The situation in Kashmir is strongly contested, historically misrepresented and ideologically argued. That is why the discussions and debate on this topic are grounded in rhetoric as opposed to reality.
To understand where we are, it is important to understand why we are here. So, before we proceed to discuss the situation, the arguments on both sides and the possible solutions in Kashmir, let us take a moment to understand the history of Kashmir and the events in the run up to the situation that it has become now.
Kashmir is derived from the terms ‘Ka’ meaning water and Shimeera meaning ‘desiccate’
British Paramountcy and the Independence covenant
During their rule, British did not rule the entire country. In some of the areas, they had exercised a power of paramountcy over the kingdom. The British India comprised of two parts – one, the “British Indian provinces” which were directly ruled by the British; and two, the “Princely States”, which were under the British paramountcy. The latter states were ruled by the incumbent kings but these kings were given protection by the British Crown for a sum of money.
To further solidify their rule, British had used the “Doctrine of lapse” brought out by Lord Dalhousie to annex various kingdoms which were under the British paramountcy. The princely states of Satara (1848), Jaipur and Sambalpur (1849), Nagpur and Jhansi (1854) and Awadh (Oudh) (1856) were taken over using this doctrine. Just by these the British added 4 million pound sterlings a year to their coffer.
When the British decided to leave, the Cabinet Mission memorandum, clearly stated that the paramountcy over the 565 Princely states will also lapse and they will have freedom to choose their own future – Independence, Go with India or Go with Pakistan.
“His Majesty’s Government will cease to exercise power of paramountcy. This means that the rights of the States, which flow from their relationship to the Crown, will no longer exist and that all the rights surrendered by the State to the paramount power will return to the States. Political arrangements between the States on the one side and the British Crown will thus be brought to an end. The void will have to be filled either by the States entering into a federal relationship with the successor government or governments in British India or, failing this, entering into particular political arrangements with it or them.” (Cabinet Mission’s Memorandum)
The decision of the ruler of the state was to final. And that is in order – because wishes of the populace is a feature of a democracy, not monarchy. The principles of accession to be applied to these Princely states were based in the basics of a monarchy.
“An Indian State shall be deemed to have acceded to the Dominion if the Governor General has signified the acceptance of an Instrument of accession executed by the Ruler thereof.” (Provision for accession made in the Government of India Act of 1935, as adapted under the Independence Act of 1947)
This finality of the accession of Kashmir to India was underscored by both, US and Soviet Union in the Security Council:
“External sovereignty of Jammu and Kashmir is no longer under the control of the Maharaja. With the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India, this foreign sovereignty went over to India and is exercised by India and that is how India happens to be here as a petitioner.” (US Representative in the Security Council, February 4, 1948)
“The question of Kashmir has been settled by the people of Kashmir themselves. They decided that Kashmir is an integral part of the Republic of India.” USSR representative at the 765th meeting of the Security Council
Pakistan accords Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir a Sovereign status
Of the 565 princely states, a few chose to remain independent. Kashmir was one of them. Maharaja Hari Singh wanted to rule his own kingdom. Between India and Pakistan, it was the latter, ironically, which interacted with the Kashmir’s Maharaja as the sovereign ruler of the state by signing the “Standstill Agreement”.
The Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, R.C. Kak, had communicated to Governmentsof India and Pakistan that “Jammu and Kashmir Government would welcome Standstill Agreement with Union of India/Pakistan on all matters on which there exists arrangements with the outgoing British India Government.”
Pakistan replied back “The Government of Pakistan agrees to have Standstill Agreement with Jammu and Kashmir for the continuation of existing arrangements …”. Thus the state of Jammu and Kashmir was accorded as a sovereign state and the ruler – Maharaja Hari Singh and his Government – admitted as a legitimate rulers of that state by the Government of Pakistan. India did not sign the agreement.
Before we go any further, let us take a step back and look at the past of J&K a bit to understand how a Dogra king ruled the state.
