Kashmir: Land of Regrets
Context, an imprint of Westend Publications
Price Rs 699
Moosa Raza served for 35 years as a civil servant in various capacities across India, including as chief secretary, Jammu and Kashmir. He is the author of three previous books: ‘Of Nawabs & Nightangles’, ‘In Search of Oneness’ and ‘The Smile on Sorrow’s Lips’.
Writes Moosa Raza in the preface of the book: It would be naive to believe that destroying a ‘terrorist center’ in Pakistan, or killing some terrorists under training in those centers can put an end to the insurgency and the upsurge of armed attacks. The canker has gone deep into the psyche of the Kashmiris. Even if Masood Azhar, Salahuddin, Riyaz Naikoo, Kachroo or other militants are eliminated, others will take their place.
There cannot be a military solution to Kashmir. Hope lies in an emphatic solution based on dialogue, not only with the separatist leaders but eventually with the Pakistan-based militant leadership too. The Kashmir leaders also need to recognise that wasting the lives of the most productive sections of society is not going to help them get ‘azadi’.
The Shaikh was shifted to Ooty, and was under house arrest, not allowed to meet any visitors. In the words of TN Seshan, who was then the collector of the Nilgiris, “Even a bird could not approach him.”
The title of this book has provoked many questions from my friends. Why do I call Kashmir a land of regrets, they ask.
It’s simple, really. I believe that everyone who has visited Kashmir, even for a short while, has left the state with some regret in his heart.
The apple-orchard owner who sees his annual crop rot in the garden, or on the tree, because the curfew-bound valley would not permit the movement of his trucks, sighs with deep regret.
Young men and women regret their inability to attend school or college without anxiety, like their counterparts in the rest of India are able to.
The security forces miss their own homes and families and wish to be elsewhere than in barracks in an unfamiliar land.
As for the women who wait for their children to come home safe, day after day, regret is perennial.
As Ghalib says:
The flower’s fragrance, the heart’s lament, the smoke of the dying lamp.
Whatever left your company, left distraught, distressed and dispersed…
Hence the title, ‘Kashmir: Land of Regrets’.
Excerpts from Kashmir: Land of Regrets
One of the major mistakes Nehru committed was dismissing and detaining Shaikh Abdullah on rather flimsy ground. True, the Shaikh had toyed with the idea of an independent Kashmir. So had Maharaja Hari Singh, so had the nawabs of Hyderabad, the maharajah of Travancore, the nawab of Junagarh, and others. The former two had even taken concrete steps towards establishing independence. Sir CP Ramasway Iyer, the Dewan of Travancore, who had strongly advised the maharaja to declare independence and who was a born-again imperialist, lost none of his prestige or status after the state merged with India.
None of the rulers were dismissed or detained. Why then was Shaikh Abdullah treated in this way?
Perhaps it was to protect Bakshi, who could not have lasted even for a day with Shaikh Abdullah roaming free in Kashmir. As Shaikh Abdullah himself acknowledges, “Bakshi was a mixture of opposites. On the one hand, he was hardhearted and merciless, but, on the other, he was extremely generous.”
Did Nehru write this letter for the sake of posterity? Or was it merely a case of hypocrisy?
Karan Singh, the Sadr-i-Riyasat, ultimately came to the conclusion that Bakshi ran an extremely corrupt government, appointed henchmen and relatives in high positions and used lumpen elements to make money, both to maintain his reputation for generosity and to appease the people who still hailed Abdullah as their true leader, as Sher-e-Kashmir, the Lion of Kashmir.
Apparently, Nehru in his heart of hearts was not happy at having dismissed and then detained Shaikh Abdullah. The Shaikh was shifted to Ooty, far away from Kashmir, and was under house arrest, not allowed to meet any visitors. In the words of TN Seshan, who was then the collector and district magistrate of the Nilgiris, “Even a bird could not approach him.”
In 1956, Bakshi, feeling secure on the throne and with the party apparatus under the charge of his nephew Shaikh Rashid, perhaps got a nod from Delhi to release Shaikh Abdullah. Karan Singh was apprehensive and advised Nehru against such a step. But, in January 1956, Nehru replied, “During the last year or more, the question of Shaikh Abdullah’s release has often been discussed… So far as I am concerned, my whole mind rebels against the long detention of any person without trial. I have objected to this so often in the past that naturally, I do not like it. But I realise that sometimes circumstances compel one to take action which is normally undesirable.”
Shaikh Abdullah was released, but a lion, does not shed his mane easily. In the short span of a few months, the Shaikh brought the Valley to a boil through the rallies he organised and the speeches he made.
Did Nehru write this letter for the sake of posterity? Or was it merely a case of hypocrisy? Because, at the end of that letter, he left it to the state government to decide as they thought fit! He also added, “I have felt that Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad should take the action he has decided upon.” In other words, if things went well, Nehru would get the credit. If they went badly, Bakshi would get the blame. Heads I win, tails you lose!
Shaikh Abdullah was released, but a lion, especially an old lion, does not shed his mane easily. In the short span of a few months, the Shaikh brought the Valley to a boil through the rallies he organised and the speeches he made. Since Bakshi’s popularity was at an all-time low, mainly due to his corruption and the highhanded dealings of his lumpen supporters, the Shaikh’s speeches ignited the embers of discontent into a flame of near-insurgency. Within a few months of his release, he was rearrested and detained. The protestations of Nehru were exposed as pious humbug meant for the pages of history…