Kashmir—Before the Accession and After; Hangloo writes candid account of troubled State

Salma Ahmed Farooqui
Salma Ahmed Farooqui

Bold, candid, courageously written, the book Kashmir—Before the Accession and After, the latest academic offering by Professor Rattan Lal Hangloo is an eye-opener to everyone who is familiar and also not so familiar with the happenings in this region. The author started this work while being the Vice-Chancellor of a mammoth institution – the Allahabad Central University. Comprising seven chapters, 237 pages and published in 2021 by publisher Primus International, the book promises to improve understanding, open debates, and hopes to resolve issues that are lurking for very long and are weighing heavily upon a whole group of people—the Kashmiris—who are struggling to find peace and tranquillity in their homeland.

Professor Rattan Lal Hangloo

Being a trained historian, Professor Hangloo rationally unfolds a narrative that reads like a historical account since 1932, simple enough to relate to. But this tale is not based merely on the vast sources he has used but evolves with so much maturity as it is also based on many personal discussions with like-minded Kashmiris and others that became a major source of his own orientation. The idea of this book germinated through a particular paper that he presented in 2017 for the Professor J. Foster Distinguished Lecture, Shawnee University, Ohio, USA. This was not just the starting point of what was to come out as this book, but he acknowledges that ‘the most important critical comments and probably the most stimulating suggestions came from here.’

Starting with a short melancholic poem in Urdu by Hafeez Jalandhari, Prof Hangloo explains Kashmir’s significant contribution to ‘politics, philosophy, history, literature, medicine, tourism, and craft-making throughout history.’ The author locates the Kashmir imbroglio today in the Partition of India and Pakistan that affected the Princely States like Kashmir and Hyderabad. In 1947, India became independent, but Kashmir like Hyderabad initially did not accede to the Indian Union. When Maharaja Hari Singh took the decision to accede to the Indian Union and was supported by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Kashmiri society’s march towards a democratic setup was subjected to interventions from regional elements who along with national leaders from the rest of India were aiming to carve out something else. Political and constitutional problems further pulled the region back and forbade its entry as a modern economic and technology-driven region on the lines of the rest of India.

Hangloo effortlessly situates in global perspective the internationalization of Kashmir’s right to self-determination and plebiscite at the UN level that pushed the issue of the State from a regional problem into a major international dispute. The Constituent Assembly in 1951 with Sheikh Abdullah as its leader affirmed Kashmir’s autonomy in all matters except defence, foreign affairs, and communication. Special status on Kashmir under Article 370 was conferred, unlike any other princely state that acceded to India. The autonomous position although through constitutional means was to become disputable. Without mincing his words, Hangloo speaks about the non-compliance of these earlier commitments made to the people of Kashmir under special circumstances that added up with the interference of Western powers and their allies for political and religious gains.

The book documents how in 1964, 1965 and in 2019, attempts were made to replace Article 370 which was abrogated finally in 2019. The promise of a plebiscite and the right to self-determination that were never kept up over all these years further isolated the Kashmiri people. This denial also led to outside interference in Kashmir on religious grounds through the Jamaat-e-Islami, a rural and urban-based cadre, which could buttress the aspirations of Kashmiris from self-rule to a direct merger with Pakistan.  The lack of sensitivity of the Government of India to tackle the region’s specific issues separately and exclusively further enhanced Pakistani enticement of Kashmiri religious sentiments. It also estranged the Kashmiri public from developing an affinity with India. A new buzzword ‘antinationalism’ started making headlines with training camps coming up for the mujahideen and recruiting from Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami. Both the US State Department and the CIA held relations with Pakistan without giving the impression that America was a major player in this effort against the Soviets through Pakistan. These developments emboldened the Jamaat-e-Islami in Kashmir to spread and provided Pakistan with an occasional chance to stage an uprising against India.

By examining these intricate and delicate Centre-State and international relations deftly, Hangloo exhibits his thorough objective handling of these arguments and makes a case in point.

Against this background, the book tries to push for a solution of having a consistent dialogue and discussion with the Kashmiris irrespective of their political affiliations, as excessive militarization and coercion is not a solution. The author also draws the attention of the reader to the fact that the country cannot ignore the growing risk and threat of mindless violence in Kashmir, which is the outcome of several years of the turmoil faced by the people.  Therefore, any comprehensive understanding of the Kashmir problem can best be tackled through a multi-pronged approach.

Almost as a finale, Hangloo asks for a heightened understanding of the complexities, unnecessary interference from neighbours and escalation of issues on international platforms that have made the daily life of the Kashmiris difficult. What needs to be addressed urgently is the burden faced by the Kashmiris of various injustices that happened in the past and poses a threat to the process of restoration of peace. He rightly speaks up for his fellowmen by saying ‘Kashmiri identity needs to be nurtured and preserved without making conflict a part of people’s lives.’

The author’s appeal to senior and moderate politicians at the State and Central levels to transcend the party position and prioritize the greater welfare of the Kashmiris rings loud and clear as internal tensions should not add to the turmoil. He reasons out that the bifurcation of the State into two union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh for administrative purposes and the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A may give a psychological boost of completing the full integration of the State through Constitutional means, but that has not translated into an atmosphere of peaceful conflict resolution. Rather, the prolonged Kashmir problem has accelerated socio-economic disparity of the region with the rest of India and has created new religious-cultural dynamics of treating Kashmiri Muslims with a ‘tag’ they cannot escape. India and its policymakers have to look at Kashmir today from the historical angle seeing the region as a convergence of several traditions. Moderation, liberal mindedness, dialogue need to be promoted and strengthened both at the level of policymakers and ordinary people.

The book is a must-read for officials, policymakers, historians, journalists, and well-wishers of the region who have Kashmiris as their friends and is a great attempt by Hangloo to extend a hand of warm touch on either side. It is needed.

Book review: Kashmir—Before the Accession and After
Writer: Prof. Rattan Lal Hangloo
Prof Hangloo is the Honorary Chancellor of Noble International University Toronto, Canada. He was a Professor of History at the Hyderabad Central University and Vice-Chancellor of Kalyani University West Bengal and University of Allahabad
Pages: 237
Publisher: Primus International, Delhi

Salma Ahmed Farooqui is Professor at H.K.Sherwani Centre for Deccan Studies, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad. She is also India Office Director of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies (ASPS).