The Telegraph – What soured the promise of Kashmir

The Centre’s impositions erode Jammu and Kashmir’s guaranteed autonomy

Sunanda K. Datta-Ray

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 09 March 2019. It’s a paradox of politics that the world’s largest democracy should rely on a feudal fiat in the grim battle against terrorism. In bombing Balakot so that terrorists can never feel secure even in Pakistan’s remote and rocky Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, India should have enjoyed the vigorous support of the 14 million inhabitants of Jammu and Kashmir.

Instead, it can cite only an authorization by the flamboyantly styled “Shriman Inder Mahander Rajrajeswar Maharajadhiraj Shri Hari Singhji, Jammu and Kashmir Naresh Tatha Tibbet adi Deshadhipathi, Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir State” on what a British historian called “no more than a printed form, not unlike an application for a driving licence”.

Whether Hari Singh signed the accession document on October 26 or 27, its legality is above question. Its moral validity isn’t. People can depose a ruler; no ruler can abolish the people. Some of the assumptions on which the decision was based no longer exist. The maharaja was desperate to save Kashmir from the savagery of the Pakistan-backed invaders.

His prime minister, Mehr Chand Mahajan, warned Jawaharlal Nehru that if India didn’t respond, he would go to Mohammed Ali Jinnah. “Of course, Mahajan, you are not going to Pakistan,” retorted Vallabhbhai Patel. He could say that with confidence because he knew Nehru had forced Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, the Dogra dynasty’s sworn enemy, on the ruler.

Abdullah didn’t get on with Jinnah either. Jinnah, in turn, had been advised that Kashmiris weren’t “true Muslims”. Hari Singh must have signed the accession instrument and appointed his arch-enemy to head the government (relations were “tense and antagonistic” says Karan Singh) with gritted teeth.

The Sheikh supported him because he felt that the new nationalism called Kashmiriyat “which posited that Muslims and Hindus in the Kashmir region shared a distinct Kashmiri identity” would be safer in liberal, secular, democratic India than in a dominion born in the crucible of Jinnah’s two-nation theory.

The success of Kashmiriyat explains Kashmiri refusal to support Pakistani infiltrators in the Kargil war.

As grenades burst, blood flows and Kashmiris are beaten up, India needs popular sanction for its policies. According to some estimates, the terrorism, insurrection, rebellion, call it what you will, killed 80,000 people between 1989 and 2002 alone.

The return to ‘normalcy’ indicated by the promised resumption of talks on the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims doesn’t translate into peace on the ground. Villages along the Line of Control report intensified firing. India accuses Pakistan of violating the border ceasefire three to four times a day on average.

No doubt the other side paints an equally grim picture. The young mother and her two children aged five years and 10 months who were bombed out of existence on March 1 in Salotri village of Poonch or the 17-year-old youth who was blasted to death in Jammu on Thursday do not interest the applauding galleries packed by a well-heeled business community that has calculated it can maximize profits while the sun of the National Democratic Alliance shines.

In a sense, the problem is self-perpetuating. Separatist sentiment can claim to derive legitimacy from Article 35A and even a drastically attenuated Article 370. But the massive upheaval their abolition is bound to provoke might make the present conflict look like child’s play.

The solution (which China has tried in Xinjiang and Tibet) of letting Kashmir be “overrun by people whose sole qualification might be the possession of too much money and nothing else, who might buy up, and get the delectable places”, as Nehru put it when defending Article 35A, could mean worse bloodshed.

Ignoring the Pandits’ eviction in 1989-90 and the 2008 furore over allocating 99 acres of forest land in the valley for Hindu pilgrims, the NDA tested the waters three years ago.

A think tank reportedly with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh links challenged Article 35A in the courts. The controversy over the citizenship (amendment) bill confirms that the northeastern states would also resist an influx of outsiders.

But Sheikh Abdullah didn’t see accession in respect of only communications, defence and external affairs as the end of the road.

Whether or not he was engaged in conspiracy, two American diplomats he spoke to, Loy Henderson, ambassador to India, and Warren Austin, Security Council representative, confirmed that Indian suspicions about his political ambitions were not unfounded.

