The dynasties who have impacted Kashmir Polity
uring the past two centuries, some dynasties of the Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh state have significantly impacted/distorted the polity of the state by their acts of commission and omission.
Before the Dogras came to rule the state, Pathans had heldsway. Their tyrannical rule was notorious for its intolerance and anti-people activities. People of the state were suppressed and suffocated by their ruthless and insensitive governance. It was at this stage of history that some members from one of the respectable dynasties of Kashmiri Pandits known as Dhars gathered courage and ventured to the Court of the Sikhs at Lahore to plead with the Sikh rulers of Punjab to intervene in the state and get rid of the inhuman rule of the Pathans. But for this act of theDhars, the chronology of the state would have been different than it emerged subsequently as the entire local population of Hindus would have been either decimated or forcefully converted to Islam. This Kashmiri dynasty of Dhars continued to wield its influence on the evolution of Kashmir’s history during twentieth century also, by contribution of its noblemen who were veterans in governance and statecraft as guides and assistants to the rulers. A veteran statesman politician and administrator from the same dynasty,D.P. Dhar played a vital role in bridging Srinagar and New Delhiby cementing the accession between the state and the union by his imaginative association with the ruling Muslim political elite of the valley who had organized under National Conference.Besides being a master politician, he was a classic diplomat who architected Indo-Soviet Agreements of Friendship as Indian ambassador to the erstwhile SovietUnion. This worked to cement Indo-Soviet relations during the cold war when India was pressuredand arm-twisted by the Western powers on various occasions. He was also instrumental in consolidating financial and administrative integration between Centre and state as the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission of India. It was even believed that but for his secular thinking and vision, it would not have been possible to tame Muslim centric politics of Muslim politicians of the Valley, with whom he maintained intimate political rapport.
After the Sikhs of Punjab defeated and tamed the Pathans,the sovereignty of the state of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh transferred to the Sikhs. But the Sikhs subsequently handed over the same to the Dogra rulers of Jammu as per the Amritsar Agreement. This way, theDogras became the monarchs of the State. The Dogras were liberal and benevolent monarchs who ruled liberally for social and public welfare of the people of the state. They exhibited no religious intolerance unlike Pathans.The last Dogra monarch of the state was Maharaja Hari Singh who abdicated on the eve of independence of India.He was a kind and liberal ruler who granted many democratic rights to the people of the state. He also nurtured deep sympathies for the Independence struggle of India spearheaded by the Indian National Congress. He ruled all three divisions of the state with a benevolent administration, including Kashmir which had a Muslim majority.When Independence was granted and the country divided into the two dominions of India and Pakistan, all small princes and rajasnumbering more than 500 were given the option of acceding to Pakistan or India. The offer was open to the raja of the state also. But unfortunately he procrastinated and instead wanted to sign a Stand Still Agreement with both India and Pakistan to give him time to take a calibrated decision regarding the fate of his state.Pakistan being impatient to annex the state attacked with armed tribesmen duly covered by the Pakistani Army. They overran the tiny army of the raja and knocked at the doors of the city of Srinagar.The raja was left with no alternative but to ask the Government of India to help vacate the occupation of Pakistani tribesman and regulars from the state.India could not grant him his wish until he signed the Instrument of Accession both as de-jure and de-facto sovereign of the state.In this manner, relations between India and Kashmir were cemented by due process of law,recognized by the international community. After Maharaja Harisingh abdicated, his son Dr. Karan Singh was elected as Sadri-Riyasat (governor) under the due process of law enshrined in the constitution of the state which was enacted by the duly constituted Assembly of the state. Under political pressure, this institution was subsequently converted into the post of a governor like in other states of the Union. This great intellect and political ideologue from Jammu has contributed at national level in different capacities and continues to do so.
