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June 6, 2000


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E-Mail this column to a friend Arvind Lavakare

Why there's 'the smell of blood still' in J&K

Out, damned spot! Out, I say!" That famous angst of Lady Macbeth's mind infested with King Duncan's blood on her hands could well describe Bharat Mata's plight at the cancer of Kashmir, our just cause for which was murdered by her darling son, named Jawaharlal Nehru.

Nearly 53 years after Jammu & Kashmir was legally acceded to us by that princely state's maharaja, the Indian nation is yet far away from being cleansed of the 1947 rape of the Valley by marauders from Pakistan. Truly, is there in Kashmir 'the smell of blood still'?

Kashmir, for us, has been much like bleeding piles -- caused by bad early habits and recurring despite balms or drugs or even surgery. If Kashmir still festers, it is because of the politics of arrogance and politics of surrealism; it is because of our total failure to realise that most of democratic politics, which is not rooted in arrogance, is simple economics and dissemination of authentic information to the public at large.

It is now a historical fact that our Kashmir wound was self-inflicted by the arrogance of Nehru and his dream of being hailed as the torchbearer of international peace after the horrors of World War II. Just a few days more was all that the Indian Army needed to drive out the last Pakistani raider from Kashmir. But succumbing to the ego-massaging wiles of governor-general Lord Mountbatten (and to the charms of Lady Edwina, perhaps), Nehru took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations Security Council in the last days of 1947.

There is no easily available record to show that the home minister had approved this momentous decision by the country's prime minister, leave alone his Council of Ministers. Again, there is no record to show whether Nehru subsequently agreed to the UN's plan of a plebiscite in Kashmir after consulting his Cabinet. Worst was Nehru's consent to the UN's diabolical proposal in March 1951 that any action of the proposed J&K Constituent Assembly to determine the future shape and affiliation of the State would not obstruct the result of the UN plebiscite from becoming operative [Resolution 91 (1951) submitted by the United Kingdom and the United States and adopted by the Security Council on March 30, 1951].

As it transpired, the J&K Constituent Assembly, formed in October 1951, gave the State its own Constitution (in November 1956) wherein it was declared, without subject to any amendment in the future, that "The State of Jammu & Kashmir is, and shall be, an integral part of the Union of India" (Section 3). However, Nehru and his Congress made no effort to reverse the UN's evil exercise that had shut out the decision of a Constituent Assembly democratically elected on the basis of universal adult franchise.

What happened in those disastrous years was verily a classic example of Nehru acting out the French monarch's boast of L'etat, c'est moi (I am the State). And if, for various reasons, the UN's plebiscite proposal finally didn't become a reality, it was, in retrospect, sheer manna for India's case on Kashmir still being alive.

Today's journalists of ours who simply pounce on the government even for perceived wrong-doings (including such trifles as transfer of bureaucrats) must ponder over Nehru's gross abuse of power in those formative years of free India before they write any more adulatory profiles of the man who is the original sinner in the traumatic Kashmir chaos we have inherited.

Even after that god-sent reprieve over the plebiscite, Nehru, his Congress party, the Opposition and the press -- none of them quite understood that politics is essentially economics except for those vote-bank parasites that prey on the sentiments and naivete of the electorate.

While socialism and public sector enterprises became the order of the day in the rest of India, Nehru continued to believe that Kashmiriyat (whatever it means) was more important than creation of wealth quickly and efficiently. Result: Sheikh Abdullah and his successors continued to live off Delhi's largesse while lording over J&K dependent on primitive agriculture, seasonal tourism, traditional handicrafts, and with a Constitution that has prevented non-Kashmiris (and Kashmiris married to non-Kashmiris) from owning immovable property in the State, though it is a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution.

The situation was compounded by the perverse perpetuation of 'the temporary' Article 370 of the Constitution that precludes any Indian parliamentary law from being applied to J&K unless first approved by the J&K Assembly. Results: (a) Entrepreneurs from outside J&K could not set up businesses or factories there. (b) The people of J&K lay cocooned in the belief that they had a unique identity different from the millions in the rest of India as well as the divine right to be forever treated preferentially without any responsibility towards maintaining the unity, integrity and prosperity of the Indian nation.

Tragically, removal of that legal, and major, impediment to J&K's economic growth has been looked upon as a 'communal' act by all our fraudulent 'secular' politicians who are still innocent babes when it comes to corporate enterprise. The elite press has aided and abetted this ignorance because it wears jaundiced glasses that sees the saffron ghost everywhere. It has only spread panic among its readers.

Hence, all that we have seen these 50 years as the solution to the Kashmir problem are the so-called political solutions. Thus, the recent spurt of debates with subjects varying from total autonomy to the State, or its division into separate districts/states on geographical lines, self-determination on communal basis to separation from Pak-occupied Kashmir with the Line of Control as the international boundary, setting up of an independent entity governed by India, Pakistan, etc. The only economic solution one hears of is a separate Kashmir package, of more doles and more lollipops that will allow the J&K chief minister to play more golf and misgovern even more.

If all such ideas and discussions have left the commoner as a helpless spectator, the main culprit has been every successive government in Delhi. All these governments, from Nehru down to Vajpayee, have never told the nation the entire story of Kashmir -- from its accession, the resolution on plebiscite to the State's own Constitution, from Pakistan's evil designs to the State's hopeless economy. They have never told us about the frustrated unemployed youths, the socially backward women who merrily rear children that largely refuse to continue in primary school.

The general ignorance all round about Kashmir is typified by the fact that as late as May 31 this year, a Pakistani journalist asked Jaswant Singh the question that lurks in the mind of many a by-line journalist of India as well. He asked why India was not honouring the 1949 UN resolutions on J&K. Our external affairs minister is reported to have shot back, saying under those resolutions Pakistan had to vacate its troops from all parts of the State, including Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Now, now, when did you last hear an Indian foreign minister pronounce that truth?

The reason why such abysmal ignorance about J&K prevails amongst Indians and Pakistanis, amongst Hurriyat and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leaders, amongst foreign governments and journalists everywhere, is that no government in Delhi has till now realised how critical dissemination of information is to opinion formation on political issues.

The most telling condemnation of governmental failure on this aspect of Kashmir lies in the Kargil Review Committee Report. In para 14.24 of the report, the committee records that "there is no single, comprehensive official publication containing details of the Kashmir question, UN resolutions and why they could not be implemented, as well as of more recent developments in Kashmir, through the years of proxy war, terrorism and ethnic cleansing together with Pakistan's involvement in all of these". The committee then goes on to say that "the government must review its information policy and develop structures and processes to keep the public informed on vital national issues".

It is only when the entire, true story of Kashmir (including Article 370 and the state's socio-economic status) is professionally published (along with a crisp summary) in all 18 official languages of India for liberal distribution to (a) everyone in the Indian media and (b) all 186 member countries of the UN General Assembly -- it is only then that we will make the first real move towards getting rid of 'that damned spot' from our national life.

Unless and until such a publication is brought out, we will probably continue to be stuck with Lady Macbeth's lament that 'all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand' of Kashmir.

Arvind Lavakare

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