Kashmir's Ordeal - Chapter Five

Lal Khan looks at the history of post-partition Kashmir and role played in this tragic history by the Indian and Pakistani ruling classes. He also analyses the roots of the wars and the insurgency that have plagued Kashmir since partition.

Bayonets Dripping Blood

However infamous the conduct of the Sepoys, it is only the reflex, in a concentrated form, of England's own conduct in India, not only during the epoch of the foundation of her Eastern Empire, but even during the last ten years of a long-settled rule. To characterize that rule, it suffices to say that torture formed an organic institution of its financial policy. There is something in human history like retribution: and it is a rule of historical retribution that its instrument be forged not by the offended, but by the offender himself.

Karl Marx 1

Democratic Despotism

Despite Sheikh Abdullah's compromise with the Indian rulers, the reality of Indian secularism and democracy was soon to be exposed. Sheikh Abdullah even abandoned his stand on the Dogra Monarchy. He worked in a government whose head, even if only ceremonial, was Dr. Karan Singh, the son of Maharaja Hari Singh, against whom the Kashmiri masses had struggled for so long.

The veneer of secularism, democracy, and egalitarianism of the Indian bourgeois state was coming swiftly off. National chauvinism and even traits of Hindu bigotry were becoming more and more apparent in the Indian ruling elite. Despite his personal friendship with Nehru and his praise for Gandhi's secular rhetoric, Abdullah now began to see the real character of the Indian bourgeoisie. Their aggressive imperialist designs were beginning to shock him.

“Soon doubts began to arise in his mind. Sheikh Abdullah now began to wonder if Kashmir should opt for a degree of independence, even if limited, which would ensure that Kashmir did not become a 'slave' of India.” 2

Indeed, signs of Hindu bigotry were already visible in the government in Delhi. It was partly due to Abdullah's old ambition of Kashmir’s independence, and the role of the Americans and the British, who encouraged such thoughts. The British and American imperialists recognized the strategic importance of Kashmir's geographic location, in the centre of five ambitious, substantial powers.

The Sheikh now began to talk about the withdrawal of Pakistani troops from Kashmir and Indian demilitarisation. He also promised to eventually hold the promised plebiscite to be carried out by the UN.Later, when he saw that neither India nor Pakistan showed any inclination to leave Kashmir, he began to advocate a different future; a confederation of Pakistan, India, and Kashmir. This was the future the cabinet mission of 1946 had suggested. This confederation would have a centre with limited powers and the states would enjoy the fullest autonomy. Nehru rejected the idea, demanding instead the “undiluted” unity of India.

The Indian rulers wanted the Sheikh to be on his very best behaviour. They did not allow the man they considered their stooge to go beyond the set limits in which he was to function. For some hawkish elements, the Sheikh was seen as repugnant due to certain land reforms that he tried to carry through when he came into power in 1947. There was also a religious dimension to these land reforms as most of the landlords in Kashmir, whose land had gone to the Muslim peasants, were Hindus.

In 1952, Nehru and Abdullah arrived at what is known as the Delhi Agreement. The Sheikh again tried to patch up things. At the end of the talks Nehru said to the Sheikh, “Oh we will bind you in chains of gold, do not worry.” Sheik Abdullah later wrote about that comment:

How did the chains of gold come to be exchanged for shackles on the wrist of one of them, only a year later? The Sheikh's explanation was that 'the reactionary element had ample access to Delhi'  not to Nehru's court but certainly elsewhere. Sardar Patel and several others had no faith in me. Nehru first resisted the campaign of vilification against me but ultimately he succumbed. 3

The Sheikh was naively trying to absolve Nehru while remaining ignorant of the dictates of the regime and the character of the social system. Towards the end of 1952, a number of organisations joined hands to launch anti-Sheikh agitation in Jammu. The newly formed Jana Singh was made up of the following organisations: the Hindu Mahasabha of Syama Prasad Mukherjee, the Rashtriya Sawayam Sevak Singh, the Jammu Praja Parishad all Hindu parties  and the Sikh Akali Dal lead by the virulent Master Tara Singh. Nehru was totally ineffective in curbing this reactionary agitation. His ineptitude and indifference also explained a lot about the character of the Indian ruling elite. Mukherjee's resurrection sparked fears in the National Conference about the sharp edge of Hindu fanaticism.

The notion of maintaining ultimate control over Kashmir's destiny gained strength. This was much preferred to surrendering control to Dehli. The Sheikh began talking about “autonomy” within the Indian union. Nehru was convinced that the U.S.A was encouraging such talk.

In March 1953, the conspiracy to remove Sheikh Abdullah was set in motion. The man chosen to play Brutus was Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad, the deputy Prime Minister of Kashmir. In June of that year, Mukherjee decided to cross into Jammu without obtaining the necessary permit. Rather than stopping him from going to Jammu, officials of the Punjab government actually accompanied Mukherjee and helped him to cross the border. The man accused of leading treacherous agitation by Nehru received support from Nehru's own administration.
Abdullah's government arrested Mukherjee, and as luck would have it, he died of a heart attack while in jail. On July 10 the Sheikh delivered a speech, which was used to prove that he had now become a “traitor” to India. At the Mujahid Manzil, the headquarters of the National Conference, Sheikh Abdullah is quoted as having said that,
“The time might come when Kashmir would have to say 'good bye' to secular India.” 4

On August 8, 1953 Karan Singh, son of Maharaja Hari Singh, drafted the dismissal order
"[I] do hereby dismiss Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah from Prime Minister ship of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and consequently the council of Ministers     headed by him is dissolved forth with.”  5

Sheikh Abdullah was arrested in the middle of the night while asleep at the picturesque resort of Gulmerg. The press reported that

“India had been saved: Sheikh Abdullah had been arrested just before crossing over to Pakistan that stormy night.”6

Just five years after independence one of the most ardent supporters, proponents, and political agitators for the accession of Kashmir to India, had been put behind bars. His dearest friend, Jawaharlal Nehru, allowed this to happen using the “national interest” as an excuse. After he became Prime Minister in 1948, Abdullah had said at a press conference,

 “We have decided to work with and die for India.” 7

M.J Akbar writes:

The politicians across India were also strangely quiet; even those from the opposition. There was clearly a lack of confidence in the nation, a fear that perhaps this was the price necessary for survival and integrity. Even Ram Manohar Lohia, the socialist leader, who could be expected to critcise Nehru for just about everything, was muted in his assessment. By 1958, the government of India had announced that there was no longer any question of plebiscite. 8

In a 1978 interview, Sheikh Abdullah had said,

“The experience of jail in 1953 our faith in secularism, democracy and socialism was put to a severe test. That time my colleagues in jail told me: What is left now? Why should we go to India, if this is the result? We should go to Pakistan.” The Sheikh had again and again said that, “he had a religion common with Jinnah but a dream common with Nehru”. 9

The dream had been shattered in the short span of five years.

