Create more space for peace and tolerance, speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in Kings College, London, 28/10/17
Topic of the debate is ‘Kashmir Through My Lens’. Before I deliberate on this, I want to ask, are we here to examine issues related to the Kashmir Valley; or are we here to debate on the matters associated with the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir?
We must remember that the Kashmir Valley is only one region of the Jammu and Kashmir that existed on 15 August 1947; and no region, no matter how important can represent other regions like Jammu, Ladakh, Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan Administered Jammu and Kashmir.
There are many narratives on Jammu and Kashmir. Both India and Pakistan have their conflicting narratives. Also, each region of the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir have their own narratives. In fact, there are too many conflicting narratives because each political and religious group has its own narrative.
It is not my responsibility to defend or promote narrative of New Delhi or Islamabad. I am here to present a pro Jammu and Kashmir and pro peace narrative. I will present some irrefutable facts. It is possible that some people may not appreciate my narrative. They are entitled to their opinion. I hope they will acknowledge my right to dissent, which is not unpatriotic.
Mr Chairman, status of Jammu and Kashmir
To understand the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, it is essential that I go back to 1947, when the British ruled the Indian Sub – Continent. The British Raj in India consisted of two units, namely the British India and Princely India. Whereas, the British India was directly ruled, the Princely States had treaty arrangements with the British and they enjoyed various levels of internal autonomy.
Because Jammu and Kashmir was the largest Princely State with great strategic importance and resources, it enjoyed some kind of a special status. The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir was entitled to 21 guns Salute. Maharaja Hari Sing also had the honour of serving as a Member of Churchill’s British War Cabinet.
Defence and foreign affairs of all the Princely States were controlled by the British. However, Rulers of Jammu and Kashmir were, to some extent, allowed to conduct their own foreign policy; and they continued with military expeditions in other regions after the Treaty of Amritsar (1846).
The Maharaja Hari Singh, like his predecessors helped and supported the British Raj. He provided finance and provided tens of thousands of fighting men in the Second World War; just like the Maharaja Partap Singh did during the First World War.
Crown Representative Lord Mountbatten in his address to a Special Full Meeting of the Chamber of Princes on 25 July 1947said, and I quote:
‘Now, the Indian Independence Act releases the States from all their obligations to the Crown. The States will have complete freedom- technically and legally they become independent.’ unquote.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, also shared the above legal view about the status of the Princely States; and on 7 June 1947, in a reply to one question he asserted, and I quote:
“Constitutionally and legally, the Indian States will be independent sovereign states on the termination of Paramountcy and they will be free to decide for themselves to adopt any course they like. It is open to them to join the Hindustan Constituent Assembly, the Pakistan Constituent Assembly, or decide to remain independent. In the last case, they enter into such arrangements or relationship with Hindustan or Pakistan as they may choose.” Unquote
No matter what our personal desires are with the regard to the Princely States, the legal status was clearly explained by Mr Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten.
Mr Jinnah went a step further, and practically proved that the Two Nations Theory did not apply to the Princely States. The State of Junagarh had nearly 80% non-Muslims with a Muslim Ruler. He expressed his desire to accede to Pakistan. Mohammed Ali Jinnah accepted this accession, even though this State had overwhelming non-Muslim majority; and had no land link with Pakistan.
If the Two Nations Theory was applicable to the Princely States, then Junagarh would have automatically become part of an independent India. Despite these irrefutable facts, if some people want to distort history and fool people in name of religion to advance their agenda then we cannot help them.
Mr Chairman, new status of Jammu and Kashmir acknowledged
When the British Raj in India ended on 15 August 1947, two things became crystal clear.
1/ Two Nations Theory, whatever its significance, was not applicable to the Princely States.
2/ The State of Jammu and Kashmir regained its sovereignty.
The Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir offered to have a Standstill Agreement with its neighbours India and Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan acknowledged the new status of Jammu and Kashmir government and entered in to a written agreement. The Government of an Independent India also acknowledged this new status of Jammu and Kashmir; and wrote back to the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir that:
“Government of India would be glad if you or some other Minister duly authorised in this behalf could fly to Delhi for negotiating Standstill Agreement between Kashmir Government and India dominion.
Mr Chairman, unprovoked attack on Jammu and Kashmir
Pakistan claims to be a fort of Islam – a country established to promote and practise Islam. Islam ascribes a great importance to agreements and pledges. In Sura Almahida, Ayat 1, Almighty Allah commands:
‘Oh people of faith, honour your pledges’.
Apart from this there are numerous sayings of the Holy Prophet urging people to honour their pledges.