Islamic Invasion and the Sufi-led Conversion
As early as 715 AD, with Mohammad Bin Qasim, the attacks by Islamic barbarians had started on Kashmir. Main among them was Mahmud of Ghazni. The Hindu Shahi king Raja Jayapala wanted to avenge his defeat at the hands of Sebüktigin – who was the founder of the Ghaznavid empire in what is now, Afghanistan. He took on Mahmud and was succeeded by his son Anandapala, who further fought against the Sultan of Ghazni. At the battle in Lahore, in 1008, Anandapala’s elephant turned back from the battle thus leaving his entire army in disarray and he lost the battle.
Mahmud of Ghazni brought the concept of “Total War” in to India. This concept of war was in line with the Quranic articulation of war. As BG Malik explains:
“the Quranic military strategy thus enjoins us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost in order to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies, known or hidden, while guarding ourselves from being terror-stricken by the enemy.” (The Quranic Concept of War, by Brigadier General S. K. Malik, Pakistani Army)
The Quranic concept of war recognizes the use of terror as the principal and central tool for victory.
“can be instilled only if the opponent’s Faith is destroyed . . . . It is essential in the ultimate analysis, to dislocate [the enemies] Faith.”
As the Quranic verses describe in the Sura dedicated to the concept of war (Al Anfal), terror or striking fear in the hearts of the enemy (Non-believers) is a Divine dispensation. So, those fighting for Allah, are required to carry out that dispensation in the same spirit. Actually, per Qur’an, Allah has told Mohammad that he himself is fighting by the side of Believers who slay and strike terror in the hearts of the Non-Believers.
Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): “I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.” This because they contended against Allah and His Messenger: If any contend against Allah and His Messenger, Allah is strict in punishment. Thus (will it be said): “Taste ye then of the (punishment): for those who resist Allah, is the penalty of the Fire.” O ye who believe! when ye meet the Unbelievers in hostile array, never turn your backs to them. If any do turn his back to them on such a day – unless it be in a stratagem of war, or to retreat to a troop (of his own)- he draws on himself the wrath of Allah, and his abode is Hell,- an evil refuge (indeed)! It is not ye who slew them; it was Allah: when thou threwest (a handful of dust), it was not thy act, but Allah’s: in order that He might test the Believers by a gracious trial from Himself: for Allah is He Who heareth and knoweth (all things). That, and also because Allah is He Who makes feeble the plans and stratagem of the Unbelievers.
(Qu’ran Sura 008 verses 012-018; Al Anfal, Spoils of War, Booty)
In times of Mahmud of Ghazni, temples – as opposed to the kings palaces – were the holders of great wealth. The temples symbolised the cultural and the spiritual centers of the sub continent. Mahmud not only took away the temple wealth but also destroyed them at several places including Maheshwar, Somnath, Jwalamukhi, Narunkot and Dwarka.
Besides Mahmud, Hasham bin Amru sent by Caliph Al-Mansur to wage Jihad (Holy war) against Hindus. He took many slaves and prisoners from Kashmir.
Large scale conversions of Hindus in Kashmir started with the arrival of a popular Sufi “saint” Sayyid Ali Hamdani. He first made his living quarters on the site of a demolished temple [Baharistan, p. 36]. The reigning ruler, Sultan Qutbud-Din, was not as aggressive in the propagation of Islam as the Sufi may have wanted it. His work was later on picked up by his son, Amir Sayyid Muhammad, another “Sufi saint”. He found a ready partner in Sultan Sikander. Under the “Sufi’s” influence Sikander issued an order to aggressively impose Islam.
