How Green Is My Valley
August 14, 2019
How Green Is My Valley
The killing of innocent Hindus by Pakistan-trained mercenaries in J and K is one more bid to convert the Kashmiriyat issue into a Hindu-Muslim problem
First Published on May 1998
How Green is my Valley?
In May 1998, Communalism Combat looked closely at the happenings in the state of Jammu and Kashmir including the growing Islamisation of the protests, the alienation of people from mainstream politicians and the targeting of Pandits in the Jammu region of the state. This article penned by co-editor, Communalism Combat is worth a re-visit.

First published on: May 1, 1998

The killing of innocent Hindus by Pakistan-trained mercenaries in J and K is one more bid to convert the Kashmiriyat issue into a Hindu-Muslim problem

Islamabad has finally cast its hat in the ring. On April 17 this year, the Federal information minister in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet, Mushahid Hussain, paid an official visit to the camp of the Lashkar–e–Taiba (“Army of the pure”, the armed wing of the Markaz-e-Da’watul Irshad) at Muridke, 30 kilometres from Lahore. He was accompanied by Punjab’s governor, Shahid Hamid, and other officials. This was the first ever public visit by a Pakistani government functionary to the camps of the Lashkar that was set up in 1987 with an avowed aim to mount insurgency operations in both Afghanistan and Kashmir.I.A. Rehman, director of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), also a core group member of the Pak–India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), was among those shocked by the visit. “I am amazed by the visit of the minister”, he told Communalism Combat in a telephonic interview. “What did he want to say? What was the political intent behind the call? If the intention of the visit was to say that Pakistan supports the religious element, the communal element impinging on the Kashmir conflict, it must be unequivocally condemned because it will boomerang most strongly on the Kashmiri people.”

Rehman adds that any attempt to deepen the communalisation of the struggle in Kashmir which was a 75–year–old struggle of all Kashmiris — Hindus and Muslims, and others -- for political rights against a despotic Maharaja must be condemned. He recognises that it was the same communal elements who had forced the Kashmiri Pandits to get out of the valley in 1989–90. “If Kashmiri fighters begin to brandish the sword of this religion or that it is very wrong.”

Until this widely publicised visit of the Pakistan minister to the militant camp — which has been interpreted by a wide section of observers within Pakistan as in India and elsewhere, as open ideological support to the highly questionable activities of the Lashkar — Pakistan had limited itself to stating, in international fora that it is providing “political, moral and diplomatic support to the movement for freedom of the Kashmiri people.” Indian intelligence and other independent reports since 1989 have been pointing at the involvement of a section of the ISI in the insurgency in the Valley. The Pakistan government had stopped short, to date, of openly admitting monetary or arms support to the mercenaries acting in the name of Islam.

During his visit, Mushahid Hussain, it is reported by the Pakistani press, not only hailed the activities of the Markaz (centre for preaching) which trains and maintains the Lashkar–e–Taiba, but also said that the true concept of Islamic jehad (CC March 1998) was being promoted by the Markaz. This was reported by the Urdu daily, Khabren.

It was in the presence of Mushahid Hussain at the camp that the chief of the Markaz, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed spoke openly “about the liberation of Kashmir.” Very significantly, it was on the same night, April 17–18, that 29 persons were brutally massacred in Prankote village in Udhampur district in the upper reaches of the Jammu region —the focus of recent militant activity sponsored from across the border. Unlike in the case of the earlier massacre of Kashmiri Pandits at Wadhwana in the Valley on January 25—the killers have not yet been traced, nor the killings been “claimed” by any outfit — the Lashkar–e–Taiba has claimed “credit” for the butchery in Prankote.

The recent killings, coupled with six other selective attacks on Kashmiri Pandits and other Hindus residing in parts of the region since late 1996, are grim pointers to the most recent manipulation of the inherently nationalist Kashmiri struggle for self–determination to convert it into a crude Hindu–Muslim battle.“What the Pakistan government is doing is utterly wrong and must be condemned,” said Rochi Ram, senior advocate from Sind, Pakistan and a prominent member of the HRCP told CC. “The movement in Kashmir is nationalist, not religious, not Islamist but for Kashmiriyat. Kya aap samajhti hain ki yeh hamari siyasat smajh sakti hai? (Do you think that the Pakistani establishment can understand that?). We may not have mainline parties that are openly Islamic or fundamentalist. But what about the propaganda allowed by the state from the mosques five times a day? ”

More critically, the recent manoeuvres of the Pakistani state come close to sabre–rattling when seen in the context of a heightened militarist discourse on both sides of the border in recent months. The Prithvi vs. Ghauri Ghaznavi (the Pakistani President Tarar would like the next missile in the Pakistani stable to be named after Babar) missile–talk between New Delhi and Islamabad has swiftly replaced the hopes raised by the ‘Gujral doctrine’ last year. This bodes ill for peace in south Asia. And, given the fact that with Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad and Vajpayee in New Delhi, both countries are headed by hard–line parties and leaders who have used the communal card to gain or retain power, the signs are even more ominous.

