Kashmir: More Than Terrorism

In a previous post, I wrote:

[…] would you acknowledge that Palestine, Chechnya and Kashmir issues are about more than just terrorism?

Joshua Scholar in turn asked:

What is the situation in Kashmir about?

I’ve been wondering about Kashmir ever since I heard an Indian ambassador claim that militants were killing Hindu civilians simply to drive them out leaving a Muslim majority – ie for no other reason than ethnic cleansing?

Talk about leading questions!

He also got a little impatient, on thanksgiving day and then today.

I guess Zack has no intention of answering my question. That’s disappointing.

Anyway, I notice that Zack didn’t keep his promise and come back to support what he said either in the case of Chechnia nor in the case of Kashmir.

I am sorry, Joshua, but where I live, I still had 6 hours to keep my promise after your last comment.

Joshua has also posted an excerpt of a blog post on a part of the terrorist and Islamist dimension of the conflict in Chechnya. I am going to leave Chechnya aside for now except to ask if anyone here knows about Imam Shamil or President Dudayev.

Back to Kashmir. I have a separate category for my Kashmir posts. I have posted about the geography as well as religions of Kashmir. I have also posted about my Dad’s experiences at the time of partition of India in 1947 in Jammu. I will probably post more about Kashmir history. I should probably clarify again that I am not a Kashmiri and have never lived there.

Pankaj Mishra had a series of articles in the New York Review of Books about three years ago which provide a good source for the current Kashmir troubles which started around 1989.

BBC covers Kashmir here, with a backgrounder on the start of the conflict between India and Pakistan in 1947 here and a timeline here.

The US State Department human rights report for 2002 mentions a number of human rights abuses in Indian Kashmir.

Human Rights Watch has a report detailing government and militant abuses of human rights in Kashmir.

And here is a Human Rights Watch report from 1993 about the threats against Hindus in Kashmir valley.

When the conflict escalated 1989, militant groups issued widespread threats to members of the minority Hindu community in Kashmir. Attacks on Hindus since 1988, and particularly in early 1990, have driven more than 100,000 Hindus to flee Kashmir to Jammu and Delhi, where most remain in increasingly desperate conditions in refugee camps. Tens of thousands of Muslims have also fled. Those militant groups which espouse an extremist Islamic ideology have also issued threats to persons associated with businesses they consider “un-Islamic,” including liquor dealers and cinema hall owners. Militant groups have also issued threats to journalists whom they have accused of “biased” reporting.

[…] The militants have also used threats to compel Hindu families and suspected political opponents to leave the Kashmir valley. Beginning in 1988, many Hindus were made the targets of threats and acts of violence by militant organizations and this wave of killing and harassment motivated many to leave the valley.198 With government assistance, a large part of the Hindu community in Kashmir, numbering more than 100,000, left the valley in 1989-90.199 These threats have continued. According to one report in 1992, when one militant group, the Ikhwan-ul-Muslimin, appealed for the Kashmiri Hindus to come back to the valley, two others, Al-Umar and Al-Jehad, immediately issued press releases warning them not to return.

198 [Footnote in the original report.] The government role in encouraging the exodus, particularly the part played by former Governor Jagmohan, is a matter of considerable controversy in Kashmir and among the Hindu refugees in Jammu and New Delhi. Some reports suggest that while many Hindus left the valley out of fear of militant violence, some may have been encouraged to leave by authorities who hoped to undermine support for the militant movement.

199 [Footnote in the original report.] The precise number of Kashmiri Hindus who fled the valley during this time is not known. Estimates vary widely. According to one press report, as of November 1990, some 50,000 Hindu families had fled. See James P. Sterba, “Valley of Death,” Wall Street Journal, November 9, 1990. India Today previously had reported almost 90,000 Hindus having left the valley for Jammu or Delhi. India Today, April 30, 1990, p. 10. Many began leaving in 1988, and the migrations contined through 1990.

Author: Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer

18 thoughts on “Kashmir: More Than Terrorism”

  1. This sound great resource not only for Jashua but for us as well. I did have some offline material citing Amnesty International on the aggravated situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir, through reading which I believed there would be more blunt truths than such reports could only reference and hint to even worse situation in Kashmir, but could never get to public because of political dilemmas and conspiracies. I am not sure why people still seek news agencies to learn truths while the truth just isn’t out there this time or is it?.

