A Concise History of Kashmir

If there is a Paradise on earth, it is Kashmir.

The immortal Sanskrit poet Kalidas writes “The place is more beautiful than heaven and is the benefactor of supreme bliss and happiness. It seems to me that I am taking a bath in the lake of nectar here."

Sir Walter Lawrence writes "The valley is an emerald set in pearls; a land of lakes, clear streams, green turf, magnificent trees and mighty mountains where the air is cool, and the water sweet, where men are strong, and women vie with the soil in fruitfulness. "

Sir Francis Young Husband, "The huge lake must have been twice the length and three times the width of the lake of Geneva, completely encircled by snowy mountains as high, and higher than Mount Blank, while in the immediately following the glacial period, mighty glaciers came wending down to the Sindh, Lidder, and other valleys even to the edge of the water."

The earliest account of Kashmir, by Saint Kashyap, describes its creation which comprises of series of mythological acts. But the original settlers named it Kashyap-Mar and Kashyap-Pura. The name also means “The land desiccated from water : “Ka” (water) and “Shimeera” (to desiccate).  The Chinese pilgrim Hien-Tsang who visited (631 A. D) called it  "Ka Shi-Mi-Lo" and the Greeks called it "Kasperia". The earliest recorded history of Kashmir origins at the time of the Mahabharata War, mentioned in the Hindu scriptures. Buddhism was introduced first by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC, and later became a hub for Hindu culture in the 9th century AD, and was known as an abode of Sanskrit scholars.

Rulers of Kashmir [Pre independence era]

The first Islamic rulers who ascended in Kashmir after the death of the Hindu Queen “Kota Rani” thrived for more than 222 years. Later the Moghuls came into power and implemented their hegemony from 1587 to 1752, a period of peace and orderly government. The Afghans Invaded Kashmir in 1752 and established their decree till 1819. In 1819, 30,000 soldiers of Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh attacked Kashmir, defeated the Pathans, and the state became a part of Ranjit Singh's empire for 27 years, until the Dongra Hindu Rajput arrived and established their dynasty from 1846 to 1957 .

The Maharaja and The British

Maharaja Ranbir Singh ruled Kashmir from 1857 to 1885 and during this period the rule of law commenced, which the British later modified and inducted into several other Indian states, all civil as well as criminal codes. It is at this period that the Cartographical representation of Kashmir came into existence, generated after consulting with Afghanistan and Russia. Meanwhile the British became the invincible power in India, Englishmen enticed with Kashmir’s beauty and elegance vowed to purchase land in Kashmir which was denied to them firmly by the Maharaja, this lead to the construction of house boats. Large number of Indian and foreign tourists flocked to Kashmir to embrace the beauty and climate of the Himalayan valley. Maharaja Hari Singh's nephew of Ranbir Singh ascended to the throne in 1925 after Hari Sigh’s death, the significance of this period is the birth of various political establishments and political consciousness among people and more importantly it was a period where the Indian Liberation movement commenced and finally achieved complete independence from the British in the year 1947, thus ending all foreign domination and absolutism in India. Indian liberation also brought an unexpected division of India in terms of religion and hence sectarian violence was unleashed in Northern India which resulted in a bloody civil war.

British withdrawal, The Partition and Accession of Kashmir into the Indian Union , the beginning of Kashmir dispute

On June 3rd, 1947 the then governor general Lord Mountbatten announced the partition of India. The plan was to vote in the legislative assemblies in Bengal and Punjab. Thus the partition of India occurred by bursting the colossal British Indian empire, resulting in the creation of the dominion of Pakistan and independent India; the birth of two nations, on the 15th of August 1947. The Indian Independence bill was introduced while the Hindu-Muslim riots commenced. Hundreds of thousands of Hindus and Muslims were killed during the riots. The Punjab province was split between the two countries ensuing the largest Exodus in world history killing 500,000 people. The UNHCR estimates 14 million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were displaced during the largest mass migration in Human history. All these gross and grievous incidents occurred due to the passionate efforts leveled by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the author of “Two Nations Theory “.

Some expert critics have come with a new argument on India’s partition, that the British feared that the Indian state under Nehru may become influenced by the Soviet Communist ideologies and eventually be a Soviet alley and hence the British needed a vassal alley in the region. Nehru was deeply impressed by the Soviet model of governance and hence supported “Socialism”, now termed "Nehruvian Socialism".

The British withdrawal began, and hence the demesne dispute began in Kashmir. The princely state of Kashmir was offered a choice to amalgamate to the Indian Union or remain independent. The same offer was forwarded to the other 500 plus princely states across the Indian subcontinent. Maharaja Hari Singh was in a dilemma and contemplated the question for a few months and finally decided to accede his kingdom of Kashmir to the Indian Union in October of 1947, Thus the IOA (Instrument of Accession) was signed legally between the Indian government and The Maharaja Hari Singh.

This enraged the Pakistani political establishments and Islamic fundamentalists, they blamed and discredited the Indian government and the British by falsely alleging that the IOA decree was signed by covert and coercive manner. Pakistan’s accusation is still prevalent, even now in the year 2016, but it is totally baseless.

Now let’s review the details from the memoir of then Governor General, Lord Mountbatten.

"My government put no pressure to bear on the Maharajah to cause him to accede to India. All that I can say with regard to Gandhi's visit is that he gave me his personal promise that he would not discuss political matters of this kind. Indeed the government of India went out of their way to abstain from any acts which might be interpreted as inducement. I heard the first reports that a column of tribesmen had entered Kashmir in buses from the direction of Peshawar, and were already on the outskirts of Uri. A defense committee meeting was summoned on October 25 in the morning and it was decided to that efforts should be made to fly arms and ammunition to Srinagar so as to give the ground forces defending the city a chance of repelling the tribesmen. I reiterate that no steps were taken to plan the dispatch of Indian troops to Kashmir before October 25".

