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By the collapse of Mughal rule in 1752, Kashmir came under the administration of the Afghans. Nevertheless, the Sikhs, under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, wrested Kashmir from the Afghans in 1819. In 1820, Maharaja Ranjit Singh appointed the Dogra king Gulab Singh to rule the state. In 1846, the British defeated Sikhs, and Gulab Singh, the Dogra ruler of Jammu, purchased the valley from the British in lieu of political and military favors on the battlefield. The present state was created on 16 March 1846, by a treaty between the British East India Company, acting on behalf of the British government, and Maharaja Gulab Singh in Amritsar.

In 1947, the British rule in India ended with the creation of two new nations, India and Pakistan. Each of the 565 Indian states had to decide which of the two nations they would prefer to join. During that time, Maharaja Hari Singh was ruling the state of Jammu and Kashmir. He preferred to remain independent and decided not to join any of the two nations. Nevertheless, when the Kabalis from the North Waziristan encountered Kashmir, the Maharaja called the Indian government for help, which the government of India agreed “with the instrument of accession” with India, which was accepted by Lord Mountbatten, the then Governor-General of India, on 27 October 1947, without the information and the consent of the Kashmiri leadership and the people. It was the first occasion when the Indian troops marched into Kashmir and the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India was in exchange of the receiving of the ‘Military Aid.’

Being a disputed state, the offer of a plebiscite was made by the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the United Nations Security Council, on December 1947, and a council was made under the banner of the United Nations’ Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP). After Nehru’s offer of plebiscite on 5th January 1949, the UNCIP passed a resolution which states: “The question of accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through the democratic methods of free and impartial plebiscite” (UN Resolution: Document No. S/1196, Dated 10 January 1949). In the same year (1949), the Government of India promulgated the Article 370, which gave a special status to the state, and Karan Singh, the son of Hari Singh, became the ruler of Kashmir. In November 1951, Karan Singh was designated as Sader-i-Riysat, “the Governor,” instead of the President. Sheikh Abdullah, the founding leader of the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference, was made the Prime Minister of Kashmir (the only state with a separate Prime Minister). He agitated against the rule of the Maharaja Hari Singh and urged self-rule for Kashmir.

On 8 August 1953, the then Sadr-i-Riyasat (Constitutional Head of State) Dr. Karan Singh, son of the erstwhile Maharajah Hari Singh, dismissed Sheikh Abdullah as Prime Minister. He was denied the opportunity to prove his majority on the floor of the house and his dissident cabinet minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed was appointed as Prime Minister. Sheikh Abdullah was immediately arrested and later jailed for eleven years, accused of conspiracy against the State in the infamous “Kashmir Conspiracy Case” [Kashmir Conspiracy Case was the legal case filed by the Investigations Department of the Government of India, by which Sheikh Abdullah and others were arrested and jailed. Abdullah along with Mirza Afzal Beg and 22 others, who were accused of conspiracy against the state for allegedly espousing the cause of an independent Kashmir. The case was framed in 1958, for which trial began in 1959 was withdrawn in 1964 as a diplomatic decision.]

According to Sheikh Abdullah, the central government headed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru engineered his dismissal and arrest. On 8 April 1964, the State Government dropped all charges in the so-called “Kashmir Conspiracy Case”. Sheikh Abdullah was released and returned to Srinagar where the people of the valley accorded him an unprecedented welcome.

After his release, he was reconciled with Nehru. Nehru requested Sheikh Abdullah to act as a bridge between India and Pakistan and make President Ayub agree to come to New Delhi for talks for a final solution of the Kashmir problem. President Ayub Khan also sent telegrams to Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah with the message that as Pakistan too was a party to the Kashmir dispute any resolution of the conflict without its participation would not be acceptable to Pakistan. This paved the way for Sheikh Abdullah’s visit to Pakistan to help broker a solution to the Kashmir problem.

