Kashmir : Factors Responsible for Turmoil – I

Different Kashmir analysts stress upon different factors as cause for the turmoil in Kashmir such as sociopolitical, economic, administrative, religious, human and international depending upon their ideology and commitment. Some like P S Jha even refuse to acknowledge it as a total upsurge and believe that the problem is not due to poverty or economic deprivation but despair of a small section of young people who form a new but disinherited middle-class. Fact however remains that  Kashmir problem is an outcome of  a total malaise and not a sectoral phenomenon and many intrinsic and extrinsic factors have over a period cumulatively contributed to this mess that has found expression through violence and subversion. I have tried to include viewpoints of different people so that a reader may make an objective  assessment of real factors responsible for the problem.

A. Sociopolitical Factors 

Indian leaders have generally depicted a lack of will and clear mind to grapple with the situation, be it Kashmir, Punjab or Assam. The whole sociopolitical fibre of our society is infected with the plague of inaction and ostrich-like attitude. The politics have become entirely manipulative. V S Naipaul writes about Punjab crisis in his book ‘India, a Million Mutinies Now’ (p 423), ” The preachers name was Bhindranwale – after the name of a Punjab village. His first name was Jarnail. This was said to be a corruption of an English word,’General’. At his first appearance he was helped by the Congress politicians in Delhi who wished to use him to undo their rivals in the State. This seems to have given him the taste of political power”. And this is true about Kashmir too. The Central government has been making and breaking State Governments at their sweet will, engineering defections or interventions through Governors. Yesterday a Chief Minister was dubbed ‘an anti-national’ person not to be trusted upon and today he is a ‘loyal faithful Indian’ for example G M Shah, ex-Chief Minister who as per Jagmohan proclaimed publicly, “Every Kashmiri Muslim is a Pakistani, I am also a Pakistani. A great mistake was made by acceding to India.” (My Frozen Turbulence,p 140) GM Shah’s links with Pakistan were well-known yet he was made the Chief Minister to appease Indira Gandhi. This patronage politics has done a great harm to the country. Suman Banerjee in his article in The Independent of 21 May 1990 has questioned about “how long will the people of Punjab or Kashmir continue to pay the price for narrow political interests of few individuals.”

The manipulative politics in Kashmir has helped the anti-national forces to gain ground in the State.  Removal of Sheikh Abdullah in 1953 and his detention without trial for so many years, rise and fall of governments of Bakshi, Shamsuddin, Sadiq and Mir Qasim, and non-participation of Kashmiris in the political process resulted in political chaos in the State which has convinced Kashmiris that they do not matter in the scheme of things. Further, the estrangement of Sheikh  resulted into  isolation of Kashmiris from rest of India and their insulation from the national currents and cross currents for more than twenty-two years fanned by the malicious propaganda of Sheikh Abdullah and Pakistan. P N Bazaz writes in ‘Kashmir in Crucible’ (p89), ” The Indian leaders have been expecting an impossible development to take place in Kashmir. They want to see a Muslim leader at the helm of affairs in the State who would be pliable and function according to the wishes of Indian nationalism disregarding the sentiments and aspirations of Kashmiris. At the same time, the Indians vainly hope that a leader would remain popular with his own people”.

1. Lack of Kashmir Policy : 

Unable to formulate, let alone carry out a coherent strategy for Kashmir, the Union Government is now concentrating on a familiar jig; one step forward, two steps backward; a pirouette here and a bend backward there. Its adhocism, ineptitude and myopic groping, if not dubious intentions have landed it in this sorry pass.(Editorial,The times of India, 30 March 1990)

According to Pran Chopra the Indian policy on Kashmir is to; a) dissuade Pakistan from risking its own security by meddling in India’s beyond tolerable limits, b) convince the militants, whether of the native or of imported variety, that they are not going to be allowed to snatch Kashmir from India by endlessly stoking up people’s resentments in Kashmir justified though the resentment might be to a large extent, c) As far as the given circumstances permit avoid all actions in fighting the militants which further inflame the public mood in Kashmir, and, d) generate a political dialogue with and among the people of Kashmir so that peace may be restored and the way cleared for finding long-term answer to the problem.¹

M V Kamath outlined the National Front government policy as follows; 1) Containment of Pakistan on diplomatic front, 2) Warning her on military front, 3) Hardline measures to be taken in Kashmir, 4) Once worst is over, Kashmiris can be won over with positive action, and, 5) It would then leave Pakistan without the proverbial fig leaf to cover the villainy and by the time the Government expects Pakistan’s internal compulsions to burst its seams. Pakistan will have to crack up thus. All that India has to do is wait patiently for the finale.² The Independent while writing about the National Front Government policy on Kashmir on 2 January 1991 called Jagmohan the tough guy, Fernandes the soft guy while IK Gujral looked after the international relations because Jagmohan could not be expected to kiss and kill at the same time and further described the policy as a policy of compassion with cruelty.

