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Dark Clouds Over Kashmir

"I cannot drink water
It is mingled with the blood of young men who have died up in the mountains.
I cannot look at the sky; It is no longer blue; but painted red. 
I cannot listen to the roar of the gushing stream 
It reminds me of a wailing mother next to the bullet-ridden body of her only son. 
I cannot listen to the thunder of the clouds It reminds me of a bomb blast. 
I feel the green of my garden has faded Perhaps it too mourns. 
I feel the sparrow and cuckoo are silent Perhaps they too are sad.
"

 

-A Kashmiri Poet

 

The Dark Clouds

 

At least 48,000 people have been killed since insurgency began in 1989, according to official estimates. Thousands of Indian soldiers have been killed and it costs billions of Rupees to keep the army in Kashmir. The Kashmir conflict continues to be unresolved after more than six decades, fueling the conventional and nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan and bleeding their economy. Both countries have gone to war on three occasions over Kashmir and the possibility of war between the two countries has become frightening given their nuclear weapon capability.

 

Kashmir continues to be the bone of contention between India and Pakistan. Each side insists it is right and the other is wrong. India insists that the accession of Kashmir to India is final and complete and hence Kashmir is an integral part of India and that all would be well in Kashmir, but for Pakistan's cross-border terrorism. Pakistan on the other hand, insists that Kashmir is a disputed territory and that it is merely providing moral and diplomatic support for an indigenous freedom struggle in Kashmir. A large number of Kashmiris do not believe that the 1947 accession is final; they insist that Kashmir is a disputed territory and demand self-determination. Indian public is bombarded with the official version of rhetoric on Kashmir, as Pakistanis are bombarded likewise with their version.

 

The third and final part of the “Kashmir - Know It Yourself Kit”, covers the timelines from 1987 till date.

 

1987-1998

 

Farooq Abdullah won the elections in 1987, which was allegedly rigged. The insurgency in the valley increased in momentum from this point on, given the consistent failure of democracy and limited employment opportunities. The Muslim United Front (MUF) candidate Mohammad Yousuf Shah feels not only cheated in the rigged elections, but is also imprisoned and would later become Syed Salahuddin, chief of militant outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahedin. His election aides called the HAJY group -Abdul Hamid Shaikh, Ashfaq Majid Wani, Javed Ahmed Mir and Mohammed Yasin Malik- would join the JKLF.[1] 

 

Amanullah Khan takes refuge in Pakistan, after being deported from England and begins to direct operations across the LoC. Protests begin in the Valley along with anti-India demonstrations, followed by police firing and curfew. End of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan releases a great deal of militant energy and weapons to Kashmir. Pakistan provides arms and training to both indigenous and foreign militants in Kashmir, thus adding fuel to the smoldering fire of discontent in the valley.

 

In January 1990, Jagmohan is appointed as the Governor ; Farooq Abdullah resigns. On 20 January, an estimated 100 people are killed when a large group of unarmed protesters are fired upon by the Indian troops at the Gawakadal Bridge. With this incident, it becomes an insurgency of the entire population. On 13 Feb 1990, Lassa Kaul, director of Srinagar Doordarshan, is killed by the militants for implementing pro - indian media policy. Though the JKLF tries to explain that the killings of Pandits were not communal , it causes a scare among the minority Hindu community. Some warnings in anonymous posters and some unexplained killings of innocent members of the community contribute to an atmosphere of insecurity for the Kashmiri Pandits. Joint reconciliation efforts by members from both Muslim and Pandit communities are actively discouraged by Jagmohan. Most of the estimated 162,500 Hindus in the Valley flee in March 1990.

 

From 1990 to 2001, approximately 10,000  Kashmiri youth cross-over to Pakistan for training and procurement of arms and join militant groups, JKLF and the pro-Pakistan Hizb-ul-Mujahedin (HM). Pakistan's ISI favours the HM over the secular JKLF and cuts off financing to the JKLF and in some instances provides intelligence to India against JKLF. Since 1995, foreign militant outfits with Islamic agenda such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Harkat-ul-Mujahedin have dominated the militancy in Kashmir, besides the indigenous HM. All of them work under the umbrella of United Jehadi Council (UJC). Though militancy is mainly concentrated in the Valley and is largely non - communal, some militant outfits operate in the Jammu region also and wage a communal campaign. The most serious incident of a communal nature namely the murder of sixteen male Hindus in Kishtwar in August 1993 was condemned by the JKLF and the HM. Some militant groups with Islamic agenda have attacked women sporadically for not wearing the veil, which has been condemned by the indigenous militants. The All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) called for foreign militants to leave Kashmir , since they were tarnishing the image of their freedom struggle.[2] 

 