The Nehru dynasty which had migrated to Allahabad from Kashmir under pressure of ethnic cleansing during the Pathan rule had a personal romance for Kashmir and all things Kashmiri. Jawahar lal Nehru, a front runner in the Indian Independence Movement was the epitome of this Nehru romance forKashmir. So he established and maintained special relations with Kashmir and its people. He supported all democratic and liberal moves of Kashmiri people to end monarchy and establish participatory democracy. It was in this context that he supported and patronized Sheikh Mohd Abdullah and his National Conference in his movement against Dogra monarchy.Both of these political giants became close friends,a friendship which was subsequently bequeathed to their progeny.This personal relationship was maintained by Indra Gandhi andRajiv Gandhi withSheikh Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah. The spirit of this relationship is still being maintained by Sonia Gandh and Rahul Gandhiwith Farooq Abdullah and Omer Abdullah. Both negative and positive contributions of these two great dynasties of Kashmir have impacted the past and the present politics of the state phenomenally.
The valley of Kashmir was inhabited by majority Sunni Muslims besides Kashmiri Pandits, Dogras, ShiaMuslims, Sikhs, Pahadis, Dards, Gujjarsand Bakarwals. A tiny segment of Sunni Muslims of the valley were (as they are now too) influenced by clerical Moulvis of Srinagar who worked as religious preachers of Sunni Muslims. These Moulvis were the elite of the Muslims and so maintained cordial and friendly relations with the Dogra monarchs. There was hardly any conflict between the monarch and these Sunni clerics. Both were supportive of each other. While the temporal court was held by Moulvi Yousuf Shah (the great grand father of present day cleric Moulvi Umar Farooq), the secular court was held by the Dogramonarch. A fine balance of power sharing between the ruler and the ruled was maintained, which ushered in welfare and prosperity for the people of the valley. An atmosphere of peace and calm prevailed in the valley under such arrangements. Yet, the Moulvis established the Muslim League as a political arm of the Muslims of the valley to wrestle a stronger position. They got inspiration from the Indian MuslimLeagueof Mohd Ali Jinnah but have not disassociated from thiscommunal dispensation even six decades later.
As dissent was brewing in the Sunni Muslims majority of the valley, the National Congress which was strategizing the independence movement of the country by involving local startups in its national movement thought it prudent to engage with them.Sheikh Mohd Abdullah was one of the upright startups who had great demagogical qualities to guide, mobilize and control mobs. He was a radical reformist also. Hebecame the undisputed, tallest leader of Kashmiri Muslims by virtue of his courage and visionof independence from the monarchy, which was supported by the IndianNational Congress.Pandit Nehru played a crucial role by patronizing Sheikh Abdullah. This way Sheikh Abdullah mobilized the people of the valley to revolt against the Dogra monarch and establish a democratic state based on radical land and other reforms unlike in other states of the country. After Maharaja Hari Singh abdicated his throne in 1947 post-acceding to the Indian Union, it was the mass based public leader Sheikh Abdullah who endorsed the accession of the state to India by legal and constitutional endorsement in the popularly elected Constituent Assembly of the state.Thus the process of accession was completed in all respects by no person other than Sheikh Abdullah who had become the de-facto sovereign of the state post the abdication of Maharaja Hari Singh.
