The case of Kashmir

The UN Security Council must discharge its obligations by implementing its own resolutions and get the people of Kashmir their right to self-determination to establish peace in the region

The case of Kashmir

Seventy years ago, "three hundred and thirty men of the First Sikh Battalion of the Indian army landed at Srinagar Airport on October 27, 1947," (Danger in Kashmir P.85 by Prof. Korbel). They occupied more than half of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir by the time ceasefire was effected on January 1, 1949 in pursuance of the Security Council Resolution dated April 21, 1948 and UNCIP Resolution dated August 13, 1948.

India claimed that the State’s ruler Maharaja Hari Singh, through a letter and Instrument of Accession dated October 26, 1947, had acceded to Indian Dominion and had requested for help. Just after a few hours, the Indian army was flown from Delhi and landed at Srinagar before dawn on October 27, 1947, which was evidently pre-planned. Pakistan, with whom Hari Singh had entered into Stand Still Agreement on August 12, 1947, "branded Kashmir’s accession as an act based on fraud and violence and refused to accept it" (Danger in Kashmir p.88). Hence, the dispute between India and Pakistan over the State of Jammu and Kashmir started.

Therefore, the governors general of India and Pakistan held a meeting at Lahore on November 1, 1947 to resolve the dispute. Pakistan’s governor general proposed; (i) immediate ceasefire, (ii) withdrawal of all alien troops from the State and (iii) holding plebiscite under the supervision of the two governors general.

The past seventy years have testified that maintaining peace between India and Pakistan and putting South Asian region to the path of development and prosperity is not possible without resolving the Kashmir dispute.

Indian governor general made a counter proposal of holding plebiscite under the United Nations. Prof. Korbel many decades earlier wrote, "had he (Mountbatten) been able to accept…Kashmir would have been spared of further cruel fighting and years of partition and more important, the two Dominions could have smoothed out their present bitter estrangement, so dangerous to the peace of the world" (Danger in Kashmir p.90).

The State of Jammu and Kashmir, as it existed on August 14, 1947, came into being under the infamous Treaty of Amritsar executed on March 16, 1846 by the British government and Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu, the great grandfather of Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Ruler of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Under the treaty, the areas between Rivers Indus and Ravi and everything therein, including human beings, were sold and transferred by the former to the latter for seven and a half million rupees. Though these territories were never possessed or controlled by the Crown, they were taken on papers from the defeated Sikh Kingdom of Punjab as war indemnity under the Treaty of Lahore dated March 9, 1846, just seven days before the Treaty of Amritsar.

Thus, Maharaja Hari Singh and his predecessor Dogra Rulers derived their authority and power to rule the State of Jammu and Kashmir under the Treaty of Amritsar, which itself was of a questionable character.

In June, 1947, the British Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act, 1947 which came into effect on August 15, 1947 (the appointed day) whereunder British India was partitioned between India and Pakistan in accordance with Section 1(1) thereof. With regard to Indian States (like the State of Jammu and Kashmir), Section 7(1)(b) of the said Act of 1947 declared that "the suzerainty of His Majesty over the Indian States lapses, and with it, all treaties and agreements in force at the date of the passing of this Act between His Majesty and the rulers of Indian States".

The Treaty of Amritsar and the suzerainty of British government lapsed on August 15, 1947 under Section 7(1)(b) of the Indian Independence Act, 1947. Consequently, with effect from August 15, 1947, Hari Singh ceased to be the ruler of the State of Jammu and Kashmir and was denuded of all powers and authority to rule the State of Jammu and Kashmir. All such powers and authority reverted to the sovereign authority, the people of the State. Besides, Maharaja had lost control over more than half of the State before October 26, 1947.

In Gilgit, Baltistan and some other parts of northern areas people had revolted and established local government. On October 4, 1947, Azad Provisional Government of Jammu and Kashmir was established by the people with its headquarters at Muzaffarabad which issued Proclamation, inter alia stating:-

"With the termination of paramountcy of the British Crown, the ruling family of Kashmiris has lost whatever right it claimed under the Treaty of Amritsar."