Diplomacy, War and Revolution

The 1962 Sino-Indian war had a substantial impact on the Kashmir issue. The US and Britain had helped restrain Ayub Khan from opening up the Kashmir front, while the Indian army was taking a beating in the Himalayas. However, after the cease-fire and the unexpected Chinese withdrawal, there was Anglo-American pressure on Nehru to settle the Kashmir problem with Pakistan.

A long round of talks between India and Pakistan began in December 1962 in Rawalpindi, Delhi, Karachi, and Calcutta and lasted until March 1963. India was willing to offer Pakistan 1500 square miles more than they already held, provided Pakistan accepted the new lines as an international boundary. However, just a day before the talks with India were to open, the Pakistani regime announced a provisional boundary agreement with China, handing over a huge and barren but strategic chunk of Kashmir to China. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the then Pakistani Foreign Minister told Indian diplomats during an informal chat,

“You are a defeated nation, don't you see?” 10

 The “historic peace talks” collapsed.

Nehru began to ponder an idea he had rejected in 1946. He wanted a quadrangular union between India, Pakistan, Kashmir, and East Bengal. The idea was that they would form a confederation with a common defence, foreign, and communication policy. Nehru believed this would diffuse the struggle for Kashmir. After Sheikh Abdullah's release in 1964, Nehru invited him for a discussion. After convincing him of the idea of a confederation, Abdullah was sent to Pakistan to sell the idea to the regime. Abdullah reached Pakistan on May 24, 1964. Again no agreement was reached. The only thing the Sheikh managed to achieve was to get Ayub Khan to agree to visit India for yet more talks. The invitation was quietly written and reached the Indian High Commission in Pakistan for delivery to Ayub Khan on May 27, 1964.

However, Jawaharlal Nehru died that same day. This lead to another stalemate, and the internal crises in both India and Pakistan intensified. The countries were simmering with internal revolt. The contradictions on the domestic and foreign fronts were on the verge of exploding. The ruling class of both countries sought war, believing this would solve both their domestic and foreign problems. The Ayub regime, overconfident after the Indian defeat in the 1962 war with China, infiltrated “Mujahideen” into Indian held Kashmir. The intrusion spiralled out of control and on September 6 1965, a full-scale war erupted between Pakistan and India. In retaliation to the intrusion in Kashmir, the Indians attacked the international border near Lahore. After 17 days of war there was no real victor and the Tashkent Declaration signified yet another cosmetic solution. No real agreement or solution to the Kashmir issue was achieved and the oppressed on both sides were the ones to suffer the burdens and ravages of war.

In the aftermath of the 1965 war, a revolutionary struggle erupted in Pakistan's eastern and the western parts. In the 1968-69 revolutionary movement there was the serious prospect of a socialist revolution in Pakistan,  and its impact would have ignited revolutions throughout the Indian subcontinent.

Despite the fact that there was no genuine Bolshevik organisation in Pakistan, the revolutionary storms raged on and threatened the rule of finance capital.  Such was the fear of the ruling classes from the impending social revolution that they took the two countries to war yet again in December 1971. The mass revolutionary uprising in East Pakistan turned into a movement for national liberation from the ruling West Pakistan elite.

Due to the failure of Bhashani and other socialist leaders to give a clear lead, the movement was derailed and the class struggle was undercut by nationalism. Mujib-ur-Rehman became the national hero of East Bengal. He was politically and ideologically a bourgeois nationalist and very close to the Indian ruling class. Despite this, soviets (panchayats) began to emerge in those villages and towns where the Bengali masses defeated the Pakistani army and overthrew the existing state structures. The struggle for national liberation was once again entering the avenues of socio-economic emancipation. This was intolerable to the Indian bourgeoisie. A red Bengal in the East would have ignited a socialist revolution in West Bengal. Given the history of the subcontinent, a united socialist Bengal would have become a precursor to revolutions throughout the region.

The Indian army entered East Bengal not only to complete the defeat and surrender of the Pakistani army, but also to brutally crush the panchayats that had mushroomed as existing state structures crumbled. The war had also spread to the West and clashes in Kashmir were intensifying. Even before the uprising in March 1971 in East Pakistan, the Indian rulers were very conscious of the sensitivities of Kashmir.

Mrs. Gandhi hardly savoured the prospects of Sheikh Abdullah becoming another Mujib-ur-Rehman. On January 9, 1971 the Sheikh, Mirza Afzal Beg and G.M. Shah were prohibited from entering Kashmir and some four hundred Plebiscite Front workers and leaders were arrested.

P.K. Dave, Chief Secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir government, explained that such actions were necessary to prevent mass subversive activity. The Plebiscite Front was soon banned. It was only on June 5, 1972, almost six months after the famous victory of the Indian army in Bengal, that the leaders of the National Conference were allowed to return home. However, by then Sheikh Abdullah had once again capitulated to the Indian bourgeoisie.

One reason for the release of the Kashmiri leaders was that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was coming to India at the end of June for peace talks in Simla. This time around, Bhutto was the leader of the defeated country.

In the early hours of July 2, 1972, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Indra Gandhi came to an agreement that became to be known as the Simla Pact. It said:

In Jammu and Kashmir the line of control resulting from the cease-fire of 17th December 1971, shall be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognized position of either side. Neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations; both sides further undertake to refrain from the threat of the use of the force in violation of this line. 11

Even if they did not admit it, India and Pakistan had partitioned Kashmir with this document. Now the victor was calling the shots.

