Shiben Krishen Raina: Terrorism in Kashmir ... Origin and Growth





[Dr. Shiben Krishen Raina, formerly Fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Rashtrapati Nivas, Shimla, India.]

Broadly speaking, when justice and right are denied to a person over a long period of time, the person is left with two options: bear the situation patiently, or the reaction is anguish, and that reaction, in the process can culminate in terrorism. Besides other things, spreading of communal hatred, religious frenzy, separatist tendency etc. are the tools which terrorists generally use. Guns too are used to achieve the so-called specified mission. Fanaticism, extremism, radicalism, separatism, militancy, activism etc. are its other names or manifestations. This is one side of the picture of terrorism. (Terrorists fighting for a genuine cause i.e. liberating themselves, their society/country from the oppressor/ perpetrator.)

Another side of the picture is disgusting and questionable.  Over the years terrorism has emerged as a systematic use or threatened use of violence to intimidate a population, community or government and thereby effect political, religious or ideological change just to achieve personal gains. Modern terrorism has resorted to another option of intimidation, i.e.  influence the mass media, in an effort to amplify and broadcast feelings of intense fear and anger among the people. Needless to mention here that acts of terror are carried out by people who are indoctrinated to the extent of following a strategy of dying to kill. They are the ones who have become pawns in the hands of their masters who direct their paths, sitting in the comforts of far off places with all the facilities available to them. Masters have their vested political interests while as pawns seemingly have nothing to gain except suffer for a cause about which they themselves don’t know or know very little.

Terrorism in Kashmir is almost 18 years old now and has likeness to the second side of the picture. It has a history long enough  to be traced from the date when partition was forced resulting in the emergence of two nations- India and Pakistan- after the sub-continent freed itself  from the colonial rule of the British Empire. It may not be out of context here to probe into the consequences in detail that gave rise to terrorism in Kashmir. But again, before that, giving a brief introduction of this widely known beautiful valley would be too apt.

Kashmir-Paradise on Earth (the Switzerland of Asia) Nature’s grand finale of beauty is a masterpiece of earth’s creation of charm and loveliness. Famous for its beauty and natural scenery throughout the world and for its high snow-clad mountains, scenic spots, beautiful valleys, rivers with ice-cold water, attractive lakes and springs and ever-green fields, dense forests and beautiful health resorts, enhance its grandeur and are a source of great attraction for tourists. It is also widely known for its different kinds of agricultural products, fruit, vegetables, saffron, herbs, and minerals, precious stones handicrafts like woollen carpets, shawls and the finest kind of embroidery on clothes. During summer, one can enjoy the beauty of nature, trout fishing, big and small game hunting etc.; during winter climbing mountain peaks and sports like skating and skiing on snow slopes are commonly enjoyed. In addition to the above, Pilgrimage to famous religious shrines of the Hindus and the Muslims make Kashmir a great tourist attraction. About Kashmir Sheikh Sadie a great Persian poet is believed to have said, “If there is any heaven on earth, it is here in Kashmir, in Kashmir in Kashmir only.”

Apart from natural beauty, Jammu and Kashmir has a unique cultural blend which makes it different from the rest of the country (India). It is not only distinct in cultural forms and heritage, but in geographical, demographical, ethnical, social entities, forming a distinct spectrum of diversity. The people of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh, all follow diverse religions, languages and cultures. Its different cultural forms in art and architecture, fair and festivals, rites and rituals, seers and sagas, languages and literatures, embedded in ageless period of history, speak of endless unity and diversity with unparalleled cultural cohesion and amicability. Kashmir has been a great center of learning. A treasure of rich Sanskrit literature is to be found here. Early Indo-Aryanic civilization has originated and flourished in this land. It has also been influenced by Islam, bringing its traditions of Persian civilization, tolerance, brotherhood and sacrifice.

After the British withdrew from the Indian subcontinent in 1947 and India and Pakistan emerged as two separate countries, princely states were given an option to choose the country they wanted to stay on. Obviously, the states falling geographically within had no other option but to merge with the country they were situated. Border states like Kashmir, Jodhpur etc. took time to come out with their firm decisions probably because they wanted to enjoy the status of an independent statehood. In the case of Kashmir, where Maharaja (King) Hari Singh was the ruler, the situation worsened considerably.  Territorial disputes over Kashmir had already started brewing, Pakistan claiming that Kashmir should go to its side since Muslims were in majority there.