This aide memoire is an additional historical validation which substantiate several facts. Mountbatten was a man of calm disposition, clear headed and was available in all discussions and meetings, formally and informally. This memoire supersedes Pakistan’s mythical claims which have continued to date . Still it continues to cloud the minds of the international community (3/4th of a centuries’ endeavor and propaganda).

Pakistan hence realized that their claim on the Muslim majority Kashmir has ended forever, in terms of “legality“. Hence they invented several other unscrupulous picks, mainly based on covert and coercive Islamic fundamentalist methodologies, often disguised as political initiatives. Which is what troubles and destabilizes India and the South Asia, and most recently the whole world, like an ineluctable vermin.

The Pakistani government thus initiated an attack on Kashmir with huge columns of Muslim tribesmen and troops, committing abominable atrocities on defenseless Hindu Pundits. They appropriated the barbaric and medieval minded Muslim tribesmen to carry out looting, plundering, torture, rape, destruction and death into the homes of Pundits. This caused the displacement and exodus of Pundits. They are presently scattered in various Indian provinces, and unable to relocate to their original homeland. The Maharajah himself had to flee Kashmir and took refuge elsewhere in India. Indian troops arrived in Kashmir in defense of the newly accessed land but by this time Pakistan had captured a large territory while India still kept the largest chunk of Kashmir. The Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was dismayed with this incident and instantly called for a unilateral ceasefire and called for a plebiscite.

The United Nation Security Council accepted the Indian plea on “Kashmir’s Invasion” by Pakistan, and immediately formed the UNCIP (United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan). The UNCIP incriminated Pakistan for its belligerent Act of War against India and ordered the immediate withdrawal of its forces from Jammu and Kashmir, with complete vacation of all Pakistani entities.

Thus the UN passed a resolution (UN Security Council Resolution 47) passed on 21 April 1948 , stating the following:

"The question of accession of the state of Jammu & Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of free and impartial plebiscite".

The oral promise of a Plebiscite assured by Jawaharlal Nehru and his subsequent initiatives at the UN is considered as the biggest blunder in Indian history, to date. It’s a promise which he technically did not have to commit. It's still a mystery why he called for a plebiscite when legally everything was in place for the Indian Government as well as for the British – (legally, politically and morally).

Details of the UN Resolution (UNSCR 47): What does the resolution say?

1) Pakistan vacates its forces from J&K (including Gilgit-Baltistan).

2) India takes control of J&K and establishes law & order.

3) A plebiscite will be conducted only after conditions 1 & 2 have been met. The plebiscite is to be conducted regionally. (Separately for Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Gilgit & Baltistan).

The resolution on the UN web portal can be found here: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S%2FRES%2F47(1948)

How and why did the UN Resolution on the plebiscite become obsolete or void?

  1. Pakistan did not seem to welcome it. Understandably, they refused to withdraw the troops from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Refusal to withdraw troops is a Violation of Norms 01 and 02 of the Resolution.

  2. Realizing that a Plebiscite will give India a landslide victory as Sheik Abdulla was firmly with India and the kind of Mass that supports him was immense

  3. Due to Punjabi settlers the demographics have changed significantly in PoK.

  4. Pakistan has ceded a part of Occupied Kashmir to China (Shaksgam Valley- which is also to be vacated as per UN Norms).

  5. China has invested $50 billion in CPEC Project in Gilgit-Baltistan. Would Pakistan and China vacate or handover Gilgit-Baltistan to India – at least temporarily?

  6. Let’s Assume that many Kashmiris are seeking “Azadi “ or Freedom. In my impregnable view the Kashmiris from five districts might vote to leave India. But they won’t vote for Pakistan either. They will vote for independence. Will that be acceptable to Pakistan? Definitely not.

So the Story of the plebiscite also has ended tragically for Pakistan.

Reaction by the international community towards Kashmir was always afflictive, even today. India’s credentials in terms of legal and political attributes are largely misconstrued and ignored, hence Kashmir is termed as a “Disputed Territory“. In the year 1949 with the intervention of UN, India and Pakistan observed the ceasefire and defined the LOC (Line of Control) that divided two nations and created the most disturbed and hostile territory in the world.

Autonomy of Kashmir and the plight of Pundits

Subsequently in 1947, a provision (Article 370) was drafted by Sheikh Abdullah, who had by then been appointed Prime Minister of Jammu & Kashmir by Maharaja Hari Singh, and Jawahar Lal Nehru. Article 370 provides temporary provisions, granting special “Autonomy.” The article says that the provisions of Article 238, shall not apply to the state of J&K (which was later omitted from the Constitution in 1956). The article says that “ except for defense, foreign affairs, finance and communications, the Indian Parliament needs the state government's concurrence in law application”. Thus the state's residents live under a separate set of laws. As a result, Indian citizens from other states cannot purchase land or property and the central government has no power to declare financial emergency (except in the event of foreign aggression). But this article has brought a disconfirming impact on displaced Pundits who will never be able to relocate back to their homeland unless Article 370 is lifted or amended. Jawaharlal Nehru himself being an elite Kashmiri Pundit took no observance on displaced Pundits and their issues nor the subsequent governments. Hence they still remain deprived and wretched. The Kashmir issue is the result of partition (a blunder) and the ruling congress party bowed disgracefully to Islamic fanaticism, snubbing the plight of the citizens, mainly Pundits.