Kashmir- 65 Years And On

Posted on August 15, 2012 in Kashmir

By Raju Moza:

Circa 1930, protests erupted in Kashmir on hearing that Quran (holy book of Muslims) was desecrated by the soldiers of Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of princely state of Jammu & Kashmir. Little these protestors would have realised that decades later, Kashmir will erupt again for the desecration of Quran, albeit this time the culprits will be in far away in Afghanistan . There would have been not even a remotest inkling that Afghan connection, besides this event will have profound bearing on Kashmir for years to come.

This event was momentous in the history of Kashmir; not only had it consolidated a rebellion movement against the Maharaja, which was building at that point of time, but sowing the seed of religion in Kashmir Narrative. It was a simple narrative, Kashmir was predominantly Muslim area, ruled by a Hindu Maharaja and the equation was quite an important one for the prospective schemes of things, which were to unfold some years later. The Partition. The basis of which was religion and it was not possible for Kashmir to escape from this simple binary. What exacerbated this simple binary situation was the complex intricacies of the people involved, their personal preferences and other ethnic demographic factors.

British India comprised of 500 princely states and one amongst them was State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). At the time of partition they had an option either to opt for India or Pakistan. Maharaja of J&K harboured an aspiration of an Independent state, at the same time he was facing a revolt from Kashmir, led by a mass leader, Sheikh Abdullah — who was also called as Sher-i-Kashmir (lion of Kashmir). Maharaja signed a “standstill” agreement and was evaluating options; meanwhile Pakistan became jittery and sent armed rebels backed by Pakistani army, forces of which the Maharaja couldn’t withstand. Maharaja solicited India’s help and it’s believed that India put forthright a condition that he needed to sign an Instrument of accession with India, before Indian army can come to rescue. Pro Pakistan Historian Alistair Lamb, believes that Indian army came prior to signing of Instrument of accession, which in any case doesn’t annul the legality of the signing of accession .Even though, this signing has been surrounded with controversy, what is notable is that Sheikh acquiesced the accession with India.

Within days of Indian army operations, armed rebels (some of them were regular Pakistani army masquerading as rebels) started retreating to a particular Point of line ,which later on became a Ceasefire Line and is now called the Line of Control, dividing the erstwhile princely state into two areas, one came to known as Pakistan administered Kashmir (semantics is quite complex ,Pakistan calls it Azad Kashmir , India calls it Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) and the world media calls it Pakistan Administered Kashmir) and the other Indian Administered Kashmir (similar semantics works here as well while I will refer it as state of J&K in this article).Its believed that Indian army could have regained the whole of territory of the erstwhile princely state of J&K ,but reason for settling with this de facto line was to withhold the domestic ethnic polity of the state and Nehru’s view. Sheikh knew that the area under Pakistan administered Kashmir had ethnic affiliation different than that of Kashmiri Muslims, hence it will be a hurdle in the domination of Kashmiri Muslims in the polity of the J&K. His stand, to me, stands vindicated by what has happened in J&K in the last 50 years, where in, Kashmiri Muslims have dominated the administration and legislature.

Second was a recent event at Kargil , where they protested against the killings of Shias in Gilgit area of Pakistan (which was a part of Princely state of Jammu and Kashmir), while they have never protested for any killings in Kashmir region. To some it might be a bizarre paradox, that here is a Line which is beneficial for a Kashmiri Muslim, yet they want this Line to be removed. As far as Nehru’s view was concerned, he thought that Pakistan will find consolation in retaining that area.

Later on Nehru, took Kashmir issue to UN, to most of the observers it was a naive act, and it’s believed that it was more to do with his global aspirations of becoming a statesman in New Post colonial world order. UN at that point of time was a political nerve centre of influential members and the affiliations of these members played an important role. UN Passed a resolution which mandated to carry out of plebiscite in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir with some condition like Pakistan need to vacate the areas which it had occupied. This decision led to scepticism for UN in India , hence It never agreed for names suggested for Plebiscite commissioner, on one pretext or the other.

Meanwhile Sheikh had started upping an ante for self Determination and Nehru who had invested enormous resources and faith on him, felt betrayed and wounded. There are couple of reasons ascribed to Sheikhs move, one was his compulsion of domestic politics, second was that he wanted to use it as a negotiating tool with Delhi, and third its believed that he might have thought, now that the Line of control has given a great demographic and political advantage to Kashmiri Muslims, they perhaps can aspire for an independent nation state. Finally for next two decades he was intermittently in jail.

India again gained a superior position in 1971 war, with the capture of Pakistani soldiers. Simla accord was signed, which besides other things agreed to settle all outstanding disputes. Bilaterally with this, UN resolution kind of got annulled .Its believed that both nations agreed to convert LOC into international border, albeit verbally. Unfortunately, follow up events in Pakistan never allowed this verbal agreement to materialise. As the cold war intensified, USA was using Pakistan in fights against soviet in Afghanistan,and India being a de-facto ally of USSR, with such an equation and prevalent geo political realities never allowed this verbal agreement to be executed.

Meanwhile, India signed an agreement with Sheikh, popularly known as Indira- Sheikh Accord which led to his taking oath as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Sheikh had huge following in Kashmir valley, he was a mass leader. Thousands of people would join his rallies and “yek kare teh kare bub kare”(whatever will be done, Sheikh will do it) was an ubiquitous slogan. When he died, one could see people mourning, sheep were slaughtered as s mark of respect. Little would have he thought that same people will dig his grave, which is currently resting under police protection.