It may be relevant in this context that he turned down Nehru’s request to place the accession instrument before the constituent assembly in August 1952, probably fearing it might be rejected, a fear Nehru shared.

The assembly itself was of dubious standing since the election to it was widely criticized and the ruling National Conference held all 75 seats. This flawed institution finally voted on February 6, 1954 to ratify an instrument that had been signed seven years earlier.

Much water had flowed down the Jhelum and Chenab in those seven years. The Sheikh had been ousted and imprisoned. The wits said his successor, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, was Delhi’s golam.

Very little remains of the original compact between India and Kashmir. “Article 370 has been reduced to an empty shell, whereby 260 out of 395 Articles of the Indian constitution, 94 out of 97 entries in the Union list and 26 of the 47 entries in the concurrent list, have been extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir in a brazen manner,” the state High Court Bar Association lamented.

The latest affront is from the extension to Kashmir of the new 10 per cent quota for economically weaker sections as well as the Central law making Dalit and tribal state employees eligible for reservation in promotions.

The objection is not to the substance of these measures but that such impositions erode Kashmir’s guaranteed autonomy. What P. Chidambaram calls today’s “muscular, militaristic and majoritarian” approach shows no trace of the enlightenment of P V Narasimha Rao who replied “the sky’s the limit” when asked how much autonomy Kashmir should enjoy.

There are many reasons for revisiting the circumstances that soured the promise of Kashmir as an enthusiastic junior partner in realizing Nehru’s dream. As A S Dulat, the former chief spy, stresses in his book, Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years, “[T]he reason that people in Delhi have reservations about talking to separatists and Pakistanis are the very reasons we need to talk to them for.”

There is no other way. Despite Arthur Moore’s claim, which I have quoted before, that “there will never be satisfactory relations between India and Pakistan till the Kashmir issue is amicably settled”, long-embedded communal antagonism is unlikely to ever allow a normal diplomatic relationship between the two countries.

The Hindu-Muslim animosity no one mentions will ensure that if it’s not Kashmir, it will be something else. But, yes, Sheikh Abdullah had a point in claiming, “Unless India and Pakistan come close the Kashmir problem will remain.” It’s another way of saying Pakistan can always play the spoiler.

That remains a fact of life but the spoiler’s role would be less potent if pitted against an India backed by the popular will in the troubled state.

Kashmiris had no say in the decision that created what a Kashmiri calls “the most densely militarized zone in the world”. That answers Dulat’s question “Why can a Kashmiri not be an Indian?” Lord Mountbatten has been blamed for much, especially over Kashmir.

But his reply to Hari Singh accepting Kashmir’s accession makes the sound point that “it should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of the state” Timor Leste and Bangladesh showed that it’s never too late for people’s power to assert itself. That is something New Delhi should bear in mind. It’s also worth asking amidst the din of controversy whether India can’t survive without a reluctant and recalcitrant Kashmir.

The Tribune – US Sikhs collect $1 lakh for documentary on Guru Nanak

Tribune News Service

Bathinda – Panjab – India, 20 March 2019. Sikhs from various parts of New York City area have raised $1,00,000 for the first-ever documentary on Guru Nanak Dev. The documentary will be shown on 200 TV stations all over America during 2019, when the Sikhs will be celebrating the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism.

As per a release, members of Gurdwara Baba Makhan Shah Lobana in New York showed their enthusiasm for this cause and they backed the plan presented by the National Sikh Campaign (NSC).

The NSC is spearheading this national project of the Sikhs in America and will be organising premier shows of this film in the US and other parts of the world. It has hired Auteur Productions to make this documentary to be shown on TV stations.

The fund raising event started with a gatka show by children. Second generation US-born Sikh youth expressed their enthusiasm and support for this project. Tarlok Singh Chugh, an internet sensation on Punjabi jokes, came from Calgary, Canada, and made every one laugh. Over 20 youth members displayed their gatka skills.

Dr Rajwant Singh, senior adviser, NSC, who gave a detailed presentation on the documentary’s plan, said, “The goal is to reach out to Americans. We are trying to make sure that we go beyond the traditional way of celebrating this important occasion.”