Shiekh Abdullah ruled the state for a couple of years. He could not be a popular ruler because he did not tolerate dissent. He suppressed his opponents and exiled them from the state for the simple reason that they ventured to oppose him. It was during his regime that grand father of present cleric Moulvi Umer Farooq, Moulvi Mohd Yousuf Shah was banished from the Valley. Sheikh Abdullah could not even be a good benevolent ruler because he bamboozled his opponents to submission. He cared less for the welfare and prosperity of his people though the most radical land reforms were introduced during his tenure, which granted proprietary rights of land to millions of tenants without any compensation to the land owners. So people got frustrated with him and wanted to get rid of him. He also started to lose allurement for secular ways of life and politics under pan Islamic influence. After he was ousted by his own colleagues in the National Conference, he acquired the halo of a savior among some Muslims and thus started a negative phase of his political career. But after remaining in the wilderness for more than fifteen years, he was reinstalled under the Beigh-Parthsarthy Accord in 1975. After that it wasdynastic politics as usual when his son Farooq Abdullah was installed as the Chief Minister upon his death only for the reason that he was the son of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah. As a flamboyant politician he lacked vision and verve to rule and messed up issues to such an extent that he was forced to abdicate in 1989. Insurrection had now gained strong ground in the valley due to his derelictand erratic behavior. Ittook nearlytwo decades of arduous effortsof security forces after 1989 to restore some semblance of normalcy in the state. The institutions of democratic governance whereby political parties were able to resume their functions and activities after a hiatus of a decade were brought back.However, yet again, it was adherence tothe dynastic rule policy that made it possible to install Farooq Abdullah’s son, OmarAbdullah as the Chief Minister in 2009. Duringthe first year of his term, he messed up like his father and his faltering regime was rescued by some hidden forces working at Delhi. He continues to rule with much still desired for improvement and streamlining of atottering and fumbling administration. He has yet to prove that he can deliver good governance in the terrorism battered state.
Another dynasty that had its impact on Kashmir polity was that of Moulvi Sayeed Massudi.He was considered to be the political ideologue of National Conference which directed and drafted the political road map of Naya Kashmir and other radical economic and social reforms like land reforms. He was supposed to be the guide and philosopher of Sheikh Abdullah during his first regimeand subsequent period of incarceration. Militants did not hesitate to gun down this old emaciated man for his secular and democratic ideas in 1990. He was considered to be one of the cleanest politicians of the state and lived an austere life.
Sheikh Abdullah was replaced by Bakshi Gulam Mohd as Prime Minister of the state, which the position was called then. He was a dynamic administrator who had rich and positive vision for welfare and prosperity of people of the state. He contributed to the development of the state with his positive approach. He was therefore a popular ruler who was loved by his people for his qualities of head and heart and was rightly called as the builder of modern Kashmir. To a limited extent he was able to integrate the state with the Indian Union in different aspects. His contribution to the integration of the state with the Union extended the fruits of democracy and development to the state. With his removal the golden chapter of peace and development in the state came to an end.
Another dynasty that impacted polity of the state was that of Mirza Afzel Beig.He was known as a close friend and political advisor of Sheikh Abdullah and his National Conference. It is believed that he played as the evil genius of the Sheikh during his long political association with him and during his incarceration in the sixties and seventies. It is rightly believed that it was only his political sagacity that created and sustained the ghost of Plebiscite Front to embarrass the Govt. of India in international forums during the cold war period. The Sheikh personally was believed to be opposed to any move to make Kashmir secede from India on the grounds of religion and ethnicity alone. His negative contribution for creating a biased opinion against secular India in the valley can not be ignored. But as a sick old manhe met his nemesis at the hands of his trusted,longstanding friend and chum Abdullah when he was thrown out of National Conference by the Sheikh only because he opposed dynastic rule. The poor man died a forlorn death after alifelong association with an unfaithful friend for whom he sacrificed his otherwise flourishing professional and political career.
During the twentieth century, in the period after independence, the Jammu province was politically isolated and ignored by Muslim centric politicians and administrators of the valley. It was only in the later part of the century that Jammu Dogras started to assert their political rights. Jammu people felt that Jammu was being ignored and discriminated against and made to play second fiddle to appease the Kashmir Sunni Muslim majority. They felt suffocated in a denying political atmosphere which tended to undermine and sacrifice Jammu pride for the pleasure of Kashmiri Sunni Muslims. It was against this atmosphere of neglect and discrimination that an astute patriarch from Jammu Dogras created a political entity to confront and check Kashmir centric domination in the political scene, which was known as Praja Parshid. His name was Pt. PremNathDogra.He was a highly respected person from Jammu who was politically clean and focused and wanted a respectable place for Dogras of Jammu in the state polity, on equitable terms. He created the only political party that covered the entire Jammu division to work as a counter weight against the Muslim centric National Conference of the valley, which had been ignoring the other two divisions of Jammu and Ladakh. But his party was branded as a Hindu communal party by the National Conference and even its sympathizers in Delhi. PrajaParishad remained a popular party and its depth and reach was far and wide. It was actually due to the countervailing force of this provincial party that some semblance of equity between Jammu and Kashmir was introduced in matters of power sharingin legislative, executive and administrative matters. Likewise sharing of funds and political powers too was introduced under pressure of the PrajaParshid of Jammu. Besides, it needs to be admitted that the subsequent integration between state and the Union in matters of executive, judicial and legislative powers was caused by the covert and overt pressure of this party. This party was primarily responsible to finish Permit Raj in the state that ordained a special permit for any Indian to enter the state at the only entry point of Lakhanpur bordering Punjab. The role of this party under the visionary and selfless leadership of Punditjee cannot beunderstated. But for his contribution Kashmir could have gone the 1989 way back in fifties and sixties of the last century.