Apprehending that Maharaja might opt for an accession to India, Pakistan prepared for aggression in a bid to capture the state forcibly hoping that masses, mainly Muslims, would support its mission. That didn’t happen. Secular forces headed by the then popular mass leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah fondly known as Sher-i-Kashmir motivated the Kashmiri people (Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs) to rise to the occasion and stand united to counter and frustrate the evil designs of the enemy who was marching to the capital city Srinagar indulging in bloodshed and mayhem. A new slogan echoed the entire valley: “Hamlavar khabardaar, hum Kashmiri hai tayaar---Hindu Muslim Sikh Ithaad, Naya Kashmir Zindabaad---“Beware you attackers! We Kashmiris are ready to counter you—Long live the Unity of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs-!!"  At Hazuri Bagh, Srinagar before a large crowd on October 1, 1947, Sher-i-Kashmir proclaimed : "Till the last drop of my blood, I will not believe in two-nation theory." It was a rebuff to Mr. Jinnah-father of the nation of Pakistan, who was watching the developments so closely from his country's side. Finding their designs on Kashmir not fructifying, Pakistan rulers launched an armed attack on Jammu and Kashmir to annex it. Tribes in thousands along with Pak regular troops entered the state on October 22, 1947 from several points and indulged in looting, arson, rape, bloodshed and mayhem. Bowing before the wishes of the people and seeing his own regular army being out-numbered, the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession in favor of India on October 26, 1947 on the prescribed terms and conditions. This was accepted by the Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten the next day. The Instrument of Accession executed by Maharaja Hari Singh was the same which was signed by other rulers of the other princely states. Similarly, the acceptance of the Instrument of Accession by the Governor General was also identical in respect of all such instruments.

With J&K becoming legal and constitutional part of Union of India, Indian army rushed to the State to push back the invaders and vacate aggression from the territory of the state. The first batch of Indian Army troops arrived at Srinagar airport immediately after the Accession was signed. On October 30, 1947 an Emergency Government was formed in the State with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as its head. The Army fought a sustained battle with the tribals/Kabayilies and after several sacrifices pushed them out of the Valley and other areas in the Jammu region. (Earlier Brigadier Rajendra Singh Chief of State Forces with a small number of soldiers at his disposal fought valiantly with the enemy and laid down his life in the process.)

Meanwhile, the people of Kashmir under the towering leadership of Sher-I-Kashmir were mobilized and they resisted the marching columns of the enemy. Till the arrival of India  troops, it was mainly the Muslim volunteers under the command of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who braved death. While the army pushed back the invaders, there were several instances where people put up a gallant resistance and stopped the advancing troops. The most conspicuous examples of people’s resistance were the martyrdom of Mohammad Maqbool Sherwani and Master Abdul Aziz,  both  staunch followers of Sher-i-Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah. Sherwani  did not oblige the invaders when they inquired from him the route to Srinagar. Instead, he put them on a wrong track gaining time for troops to reach Srinagar from New Delhi. Somehow the tribesmen came to know about his tactics and nailed him at a Baramulla crossing and asked him to raise pro-Pakistan slogans. He did raise slogans but these were different. These were pro-Hindu-Muslim unity and in favour of Sher-i-Kashmir. Enraged by this, the ruthless tribesmen emptied their guns on him. The sacrifice of Master Abdul Aziz too was exemplary. The invaders who raped the nuns and wanted other non-Muslim women to be  handed over to them, Master Abdul Aziz, a tailor by profession, held the holy Quran in his hand and said that they can touch the women only after they pass over his dead body and the holy Quran. The brutal killers did not spare him either.

On January 1, 1948 India took up the issue of Pak aggression in Jammu and Kashmir to the UN under Article 35 of its Charter. The government of India in its letter to the Security Council said: “…Such a situation now exists between India and Pakistan owing to the aid which invaders, consisting of nationals of Pakistan and tribesmen… are drawing from Pakistan for operations against Jammu and Kashmir, a State which has acceded legally to the Dominion of India and is part of India. The Government of India requests the Security Council to call upon Pakistan to put an end immediately to the giving of such assistance which is an act of aggression against India. If Pakistan does not do so, the Government of India may be compelled, in self defense, to enter into Pakistan territory to take military action against the invaders.” After long debates, a cease-fire was established at midnight on January 1, 1949. Eventually, India filed a complaint with the UN Security Council, which established the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP). Pakistan was accused of invading the region, and was asked to withdraw its forces from Jammu & Kashmir. The UNCIP also passed a resolution stating: “The question of accession of the state of Jammu & Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of free and impartial plebiscite.” However, this could not take place because Pakistan did not comply with the UN resolution and refused to withdraw from the state. The international community failed to play a decisive role in the matter saying that Jammu & Kashmir is a “disputed territory.” In 1949, with the intervention of the United Nations, India and Pakistan defined a ceasefire line (“Line of Control”) that divided the two countries. This has left Kashmir a divided and disturbed territory up till now.

In September 1951, free and fair elections, as per the Constitutional modalities, were held in Jammu & Kashmir, and National Conference party under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah came into power. With the advent of the Constituent Assembly of the State of Jammu & Kashmir representing the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the regions became an integral  part of India constitutionally. After Sheikh Abdullah; Bakshi Gulam Mohamad, G.M.Sadiq, Mir Qasim, Gul Shah, Mufti Sayed and Dr.Farooq Abdullah ruled as Chief Ministers. Mr. Gulam Nabi Azad is the current Chief Minister of the J&K state.

