Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Instrument of Accession

Also published on Viewpoint, Rising Kashmir

Out of 565 princely states, the state of Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed a unique position before the partition. It had a history of Hinduism, with a majority Muslim population. In the ‘Memorandum on States, Treaties and Paramountcy,’ it was stated that the status which the princely states enjoyed would lapse at independence.

Morris Jones, a Constitutional Advisor of Mountbatten further stated: “The void which would be created due to absence of relations with princely states would have to be filled either by a federal relationship or by ‘particular political arrangements’ (International Affairs, Legacy of Mountbatten, 1983, p.624).” In his memoirs, he ascertains that the most favoured treatment for the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir was the referendum received by the Frontier States.  Unfortunately, his consultative advice didn’t get any compelling recognition because it was put forward in the political turbulence of Kashmir’s October Revolution, and at a time when his viceroy status was getting retired.

The status of Jammu & Kashmir was increasingly debated in the circles of Indian National Congress and was continuously hijacked by Nehru’s increasing pertinence to keep it with the Dominion of India - Nehru and his close associates wanted to see a failure in Jinnah’s two nation theory. He was a non-conformist spectator for his Hindu-Muslim unity at the Lahore Resolution, 1940, and uncanny to his Pakistan that was thoroughly secular, dwelled by a Muslim majority.

On 25th October, 1947 Menon tried to persuade Maharaja Hari Singh like a cat’s paw. He made Maharaja sign a provisional accession and at once returned to Delhi. In arduous meetings with Sardar Patel, it was decided that a plebiscite would be held once the law and order situation improved.  In a letter on 27th October accepting the Maharaja’s accession, Mountbatten further reconfirmed that if in case the instrument of accession was disputed in any interpretations, the final decision of the territory would be decided according to the will of the people.

When Prime Minster, Mahajan heard that 700 troops had landed to Srinagar on 27th, he flew with Menon to Jammu, to get signatures of certain supplementary documents about accession. However, the official claims about these developments dispute the individual interpretations. On October 26, writes Alaister Lamb, ‘it is at this point that the hitherto established narrative divergences dramatically from facts.’

According to Victoria Schofield, Maharaja left Srinagar in the early hours of the morning of 26 October, or as Mahajan confirms, at 2 am. She further states: “The journey at night between Srinagar and Jammu could be expected to take sixteen hours. The Maharaja finally reached Jammu the next evening, 27th October, recalls Karan Singh. But Menon states that on the evening of 26 October, he was back in Delhi meeting with the Defense Committee. When therefore he would have met the Maharaja on 26th October?”

In a much quoted passage, Lappiere and Collins relate how Symon, an acting British High Commissioner in Delhi, sat down to have a drink, ‘an enormous smile’ spread across Menon’s face. Then he pulled a piece of paper from his jacket pocket and waved it gaily towards the Englishman. “Here it is,” he said. “We have Kashmir. The bastard signed the Act of Accession. And now that we have got it, we will never let it go.”

Whether accession was signed before or after the intervention of Indian troops in Srinagar, Maharaja was prompt about Mountbatten’s version of advices that resulted from the clauses of accession. Alaister Lamb states: “The presence of Indian troops in Srinagar before the accession weakens the Indian claim on Kashmir’s soil, including the circumstances necessary in holding a plebiscite. It also enabled India to reject the simultaneous demilitarisation from both sides. Why was the Instrument of Accession not published in the 1948 White Paper?” It would certainly have been a documentary jewel in India’s Kashmiri crown, further postulates, Alaister Lamb, who completely doubts the authenticity of accession dated and signed by Maharaja and Mountbatten, which appears in Sardar Patel’s edited correspondence, published in 1971. “There the matter must rest until fresh documents surface to justify a firmer verdict one way of the another," Lamb claims.

Joseph Korbel narrates that the biggest hindrance to Kashmir’s rational resolution at the time was absence of any United Nations consultative status, and no one suggested in getting in touch with the Pakistani Government in Karachi.

