Politics Urban Echo News 

The Hapless Former State of Jammu Kashmir

by Nazir Tabassum

Jammu Kashmir was the only one out of 565 princely states of British India that was allowed to expand as far as it could by military means, on its own as well as with British assistance. Thus, starting as a minor hill state of Jammu, by the middle of the 20th century, the state at its farthest limits had extended to the International borders with Tibet, the Chinese province of Xinjiang, and Afghanistan, and had come very close to the then Soviet Union, separated from it by the narrow Wakhan tract of Afghan territory. The proximity with highly sensitive regions, regions that were hotbeds of international intrigues and rivalries between Russia and Britain, gave the state of Jammu Kashmir a strategic importance which no other state in British India had.

Pratap Singh, grandson of Gulab Singh, having no direct heir, was succeeded by Hari Singh, son of his younger brother Amar Singh. The succession took place in 1925 after the death of Maharaja Pratap Singh. Hari Singh ruled the state of Jammu Kashmir until October 1947, after the partition of India into Bharat and Pakistan both of which had ill intentions so far as the future of JK state is concerned. Hari Singh, a stark enemy of Nehru, could never dream of joining India. With the announcement of Indian partition plan, the British suzerainty over JK state had come to an end and the State became independent and the ruler of the state Maharaja Hari Singh had become sovereign.

Similarly, the British terminated the 60-years lease of Gilgit and the Maharaja appointed Brigadier Ghansar Singh of the State forces as Governor of Gilgit Baltistan on August 1, 1947.

Pakistan had signed a standstill agreement with the JK State’s sovereign Hari Singh, meaning that the communication lines for fuel, eatables as well as the services of Mail, telephone and telegraph will continue as usual until the Maharaja decides about the future of the State. But, unfortunately, the nascent administration of Pakistan had no vision. As a first step, they broke the agreement and stopped all supplies and closed communication lines. The Muslim elements of the State forces joined the rebellion against the Dogra ruler. This was followed by Mehsud tribes’ raids in Kashmir who were allowed to self-finance by loot and arson of the Muslim population. When they marched forward beyond Baramula and reached the city gates of Srinagar, Hari Singh had to rush to Delhi and sign an interim instrument of accession of the State with India on the precondition that the Indian forces would be dispatched immediately to defend the state territory against the Pakistani troops and tribal onslaught.

With that started the First war of Kashmir that ended in January 1949 after ceasefire by the brokerage of the UN. A ceasefire line divided the state into Indian occupied Valey of Kashmir, and most of Jammu province and Ladakh. The parts that came under the control of the ‘liberators’ were given the official name of the Azad Government of the State of Jammu & Kashmir. Gilgit Scouts too rebelled against the governor Brigadier Ghansar Singh, who was captured and later exchanged with Muslim Conference leaders like Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas and others.

Since then, the former State of Jammu Kashmir consists of an Indian administered and a Pakistan administered Jammu Kashmir. In 1949, an agreement was signed by Pakistan’s the then acting Federal Minister of Kashmir Affairs Mushtaq Ahmed Gormani and the Azad Government of the State of Jammu Kashmir headed by Sardar Mohammad Ibrahim Khan along with Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas the Supreme head of AJKMC. The agreement came to be known as Karachi agreement by dint of which the administrative control of Gilgit-Baltistan was handed over to the Federal Government of Pakistan.

In the aftermath of this unnatural and forced balkanisation of the State of Jammu Kashmir, the status of both of its parts was no less than foreign occupied territory. India as well as Pakistan were interested in the territory but not in the welfare of its people. Both had no moral or legal right over the state yet each, ignoring the people, held on their parts by the use of military muscle.

Gilgit-Baltistan was ruled by Frontier Crimes Regulation till late. AJK had not even an iota of democracy until 1970, when a military ruler of Pakistan gave this territory a presidential form of government by dint of the implementation of AJK Interim Constitution Act of 1970. This Act made the AJK internally autonomous by and large but the so-called democratic ruler of Pakistan Z A Bhutto took away all that and imposed his AJK Interim Constitution Act of 1974 thus making it subservient to his newly created AJK Council headed by himself and controlled by the officials of Pakistan’s ministry of Kashmir affairs.

The way Pakistan failed to make AJK a model state which would have been a source of attraction for the people of Indian occupied territories of the state, India too ruled his part with iron hand and putting the leadership of AJKNC behind bars for decades. The various elections held in that part, were designated as the counterpart of free and fair plebiscite. One such rigged elections of 1987 resulted in bursting the lid open over the uneasiness felt by the Kashmiri young and old since decades. These rigged elections were the source of instigating insurgency in that part in 1989.

After the first Kashmir war of 1947, India and Pakistan had many other hot and cold engagements over Kashmir. They fought against each other in 1965, in 1971, in 1999 over deadly Kargil invasion. They have other outstanding issues to resolve like the insurgency in Kashmir that caused deployment of more than half a million Indian troops in cities and towns of the Vale of Kashmir. Siachen conflict since 1984, Sir Creek, a dispute of interpretation of maritime boundary, Indo-Pak maritime trespassing, insurgency in Baluchistan abetted by the Indians, are other issues that need to be resolved.

A major cause of tension between India and Pakistan is Kashmiris unabated revolt against Indian occupation of the Valley. It started in 1989 and goes on ceaselessly. No less than hundred thousand Kashmiris have been killed by Indian troops so far, yet there is no let-up in the ongoing sacrifices of Kashmiris.

International human rights groups have accused Indian security forces of using excessive force to the stone-pelting Kashmiri protesters. The peak of the unrest occurred between July and December 2016. It was estimated that 130 to 145 civilians were killed by security forces between mid-July 2016 and end of March 2018. These deaths were caused by injuries from pallet shotguns, bullets, tear gas shells, as well as by drowning, inhaling chemical shell fumes. The Indian administered state government informed the legislative assembly that 9,042 people had been injured.

The excessive use of force by the Indian security forces against protesters continued in 2018. These killings triggered several large protests across the Kashmir Valley that included long spells of strikes and demonstrations by college students. For instance, on 27 January 2018, three civilians were4 reportedly killed and several injured in Shopian district when Indian Army personnel fired at protesters, some of whom were reportedly throwing stones at security forces.

One of the most dangerous weapons used against the protesters during the unrest in 2016 was the pallet-firing shotgun. It was first used in Kashmir during mass protests in 2010. According to information received by Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission from 10 districts of Kashmir Valley, 1,726 people were injured by the metal pallets in 2016. The injured included 54 who lost their eye-sight because of this inhuman treatment.

The violence started by the Indian security forces to contain unrest in Kashmir continues unabated. There is now another effort being made by India and that is to bring about constitutional changes to change the demography of Kashmir. For this, an amendment in Article 35A of the Indian Constitution is on the anvil. This Act empowers J & K State’s legislature to define “permanent resident” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to those permanent residents.

Day in and day out, there are killings by the Indian troops. This struggle, once labelled as Pakistan’s proxy war against India, sees no end in the near future. There are Burhan Wanis, Afzal Gurus, Pulwama incidents, Urri assaults and what not.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a Report on the situation of Human Rights in Kashmir on 14 June 2018. It covers the developments in the Indian-occupied Jammu Kashmir from 2016 to April 2018 and general human rights concerns in Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. The report is based upon matter-of-fact situation in both parts of the state.

The world, however, has yet to see when normalcy is restored in the former State of Jammu Kashmir and when the principal party in the dispute – the people of Jammu Kashmir are heeded to.

 

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