As Delhi tries desperately in a change of tack to effect a rapprochement with the aggrieved and alienated citizenry of Kashmir Valley, the iron fist velvet glove approach seems to be working. While the joint resistance front comprising the separatist forces remains aloof, moves of the byzantine chessboard appear to be towards an all encompassing dialogue with stakeholders and salve and balm for the hurt and sores. As a masterful manoeuvre, the outreach to "first time offenders" in Jammu and Kashmir could mean freedom for 4,500 young men. All of them had been arrested for stone-pelting, mostly during the five-month unrest in the Valley that started after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani. Since then, they have been incarcerated. In a meaningful move, Delhi's advisory to the Jammu and Kashmir government to let off the first-time offenders in law and order situations in Kashmir, essentially means amnesty for the boys who had taken to stone pelting for the first time. This comes after special representative Dineshwar Sharma's second visit to the Valley, an advisory on the amnesty scheme was released. Agencies quoted Sharma as saying: My attempt was to change the narrative in the state to peace and for that I need support of youths and students. The police say in the last one year, they have prevented 60 local men from joining terror groups. Security forces in the Valley have said they will extend all help to terrorists who want to get back to the mainstream. Special instructions have been given to the Jammu and Kashmir police to try and capture local terrorists alive. A helpline, Madadgar, with the number 1441 has also been formed to facilitate the return of such young men. Most notably, Kashmiri footballer Majid Khan who had joined LeT returned after his mother's fervent pleas. It is too early to say that the tide is turning, but the velvet glove approach is a directional change even as security forces continue killing terrorists local and Pakistan proxies.
It is important to do a quick recap of events that have led to such a sorry pass, particularly the immediate history around the accession.
Lapse of Paramountcy
On August 15, 1947, the British Government transferred power to the two new Dominions of India and Pakistan. The paramountcy of the Crown lapsed and the Indian States become free to accede to either Dominion. The State of Jammu and Kashmir entered into a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan (a similar request for a Standstill Agreement was simultaneously sent to India) for continuance of certain administrative arrangements in respect of communications, posts and telegraphs and civil supplies. The Agreement had nothing to do with foreign relations or defence.
Economic and Military Pressure.
Between August 15 and October 22, 1947, Pakistan, in an attempt to coerce Kashmir into accession, cut off supplies to the State of food, petrol and other essential commodities. Military pressure was simultaneously applied in the form of border raids. On August 31, 1947, Major-General H L Scott, General Officer Commanding, Jammu and Kashmir State Forces, reported : “There is little doubt that the recent disturbances in Bagh Tehsil (Poonch) were led by armed gangs from Pakistan. Exaggerated reports of events in Poonch circulated in these (Hazara and Rawalpindi) Pakistan districts. Possibility, even probability, of further intervention in much greater force must be provided against”.
On September 4, 1947, Major-General Scott informed the State Authorities that “500 hostile tribesmen wearing green and Khaki uniforms and leather and web equipment” were seen. The following protest was made direct to the Pakistan Army and to the Officer Commanding 7th Infantry Division : “Armed gangs estimated 200 to 300 from Tehsils Kahuta and Murree (both in Pakistan) raiding State territory for loot, murder and crossing Jhelum river in area Panjar and seven miles north and south of Owen Ferry. Please take immediate action to prevent and recall.”
On September 12, 1947, Major-General Scott reported that “quiet and confidence was being restored in Poonch Jagir.” Early in October, however, activities by armed men in uniform in various district s of Poonch were again reported. On October 4, raiders armed with Tommy guns were seen in the Chirala area, and more raiders were seen passing to the Jhelum river. Similar activity was observed in Mirpur in Jammu Province.
On October 18, 1947, the Kashmir Government protested to the Pakistan Government against continued border raids and withholding of essential supplies like food, cloth and petrol. The protest also detailed difficulties in the working of the Postal System and stated :”Saving Bank Accounts refused to be operated. Postal Certificates not cashed. Cheques by branches here of West Punjab Bank not honoured; even Imperial Bank branch put hard to meet obligations owing failure of remittances from Lahore currency office. Motor vehicles registered in the State have been held up at Rawalpindi (Pakistan). Railway traffic from Sialkot (Pakistan) to Jammu has been discontinued”.