The roots of the Kashmir dispute are deep, concluded the third and final report of UNCIP, which made three visits to the subcontinent between 1948 and 1949. It is a historical fact that Nehru wanted to annex Kashmir by ousting Maharaja and installing Sheikh Abdullah, but which individual, what state, can win the  basic arguments over sovereign rights drafted in the instrument:

“Nothing in this Instrument shall be deemed to commit me in any way to acceptance of any future consultation  with India…(Clause 7)”

“Nothing in this Instrument affects the continuance of my sovereignty in and over this  State…(Clause 8)”

Andrew Whitehead (London) writes in his blog: “Perry Anderson says that Kashmir became a part of India with a forged accession,’ and the document disappeared for ‘over half a century.’ Not quite. The maharaja of Kashmir was pushed to joining India by an invasion of Pakistan and there is little doubt that he signed the instrument of accession. A facsimile of the page was published more than forty years ago, and the entire document was posted on the India’s Ministry of Home Affairs. However, when I sought permission to consult the original, I was told – it would be nice if the play on words would be intentional  - that the Indian government had ‘not acceded’ to my request.

There is certainly something fishy about the circumstances of the accession. The evidence is compelling that the maharaja signed on 27 October, but was told to record the date as October 26. In other words, he put his name to the document a few hours after India began an airlift of troops to the Kashmir valley (the beginning of military presence that continues to this day), but in a manner which suggested it had been signed before the military operation began.”

© Naveed Qazi, Insights: Kashmir

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Maneuvers before acession

Also published on Viewpoint, Rising Kashmir

Death and destruction were fast approaching Srinagar, our smug world had collapsed around us, the wheels of destiny had turned full circle,’ writes Karan Singh on October, 1947 (Heir Apparent, p.57) - while the war of words went on between Government of Pakistan and princely state of Jammu & Kashmir, the dominion of India guaranteed moral and political support to the besieged Maharaja. Here, it becomes very important to analyse the situation through political commentators that lead to the maneuvers for accession in later time.

The revolt of Poonch in Spring of 1947 had angered religious sentiments because the Maharaja had insisted his disapproval on‘no tax campaigns.’ Richard Symonds, a social worker with a group of British Quakers working in Punjab wrote: ‘There was tax on every hearth and every window. Every cow, buffalo and sheep was taxed, and even every wife. Dogra troops were billeted on the Poonchis to enforce the collection (Korbel, Danger in Kashmir, p.68).’

Victoria Schofield, in ‘Kashmir In Conflict, (2010)’ writes : ‘The general belief amongst Pakistanis was that the tribesmen were incited to a ‘Holy War’ by stories of pogroms and atrocities by the Dogras, which were brought to them by fleeing Muslims to the streets of Peshawar.’ Tribal volunteers were supported by petrol and grains by the chief minister of the North West Frontier Province, Khan Abdul Qayum Khan. The tribesmen were aggressive people. Prior to independence, British maintained cold relations with them through paying off subsidies to the chiefs. The tribesmen were inhabitants of tribal territories bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan.

When Muslim rebels of Poonch saw same weaponry in the hands of Hindus and Sikhs, communal tensions grew. Maharaja, in turn, passed an order to massacre the rebels. This made Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan organise an army of 50,000 against the Maharaja’s army. Even the creation of India and Pakistan on 14-15 August brought no ease to the already chaotic situation.

Pakistani sympathisers were not impressed by the overtures of Maharaja that lead to political developments against the Dominion. An activist, Sardar Abdul Qayum Khan from Rawalkot said the following lines, as defense for an organised Muslim rebellion, during the tragic days of partition: ‘Against the declared Standstill Agreement, the Maharaja had started moving his troops along the river Jehlum. It was an unusual movement which had never happened before and I could see that it had a purpose of sealing off the border with Pakistan. In order to thrawt the plan, we rose up to arms (Interview in Islamabad, March, 1994).’

Jammu Massacre of Muslims were systematic pogroms, and its proximity to the plains of India made circumstances easy for communal hatred that swept places like Punjab and Bengal. Horace Alexander wrote: ‘The Maharaja’s government used Dogra troops to terrorise many Muslim villages in the neighbourhood of Jammu. Later in the year, I myself saw villages near Jammu that had been completely gutted (Alexander, Kashmir, p.7).’

