Kashmir held an emotional and sentimental sway over Jawaharlal Nehru as his ancestors belonged to the land. He had once said: As Calais is written upon the heart of Mary so is Kashmir on mine.india Updated: Sep 09, 2002 16:45 IST
Kashmir held an emotional and sentimental sway over Nehru as his ancestors belonged to the land. He had once said: As Calais is written upon the heart of Mary so is Kashmir on mine.
This emotional attachment with Kashmir led to a series of decisions which internationalized the Kashmir issue and ensured strife in the Valley by placing too much faith in the talents of one man: Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.
The very idea of Kashmir going to Pakistan was reprehensible to Nehru. When Sheikh Abdullah emerged as a leader of the masses in Kashmir and someone who was willing to work in cohesion with the Centre, Nehru saw in him a leader who would agree for a full and final merger of Kashmir with India.
Abdullah who had deep differences with Jinnah had supported the accession to India signed by Hari Singh, despite his differences with the Dogra ruler. Soon enough Abdullah started singing a different tune.
Against the accession he started advocating an independent Kashmir. His trusted lieutenant and a hardliner Mir Afzal Beg formed the Plebiscite Front within the National Conference
Nehru was stunned at this volte-face by the Sheikh who had moved away from the ratified accession of Kashmir to India to a neutral, independent Kashmir with India and Pakistan guaranteeing its freedom.
With differences between them deepening, Nehru placed Abdullah under arrest in 1958.
Though Abdullah’s position was weakened by the corruption and unrest in the valley, it was by no means eroded. He was still a leader of the masses and continued an anti-accession agenda in 1964.
Nehru still held on to the remnants of his faith in his friend Sheik Abdullah. He still believed that Abdullah could act as a bridge between India and Pakistan and he sent him to Pakistan in 1964 on the mission.
At one point, to maintain peace in the state, Nehru had even agreed to a plebiscite.
But Pakistan in 1954 entered into an alliance with USA and Nehru saw the danger in it. He dropped the idea of a plebiscite. Perhaps the decision was also propelled by the fear also that if a plebiscite was held, Kashmir would vote to join Pakistan and India would lose it forever.
Nehru said plebiscite was not needed, as Kashmir was an integral part of India. He took the position that as Pakistan had allied itself with western powers it absolved India of obligations towards Pakistan and United Nations for a plebiscite.
But the issue had been internationalized. The UN charter on plebiscite in the state remained. It would be difficult for India in the coming years to prevent Pakistan from raising the Kashmir bogey on every international forum and pressing consistently for a referendum on the Kashmir issue.
Any decision on Kashmir was more and more beyond Nehru’s grasp who passed away in 1964.