On 26th October 1947, at Amar Palace, Maharaja Hari Singh, King of Jammu & Kashmir, signed the instrument of accession to become part of Union of India. With this agreement, Jammu and Kashmir became a part of the Indian Territory and all debates regarding J&K’s fate and the destiny of the state’s culture and population could have been settled forever but that never happened and Kashmir burns in its flames to this day in a status quo.
On 5 January 1949, UNCIP (United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan) resolution stated that the question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through a free and impartial plebiscite. As per the 1948 and 1949 UNCIP resolutions, both countries accepted the principle, that Pakistan secured the withdrawal of Pakistani intruders followed by withdrawal of Pakistani and Indian forces, as a basis for the formulation of a Truce agreement whose details are yet to be arrived to this day, followed by a plebiscite. However, both countries failed to arrive at a Truce agreement due to differences in interpretation of the procedure for and extent of demilitarization one of them being whether the Azad Kashmiri army is to be disbanded during the truce stage or the plebiscite stage to remove fear of coercion and violence.
“Ultimately – I say this with all deference to this Parliament – the decision will be made in the hearts and minds of the men and women of Kashmir; neither in this Parliament, nor in the United Nations nor by anybody else” – Jawaharlal Nehru
On 17 October, the Indian Constituent Assembly adopted Article 370 of the Constitution, ensuring a special status and internal autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir with Indian jurisdiction in Kashmir limited to the three areas, namely, defence, foreign affairs and communications. The First post-independence elections were held in 1951. However, the UN passed a resolution to the effect that such elections do not substitute a plebiscite, because a plebiscite offers the option of choosing between India and Pakistan. Sheikh Abdullah won, mostly unopposed although there were widespread charges of election rigging which continued to plague all the subsequent elections till the appointment of Mehbooba Mufti since 4 April 2016.
In July 1952, Sheikh Abdullah signed the Delhi Agreement with the Central government on Centre-State relationships, providing for autonomy of the State within India and of regions within the State. Article 370 was confirmed and the State was allowed to have its own official flag. On August 7, the same year, Jawaharlal Nehru in his address to the Lok Sabha said- “Ultimately – I say this with all deference to this Parliament – the decision will be made in the hearts and minds of the men and women of Kashmir; neither in this Parliament, nor in the United Nations nor by anybody else”.
On 8 August 1953 Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed as Prime Minister by the then Sadr-i-Riyasat (Constitutional Head of State) Dr. Karan Singh, son of the erstwhile Maharaja Hari Singh, on the charge that he had lost the confidence of his cabinet. He was denied the opportunity to prove his majority on the floor of the House and his dissident cabinet minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed was appointed as the new Prime Minister. Sheikh Abdullah was immediately arrested and later jailed for eleven years, accused of conspiracy against the State in the infamous “Kashmir Conspiracy Case” – a conspiracy against the state for allegedly advocating the cause of an independent Kashmir. Meanwhile, the governments of India and Pakistan agreed to appoint a Plebiscite Administrator by the end of April 1954. After the ouster of Sheikh Abdullah, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed was installed in power and he proved to be an able administrator and is remembered as the “Architect of Modern Kashmir” . On the political front, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad had to face a stiff challenge from the Plebiscite Front which was formed in 1955 but he remained in the saddle with a tight grip over the state machinery. After 11 years at the helm of state affairs of Jammu and Kashmir, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad lost several by-elections in the state and was persuaded by Kamraj, AICC Secretary to offer just a token resignation in order to strengthen Nehru’s hand even though he did not belong to the Congress Party. In a move that typified the strange and abnormal relationship between Kashmir and New Delhi, his resignation was accepted along with those of five State Chief Ministers and six Union Ministers to set up future puppet Governments in Kashmir till the disaster of the 1987 State elections.