This Provisional Government was reconstituted on October 24, 1947 with Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim as Provisional Head. Prof Dr Josef Korbel, who served as a member and chairman of UNCIP wrote in his book, Danger in Kashmir, (p.66):

"Whatever the validity of their mutual accusations, there is little doubt that Kashmir was brewing with revolt against the Maharaja long before the tribesmen invaded the country. The political opposition launched in 1930 was carried into an open resistance in 1946. This was resumed in the spring of 1947."

In the White Paper issued by the Plebiscite Front in 1964, it is recorded in Para 12:-

"The accession was thus effected by a lame duck Ruler who had been deprived of the capacity and the means to exercise his free will and volition and whose power to bind the State by any of his acts had vanished by reason of his authority and suzerainty over the State having been effectively repudiated…"

In order to give legal cover to the so-called accession and occupation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, on January 1, 1948 India brought Kashmir issue before the Security Council complaining against Pakistan. In his letter to the President of the Security Council, Indian representative reiterated pledge that the people of the State "would be free to decide their future by the democratic method of a plebiscite or a referendum which in order to ensure impartiality, might be held under international auspices."

The Security Council, after hearing at length the representatives of India and Pakistan, passed first important Resolution on April 21, 1948 which, inter alia:-

(i) reconstituted United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP);

(ii) established Plebiscite Administrator who would be a nominee of the UN Secretary General, to hold plebiscite on the question of the accession of the State to India and Pakistan;

wanted the governments of India and the State to ensure safety of the State subjects and freedom of expression and voting and freedom of the press, speech and assembly and freedom of travel throughout the State including lawful entry and exit; and directed demilitarisation of the State, but India to reduce "to the minimum strength required for the support of the civil power in the maintenance of law and order".

However, subsequent Resolution dated December 23, 1952 of the Security Council provided, "this number to be between 3000 and 6000 armed forces remaining on the Pakistan side of the ceasefire line and between 12000 and 18000 armed forces remaining on the Indian side of the ceasefire line."

All the subsequent resolutions passed by the Security Council and the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) maintained this position, recognising the right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to decide their political future.

Besides, the International Covenants on Human Rights declare "All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development". Recently, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a Pakistan-sponsored resolution reaffirming the universal right of people to self-determination as a fundamental condition for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights.

Since the right to self-determination is a fundamental human right, it needs no approval and cannot be denied to the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. In exercise of this right, they are entitled to decide their political future in a democratic manner freely adopting any option as envisaged in UN General Assembly Resolution No.2625/1970 which provides for "the establishment of a sovereign and independent State, the free association or integration with an independent State or the emergence into any other political status freely determined by people".

How ironic and shocking that the people of the Indian-ruled Jammu and Kashmir are still deprived of fundamental human rights. The Constitution of the Jammu and Kashmir, 1957 does not guarantee any of the fundamental rights to the people nor does that Chapter of Indian Constitution which guarantees fundamental rights apply to Jammu and Kashmir. The people have no constitutional guarantee to life, liberty or property. They do not have the luxury of enjoying freedom of conscience, speech, association and movement. Their dignity and privacy of home is not guaranteed but often violated. The human rights of the people in Kashmir are trampled upon with impunity by the army and security forces disregarding all humanitarian laws.

The past seventy years have testified that maintaining peace between India and Pakistan and putting South Asian region to the path of development and prosperity is not possible without resolving the Kashmir dispute. Military operations or militancy cannot solve the dispute.

Under Article 24 of the UN Charter and in terms of its Resolution dated 30 March, 1951, "…it is the duty of the Security Council in carrying out its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security to aid the parties to reach an amicable solution of the Kashmir dispute".

Let the Security Council discharge its obligations under the UN Charter by implementing its own resolutions and get the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir their democratic right to self-determination in order to establish peace and security in the region.

The case of Kashmir