Pakistan had a written agreement with State of Jammu and Kashmir. Totally against the Islamic teaching they violated that agreement and attacked its weak neighbour. Some pro Pakistan citizens of Jammu and Kashmir claim that India is aggressor and Pakistan is a friend of Jammu and Kashmir.
Important distinction has to be made between the forces of India and Pakistan when they entered Jammu and Kashmir.
- Pakistani troops in civilian clothes and Tribesmen entered Jammu and Kashmir by violating the Standstill Agreement;
- They came to Jammu and Kashmir against the wishes of the Maharaja;
- They came there with intention of invading the State and teaching the Ruler a lesson;
- The Jihadi warriors were told they had a licence to kill, loot and plunder, and even kidnap women – they were told everything that is removable is yours; and anything that is irremovable will be Pakistan’s.
The Indian army on the other hand came to Jammu and Kashmir:
On the request of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir;
They came there after a treaty called Provisional accession;
They came there to protect life, liberty and property of the people;
They came there to drive out the invaders and protect integrity of Jammu and Kashmir.
America and some other countries claim Pakistan is exporting extremism and hatred in name of religion. They forget that we were the first victims of Pakistan’s Jihadi policy which justifies export of brainwashed religious warriors, who happily kill innocent people to advance Pakistan’s agenda.
Jammu and Kashmir dispute was a political dispute. It required a political solution. But this tribal attack in name of Jihad not only killed tens of thousands of innocent people, raped women and plundered our land, they also polluted the Jammu and Kashmir polity with hatred and intolerance.
It is sad that role of the Indian troops changed with time; and they failed to honour obligations they assumed under the Provisional Accession and under the UN Resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir. Indian troops, which came to save life, liberty and honour of people, now have their hands red with the blood of Kashmiri people. They are responsible for committing human rights abuses. However, Pakistan gets the distinction to be the first country which attacked Jammu and Kashmir, killed innocent people, raped women and kidnaped them and then sold them in Pakistani cities.
In the UN Security Council Resolution of 13 August 1948, it was stated that: ‘The Government of India and the Government of Pakistan reaffirm their wish that the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people..’
The term future status implies 3 options, namely accession to Pakistan, ratification of the provisional accession to India; or some kind of independence. On request of Pakistan, this was changed; and people were given only two options, either to join India or join Pakistan. This fact was reflected in the UNCIP Resolution of 5 January 1949.
Pakistan talks of Kashmiri people’s right of self – determination, but in actual fact, they deprived us of right self – determination and gave us right of accession. We are not interested in any kind of accession. Our struggle is for united and independent Jammu and Kashmir State.
The first Pakistani sponsored jihad in Kashmir resulted in forced division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir; and people continue to suffer on both sides of the divide since 1947. Pakistani obsession to capture Kashmir has not changed. New round of Pakistani sponsored jihad continues to bleed people of Jammu and Kashmir. People die in gun battles, in bomb blasts, in custody and in across the LOC firing. Whether it is an India bomb or a Pakistan bomb, victims are people of Jammu and Kashmir.
We don’t want more dead bodies. We don’t want more widows and orphans. This bloodshed has to stop. Guns kill people. They don’t resolve disputes. They create more problems. Since the introduction of Pakistani gun in Kashmir we are more divided, more intolerant and more aggressive. Extremism and hatred is on rise. Kashmiri Pundits were forced to leave their homes.
Mr Chairman, the way forward:
- Acknowledgment from all stake holders that there is no military solution to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
- Jammu and Kashmir is home of all its citizens; and those who were forced to leave their homes must return with dignity and full compensation and protection.
- Where violation of State Subject Ordinance has taken place and non-local people have settled, they must return to country they belong to.
- Export of militants to Kashmir must stop.
- Across Line of Control firing must also stop.
- Extremism, religious intolerance and hatred must stop and perpetrators must be punished.
- When gun culture and violence stops, troops should move out of populated areas.
- Along the LOC area of five miles should be allocated – a kind of no man’s land, where local people from both sides can meet each other, socialise and trade with each other. This means troops of both countries move back from their respective positions; and carry out security checks there before people are allowed to enter this zone.
- India and Pakistan establish friendly relations and create an environment of peace and trust.
- When conducive environment is established then all stakeholders of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute should sit down and work out a mechanism to resolve the dispute.
I know it is difficult, but it is not impossible, provided all sides exhibit sincerity. Also, I know for some people with vested interests, Jammu and Kashmir dispute is a business, which requires more blood.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.
Writer is a political analyst, and author of many books and booklets. Also, he is Chairman South Asia Watch, London and Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org