Newspapers were abuzz during partition that make important references to Jammu & Kashmir conflict. Ian Stephens, editor of ‘The Statesman (Calcutta), noted the situation in Jammu: ‘Unlike every part of the State, Hindus and Sikhs slightly outnumbered Muslims, and within a period of about 11 weeks, starting  in August, systematic savageries….practically eliminated the entire Muslim element in the population, amounting to 50,000 people. About 200,000 just disappeared, remaining untraceable, having presumably been butchered or dead from epidemic or exposure. The rest fled to West Punjab (Pakistan, 1963, p.200).’ It was also reported on various newsprints that these atrocities had been perpetrated not only by uncontrolled bands of hooligans but also by organised units of Maharaja’s army and the Police. This made political developments difficult to control. Therefore, we come to analyse that Maharaja’s rebellions against no tax campaigns ultimately lead to devastation of many villages and persecution of thousands of his rebelling subjects that concerned the Pakistani Dominion and turned Maharaja’s administration into a frightful situation, seeking external mediation for preservation of his unpopular and crude feudal power.

My above statement can be clarified as I quote ‘The Pakistan Times’, that reported on 27th September: ‘the metalling of the road from Jammu to Kathua is also proceeding at top speed. The idea is to keep up some sort of communication between the State and the Indian Union, so that essential supplies and troops could be rushed to Kashmir without having them to transport through Pakistani territory (Bhattacharjea, Wounded Valley, p.177).’ There was also a boat bridge that was being constructed over the Ravi river, which connected many parts of Gurdaspur in Punjab. There were also reports that Kashmir government was constructing an all-weather linking road that connected Kashmir with Jammu via Poonch instead of Banihal road which was not passable in winter. In Pakistan, it was widely believed that India was preparing an accession of Kashmir to its dominion in autumn. Indian postal services in Kashmir started the argument. India, on the other hand, believed that Pakistan would cross into the State in winter.’ Nehru, in an emotional talk with Patel, believed that it was better to friend Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, most importantly Sheikh Abdullah, and had hoped to persuade Mahajara, to join India, with whom, he had no cordial relations at that time.

On September 29, Abdullah, who had been in prison since his Quit Kashmir movement in 1946, was released from jail. His letter pledging allegiance to the Maharaja was widely published. But he also repeated his pro-independence rhetoric. Was this rhetoric only to oust feudalism of the same Maharaja or was it for the future statehood of Kashmir with the Dominion of India? It was for the latter. Here, I recount the lines of Sheikh Abdullah: ‘ When I went into prison, I took a last look at the undivided India. Today, it has been broken into two fragments. We the people of Kashmir must now see to it that our long cherished dream is fulfilled. The dream of freedom, welfare and progress (Speech at Hazuri Bagh, 2 October, 1947, in Flames, p.86).’ These lines of history do narrate to me that peoples real sovereignty was overlooked for a political party’s ideology, and for the same feudal Maharaja who enjoyed a constitutional position. Muslim League leaders and private armies were also sidelined from any political consultations. Standstill agreement acted as a barrier to force Kashmir to accede to Pakistan. 

© Naveed Qazi, Insights: Kashmir

Friday, December 14, 2012

Education Disparities in Kashmir

Also published on Viewpoint, Rising Kashmir

Kashmiri people in pursuit of education have ventured out to different countries. Most popular countries of them include United Kingdom, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, United States, Australia and New Zealand to name a few. In pursuit of  better job prospects, higher industrial exposure and reputed qualifications, many of our Kashmiri youth have realized that it’s no longer good to confine themselves to universities in India or in Kashmir itself because the amount of tuition fee for many popular courses,the lack of modern curriculum, the less brand equity of universities in Kashmir and very high competition amongst students for competitive courses have made matters very stressful for Kashmiri students.

Many Kashmiri students have developed this psychological tendency of studying outside of Kashmir due to emulations for a better future. We have universities, we have degree conferments, we have able professors, but what we lack is the ‘brighter future’ for students starting from the school level to the university level education. We also lack high class infrastructure that we find in the universities abroad. The tier of ‘non-professional’ degree courses namely BSc, BCom and BA which maximum number of Kashmiri students adhere to, have a very low demand in the domestic recruitment sector. The professional degree courses like B.E, M.E, BBA, MBA, BCA, MCA, MBBS and MD are rooted in high competition and merit, where very few qualify. For them, some placements get opened up through local banks, hospitals, some IT firms and manufacturing departments in the government or private sector, but the overall position of employment in Kashmir is very appalling. The reason for that is simply the stagnation in job generation due to lack of proper infrastructure. We also need financial investments from outside of Kashmir and domestic investments through local private companies and entrepreneurs, but the structure of our legal constitution, the militarized borders and the political bankruptcies, have directly impacted the outcomes of degrees conferred upon these upcoming graduates, because they have lesser means to work here, or prosper for that matter.

