Dialogue  July-September  2008, Volume 10  No. 1

Kashmir Issue-Towards Recasting Understanding

  Ajay Chrungoo*


Blinkered Vision:

   The founding fathers of Indian republic recognized continued accession of Kashmir with India as a key element in India ’s pursuit of secular nation-building. Yet their blinkered vision did not link Kashmir’s functioning as an active secular society with India ’s secular nation-building process. The problem was further compounded as the leaders of Indian national movement overestimated the secularism of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and ignored the strong undercurrents of communalism in the ideology of National Conference.

     In many respects the National Conference was pursuing a strategy which was not fundamentally different from the path chosen by Muslim League in the pre-Independence India . Delineating the many strands in Sheikh Abdullah’s ideological outlook, Dr K.N Pandita remarks:

      “Sheikh Abdullah did try for rapproachment with the Muslim League and Jinnah in 1944-45 but Jinnah was unaccommodating. In 1947 again, Sheikh tried to toe the PC Joshi and Adhikari line (on Two-Nation Theory). P.N. Bazaz who had worked closely with Sheikh and who understood him far better than anybody else stated that the NC and Sheikh stood for Muslim nationalism and Muslim precedence in the state of J&K but for Congress and secularism outside the state of J&K…... The National Conference continued its tactical support to accession but ensured to prevent the integration of Kashmiri Muslims with India (Kashmiri Muslims: Vexed Identity, Business and Political observer, New Delhi 5th June 1993).



     A full scale review of the history and social background of the Kashmir anti-autocratic movement lead by National Conference is outside the scope of this write-up. There was inherent incompatibility in the nation- building models pursued by Indian National Congress and the National Conference. Leaders of Indian National Congress visualized the success of secularism through delegitimising religion- based identity politics. But the very ‘raison detre’ of National Conference politics was avowed pursuit of Muslim identity politics. In the situation aggravated by imperialist intervention Indian leadership resorted to short cuts. They ignored that the secularization of Kashmiri society would be the soul of Kashmir’s continued accession with India . Indian leadership abandoned non-Muslim pro-India social groups in Jammu , Kashmir and Ladakh to the mercy of Muslim communal leadership of Valley and overlooked the calculated attempts by Kashmiri Muslim leadership to inject communalism in the body politic of Jammu and Kashmir .

     To counter the secessionism which was inbuilt in this situation Indian leadership decided to patronize pro-accession communal politics. Prof. M.K. Teng, the distinguished Political Scientist explains:

     “The Congress leaders had always believed that improvised power equations, redistribution of political patronage and wider financial inputs into Muslim communalism would end the “Muslim alienation” in Kashmir and provide the settlement for peace. In sheer self-conceit, they clung tenaciously to their belief that the Muslimisation of the state did not conflict with Indian secularism, and they could strike a bargain with the militant regimes, even if it was at the cost of the Hindus and the other minorities.” (Kashmir-Myth of Autonomy, Anmol Publications).

     Over a period of time pro-accession and anti-accession communal politics developed a symbiotic relationship. While the anti-accession groups were building separatist movement to detach Kashmir from India , the pro-accession groups were using separatism as a lever to blackmail Centre and squeeze the non-Muslim groups in the state. Both groups cooperated in strengthening the Muslim precedence, facilitating Muslimisation and the Islamization of Kashmir and adjoining regions of Doda and Kargil and weakening Kashmir’s link with India through instrumentalities of Article 370 or outright secession.


Root Cause:

   The emergence of secessionist movement in Kashmir cannot be delinked from the changing sociology of Kashmir Society over the years and the rise of militarized trans-national Islamic fundamentalism.

    In the first two decades since independence urban Muslim middle class and the commercial bourgeoisie were co-opted in the political power structure of Kashmir . However, these very groups subsequently thwarted the aspirations of lower middle class in urban areas and resisted the strong urge of the rural propertied groups for rightful share in the political power structure. This created the groundswell which facilitated the rise of disaffected political groups in the Kashmir Valley . Indian leadership’s policy of patronizing personalized politics syndrome strengthened the oligarchic tendencies among the ruling families of Kashmir . These families created a network of interests which looted the public exchequer creating a big rentier class and alienating people through rampant misgovernance. Pakistan was quick to reach out to disaffected political sections and the alienated populace rallied behind these disaffected political groups. Prof. Mustapha Kamal Pasha has examined this phenomenon in his essay “Between the Two Nation Divide: Kashmir and Islam” (Perspective on Kashmir ed. Raju Thomas). He says:

     “Increasing social differentiation and rising political consciousness among new social groups coincided with kleptocracy, nepotism, corruption and the politics of greed, rather than a functioning democratic order with political accountability as its chief aspiration”. The intervention by Pakistan was easy because of the substratum of communalism, kept alive through fortification of Muslim identity politics.