…proscribing the residence of any other than Mahomedans in Kashmeer; and he required that no man should wear the mark on his forehead… Lastly, he insisted on all golden and silver images being broken and melted down, and the metal coined into money. Many of the bramins [Brahmins], rather than abandon their religion or their country, poisoned themselves; some emigrated from their native homes, while a few escaped the evil of banishment by becoming Mahomedans. After the emigration of the bramins, Sikundur [Sikandar] ordered all the temples in Kashmeer to be thrown down… Having broken all the images in Kashmeer, he acquired the title of the Iconoclast, Destroyer of Idols.
(History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India by Muhammad Farishtah (d. 1614), Vol. IV, 1997 imprint, p. 268)
The author of Baharistan-i-Shahi lays the credit of “…the credit of wiping out the vestiges of infidelity and heresy from the mirror of the conscience of the dwellers of these lands, “goes to Sufi saint Sayyid Muhammad” [p. 37].
There was a brief respite for the Hindus and other non-Muslims during the rule of Sultan Zainul Abedin, only to be attacked again during the times of rulers Malik Raina and Kaji Chak. Again, this round of Jihad war was waged on the instigation of another “Sufi saint” Amir Shamsud-Din Muhammad Iraqi.
Amir Shamsud-Din Muhammad undertook wholesale destruction of all those idol-houses as well as total ruination of the very foundation of infidelity and disbelief. On the site of every idol-house he destroyed, he ordered the construction of a mosque for offering prayers after the Islamic manner. (Baharistan-i-Shahi [p. 93–94])
This reign of terror started during Raina’s time was continued in the time of Kaji Chak under the tutelage of Iraqi.
one of the major commands of Amir Shamsud-Din Muhammad Iraqi carried out by him [Kaji Chak] was the massacre of the infidels and polytheists of this land (Baharistan-i-Shahi [p. 116])
Mughals, Sikhs and the Dogras
In 1586, Mughal Emperor Akbar annexed Kashmir. In 1752 however, Ahmed Shah Abdali conquered Kashmir and added to his Durrani empire. At the end of the Mughal empire in late 18th century, Raja Ranjit Deo was the king of Jammu. In 1816, Jammu was annexed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and in 1819 Kashmir was also added to the Sikh empire. Gulab Singh who, as a 16 year old had fought against Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1808, was later made commander of a Dogra cavalry contingent by the Sikh ruler. Gulab Singh helped win Multan and Reasi for Ranjit Singh.
In 1820, Jammu region was given away to Kishore Singh, father of Gulab Singh in appreciation of their services. After Kishore Singh’s death in 1822, Gulab Singh became the Raja of Jammu under the suzerainity to Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Gulab Singh fought alongside Hari Singh Nalwa and got salt mines in northern Punjab, and the nearby Punjabi towns like Bhera, Jhelum, Rohtas, and Gujrat for his work.
After the death of Ranjit Singh, all hell broke lose. Gulab Singh conspired with the British Empire and was attacked by Sher Singh, son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Over 3000 Sikh soldiers died in that attack. Under the Treaty of Lahore Jammu was transferred to Gulab Singh and later he defeated the Governor of Kashmir. The entire arrangement was formalized between British and Gulab Singh in the Treaty of Amritsar in 1846.
The British Government transfers and makes over for ever in independent possession to Maharajah Gulab Singh and the heirs male of his body all the hilly or mountainous country with its dependencies situated to the eastward of the River Indus and the westward of the River Ravi including Chamba and excluding Lahul, being part of the territories ceded to the British Government by the Lahore State according to the provisions of Article IV of the Treaty of Lahore, dated 9th March, 1846.
For this, 7.5 million Nanak Shahi rupees (the ruling currency of Punjab) were to be paid to the British Government as the price for the cessation. Gulab Singh was succeeded by Ranbir Singh, who had five wives and four sons. Partab Singh suceeded Ranbir Singh as the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir in 1885. Hari Singh succeeded his uncle as the last Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. He had one son, Karan Singh, who was later a Member of Parliament in India.
It was during the life of Hari Singh that the entire drama of Kashmir between India and Pakistan was played out. We will go through the story after this in the second part of this post.
(Part II of the series)