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J&K: The 'secular' fault lines

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The story of J&K is a saga of boundless human misery, religious bigotry, genocide of an ancient culture and peddling of a false narrative to turn villains into icons and demonised the real heroes.

Recently, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir figured prominently in national discourse. While Defence Minister Rajnath Singh declared India's intent to reclaim areas such as Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) in accordance with the 1994 Parliament resolution, Law Minister Kiran Rijiju sought to set the record straight on who was responsible for the delay in the accession of the princely state into the Indian Union.

October 27 last marked the 75th anniversary of Shaurya Diwas which commemorates the landing of Indian troops (1 Sikh regiment) at Srinagar airport in 1947. The army was air-dashed post-haste to the beleaguered Valley to evict Pakistan-backed tribesmen, a day after Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession with India.

J&K: The secular fault lines

Rajnath Singh's statement has to be seen in the backdrop of what PM Modi had said in his 2016 Independence Day speech from the historic Red Fort. The PM had referred to human rights violations in PoK and Gilgit.

PM Modi accused Pakistan of depriving the people of PoK of basic rights. "The pain of the people of PoK also troubles us and not just them. I want to ask Pakistan, what rights have been given to people who live in the regions that are under its forcible occupation?" he asked. "Whatever Pakistan is doing now in PoK, it will reap the consequences in the times to come."

Maharaja Hari Singh

The Pak Occupied Kashmir ( PoK ) has a population of over four million, with most of them leading sub-human lives, sans any dignity and rights. While it has an area of 78,114 square kilometres, the state had a total area of 2,22,236 square kilometres, at the time of accession. Besides, the area under occupation of Pakistan, China too is in illegal possession of 37,555 sq km of the state territory.

The Defence Minister's latest statement underlines Government of India's resolve to correct historical mistakes which the country has made over decades while dealing with the issues arising out of Pakistan's invasion of the Valley and subsequent sponsoring of terrorists' infiltration in the state. Abrogation of article 370 and 35A are steps in this direction. Those howling over the loss should recall Nehru's assurance to Parliament -- these provisions are "temporary & transitory".

Pakistan fighting losing battle on KashmirPakistan fighting losing battle on Kashmir

The story of Jammu and Kashmir is a poignant one, full of betrayals, back-stabbing and a series of wrong decisions amounting to blunders, by the then political leadership of the country. It's also a saga of boundless human misery, religious bigotry, systematic decimation of a religious minority, genocide of an ancient culture and peddling of a false narrative - which sought to turn villains into icons and demonised the real heroes.

Maharaja Hari Singh was painted as a demon. He was vilified, ostracized by the then powers that be (read Nehru), compelled to abdicate and forced into an exile, to die in a hot-humid city Mumbai, faraway from the cool climes of his state known for its salubrious climate and denied the comfort of being close to his people, in his last days.

Nehru detested the Maharaja and trusted wily Sheikh Abdullah honed in the Islamic mores of Aligarh Muslim University. To Nehru and Communists, the Maharaja was a Hindu, and by implication "communal" in his outlook and behaviour. Since he was born a prince, he was by definition ' feudal' and had no place in Nehru's 'democratic set up'. To make matters worse, Nehru had a personal pique with the Maharaja as well.

What are the facts? The Sheikh himself has admitted in his autobiography - Flames of Chinar - that the Maharaja was anything, but communal. Bulk of Maharaja's army consisted of Muslims, and when Pakistani raiders invaded the Valley, most of them betrayed him and their country, defected to the enemy, with arms and ammunition, in the name of Islam!

The Sheikh, a 'secular icon' to Nehru and Communists, ironically had started his public life after delivering a highly inflammatory communal speech in 1931, from a mosque in Srinagar. While he swore by 'secularism', for effect, the Sheikh's politics and policies were defined by his Islamic beliefs and inbuilt hate for 'kafirs'. It was he who sowed the toxic seeds which resulted in the 1989- 90 massacre of Hindus, and their subsequent forced exodus.

Not Maharaja, it was Nehru: Union Minister takes on Congress leader on Kashmir’s accessionNot Maharaja, it was Nehru: Union Minister takes on Congress leader on Kashmir’s accession

Sheikh's politics, his personal ambition to cede from India and establish himself as a ruler of an independent Islamic state (a la Jinnah ) and his rabid religious identity, often overlapped. It took almost six years for Nehru to drop his blinkers, see Sheikh's real communal, anti-India face behind his secular mask, and act.

The Sheikh was dismissed and arrested on August 8, 1953 by the Nehru Government. Events had proved the Maharaja's assessment of the Sheikh as a rabid communalist and an unreliable person, correct But Nehru was too arrogant to accept his mistake, make amends, apologise to the wronged Maharaja, and undo injustice done to him.

The calumny unleashed against the Maharaja included an allegation - he sat over India's accession into the Indian Union because he had dreams to be a monarch of an "independent" Jammu and Kashmir. The 'wilful and calculated' delay on his part provided Pakistan with an opportunity to invade the state.

Maharaja Hari Singh was an enlightened person - he surely knew his state had no future outside the Indian Union. He tried to open negotiations with India for the merger of his state in India, but all his moves were scuttled by none other than Nehru, who nursed an inherent bias against him. Nehru wanted to deal only with the Sheikh, and keep the Maharaja out of any possible arrangement between the state and Union, to the extent possible.

Kiran Rijiju , has quoted from Nehru's speech in Parliament on July 24, 1952, and unraveled the chain of events, leading to Pakistan invasion on the valley. Excerpts from Nehru's speech:

"We had contacts either the popular organisation there, the National Conference, and its leaders, and we had contacts with the Maharaja's Government also, rather vague contacts, but they dealt with us - the advice we gave to both was that Kashmir is a special case and it would not be right or proper to try to rush things there...

"This was before Partition, before the actual coming of Independence. We made it clear that even if the Maharaja and his Government then wanted to accede to India, we would like something much more, that is, popular approval of it before we took that step....

"So, we made it clear in the month of July 1947 that the State of Jammu and Kashmir should not be hustled into taking any action, though many of their leaders were personally inclined. And so, we informed the Maharaj's Government as well as the leaders of the popular movement there that this matter of accession should not be hurried, that it should wait over till some method was found of consulting the people."

Thanks Kiran Rijiju for setting the record straight. We now know for sure who delayed the states accession to the Indian Union.

(Mr. Balbir Punj is a Former Member of Parliament and a Columnist. He can be reached at: punjbalbir@gmail.com)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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