Sheikh Abdullah went to Pakistan in the spring of 1964. President Ayub Khan of Pakistan held extensive talks with him. On 27 May 1964, while he was en route to Muzaffarabad in Pakistani, the news came of the sudden death of Nehru and the Sheikh after addressing a public rally at Muzaffarabad returned to Delhi.] On his suggestion, President Ayub Khan sent a high-level Pakistani delegation led by his Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto along with him to take part in the last rites of Jawaharlal Nehru. After Nehru’s death in 1964, he was interned from 1965 to 1968 and exiled from Kashmir in 1971 for 18 months. The Plebiscite Front was also banned. This was allegedly done to prevent him and the Plebiscite Front, which was supported by him from taking part in elections in Kashmir. Bakshhi Ghulam Mohammad became the Prime Minister of the state in 1954. On March 30, 1965, Article 249 was formulated, which states that chief minister and governor respectively replace the designations like the prime minister and president of the state. Sheikh Abdullah again became the Chief Minister of the state following the 1974 Indira-Sheikh accord and remained in the top slot until his death on 8 September 1982.

Since the Kashmir conflict during the Partition of India in August 1947, which resulted in the creation of India and Pakistan, there have been four wars (1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999) over the disputed issue of Kashmir. Kashmiris continued their freedom struggle since 1947. People like Maqbool Bhat (18 February 1938–11 February 1984), [the co-founder of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front], who openly challenged the status quo of Indian rule in Kashmir were killed or arrested. Maqbool Bhat was hanged on 11 February 1984 (much before the armed militancy in Kashmir) in Tihar Jail in New Delhi. Kashmiris have been asking for the mortal remains of Bhat, buried inside the Tihar Jail.

A Kashmiri paints a graffiti that reads “Indian Army Get Out From Kashmir” on a street in the old city of Srinagar, India. Since 1989, more than 68,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the subsequent Indian military crackdown that has left ordinary Kashmiris traumatized. (AP Photo/Barbara Walton, File)

Even after Bhat’s hanging, the Kashmiri leadership still agreed and decided to continue the fight for the Kashmir cause politically. In 1986, G.M. Shah’s government was dismissed after communal riots in South Kashmir, and a new National Conference–Congress government was sworn in with Farooq Abdullah [son of the NC founder Shiekh Abdullah] as the chief minister, after the Rajiv-Farooq accord.

Four months after the assumption of power by Dr. Farooq Abdullah, fresh elections were held for the State Assembly on 23 March 1987, which were contested by the Congress-I and the NC, in the coalition. Before the elections, Jamaat-e-Islami joined hands to form a Muslim United Front (MUF) mainly pointing out that the NC had capitulated before the Centre for the sake of power and bartered away the special status of the State. MUF’s election manifesto stressed the need for a solution to all outstanding issues of Kashmir according to the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The election was held on 23 March 1987. Nearly 75 percent of the voters participated, highest recorded participation in the state. Almost 95% of the people in the Valley voted for MUF. However, the elections were completed rigged.

When the counting started, NEW DELHI declared NC-NCI winner and installed Farooq Abdullah as CM, which was the murder of the people’s mandate. For instance, in the Amira Kadal constituency of Srinagar, MUF’s Syed Mohammed Yusuf Shah was a candidate. As the vote-counting began, it was becoming clear that Yusuf Shah was winning by a landslide. His opponent, Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah, went home dejected. However, he was summoned back by the electoral officials on the orders from New Delhi and declared the winner. When the people protested, the police arrived and arrested Yusuf Shah and his supporters. They were held in custody until the end of 1987. Yousf Shah (now Syed Sallhauddin) left Kashmir, joined Hizbul Mujahidin in the Pakistani part of Kashmir (also called Azad Kashmir), and subsequently became the supreme commander of the UJI (United Jihad Counsel)-an umbrella organization of 33 militant groups. All the major leadership, who later formed Hurriyet, were declared unelected. BBC reported that Khem Lata Wukhloo, who was a leader of the Congress party at the time, admitted the widespread rigging in Kashmir. He stated:

“I remember that there was massive rigging in the 1987 elections. The losing candidates were declared winners. It shook the ordinary people’s faith in the elections and the democratic process”.