1999 till Date           
 

In May 1998, India conducts nuclear tests; Pakistan also responds with nuclear tests. In June 1998, the Regional Autonomy Committee (RAC) proposes devolution of political power at regional, district, block and panchayats levels and allocation of funds according to an objective and equitable formula. Subsequently, the State Government substitutes the RAC report with its own report recommending the division of the three regions (Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu) into eight autonomous units on ethnic - religious lines without proposing any devolution of political and economic powers.[3]

 

On 21 February 1999, India and Pakistan sign the Lahore Declaration, agreeing to ' intensify their efforts to resolve all issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.' In May 1999, Indian Army patrols detect intruders from Pakistan on Kargil ridges in Kashmir. India fights to regain lost territory. The infiltrators are withdrawn by Pakistan in mid - July, following Washington Agreement with the US. War between India and Pakistan becomes more frightening given the nuclear weaponry possessed by both countries and Kashmir remains the underlying flashpoint.

 

In March 2000, around the time of US President Clinton's visit to India, unidentified gunmen gun down 36 Sikhs at Chittisinghpora. In June 2000, the State Autonomy Committee (SAC) Report is discussed and an autonomy resolution is adopted in the J&K Assembly. The SAC Report recommends restoration of Article 370 to pre -1953 status with Indian jurisdiction limited to defence, foreign affairs and communications. However, the Indian Cabinet rejects the autonomy recommendation in July. In November 2000, India announces a unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir which continues through May 2001. APHC welcomes the ceasefire but states that the ceasefire will not be effective unless it is supplemented with unconditional dialogues to resolve the Kashmir dispute and an end to human right violations. HM declares an unilateral ceasefire in July 2001 which is withdrawn only two weeks later, following India's refusal to include Pakistan in any trilateral talks over the Kashmir dispute proposed by the militants.

 

In July 2001, India and Pakistan fail to arrive at a joint agreement at Agra Summit, given the deadlock on Kashmir. Following the terrorist attacks on the Indian Parliament on 13 Dec 2001, India and Pakistan build up massive troops along the border triggering another threat of a nuclear exchange. After months of diplomacy, troops are withdrawn from both sides.

 

On 21 May 2001 Abdul Ghani Lone, a moderate Hurriyat leader is assassinated by unidentified gunmen. Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq had been assassinated by unidentified gunmen exactly 12 years back. On both occasions, India blamed Pakistan sponsored militants while Kashmiris blamed Indian sponsored renegades. Unless an impartial investigation is carried out, it is not possible to ascertain these claims in such attacks by unidentified gunmen who could be either separatist militants or renegades. There have been numerous attacks on Hindus by unidentified gunmen including 2003 Nadimarg, and 2006 Doda massacres. India blames it on foreign militants and Kashmiris blame it on renegade militants used by Indian security forces. The State assembly elections held in 2002 and 2008 have been relatively free and fair but voters turned out in large numbers more to improve local governance than to signal their support for Indian rule in Kashmir.

 

Huge anti-India protests were held against the transfer of land to SASB (shrine board), which was an outside state organization, as it was perceived as a direct violation of article 370 of the Indian constitution. In May 2009, there were huge protests against rape and murder of two young women in Shopian village. It was followed by huge uprising in 2010 as an aftermath to alleged killings of five villagers on LC in Machil. What followed was a series of mass protests and beginning of the agitational dimension of the conflict. However, mature handling of the situation by the state with Army remaining in the background kept it in the realms of Law & Order issue, thereby blunting the secessionist’s agenda. There is relative calm in the years that followed with increasing demand for AFSPA to be removed at least in some districts of J&K as a start.

 

The whole nation pours in relief during the floods in the Kashmir Valley in 2014 creates a sense of belonging in the alienated communities in the Kashmir Valley.

 

Poster boys and tech savvy misguided elements are lured by Pakistan sponsored agencies and Burhan Wani is born as a figure. In July 2016 Burhan Wani is killed in an encounter and agitational dynamics return to the Kashmir valley with a vengeance. Disticts of South Kashmir namely Kulgam, Budgam, Pulwama, Shopiyan and Anantnag see rise in militant activities which is responded to by the security forces.

 

The Big Questions

 

Could we objectively revisit this complex issue which continues to exact increasing death toll, as each day passes ? All sides cannot be right at once in their claims of absolute moral rectitude, the truth probably lies somewhere in between ? These are the big questions which leave us scratching our heads as this series of “ Kashmir Know it Yourself ” comes to an end.

 

 

[1]Balraj Puri, Kashmir: Towards Insurgency, New Delhi 1993, p.52

[2]Praveen Swami, The Kargil War, New Delhi 1999, pp.71-2, Human Rights Watch,INDIA'S SECRET ARMY IN KASHMIR , New Delhi 1999, pp.71-2 andAmnesty International, Disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir, 1999.

[3]Victoria Schofield, Kashmir in Conflict, New York 2000, pp.207-8.

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