At the United Nations, in 1948, in a conversation with Chaudhary Muhammad Ali, now Secretary General of the Government of Pakistan Sheikh Abdullah had said, “put some trust in the Kashmiris, they will not join in conspiracies against the Pakistan and be bought over,” he warned, 'that time will come when you will have to admit that Kashmir should be an independent country but by that time, it will not be possible. If you leave this problem hanging for now, you will be the loser.” 12

On February 24, 1975 a six-point Kashmir Accord was announced in the Indian parliament. Jammu and Kashmir, a constituent unit of the union of India, would continue to be governed by Article 370. The state would have the residuary powers of legislation, but parliament would retain the power to legislate on any matter concerning the territorial integrity of the country. The Sheikh had finally given up the dream of an independent Kashmir.

On February 25, 1975 Sheikh Abdullah was sworn in as the leader of the House and Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. The National Conference was to be betrayed again by the Congress. In his political career, which extended more than 50 years, Sheikh Abdullah was imprisoned nine times and spent a total of fifteen years, seven months and five days in detention.

Yet at the time of his death in 1982, the Kashmiri people were still suffering in turmoil and desperation. Paradise was in peril and no solution was in sight. This is a glaring example of how under this crisis-ridden capitalist system, the national liberation, and independence of Kashmir is a utopia.

The Mirage of Secularism

The real character of the Indian bourgeoisie and its covert imperialist designs on Kashmir were summed up in a strictly confidential letter sent by the veteran Indian politician, Jayaprakash Narayan to Mrs. Gandhi on June 23, 1966. Narayan wrote:

We profess democracy, but rule by force in Kashmir  we profess secularism but let Hindu nationalism stampede us into trying to establish it by repression. Kashmir has distorted India's image for the world as nothing has done… the problem exists not because Pakistan wants to grab Kashmir, but because there is deep and widespread political discontent among the people.

Historical events, some without, some within our control have narrowed down greatly the room for maneuverability. For instance, any manner of de-accession of any part of the state is now impracticable  no matter how just and fair according to the principles of democracy and secularism. Whatever be the solution, it has to be found within the limitation of the accession.13

Jayaprakash Narayan, who proclaimed to be a “socialist”, was also under the illusion that the Indian bourgeoisie could usher in a democratic and secular regime in India. It was a similar case with the other left-wing parties and their leaders. Indoctrinated in the narrowness of the Menshevik and Stalinist two-stage theory, they had, and unfortunately still have, this false and redundant notion that the Indian bourgeoisie could carry through the tasks of the national democratic revolution. Tragically, all the left parties were shackled to this two-stagism. This frivilous two-stage theory was a fetter for all the heroic workers' movements and revolutionary uprisings in India.

In practice, this theory means supporting the Indian bourgeoisie by falsely attributing a progressive role to it. This, in reality, means endorsing all the crimes and repressions they commit to perpetuate the rule of finance capital. The task of attaining a nation state in India is far from accomplished. Instead of developing a nation state through a democratic consensus, the whole of history shows that the Indian bourgeoisie have tried to unify India through repression, military action, palace intrigues, manoeuvrings, manipulations and at times, outright savagery. In many ways, India resembles Czarist Russia which Lenin called “a prison house of nationalities”.

Congress, the traditional party of the Indian bourgeoisie, has a miserable record on its secular credentials. From the Meerut carnage and Gujrat anti-Muslim riots in the 1960s to the 1984 genocide of Sikhs in Delhi, Congress has shown its subservience to Hindu bigotry. During the 1983 election campaign in Jammu, Mrs. Indra Gandhi conducted an aggressive campaign with a distinct pro-Hindu bias on the assumption (a correct one) that she had little chance of winning many Muslim votes in the valley.

Two examples of the impact on secularism are provided by the Shah Bano case, and the destruction of the Babri Masjid (Mosque) at Ayodhya. The former involved Rajiv Gandhi's Congress government. An elderly divorced Muslim woman took her husband to court, where her claim was upheld and her husband ordered to pay her compensation. This civil law judgement clashed with the Islamic Sharia injunction that stated in the case of divorce, a man was under no obligation to support his ex-wife. Sections of the Indian Muslim community protested loudly at the Supreme Court Ruling. Rajiv Gandhi, instead of standing firm and upholding the secular principle that the law applied to all citizens equally, passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Bill. This Bill effectively encompassed the Sharia in Indian law.

The second example involved Rajiv's successor, Narasimha Rao. His government's first act of weakness was its failure to prevent the destruction of the Babri Masjid by Hindu militants. After the mosque was destroyed, the government tried to take a strong stand, dismissing not just the Uttar Paradesh BJP administration but also all four BJP state governments, and promised to rebuild the mosque. However, when faced with widespread pro-Hindutva sentiments among Hindus, Rao backed down. There was no move towards reconstruction, by either by Rao or his successors. The politics of expediency were of greater importance than any principles.

Achin Vanaik writes:

After the 1971 war, Mrs. Gandhi was widely acclaimed as 'Durga,' the Hindu mother goddess of destruction. She and her Congress party did not hesitate to make use of and encourage the Hindu image. After this victory Mrs. Gandhi began to make use of Hindu symbols and rituals to make well publicized visits to temples…and so on. 14

Vanaik notes that after her return to power in January 1980, the switch in the populist rhetoric of Congress from socialism to Hinduism was even more obvious. Rajiv Gandhi followed his mother's example in this as in much else. One of his first acts after being elected in 1984 was a Ramayana recitation at Ayodhya. Chadda claims that in those elections,

“A large number of RSS cadres had worked for Rajiv Gandhi.” 15

During the 1989 election, Vanaik reports that his campaign promise at Faizabad was that,

“Only Congress can give you Ram Rajya.” Vanaik concludes that, “there is little doubt that the Congress, to its shame, has pursued a perspective that is accurately described as 'pale saffron', saffron being the emblematicm colour of political Hinduvta.” 16

Once overtly Hindu parties such as the BJP entered the political arena and were seen to be making huge electoral gains, the incentive for the so called  non-communal parties to follow their example was even greater and few resisted.
In the late 1980s Indian-held Kashmir was still dependent on tourism. There was no real industry in which Kashmir had a stake. Due to the historic events taking place internationally like the withdrawal of the Soviets from Afghanistan, the turmoil in the Stalinist states, the fall of the Berlin wall etc, and the lack of a lead by the left parties, section of the Kashmiri youth moved increasingly not towards communism or socialism, but back to the fundamentals of their respective religions. Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists were all reasserting their cultural and religious identity, in total contradiction to secularism, which the Indian government had espoused since independence.

