~By Rashme Sehgal
Former union minister Prof Saifuddin Soz book ‘Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle’ strongly emphasises on the need for Pakistan and India to resolve their long standing disputes particularly over Jammu and Kashmir.
Kashmir may appear to be an intractable problem but there is little doubt in Soz’s mind that if the government launches a strong political initiative with the people in the valley, they will respond with reasonableness and cordiality.
He believes it has become a problem because Union of India could not handle Kashmir properly and entrusted work of political outreach to intelligence agencies who have “small minds” and “know only how to play petty politics”.
- Your book mentions on how Sardar Patel was keen to hand over Kashmir to Pakistan?
- Both Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel were great sons of India although their approach to politics was different. Both wanted India to be great as per their own perceptions.
Nehru took a lot of interest in Kashmir. Nehru remained close to the National Conference and to Sheikh Abdullah. In 1945, at the Sopore Session of the National Conference when the New Kashmir doctrine was adopted which was to determine their policy for the future, Nehru addressed that session speaking before more than two lakh people.
Sheikh Abdullah kept National Conference away from Muslim League and he kept a distance from the Congress. Nehru addressed that session and that is part of Nehru’s political legacy. Sardar Patel was more pragmatic. In the Partition Council debates he told Liaquat Ali Khan to stop the bickering since till only yesterday we were one country. He told him why are you talking of Hyderabad Deccan since it is not connected to Pakistan by either road or by rail. Take Kashmir instead he said. When Union’s (of India) army landed in Srinagar, the same afternoon Mountbatten was in Pakistan. He had a dinner meeting with Liaquat Ali Khan. He thought Liaquat was preparing for war.
- Was Nehru responsible for taking the Kashmir issue to the UN?
- It was Mountbatten who took the case to UN. It was not Nehru. In my book I quote a letter written by Mountbatten to Nehru which states, “When I first suggested bringing UNO with the dispute, it was in order to achieve the object I have quoted above to stop the fighting and to stop it as soon as possible.’ But no amount of argument could convince Nehru on the correctness of the action that Mountbatten had adopted.
- Why is this fact little known?
- I have done a great deal of research for the book. Sardar Patel offered Kashmir in good faith. I have narrated facts. These are the facts of history.
- But this is contrary to what BJP keeps harping upon insisting that it is Nehru who is to blame the Kashmir problem as he took the issue to the United Nations?
- Both Nehru and Sardar Patel wanted to build India. Sardar Patel was a strong person but he could envisage that Kashmir could be a problem for India. According to the principle of partition, Patel believed it should go to Pakistan but Liaquat Ali Khan was adamant that Deccan and Junagarh should be given to Pakistan. That spoilt the debates in the Partition Council. These are all well researched facts.
In the books written by Shaukat Hayat Ali titled ‘A Nation Lost Its Soul’ describes how when Mountbatten had come to Lahore, the principle of how a state whose subjects make up a majority of a community and the state is contiguous to the adjoining dominion would accede to the adjoining country must be followed. But Liaquat was not willing to give up his claim on Hyderabad leading him to state that Liaquat neither understood history, nor did he understand geography.
- Why has Kashmir become such an intractable problem?
- It has become a problem because Union (of India) over a period of time could not handle Kashmir properly. This is a situation that has been created by so many actors. Political outreach work has been handed over to intelligence agencies. They have small minds. They know only how to play petty politics. They have destroyed the state.
Nehru tried but then August 9, 1953 occurred. (the day Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed from office and put behind bars) From the very beginning intelligence people handled political work in Kashmir. Nehru was opposed to Sheik’s arrest but he was over ruled by his Cabinet. Gandhi had been a bridge of understanding between Nehru and Patel but on his assassination Nehru lost a big support. He lost his vigour to combat communal forces inside and outside parliament.
- Who were some of these small minded intelligence officers?
- There were many of them. I can cite the example of BN Mullick who superseded 30 officers to become intelligence chief. He was very close to the Sardar. Sheikh Abdullah had in his autobiography Aatish-e-China noted how BN Mullick had been sent to Srinagar in the middle of 1949 to report on the situation on the ground in Kashmir. He sent his report to his office in Delhi and Nehru felt happy and sent copies of the report to all embassies. When Sardar Patel came to know, he summoned Mullick and admonished him for sending the report directly to Nehru. Mullick got nervous and told Patel that he had sent the report to the senior officers at the IB.
- You have said good things about Musharraf?
- Musharraf explained to his own generals and to the political establishment, after the loss at Kargil, that India was a much bigger country and Pakistan could not fight and win against it. That is how a peace initiative came about and this formula was accepted by the political establishment. Vajpayee had created an atmosphere of hope by signing the Lahore Declaration. In my book, I merely say that Musharraf said Kashmiris are not in favour of Pakistan. If you give them a choice, they will ask for independence. And I have emphasised that that is not possible. Pakistan must create a situation whereby we can have good relations with India. The five units of (undivided) Kashmir must allow for free movement. The Musharraf formula was very dignified. At the Agra Summit, Vajpayee did not have support of his own colleagues and the intelligence agencies.
Musharraf subsequently built bridges with Manmohan Singh. Manmohan Singh is a sure footed person who proceeds carefully but does not create hype. Singh envisioned a situation where (he hoped) people could have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul. But this was not to be because of Pakistan’s own internal security issues. Lal Masjid happened causing violence and unrest all around and then Musharraf had problems with his own judiciary.
- What about the muscular policy of the present government?
Muscular policy will not work here. Kashmiris will get killed but the problem will not be solved. This will mean only more bloodshed. The only thing that will work is a powerful political dialogue. The government must talk to the Hurriyat. They must talk to the angry youth of Kashmir. Start a dialogue with them then move forward to other actors.
When you open a dialogue, then you must perforce speak to the parties that don’t agree with you. That is why speaking to the Hurriyat is important because they vocalise the anger of the youth. When Hurriyat calls for shutdowns, it occurs, so how can people say they do not have a following. In order to move forward, they must talk to people.
- What are your views of Mufti Mohammed and BJP coming together to form the government which then fell apart?
- This was the greatest blunder of Mufti. How could this create harmony in Kashmir? It was the North Pole and the South Pole coming together. BJP gets dictation from RSS. They will their play sectarian politics. The idea of India is not known to them.
But I still say, civil society must also have a dialogue with the RSS.