Though the governments ran smoothly over the years, continued  instigations and arousing religious frenzy by Pakistan did not stop. The year 1965 saw a war between India and Pakistan claiming many lives on both sides. A cease-fire was established and the two countries signed an agreement at Tashkent (Uzbekistan) in 1966, pledging to end the dispute by peaceful means. Five years later, the two again went to war, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. Another accord was signed in 1972 between the two Prime Ministers — Indira Gandhi and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto — in Simla. After Bhutto was executed in 1979, the Kashmir issue once again flared up.

During the 1980s, massive infiltrations from Pakistan were detected in the region, and India has since then maintained a strong military presence in Jammu & Kashmir to check these movements along the cease-fire line. India says that Pakistan has been stirring up violence in its part of Kashmir by training and funding “Islamic guerrillas” that have waged a separatist war since 1989 killing tens of thousands of people. Pakistan has always denied the charge, calling it an indigenous “freedom struggle.”

In 1999, intense fighting ensued between the infiltrators and the Indian army in the Kargil area of the western part of the state, which lasted for more than two months. The battle ended with India managing to reclaim most of the area on its side that had been seized by the infiltrators.

In 2001, Pakistan-backed terrorists waged violent attacks on the Kashmir Assembly and the Indian Parliament in New Delhi. This resulted in a war-like situation between the two countries, with Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf asking his army to be “fully prepared and capable of defeating all challenges,” and the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee saying, “We don’t want war but war is being thrust upon us, and we will have to face it.”

Plight of Pandits (Hindus)

The Pandits, who are the Hindu community of Kashmir and have  an ancient and a proud culture, have been amongst the most afflicted victims of the Pakistani-supported campaign of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Their roots in the Kashmir Valley run very deep. They are the original inhabitants of this beautiful valley. Their number being small and peace-loving by nature, they have been the soft targets of terrorists.  Virtually the entire population of 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits have been forced to leave their ancestral homes and property. Threatened with violence and intimidation by Muslim fundamentalists, they have been turned into refugees in their own country leaving behind their shops, farms, cattle and age-old memories. As a matter of fact, Jammu and Kashmir has become a  target of Pakistan, sponsored by religion-based terrorism. The persecution by Muslim extremists of the Hindu minority and the systematic religion-based extremism of terrorist elements has resulted in the exodus of these Hindu/Pandits and other minorities from the Kashmir Valley to other parts of India. Fundamentalists and terrorists have also targeted and assassinated Muslim intellectuals and liberal Muslim leaders too, who spoke of Hindu-Muslim unity and brotherhood. Terrorist acts by Kashmiri  militant groups have also taken place outside Jammu and Kashmir.

India claims most of the separatist militant groups are based in Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir (also known as Azad Kashmir). Some like the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), demand an independent Kashmir. Other groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed favor a Pakistani-Kashmir. Of the larger militant groups, the Hizbul Mujahideen, a militant organization, is  based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Sources report that Al-Qaeda too has a base in Pakistani Kashmir and is helping to forment terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

India is unwilling to lose even one additional inch of this land. New Delhi is also concerned that Kashmiri autonomy would set a precedent for breakaway movements in other Indian states (e.g., Punjab or Assam). To Pakistan, Kashmir is symbolic of its national ethos and commitment to protect Muslim interests against Indian encroachment. It believes that the creation of a separate, strongly sectarian nation is incomplete without contiguous Kashmir. In brief, Kashmir is a target of externally sponsored religion-based terrorism. The aim is to divide people on the basis of sectarian affiliation and undermine the secular fabric and territorial integrity of India.

However, as and now with the passage of time, the passion of the Jehad/movement which once had mass public support has started declining since  it has turned out to be a movement run by those who are more interested in their own personal gains. Confusion within the separatist groups too has weakened the movement. The hard liners led by Jamat-e-Islami advocate total merger of Jammu and Kashmir, with Pakistan whereas the soft liners led by J.K.L.F (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front) stands for total independence of J&K. This has given rise to a totally confusing and conflicting situation resulting in disillusionment, disarray and disinterest of the common man in Kashmir who has  suffered a lot for the past 20 years and is not prepared to suffer any more.


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arthur racer - 11/10/2008

I find it distressing that an article written by an "historian", Dr Raina, should take such an obviously anti-Pakistani bias especially in regard to the original attack on Kashmir in 1947. For a less biased view see the book, India after Gandhi, by Ramachandra Guha, who also views the events from an "Indian" point of view. All too often, simplistic accounts of "disputed" events just stir up more hatred and make it more difficult to achieve a solution. Nevertheless, I do agree that terrorism and religious extremism must not be tolerated under any circumstance!

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