Emancipation through education is one of the most important component a nation could have to elevate generations, but it has always been a problem in Kashmir. We, as a community, also lack  intellectual activities. Whenever I surf newspapers online, be it Karachi, London or Delhi, I witness a reading routine on these online forums, and a sense of reasoned criticism. Community libraries are very few and desolated without readers. Why are the chambers in our universities not focusing on all core issues like these? Then how will we be implementing good?

One of the primal problems in Kashmir is improvement of education standards and the need of converting this unemployed youth to work, with proper infrastructure through economic prosperity. These tentative suggestions are very easy to write, but in reality, it takes years or even decades to emancipate people via passionate and responsible leadership through imparting education and by giving them welfare through jobs and gratuities. Why can’t our politicians try and start now?

During the last seven to eight years, a large pool of graduates have gone to study post graduate studies in the west.  Some of them have even produced lucrative careers in Middle East and other countries. With the advent of post study work route in United Kingdom (a scheme that has been scrapped now), many Kashmiri students used to earn a living or achieve some kind of work experience for two years, to launch a successful job in the years to come.

After returning from my post graduate studies from England, I began to retrospect what I learned in my college days here and what I learnt abroad. My experience was more than satisfactory and exceeded expectations. First of all, I started to realize that aptitude development and its encouragement carries outmost importance in a western education system. Competitive exams for entering into degrees are not mandatory in most of the courses, and admission is mostly granted on high school grades. The research content, presentations, case study analysis, lab work and group debates carry equal weightage as written examinations. In fact, these entire elements together make up the overall grading criteria, whether at bachelors or at masters level. Even open book written examinations are encouraged where a student is expected to carry significant research to answer questions in theoretical exams. There are research database servers that connect hundreds of British universities, which are loaded with newsletters, journals, newspapers and eBooks that make study a bliss for researchers. Group or individual presentations go even up to 45 minutes in some universities, especially in post graduate studies, with a less researched topic. The other thing which I learned was the need of cultural adaption while progressing on a specific group project – at the end, a student benefits from these advantages only when they study in a multi-cultural environment and in countries where imparting education is not done for business, but for cross cultural global interests.

The other important thing to remove education disparities in Kashmir, apart from increasing readership and intellect on various cacophonies surrounding us, is institutionalizing a debate culture right from schools to universities. Our study of history is hijacked by bias. Young students should be exposed more to debating on societal, philosophical, religious or even political issues that are surrounding their lives, apart from academic and extra-circular activities. It will help the students especially from schools to nurture pathways of their future careers. The above suggestions may sound idealistic because there are places in our land where there is not even a proper infrastructure for schools and colleges, but well established institutions should start this practice, in order to develop some kind of efficiency. They should scout investments. Why should Kashmiris stagnate on crude policies implemented by these non-progressive oligarchs leading us?

If there needs to be an education reform in Kashmir, policy makers should realize the need for quality inflation on the so called ‘non-professional courses’. It is ironic that ‘honours degrees’ haven’t been a reality in Kashmir since decades and there is no consultancy on the need for introducing various specialisms’s at the bachelors or masters level. Virtual learning is not preferred to traditional lectures in most of the functioning courses in universities. Why don’t our educationists learn from more civilized countries? And if universities in Kashmir introduce international student exchanges, or rapid industrial exposures, it will be a stepping stone in institutionalizing international cultural interactions.

© Naveed Qazi, Insights: Kashmir

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Kashmir's Graffiti Art

Also published on Columns, The Kashmir Walla and Viewpoint, Rising Kashmir

Graffiti’s are colourful products of creativity, stenciled and sprayed on walls. This inscribed artistry showcases the ruminations of injustice in various forms. It fathoms art into reality, by agitations caused within a creative mind. In Kashmir, we encounter slogans written on walls and archaic stones through coal and paint. ‘We Want Freedom’, ‘I Protest’ or ‘Azaadi’ have been reminders of enslavement in different forms, as a means to protest against the occupation. However, it cannot be called as a graffiti art in the real sense. These are plain writings on the walls and just a means of guerilla campaigning of Kashmir’s conflict. They are not sophisticated graphic imageries. Our vale seriously needs to evolve into intellectual, societal and ideological ascensions, in order to develop this art in its real sense. Let’s learn something from expert artists of Britain, from Australia, and why shouldn’t we?