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  3. I hope that Joshua will be willing to cut you a little slack given that you had Eid, Thanksgiving, and a wedding anniversary to be celebrating. Thanks for posting this information.

  4. Ejaz: I have learned quite a few things while writing about Kashmir. That’s one of the reasons I want to keep on writing. BTW, Pakistani abuses in Kashmir will come later in my series.

    Al-Muhajabah: I hope so.

  5. Ok, this is going to take lots of hours to read…

    Because I asked for it I will, but one question. Does any of this actually undermine Dr. Pipe’s point of view? What little I’ve seen so far seems to support Dr. Pipes – so I’m wondering what the logic was behind your original remark.

  6. Joshua: I am not sure what Daniel Pipes’ view of these conflicts is beyond terrorism. In general, however, I have noticed a tendency to neglect anything other than terorrism. Then some people have argued that we should not reward terrorism by acceding to the demands of the different groups in Kashmir, Palestine or Chechnya or even negotiate with them. In my opinion, that’s the wrong approach. We should look at the overall picture and realize that some of these demands are much older than terrorism and are also just.

    Looking at it another way, there are hardcore terrorists who we can’t do much about except fighting but they are not very large in number. They have a larger number of sympathizers or supporters who have varying reasons to like them or even not to dislike them. A lot of these people’s views can be changed. One of the main variables to look at is the net change in the number of terrorists. If we kill 10 but 20 take their place because of our policies or ignorance, then we are worse off. If we endorse the human rights violations of Muslims anywhere because of terrorists, then that is not only wrong, it is counterproductive as well.

    Looking at just the terrorism angle in Kashmir, the solution seems simple. Pressure Pakistan to stop the terrorists from crossing the border and may be militarize the Line of Control in Kashmir. Unfortunately, the conflict will continue since the Kashmiris and their problems will still be ignored.

  7. Joshua: I think Zack’s post and comment above says it all. His sketch of the conflict and the issues raised is, in my opinion, a fair one. Normally my opinion wouldn’t count for much more than anyone else with more than a passing interest in the conflict or anymore than our esteemed Mr. Pipes; however, since I have spent quite a fair bit of time in Kashmir, most of it as part of my military service, I feel I can comment on things with some confidence. In short, no it isn’t really all about terrorism and I understand that if one sees the world through Pipesian lenses, then it would be easy to see it as merely another bloody border infected by the international phenomenon of “Islamic terrorism”. But let us look at the region through its own terms. We have two competing nationalisms in the sub-continent that are quite antagonistic towards each other and which pose at least at some ideological level a direct existential challenge to the Other. We have centralising states, that democratic or not are loath to cede substantial powers to the outlying regions, particularly of sensitive sub-national units. We have a poorly institutionalised electoral system that has not been able to meet expectations, which have been steadily rising over the last few decades. And finally we have politicians in power who have decided to rely on colonial-forms of control and surveillance when dealing with opposition movements, and opportunist anti-establishment leaders who have manipulated genuine grievances and demands for their own aggrandisement. This is a volatile mix. Let us also look at the situation from a strategic view that anyone involved in defence considerations from New Delhi’s perspective would see things. Were it simply a problem of “Islamic terrorism” then one would also have to explain why other key and sensitive border states have also seen similar insurgencies in Punjab and the Northeast. One would also need to explain why all states in the region have experienced these problems without being able to conveniently blame religious fundamentalist violence by Islamists as the sole, or indeed primary cause. The best organised and most ruthless terrorist organisation in the region is actually the LTTE in Sri Lanka, which has been responsible for nearly 50% of suicide-bomb attacks carried out since 1980 (this is measuring things at a global level). Asking these questions might set you on the right course for finding some answers. The Kashmir problem has many causes, which I won’t go into detail here but they include: a failure of being able to properly implement federal politics between the Union government and the provincial state governments resulting in excessive centralisation and direct bureaucratic rule, a failure to effectively allow democratic politics to flourish locally and democratic institutions to take root locally without external interference, a failure to integrate valid sub-nationalist and genuine ethno-nationalist demands and aspirations within the aegis of Indian nationalism through pluralistic and flexible channels rather than heavy-handed cultural chauvinism from above and finally a failure of governance in not being able to impartially maintain law and order without violating basic civil rights and deliver the socio-economic fruits of growth to the sections of the populace that need them the most. All these go much further in explaining why the Kashmir problem has not been solved, why it flared up the way it did, when it did and what stops it from being resolved with any measure of ease. The issue is much deeper than simply one of “Islamic terrorism”.