      Jamaat-i-Islami of J&K played a critical role in this venture. It used Muslim identity politics as a fertile soil for creating a subversive infrastructure within the society and the administration. It institutionalized the symbiotic relationship which was possible between the pro-accession and the anti accessions varieties of Muslim communalism. Jamaat eventually sought to integrate Muslim identity politics in the state with Pan-Islamism.

      Rise of transnational Islamic fundamentalism both in the context of Gulf oil boom in 1973 and the Afghan war 1979 onwards created the logistic base for Pakistani intervention in Kashmir and arms-financial pipeline for sustaining the terrorist movement. The western powers’ global designs helped provide the crucial diplomatic support to the terrorist movement in Kashmir .


Subversive Potentialities

   The unwillingness of the national political leadership of India to adequately fathom the subversive potentialities of the National Conference/PDP politics is the main reason that solutions to end militancy elude us. There are three genres of separatist politics in Kashmir . One, the avowedly pro-Pak groups which seek annexation with Pakistan . Secondly, the so-called pro-independence groups which seek independent Islamic state. Thirdly pro-autonomy/self-rule groups which seek an Islamic state on the territory of India with weak constitutional and political links with the country.

    The subversive potentialities in National Conference/PDP politics can be enumerated as:-

       1) Its penchant to link the Muslim majority character of Kashmir with accession and weaken the constitutional links with the country.

2). Its pursuit of Dixon Plan which implies in the first stage to create Greater Muslim Kashmir and in the second stage an autonomous Greater Muslim Kashmir.                                                                                          Sheikh Abdullah is on record having endorsed the dangerous Dixon Plan, which seeks to take Kashmir Valley away from India . In a letter to Col. GA Naseer, the then President of Egypt , in 1965, Sheikh wrote:           “Sir Owen took a detached view of things and considered this as the best practicable solution under the circumstances. It appears to be a fair method of resolving the present tangle. In order to avoid a number of complications, that might arise by holding a plebiscite immediately in the territory referred to in clause (c) above, a reasonable way can be found in keeping the said territory under UN Trusteeship for a specified period (i.e. 5 to 10 years). The people of the territory can be given an opportunity for the exercise of the right of self-determination in a suitable way, after that period.”                                                                                                     In 1948 NC created Doda district in Jammu province to consolidate Muslims in Jammu region. This facilitated the spillover of plebiscite and later fundamentalist militancy politics into the Doda region. In 1979 when Sheikh Abdullah was at the helm NC created Kargil district as a Muslim majority district to consolidate the Muslim identity there. The dangerous regional autonomy plan of NC seeks to balkanize Jammu province on communal basis. NC’s patronage to Chenab Development Council which seeks to merge Gool and Mahore tehsils of Udhampur with Doda leaves no one in doubt about the seriousness of NC to implement Dixon Plan.                                                                                               Similarly NC has been trying to patronize Muslim groups in Poonch, Rajouri and Bani (Kathua) to weaken the Dogra identity of Jammu . In Jammu also groups have alleged that under a definite plan National Conference had a greater design to change the demography of Jammu province. Praveen Swami, a well-known, Journalist and author of “The Kargil War” exposes National Conference’s game-plan to undermine secular-plural identity of Jammu . He observes, “The Regional Autonomy Report forms an important backdrop to recent events, and underlining the multiple way in which democracy and secularism in J&K have come under assault. Released by the RAC, the Report calls for the historic regional formations of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh to be broken up into new entities. In some important senses this holds out more fundamental threats to the prospect of a secular and democratic J&K than any number of Lashkar-e-Toiba insurgents. But the most dramatic impact of the RAC recommendations would be on Jammu . The district of Doda, and the single Muslim dominated tehsil of Mahore from the adjoining district of Udhampur, would be made into a new Chenab Valley Province . Largely Hindu Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur districts would become the Jammu province. Poonch and Rajouri districts, for their part, would form the Pir Panjal province. The existing Province of Jammu would thus be turned into three provincial blocks divided along the geographical fault lines of Hindu and Muslim majorities. The strange history of the RAC and its equally bizarre recommendations, suggest that meaningful democratic change is the last thing on the National Conference’s mind...The sole outcome of the RAC proposals will be to enable National Conference politicians in the Jammu region to represent themselves as defenders of local Muslim communities against a largely fictional hegemony of Jammu’s largely Hindu urban trading communities.” (The Kargil War).

     Wajahat Habibullah’s proposals virtually simulate this.                              National Conference also tried to silence the criticism of pro-India groups by pursuing a policy of ethnic preference and ethnic exclusion. In the Ladakh region it was patronising the minority Argon Kashmir Muslim group to under cut the Buddhist majority. In Kargil district aspirations of the Zanskari Buddhists were being counteracted by adding Muslim areas to the Zanskar assembly constituency.

    The interests of the strongly patriotic 12 lakh strong community of Gujjar Muslims are being harmed by subverting the benefits of ST reservation and raking up Paharis as a counter group.