In May 1954 Pakistan and US signed a Mutual Defence Assistance Agreement, thus becoming a key ally of United States in a cold war campaign against Soviet USSR. Nehru, part of the non-alligned movement along with Yugoslavia’s General Tito, Egypt’s Mohammad Nasser and Indonesia’s Sukarno, stated that India was concerned about the cold-war alignments and that such an alliance affected the Kashmir issue in US bid to convert Kashmir into a satellite state against USSR. India has resisted plebiscite efforts ever since. However, Kashmiri activists continued to insist on the promised self-determination. In September 1954, Pakistan joined SEATO (South East Asian Treaty Organization) and later CENTO (Central Treaty Organization) in 1955, aligning herself with US, UK, Turkey and Iran. On the other side from 1955, Indo-Soviet relations become closer with India receiving Soviet military aid. Later in 1962 the Soviets would veto the UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir to hold a plebiscite in favour of India. The question of ever holding a plebiscite in Kashmir was formally tossed out the window by Indian Home Minister Govind Vallabh Pant, during his visit to Srinagar in 1957, when he declared that “Kashmir is an integral and inseparable part of the country and there can be no question of ever conducting a plebiscite in the future.” In October 1959, acting on the Pant comment, the State Constitution was amended to extend jurisdiction of Union Election Commission to the State and bring its High Court at par with those in the rest of India.
In 1962, India had delved neck-deep into border conflicts with China over the question of Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin, an area claimed by India to be a part of Kashmir and by China to be part of Xinjiang province and had constructed an important road-link that connected the Chinese regions of Chinese controlled Tibet and Xinjiang. China’s constructions of this road link was one of the main triggers of the conflict. A ceasefire was however reached on 21 November along the Sino-Indian border. In the aftermath of the 1962 war it was concluded that China’s use of military power to occupy Indian territory was a move to distract its population from the real internal problems and with an expansionist view of communism in the sub-continent. The World opinion regarding the conflict suggested that even though China had won a military victory, it lost in terms of its international image. China’s first nuclear weapon test in October 1964 and its support of Pakistan in the 1965 India-Pakistan War tended to confirm the American view of communist world objectives, including Chinese influence over Pakistan.
Deeply hurt by the sense of defeat, many Indians viewed the war as a betrayal of India’s attempts at establishing a long-standing peace with China and started to question the once popular “Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai” (meaning “Indians and Chinese are brothers”). Because of India’s inability to anticipate Chinese aggression, Prime Minister Nehru faced harsh criticism from government officials, for having promoted pacifist relations with China. Indian President Radhakrishnan said that Nehru’s government was naive and negligent about preparations, and Nehru admitted his failings.
Despite Pant’s claim in 1964 after the release of Sheikh Abdullah. The ailing Prime Minister Nehru sent Abdullah to Pakistan on 25 May, in an effort to resolve the Kashmir problem, taking into account the wishes of Kashmiris. But, sadly Nehru passed away on 27 May and the talks hit a stone wall and no decision could be reached. Sheikh Abdullah returned empty handed. GB Pant’s decision to amend State Constitutions and extend jurisdiction of Union Election Commission to the State and bring its High Court at par with those in the rest of India (Articles 356 and 357 of the Indian Constitution) sparked protest demonstrations across the Kashmir valley and Pakistan held parts of the State in December by virtue of which the Centre can assume the government of the State and exercise its legislative powers. This meant that the “special status” accorded to the State under Article 370 was a shambolic use of a constitutional law for rectification of a past mistake committed by the Indian Constitution. After Nehru’s death in 1964, Sheikh Abdullah was interned from 1965 to 1968 and exiled from Kashmir in 1971 for 18 months. The Plebiscite Front was also banned. This was allegedly done to prevent him and the Plebiscite Front, which was supported by him, from taking part in elections in Kashmir
About ten months after his Pakistan visit, Sheikh Abdullah wanted to travel to Hajj via England, Egypt and Algeria. He left India in March 1965 and en route at Algiers, he met the Chinese Prime Minister Chou En-Lai, who was at Algiers to attend an Afro-Asian Conference. This meeting raised a political storm in India, yet to recover from the shock and anger against the Chinese aggression of 1962. Many in India smelt an Anti-India conspiracy in the Chou-Sheikh meeting while questions were raised in Indian Parliament. Under mounting political pressure from the opposition and amidst public resentment the Indian Government headed by Lal Bahadur Shastri summoned Sheikh Abdullah through its envoy in Saudi Arabia to immediately return to the country upon the conclusion of his Hajj Pilgrimage. Abdullah returned to India on May 7, 1965 and was arrested under the Defense of India Rules at Palam Airport. Earlier Sheikh Abdullah had been heavily critical of the Indian Home Minister, Gulzari Lal Nanda, under the Prime Ministership of Nehru and remained the same after Lal Bahadur Shastri.
