A veil of darkness shrouds Indian political discourse with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Its genesis can be traced to Jawaharlal Nehru’s decision to extract J&K from Sardar Patel’s mission to integrate the Princely States with the fledgling Dominion of India. Nehru’s subsequent inability to manage the war with Pakistan in the face of the duplicitous manoeuvrings of Louis Mountbatten whom he imprudently appointed as Governor General of India and chairman of the Defence Committee, waffling in the face of the steely British backroom diplomacy at the UN Security Council, and above all, abject surrender to the intractable Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah whom he had unleashed upon the hapless Maharaja Hari Singh and his subjects, have bequeathed a bitter legacy. The forced abdication of Hari Singh and the invidious Article 370 (followed by Article 35-A) paved the way for the sustained marginalisation of Jammu and Ladakh provinces and hence of the Hindu and Buddhist populace of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. This road led inexorably to the rise of separatism and fundamentalism and the brutal exodus of the Kashmiri Pandit community in 1989-90.
The Nehruvian paradigm has so dominated the public discourse that few have dared to see Jammu and Kashmir outside the framework of Hindu-Muslim relations or India-Pakistan relations. This is a wholly artificial construct. Had the State been allowed to accede to India in the manner of other Princely States, it might have emerged as just a border State with a significant Muslim majority in the Kashmir Valley. Nehru’s “communal award” to Sheikh Abdullah has proved far more lethal than that of Ramsay Macdonald. The current demand to revive the old abomination and designate the chief minister of the State as “prime minister” is the logical outcome of this mindset that insists upon special weightage for one community. For the Indian nation-state, this is a decisive crossroad.