By M.J. Aslam
The contention that it was India that agreed to holding of “limited plebiscite”, as was proposed by Sir Owen Dixon, but Liaquat Ali Khan insisted that he would not agree to the Dixon proposal till “I (SMA) was removed from my premiership” does not reveal the full truth & facts behind it. The Dixon plan of limited/zonal/regional plebiscite was not the first plan suggested by him. Immediately, on his arrival in Delhi on 27th May 1950, he started parleys with Indian PM & came out with several alternate plans one by one for holding plebiscite for entire State. He suggested that for the period of the plebiscite (1) a single government for the whole State, a coalition government composed of the two hitherto hostile parties of SMA & Chowdhury Gh Abbas, or (2) a neutral administration of non-political persons of high repute of equal number of Hindus & Muslims with a UN nominee at top or (3) an administration of UN representatives only at top level of the government, should be organised. Each one of these alternate proposals was accepted by Pakistan but out-rightly rejected by India. (Danger in Kashmir (1954), Josef Korbel page 172; Kashmiris-Fight for freedom, M Y Saraf, (2009), Vol II, page 1076). Fact of the matter is that Indian leaders at no point of time during their discussions with Sir Owen Dixon & Pakistani counterparts showed neither sincerity nor acceptance of the Dixon’s suggestion that the local government of SMA should be replaced by UN representatives for the period of plebiscite. (Kashmir in Conflict, Victoria Schofield, (2003 edition) page 83).
As the said suggestions were not accepted by India, Sir Owen Dixon, with an experience of three months’ extensive discussions with both sides, proposed what came to be called limited/zonal/regional plebiscite plan under which the State was proposed to be divided into four main regions, Jammu, Ladakh, the Vale of Kashmir in its entirety (including minus Muzafarabad Azad Kashmir & Northern areas) & the Gilgit Agency and its dependencies along with Baltistan. Dixon thought that it would be futile to conduct plebiscite in those areas which would in any way go to either India or Pakistan & so, it was proposed that Jammu & Ladakh should be allocated to India while Gilgat, Baltistan & Azad Kashmir should straightway be given to Pakistan. Then, it was only Kashmir valley that was to be put to limited plebiscite. (Alaister Lamb, Kashmir a disputed legacy (1991) page 171). Nehru seemed to consider the said limited-plebiscite- plan provided Muzaffarabad was included in the valley which was conceded to by Sir Owen Dixon. (Ibid, Kashmiris-Fight for freedom; Alaister Lamb’s Kashmir a disputed legacy). “Nehru believed that, with SMA at the helm, the Vale of Kashmir would opt for India. With this assured, he would accept the status quo for the remainder of the disputed territory”. (Alaister Lamb, Kashmir a disputed legacy, page 172).
Pakistan initially did not seem inclined to accept the said plan as it believed that under related UN Resolutions the single plebiscite was to be held for the entire State & that too under UN supervision & control, (Ibid) which was reasonably correct argument. Strangely, the above statement of SMA in Blazingly Chinar “impliedly” favouring “limited plebiscite” plan of Sir Owen Dixon is contradictory to his publically declared position “that any scheme of plebiscite restricted to the Vale of Kashmir would only give rise to great communal tensions in the State of a kind which had not hitherto existed”. (Ibid)
Instead, Pakistan wanted straight partition where-under the valley of Kashmir would go to it. But India was not prepared for it. (Danger in Kashmir (1954), Josef Korbel page 173).
Later, Pakistan accepted the suggestion of “limited plebiscite” under UN supervision which meant the total absence of the influences of both India and SMA: this meant, in practice, the presence of a Plebiscite Administration with full powers during the period of campaigning and voting. (Alaister Lamb, Kashmir a disputed legacy, page 172). Going by anti-Pakistan political history & rhetoric of SMA right from 1939–his anti-Pak speeches immediately after his “orchestrated release” from prison in public & private meetings within & outside JK, his pleading the case of India in UN SC on 5th February, 1948, & suchlike–, Pakistan’s objection to the holding of “limited plebiscite” under his premiership was by all standards of logic & fairness fully justified. India had agreed to “limited plebiscite”, without any UN intervention, directly under the surveillance of its soldiers on ground (as it had not agreed to demilitarization proposal of UN as shown already), local government of SMA & his militia. In such a scenario, the danger that the people of the valley of Kashmir, who are not high-spirited of an independent or resolute temper, mostly illiterate, would vote under fear or apprehension of consequences and other improper influences could not be excluded. The presence of large number of Indian soldiers, State militia & police did not appear to be favourable for a free & fair plebiscite which was possible under UN Administration only. (Kashmir Wakes by Brij Lal Sharma (1971) page 104; Kashmiris-Fight for freedom, M Y Saraf, (2009), Vol II, page 1078).
To pull the wool over the eyes of the readers & Kashmiris, SMS “naively“ & “innocently” writes that that Pakistan was adamant on his removal “though India had assured them of my government’s neutrality”. (Blazing Chinar page 336). In the same lines, he, however, corroborates Pakistan’s apprehension by stating that his removal from government, India said, “would have been a virtual declaration of Pakistan’s victory even before the plebiscite was held”. (Ibid). “With SMA at the helm, Nehru believed, the Vale of Kashmir would opt for India”. (Alaister Lamb, Kashmir a disputed legacy, page 172). In the cited lines SMA unambiguously admits that he was deemed by Pakistanis as a roadblock to free & fair plebiscite. If he was really neutral or intended to be neutral, as he claimed, he should have, by simple principle of ethics, resigned from his premiership till the plebiscite was held under the UN supervision. It may not be out of place to mention here that even before arrival of Sir Owen Dixon to India on 27th May, 1950, NC had in a special convention held on 18th April passed a strongly worded resolution warning the UN not to bypass the crucial aspect of the dispute, namely that Pakistan was the aggressor. (Josef Korbel, Danger in Kashmir (1954) page 170). To recall to our minds, this was the argument taken by India , unsuccessfully though, before UN all along.
NOTE: View expressed are personal & not of the organisation the author works for.
(To be continued…..)