    Zack: I don’t disagree with anything you say much; the only thing I want to mention is that I don’t think that anyone on the Indian side believes that the Union govt was innocent when it came to the flight of the Kashmiri Brahmins from the valley; the evidence is now substantial enough that only hardcore saffronists deny this. The debate (or at least the sensible debate) does not centre around this, it revolves around the issue of whether this was the or even a major cause behind the flight and to what degree it created the problem. I have never been a supporter of Indian policy in Kashmir, which has been badly mis-managed right from integration, but in this case I would say that it was a secondary cause. However, I could be wrong; certainly the shameful treatment of the refugees in camps around Delhi indicates that this has been instrumentalised for political purposes, so I won’t put this past the then Congress govt and subsequent regimes at the Centre. Ironically, most Kashmiri Hindus, now I think have become much more cynical and perceptive as to the crocodile tears shed by various “nationalist” Indian politicians on their behalf and the lack of action by the Central govt has disabused them of the fact that there is any bona fide concern for their welfare, as opposed a desire to keep them as a visible symbol for political purposes (some shades of the Palestinian refugee problem here). Still, it will be hard to extract any dispassionate response from most Indians and their policymakers, as they have entrenched a victimisation myth very strongly now combined with the so-called thesis of “Hindu passivity” that always sees the Muslim side as the aggressor. The relative decline of the kashmiriyat ethos and pro-Independence separatist groups and rise of jehadi, pro-Pakistani ones; has reflected a broader turn away from an authentic sub-nationalist and ethnic political movement to a more religious and fundamentalist one. This along with continued Indian instrasigence has impeded any progress in real dialogue between even moderates on both sides. I fear that I see no improvement in the near future.

  8. Conrad:
    Normally my opinion wouldn’t count for much more than anyone else with more than a passing interest in the conflict or anymore than our esteemed Mr. Pipes; however, since I have spent quite a fair bit of time in Kashmir, most of it as part of my military service, I feel I can comment on things with some confidence.

    I think your opinion counts for much more than mine since mine is based only on following media reports etc.

    I agree with your analysis, BTW and share your pessimism. I think the entry and now dominance of the foreign Islamist groups has made the problem pretty much untractable. The current conflict started in the late 1980s with nationalists and some local religious groups. They had some popular backing and were somewhat sensitive to local feelings. Among the current crop, that is almost non-existent.

  9. I’m afraid I’m going to be the ultimate wimp about this right now…

    I read your father’s writings and I find that I’m far to depressed now to read the scholarly accounts of the situation. I apologise for my weakness. I will come back to this when I’m feeling stronger.

    Having not studied any history of this area, I had heard only rumors – things said in passing – and had not known that the Indian army (with civilian help) had committed genocide on Muslim civilians in Kashmir in order to stay on the Indian side of partition.

    Certainly such wounds can not be healed. If these are the roots of the problem in Kashmir, then I have no hope for peace there in many lifetimes. I may be accused in insensitivity, but these are much deeper roots for war than anything that exists in Israel which strikes me as the Disneyland of boarder disputes, with paid mascots dressing up in terrorist costumes the way people dress up as Mickey, Goofy and Winnie the Pooh. Sorry, but unlike Kashmir, genocide hasn’t taken place in Israel, though not for lack of trying by Palestine’s current leadership…

    Since I have not yet read the reports I don’t know what injustices are currently being done in Kashmir…

    Still, ignorant as I am I would like to say that as far as terrorism is concerned in the larger context I pray that a popular leader emerges in the Islamic world who will preach the wisdom of peace, of the acceptance of the people and world outside – and of compromise.

    Anger, enimity, violence and suspicion are so foolish – and so accepted, it seems to me.

  10. had not known that the Indian army (with civilian help) had committed genocide on Muslim civilians in Kashmir in order to stay on the Indian side of partition.

    Joshua, I am not sure I would call the Jammu killings genocide. In 1947, there was a lot of rioting and massacres all over India (I mean the undivided country). If I remember correctly, about 0.5-1 million were killed and millions (10-15?) had to leave their homes. These affected almost all regions and religions. I know Indians (Hindus and Sikhs) whose grandparents or parents had to leave their homes in Pakistan because of the killings and the riots.

