The Shaking Sheikhdom of Kashmir

Understanding the roots often gives us a rare insight into issues and problems that stare at us, and offers solutions that are balanced and widely acceptable. That takes us to the Jammu & Kashmir of 1947 when four groups were at play. The loyalists, loyal to the Maharaja, comprising the feudal lords, landowners, Government officials, big traders and their descendants, who enjoyed the prosperity of the British empire and wanted the peace of the state to continue, formed the first group.   

Then we have the Nationalist Socialists, a powerful group led by Sheikh Abdullah who wanted freedom for the people. By freedom, Sheikh Abdullah did not mean political freedom but the abolition of feudal rule and feudal lords and installation of a representative government even if the Maharajah remained its constitutional head.

Accession to India or Pakistan was of secondary importance to this group, and whichever country promised not to support the feudal lords and the royalty was the one it was willing to join. Sheikh Abdullah’s speech has some interesting points:  

“We have been fighting for the last eighteen years

We have fought a war against our enslavement.

After we have attained freedom we will decide

Whether to join Congress or the Muslim League (India or Pakistan)

We are still slaves and if at present we accede to either of the two

Our slavery will continue forever”.

This group did not think of an Independent State of Jammu and Kashmir.

According to Sheikh Abdullah, he asked for assurance from both India and Pakistan for supporting his struggle against feudal rule. The Indians agreed to his proposal but the Pakistanis refused:

This I tell you without circumlocution

The Indians agreed to my proposal

The Pakistanis were angered by it

They said “What you are saying is impracticable

You are unnecessarily wasting time.”

There was a powerful lobby of religious groups with a large following, comprising educated Muslims and Hindus from middle and upper classes, who were afraid of becoming irrelevant by abolition of the feudal system. After the formation of the National Conference, there were violent altercations between the followers of the National Conference and the religious groups, often engineered by the Maharajah as part of his policy of Divide and Rule but sapped the vitality of the people.

Then there were fringe groups like Jamaatis and communists, who had very limited influence.

Coming to the Jammu & Kashmir of today, we see the roots of the conflict between the liberal and progressive group and a radical and fundamentalist group who wants to hold on to the feudalistic privileges. Who doesn’t know the poppy culture lobby is funding terrorism in Afghanistan, using religion as a cover?

This radical lobby has destroyed the economy of J & K, which was anchoring on tourism. Today terrorism has replaced tourism, and funds are flowing from across the border – as admitted by the beneficiaries on our national television. In other words, to speak the language of New Delhi in J & K is fraught with many dangers, as speaking the language of J & K in New Delhi could be dangerous.

In J & K politics, it is safety first and duty second. The India Army has made enough martyrs of its troops, with no respite in sight. It needs a leader to unite the people and put the state back on a sound economy track. But first the deafening noise of the guns must be silenced. Within, there is no sign of leadership, which of course has to come from outside!    



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