INDIRA-SHEIKH ACCORD: A TURNING POINT IN JAMMU AND KASHMIR POLITICS

  • MUNEEB YOUSUF, PARVEZ AHMED
  • Publish Date: Oct 22 2018 3:12AM
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  • Updated Date: Oct 22 2018 3:12AM
INDIRA-SHEIKH ACCORD: A TURNING POINT IN JAMMU AND KASHMIR POLITICSFile Photo

Jammu and Kashmir, formerly a princely state, became a contentious issue between India and Pakistan in 1947. Not being directly under British control; the choice of succession to either dominion rested with the then ruler of the princely state, Maharaja Hari Singh. However, his decision could not be independent of the then popular leader Sheikh Abdullah. Pakistan staked claim over the territory because of its Muslim majority character. India hoped to have control over the territory because of Sheikh Abdullah’s indifference to Muslim League.  The heavy presence of landed gentry in the league contradicted his ambition of land reforms. Secondly, Abdullah had close friendship with the then Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Lal Nehru. Maharaja on the other hand was in a fix to decide as to which dominion to go with or stay independent. He had more to aspire from Pakistan to secure his position. Mohammad Ali Jinnah had promised him control over some part of the territory. Going with Pakistan could have been even seen as legitimate as he could play the Muslim majority card to satisfy the population. Thirdly, he controlled a large chunk of territory; ambitions of an independent state could well be explored.  

 

Jammu and Kashmir came to be governed in relation with both India and Pakistan by standstill agreement. This would allow smooth inflow of essential goods without any interference in the internal matters of the state. India’s position is that Pakistan violated the standstill agreement in October 1947 through tribal invasion. However, author Christopher Snedden argues that the immense misery of Muslims in Poonch at the hands of Dogra forces were unacceptable to those who had returned after fighting in the Second World War and instead revolted against the Maharaja. The Maharaja sought help from India; it came only after signing instrument of accession. The situation was brought under control by Indian intervention. Subsequently, India took the matter to international forum. The ultimate fate had to be decided through a referendum under the auspices of United Nations. Meanwhile a government headed by Sheikh Abdullah was put into place. Article 370 of constitution of India gave J&K a special status. Since things were not settled, political pressures from within and outside governed the politics of the state. The instrument of accession was not rectified by the constituent assembly and that was delegitimising India’s presence in the state. Of late Sheikh Abdullah sounded indifferent to his earlier commitments as he delayed the ratification of instrument of accession. Sheikh Abdullah was imprisoned for sedition charges in 1953 and replaced by Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad as new Prime Minister of the state. Later Bakhshi got the instrument of accession ratified in the constituent assembly thus paving way for more role by central government in the state. The autonomy of the state came to be eroded gradually. 

 

There were number of other developments in the state during that period but the most prominent was the dissolution of plebiscite movement spearheaded by National Conference and its cadre. The nomenclature of Prime Minister and Sadar-e-Riyasat (President of the State) were changed to Chief Minister and Governor respectively. Indira-Sheikh accord and subsequent return of Abdullah to power marked a decline in his popularity and hence the decline of National conference as the sole representative of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. This accord was perceived by the opponents of Abdullah, particularly in the Kashmir valley, as a betrayal. Strong resentment against Abdullah resulted in sprouting of different political outfits claiming to represent the aspirations of the people in the state. There was a complete shift in the political discourse around Kashmir issue. Sheikh Abdullah died in 1984, his son Dr. Farooq Abdullah returned from London to manage political affairs of the party and he was elected as Chief Minister. The 1987 elections to state assembly, the alleged rigging and booth capturing paved way for armed rebellion leading Kashmir to a much serious crisis. Large number of youth from valley went across the LoC to the Kashmir under Pakistan’s control border to get arms training. The violence hit valley in the January of 1990. The CM resigned and governor rule was imposed in the state. Jagmohan Malhotra took hold of the affairs in the state. It is in his rein that Kashmiri Pandits migrated from valley to Jammu and other places in the country. The Pandit migration remains controversial even today, some believe that it was a conspiracy hatched by state of India and Jagmohan to crush the movement. Others say that militants forced them out. Rekha Choudhary argues that in 1989 JKLF was the first organisation to start violent attacks and it did not espouse Islamic cause. 

 

Large scale violence marked the 1990s decade. The Hurriyat Conference came into being in 1993 and occupied the central stage in Jammu and Kashmir politics. It later split into factions but the politics in Kashmir still revolves around the political settlement of Kashmir issue. 

 

  END OF PLEBISCITE MOVEMENT  

 

The plebiscite front was founded by Mirza Mohammad Afzal Beigh in the 1950s. Plebiscite was to be held under the auspices of UN enabling people of Jammu and Kashmir to decide on the matter of sovereignty. It was never held. The political negotiations between National Conference and Union of India finally led to a compromise on part of National Conference. The discourse of negotiations narrowed down to autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir. The outcome of the negotiations was finally translated into Indira-Sheikh accord or the Kashmir accord of1975. The original text of the said accord is stated below:

 

The State of Jammu and Kashmir which is a constituent unit of the Union of India, shall, in its relation with the Union, continue to be governed by Article 370 of the Constitution of India.