It was a suave Kashmiri Muslim,AmanUllah Khan living in Pakistan occupied Kashmir who was groomed by Pakistan and its Inter Services Intelligence to sponsor and organize a violent Kashmir Azadi movement in Indian parts of Kashmir. It first aimed to resurrect and sustain the work of the Plebiscite Front that had spread its tentacles in the valley during the period Sheikh Abdullah was in incarcerationbut which had started dying post the Sheikh-Indra Accord of 1975.He was encouraged and instructed to establish the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and spread it to the Indian part of Kashmir through the proxy of Jamaiti Islamiand other separatist forces in the valley. These separatist forces subsequently morphed into the Hurriyat Conference which sought secession of Kashmir from India through revolt and armed insurrection.It was the JK Liberation Front that initiated political and terrorist killings in the valley to spread dread and extract submission and surrender of the Muslims and cause forced migration of Hindus from the valley.It was his activist Maqbool Bhat who did the first killing of a security official ( Pt. Amar Chand) of Kashmir police at Nadihal of district Baramullah. After he started mobilizing a section of public opinion of Kashmiri Sunni Muslims for independence of Kashmir from both, the hegemony of India and Pakistan through the JK Liberation Front, Pakistani agencies got disillusioned from the working of the JKLF and decided to sideline and ignore AmanUllah Khan and instead handover the movement to fundamentalist Islamists who were planted to establish Nizami-Mustaffa in the State. AmanUllah Khan was sent into insignificance after he had acted his part of first whipping up anti-India hysteria in the valley. He did leave the ghost of JKLF in the valley which competed with various other separatist outfits let lose by the ISI establishment.
During the sixth and seventh decades of the last century, an ordinary politician of Sopore town of Kashmir contested elections to the state Legislative Assembly on a Jamait-i-Islami ticket after pledging allegiance to the constitution of India. He contested first against the National Conference and later against the National Congress. He was Sayeed Ali Shah Geelani, the present day firebrand patriarch of the hardlineHurriyat Conference of Kashmir. The Jamait won just two seats in the valley and sat in the opposition performing a responsible role of the opposition for a couple of years. It was only post the execution of Bhutto that the Jamait was manipulated by General ZiaulHaq, the president of Pakistan into a fundamentalist outfit to stoke and fan fissiparous tendencies of the people of the valley. In a way Sheikh Abdullah was himself responsible for allowing Geelani to grow out as a jinni from the bottle after entire properties and families of Jamait people were targeted and vandalized by National Conference activists post execution of ZulfiqarAli Bhutto. Just for reference,the deposed Prime Minister of Pakistan was put to a sham trial by the army ruler Gen. Zia-ul-Haq during Sheikh’s second term in office as Chief Minister of the state. The National Conference thought that the Jamait -Islami conspired with the General to persecute Bhutto. The firebrand patriarch fell prey to pan-Islamic and ISI machinations, to play a role that went against the fundamentals of democracy and dignity of the people of the valley. A large part of discredit for the present mess and misery in Kashmir politics goes to his intransigent and adamant attitudes which have been bereft of reason and logic. The heavy loss of life and property in the valley cannot be condoned by whatsoever explanations and justifications. This man has to share responsibility in the sordid tyranny of terrorism in Kashmir. Future generations of Kashmir cannot condone the senseless killings of people for causes which at the worst were delusory and at the best fancy.