The Electoral Debacles

Among those who entered the political vacuum were the collection of political parties that formed a Muslim United Front to contest the Kashmir state elections in September 1986.

With Jagmohan demonstrating a decidedly pro-Hindu bias within the administration, the MUF had considerable appeal. Maulvi Farooq's “Awami National Conference” also expressed solidarity with MUF. This was the first real challenge the National Conference had faced since it had returned to active politics after Sheikh Abdullah's 1975 accord with the Delhi establishment. Farooq Abdullah became  alarmed by the MUF's electoral strength. Before the election, several MUF leaders and a number of candidates were arrested.

There was nearly a 75 per cent turnout on election day on March 23, 1987 - the highest ever recorded in the state, with nearly 80 percent voting in the Valley. The National Conference-Congress alliance claimed sixty-six seats; Congress won five out of the six seats it had contested in the valley. The MUF won only four out of the forty-four seats they had contested.

Despite national jubilation at the National Conference-Congress victory, there were widespread charges of vote rigging. This became one of the reasons for the resurgence of militancy in Indian-Held Kashmir. The grievances of the youth, who were educated but unemployed, were fuelled by events both inside and outside the valley. They were the ones who considered themselves economically deprived because they were neither part of the bureaucracy nor the elite. The alienated youth found a ready outlet for their frustration in one or another of the political-religious organizations. Meanwhile, the broader MUF alliance fell apart. The People's Conference and Awami National Conference did not adhere to the Jamaat's emphasis on promoting a theocratic state.

By the end of 1993, the Indian government decided once again to hold an election as a way forward towards a solution of the Kashmir problem. They made clear their intentions by releasing several prominent political leaders: Yasin Malik of the JKLF in May 1994, and Shabbir Shah, Syed Ali Gilani, Abdul Ghani Lone and 276 other political prisoners in October of the same year. Soon after their release, Yasin Malik and Shabbir Shah publicly renounced political violence. Despite these initial moves of compromise, it would take more than two years before elections could actually be held.

There were two major obstacles on the road to elections. One was the need to re-establish some sort of civil administration capable of carrying out an election. Years of conflict had virtually wiped out the state's administrative machinery. Large numbers of personnel had to be brought in from other parts of India. In addition, there was a dearth of accurate information about the state's population; the 1991 national census had not been held in Jammu and Kashmir because of the disturbances, and any electoral records that did exist had been destroyed by the militants.

The second was by far the greater obstacle: the opposition of the militant groups and the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). The former manifested their antipathy to elections by assassinating Wali Mohammed Yatoo, a National Conference leader and former speaker of the State Assembly in March 1994, and in the same month attempting to assassinate Farooq Abdullah and Rajesh Pilot when they paid a joint visit to the state. APHC leaders, including the newly released Yasin Malik and Shabbir Shah, made it clear that they were against the proposal and that their respective political parties would stage a boycott if India pushed ahead with its plans. Such widespread opposition was already making the idea of holding elections in the spring of 1995 difficult. The sacred Charar-i-Sharif shrine was burnt down in May and all hopes of a spring election were effectively quashed. Speculations about the election were renewed in November when the government sent officials to the state to oversee elections in the following months, but again massive political opposition within Kashmir coupled with threats of violence by the militants forced a postponement.

Elections, of a sort, were finally held in Jammu and Kashmir in May 1996  though for Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian parliament) rather than the State Assembly. The decision to press ahead with elections was made despite the fact that the APHC's opposition remained unaltered and the threats of the militants to sabotage any polls. The thinking in the Rao government appeared to be that:

“A flawed election is better than no election... rule by any Kashmiri is preferable to the continued rule from Delhi.”17

In any event, the election turned out to be considerably flawed. Either because of complete alienation from India or out of fear of the militants, few Kashmiris showed any enthusiasm for voting. In order to ensure a high turnout which was vital if the elections were to have any credibility the security forces were asked to “mobilise” the population. Tim McGrik reported in The Independent (London) that,

“Throughout the Kashmir valley, Indian authorities carried out systematic use of intimidation and vote rigging… Everywhere… the story was the same: Indian soldiers and police forced the Kashmiris to vote. It was a fraud of careless transparency and brutality.” 18

Voter turnout in May 1996 was around 40 per cent. Any credibility this high figure gave to the election was in large measure wiped out by the methods used to achieve it: The Times described the exercise as

“A propaganda disaster for India.” 19

With respect to the actual result, four of the state's six Lok Sabha seats went to Congress candidates, with Janta Dal and the BJP winning one each.

In September 1996, elections were held for the State Assembly. As in May, the Huriyat Conference boycotted the polls so only pro-India parties  notably the National Conference, Congress, Janata Dal, and the BJP  contested them. Despite the opposition of the APHC and militants, on this occasion there were far fewer reports of people being forced by the authorities to vote. The result showed a clear victory for Farooq Abdullah's National Conference; it won 40 out of the Valleys 44 seats, and 57 in total. Abdullah was sworn in as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir on October 8. Once again this electoral exercise solved nothing. Farooq Abdullah's party, that National Conference, proved to be a failure and was unable to solve anything, losing bitterly to Mufti Syed in the last elections.

The Renewed Insurgency

The armed insurgency, which gathered momentum after the 1987 election, caught the rest of the world unawares. In May 1987, the first major act against Farooq Abdullah took place when his motorcade was attacked on its way to a mosque. Throughout the year sniper attacks became more and more common.
There were continual disturbances in 1988, which disrupted daily life with such frequency that Jagmohan, who was still the governor, made a detailed note of them in his diary. In June, there were demonstrations in Srinagar against the sudden rise in the cost of electricity. These increases frustrated people because supplies of electricity were at best erratic, but the government response was of rabid indifference.
There were two bomb blasts, which just missed the Central Telegraph Office and the Television Station in Srinagar. In September, there was an attack on the director general of the police, Ali Muhammad Watali. The JKLF claimed their first martyr, Ajaz Dar, who was killed in a shootout with police. Although the early acts of sabotage did not cause much damage, they were a warning of what was to come. Factions of resistance, whose adherents were called “militants”, proliferated under an array of names. The Indian authorities, mainly responsible for the increase in internal disorder, however, singled out the JKLF. But mass defiance continued. On October 27, the anniversary of the Indian airlift into Srinagar in 1947, there was a general  strike in what the protesters were now calling an “occupation day”.