In a bid to settle scores with Sheikh Abdullah, it is said that Nanda had grabbed his chance of showing the Sheikh his place now. In response to Abdullah’s arrest angry protests occured in the Kashmir Valley spear headed by the banned Plebiscite Front who initiated a satyagraha for Abdullah’s release leading to more arrests over the course of the protest. Sensing a situation of breakdown of law and order Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was the Pakistani Foreign Minister under the Ayub Khan administration, under codename Operation Gibraltar, had secretly started infiltrating trained armed mercenaries in Kashmir through the porous, hilly borders between Kashmir and Pakistan, to provoke the disgruntled supporters of Abdullah to rise up and revolt against the Indian Administration in Kashmir.
By 1965 Pakistani Supremo General Ayub Khan sought American alliance to begin an armed campaign in Kashmir and bought massive weaponry to push India to the brink, already reeling under the defeat of 1962 Sino-Indian War. India moved forces to put down the movement and was convinced that Pakistan was behind Operation Gibraltar. On 1st September 1965 Pakistan began Operation Grand Slam under which they attacked Chhamb area of Jammu and Kashmir. India had been thrusted into a second war after the 1948 crisis. Without seeking the permission of the cabinet, Indian Defence Minister Y B Chavan decided to send the Indian Air Force to attack areas in Kashmir which were under the Pakistani control since the launch of Operation Grand Slam. Pakistan meanwhile had concentrated its entire defense forces near Chhamb, because of the area’s strategic importance regarding connectivity between India and Kashmir. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was of the view that had Pakistan cut off India’s connection with Kashmir, the majority muslim population of Kashmir would rise up against the Indian administration and step up the freedom initiative to separate.
The War of 1965 between India and Pakistan was on full tilt. Pakistan was assured that if India had to battle Pakistan to seize control of Kashmir she would concentrate her armed forces in Kashmir along the LoC, an area of comfort for the Pakistani army, well trained to fight in the terrains of Kashmir valley. Although Pakistani Military experts had opined that India can attack on a second front anywhere along the international border to release pressure from Kashmir, but Pakistani administrators had ruled out any such possibilities. India assessing the strength of Pakistan’s concentration of her firepower along the LoC, decided to raid the international border of Pakistan along the deserts of Rajasthan and plundered the city of Sialkot and moved towards Lahore obliterating the Pakistani tanks in their way. On 20th September 1965, after the intervention of United Nations, a resolution of ceasefire was passed through by the Security Council to stop the War between the two warring sides. Under mounting International pressure, on September 22, 1965, General Ayub Khan announced the ceasefire to his countrymen followed by Lal Bahadur Shastri’s declaration of ceasefire. By the time of ceasefire India had occupied 720 square miles of Pakistani territory for the loss of 220 square miles of its own. Subsequently a peace accord was signed between Lal Bahadur Shastri and Ayub Khan in Tashkent in January 1966 where both the parties agreed to revert back to pre-1965 positions under Russian mediation.
On 26 March1971 Sheikh Mujibur Rahman proclaimed Bangladesh’s independence, and subsequently the Bangladesh Liberation War broke out in erstwhile East Pakistan between Pakistan and Bangladesh joined later by India, and subsequently war broke out on the western border of India between India and Pakistan, both of which culminated in the creation of Bangladesh. Sheikh Abdullah watching the alarming turn of events in the subcontinent realised that for the survival of this region there was an urgent need to stop pursuing confrontational politics and promoting solution of issues by a process of reconciliation and dialogue rather than confrontation. Critics of Sheikh hold the view that he gave up the cherished goal of plebiscite for gaining Chief Minister’s chair.
He started talks with the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for normalising the situation in the region and came to an accord called1974 Indira-Sheikh accord with Indira Gandhi, then India’s Prime Minister, by giving up the demand for a plebiscite in lieu of the people being given the right to self-rule by a democratically elected Government (as envisaged under article 370 of the Constitution of India) rather than the puppet government which till then ruled the State. He assumed the position of Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir in 1975. In a shocking move the Central Government and the ruling Congress Party withdrew its support from the Syed Mir Qasim led State Government to dissolve the State assembly and called for mid term elections.
The National Conference won an overwhelming majority in the subsequent elections and re-elected Sheikh Abdullah as Chief Minister. He remained as Chief Minister till his death in 1982.