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Peace Watch » Editor's Take, Featured, Kashmir-Talk » Nehru-Communist Dubious Role In Kashmir- Response to Andrew Whitehead

Nehru-Communist Dubious Role In Kashmir- Response to Andrew Whitehead






Beyond the “Cut and Paste” Story

Z.G. Muhammad


Everybody has a right to his ideas. Nonetheless, as Nietzsche says, “We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us.”  A few day back, Andrew Whitehead, a former BBC journalist who reported from Srinagar in the nineties now turned historian had been invited to deliver a talk, Kashmir 1947-1953 by Kashmir University.  He has also authored a book  ‘A Mission in Kashmir’. Presently  he is working on a book on the life of Freda Bedi wife of B.P.L Bedi, an ideologue of the Jammu and Kashmir, National Conference and supposed author of the party’s  political bible, the ‘Naya-Kashmir Programme’- a ‘socialist and revolutionary document’.

In his talk describing ‘Sheikh Abdullah’s New Kashmir Manifesto as a cut and paste of Stalin’s Constitution for the Soviet Union’ and pronouncing it as ‘communist document’ Whitehead very subtly deconstructed the much-trumpeted assertions of the National Conference. In this column, I do not intend to contest or confirm the claims made by the journalist – the authorship of the ‘document’ in question is a matter of research. That the document was quite progressive cannot be denied. Nevertheless, there was not an iota of sincerity of purpose behind the introduction of this document. One of the sinister motives of the Indian National Congress (INC) particularly of Jawaharlal was to alter the narrative that provided the foundation for the movement started by the overwhelming Muslim majority for ending the bigoted and discrminatory rule of the descendants of  Maharaja  Gulab Singh.

Till mid-thirties, the Indian National Congress never supported the struggle of Muslims in the State for ending the discrimination against them in education and employment and ending the brutish tax system.  The Indian Muslim League leadership as against this from 1919, almost at every annual general meeting condemned the “Kashmir Sale Deed” of 1846 by the British and adopted a resolution against the misgovernment of the autocratic rulers in the state. In the wake of Hari Singh’s soldiers firing and killing unarmed persons outside the central jail on 13 July 1931, when in protest All India Kashmir Committee observed the Kashmir Day in different parts of  British India, the INC leadership opposed it. In Lahore the Congress party took out a procession in support of the Maharaja of Kashmir. The Tribune, official organ of the INC wrote editorials in support of feudal autocracy and against the uprising of Muslims of Kashmir comprising 97 percent of the population.  For seeking support in the British India for the subjugated Kashmiris Dr. Iqbal was in the forefront.  On 30 June 1933, he issued an elaborate and passionate appeal in support of the Kashmir movement stating that ‘if that part is in pain and anguish then it is impossible for other members of the nation to sleep in peace.’  

The Congress leadership was alerted about these developments by a section of people in Kashmir that saw the movement as a growing threat to their interests- this section enjoyed hegemony in the Dogra rule. Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz, was one amongst the few others who not only kept the Congress leadership informed about these developments in Kashmir but also invented stories about the state fast becoming the ‘Centre of Pan-Islamic movement’ and the threats that these developments posed to the minuscule minority as well as to the India. These missives set bells alarming in the Congress leadership- more particularly in Nehru. (Kashmir in Crucible p 172-179). Nehru in a letter in 1936, made it clear to Bazaz that he sees Kashmir’s “ultimate fate was with India… And he cannot see Kashmir as a Muslim State …” This line became a mission for Jawaharlal Nehru to work for not only conjuring an alternative narrative for Kashmir but also changing the very complexion of the movement launched by the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference.

Prem Nath Bazaz in his writings has claimed that he had a couple of meetings with Sheikh Abdullah and convinced him for converting the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference into the National Conference. Nehru also pushed into service Communists leaders like Saif-u-Din Kitchloo to win over Sheikh Abdullah, who had emerged as one of the protagonists of the Muslim Conference.   In late thirties Nehru persuaded overawed Sheikh Abdullah on their way from Lahore to Peshawar to bury the Muslim Conference and its ideology. That ultimately resulted in the birth of the National Conference.

Having achieved the objective of changing the goalpost of the freedom movement of Kashmir with its roots in the representation made by the Muslim elite in 1916 and 1924 to the Viceroys of India and in the resolution adopted in the three-day convention of the Muslim Conference.  Nehru engaged himself in changing the popular Kashmir Discourse and conjuring an alternative discourse.  For achieving this objective he utilized the services of the Communist ideologues and pushed them into Kashmir- B.P.L. Bedi and his wife Freda Bedi topped the list. In 1984, I had an opportunity of talking to some Communist ideologues and writers, whose services were used by Jawaharlal Nehru for creating an alternative discourse in Kashmir. In an interview Khawaja Ahmed Abbas one of ideologues and friend of Nehru told me that Jawaharlal pushed all of us; B.P.L. Bedi  Krishan Chander,  Sajjad Zaheer, Rajinder Singh Singh Bedi and few others into Kashmir politics to give an ideological orientation to the political movement in the state. He told us that Kashmir was a “laboratory for us for testing the ideology that all of us cherished”. In a separate interview Rajinder Singh Bedi seconding Abbas said that Nehru always looked towards the Communists for strengthening Congress ideology in Kashmir. He had also appointed Bedi in 1948, as Director of Radio Kashmir, Jammu for propagating the Congress ideology.Bakshi and Bulganin

In 1993, in an interview Som Anand author of ‘My Lost City Lahore recollecting his days in told me that after converting of the Muslim Conference into the National Conference most of the Kashmir leaders were invited to Lahore for a month’s  training in  Communist ideology. These included Bakshi, Sadiq, Qasim and others.’ He at that point of time was secretary of BPL Bedi and Fredi Bedi at their center (which he called Ashram) at Mall Road, Lahore.  All those who were baptized by Bedi and his wife in Communism at their centre proved  “assets” for New Delhi in Kashmir- in fact they tried to outsmart each other in serving interests of New Delhi in Kashmir. Ironically, in 1953, when Sheikh Abdullah and Nehru fell apart the Communists left no stone unturned to pin him as an Amercian Agent- and played up his meeting with Adal Stevenson to the hilt.  But, for Nehru pushing the Communists into Kashmir and gullible and power thirsty Abdullah falling prey to the machinations Kashmir story would have been different- the Kashmir perhaps would not become a Dispute between India and Pakistan. 

The Naya Kashmir Programme, when looked in retrospect with all its sheen was used for subverting and suppressing the popular sentiment.

An abridged edition of article appeared in Greater Kashmir on 03-04-2017








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