Schofield describes the insurgency,

In the 1990s as the insurgency in the valley gained momentum the violence increased in frequency and intensity. The police and the security forces reacted even more violently, more than often at the expense of innocent civilians who were caught in the crossfire. Every youth in Kashmir came to be regarded as a potential insurgent. Report of human rights abuses began to hit the headlines worldwide. Stories emerged of torture, rape, and indiscriminate killing. Although the insurgents seemed to have no long-term strategy, they appeared to hope that the repression of the Indian authorities in the valley would attract international attention, which would take note of what they believed to be their 'just cause' and oblige the Indian government to relinquish control of the valley. Oblivious of the time bomb that was about to explode in the valley, holidaymakers flocked to spend their summer in the foothills of the Himalayas. It has been estimated that in 1989 a record number of nearly 80,000 foreign tourists visited Kashmir in what effectively became the valley's last tourist season. 20

From 1989 onwards, a number of resistance groups began to operate throughout the valley. They mainly centred on the towns of Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramola, and Sopore. Their objective was either complete independence or unification with Pakistan. The JKLF was led in the valley by the core “Haji” group. Several Muslim parties also formed militant wings. Al Baraq had links with Abdul Ghani Lone's People's Conference. Al Fateh led by Zain-ul-Abideen was the armed wing of one faction of Shabir Shah's People's League. Another armed faction of the Peoples League was Al Jehad. The main concern of the groups, such as Allah Tigers, was closing video shops and beauty salons because they considered them “un-Islamic”.

Pakistan's opposition to Kashmiri independence has influenced its role in the insurgency. Islamabad has been highly selective in its support of militant groups, encouraging groups fighting for Kashmir's accession to Pakistan, and discouraging those fighting for independence. Since militant groups in Kashmir cannot survive without outside backing for too long, this has resulted in the insurgency being dominated by pro-Pakistan groups.

Pakistan has periodically tried, most notably in 1965, to actually incite rebellion in Indian-held Kashmir - generally without success. However, the current Kashmir insurgency was not the result of Pakistani instigation. Once underway, however, Pakistan became a vital source of moral and practical support to the Kashmiri Muslims in their struggle to secede from India.

In the early days of the insurgency Hizb-ul-Mujaheddin, based in Sopore and regarded as the militant wing of the Jamaat-a-Islami, did not have widespread support within the valley. The official objective of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen was reunification with Pakistan. The Harkat-al-Ansar was also not yet part of the mainstream insurgency. Smaller groups believed to favour Pakistan were Hizbullah, Al Umar Mujahideen, Lashkar-a-Tayaba, Ikhwan-ul-Mujaheddin, Tehrik-ul-Mujaheddin, as well as other splinter groups.

At the outset, the division between the groups remained below the surface. When one group called for a strike, the others complied. Those youth who came to these groups were mainly educated doctors, engineers, teachers, etc., who were alienated by New Delhi government policies and frustrated by the lack of job opportunities. Their grievances were as much economic as political.

State Terrorism

A turning point in the rising tide of resistance came when Jagmohan was reinstated as governor of Kashmir by the V.P. Singh government in 1990. On January 19, a large demonstration gathered in the streets of Srinagar as Jagmohan was taking oath. In response, paramilitary troops gathered on either side of the Gawakadal bridge over the Jehlum river. When the unarmed crowd reached the bridge, it was fired on from both sides of the river. The shooting has been called the worst massacre in Kashmiri history. Over a hundred people died, some from gunshot wounds, others because they jumped into the river out of fear and drowned.

Although the Indian press played down the incident, the foreign press reported the massacre and its repercussions to the world. As a result, foreign correspondents were banned from the Valley. A curfew was imposed indefinitely. Several other towns were also put under curfew. No public inquiry was ordered afterwards.

In defiance of what came to be called ‘crackdown’ by the authorities, the people continued to come out on the streets with extraordinary optimism the people believed they had won the struggle almost before it had begun. ‘Even I was thinking within ten days, India will have to vacate Kashmir,' said Haseeb in an interview with Schofield. Teachers, doctors, lawyers, civil servant, students came out on the streets in protest. For the first time the Indian flag was not hoisted to celebrate Indian Republic Day on 26th January, which was observed as a black day. 21

Jagmohan, with backing from Delhi, dissolved the State Assembly and began to militarise the state. The methods of the federal paramilitary unit, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), were so harsh and brutal that even the local police resented them and went on strike. Despite the harsh tactics, the masses gained new courage. On March 1, 1990 more than 40 people were killed when police fired on a massive crowd of one million people that had taken to the streets of Srinagar

The curfew led to severe shortages.

The hospitals were so full of the victims of insurgency that the name of the bone and joint hospitals in Srinagar was changed to Hospital for Bullet and Bomb Blast injuries.22

Victoria Schofield explores the psychology behind the tyranny and brutality unleashed by Jagmohan:

Driven by his own sense of personal mission Jagmohan     saw the insurgency as a movement abetted by Pakistan, which had to be brutally crushed, even if it meant targeting the entire population of Kashmir. 23

Jagmohan gives his explanation in his memoirs.

Obviously, I could not walk barefoot in the valley full of scorpions. Wherein inner and outer forces of terrorism had conspired to subvert the Union and to seize power…I must equip myself to face all eventualities. I could leave nothing to chance. A slight slip or error would have meant a Tiananmen square or a Blue Star or a formal declaration of a new theocratic state with all its international embarrassment… 24

The class contradictions become more and more clear in every insurgency. In a mass exodus, 140,000 Hindus left the valley for refugee camps outside Jammu. The ones from upper classes took up residence in their second homes in Delhi and other metropolitan centres of India. Since 1990, 6,000 Hindus have died in these camps because of poor conditions compared with 1,500 Kashmiris who were killed during the early months of the insurgency.

For the Kashmiris under the hegemony of the Indian state, the familiar pattern of attacks by the militants on specific targets, reprisals by the state, cordon and search operations, and calls by the militants for strikes had become part of their daily life. Security forces were granted extraordinary powers to shoot and kill, search and arrest without a warrant, all under immunity from prosecution. Soon after this special ordinance, security forces went on a binge of arson, burning, looting, and rape.