People protested, but the state arrested many Kashmiris. This was the first time, Kashmiris lost the remaining faith in Indian Democracy and its practices. Kashmiri leadership and Kashmiri people reached to the conclusion that fighting for the right to self-determination is politically and democratically impossible as Indian will never let it happen.

Subsequently, Farooq Abdullah resigned in protest after the GAWKADAL MASSACRE—on 21 January 1990, thousands of Kashmiris took to the streets in protest, demanding independence. The Indian paramilitary troops of the Central Reserve Police Force opened fire indiscriminately killing around 100 people—The massacre happened just a day after the Government of India appointed Jagmohan as the Governor for the second time in a bid to control the mass protests by Kashmiris. The state was brought under Governor’s Rule.

At the same time, most of the Kashmiri Pandits living in the Kashmir Valley left in 1990 as the conflict started in the state. Some 95% of the 160,000-170,000 community left the Kashmir valley. Only few stayed back. The question of why did they leave Kashmir has conflicting answers. Many accuse then then governor Jagmohan for conspiring the migration/exodus of Kashmiri pandits. However, many believe that gunmen threatened them to leave the valley. However, many kashmiri pandits are upset with the fellow Kashmiri Muslims, accusing them for not helping/protecting them during their migration/exodus. However, the Kashmiri Muslims express helplessness and maintain that they themselves were vulnerable and held in the crossfire of the conflict, so were unable to do anything for their pandit brethren. Nevertheless, both the Kashmiri communities blame each other for not standing with each other during the times of crisis and sufferings. Around 219 Kashmiri Pundits were killed in Kashmir in 19990s, however, during the same time 8731 Kashmiri Muslims were also killed. However, they still visit each other and share the warmth, leaving apart the conflict induced grudges. They share many common foods, dress, language and jokes.

There are many such massacres in which thousands of unarmed Kashmiri civilians were murdered and injured by the Indian security agencies. For instance, the ZUKOORA AND TENGPORA MASSACRE, in which 33 people were killed and 47 injured by the Indian Army soldiers on 1 March 1990. Around 1500 people were protesting seeking for the implementation of a United Nations resolution regarding a plebiscite in Kashmir. These protesters headed towards the Srinagar office of the United Nations to submit a memorandum seeking freedom from India. It led Amnesty International to issue an appeal for urgent action on Kashmir. The other massacres carried by the Indian security forces include the BIJBEHARA MASSACRE, which happened on 22 October 1993 when the 74th Battalion Border Security Force (BSF) troops arbitrarily fired on unarmed protesters (over the siege of the mosque in Hazratbal, Srinagar) killed 51 civilians and injured 200.

Indian government barred independent local and international media from entering the town. On 23 October 1993, when a large number of local and foreign media people converged on the town, the army used violence and fired into the air to stop them from visiting the old side of the town, reported Kashmir Affairs. The others include SOPORE MASSACRE (6 January 1993, 55 killed, 400 shops and 57 houses burnt down by the BSF Troops), KUPWARA MASSACRE (27 January 1994, 27 civilians, mostly traders of Kupwara town, fell to bullets of Army men). The government of India rejected all the reports and requests of international media and human rights organizations and other inquiry reports. People are still waiting for justice! One more brutal massacre (WANDHAMA MASSACRE) was executed on 25 January 1998, in which 23 Kashmiri Pandits living in the village of Wandhama were killed by unidentified gunmen. According to the testimony of one of the survivors of the incident, Vinod Kuman Dhar, the gunmen came to their house dressed like Indian Army soldiers, had tea with them, waiting for a radio message indicating that all Pandit families in the village had been covered. After a brief conversation they rounded up all the members of the Hindu households and then summarily gunned them down with assault rifles. NADIMARG MASSACRE took place on 23 March 2003 in which 24 Kashmiri Pandits in the village of Nadimarg in Pulwama were killed by the unknown gunmen.

