Early in January 1990, the news of Kashmir armed insurgency was brought to Rajeev Gandhi in New Delhi. His spontaneous reaction was, “Kashmir is lost to us.” For many observers it was a shocking comment.
Was it possible to avert the loss? Secession of a federating unit is an issue fiercely debated in academic circles and a federation is invariably loath to allow it. The US had to go through a bloody civil war to suppress the secessionist movement. The Baltic States wrested it from a tottering Soviet Union and Indonesia conceded it only when she came under tremendous international pressure on East Timor.
In Kashmir an underground section of the Muslim majority population launched an armed uprising in late 1989. Not too surprising, the uprising received cooperation from the vast over ground majority. True that arms, training and logistics flowed from a neighbouring country yet local population hailed it as an uprising against the Indian presence in the valley. A Muslim sectarian uprising in essence its leadership persistently projected it a mass political movement for freedom from Indian control.
It has to be noted that separation of religion and politics is outside the process of Islamic history. However, that does not preclude induction of tactical moves and strategies for rapid success of a given mission.
In Kashmir, Indian policy planners have essentially, and perhaps as a misplaced legacy, tried to blunt the sharp edges of this vitally operative instrument of Islamic political philosophy. For more than half a century after accepting the partition of India on the basis of two nations theory in practice, Indian political managers contrived to find solace in brandishing Kashmir as its secular model. They were blind to the dire consequences that dogged this fanciful modeling, which, by all logic, was the first fake superstructure the armed insurgents sought to demolish. Who else but the minuscule defenceless religious minority --- the sitting ducks --- would bear the first brunt? When the bottom of the myth exploded, New Delhi found itself at odds to paint the patently communal trappings of Kashmir insurgency in secular colour..
On international level this proved a major setback to India projecting Kashmir as a model of secular entity. After 9/11 Indian foreign office made some half-hearted and only sporadic attempts to link up Kashmir insurgency to international Islamic jehad. But it was too late to counter the massive disinformation undertaken by her adversary. The damage could not be repaired. Insurgency network had succeeded in moulding international opinion in its favour.
In a state of frustration, attempts of linking Kashmir insurgency to international Islamic radical movement proved not only futile but also counter productive. The OIC, where Pakistan enjoys a strong clout for some good reasons, lent its full political, diplomatic and moral support to Kashmir “freedom struggle” and even granted “observer status” to the main political dissident group of APHC.
Tactically speaking, in all probability what might have effectively taken the wind out of the sail of massive freedom struggle propaganda and even derailed it, was the sane and statesmanlike use of the lever of Kashmir IDPs whose ethnic cleansing from the valley was the trump card with the armed insurgents to open their account in the valley. Not many among the policy planners in New Delhi will concede that India was caught in the crossfire between the conflicting and contradicting standards of its secularist philosophy.
The slender thread by which India is holding on to Kashmir is the much prostituted word “elections”. A large variant of cliché associated with the political arrangement called democracy easily sway a vastly uneducated and un-schooled electorate on extremely sensitive issues. Very few people care to delve deep into its jurisprudence or into lurking intentions and polemics of the utterances of contesting candidates at the husting. If the rhetoric exuded at election rallies carried an iota of sanctimony, we would not have to witness the events of 9 August 1953. Let us not forget the bitter truth that politics is the game of scoundrels and more often than not secular democracy in our part of the world is used as a mask to hide nefarious intentions. “Elections” in Kashmir is a double – edged weapon used by both Indian and Kashmiri leadership to niftily cut each other to size
Ever since the accession, in almost all assembly or parliamentary elections in Kashmir, electioneering has been a virtual campaign against the Indian presence in the valley. Each contesting candidate devises strategy and semantics to subtly convey the unmistakable message that a vote to him/her is a vote for ouster of India from the valley This message is conveyed through sadistic reflexes stretching from sublime to ridicule, like “ a piece of rock salt”, “a green ‘kerchief”, “a Khan dress”, “an Afghan skull cap” or Arabian headgear, a profusion of Iqbal’s emotionally inflammable verses, some out of context quotes from the scriptures, allusions to the enemies of Islam or the discrimination against the Muslims and the rest of it. One has yet to hear a prospective candidate talking at election rallies in plain words about the development, economy, education, literacy, healthcare, women’s rights, child labour and other social affairs of much importance..
Yet at the conclusion of an election in Kashmir, the Chief Election Commissioner of India makes proud certification and boastfully declares that elections in the State were free and fair. What we have in Kashmir is actually not elections but the imitation of a short-sighted prejudicial and skin – deep Islamism flourishing on hate India paradigm.
The history of pre-insurgency elections in Kashmir and the behaviour of Kashmir political class in and out of power are the prime determinants for an independent, objective and pragmatic assessment of Kashmir electioneering process. The question is: What is the patent idiom of Kashmir political leadership in its election campaigns?”
Notwithstanding their superficial political differences or semantic flexibility of their idiom, their assertions are in no way dissimilar to one another in tone and tenor. The “grater autonomy” of NC, the “healing touch” of PDP, the “tripartite talks “ of the Hurriyat, the “unfinished task of partition” of Jamaate-e Islami are all logical reflexes and fine tuning of the concepts like “irrelevance of borders” or “demilitarization” (of course without de-terrorization) of the President of Pakistan.
This analysis is strongly endorsed by a number of “Accords” signed between Kashmir and Indian leadership onwards of 1947. Consider the irony that after basking in the warmth of Indian largesse for over half a century the NC has come out with the “Greater Autonomy” resolution thereby consigning the Accords of 1952, 1975 and 1986 to dustbin. And where shall yet another “Accord” likely to allow the flow of “Greater Autonomy” land Kashmir in is anybody’s guess. It could be the precursor of another orgy of carnage, genocide, vandalizing and final exodus of the residual minority group in the valley. And then New Delhi will add another feather to its hat of Kashmir Accords in order to glorify its secular democratic model in Kashmir.
Amusingly, on the part of New Delhi, a counter-balancing act is not allowed to run in deficit. The Indian leadership is using no less elusive an idiom to feign its non-confrontational stance vis-à-vis the Indian electorate, which it has been hoodwinking and misleading for more than half a century over Kashmir with Machiavellian adeptness. Thus we have “the sky is the limit” of P.V. Narasimha Rao, the “no redrawing of border” of Manmohan Singh or the appeal of Kashmir CM Nabi Azad to the militants “ to join the Kashmir issue resolution talks”. These utterances are all in line with a myriad of ambiguities that shroud New Delhi’s policy and intentions in Kashmir.
That Kashmir insurgents have had a large measure of success in reaching their goal is a reality New Delhi wants to hide from everybody. In Kashmir we have a unique example of waging a “liberation struggle” that involves almost all facets of a changing social milieu. The freedom activists have taken recourse to an integrated strategy in which the layers of civil society could easily play an active as well as passive role. Their strategy is midway between violence and non - violence. It may conveniently make space for the civil society to be the victor and the victim at one and the same time. All civil services in Kashmir have been de-Indianized and all cadres of state employees, private or public sector, have been Pakistanized. Top leadership has taken steps to protect its interests in case of a sudden implosion. In such a situation it need not feel cut off from wider Muslim world because they have already planted their toehold well within the lands of Islamic world particularly in flourishing Gulf States like Dubai.
The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, University of Kashmir.