Last but not the least on the list of such dynasties is the one of Mufti Mohd Sayeed and his daughters. It was the shrewd eye of veteran Kashmiri statesman and politician DP Dhar that picked up an ordinary youth from Mattan from district Anantnagh to contest elections to the state Assembly on a ticket of Democratic National Conference of Gulam Mohd Sadiq against a sitting National Conference member of Bakshi Gulam Mohd. After that it was history as they say. He was shrewd and clever to change with times and organized a vibrant National Congress Organization in the valley to confront the National Conference of Sheikh Abdullah, which was ruling the state and bent upon desiccating the National Congress. It was during his tenure of Pradesh Chief of National Congress that the first killing of political activitists took place when security forces killed a score of his workers atBijebrara, who were protesting against theNational Conference government. He wasone of the colleagues of Rajiv Gandhiwho ditched him post thereservation turmoil and joined hands with V.P. Singh, who in turnelevated him as the first Muslim Home Minister of India. It was during this period that militancy peaked in the state. During this very period his daughter Dr. Rubia Sayeed was kidnapped from Srinagar and the first bargain of weakness by the Indian State was negotiated with the Kashmirimilitants, to release five dreaded terrorists held in captivity in exchange for the release of his daughter. This exchange paved the way for more such shameless exchanges, the nadir of which was the exchange of dreaded terrorists with the hostages of Air India Flight atKandahar.
Like rest of the politicians of the valley Mufti Mohd Sayeed also went into hibernation for the last decade of twentieth century when Pakistan sponsored terrorists penetrated and dominated the valley. It was only after the security forces were able to contain and restrict the influence of the terrorists in the valley that Mufti started to reemerge on the political scene of the valley. He reactivated and reorganized a cadre of workers to occupy the political space left by the mainline political parties who had been hunted out by the terrorists.He utilized his previous political contacts in the valley and his clout in Delhi to reactivate his outfit, which confrontedthe National Conference and coalesced with the National Congress, creating political space for himself and his outfit. For this to be achieved, he knew that he had to maintain a close rapport with the separatists and liaise with theterrorists. He involved his second daughter Mehabooba Mufti in his political outfit which he named as People’s Democratic Party. His front contested elections in the state by mobilizing all anti National Conference forces and anti-National Congress forces. He made his young daughter who has become a fire brand activist its Chairperson. She became a young face of Kashmir politics but also the epitome of communal bartering. She has even been called the soft face of hard terrorism. He ruled the state in coalition with National Congress for the first three years on a rotational basis and then hesitated to handover Chief-ministership to the Congress as per agreement. The father daughter duo have been digging up issues like restoration of autonomy, permanency of Article 370, review of State Central relations, opening of borders with Pak occupied Kashmir,withdrawal of armed forces from Kashmir, release of all militants and amnesty to separatist politicians to maintain a political space for themselves. They raise all these issues, which are public sensitive and emotive in the valley in order to win over the separatists and terrorists to their side and emerge as a political force.In fact, with this strategy, they have been able to shatter the monopoly of National Conference politics in the valley. They are running PDP as an active political outfit in the valley and are shaping its future carefully, by being soft to terrorists, softer to the separatists and appealing to the emotions and sentiments of the Muslims of the valley. Unfortunately the politics of this group too is Kashmiri Muslim centric which has no appeal and makes no ground for people of Jammu and Ladakh.
*P.N.Ganjoo was born in a modest Kashmiri family about 7 decades ago, lost his father early and was raised by his honest, hardworking mother. With her efforts he received his education in Srinagar and went on to serve in various Government Departments before retiring as a senior grade KAS officer.
Presently he is working on his varied interests besides being a consulting Director of a software services company.
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