In its reply dated October 19, 1947, the Pakistan Government categorically denied the infiltration of armed men into the State and accused the Kashmir Government of repression of Muslims.
On October 22, 1947, large-scale invasion of Kashmir began. The invaders consisted of tribesmen, members of regular Pakistan forces and some inhabitants of the Western area of the State. The Kashmiris took no part in it.
The tribesmen came through Pakistan. They were armed with modern weapons like mortars, machine-guns and Mark V mines and had motor transport and petrol – all supplied from Pakistan.
Major Khurshid Anwar, Commander of the Pakistan Muslim League National Guards, who led the attack on Srinagar, gave an account of the invasion of Kashmir in an interview published in “Dawn”, Karachi of December 7, 1947. He said the invasion was originally planned from two sides – one from the regions adjoining Kashmir State and the tribal belt and the other from the Pakistan border. The main column made considerable progress on the Kohala – Baramula road, fanning out and devastating villages and towns on either side. On October 23, 1947, Domel fell to the raiders. Next day, the capture of Muzaffarabad was reported. The raiders proceeded along the Jhelum Valley road towards Srinagar. They got round the State troops near Uri (a town 50 miles from Srinagar) and burnt the Power hose at Mahora which supplied electricity to the whole of Kashmir.
Sack of Baramula
On October 26, 1947, the tribesmen entered Baramula. One party immediately scaled the walls of Saint Joseph’s Francescan Convent Compound, and stormed the Convent Hospital and the little church. They smashed up hospital equipment and ripped the statuettes of saints out of the chapel. Two patients, two nuns and an Englishman and his wife were murdered. The Mother Superior was seriously wounded.
Accession to India.
On October 26, 1947, the Maharaja of Kashmir appealed to the Government of India for help in repelling the invaders. The appeal stated :-
“Afridis, soldiers in plain clothes and desperadoes, with modern weapons have been allowed to infilter into the State at first in Poonch area, then in Sialkot and finally in mass in the area adjoining Hazara district (Pakistan) on Ramkote side. The result is that the limited number of troops at the disposal of the State had to be dispersed and thus had to face the enemy at several points simultaneously that it has become difficult to stop the wanton destruction of life and property and looting. The wild forces thus let loose on the State are marching on with the aim of capturing Srinagar, the summer capital of my government, as a first step to overrunning the whole State.
“With the conditions obtaining at present in my State, I have no option but to ask for help from the Indian Dominion. Naturally they cannot send the help asked for by me without my State acceding to the Dominion of India. I have accordingly decided to do so and I attach the Instrument of Accession for acceptance by our Government. The other alternative is to leave my State and my people to freebooters”.
An appeal for help was also simultaneously received by the Government of India from the largest popular organization in Kashmir, the National Conference, headed by Sheikh Abdullah. The Conference further strongly supported the request for the State’s accession to India.
Voluntary Plebiscite Offer.
On October 27, 1947, the Government of India accepted Kashmir’s accession. At the same time, the Government of India made clear to the Maharaja that the administration of Kashmir should thereafter be carried on according to the popular will and that Sheikh Abdullah, who had the support of the vast majority of the people of Kashmir, should be asked to form an Interim Government. Further, the Govt. of India declared that as soon as law and order had been restored in Kashmir and her soil cleared of the invaders, the question of the State’s accession should be settled by the people themselves through a plebiscite.
Indian troops land in Srinagar.
On October 27, 1947, the first contingent of Indian airborne troops landed in Srinagar, However, it was not until reinforcements arrived that the Indian troops cold attack the raiders who had advanced to Pattan, only 17 miles from Srinagar. On November 8, Indian troops recaptured Baramula and on November 15, Uri, thus removing the threat to Srinagar and the surrounding Valley.
Appeal to Security Council.
In spite of Kashmir’s accession to India, Pakistan continued to help the raiders. On January 1, 1948, therefore, India took the issue to the Security Council of the United Nations. India requested the Security Council to ask Pakistan :-
1. To prevent Pakistan Government personnel, military and civil, from participating or assisting in the invasion of Kashmir State;
2. To call upon other Pakistan nationals to desist from taking any part in the fighting in Kashmir;
3. To deny to the invaders: (a) access to and use of its territory for operations against Kashmir, (b) military and other supplies, (c) all other kinds of aid that might tend to prolong the struggle.
Pakistan flatly denied having given any help to the raiders.
