December 8
The Rubaiya episode
December 9
Bitter Memories
December 11
This man saw it all
December 13
Victims of the gun
December 14
Homeless in homeland
December 15
The UN stand
December 16
Wronged rights
December 17
Reviving the economy
December 18
How much longer?

Headlines and datelines

The Kashmir map

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Day 3: December 10
   The rulers, their doings

Jawaharlal Nehru
Jawaharlal Nehru
In a symbolic sense, Nehru committed the original sin in Kashmir.
Beneath his suave, scholarly exterior, he was a divided soul, trying to act the international statesman when domestic politics demanded otherwise.
    Nowhere was this more manifest than in his bungling on Kashmir's status in international fora.

    It was he who irrevocably compromised India's position by agreeing to -- and repeatedly reinforcing -- the principle of a plebiscite. Again, it was he who gave Pakistan a locus standi on the issue. Instead of exposing Pakistan's de facto aggressor status following its 1948 'tribal' invasion, Nehru inexplicably started casting doubts on the legality of the Instrument of Accession.

    Nehru's duality was evident again in his dealings with Sheikh Abdullah. He alternately blew hot and cold. India's first prime minister, for all his democratic convictions, was not above having the Lion of Kashmir interred. Subsequently, as though to undo the damage, Nehru would indulge in largesse that was politically unjustifiable and had long-term repercussions.

    Indira Gandhi
    Indira Gandhi

    Though far more hard-nosed than her father, she was also guilty of misplaced magnanimity -- and that too at a critical juncture.

    India's victory over Pakistan in the 1971 Bangladesh war was an ideal opportunity to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio once and for all. But instead of grovelling before her at the Simla talks, Pakistani premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto subtly turned the tables. In the agreement that finally got initialled, the Pakistanis -- thanks to Gandhi's smugness, and to India's lasting discomfiture -- managed to push in a clause that left the Jammu and Kashmir question "open to [future confabulations] of representatives from both sides".

    As a forceful politician, Gandhi ended the political war of attrition with Sheikh Abdullah. In 1975, she signed the Kashmir Accord. Abdullah's response was to forget his secessionist politics and disband the Plebiscite Front.

    But instead of capitalising on it, Gandhi's paranoia led her to try and force Dr Farooq Abdullah into a seat-sharing arrangement in the 1984 Lok Sabha election. Her next move was to topple the Farooq government.

    By alienating the Kashmiris, Gandhi sowed the seeds of hardboiled militancy that were to erupt a few years after her death -- a result, tragically, of yet another Frankenstein she had unleashed in Punjab.

    Rajiv Gandhi
    Rajiv Gandhi

    As India's youngest prime minister and darling of the masses, he rushed in where the United Nations and seasoned politicians refused to tread -- a fragile status quo.

    Without taking ground realities into account, he buried the hatchet with Dr Farooq Abdullah, fatuously believing that this alone would stop the state's slide into a morass. In the 1987 assembly election, the National Conference, low on popular support, celebrated the Rajiv-Farooq détente by brazenly rigging the polls. If militancy ever had self-doubts, this put an end to those.

    Then on, it was 'Indian dogs go back. '

    Vishwanath Pratap Singh
    V P Singh

    He is sure to find special mention in the history of Kashmir. Not just for the fact that the gun culture got a new lease of life during his dispensation, but also because his was one administration that was expected to fare better than Rajiv Gandhi's in tackling the discord.

    Singh did seem set to make a fresh start. He entrusted railway minister George Fernandes with the charge of Kashmir. It was seen as a move to address longstanding issues. And things did look promising till militants kidnapped Rubaiya Sayeed.

    That sent the message that this was a weak-kneed government. By then Singh was immersed in saving his government from Devi Lal & Co on one hand and the BJP on the other.

    Result: Kashmir slid first into the deep freeze, then the backburner, from where it has almost slipped out of the country's hands.

    P V Narasimha Rao
    P V Narasimha Rao

    There were two personas to him when he was prime minister. One, the old man in a hurry, as buttressed by his unshackling of the Indian economy.

    The other and more popular persona is PVN the ditherer.

    The man with the eternal pout who always felt it expedient to brush problems under the carpet.
    With regard to Kashmir, alas, he chose the second persona. If the economy was the biggest achievement of his government, at least in its initial years, then Kashmir could be considered a failure. It was during his tenure that militancy peaked.

    The Charar-e-Sharief incident in 1995 showed that his government had no clue to the problem.

    Atal Bihari Vajpayee
    Atal Bihari Vajpayee

    Ironically, it is the Hindu BJP that Muslim Kashmir has pinned its hopes on. Specifically, on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

    "If he can go to Lahore, he definitely can do something about Kashmir," is the sentiment of many, including certain Hurriyat leaders.

    However, there are others who feel that Vajpayee would be of no help to Kashmiris. The BJP's stand for the abrogation of Article 370, they argue, shows that he doesn't care about the state.

    Till recently, Vajpayee hadn't exhibited much interest in the border state. But now, post-Kargil and with the fresh wave of violence, the prime minister seems to have pulled up his sleeves. Discussions are on...


    Benazir,Zulfikar Bhutto and Nawaz Sharief

    Zulfikar Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharief

    So intertwined is his destiny with the troubled state that all a Pakistani premier has to do to lose his job is show, however slightly, a lack of interest in Kashmir.

    Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the man who lent this aspect an added sharpness. Though he lost the 1971 war to India and saw a major portion of his country break away, he managed the Simla Agreement to Pakistan's advantage. He believed in severing Kashmir from India, even if it took a 'thousand-year war'.

    Successive prime ministers have shared that sentiment fully, extending their whole-hearted backing to the Kashmiri 'freedom-fighters'. Benazir Bhutto veered slightly from this, thanks to her Western education. She tried to warm up to India, but was quickly brought to ground by a stint out of power.

    Despite the Kargil misadventure, everyone believed that Nawaz Sharief was genuinely trying to improve relations with India. The strongest prime minister since the military started playing an excessive role in Pakistan's administration, he started believing in his own invincibility, and is now unlearning some lessons.

    If he comes back to office, India will probably see a harsher face.

    Day 4, December 11:  This man saw it all
    The decade through the eyes of photographer Meraj-ud-din.