Last week I attended a conclave of Defence Services Veterans where the participants were extremely upset that even though right from 1947, when Pakistan mounted its first attack on Jammu and Kashmir State, it is the Armed Forces which have had to make the maximum sacrifices to protect this inalienable part of Indian territory, in every statement about J&K being made these days not only by the separatists in that state but even by Government leaders the security forces are being unabashedly demonized.
Gen. S.K. Sinha who delivered the key note address at this conclave opened his address thus: “Kashmir has been a festering problem for the last 63 years. We merely assert that Kashmir is an integral part of India and a solution will emerge through dialogue. We as a Nation, suffer from a Panipat syndrome which stands for lack of strategic vision, remaining unprepared to face crises and not learning from the past.”
He added: “We have blundered from one folly to another on Kashmir and have been repeatedly scoring self-goals”.
Gen. Sinha who has had the unique distinction of having been witness to all the major events in that State since 1947 when he as a young Major supervised the air lift of Indian troops from the Safdarjang airport, New Delhi to Kashmir to repel the tribesmen sent by Pakistan, right up to 2008 when as Governor of J&K he had to handle the Amarnath controversy, then went on to list the numerous follies committed :
1. With the enemy closing on Srinagar, Maharaja Hari Singh fled to Jammu and was desperately seeking Indian assistance. He signed the Instrument of Accession but through exchange of letters, Kashmir was given a special position not made available to any Princely State in India or Pakistan.
2. Thereafter, we committed the cardinal folly of taking the Kashmir issue to the United Nations.
3. On 14 November 1947 when the enemy was in full flight, the Army had reached Uri but was stopped from advancing to Muzaffrabad and diverted to Poonch.
4. We launched our summer offensive on 22 May 1948 and by 1 June 1948, we liberated Tithwal. We were tantalizingly close to Muzaffrabad. The operation was called off in the wake of UN appeal to India and Pakistan to refrain from offensive operations.
5. In December 1948 after our resounding success in Ladakh and Poonch, we were well poised to liberate Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, but we agreed to a Cease Fire.
6. After the 1965 war, we handed over the strategic Hajipir Pass, won at great cost, on a platter to Pakistan at Tashkent.
7. We were outwitted at Shimla in 1972 and surrendered our gains without settling the Kashmir issue.
8. Our Parliament passed a unanimous resolution asserting that the area of Kashmir in illegal occupation of Pakistan is an integral part of India. We have done nothing to assert this right. Even when there has been widespread unrest in Gilgit-Baltistan, we did not even express sympathy for the agitators who are legally Indian citizens.
9. We agreed to road Srinagar-Muzaffrabad being opened but could not get road Kargil-Skardu opened.
10. In the name of freedom of the Press, we allow the Valley Press to constantly carry out anti-India false propaganda. The law on sedition does not seem to apply in Kashmir.
The list of our follies is endless, Gen. Sinha stated.
Not many outside the State are aware of the State’s diverse demography. Kashmiri Muslims among whom separatist sentiments and separatist violence are generally confined, constitute a minority in the State. Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and non-Kashmiri Muslims like Gujars, Bakharwals and Kargil Shias are nearly 60% of the State’s population. They do not nurture any anti-India sentiments.
Little wonder that a few years back, an opinion poll conducted under the patronage of Lord Avebury, a known British protagonist of Pakistan, found that only 6% Kashmiris wanted to join Pakistan, 61% wanted to remain in India and 33% were undecided !
More recently, in May 2010, King’s College of London University, at the instance of the son of Col. Gaddafi of Libya, carried out another similar survey in Kashmir. This survey found that only 2% of the people of Kashmir wanted to join Pakistan.
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During the last fortnight of the Monsoon Session of Parliament, the Lok Sabha had a day long discussion on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. I had referred in my last blog to the impressive contribution made by Dr. M.M. Joshi in the debate. Home Minister Shri Chidambaram was expected to reply to the debate the next day. But day after day kept passing by, the unconcluded debate on Kashmir would never find mention in the list of business. While rumours kept circulating that under guise of a political solution some package of concessions was being planned, on the last day of the session Dr. Joshi raised the issue as to why the Home Minister had avoided replying to this important debate.
There was an uproar on the issue and the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs said he would ask the H.M. who was in the other House if he could come. Well, he did not come, and the House was adjourned sine die in the evening without Government telling Parliament what kind of package it had prepared for the azadi-seekers.
In a press conference at Srinagar Hurriyat Conference Chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani has stated brazenly last week that the means of ‘resistance’ may have been changing from time to time, but the objective has been consistent, namely: FREEDOM FROM INDIAN RULE
Geelani then spelt out five minimum conditions for reviewing the ongoing agitation which had created anarchy in the Valley.
1. India must accept that J&K State is disputed territory
2. Start demilitarization; scrap Armed Forces Special Powers Act
3. P.M. must guarantee that hereafter there would be no police firing, no arrests.
4. All ‘political’ prisoners including Afzal Guru, sentenced to death by Supreme Court for planning the attack on Parliament, must be released.
5. Security men and police responsible for action against the separatists must be punished.
The separatists in Kashmir are led by the Hurriyat Conference. But the ferocious stone-pelting movement these days draws its strength more from the PDP than from the Hurriyat.
And so far as the Hurriyat Chief is concerned, these facts about his past show up the man.
In 2002, Syed Ali Shah Geelani was seriously ill in Ranchi jail. A state aircraft took him to Mumbai for treatment. Here a doctor who happened to be a Kashmiri Pandit, by name Dr. Sameer Koul performed a difficult surgery on him and saved his life.
In 2007 again he was diagnosed to be suffering from cancer of the liver. He wanted to go to U.S. for treatment. The U.S. embassy denied him visa because of his terrorist links. He did not go to Pakistan. He chose instead to go again to Mumbai where the doctors performed yet another life-saving operation on him.
On return to Srinagar, he was given a rousing welcome by his followers. At the function held he said that India was in illegal occupation of Kashmir, and urged the international community to impose economic sanctions against India!
4th September, 2010