Resolution of January 17, 1948.
On January 17, 1948, the Security Council adopted a resolution submitted by the representative of Belgium. This resolution called upon both the Governments of India and Pakistan to refrain from any acts which might aggravate the situation in Kashmir and “to inform the Council immediately of any material change in the situation which occurs or appear to either of them to be about to occur while the matter is under consideration by the council, and consult with the Council thereon.” Both India and Pakistan agreed to comply with the request.
Resolution of January 20, 1948.
By another resolution, of January 20, 1948, the Security Council established a Commission composed of three members, one to be selected by India, the second by Pakistan, and the third to be designated by the two members so selected. The resolution instructed the Commission to proceed to the Indian sub-continent, investigate the facts and exercise any mediatory influence likely to smooth away difficulties.
Resolution of April 21, 1948.
On April 21, 1948, the Security Council adopted a revised draft resolution presented jointly by Belgium, Canada, China, Colombia, United Kingdom and United States. This resolution, which reaffirmed the resolution of January 17, 1948, enlarged the membership of the Commission to five. It asked Pakistan “to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistan nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for fighting and to prevent any intrusion into the State of such elements and any furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the State.” After the withdrawal of the invaders, the Indian Army forces were to be reduced and a plebiscite held on the question of accession of Kashmir to India or Pakistan.
The resolution also instructed the Commission “to proceed at once to the Indian sub-continent and there place its good offices and mediation at the disposal of the Governments of India and Pakistan with a view to facilitating the taking of the necessary measures, both with respect to the restoration of peace and order, and to the holding of a plebiscite by the two Governments, acting in cooperation with one another and with the Commission……”
Resolution of June 3, 1948.
By the resolution of June 3, 1948, the Security Council reaffirmed its resolutions of January 17 and 20 and April 21. It directed the Commission to proceed without delay to the area under dispute with a view to accomplishing in priority the duties assigned to it by the resolution of April 21, 1948.
Pakistan Troops in Kashmir.
On July 7, 1948, the U.N. Commission arrived in Karachi. Next day, in the course of informal conversations with the Pakistan Foreign Minister, the Commission was informed that the Pakistan Army had a that time three brigades of regular troops in Kashmir, and that the troops had been sent into the State during the first half of May. The Commission noted that Pakistan had sent its troops without informing the Security Council, though under the resolution of January 17, 1948 she was bound to inform the Council of any material change in the situation in Kashmir.
August 13, Resolution.
On August 13, 1948, the U.N. Commission passed a resolution, which asked for a ceasefire and truce. The resolution envisaged three steps :-
1. “As the presence of troops of Pakistan in the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir constitute a material change in the situation since it was represented by the Government of Pakistan before the Security Council, the government of Pakistan agrees to withdraw its troops from that State.”
2. “The Government of Pakistan will use its best endeavour to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistan nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting.”
3. “When the commission shall have notified the Government of India that the tribesmen and Pakistan nationals……. Have withdrawn, thereby terminating the situation which was represented by the Government of India to the Security council as having occasioned the presence of Indian forces in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and further that the Pakistan forces are being withdrawn from the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Government of India agrees to being to withdraw the bulk of their forces from that State in stages to be agreed upon with the Commission.”
On August 20, 1948, India accepted the resolution. Subsequently, in two letters to the Prime Minister of India, dated August 25, 1948, the U.N. Commission gave the following assurances regarding implementation of the resolution: -
(a) That the sovereignty of the Jammu and Kashmir Government would not be brought into question;
(b) That no recognition would be afforded to the so-called :Azad Kashmir: Government;
(c) That the territory occupied by Pakistan troops would not be consolidated to the disadvantage of the State;
(d) That the question of the Northern Areas – through which pass the trade routes to Central Asia and which had not then been under the effective control of the Pakistan Army – would receive consideration in the implementation of the Commission’s proposals.
Commission leaves for Europe.
On September 22, 1948, the U.N. Commission left for Europe as it felt it had temporarily exhausted the possibilities of further negotiations on the sub-continent. While in Paris, the Commission held discussions with representatives of India and Pakistan who had gone there to attend the session of the U.N. General Assembly. Meanwhile, on November 25, 1948, the Commission presented its first interim Report to the Security Council. The Council desired that the Commission should continue its efforts for a peaceful solution.
(To be Continued)