Discussions on how the Kashmir issue has been represented over the years
The beginning of a new age of violence in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989 took off with the mayhem ensued by the permission of the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, for the intelligence apparatus of her country to export fighters outward from the Kashmir valley. Since then, Kashmir is visible more like a chessboard for a large malicious game of intrigue, where the official truth appears manufactured narrative rather than it should be in its natural shape.
The tug of war between India and the opposition forces from Kashmir along with the clear support of Pakistan and its allies can be understood lucidly through Edmund Burke’s quote conveyed in the House of Commons on April 19, 1774: “The use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again; and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered.”
History does not flow in straight lines, but in outlines—and in Kashmir’s painful history there are many forgotten references due, to negotiate. Since October 1947, when the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir conditionally acceded to the Government of India, there has been a gap between India’s democratic and secular ideals and the reality of New Delhi’s relationship with Srinagar. This has led to various bouts of disillusionments, the first of them as early as the 1950s—largely in the Muslim dominated Kashmir valley.
Persistent calls for Kashmiri secession only intensified through the next three-and-a-half decades as disenchantment with assertive Indian actions and lures from the unhygienic communal supports from cross of the border mounted and finally took a violent turn in November 1989. Though the Indian state may not always have got it right in Kashmir, the dissent’s tailor made delineation represents intellectually dishonest simplification of the real issues, leaving aside the hazards associated with the intensely aggressive geopolitical forces at work.
The fateful periods of the independence of India on August 15, 1947, and Kashmir’s accession to it on October 26, 1947, is still fogged in mystery. But the most genuine truth at that time was that no one wanted Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. Majority had a preference for its independence, but for different and complex reasons—Kashimiri Pandits were in favour of Indian state albeit on the covert condition of not losing Kashmir’s unique native identity.
Not even a tint of deviation from syncretism they would like as on line of the rest thinking Kashmiris—so far, there was not much hype of communal programming in the valley, this began and intensified only with the blunder of making Kashmir an international issue by moralistically overcharged Nehru in early 1950’s.
Consolidation of a nation like India had to happen through the diverse maneuverings on endless impediments—then inclusion of independent royalties in India was the most crucial among many citable challenges. Sardar Patel, a straight forward man, had tirelessly succeeded in making India with an impressive geographical size—he made the idea of sovereignty a complete prerogative of this newly born nation. But alas, this man was neither a sage nor an immortal being—so he passed away when the complete inclusion of Kashmir was still in progress. That shrewd political executioner passed away, rest the lead on Kashmir was transferred to Nehru, though as said he was by birth a Kashmiri but hardly a native in typical sense.
He had pious ideas, which were broader in outlook but unfortunately—people with whom he had to deal with on Kashmir—were of dishonest merits. Had he relied on the referendum or on hard action against the first attack of Pakistan in 1947, he could have easily escaped the unfortunate internationalization of Kashmir as a formidable dispute. Moreover, shady and impractical deals with Sheikh Abdullah at wrong times and most importantly the division of Kashmir sabotaged peace forever from these regions.
Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre’s interview with Mountbatten for their book, “Mountbatten and Independent India” (Vikas; page 37) makes clear the fatal motive of this unholy colonial moron, as in a conversation to Maharaja Hari Singh, he said: “the majority of your populations are Muslim”, but Hari Singh had replied “I don’t want to accede to Pakistan on any account…. I don’t want to join India either, because, if so (sic), I would feel that perhaps which’s not what the people of Kashmir wanted.
I want to be independent." Mountbatten told the authors, “I must tell you honestly, I wanted Kashmir to join Pakistan…(Sir Cyril) Radcliffe (Chairman of the India-Pakistan Boundary Commission) let us in for an awful lot of trouble by making it possible for them to accede to India,” by awarding to India a part of Gurdaspur, which facilitated the land link to Jammu and Kashmir.” Unfortunately those virulent designs were misunderstood by the high ranked and nosed politicians, particularly by Nehru and Jinnah that finally lead the Kashmir to a dangerous trajectory of conflict.
In 1971, India facilitated the secession of Pakistan’s easternmost province (now Bangladesh), which was another turning point that immensely affected any veritable advancement on Kashmir for many decades. India’s strategic win provoked Pakistan’s humiliated army and intelligence officials to pursue a policy of creating ‘strategic depth’ against India by seeking Pashtun clients inside Afghanistan for using them in Kashmir valley—that was not a squeak but a full-fledged design of proxy war directed to Kashmir through multiple active channels, including those of “communal interference”.
In the 1990s, many of the same Pakistani officials who helped supply the Mujahideen during the CIA-led anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan turned to fuelling the popular Islamic insurgency in India-ruled Kashmir—which in turn claimed more than 80,000 lives and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley since1989. Throughout the last two and half decades, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, trained and financed militant groups for jihad in Kashmir, even as it settled on the Taliban as its proxy in Afghanistan, which had been abruptly abandoned by the United States following the Soviet withdrawal.
