-economic problems of the frontier State. In 1889, Maharaja Pratap Singh was deprived of his administrative authority which was to be handled by a Council of Regency under the control of a British Resident. The Maharaja undertook a tour of the frontier post up to Gurez and beyond and issued orders for immediate redress of the grievances of the people inhabiting these areas. With improvement on all the fronts, the British again restored full powers to the Maharaja in 1921.

The consolidation of Dogra rule in Jammu and Kashmir coincided with the strengthening of the Indian freedom movement under Mahatma Gandhi\'s leadership. The freedom struggle was soon to find an echo in several princely States and nowhere with more ardor than in Kashmir. By 1931, anti-Dogra sentiment in the State had struck solid roots with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and some others, including the Mirwaiz Maulvi Yusuf Shah, the Muslim high priest of the Valley, in the lead. The Maulvi, it soon transpired, was accepting a monthly stipend from the Maharaja and this, among many other factors, forced Sheikh Abdullah to steer away from Muslim communal politics as symbolized by the then Muslim Conference. By the mid-1930s Sheikh Abdullah had moved to a secular base and formed the National Conference, comprising Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. The National Conference inevitably found itself drawn towards the Indian National Congress and thus was the foundation laid of an abiding friendship between Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi.

Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, tried hard to lured the Sheikh and visited Srinagar on a couple of occasions only to be rebuffed by the National Conference. Jinnah\'s known arrogance did not help him either. He dismissed his best bet in the Valley, Maulvi Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah, as a "rotten egg", as Sheikh Abdullah recalls in his autobiography "Aatish-e-Chinar". The Sheikh again recalls the supreme contempt which Jinnah had for the Kashmiri people. According to Sheikh Abdullah, when a National Conference activist, Ali Mohammad Tariq, asked Jinnah soon after the partition of the sub-continent whether the future of Kashmir would be decided by the people of Kashmir, he was stunned by Jinnah\'s response: "Let the people go to hell." The people of
the so-called Azad Kashmir(which is under Pakistani captivity) have known ever since how much their Pakistani benefactors have cared for them.

At the dawn of independence when the great see-saw about the future of the princely states was on, Sheikh Abdullah was still in jail and was released only when the Dogra Maharaja saw himself slipping into a big problem. With Pakistani tribals, aided and abetted by the Pakistani army, commanded by Major General Akbar Khan, invaded the Valley, Sheikh Abdullah had just been out of the Maharaja\'s jail.