Former Kashmir interlocutor, Radha Kumar’s book “Paradise at War” comes at a time when India and Pakistan have locked horns over the peace process. Besides providing brief ancient history of Kashmir, “Paradise at War” sheds light on one of the important aspects of Kashmiri history- treatment meted out to Muslims during the Dogra era.
THE DOGRA ERA
Kumar argues that the discourse due to which Muslims in Kashmir consider Dogras cruel and autocratic is only partially true because the founder of Dogra rule in Kashmir, Maharaja Gulab Singh reorganised tax structure, controlled rice process and established an effective administration in the Valley.
Depicting the liberal picture of the Dogras, the author says that Maharaja Pratap Singh himself observed Eid and also halted his chariot in respect whenever the call to Azan was heard.
The book has also quoted a census saying that records show that the proportion of Muslims in Jammu grew under Dogra rule between 1911 and 1941 from 60.6 to 68 percent in Reasi, 39 to 43.6 percent in Udhampur and 29 to 31 percent in Kathua areas of Jammu division. The author has blamed British for sowing the anti-Dogra seeds in the Valley after the British decided to depose the Maharaja Pratap Singh. According to the book, Pratap Singh was tagged anti-Muslim even before he began his rule.
In defence of Maharaja Pratap Singh, the book says that his tenure started with far-reaching reforms where he abolished forced conscription, slashed taxes and affected a land revenue settlement under the popular British civil servant Sir Walter Lawrence. He also built hospitals and embanked rivers, decentralised administration, established a judiciary and introduced higher education to Kashmir with British support by setting up a college each in Jammu as well as in Srinagar.
Kumar also raises important contemporary issues of the state including Srinagar versus Jammu bogey that is gaining impetus. She argues that what is seen as a Muslim-Hindu divide is actually more a Jammu-Valley competition that arose with the expansion of the state.
“Paradise at War” has discussed the partition of the subcontinent and Jammu and Kashmir at length. The author argues that while Maharaja Hari Singh tried to attempt peace with Pakistan, the rail link from Sialkot to Jammu ceased to operate which caused shortage of essentials in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Maharaja saw it as an economic blockade intended to reassure him to accede to Pakistan.
It was by September 1947 that Maharaja turned to Nehru seeking help to find ways for sending in the supplies. Slowly but surely Pakistan’s actions began to push Jammu and Kashmir towards India, she writes. Also, the invasion of the State of Jammu and Kashmir came as a culmination of deteriorating relation between the government of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan.
A comparison of political happenings and the subsequent governments that were formed on two sides of the line from 1947 to 1950 have also been talked in detail.
SEIZURE OF AKSAI CHIN
The book talks about an important development that is the seizure of Aksai Chin by China. The then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru ignored General Thimayya’s warning, who had told Nehru that China would respond militarily to Nehru’s ‘Forward Policy’. When China attacked India, it took Peoples Liberation Army only four weeks to seize the Aksai Chin. In this manner the State of Jammu and Kashmir lost another part of the state.
The author has argued that the India’s failure during 1962 war was because that the then defence minister VK Krishna Menon, intelligence chief B N Mullick and B M Kaul had convinced Nehru that China would not attack India’s forward policy.
FOUNDATION OF TRACK II DIPLOMACY
As mentioned in “Paradise at War”, the foundation of Track II diplomacy between the two nuclear powers was laid only in 1980s following the horrible scenes of partition. The first back track channels were broken by the Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan on the request of General Zia-ul-Haq, between the ISI and R&AW. On the Indian side A K Verma, the then secretary of R&AW, while on Pakistani side DG ISI General Hamid Gul led these back track channels. The first meeting of Track II took place between the two in Geneva.
Both the men succeeded in mapping out an agreement for Siachen conflict which was the troop reduction and a small Confidence Building Measure (CBM) was that four Sikh soldiers who had defected to Pakistan in protest after the attack on Golden Temple in 1984 were handed back to India.
DARK DECADE OF VIOLENCE
The turbulent years of 1990s have been described in the book. However, the book has mostly used the state narrative about the events that followed.