During the mass uprisings in 2008, 2010 and 2016 hundreds of Kashmiri civilians were killed and thousands injured by the Indian security forces. The most prominent was the 2016 unrest in Kashmir. It started with the killing of Burhan Wani, by the Indian security forces on 8 July 2016. Burhan Wani (son of a school principal) like much Kashmiri youth picked up arms only after he and his brother were beaten and humiliated by Indian troops while they were returning on their motorcycle from a cricket ground after playing cricket. After his killing, anti-Indian protests started in all 10 districts of the Kashmir Valley. Curfew was imposed in all 10 districts of the valley on 15 July and mobile services were suspended by the government. Kashmir valley remained under 53 days of consecutive curfew which was lifted from all areas on 31 August, however, was re-imposed in some areas the next day. Jammu and Kashmir Police and Indian paramilitary forces used pellet guns, tear gas shells, rubber bullets, as well as assault rifles, resulting in the deaths of more than 120 civilians, with over 15,000 civilians injured and as the result of pellet guns, many people also were blinded.

Interestingly, according to the local reports even after the restrictions and curfew, around 500000 Kashmiris participated in the funeral of Burhan Wani. On the contrary, when the ex-chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir died only 1500 people (including his relatives, policeman and people from the state administration) attended his funeral.

Since the mass movement started in the disputed Kashmir, demanding for the plebiscite promised by Nehru according to the United Nations’ resolutions, more than 95000 people have been killed. India installed 700000 troops in Kashmir, with Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), where they can kill, murder, rape anyone with impunity facing no legal sanctions. The Armed forces killed thousands in fake encounters, sometimes for promotions, sometimes for other rewards (as the CBI found in Pathribal fake encounter case, Machil fake encounter case). Although, many such fake encounters were investigated by the prominent agencies, as CBI and many people were held guilty but the controversial ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Act’ (AFSPA) saved them.

For instance, On March 25, 2000, at Pathribal, in Anantnag district, five men were picked up by the officers of the Indian Army’s Rashtriya Rifles in a conspiracy to display a quick breakthrough in the Chittisingh Pora massacre of March 20, in which 36 Sikhs were gunned down by ‘unidentified’ gunmen (Chattisinghpora massacre) . The massacre took place at the time of US President Bill Clinton’s India visit. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and DNA analyses, suggest the five men – two farmers, two goatherds and a cloth merchant – were innocent and were executed by the Army, their bodies mauled and in one case decapitated, and then burned to eliminate all vestiges of their identity. However, the Army held eight of its men responsible for the 2010 Machil fake encounter. The Times of India on 14th November 2014 reported, “the Army has held accountable two officers and three soldiers for gunning down three unemployed Kashmiri youths and then trying to pass them off as “Pakistani militants” in a stage-managed encounter in Machil sector along the Line of Control in April 2010.”

There are many such incidents, some consolidated by the mass graves found in many places of Kashmir. Such incidents have played a crucial role in widening the gap between the Kashmir and New Delhi and have changed Kashmiris’ perception of the ‘Indian democracy’. People waited for justice; the guilty were saved; the wave of injustice has been treated as a routine affair by the Centre.

Army involved in the enforced disappearances killed thousands, buried them in mass graves, after killing them in fake encounters or in interrogation centers. The Army raped hundreds of women (e.g., Kunan Poshpora mass Rape). The Kunan Poshspora incident occurred on February 23, 1991, when unit(s) of the Indian army launched a search and interrogation operation in the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora, located in Kashmir’s remote Kupwara District. The separate teams of army men had entered several houses in the villages, removed men of all ages into makeshift interrogation centers and tortured them and almost 100 women (aged 8-70) were gang-raped by soldiers that night.

There are thousands of half-widows (whose husbands were taken by the Army but never returned). India orphaned and physically disabled thousands of people in Kashmir. Thousands of Kashmir young boys and girls were blinded by the troops by firing pellets. Many human rights organizations argue that India is forcefully and against the will of people, occupying Kashmiris with the might of 70000-armed troops (the world’s most militarized zone). India and its media still call it ‘terrorism’ blaming Pakistan for even a protest in Kashmir so that the international community would not raise their voice in favor of Kashmiris. Most of the Indian people are unaware about the Kashmir issue; they only know the what the hyper-jingoistic Indian media feeds them, which most of the time, is full of lies, fake, and propaganda against Kashmiris.