    In the wake of ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Kashmir, Doda, Udhampur, Poonch and Rajouri the policies of ruling National Conference/PDP have created a situation where the exiled Hindus can never go back to their homes.



      In the context of separatist violence in Kashmir there are four issues which need to be addressed.

1.  Restoration of the law and order by ending the terrorist violence.

2.  Reversing the genocide against Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus in Jammu region.

3.  Rebuilding the edifice of participatory democracy in the state.

4.  Weaning Kashmir Muslim populace away from the separatist politics.                                                                                                                          Terrorist violence in Kashmir is still not being treated as a war by the Indian leadership. There is an inherent contradiction in the policy of Govt. of India. It only seeks bringing down the terrorist violence to manageable levels in the hope that it would create space for a political solution. Due to this flawed approach destroying the support structures of terrorists does not become a priority. To defeat the terrorism comprehensively the Indian state needs a new military doctrine.                   A key objective of Pakistan ’s game-plan in Kashmir is to push out Hindus from the Muslim majority areas. This is being achieved through physical destabilization of Hindu minority and by imposing genocide. So far the successive leaderships at the Centre have demonstrated total lack of vision and will in evolving a doctrine of survival for these patriotic minority groups. The communalization of the Kashmiri Muslim society and its intense socialization with separatist politics has contributed to the destabilization of the Hindu groups. Thus reversing of genocide entails secular governance as well as secularization of Kashmir society.                                                                                                                   Policy of promoting Muslim precedence by National Conference has lead to the political marginalization of people of Ladakh, Dogras, Kashmiri Pandits and Gujjars. Even a partisan writer like Gautam Navlakha, whose sympathies lie with Muslim communal leadership of Kashmir concedes:         “It goes without saying that the absence of a clear cut policy towards non-Muslims is a shortcoming of the political leadership in Kashmir . It has seldom bothered to go beyond the generalities, which only assuage the insecurity felt by Kashmiri Pandits” (Economic and Political Weekly, Bombay November 6, 1993).


Towards a New Approach

   There has to be  new approach in ending communal and ethnic discrimination against the patriotic groups. Restoration of participatory democracy, which accommodates aspirations of all ethnic groups will strengthen the nationalist base of polity of J&K.

     The Muslim alienation in Kashmir has many strands. One section        has political grievance that the ruling national conference had thwarted their chances of upward mobility by following oligarchic policies. Second section is alienated because of rampant misgovernance. The third section feels alienated from India because of heightened sense of communal identity reinforced by autonomy politics, and Islamic fundamentalism practiced by Jamaat-i-Islami.

     Inability of the Indian state to invest in secular national building in Jammu and Kashmir and its proctivity to compromise with Muslim communalism created a situation of siege for Kashmiri Hindus in Valley. Its presence was sought by the political class in India to legitimize a communal compromise which Indian state fostered with Muslim communalism. However while compromising with Muslim communalism Indian state sought to proclaim victory for secularism in Jammu and Kashmir . This built a vicious situation for Pandits. Muslim communal establishment looked at Hindu presence in Kashmir as a critical element of Indian secularism as well as Hindu civilisational continuity. Ideologically it endeavored to destroy both. With the militarization of Muslim communalism genocide was unleashed the Kashmir Hindus to destroy secularism as well as the civilisational basis of Indian nation.


Predicament of Kashmiri Hindus & Panun Kashmir

    For Muslim separatism to make advances, destruction of Kashmir Hindus was a prerequisite. But for Indian state, which visualized Hindu presence and survival only in cosmetic terms, protection of Kashmiri Hindus was the last priority. For Indian political class, Kashmiri Hindu was not a vote banks. It also represented the apex of the caste based social hierarchy which it sought to change, ignorant of the fact that Kashmiri Hindu never nourished caste system. So Kashmiri Hindus were abandoned to the forces of history.

     In this isolation and attrition Kashmir Hindu had to devise a survival response. Panun Kashmir Homeland is the political expression of this response. It seeks to reorient the politics in the state of J&K by building high stakes for separatist politics and communally-oriented agendas.

     It also endeavors to end communally motivated discrimination in the state of Jammu and Kashmir . Panun Kashmir presents the reorganization of the Jammu and Kashmir as an imperative necessity.

    The creation of Panun Kashmir in Kashmir valley would not only         sssrestore Pandits to their Homeland, it also holds the potentiality of creating the basis for secular accountability in the Kashmir valley. It is the first strategic response in the Modern India to the sinister proposal of communally motivated Dixon Plan. Panun Kashmir is thus not only a solution to the problem of Kashmiri Pandits as such but is also a solution to the Kashmir problem on a long-term basis. It would also raise stakes for pursuit of separatist communal politics in Kashmir and help in consolidating India in Kashmir on its own strength. With Panun Kashmir the politics of Doda and Kargil will also undergo change. The creation of two political systems in Kashmir valley holds the potential of creating national consensus on Kashmir .

Dialogue A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati

Astha Bharati