Since then, once known for its opulent beauty and peace, the valley of Kashmir was forced to host the military occupation awkwardly against the theoretical democratic ethos of India. It’s indeed an unfortunate truth; the killings fields of Kashmir supersede those of Palestine and Tibet. Curfews, raids, and checkpoints have been routinely enforced by nearly 700,000 Indian soldiers—the valley's staying populations are harshly exposed to extra-judicial execution and torture. India has contained the insurgency provoked in 1989 but the growing disenchantment of the average Kashmiri from endemic military occupation of India is not comforting in any manner.
The hundreds of thousands of demonstrators that fill the streets of Kashmir's cities today are overwhelmingly young and desperate, most of them in their teens, and armed with nothing more than stones. Yet the spanking goes on, such sneaky approaches must be stopped and the different voices should approach our conscience. It’s true that Pakistan has lost its undeserving war in Kashmir from India and native Kashmiris, so now India must bolster its ties with the aspirations of Kashmiris, like it does with its citizens, atleast notionally.
Looking back on the ‘Chenab model’ would be worthwhile for knowing the conflation that disturbed the lives of Kashmiri Pandits from 1990 onward. This was aimed to partition Kashmir along the river Chenab, was conceived by political leaders, mostly from Pakistan to promote a communal agenda. “Most of the districts in Jammu and on the left bank of the Chenab are Hindu majority in the state of Jammu and Kashmir while in most of the districts on the western side of the Chenab, the Muslims are predominant,” wrote Sartaj Aziz in his book ‘Between Dreams and Reality’ (page 228).
“In short, the River Chenab will form the separation line between the Pakistan and Indian held areas …Since India was no longer willing to go back to the concept of Hindu versus Muslim majority, the Chenab formula basically converted a communal formula into a geographic formula since most of the Hindu majority is east of Chenab and Muslim majority districts are west of Chenab.” Unfortunately, some partial aim of this guff was come into reality through the incessantly untamed involvement of Pakistan and India’s own casing of the burning situation in Kashmir from any constructive public discourse.
The dispute over Kashmir is not just the most enduring flash-point in the relationship between India and Pakistan; it is, equally, the largest question-mark next to India’s claims to secularism and democracy. Nationalist passions, political imperatives, security concerns and emotions of bitterness and distrust (including those between Kashmiris themselves) have undermined much policy-making and scholarship. Kashmir, today, is known through the prism of triangular political relations: between Srinagar and New Delhi; between politicians and the public within Kashmir; and between Kashmir’s different regions and identity groups.
Autumn normally leaves dual effects on mind. This season in Kashmir once used to be the time of rejoice that continuity broken in 1990 with the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits and subsequently with the end of syncretism from valley. Never to forget, that was the culmination of incessant political follies directed towards the Kashmir which distorted the Kashmiriyat from the region where once Lal Ded and Noorudin Reshi were reflexive of all humane convictions in collective lives.
Introspection on the essence of Kashmiriyat could be too deep. It could be looked as far back as the time of Rajtarangini or Akbar’s colonisation of Kashmir, but here the focus should be unanimously channelised to draw the points: how the harmony in collective lives was the essence of Kashmiriyat and how it started losing those specialties of universalism with the partition in 1947? Post partition, Kashmir was one among the many troubled royalties but not most shaky in any terms. Then few would have thought about the evolvement of this paradise, as India’s weakness and centrepoint of notorious cold war politics!
These all developments happened in Jammu and Kashmir after India’s independence, and more resolutely with the most brutal catastrophe took place in the valley with the Kashmiri Pandit’s unfortunate exodus in 1990—down the twenty-four years, hibernation is still going on among the opinion makers and those cry for secularism and human rights for these people who are living outside their homeland. Those who made Kashmir a living ruin are being taken as leaders by the pseudo polemists of high caliber—only solace is such voices is not being taken seriously any longer and their low capacity to interface with the Kashmir’s history is a moving example of persisting ignorance among these noisy New Delhi/Srinagar based intellectual/separatist cohorts.
Over the decades, politics and high class but baseless discourses have produced mostly the trashes on Kashmir—the devoid from realities remains a harmful trend which is yet to be over, but chances are dim for such change. A better part of Kashmiriyat is already extinct from the valley, or it could be said, the loss of Kashmiriyat itself that used to bind together the religious diversities in special fold, caused for the outbreak of communalism in late 1980s.
In the course of time, the soft side of socio-cultural structure gave easy passage to the virulent mix of political-communal beliefs for replacement.