The author has done a critical review of the Hazratbal crisis and laid the pros and cons of what was lost and achieved during the crisis. The Hazratbal crisis was for the first time that excerpts of the negotiation between the militants and the government representation were leaked to the media. What transpired between the government’s negotiators WajahatHabibullah/Mehmood-ur-Rehman and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front’s (JKLF) Idrees is also given at the end of the chapter.
However, the “Paradise at War” has kept mum on two very important aspects of the dark decade. First atrocities done by Border Security Force, Army and Jammu and Kashmir Police on the common people and second the atrocities done by Ikhwan (renegades).
A detailed genesis about the composite dialogue has been laid in “Paradise At War”. The composite dialogue was started by the H D DeveGowda/I K Gujral and Nawaz Sharif in 1997 between the two countries. Kumar says that I K Gujaral’s efforts did not result in any breakthrough; but it provided a structure for talks between the two countries.
“Paradise at War” also sheds light on the back channels with Hurriyat. It says that following the turbulent 1990s, the back channels were opened with the Hurriyat after Mishra started to talk with Shabir Shah and Yasin Malik with full knowledge of the then Prime Minister A B Vajpayee. From 1998 to 2002, Mishra established a rapport with the talks with what has been referred to as the “Azadileaders” in the book. The talks with Hurriyat, JKLF and affiliated groups were based on the principle of being confidential, exploratory and deniable.
The author has described the state election of 2003 as the watershed moment for the Valley. The election was managed like this: Farooq Abdullah would step down, a new election would be held were Hurriyat would not oppose them nor it would prevent any of its members from contesting the election.
Kumar claims in “Paradise at War” that many of backchannel actors said to her that there was a tacit agreement between Indian government and the Hurriyat that each would call a two-year ‘time out’ from the battle over Kashmir in order to restore peace. There would be three separate bilateral talks – Indian government-Hurriyat, India–Pakistan, and Hurriyat—Pakistan government. This strategy was formulated to talks by the backchannels.
The peace process from 2001 till 2004, when Hurriyat met L K Advani, is given in detail. However, no new perspective has been given by the author. Her primary sources have again been the newspapers of the time and the autobiographies of A S Dulat and L K Advani.
THE PEACE PROCESS
The chapter ‘Peace process 2004 to 2008’ is the heart of the book. All the nitty-gritty of the peace process like the talks with Mirwaiz’s faction of Hurriyat has been provided. After the Vajpayee government fell in 2004, the incoming prime ministerDr.Manmohan Singh, offered Vajpayee to be Indian government’s special envoy to head the India-Pakistan-Kashmir peace process. But Vajpayee refused. Authors say that had he (Vajpayee) accepted the offer, things might have been different given the respect Vajpayee had in valley and with General Musharaff.
“Paradise at War” has negated an important aspect during the peace-process of 2004-2008 that is the role of Syed Ali Geelani, why he opposed the peace process and what his role was while the back channels were going-on between India-Pakistan and Kashmiri leadership.
Giving a detailed account of 2010 unrest, which the author has summed up in the chapter titled ‘2010 Intifada’, as per the stats provided by state, the Jammu and Kashmir economy suffered losses amounting to Rs 27, 000 crore (270 billion). However, the industry groups put it at Rs 40,000 crore (400 billion). Over 60,000, mostly youth, lost their job due to fall in tourism, and around 200,000 non-local labourers fled the Valley.
The author says that she along with other social activists met Syed Ali Geelani at the VIP ChashmaShahi detention house. As per the author, Geelani’s room was decorated with red plush sofas. He repeated his discomfort with the stoning. Geelani was asked whether he would make a public appeal to youth to desist when released, he said yes. True to his word, he did appeal to stop the stone-pelters when he was released.
A lengthy chapter has been provided in the book that talks about the work of interlocutors in the state like meeting Gujjars, Paharis, some of the Hurriyat members, people from Jammu district – Ladakh, economy, unemployment, security and the human rights issues.
TRASHING INTERLOCUTORS REPORT
Kumar admits that the Congress government did not act on any of the political recommendations nor on the major human rights and security reforms that were suggested by the team of interlocutors.
The report was put in the public domain as a link on the home ministry website in spring of 2012. The state cabinet, comprising of National Conference and the Congress did not discuss the report either.
Author is an Oped Editor of Rising Kashmir