Sumanta Banerjee is of the view, ” Since the Centre’s bedevilled relations with Kashmir are not an isolated instance but one getting replicated in its behaviour with the states like Punjab, Assam and North East. It is about time that Indian politicians redefine the entire concept of national integration and re-determine the boundaries of central intervention and abstention in relation to the State of the Indian Union as well as the various groups and sub groups that make up the heterogeneous entity called India that is Bharat. (Redefining Integration’, The Seminar, vol 392)

It is thus clear that successive governments have not been able to create consensus on issues of national importance such as Kashmir problem which would be binding for any political party to follow once it comes to power. This would not only give road map to the ruling party but also send clear signals to the subversives about the intentions of the Government.

2. Concern for the Vote Bank ;

The Union Governments especially those with minority character have been more than concerned about their vote banks than the national interests. Minor criminal incidents attract more attention of  governments in the centre and the states than the political upheaval in Kashmir valley. Most of the political parties give priority to communal, caste and ethnic issues to secure for themselves votes from different sections of the society. The central government has been soft over the Kashmir issue keeping in view the repercussions it might have on their vote bank.

3. Alienation of Kashmiris ; 

According to Abrams ‘Alienation’ is a condition springing from a sense of irreverence. As per C B Khanduri,” Alienation of the Kashmiris stems from an indoctrinated sense of frustration caused by undemocratic and economic reasons fuelled by Pakistani propaganda”(Analysis of Kashmir Problem’, Strategic Analysis, Sep 1990). Khanduri further writes that “the Kashmiris associate themselves with Pakistan’s cricket and hockey matches, rejoicing in Indira’s killing and resorting to violence when sabotage blew up two Pakistani ammunition depots near Islamabad and Zia ul Haq was blown up in US built C-130 Hercules of PAF in August 1988”. On the contrary Prof Saifuddin Soz, a National Conference leader turned Congressman, ascribes alienation of Kashmiris to erosion of Article 370 and acute unemployment in the valley³. Amrik Singh in his article ‘Kashmir Crisis must be seen in right Perspective’ (Free Press 15 Apr 90) cautions that we must stop thinking of India as ‘Hindu’ and the Kashmir rampage as ‘ the Hindu revenge’ while PS Jha feels that in India some perceive Kashmiris as disloyal. Balraj Puri, a noted journalist writes in his article,’The Challenge of Kashmir’ which appeared  in the Economic and Political Weekly of 27 Oct 90, ” To say that Muslims are after all Muslims and could not provide an adequate clue to the present phenomenon. For these very Muslims behaved differently in 1947 when they overwhelmingly and of their own accord opted for India. They had then perceived a threat to their Kashmiri identity from their coreligionists Pakistan which refused to concede their right to decide their own fate.”

Yet it is a fact that Indian political system has not grown in a way that different sections of society would amalgamate with each other to give rise to a composite culture and a common nationalism because of the after effects of partition and the polarisation it set in to give rise to mistrust among Hindus and Muslims.

 4. Kashmiriyat and the Identity crisis;

Many Kashmir analysts feel that the Kashmiris are facing a crisis of identity which has resulted in the present upsurge. Balraj Puri feels that the loss of Kashmiriyat has affected the psyche of Kashmiris who have a separate culture, language and identity. In a similar vein Gauri Bazaz Malik writes in the Statesman (Democracy and Kashmir Problem), “Kashmiris are unique in having a written history, a known past , distinctive ‘Kashmiriyat’ developed and preserved for millenia.” The development of Kashmiriyat is not a post independence phenomenon but was nurtured in nineteenth century by Kashmiri intellectuals and later used as a bait by the leaders seeking freedom from Dogra rule. It is this separate ethnic and cultural identity that has come in the way of Pakistan and fundamentalist organisations in Kashmir to get blind support from the people. On the other hand it has also put obstacles in the way of the Central Government while trying to integrate J&K State with the Union of India like other States.

5. Emotional Integration ;

Kashmiris have shown a special affinity for Pakistan due to religious bonds and non-availability  of leaders like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in India after the partition who could provide a link between Kashmiri Muslims and Indian Muslims. The fact has been exploited by Pakistan time and again. Rise of communalism in India with reports of communal clashes from Aligarh, Meerut, Baghpat besides Babri masjid episode have infuriated Kashmiri Muslims time and again. M D Nalapat in his article,     ‘Mistrust Behind J&K Terrorism’ (The Times of India, 05 Aug 90) maintains ” ‘the mistrust’ that Delhi has for people of Kashmir even though these very people freely acceded to India in 1947 has widened the gap between India and Kashmir.