Recently, on August 2nd 2019, addition fifty thousand troops were called and stationed in the valley. The annual Amarnath Yatra was suspended 12 days before the scheduled date. Government ordered said that all non-Kashmiris and foreigners should immediately leave Kashmir. Suddenly, on the midnight of August 4th curfew was imposed across the valley and all roads were blocked. There was Huge presence of Forces on every nook and corner of the Kashmir valley. All channels of communication including landlines, mobile phones, Internet services and cable TV network were suspended in the midnight. On 5th August, 2019, the government of India announced the scrapping/abrogating of the Article 370 and 35-A, that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, which was key to its accession to India in 1947. The Home Minister of India also introduced a separate bill to bifurcate the state into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir with an assembly – like Delhi — and Ladakh without an assembly. With this announcement, thousands of Kashmiris including the pro-India politicians, their party workers, children, elderly, were arrested and many shifted to the jails outside Jammu and Kashmir. On Srinagar 16th September, 2019, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and a sitting Lok Sabha member (MP) Farooq Abdullah was detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA). The PSA allows detention of any individual for up to two years without a trial. Ironically, the law was first promulgated during Sheikh Abdullah’s tenure, father of Farooq Abdullah. Although, Amnesty International has called the PSA a “lawless law,” and rights groups say India has used the law to stifle dissent and circumvent the criminal justice system, undermining accountability, transparency, and respect for human rights.

Based on the propaganda feed by the local TV channels, and below standard newspapers (specifically Hindi media), substandard, propaganda media channels and their jingoistic sycophant hyper-patriotic fedayeen anchors and many ill-informed (about the ground realities of Kashmir) Indian panelists, while debating the crisis in KASHMIR can’t even pronounce the word KASHMIR properly. These thuggish channels and their Nano-chip journalists (who at the time of demonetization claimed and befooled 125 crore Indians that the new currency notes issued by the government post-demonetization have GPS nanochips installed in them). It was a propaganda, none of those Nano-chip journalists have apologized to Indians nor have people challenged them and send them behind the bars for spreading propaganda. Because of this constant and regular embedded media propaganda some Indians not only justify the atrocities, murders, killings and raping of Kashmiri women but also advocate for the mass killings of Kashmiris and consider it part of being loyal to mother India and treat themselves as true nationalists. Many Indians do not advocate verbally for carpet bombings of Kashmiris and raping Kashmiri women, but by their ‘silence’ they give consent to the state and are equally complicit in all atrocities done to Kashmiris. However, there are many more Indians who know either by visiting Kashmiri or by reading about the first-hand narratives from Kashmir do protest against the atrocities on common Kashmiris and they do not support the state when it indulges in human rights violations, civilian killings and rapes. Most of the people who have never visited Kashmir even once, know absolutely nothing about the geography and historical narratives of Kashmir, haven’t read a single book about Kashmir, unfortunately, act and pretend to be the ‘extra-wise’ Kashmir experts’. Many such keyboard warriors, ignorant anchors while sitting in air-conditioned office rooms and coffee shops, not only indulge in silly commentary, but also shoot uninvited suggestions, pass immature judgments and imaginary solutions from their comfort zones.

However, the people of Kashmir are unable to forget the atrocities done to them by the Indian state and are firm to fight until they get their right to self-determination.

Dr. M Ashraf Bhat has pursued his Post-doctorate from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi and doctorate (PhD) from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur. His recent book “The Changing Language Roles and Linguistic Identities of the Kashmiri Speech Community” has been published by the Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Lady Stephenson Library, Newcastle, U.K, and is catalogued in the British Library UK,  the Penn Library of the University of Pennsylvania, the library of the University of Heidelberg, Germany, the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The author can be reached at ashraf.iitk@gmail.com


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