By Z. G. Muhammad
It is an irony of sorts. Interestingly, for a good friend of mine, otherwise acquainted with Kashmir problem I have become bête noire – not that he does not like my looks but for his belief that while discussing ending of the seventy-year-old political uncertainty in the state, I more than often dwell upon the genesis of the dispute and write on factors that have perpetuated it. It has been my belief, talking about the genesis of the Dispute and revisiting and identifying the faux pas’ of the past that contributed to the perpetuation of the dispute is essential for finding a lasting solution to the problem. Criticizing my belief, he does not see my approach as a way forward instead he believes the history of the Dispute is an impediment in its resolution.
The observations made with all innate loathe set me thinking that if it is a wrong premise to believe history is a pole star that guides when one is caught up in a quagmire of dilemmas and at the crossroads of uncertainties.
It is a harsh historical reality that for past many decades multiple ‘alternative narratives’ have been conjured and ‘hegemonic discourses’ have been played upon to renege the ‘fundamental right’ accrued and promised to the people of the state. The question arises can accepting the alternative narratives and ‘dominant discourses’ reneging the fundamental right and divorced from the historical realities seen as a way forward- it would tantamount to accepting the status quo. It is no solution, history of past candidly and loudly tells us. To see a real way forward it becomes imperative to deconstruct these conjured narratives and demolish the hegemonic discourses. To achieve this objective history is a most potent tool. Moreover, a thorough understanding of the genesis of the dispute the real cause for the uncertainty in the state is important. Equally, it is important to speak about it to generation next and next. As Edward Said writes in his introduction to ‘Eqbal Ahmad – Confronting Empire’, “Palestine is the cruelest, most difficult cause not because it is unjust, but because it is just and yet dangerous to speak as honestly and as concretely as Eqbal Ahmed did.” Said was referring to Oslo Accord against which he and Eqbal Ahmed had raised ‘prophetic voices’ and said that it had ‘nothing to do with the grassroots movement. It had to do with looking for a deal with Americans that would keep Arafat and his followers in power, albeit as collaborators of Israel occupation. Eqbal had called it “a peace of the weak”.
Our history is not different than that of Palestine. The non-resolution of the Dispute or problem, whatever phrase one chooses to describe the perpetuation of uncertainty in the state has been a classic example of the “peace of the weak” that our leaders have time and again chosen, instead of waiting for what is called the “Peace of Brave”.
Sadly enough we also had our share of Oslo type accords right from 1947 that at no point of time were connected with the grassroots level movement and also totally detached from the popular sentiment. Instead of demolishing the hegemonic discourses and critiquing the conjectured narratives our leadership chose to succumb or own such narratives. The subject of this column is not date, fact, and sanctity of the “Instrument of Accession” but how our leadership succumbed or was sucked into the alternative narratives. In this regard, the Delhi Agreement was the first major faux pas of the Kashmir leadership. The correspondence between Jawaharlal Nehru’s correspondence with Sheikh Abdullah, President of India and his noting suggest that how our leadership walked into the way New Delhi wanted them into a blind alley that helped in changing the narrative and procrastinating the resolution of the problem. That has been largely responsible for perpetuating the problem and sufferings of the people. Nehru’s note of 3 July 1952 about plans for Kashmir’s integration speaks volumes about the things that it could achieve through Delhi Agreement. Nehru in this note writes because of Kashmir having been referred to UN, it could not be integrated with India. He writes ‘this has now been brought to head by the desire of Kashmir leadership to change Headship of the State.’ This note in fact subsequently turned out be his blueprint for reneging the promises that he had made to people of the State and comity of the nations. This became possible only after our leaders plugging their ears to the popular narrative and collaboratively joining the hegemonic discourse.
This leadership that in the early fifties had joined the hegemonic discourse after realizing their blunders in 1955 joined the grassroots movement for the right to self-determination. Surprisingly, after suffering incarcerations and trials for almost twenty-two years it again got sucked into an alternative discourse orchestrated by none other than an important socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan, who they believed was a supporter of their movement. Through his interlocution, he very ably sucked them into the ‘dominant discourse- ‘the movement for the right to self-determination was futile and a political wilderness’ and convinced them to abandon it and join electoral politics. In line with the thinking of J.P Sheikh Abdullah had meetings with Prime Minister, Mrs. Gandhi and Home Minister, Y.B. Chavan about their participation in coming elections. In this connection, President of the Plebiscite Front also called on Chief Election Commission Verma. True, during her September 1, 1969, visit Mrs. Gandhi asked Chief Minister Sadiq to fully cooperate with Sheikh Abdullah but what the Front leadership was asking for was to use Eqbal Ahmed’s phrase “Peace of Weak”. Having sucked the Front into the alternative narrative and hegemonic discourse and taken the wind out of the sails of the “resistance leadership” the Front was banned and not allowed to participate in the elections. The reason for banning the Front, ‘whose victory was forgone conclusion’ was to quote then Chief Minister Syed Mir Qasim to ‘prevent the party talking from point of strength’ and ‘making it drop the demand of plebiscite and accepting the finality of accession’- the Front did both. This later on led to Indira-Abdullah Agreement, to quote Noorani, ‘Accord between an individual and GOI that bound the Sheikh Alone and only until 1977.’
This accord of an individual, divorced from the historical realities as well as grassroots sentiment in no way helped in ending the political uncertainty, instead, it harbingered the worst ever sufferings for the people of the state.
Had the then leadership learned lessons from the past mistakes and instead of getting sucked into the hegemonic discourse through crafty interlocution perhaps the uncertainty would not have continued this long.
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By Z. G. Muhammad