Kashmir is a story of the people; of people moving, of people not being allowed to move, of people being forced to move and, at other times, of one bunch of people preventing others from moving about freely. I start by giving two instances—one from military history, one from legal history—before I conclude with my assessment on recent developments.

In January 2018, the National Archives had curated an exhibition on 70 years of accession of J&K. I was given the chance to substantially contribute to the military history portion of this exhibition. We went through heaps of archival material, which included documents exchanged between Maharaja Hari Singh and Mountbatten, among others involved in the state’s affairs.

What was stunning for me was to be able to recreate the scale of the invasion of the Razakars by a newly created state, one still manned by British officers. The obvious treachery by the British is exemplified by the fact that an invasion involving regulars, as well as soldiers, was planned and executed under Op Gulmarg. The operational plans, which were signed by General Sir Frank Walter Messervy, commander-in-chief, fell into the hands of Maj Onkar Kalkot, the brigade major stationed at Bannu Brigade. Op Gulmarg had an interesting component about Gilgit Baltistan, which was revealed as the battle for wresting Kashmir progressed. Major W.A. Brown of the British army, after handing over the charge of Gilgit Baltistan to Brig Ghansara under terms of accession of J&K, then subsequently led a rebellion against Ghansara, leading to his decimating the entire garrison, and eventually handing over this territory—in acreage much larger than PoK—to Pakistan.

Today, the road into China from Gwadar Port passes through territories that legally was acceded to India by Maharaja Hari Singh on 26 October 1947. India didn’t even lodge a protest even as Aksai Chin territories, legally ceded to India, was taken over by China. Other questions that remain unanswered were the reason why Maharaja Hari Singh’s Praja Sabha of Princely J&K couldn’t nominate the members to the constituent assembly without Sheikh Abdullah, whom the Maharaja had placed under arrest for initiating the Quit Kashmir agitation, why India dilly-dallied in signing the Standstill Agreement, which lead J&K into Pakistan’s hands, who were the people who instigated the Poonch Rebellion and why did the government unofficially exiled the Maharaja after the accession. What emerges is a series of follies committed in matters relating to J&K by the Indian government and how the Indian forces saved Kashmir from the jaws of certain defeat by raw courage and bravery. What remains a mystery is how military victories were frittered away by taking the matter to the UN and internationalizing the issue. The UN-brokered pact had three parts to it, the final being the plebiscite in J&K.

Now, for the second instance. Article 370 was inserted in Part XXI of the Constitution, titled “Temporary, Transient and Special Powers" on the explicit advice of Dr Ambedkar. The creation of special provisions of Article 370 allowed the separatist and anti-national forces to spread a narrative that the accession was a temporary measure, and Independence was a matter of time fuelling separatist sentiments in the Valley. It was a relic of the process, which grants special powers to one state compared to the accession process of all other princely states, including those taken over with force like Hyderabad and the liberation of Goa. This provision was more misused by the regional parties who enjoyed a lack of accountability and enriched themselves and their cronies. It was never really applied to the advantage of the people of J&K who have suffered from lack of development and progress. Putting an end to this article was the much-needed measure for the complete emotional integration of the people of J&K with the Indian Union. Whereas in Pakistan-controlled areas of J&K, Pakistan PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto abrogated the state subject rule in early 1970s to allow Pakistan to alter the demography in the Shia-dominated Gilgit-Baltistan by permitting large-scale influx of Sunni Muslims.

The ones calling the shots up until now were more resented and feared than loved, but that was what Machiavelli said, it is better to be feared as fear can be orchestrated, but you cannot control love. With the abrogation of the special status, the game seems to be up on those who made the Indian state dependent on them. Altering the status quo, and with the inherent strength of the Indian Constitution, which aims to mainstream Opposition rather than eliminate them, it will not take too long to find someone brighter, less threatening , than those who have been in power so far.

D.P.K. Pillay is former national security council member and research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

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