Acts of rape have been commonplace during conflicts and war since time immemorial; there is nothing new in this. What is new in Kashmir, however, is the deliberate and systematic use of rape as a weapon to weaken the enemy.

A report published in 1993 jointly by Asia Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, a US-based human rights group, stated that:

Rape is used as a means of targeting women whom the security forces accuse of being militant sympathizers; in raping them, the security forces are attempting to punish and humiliate the entire community. 25

As Iffat Malik describes the plight of the Kashmiri women in her research work:

Most assaults on women take place during house searches  men are either segregated or, presumably to maximize the psychological impact, forced to watch. In other cases, women are assaulted while out, or are abducted and taken to military camps. Hundreds of individual acts of rape are alleged to have been committed by the Indian forces. Among the most notorious was the gang rape of a bride seized during her wedding in Anantnag in April 1990. 26

Schofield narrates an incident that took place in 1991 that exposes the attitude of the Indian Army and the state toward crimes committed against women in Kashmir.

In February 1991 in the small town of Kunan Poshpora there were reports of fifty-three women being gang raped while the men were kept outside in the freezing cold or locked in homes and interrogated. The soldiers were identified as members of the 4th Rajput rifles. Three separate inquiries concluded that the evidence of the women was inconsistent. 27

So much for Indian secular and democratic justice!

One of the highest concentrations of troops used to repress a people in struggle is perhaps in Kashmir. This is proved by the following figures.

In the 1990s India's military occupation forces stationed through out the state were around 600,000, which is said to be the highest troops to civilian population density ratio in any region of the world. This figure is taken to include over half of the 33 divisions of the regular army, border security forces (BSF 100,000) and Jammu and Kashmir police (30,000).  28

Since the insurgency's resurgence, the torture of militants and suspected militants has become a feature of Indian state repression as a means of extracting information, coercing confessions, and punishment.

The torture generally includes electric shocks, beating, and the use of a heavy rollers on leg muscles, which can result in extensive muscle damage leading to acute renal failure. Other forms of inhuman treatment on various parts of the body, including sexual molestation have also been reported.

Sixty-three interrogation centres, where torture is routinely carried out, are believed to exist in Jammu and Kashmir, mostly run by the Border Security Forces (BSF) and the CRPF. There are varying figures regarding the amount of people tortured to death, but the total number runs into the thousands during the last 16 years.

Detention without charge is possible for up to one year in the case of a threat to public order and for up to two years when there is a threat to the security of the state. The legal system and justice are nothing more than a farce. Nobody obeys any orders of the courts, which are seldom ever given.

Socio-Economic Devastation

In the past, most of the funding Kashmir received from New Delhi was siphoned off into the pockets of the ruling elite. Whether headed by Sheikh Abdullah, Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad, or G.M. Shah, the one thing that all Kashmiri administrations are notorious for is their corruption. As a result, the average Kashmiri has benefited little from aid from the centre.

Only 30 per cent of central funding given to Kashmir was in the forms of grants; 70 percent was given as loans that had to be paid back with interest. This ratio was vastly different from the 90 percent grant / 10 percent loan ratio given to other states. The high loan percentage meant that receiving central funding actually worsened the state's financial position:

The bulk of the annually increasing budget deficits are accounted for by the burden of interest payment to the Central Government. Out of the 2001-2002 projected deficit of about Rs. 370 crore, almost Rs. 300 crore was interest payment. 29

Finally, for almost a decade now, the vast bulk of central funding has been spent on maintaining security in Kashmir.

Of the aid that did find its way to the people, very little was spent on developing the state's economy, i.e. on building up industries etc. G.M. Sadiq complained to Indra Gandhi in the presence of Inder Kumar Gujral that,

India spends millions on Kashmir but very little in Kashmir. If I were to tell you that the law and order situation requires one more division of the army,     you would send it, without the blink of an eye, but if I ask you to set up two factories you will tell me twenty reasons why it cannot be done. 30

Gujral, who acted as convener for a Committee of Ministers of State to deal with Kashmir, later wrote:

But I confess with a great deal of regret and dismay, that our achievements were very marginal. We succeeded in setting up two factories, but we were unable to make any dent on unemployment. Some progress was made in agriculture, but that was not much of an achievement because agriculture and fruits were growing in any case. Most of the concessions, which were given, were utilized by the industries mostly in the Jammu area, but hardly anything in Kashmir. The major failure is that we should have concentrated more on public sector investment. 31

Capital investment in industry has been virtually non-existent. The pan-Indian bourgeoisie and the state in Delhi have invested virtually nothing in the field of industry. There are two measly government sector assembly units with investments of Rs. 5 crore and Rs. 50 lakh.

The only sector of the Kashmir’s economy that did well was that of handicrafts; the manufacture of shawls, carpets, papier mache pieces, etc. By 1989, this had expanded to account for 6 per cent of GDP. But, by definition, these are very much 'cottage' industries, employing small numbers of people with low turnover, and generating little income. The other major source of revenue was tourism, estimated to account for one third of state income in 1983. However, the conflict caused tourism to dry up.

Investment from New Delhi in Kashmir was largely confined to improving roads and communication, notably the Jammu-Srinagar highway. The purpose of this was primarily military, making it easier to transport troops and weapons into the state.

A close examination of trade between India and Kashmir reveals a colonial-type situation where the “colony”, Kashmir, supplies the metropolis, Delhi, with raw material and then becomes the captive market for its manufactured goods. Kashmir's two main natural resources are timber and water. There has been extensive deforestation, with timber sent to India to build railways etc. Apart from the widespread adverse ecological impact, this high value resource was sold at a virtually throwaway price, which not only did not bring any substantial monetary benefits in terms of current revenue, but also eroded the potential for future income and the state's capacity for self-reliance. With respect to water, it has been used to generate power which supplies not Kashmir, but India:

“While in the midst of winter Srinagar was without power for three days in the week, power from Salal (Hydroelectric dam) was being supplied to the northern grid, to meet the needs of Delhi most likely.”32

Kashmir's main export, fruit, is sold at auction in Delhi, and it is estimated that growers in Kashmir receive only 20 per cent of the auction price.