 

The residuary powers of legislation shall remain with the State; however, Parliament will continue to have power to make laws relating to the prevention of activities directed towards disclaiming, questioning or disrupting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India or bringing about secession of a part of the territory of India from the Union or causing insult to the Indian National Flag, the Indian National Anthem and the Constitution.

 

Where any provision of the Constitution of India had been applied to the State of Jammu and Kashmir with adaptation and modification, such adaptations and modifications can be altered or repealed by an order of the President under Article 370, each individual proposal in this behalf being considered on its merits; but provisions of the Constitution of India already applied to the State of Jammu and Kashmir without adaptation or modification are unalterable.

 

With a view to assuring freedom to the State of Jammu and Kashmir to have its own legislation on matters like welfare measures, cultural matters, social security, personal law and procedural laws, in a manner suited to the special conditions in the State, it is agreed that the State Government can review the laws made by Parliament or extended to the State after 1953 on any matter relatable to the Concurrent List and may decide which of them, in its opinion, needs amendment or repeal. Thereafter, appropriate steps may be taken under Article 254 of the Constitution of India. The grant of President’s assent to such legislation would be sympathetically considered. The same approach would be adopted in regard to laws to be made by Parliament in future under the Proviso to clause 2 of the Article. The State Government shall be consulted regarding the application of any such law to the State and the views of the State Government shall receive the fullest consideration.

 

As an arrangement reciprocal to what has been provided under Article 368, a suitable modification of that Article as applied to State should be made by Presidential order to the effect that no law made by the Legislature of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, seeking to make any change in or in the effect of any provision of Constitution of the State of Jammu and Kashmir relating to any of the under mentioned matters, shall take effect unless the Bill, having been reserved for the consideration of the President, receives his assent; the matters are a) the appointment, powers, functions, duties, privileges and immunities of the Governor, and b) the following matters relating to Elections namely, the superintendence, direction and control of Elections by the Election Commission of India, eligibility for inclusion in the electoral rolls without discrimination, adult suffrage and composition of the Legislative Council, being matters specified in sections 138, 139, 140 and 50 of the Constitution of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

No agreement was possible on the question of nomenclature of the Governor and the Chief Minister and the matter is therefore remitted to the Principals.

The said agreement was perceived as a complete sell out and reaffirming accession to India. Those unhappy with the agreement protested but Sheikh Abdullah was installed as Chief Minister of the state. The alternate voice grew and sought to represent the Kashmir cause. Pakistan also extended help to those challenging Indian control over the state.

 

INSURGENCY IN KASHMIR 

 

There was already much of resentment in the state which was further fuelled by the execution of Maqbool Butt in 1984 and the alleged rigging in 1987 elections. A large section of youth went across the LoC and returned with arms to challenge the establishment. The militant energy released from the Afghanistan war and ideologues in Pakistan had already espoused on their agenda a struggle for making Kashmir independent of India. The internal and external dimensions of the conflict came to be merged. Militancy was not only confined to valley but it spread in parts of Jammu region too. The counter insurgency operations and the extension of the provisions of AFSPA to the state and heavy militarisation further aggravated the situation. The peak years of militancy witnessed large scale collateral damage and human rights violations; further alienating the people of state from the centre. 

TEMPORARY RETURN OF NORMALCY 

There was a considerable decline in militancy after 2002-03. The Government of India and Pakistan resumed talks in 2001. A number of confidence building measures were taken into consideration. The new government in Jammu and Kashmir also took measures to take control of the situation. Cross LoC trade and bus service from Poonch and Baramula districts were the important steps taken by the then Congress-PDP coalition government. The separatists also put forth conditions for dialogue. The years 2008, 2009 and 2010 again went through turbulence but very few militant attacks were reported. The Government of India sent a team of interlocutors to the state for assessing the situation and proposing possible solution to the problem. The panel headed by Dilip Padgaonkar with Radha Kumar and M M Ansari as members submitted its report to the government of India. The report was largely ignored as Indian state did not took any considerable move to resolve the issue at all. The Kashmir problem continues to be unresolved, despite elections to the state assembly and subsequent government formations. It is pertinent to mention here that no state party sought to resolve Kashmir issue in their election manifesto ever. All the elections have been contested on the promise of providing basic amenities and development avenues to the population. 

The pro-Azadi or the separatist camp continue to challenge the position maintained by India that 1) Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. 2) That the elected government is the sole representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. 3)  That elections are the only tool for proving popularity. 4) That no solution outside the constitution of India is possible, and so on…

Although grievances against government of India and for that matter against the state of India existed in the state among some sections of the society, but the 1975 Kashmir accord made them manifest in disastrous ways particularly the armed insurgency in 1989-90. There are varied notions regarding the Kashmir accord, some believe it as success for state of India for it got greater authority over Jammu and Kashmir. Others blame it for all the bloodshed that took place in the state. As the situation on ground continues to be dissatisfactory to both India and people of the state, the success and failure of the said accord cannot be assessed, but it certainly marked a watershed moment in the regional politics.