There has been lot of resentment in Pakistan administered Kashmir regarding the alleged attempt by the Pakistan Government to incorporate Gilgit-Baltistan formerly called the Northern Areas as a full-fledged province of Pakistan. In fact the Prime Minister of so called Azad Kashmir has warned Pakistan about such a move. It is beside the point that the people and the Government of so called Azad Kashmir, never bothered about the condition of the people of the former Northern Areas. In fact, those people have themselves been agitating for a full-fledged provincial status, as at present they are virtually living as a colony of Pakistan notwithstanding the fact that they were sometime back given some regional autonomy.

On the Indian side there has been a demand for regional autonomy for Jammu and union territory status for Ladakh. The demand for trifurcation of the state has been become louder recently, especially from the Jammu side. Well, in the very first place the State itself is not a natural creation by mutual consent of the constituents but has been clobbered together by the Dogra Maharajas from Jammu. Ladakh was conquered and annexed to the Dogra Kingdom of Maharaja Gulab Singh by General Zorawar Singh. Kashmir Valley was bought by him from the British through the Treaty of Amritsar for a paltry sum of rupees seventy five lakhs! The British sold it with its entire people and everything lock, stock and barrel for a tuppence. The deal was done to pay for the loyalty (betrayal of Sikh Empire!) Maharaja Gulab Singh showed towards the British in defeating Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Exactly after 100 years of slavery under Dogra Kings, Kashmiris had started a movement asking the Maharaja Hari Singh, the then Dogra ruler to “Quit Kashmir”. Had the partition of the sub-continent not taken place, Kashmiris may have succeeded in regaining their independence lost to Mughals through treachery in 1586 followed by the foreign rule of Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras.

However, the divine powers had some more trials and tribulations in store for Kashmiris. The partition and the resulting conflict changed the whole scene. The fate of the state turned into an insoluble tangle. The events and the circumstances of 1947 are recorded in umpteen books. However, there are conflicting versions of the basic situation and the happenings. It is a well-known fact that the Jammu people wanted to get integrated with the Indian Union while the Kashmiris were in two minds.

Jammu agitated for the total integration of the state with the Union of India under the banner of “Ek Nishan, Ek Vidhan, Ek Pradhan”! Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah under the false impression that Pandit Nehru was his “progressive” and “secular” friend crushed the agitation with a strong hand. The Indian media raised a hue and cry and accused Abdullah of being anti-Indian. This jolted Abdullah who tried to retrieve the situation by claiming that the final decision about the fate of Kashmir was yet to be taken. The result was his long incarceration.

Never mind his ultimate somersault in 1975. He had appeared as the morning star on the horizon of Kashmir but in the end fell like a meteor! Kashmir’s so called mainstream leaders even today do not realise that without Kashmir Jammu loses its significant status. People all over the world historically know Kashmir and Jammu is hardly known. Without Kashmir, it gets reduced to just a province of Punjab or Himachal. The only thing which has made Jammu known to entire India or for that matter to Indians all over the world is the Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishnovdevi Ji. More than ten million Pilgrims visit the Shrine every year from all over the world. In schools one used to read the story of Jammu as established by Raja Jambulochan. He had seen a lion and goat drink water at the same spot on the banks of River Tawi and decided to establish a city here which ultimately took the name of Jammu. Unfortunately, the external interference has evaporated that traditional and historical spirit of tolerance and brotherhood of Jammu.

Kashmir in contrast has a 5000 year recorded history of an independent sovereign kingdom. The Ptolemy’s geography has preserved the references to Kashmir. He calls the region KASPEIRA which is supposed to enclose a large portion of land including parts of Punjab, North-West Provinces, and Central India. This may be related to the period when the power of the dynasty ruling Kashmir extended much beyond its borders. After Greeks is the mention of Kashmir in Chinese records. The earliest reference to Kashmir dates back to A.D. 541. This relates to the arrival of a Kashmiri Envoy in China during the early part of the reign of Tang dynasty. Kashmir is described as a country “enveloped on all sides like a precious jewel by the snowy mountains, with a valley in the south which leads up to it and serves as a gate of the Kingdom”. The Annals of Tang dynasty mention the arrival of the first ambassador from Kashmir sent by Candrapida and then another sent by Muktapida (Lalitaditya) of the Karakot dynasty of the Rajtarangni. In fact, Muktapida had entered into a treaty of military alliance with the rulers of Tang dynasty of China against Tibet which he subsequently raided with a strong Kashmirian army.

Even though the Kingdom of Kashmir had been extended much beyond its original borders during various periods of history, yet the original Kashmir has been the main valley with its surrounding principalities. We can call it the Kashmir as described in Kalhana’s Rajtarangni. Kashmir valley with Kashtavata and Parontsa (which is present Pir Panjal and Chenab valley areas); Karnav (present Karnah); and Dardistan (present Gurez and Tilel). Even Sir Aural Stein in his translation of Rajtarangni in the chapters on ancient geography of Kashmir gives an accurate idea of the historical and traditional Kashmir. All these areas have Kashmiri speaking population and have always been interconnected with the valley.

Ladakh has more or less remained historically isolated. Their spiritual connection was always with Lhasa, the seat of Dalai Lama in Tibet and trade was with Central Asia. They had social interaction with Baltistan. Kashmir’s last non-Muslim ruler was a Ladakhi Rin Cin Shah who finally adopted Islam and also became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir. Their demand for Union Territory status may ultimately deprive them of the privileges they are enjoying under the special status of the State!

After 1947, the boundaries of the Indian side of Kashmir have been maintained by the Indian Army. However, within these borders, the three regions have been interacting economically and socially. These have become inter-dependent. However, there are elements in all three regions which have been advocating the breakup of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir for various reasons. Many leaders from different camps have been stressing on the unity of the three regions. At the present moment the campaign from the Jammu side for trifurcation or creation of two states is being led by Kanwar Bhim Singh, the leader of the Panthers Party. According to him the creation of two states is inevitable. However, the movement does not seem to be very popular. Interestingly, most of the so called leaders of Jammu advocating such things live in Panjtirthi-Gandhi Nagar belt. They do not mind Autonomous Hill Councils for tiny populations of Leh and Kargil but are not willing to grant same status to the poor people living in Pir Panchal and Chinab Valley areas! For them Jammu means Panjthirthi to Gandhi Nagar only!

If the demand grows louder, instead of opposing it, the Kashmiris may welcome it on the condition of the restoration of the historical or the traditional State of Kashmir. That may be the first step towards ultimate emancipation they have been pinning for centuries, the “Azadi”! However, Kalhana’s Kashmir would be incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits. They have to be rehabilitated at their traditional places of residence at all costs. This can be done only if their return and rehabilitation is undertaken on the pattern and style of Kashmir’s famous King Budshah in whose time too they had been driven out by his father. It is not the government but the people of their native areas who have to give them protection and help them in their rehabilitation. They have to come back as a constituent of the Kashmir’s composite society and live and work as they did for centuries. The central Government does not seem to be really interested in bringing them back as a part of the composite society.

Ultimately, it has to be a peoples’ initiative! So if the people of Jammu want bifurcation, and Gilgit-Baltistan is incorporated into Pakistan as a province, Kashmiris may vote for the restoration of Kalhana’s Kashmir!