Customs barriers between Jammu and Kashmir and India were lifted after Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad replaced Sheikh Abdullah in 1953. The beneficiary of their removal has undoubtedly been India. Imports into Kashmir are some four times greater than exports to India. Almost all items of mass consumption, including food and fuel, come to the state from India.

Overall, the economy of Jammu and Kashmir is heavily dependent on New Delhi. What is more, over time, instead of decreasing, its dependence on India has greatly increased.

“In 1950-51 only 3.7 per cent of revenue came from the national government, 96.28 percent generated within the state itself. By 1987-88 the proportion had reserved to a considerable extent: 27.95 percent from state resources, 72.0 4 percent from New Delhi - since the conflict began this reversal has pretty much become complete”. 33

Schools in rural areas have been occupied by the security forces, which have also installed themselves at university campuses. Official figures reveal that the schools functioned for only 93 days in 1993-94, and 140 days in 1994-95.

In the subsequent period enforced bandhs and hartals, attacks on government offices, bridges, buses, and the murder of police and intelligence officers all contributed to the increasing paralysis of the government. Farooq Abdullah himself conceded unemployment as the main reason for the rapid rise in this insurgency. In an interview in New Delhi on April 15, 1994 he said,

We were unable to create jobs, to stop corruption. We were unable to provide factories and power generating stations. At each stage we were not given the help which we envisaged when we joined hands with the congress… what can I do? There are 3,000 engineers looking for jobs even after we gave jobs to 2,000 in the last two years. 34

Too many Kashmiri youth were unemployed; a problem which Farooq understood but could not remedy. Nearly 10,000 graduates were unemployed. Amongst those leaving school with qualifications, unemployment was 40,000 to 50,000. Allegations of corruption in the admission procedure also alienated the people.

“Bright students could not get admission into the colleges in the 1980s unless they paid bribes to the politicians. All this led to the loss of faith in the system and eventually the revolt, stated a lecturer at the University of Kashmir.”35

Medical facilities are insufficient and hospitals are unhygienic. The doctors are overworked and many have left. Some have been taken at gunpoint to treat injured militants and then returned.

Immunisation programmes for children have fallen behind. The conditions of the masses have deteriorated with the rise in the insurgency. Even before this new wave of resistance began in 1989, the Indian occupiers failed to raise the standard of living or improve the socio-economic conditions of the Kashmiri masses.

Criminal Justice

The 1994 report by the International Commission of Jurists on human rights violations in Kashmir noted that:

Torture is virtually a matter of routine in interrogation. The forms of torture range from electric shocks to beating, other forms of violence and sexual abuse… The situation is aggravated by he fact that…forced confessions are admissible in trials.  36

Amnesty International has commented that,

 “The brutality of torture in Jammu and Kashmir defies belief.” 37

The various security forces maintain their own interrogation centres; there are several dozen throughout the state, with around thirty in Srinagar alone. These include the notorious Hari Nawas, formerly a palace used by the Maharaja of Kashmir. The use of torture in these centres has been extensively chronicled. Not surprisingly, many hundreds, and most likely thousands, have died or disappeared. One correspondent, writing in an Indian Newspaper, reported:

Very few of them [young Kashmiri men] get released after having been severely tortured in investigation centres which are torture chambers… but one does hear from time to time that mutilated bodies were seen floating in the River Jhelum, or on the road. Death in custody is a common practice in Kashmir.38

Abdul Majeed Malik, Chairman of the Human Rights Division of the Kashmir Bar Association, claims that:
“the situation with respect to deaths in custody is now so bad that Kashmiris released after being tortured are considered fortunate and are congratulated that they have at least made it back to their families alive!”  39

It is also a common practice in Kashmir for people to “disappear”. Known as “missing persons”, their disappearance is widely attributed by Kashmiris to the security forces. Ashok Jaitley, a senior IAS officer brought into the state to help cope with the crisis, failed in his attempt to locate the whereabouts of 81 “missing persons”. He subsequently requested to be transferred elsewhere.

Extra judicial killings are also common in Kashmir. The authorities usual justification is that there was an encounter in which the suspects were killed or, in the case of civilians, that they were 'accidentally' shot in crossfire.

Wirsing cites an Indian Civil servant who speculated that such killings were part of a deliberate strategy learned from the experience of the security forces in the Punjab. There, he said, faked encounters had been used by the security forces to conduct summary executions of hardcore Sikh militants…the model, he guessed, had been imported into Kashmir as a strategy for curbing attacks upon and abduction of BSF personnel and their families by Kashmiri militants. 40

Civil rights activists suggested another motive:

Extra-judicial killings of suspects were the most efficient in fact the only efficient  means of contending with the insurgency. Public trials in India, after all, were notoriously slow, costly, and of very uncertain outcome. 41

A third reason for the killings of civilians by members of the security forces is to avenge attacks by militants; unable to always get their hands on those directly responsible, angry soldiers vent their anger on the civilian population. The Asia Watch report described the usual procedure.

Often within hours of coming under gunfire or grenade attack by militants, the security forces cordon off the neighbourhood from (sic) which they believe the attack was launched and conduct house-to-house searches. Civilians suspected of supporting the militants are routinely beaten and in many cases either arrested or shot dead. 42

The incidences of troops firing indiscriminately in crowded bazaars have been recorded, the worst being that of January 6, 1993 in Sopore. It is estimated that 100 people died either as a result of being shot or burnt. Amnesty's report on the Sopore incident stated:

The soldiers were out of control. They were firing in every direction. 43

Repression in the Throes of Defeat

Still, they have failed to subdue the resistance and crush the mass upsurge. There is also widespread dissent in the Indian Army itself. There has been a constant increase in desertions mainly in the ranks and there have been several incidents when soldiers and lower ranking officers have shot their superiors or their colleagues.

Villains for the Kashmiris and heroes for the Indian elite the army has lost more than five thousand men in the quest of the state to subjugate and repress an awakened people. Most of these soldiers from the working class and poor peasant families lost their lives for what? After all this bloodshed they have failed to solve the issue. And now by the cold blooded calculation of “national security” they must yield to the political process. 44

What first appeared to be a sudden gesture by Vajpai in April 2003, when he offered his hand in peace to end hostilities, was not so sudden after all. It was in fact a tacit admission of the failure of the Indian state to defeat the resistance. This has been an important factor from an Indian perspective to move forward with this latest “peace initiative”.