When we talk of conflict zones, graffiti carries a legacy behind art, against indignity and oppression. They reflect the wounds of war, and impute sufferings. In places like Palestine, artists have even used graffiti art as a tool for liberation struggle, ever since the intifadah of 1970’s and 1980’s. Yes, it does reflect societal troubles, but Kashmir seriously needs to transform this street art to enlightenment in various forms, through inspiring graphics - but for all this, we need a brigade of artists who can devote time to this exercise. We also need free spaces which don’t offend the habitants or public sentiment in general.

In Middle East, Egypt emerged as a street art capital in 2011, according to New York Times, with motifs calling an end to the Mubarak regime. The street art from Yemen, Egypt, Libya has also got popularity, which was eventually showcased in Madrid’s Casa Arabe recently. These developments signify strong anarchist elements in street art in recent times. In Kashmir, this trend has just recently started. A previous report on a popular online magazine, had reported on some upcoming graffiti artist group, El-Horiah. These band of boys have started the exercise on similar lines, by drawing popular street art images, like of Banksy – a man throwing flowers from hands instead of stones and some other amateur expressions, inspired from the recent stir in Arab lands. These artistries do include humanist and tolerant forms of expression from our society, but we still have a long way to go. Personally, when I used to travel in trains in Britain, or walk the streets near my tenancy, some artwork used to awe struck me due to the competence in imagination - the stroke of colours, its variance, the fusion, the lustre, the calligraphy finally climaxing into beautiful poetic messages, all used to retrospect my thinking back to my homeland. I cherished something on similar lines in my vale, not just about freedom, but also about a reflection of an intellectual renaissance around the alleys of Srinagar and beyond.

If Graffiti art needs to evolve in Kashmir, we need to merge it with our cultural history, language, new influences and hobbies. We have our own heritage, and for that we need to fecund our intellect. Graffiti art can be revolutionary as well, as a form of cultural evolution. The tradition was given a pulse in 1920’s by Mao Zedong himself, the emancipator of China, who painted the longest piece of graffiti at that time, of over 4000 characters long, criticising teachers and the state of Chinese society at that time.

Marxism and revolutionary slogans have a history of cordial noetic impulses. They represent valours of change against class degeneration of the poor, and against the decrees of the regnant elite. In Kashmir, feudalism and subjugation of farmers was a cause which leaders like Sheikh Abdullah, Maqbool Butt and others crusaded against in their leadership, writings and speeches. Today, these liberated farmers sing the laurels of their harvest in villages. Kashmiri people have their own idioms and phrases, the moral sayings, which can have a potential to reform this generation, back to the cultural epochs in these times. All these traditions can be transformed into art. For that, our newer generation needs not only to learn from the past, but also needs to implement brilliant creativity for the genesis of this movement.

Let’s talk about the famous ‘Murals of Ireland’- the wall-paintings are country’s legacy of the past political turmoil. Tourists all over the world assemble in Belfast every year and other cities to experience the past reactions against para - militarism and societal discord. Ireland is regarded as a heritage of conflict and so is Kashmir. The only difference is that we don’t have world renowned revolutionary art on streets.

In Tunisia, many graffiti artists have even drawn verses of the Quran on the walls. El-Seed, a French Tunisian artist used graffiti art to fight religious extremism during the times of revolution. Kashmir, which has a history of Islam that propagated humanity and tolerance at various stages, can also make similar engagements. Old folklores of Kashmir, the sayings of medieval saints are still committed to memory in the minds of our older generation. Artists can also use quotes from Islamic history, from religious scholars, or stanzas of European or Arab poets etc., that can be arranged inside the graffiti art, but that art should invoke praise from the society, due to the nature of its sheer brilliance. Mere amateur paintings can no way attract attention like the Murals in Ireland. Our generation can tap this talent through practice, through research or just recognising the passion for spraying professional graffiti 

© Naveed Qazi, Insights: Kashmir