Leuven NMBS – Gentbrugsebrug: De Schelde

Leuven NMBS
07 March 2019

IC to Aarschot and Hasselt

To the right what looks like the train to Brussel’s European quarter

IC to Mechelen and Gent-Sint-Pieters

Track 7 IC (semi-direct) to Gent-Sint-Pieters

De Schelde
09 March 2019

Cobblestones along de Schelde

The original course of the Schelde reduced to a tiny stream

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

NewsX – Kartarpur corridor: Pakistan PM Imran Khan acts on Navjot Singh Sidhu’s request, agrees to preserve fields near Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara

Acting on Navjot Singh Sidhu’s Request, Pakistan PM Imran Khar has agreed to preserve the fields near Kartarpur Sahid Gurudwara. Sidhu in a letter to Imran had said that those fields were cultivated by Guru Nanak Dev ji, hence Pak government should not erect structures near the Sikh shrine.

Kartarpur – Panjab – Pakistan, 21 March 2019. Imran Khan-led Pakistan government has given a nod to Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu’s request and has decided to not to build any structure on the fields near the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara.

Former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is also a good friend to Pakistan PM Imran Khan, had requested the Pakistan government to preserve the things as it is near the Sikh shrine.

In a letter, Sidhu said that the fields around Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara were cultivated by first Sikh Guru Shri Guru Nanak Dev himself and it should be retained. In response, Imran Khan has assured Navjot Singh Sidhu that no structure will be erected near Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara.

Talking to the media, Sidhu thanked Imran Khan and said that anything that fulfills the wishes Sikh pilgrims, is an exemplary and worth gratitude. The fields near the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara were cultivated by Guru Nanak Dev ji and this decision to preserve the fields will inspire the coming generations.

Sidhu said Guru Nanak Dev ji has given a message “Naam Japo, Kirat Karo, Vand Sakho” (Hail the lord, pray, and share) is immortal. It is indeed a cup of joy for the Sikhs world-over.

Earlier, India and Pakistan had conducted a survey of the site near the Kartarpur Gurdwara and had a meeting of engineers and experts to discuss alignment of the corridor. According to the reports, in the meeting coordinates and engineering aspects were discussed of the proposed crossing points.

The outcomes from the meeting and survey would be further discussed at the next meeting of the two sides on April 2.

The Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district, which is 4.5 km from the India-Pakistan border. Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district is the last village of Indian territory from where thousands of Sikh pilgrims go to the Sikh shrine.

The founder of Sikhism and first Sikh Guru Guru Nanak Dev Ji spent 18 years of his life in Kartarpur and is his final resting place. Both the governments are trying to facilitate the travel Sikhs pilgrims which is a demand of Sikhs from past over 70 years.

Dawn – JUI-F to bring ‘million march’ series to Punjab

Kalbe Ali

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 21 March 2019. The central leadership of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) on Wednesday decided to bring their series of ‘million marches’ to Punjab with the motto to protect the ideological status of the country and oppose any move to make Pakistan a secular state.

Talking to the media after a meeting of the central Majlis-i-Amla of the party, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said a ‘million march’ will be held in Sargodha on 31 March.

“The message of this million march is clear and will be heard by those in power and their mentors outside the country,” Mr Rehman said.

He said a move is underway for making Pakistan a secular country and that this “foreign agenda” will be resisted. A million march will be held in North Waziristan on March 25, he said.

He criticized the PTI government for allowing protests and activities on International Women’s Day and alleged that such protests are part of the moves to make Pakistan a secular country.

He slammed the observing of International Women’s Day in the country and said his party workers will contain such activities in the future if they are not contained by the government.

“All these un-Islamic activities on Women’s Day have to be stopped and if the authorities fail to stop them, we will,” Mr Rehman said.

JUI-F had initiated the series of million marches after the general elections of July 2018, starting with the demand that the Aasia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy, should be hanged, against changes in blasphemy laws and upholding the respect for the last prophethood.

After Aasia Bibi was acquitted by the Supreme Court the goals and aim of the million marches was changed.

The main demand of million marches held in several cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were against the price hike and the JUI-F had claimed that mismanagement by the PTI-led government was triggering economic woes for the public.