There are instances in V.P. Menon’s Integration of Princely States where individual princes broke down while signing the instrument of accession. Some of those images came alive when I saw Farooq Abdullah crying himself to a hiccup. Was he weeping at the loss of his patrimony, the state his family has ruled for three generations and which has been reduced to a Union territory. Has he lost his princedom for good?
He is a man of many parts — a wonderful singer, golfer, flier and so much more. It was part of his feudal charm that his people, for whom he did pretty little, loved him. They adored their “prince” teeing off at South Asia’s finest golf course which he had built with dedication. Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister had placed at the chief minister’s disposal two splendid helicopters which only Farooq could fly, sometimes so low as to kiss the gurgling rivulet of the Gurez valley. The son, Omar Abdullah, never had the father’s flair, but that did not prevent him from frequently keeping the Kashmir gaddi vacant because he enjoyed running the state from a bungalow in Lutyens’ New Delhi. The Muftis lived like the Abdullahs’ poor cousins, but they too lived in style. Where is it fled, that glory?
The yoking of Kargil to Leh is a slightly different story. Buddhist monks interviewed in Sri Lanka are celebrating what is being marketed as a “Buddhist state”. That Muslims are in an overall majority in Ladakh is being overlooked for reasons which will become clear as time passes. Pakistan used to describe Kashmir as the “unfinished business of Partition”. While Pakistan dithered, the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah team has finished the business.
It was nobody’s case that the Partition plan announced by Lord Mountbatten on June 3, 1947, envisaged a “Muslim Pakistan” and a “secular India”. It was a straightforward division on religious lines —Hindu and Muslim. It took 70 years for that conclusion to be reached? Had a bogus secularism not been foisted on us, we would all have escaped the painful process of double distilled saffronisation. A Hindustan, in 1947, would have enabled all of us to strike a more honest bargain. Everyone has equal opportunity under the canopy of an Anglican monarchy in Britain.
The Congress was opposed to the two-nation theory. It would therefore seem absurd that the Congress would accept half of the theory, namely, Pakistan, but demur on the other half, India. Obviously, Jawaharlal Nehru and the ICS, the aristocracy around him (today’s Khan Market gang are their mimics) found something “mofussil” about Hindu India. There was another, deeper reason. Hindu India could not have kept Kashmir on the contiguity principle. And now, the contiguity principle be damned. Nehru was keen on Sheikh Abdullah as “prime minister” of Kashmir. Meher Chand Mahajan, once the maharaja’s trusted “prime minister”, was a favourite of Sardar Patel. He also became Patel’s informer: “As advised I am quietly watching the trend of events without in any way interfering in the government. Sheikh Sahib has got dictatorial powers which are being exercised in a dictatorial manner regardless of rules and forms of law.”
Mahajan, whom Patel was backing for the top job in the Valley, came under the searchlight of Ved Bhasin, a distinguished editor of Kashmir Times. Let Bhasin speak: “Mahajan told a group of Hindus who met him in the palace in Jammu that now, when power was being transferred to the people, they should demand parity” (with Muslims).
How could parity be claimed when Muslims were in a majority? Mahajan pointed to bodies of Muslims smoldering after the previous day’s killing. “The population ratio too can change”. The Spectator, and London’s Times on August 10, 1948 estimated that anywhere between 200,000 and 237,000 were exterminated by the maharaja’s Dogra forces. My attention to the genocide in Jammu was drawn by an article written by Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar in January 2015.
Nehru did have his way. Sheikh Abdullah did become “prime minister”, but to what end? In 1953, Nehru jailed his “closest friend”. I must put it down to dynastic consistency that Indira Gandhi, as Prime Minister, asked Gopalaswami Ayyangar’s son, G. Parthasarathy, to resume talks with the Sheikh in 1972, resulting in the Indira-Sheikh accord of 1975, restoring the Srinagar gaddi to him again. Nothing in the Valley brought down the Sheikh’s image more than this “capitulation”. This is how the Kashmiris saw it. Other political formations began to sprout.
In 1984, the Sheikh died; Indira Gandhi was assassinated the same year. This opened the way for the next generation of dynasts – in New Delhi as well as Srinagar.
There is an old Persian saying: “Agar pidar na tawanad/ Pisar tamam kunad” (That which the father — or mother in one case — has left incomplete/ It is the responsibility of the son to complete).”
Farooq Abdullah, who was practising medicine in London, came back to take charge of his patrimony. After a few unseemly somersaults, the Congress and the National Congress joined hands to contest the 1987 elections. Together, they raised the bar of rigging elections to record heights. Kashmiris had been cheated again. That was the beginning of the insurgency in the Valley. In 1989, the Afghan Mujahideen, having helped push the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, found themselves looking for work. The situation in the Valley beckoned. The indigenous insurgency was helped by the battle-tried Mujahideen: it was a lethal mix. To meet this explosive mix, ignited frequently by Pakistan, were seven lakh Indian troops. It was not a status quo but a stalemate which often broke down.
The August 5 decision is an onion which has not yet been peeled. To the common man, the breaking up of the state into two Union territories looks like a cake sliced into Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist parts. That is an optical illusion. The Centre has set up two three-legged races, as I have mentioned above.
The writer is a senior journalist and commentator based in New Delhi...