The devastating changes came into existence under the guise of horrible conspiracies from Pakistan. In response, the regime in Delhi and its unworthy ruling puppets in Jammu and Kashmir did alarmingly unwell in getting rid from the third party intervention that was being directed on almost war scale from the fraternity of crooks for their own illegitimate interests.
By playing under-capacity game, India has only become able to weaken the external conspiracies in Kashmir valley but still has to fight hard to foil it from the root—force alone can’t do it, whatsoever may be its might-ultimately, only the radical repulsion of masses from the nasty role of ‘third party’ and belief in their own capacity to negotiate with Indian state can lead to a point of peaceful accord.
It is daunting to take a stand on it, because related issues have been moulded so badly in the last six decades in various policy circles in India and outside that finding genuine ground and its non-categorized expression can be possible only on the self-risk of getting strictly good or bad points from the largely ‘undefined progressive blocks’.
Though those who parted from the valley in unimagined circumstances to save their life, dignity and successors, still carries the native originality alive with them. However, now the young generations of Kashmiri Pandits appear more part of the cosmic world than of those lost interwoven life of valley, Kashmiris’ were entitled for, before the insertion of full scale communalisation.
Still, those lived the community values, earnestly feel the absence of non-existent Pandits in valley and they want returning back of normalcy and calmness of old days. Most of the Kashmiri Pandits too, though settled across the world and leaving their mark in different fields have more sense of disbelief than any consolidated amount of anger for their lost neighbourhood. That’s the most positive social understanding still exists among the Kashmiris—even though they are living in distance through unnatural causes.
Even superlatively, politics can provide at best a kind of “turf” that ends with either the ‘state of solipsism’ or between tussle of stakeholders. This is only the socio-cultural combine that constructs the proper psyche of the social values, but most often they neglected. Not least, because in idealization process, good thoughts hardly considered for practical optimisation.
Low emphasis on the other components such as culture, shared past etc—which formats and strengthens the social order and falls beyond the direct purview of new state could be forwardly termed as contempt against the ancient fabric of old social realities.
Here is need of revisiting the truth: India as a nation is still very young, if comparing it with its very unique continuance as society for long through the stretches of history. In respect of Kashmir, crux of this little bit theorization could assist in forming a new ground of recuperating its socio-cultural distinctness back—and on later stage—coming in terms at collective level to decide on political course, without losing the sight from realities.
The conspiracies of various sorts caused for the turmoil inside once a living paradise, but now need is to look around what forced at social, cultural, psychological level that frozen and broke Kashmir? With impressive past and articulate lifestyle, the land which should have been the role model for peace, how turned to be among the most dangerous places of the world?
After the folly of last six and half decades, Indian side must deal with Kashmir in straight terms—without stretching the existing approaches of public diplomacy, which otherwise will keep downgrading the genuine aspirations in incompetency to engage effectively.
Searching nativity should be the main plank of displaced Kashmiris who tagged for long with an unjust and illogical suffix, Sharnarthi! Never was it justifiable inside a free state like India—only it was an illuminating stance of center’s failure to reach on the basic flaws of Kashmir issues and getting involved for a constructive way out. What we have witnessed rather a consistent derailment of the sensible concern, substituted by Hippocratic rise of local leadership which remains devoid to attain any rational purpose.
For Pakistan, Kashmir is an escape route from its ruined state of affairs—for India, it’s the profound entity of its secular credential—and for the local leadership, Kashmir is nothing more than a survival object. Puzzles are still there, so people must show the temptations of realignment with the Kashmiriyat and to continue their reliance on the democratic values. Circumstances may have made Kashmir a difficult terrain, but still it would be improper comparing it with a place like Palestine on many terms—as whenever something went wrong from the Indian side, public opinion always stood against it from all over India.
The issue of nation and nationalities could not be brokered by sentiments alone, history gives the choices based on facts and those facts are clearly in favour of India on Kashmir. Before Independence, consolidation of Indian territories through such grand centralization was never a reality—it’s not alone Kashmir that lost its royal rule and witnessed a sort of break-up in local rule. Most of India’s princely states merged and aligned in nation-making but the Kashmir took the different route with no clear destination ahead.
Agha Shahid Ali, a Kashmiri-American poet who has written ‘The country without post office,’ died at a young age in the USA. He could be a very apt frame of reference in knowing what the idea of native belonging is. How does it appear from a distant land and in adverse time? Amitav Ghosh’s long essay, The Ghat of the Only World: Agha Shahid Ali in Brooklyn (February 11,2002, The Nation), which he has written as he promised his friend during his last days in Brooklyn provides the intricate details of looking on one’s troubled motherland with vivid charm and apprehensions.
