Some excerpts : On June 23 ( 1953) , Syama Prasad Mookerjee died as a detainee of the state government in the Srinagar Camp Jail at the relatively young age of 51.He had gone there to protest against a system under which even Indian citizens, including the President of India, could not enter, without a permit, the state of Jammu and Kashmir, despite it being a part of the Union.
Soon after Mookherjee’s death, his mother, Jogmaya Devi, posed a poignant question to Prime Minister Nehru:
“Had my son, a citizen of India, a member of the House of People, a leader of Opposition, no fundamental right to enter Kashmir without any obstruction from any quarter? “
This question alone raised the level of national consciousness so high that no government, howsoever insensitive, could afford to maintain the status quo. Soon thereafter, the permit system was abolished and the need for establishing a just and meaningful relationship between Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India gained both earnestness and urgency.
An able administrator, a skillful parliamentarian and a firm believer in building a strong and united India, Mookherjee stood out as a stalwart of the 1946-53 era. Despite differences in outlook and attachment to different political philosophies, Nehru and Mookherjee had respect for each other and remained in the same Cabinet for a number of years.
Mookherjee was the first to sense Abdullah’s hidden ambition to bring about a virtual sheikhdom of his own. In a letter written about four months before his death, he told Abdullah in no uncertain words:
“You are now developing a three-nation theory, the third being the Kashmir nation. These are dangerous symptoms and not good for your state or the whole of India”.
On May 21, 1952, he also posed a pertinent question to Nehru in Parliament:
“Are Kashmiris, Indians first and Kashmiris next, or are they Kashmiris first and Indians next, or are they Kashmiris first, second and third and not Indian at all? There was no reply. Mookerjee quipped: Nehru claims to have discovered India. But he has yet to discover his mind”.
Grant of special status to Jammu and Kashmir was anathema to Mookerjee.
He deplored governments lack of clarity on the subject. On August 7, 1952, he asked the Prime Minister:
“Was Sheikh Abdullah not a party to the Constitution of India ? Did he not accept this Constitution in relation to the rest of India, including about 562 Princely States? If it is good enough for all of them, why should it not be good enough for him in Kashmir?”
He once commented in the Lok Sabha:
” The Prime Minister said the other day that even if Kashmir had not acceded to India when it was attacked by raiders, the Indian Army, on humanitarian grounds, could have marched to Kashmir and protected the distressed and oppressed. If I make a similar statement, I am a communalist, I am a reactionary. I am a war-monger! “
Mookerjee cautioned Parliament: If you just want to play with the wind and say we are helpless and let Sheikh Abdullah do what he likes, then Kashmir will be lost. I say this with great deliberation, that Kashmir will be lost. Parliament, unfortunately, did not rise to the occasion. It let the then Prime Minister do what clearly had seeds for future troubles.
In the 2008 Assembly elections, 30,84,417 voters in the Jammu region elected 37 members of legislative Assembly (MLAs) at 83,263 apiece, while 32,60,663 voters in the Kashmir region elected 46 MLAs at 70,884 apiece, thereby giving disproportionately higher representation to the Valley in the state Assembly.
Likewise, the people of Ladakh, too, have been complaining that, instead of being made free sons of free India, they have been thrown at the mercy of the Kashmiris.
What is worse, Abdullah proved insincere even to Nehru who had travelled miles to accommodate him.
Nehru was shocked when he discovered that his loyal friend was seeking the support of the Anglo-American block for an independent Kashmir. He was left with no option but to have Abdullah removed from the scene. But much damage had already been done. And, unfortunately, the fallout of this damage still continues.
The author is a former governor of J&K and a former Union minister