After the death of Sheikh, his son Farooq Abdullah came to power. Several years later he was dismissed by the governor of state. The dismissal was part of intricate intrigues and  principal actor was his own brother in law, Gul Shah. It turned out to be an important act in creating new fault lines amongst the polity in Kashmir, and its believed Delhi was responsible for his ouster. The suspicions between Delhi and Srinagar grew manifold and vacated some political space for parties like Jamiat-e-Islamia, which in any case were spreading its tentacles across valley. The party was led Sayed Ali Shah Gilani, who was also a member of legislative assembly and now a hawkish separatist leader.

Pakistan had successfully assisted Sikh movement in Punjab, which was seeking the creation of Khalistan. Pakistan through its notorious intelligence agency ISI, which was in hand and glove with CIA for evicting soviets from Afghanistan, started working towards Kashmir proactively. ISI just had to leverage separatist sentiments, which were all pervasive in the valley. The domestic politics of Kashmir further added fuel and the final nail in coffin was Rajiv Farooq accord. This accord virtually eliminated any political space for groups like Jamiat-e-Islamia. By now Kashmiri youth had started getting training in Pakistan administered Kashmir, which was followed by a mass uprising in Kashmir. Violent incidents between militants and police increased. At this point of time, contrary to what is projected by separatist, army and central forces had no role in Kashmir. Army in particular was confined to cantonment areas the way they are in other parts of India. Daughter of home minister of India, Mufti Mohumad Sayed was kidnapped, who was later released in exchange of five militants, giving a grave flip to militancy.

Central government was rudderless in respect to Kashmir at that point in time; they appointed Jagmohan as governer of the state, who had done remarkable development work during his prior stint as governor of state (under president’s rule). Farooq Abdhullah resigned and Presidents rule was imposed.

Within days of Jagmohan’s appointment, counter militancy operations increased. Suddenly, on intervening night of 18 and 19 January of 1990, people started assembling in nearby mosques. Whole night loud speakers started shouting  pro Pak and religious slogans. There is still a mystery, weather it was a planned and coordinated action or just spontaneous event. But this event led to the exodus of minority Kashmiri community, which felt under siege. Besides being Hindu, there political affiliations were with India, while as that of majority community were with Pakistan. This embittered community started fleeing toward Hindu dominated region of J&K. There is one conspiracy theory which is attached to their exodus and according to that theory, it was Jagmohan who architected this exodus, so that he could get free hand in crushing the militancy, at the same time save the community which was being targeted by militants. Its pertinent to mention that in Kashmir “Delhi syndrome” has been all pervasive since independence, even an innocuous act in state is attributed to Delhi. This syndrome is popularly known as “Markaj ke chaal”(intrigues of centre). Though there were few takers of this conspiracy theory, the spin doctors tried to cement this theory especially after 9/11. These spin doctors thought that since now there is aversion towards creation of “Islamic state” it was imperative the movement had to be shown as broad based and perhaps Kashmiri Pandit question would have queered the pitch.

It’s vital to put a global context which fuelled the uprising in Kashmir. The rise of new pan Islamic identity post Salman Rushidie episode exacerbated. Second and most instrumental event was the fall of Kabul, even though the channels of communications were not so advanced but whatever images were shown on Doordarshan had a profound effect. In fact, Pakistani television exhorted Kashmiri Muslims to take inspiration from fall of Berlin wall and rebel against India.

Over with Afghan project, ISI started sending these Afghan Mujahids to Kashmir. Beside that Kashmir joined the league of flash points like Palestine, Chechnya and Bosnia, where it was projected that Muslims are persecuted and Islam is in danger and it entails Jihad (Holy War). Abundance of these new recruits made Kashmir a battle ground and Indian state started finding some grounds on countering this militancy. Due to these sustained counter insurgency operations, gross human rights violations also happened. Suddenly from a religious political issue, whose seeds were sown at the time of partition, new dimension was added to conflict and that is human rights violation. It was not a principle policy of Indian state to commit those atrocities, but a collateral consequence of fighting an insurgency. There was a lot of hue and cry on these acts and in fact, Indian state had to face several resolutions in this regard across multiple international forums.

During this conflict of last 23 years, several generations have co existed, new generation who has seen army on the streets, their anti India position has been ossified. The new generation sees and wants to see India as “Army/Security forces”. The reason I am saying this is because they are born with a distorted historical baggage and are a part of culture where Azaadi is raison de etre and being part of growing India doesn’t augur well with this narrative. With the advent of this new mindset, another dimension to Kashmir conflict has been added, which is emotive/psychological.

As far as solution to this vexed problem is concerned, it’s paradoxical that in given state of region, it’s beneficial for Kashmir to stay with India, yet they want to secede. Given the various dimensions of this issue supra, the practical solution lies somewhere in converting LOC into International border. If it would have been done in 70’s or early 80’s the current de facto line could have been converted into de jure. But what has happened in last two decades, a mere conversion of existing line will not lead to a lasting solution. It will entail both land adjustments as well as people movements. The greatest paradox is that this might be what a Kashmiri Muslim aspires, but on ground, this solution is not at all beneficial for him.

In short, Kashmir conflict is one of the greatest paradoxes of the century, full of hue and cry but signifying nothing.

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: Raju Moza is a business professional based in Delhi. Contact: rajumoza@gmail.com.[/box]