Agha was a believer in composite culture, not surprising, as his drawing room had more Hindu deities than Islamic icons—there was nothing religious about that, rather merely it was a continuance of liberal collective bond. It’s true, Shahid wanted his last days to be spent in Kashmir and that was quite a normal wish for a sensible soul like him. The Pandits, those in forced exile too feel similarly despite having lived away from the valley for a long time. Do the separatists have any answer for such basic needs which a major chunk of Kashmiris lacking badly? Infact not, and why they are they supposed to look into this?
It’s hard to get a forethought on what would be the shape and sequence of separatist politics in Kashmir but it’s an open secret and no conjecture that neither those who left the valley found any political representation, nor who stayed in the valley—from mainstream political parties. From political standpoint, it’s bewildering. A democracy essentially should mean for the people and alongside for its institutions. Over the decades, Indian democracy has stablised well, though fissures are still many and in coping those, the centre has not kept so impressive track record.
Whether in North East or in Kashmir, the major fallout of keeping aside the people’s aspiration proved detrimental in reaching out the right kind of solution. State has primarily to learn how to deal with its citizens uniformly and not by vindictively treating the dissent voices, whose demands otherwise could be considered very benignly. Those throwing stones in valley or updating posts on social media against the state’s repression are not the enemies of the Indian union—rather enemies are those who serve through legitimate channels and consistently betray the real issues related to the fate of Kashmir.
The bone of contention that could be drawn from Kashmir is that those who are in valley are living in quagmire with alienation towards the nation’s progress. They are not being able to entitle with the good dividends that the economic rise of India is giving-up to young population in its rest part. For most of stone palters, life could be more smooth and promising have they provided an alternative way of thinking and opportunity to succeed. Unfortunately state is doing abysmal on this by taking such protests more as ‘security issues’ rather politically-economically generated dissatisfaction.
Over a long debate with one of my journalist friends from Kashmir, he asked me why we should celebrate Sachin Tendulkar’s performance on the cricket ground— though he wished, if he could do it and other matters where India has lead. His point of view was hard to denounce, as he was speaking more clearly from the heart and by knowing the existing situation on ground —but I finally made my point with citing that the same aspiration that is not flourishing today among the young Kashmiris would be not static forever and very soon the change will make it happen that Kashmir may host all the symbols of ‘new mainstream’: from cricket, fashion to industry. Apropos of our statements, we finally agreed that wariness is still high but hope shouldn’t be ruled out from the future either.
The new generations of Kashmiri Pandits are upwardly mobile and whatever was their difficult past, now they are availing the right fruit by converging with the changing times. But naturally they still have quest to involve with the Kashmir, and that’s for good. As the shape of political cunningness is well evident now, there are feeble chances for separatist ideology to remain in mainframe for long in Kashmir. However, the state’s insensitivity would be a big deterrent to thrive on the positive chances. Still, the truth-telling should be wishfully continued and the stunning disclosures too must be acknowledged properly by the concerned affiliates on Kashmir.
Despite the major breakup of opinion, it is still nice to see Kashmiri Pandits more apolitical than falling as piggyback of fundamentalist forces, which plays wrong politics and generates hate on the similar line that Islamic fundamentalists have been doing in clusters. The true justice either for Kashmiri Pandits or for every Kashmiris would only take place with stronger denouncement of communal stands in political negotiation and by searching the true secular ideas, which will make the state and its citizens’ passive with religious over-exhibit.
The issue of Kashmir is indeed political in nature but intensification of all wrong precedents could thrive and strive by the crafted communal agendas—the cold war politics ended long back in 1991, but Kashmir sustained its wounded legacy and India’s weak stand to curb militancy in its early days. Once it reached to the valley, it took time to get solemnised. The barbed wires replaced the scenic beauties of Dal Lake and Nishat Bagh and all the Kashmiri Pandits become homeless overnight—all what communalism has given to the Kashmir.
In post independent India, the forced eviction of Pandits from the Kashmir valley was one amongst the most brutal tragedies. As it happened under a consolidated democracy at that time, the state had lesser excuses than during India’s partition way back in 1947. It is shocking to ponder why their plights are still not part of large secular discourse that makes aghast in calling ourselves a nation with democracy. All humans are equal, as idealist as it may sound but with believing this, the cruel play of communal politics could be halted.
The US realised that terrorism exists, only after the 9/11attack took place on its land. Since then, it played the role of a good consensus ally with India on Kashmir. It is wishful India too should realise though not in the spellbinding influence of USA—but through own approaches that the greater common good is possible, only through practicing secular ideas and not through the hypocritical preaching. Essentially, Kashmir should be taken as a living space which has a recognizable past and many set of people, including Pandits and other suffering masses. With remorse on what happened in 1990s, the valley is waiting for its
Pandits—only the state can make it or not. And the people are waiting for justice, for their voices to be heard.
-Atul K Thakur
(Published in The Kashmir Walla on February24,2014)