    Quite a few Muslims from the Jammu part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir had to leave their homes, but in Kashmir valley Muslims were in overwhelming majority and I am not familiar with much trouble there or in Ladakh (Muslim + Buddhist). The Hindu and Sikh population of the Pakistani Kashmir does not exist now as some were killed and others forced to leave probably by the tribal army that attacked Kashmir in 1947 to free it from the Maharaja. (As an aside, this tribal army was unpopular among the Kashmir and famous for looting etc.)

    The partition of India was a huge bloody affair that destroyed my lives.

  11. I had heard only rumors – things said in passing – and had not known that the Indian army (with civilian help) had committed genocide on Muslim civilians in Kashmir in order to stay on the Indian side of partition.

    This is a completely laughable assertion; I suggest that before you start throwing around these kind of aspersions you should take some care to back up any claims or innuendoes with some clear evidence. The UNCIP mission and Dixon and McNaughton reports carried out by relatively impartial authors in 1950 and 1949 don’t even mention genocide; even Pakistani official sources always ready to see the worst save this of rhetoric until after the 1989 uprising. This overlooks the fact that the major cause of killing, raping and looting was carried out by the tribal incursion of Pathans before Kashmir had acceded to either Pakistan or India. It was to forestall the sacking of Srinagar that the Maharajah of the state signed the Instrument of Accession and asked for Indian military assistance; the first Indian paratroopers (including the predecessor to my former regiment) who landed at Srinagar airport took up positions alongside Kashmiris (mainly Muslims) of the National Conference party in dugouts on the borders of the capital. The dominant political party in the state – the National Conference was an organisation of Muslims and their leader Sheikh Abdullah, was very close both to the Indian National Congress party, its ideology and its leaders such as Nehru. The land reform programme of the latter appealed to the Muslim peasantry shut out by Dogra feudalism, its socialist statism promised development to a nascent Muslim middle class that had poor employment prospects in the exiting bureaucracy and industry, many of the former had been educated in the university of Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh an important centre for producing future Muslim leaders and politicians. Abdullah and the NC had chosen to through their lot in with the Indian Congress; against the Dogra monarchy of Hari Singh which entertained Independence for the states as a way of preserving its own status and position; why they should need to be on the receiving end of a “genocide” to remain in a political Union which would allow them to implement their socio-economic programme and political demands is quite unclear. The only civilians the Indian army were co-operating with here in a big scale were NC militias and volunteers who were themselves mainly Kashmiri Muslims.

    Everytime I think you can’t sink any lower in your wild reasoning; you go ahead and prove me wrong. The Indian army has engaged in many dubious actions and has had its fair share of problems; I am not one of those who is going to stand here and waffle on about any “purity of arms” rubbish. This doesn’t exist outside the imaginations of armchair soldiers and nationalist mythography. I, however, have seen no evidence that the Indian Army has engaged in any policy of genocide, which is after a fairly specific and very serious course to undertake; if you have any credible evidence I would be very eager to see it. If not, perhaps, you might like to qualify what you have said. I, along with others have been absolutely savage critics of Indian policy and subjected it to a level of severity that strains the national consensus; we do not however make absolutely baseless and propagandaist claims as they just make us look like idiots. I suggest that you might think on doing the same before you smear other insititions and states with these kinds of accusations. More specifically, you should be extremely careful when using loaded terms like genocide in completely inappropriate settings.

    I may be accused in insensitivity, but these are much deeper roots for war than anything that exists in Israel which strikes me as the Disneyland of boarder disputes, with paid mascots dressing up in terrorist costumes the way people dress up as Mickey, Goofy and Winnie the Pooh.

    Maybe, but then this shows why we always tend to disagree on all conflicts whether it is the Israeli-Palestinian one or Kashmir. In many ways this clash was largely unforeseen until very late in the day and hardly anybody wanted Partition including the Nationalist leaders both within the Muslim and Hindu Communities; I am not going to go into the history of this as it is quite complex but it suggests to me that many conflicts arise out of political failure to reach adequate compromises which are then rationalised as intractable conflicts; conveniently allowing the decisions and mistakes in the past to be overlooked and blamed on some sort of putative primordial antagonism that we are meant to be in thrall to.