It has to be recognised that we have failed to appreciate the contribution of Kashmiri Muslims to the struggle for independence especially their fight against the Pakistani tribesmen in 1947-48. Not to speak of rewarding the martyrdom of Maqbool Sherwani who was nailed to death by Pakistani hordes while resisting their advance to Srinagar, we have not even given him a place among our national heroes. Thousands of  freedom fighters including Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah have been paid homage by issuing commemorative postage stamps in their memory but Maqbool Sherwani remains forgotten till date. Moreover, the artificial division of Jammu and Kashmir as a result of cease fire in 1949 has instilled a craving among Kashmiris to meet the kith and kin across the Line of  Control which is porous and allows spies, drug and dope pedlars to use.

6. Denial of Democracy ;

C P Surendran writes in his article, ‘Should we give up Kashmir’ in The Independent of 16 May 90, “What has failed in Kashmir is not law and order, it is India’s great democratic experiment and the reason for its failure is that it is a logocentric one, which believes in words and in chanting mantras like unity, integrity and equality of opportunity…. India had over forty years to practise these mantras in Kashmir. It failed. India had over forty years to make a Kashmiri an Indian. It failed.”

The main prop of democracy is elections. As per Bhabani Sen Gupta,” Elections in Kashmir have never been absolutely free and fair except in 1977 and that too because of the dogged insistence of  the then Prime Minister, Morarji Desai” (The Independent, 18 May 1990). The final nail in the coffin was the election of 1987 which was rigged by Farooq Abdullah to keep Muslim United Front out of power. Many militant leaders have acknowledged that the youth were frustrated as a result and lured towards militancy. Ishfaq Majid Wani, a dreaded militant recalled “the stunned shock that followed the declaration of the results” in an interview to Shiraz Sidhva (‘The Militant viewpoint’, The Seminar, vol 392). Syed Shahabuddin, a Muslim leader, also confirmed this fact in following words; “Most of  the militant elements in Kashmir today were the political workers of various parties which participated in that famous election (in 1987). They went back and told their leaders, you told us that the ‘Sandook’ (Ballot Box) is the way, we think that the Sandook is no longer the way and only the “Bandook” (the Gun) is the way(Quoted by A A Engineer in Secular Crown on Fire- The Kashmir Problem).

7. Regional Forces;

The political parties of the three regions of the State i.e. Jammu , Kashmir and Ladakh have been centrifugal in character, working at cross purposes with each other and communalising politics on regional basis which often finds expression in the demand for autonomy of these regions. While Kashmir has sought complete autonomy, Jammu has asked for integration with the rest of the country and Ladakh has demanded a union territory status. These regional tensions have often expressed themselves in the shape of communal violence and the Central Government has more often than not ignored such threats. More recently massive agitations were witnessed on both sides of the Pirpanchal for and against land allotments to the Amarnath Shrine Board.

In this context, Surjit Man Singh is of the opinion that “Indira Gandhi’s willingness to play communal politics and her intolerance of State governments she did not control led her to make a series of disastrous decisions with respect to Punjab and Kashmir in the early 1980’s (‘State and Religion of South Asia- some Reflections’, South Asia Journal, Jan-Mar 1991)

8. Belied Expectations;

Number of people had suffered and many even died while following Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah in his battle against the Centre for more than 22 years. When he returned to power in 1975 he had gained nothing politically. The treasury coffers too were empty. His followers who had waited all these years patiently felt disillusioned and now wanted to reap the fruits of newly acquired power in the same way as Bakshi’s goons had done but Sheikh could not satisfy them. They fell upon everything that came their way like ravenous beasts which caused psychological shock and emotional set back to poor Kashmiris at large since they had idolised Sheikh Abdullah as their Messiah.

9. Fall out of Punjab Extremism;

K F Rustamji has asserted in his article, ‘Kashmir, The Need to Look Inwards’, ” The fundamentalism in the Sikhs gave impetus to an Hindu upsurge that in turn made the tribal , the Muslim and the Dalits restive (The Times of India, 12 Feb 1990). As per N C Menon, “The Khalistan lobby in the United States regularly includes  Kashmir issue in its communications” (Adventures of Amanullah, 21 Apr 1990). The Punjab extremism which had sustained for more than fourteen years provided inspiration to the Kashmiri youth to take to the gun.


¹.Pran Chopra, ‘The Cyclone of Blunders’, The Hindu, 18 May 1990

². MV Kamath, ‘Fighting for the Assertion of a Principle, The Independent, 02 May 1990.

³. Saifuddin Soz , ‘An Ostrich Like Attitude Towards Kashmir Won’t Do’, the Times of India, 09 Mar 1990.


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