But more than two years after the invitation of this so-called peace process not much has changed for the Kashmiris, and the standoff continues. Ajai Shukala writes, in the Indian Express:

India and Pakistan have grown closer, but the Kashmiris watch from afar, alienated as ever. Living in the cold shadow of a stifling military presence, Kashmiris can cross the line of control to Muzaffarabad, but nipping down to the market remains a daily ordeal… For the residents of the valley, the face of India, five months after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised a troop reduction in J&K, men in uniform are everywhere: security patrols sweeping through villages and homes, the searching stares of sentries behind machine guns, brusque demands for identity documents that were just checked, minutes before, by another sentry at another check point. For most Kashmiris, the peace process is happening much too far away. 45

New Delhi's strategy in Jammu and Kashmir, formulated always in terms of security rather than politics, has been to kill militants faster than new fighters can enter the fray. Every unit entering Jammu and Kashmir sets its sights on killing more militants than those that preceded it.

In a competitive environment where awards, honour and, eventually, promotions are directly linked to militant scalps, winning hearts and minds comes a poor second to operational success. The army chief's promise to evaluate military units by their human rights record stumbles on a simple truth: it is easier to count militant bodies than hearts won. In such an environment, human rights suffer. But even without those excesses the very presence of what is seen as an occupying force arouses bitter resentment. The crowd screaming for justice after last year's molestation of Kashmiri women at Handwara was not demonstrating against that incident alone. They were venting their rage in reality: the indignity of living under suspicion, the helplessness of being searched and questioned at any time of day and night. The army lost five thousand men in Kashmir to demonstrate the success of the Indian state. Thrice as many check posts zealously frisk every local who passes through. The outcome is not thrice as many people searched but thrice as often, thrice the resentment, and thrice the delay. 46

The courageous resistance of the masses of Kashmir against Indian hegemony and repression for such a long period has few parallels in modern history. The sacrifices, the determination, and the resilience of the people are astonishing. Yet such a vigorous and valiant movement and struggle has not achieved its goal, i.e. the liberation of Kashmir. There are many reasons for this, which we shall discuss in later chapters. Too much suffering has taken place for the clock to be turned back. It is true that large sections of the civilian population of the valley are war weary. But the people's desire for a return to normal life is tempered by a persistent rejection of a return to the status quo.

India is a Third World and relatively backward country with millions living in destitution. It is a museum of historical materialism. Its ruling class has failed to bring the huge mass of its population out of the dark ages and a miserable existence. Yet the Indian ruling class is so megalomaniacal that it refuses to recognise the suffering of this vast country. Like Czarist Russia, India, despite being itself subject to crushing imperialist domination has its own aggressive imperialist designs. Not only does India repress various nationalities within the Indian union, but the ruling class has adopted imperialist attitudes towards other smaller countries in the region. This imperialist mindset of the Indian bourgeoisie plays a fundamental role in its policies in Jammu and Kashmir.

Jayaprakash Narayan's assertion that the solution to the question of Kashmir must be found within the limitations of accession, means looking at Kashmir through the opaque lens of the Indian ruling class. The reality is that a capitalist India cannot solve any of the fundamental socio-economic problems of the Kashmiri masses. There can never be a genuine or lasting solution under this system. On the contrary, the capacity and room for reforms and manoeuvrability under the rule of capital is receding quickly. Under this vicious rule Kashmir is and will remain a festering wound and simmering volcano whose eruptions will become bigger and bigger, shaking and shattering the foundations of the Indian bourgeois state.

It is paramount that the Communist Parties and other forces on the left, on both sides of the divide, forge a revolutionary policy based on Lenin's position on the national question. The struggle for the liberation of Kashmir must be linked to the struggle against the rotten regimes in the rest of the subcontinent. The mighty Indian state has failed to crush the resistance in Kashmir. Now the revolutionary movement in Kashmir must defeat the Indian bourgeois state.


Bayonets Dripping Blood

1.Karl Marx, The First Indian War of Independence, pp. 74,76
2. M.J.Akbar, India: The Seige Within, p. 241
3. Ibid., p. 244
4. Ibid., p. 246
5. Ibid., p. 247
6. Ibid., p. 248
7. As quoted in Akbar, Behind the Vale, p.137
8. Ibid., p. 248
9. Ibid., p. 248-9
10. Ibid., p. 258
11. M.Sharif Tariq, Kashmir in Strangulation, pp. 121-122
12. M.D Taseer, Sheikh Abdullah, p.51
13. Akbar, op.cit., p. 268
14. Achin Vanaik, The Painful Transition: Bourgeois Democracy in India, p. 259
15. Maya Chadda, Ethinicity, Security and Separatism in India, p. 120
16. Vanaik, op.cit., p. 302
17. The Economist, 11 November 1996, pp. 97-98
18. The Independent, 24, May 1996
19. The Times, 24 May 1996
20. Victoria Schofield, Kashmir in the Cross-Fire, p. 237
21. Ibid., pp. 242-243
22. T.Singh, Tragedy of Errors, p. 144
23. Schofield, op.cit., p. 244
24. Jagmohan, Frozen Turbulence, p. 21
25. Asia Watch, The human rights crisis in Kashmir, A pattern of impunity, p. 53
26.Iffat Malik, Kashmir: Ethnic Conflict, International Dispute, p. 308
27.Schofield, op.cit., p. 250.
28.Ibid., p. 262
29.Arshad Mehmood in, The Kashmir Dossier, p. 10
30. Schofield, op.cit., p 208
31. Ibid., p. 208
32. Schofield, op.cit., p.10
33. Sumit Ganguly, The Crisis in Kashmir: potent of war, hopes of peace, p.74
34. Schofield, op.cit., p 239
35. Sundeep Waslekar, Peace Initiatives, Vol. 1, p.16-18
36. International Commission of Jurists, Mission: Human Rights in Kashmir,
37. Schofield, op.cit., p. 263
38. Tahir Amin, Mass Resistance in Kashmir:Origin,Evolution, Option, p. 115
39. Iffat Malik, op.cit., p. 310
40. Ibid., p. 310
41. Ibid., p. 312
42. Amin, op.cit., p. 113
43. Ibid. p. 112
44. Indian Express, 05 May 2005
45. Ibid.
46. Ibid.

Join us

If you want more information about joining the IMT, fill in this form. We will get back to you as soon as possible.