    Sorry, but unlike Kashmir, genocide hasn’t taken place in Israel, though not for lack of trying by Palestine’s current leadership…

    Well, now you jump from completely unsubstantiated hearsay that a genocide occurred to simply accepting. How easy is the slide from unbacked assertion to fact. There was no genocide in Kashmir; there was not even any limited policy of ethnic cleansing as there was in Israel in 1948; there is also no policy of secondary citizenship for Muslims Kashmiri or non-Kashmiri; also as far as I am aware the GOI is not subsidising the building of Hindu settlements in the Valley or talking about transfer of the local Muslim population. Your assertion here is so stupid, I am having difficulty in even taking it on board.

    Since I have not yet read the reports I don’t know what injustices are currently being done in Kashmir…

    Does this matter; your knowledge or lack thereof will hardly make any difference. They are still happening as the ones in the Occupied Territories. Their existence is not the question here; what is though, is how best to stop them.

    Anger, enimity, violence and suspicion are so foolish – and so accepted, it seems to me.

    Yes, and crass simplicity on the part of external observers does not help matters.

  12. Conrad, I’m sorry. I guess I misunderstood Zack’s father’s essays which seemed to chronical escaping from genocide. Perhaps I misunderstood something about the area as well. Didn’t the man come from Kashmir?

  13. I guess I misunderstood Zack’s father’s essays which seemed to chronical escaping from genocide.

    What they relate to are the general Partition Riots at the time; which involved mass killings of civilians by civilians where there were substantial minorities of the opposing religious community present. The worst incidents occurred in the provinces which were bifurcated: Punjab and Bengal. As bas as these mass killings and riots were; they were not a genocide.

    Perhaps I misunderstood something about the area as well. Didn’t the man come from Kashmir?

    The references to the Army here directly are to the Maharajah’s army; which was the Security Force of the Kashmiri Dogra kingdom; in many ways a feudalistic and reactionary force in parts. The other references are to the units from Patiala another such Princely state, where the state arms were being absorbed. It is difficult to work out when the Central forces are being referred to and when other ‘armies’ are; the final convoy in the story reaches Sialkot under Indian Army protection in a convoy. Individual state units tended to collapse and local forces become communalised; while the Central forces particularly the National Colonial armies were divided on a more formal basis and maintained their unit discipline (by large, with some exceptions). Zack can clarify the story more than I can; but it is useful to keep these distinctions in mind. Most of the worst abuses in Kashmir today come from irregular militas and former separatists used as counter-insurgency groups; as well as the para-military forces such as the BSF; the regular army has not compromised itself as much; though severe problems remain.

  14. I guess I misunderstood Zack’s father’s essays which seemed to chronical escaping from genocide.

    Joshua, like Conrad said, my Dad’s essays were about the partition riots. Though they were horrific especially in Punjab and Bengal (I am more familiar with the Punjab case than Bengal) and resulted in huge loss of life (0.5-1.0m), I have never heard them referred to as genocide and I believe they don’t fit the definition.

    Perhaps I misunderstood something about the area as well. Didn’t the man come from Kashmir?

    My Dad spent his childhood in the city of Jammu which is part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir nowadays.

    The references to the Army here directly are to the Maharajah’s army; […]It is difficult to work out when the Central forces are being referred to and when other ‘armies’ are;

    Conrad, I’ll have to check with my Dad but I think most references to the army are to the maharaja’s army (except the Indian army which escorted his convoy). The maharaja was not at all popular in the state and there had been efforts to get rid of him (in 1931 and then the “Quit Kashmir” movement in conjunction with the “Quit India” one). The National Conference leader Sheikh Abdullah was in jail in 1947 and was freed and made Director General Admin (?) in early November 1947 by the efforts of Gandhi. He became Prime Minister soon afterwards.

  15. All the disputes between India and Pakistan is because of Kashmir. There is no rear lines that’s why problem creat on border and both go to war over Kashmir. But the Government now refine the policies for bringing stability in the entire state of J&K.

  16. india and pak need to go to war for the all there millitary might to get susided so that the far flung areas get the freedom from there forces and the pepole get enpowered slowly but steadly ,centre has no role to play in their development other than bureacratic red tape and uneccesary govt employees

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