“What kind of peace are we talking about?” asked India’s former foreign secretary, J.N. Dixit, while speaking to CC. “Peace which is a compromise to the acquisitive, territorial interests of Pakistan? That’s not peace, that’s appeasement. Or peace with honour?”
For half a century, both Islamabad and New Delhi have unashamedly used Jammu and Kashmir and its people for their narrow political gains. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has been treated by both the Indian and Pakistani states as the “unfinished task” of Partition.
Despite the terms of the accession agreement, the Hindu Maharaja of a Muslim–dominated princely state agreed to cast its lot with secular India. Maharaja Hari Singh himself was against this accession, had to give in to the feelings of his people who were vary of a Pakistan that was uncomfortable with a distinct Kashmiri identity.

Mohamad Ali Jinnah, uncomfortable with the individualist and distinct ethno–cultural nationalist Quit Kashmir movement from the valley had dubbed it “a movement of goondas”. Leave apart full autonomy and plebiscite, assured to the J and K under the instrument of accession, New Delhi has never even trusted and granted to the state and its local leadership with even basic democratic rights. Since 1989, this basic lack of trust has several times been compounded with state-sponsored brutality of the civilian population reaching condemnible proportions (see accompanying story).

“The recent visit of the Pakistan minister to the militant camp is only a confirmation of what they have been advocating more covertly,” Dixit added. In my mind, this also signifies a stepping up of manifest support to the separatist movement. This will lead to even further resistance by the Kashmiri people, in particular, and India, in general, to the designs of Pakistan.”

The Pakistani state’s interest in Kashmir dates back to independence and Partition. The decision of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to accede to secular India defied the foundations of the Pakistan state based on a two–nation theory. Therefore, Pakistan has gone about its business in the region, sponsoring insurgency and violence. But what is far, far more questionable, is the attempt to impose a regimental Wahabi version of Islam on a Valley renowned for its Rishism (Sufism). Schools and madrasas run by the local Jamaat-e-Islami were rigorously used to attempt to transform the unique struggle for Kashmiriyat to visions of life under a Nizam-e-Mustafa (The Order of the Prophet).

The success of ‘Allah’s army’ has been severely limited by the culture and ethos of the region that has defied regimentation into the conventional “Muslim” and “Hindu” bracket. Even today, reactions of ordinary Kashmiris, Hindus and Muslims alike, defies this labelling. Reports of grieving Kashmiri Muslims over the massacres is the most potent proof of this.

Normal life in the Valley was paralysed when a general strike called by the All–Party Hurriyat Conference to protest the killings at Wandhama (KPs) in January proved to be a resounding success. A few days later, Ramzan Eid day, the ghastly massacre was condemned in mosques all over the Valley. Significant gestures by Kashmiri nationalist leaders like Yasin Mallick and Shabbir Ahmed Shah — visiting the sites of the massacres, attending the last rites — have been appreciated by the Jammu-based Kashmiri Pandit community.“Across the board, all persons have condemned the Wandhama and Prankote massacres,” said Yasin Mallick while speaking to CC. Formerly a general of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front( JKLF), he is today is one of the members of the All–Party Hurriyat Conference. “We have demanded that an international agency like Amnesty International be allowed to examine who was responsible for the killings. In our mind, it suits the Indian state as well to communalise the issue. Why was Amnesty refused permission? Why is the Indian government afraid of the truth getting out?”

 Schools and madrasas run by the local Jamaat-e-Islami were rigorously used to attempt to transform the unique struggle for Kashmiriyat to visions of life under a Nizam-e-Mustafa

Rajya Sabha MP and a staunch defendant of the people’s rights, Kuldip Nayar, who has been associated over the years with the region has just returned to New Delhi after visiting Reasi and Wandhama.

“At the local level there is shock, anger and despair in the Muslim survivors. They were the ones who performed the last rites of the victims of Wandhama,” he told CC. “My impression is that militancy has been more or less defeated. Therefore, the ISI–sponsored part of the movement knows it cannot succeed unless it divides the movement communally.”

The gutting of the 600-year-old shrine of Charar-e-Sharief on the road to Yusmarg in the Valley in May 1995 was mourned deeply by the people of the valley. Who was responsible? Pan–Islamic militants callous to the culture of the Valley or the Indian state, equally indifferent to the Valley’s proud and distinctive Kashmiriyat ? Folklore in the Valley even after the loss of Charar–e–Sharif revolves around the stories and songs about the close relationship between Sheikh Noor Adam and a Shaivite woman, Rishi Laleshwari. Is it insignificant that another 14th century shrine, Khanqah at Tral, a small town 39 km south of Srinagar and one more living symbol of the composite, Sufi tradition of the Valley was destroyed by another mysterious fire on December 18, 1997?

Authorities allege that a short–circuit caused the fire. But the Hurriyat leaders blame the authorities saying that the shrine was “set to flames as part of a well–planned conspiracy to demolish the centuries’ old Kashmiri culture and spiritual values of the Valley.” This 700–year–old historic shrine was that of Hazrat Amir–e–Kabir Mir Syed Ali Hamdani in Tral. It housed a mace of the Shahi Ramdan who is considered the founder of Islam in Kashmir.In the midst of state callousness and connivance and militant bestiality, the real ray of hope, for Nayar, is that despite sustained provocation and brutalisation, the people have not allowed themselves to get divided. “No force has yet been able to distort the basic culture of Sufi Islam. I have still the soundest hope that the basic culture of Kashmir will assert itself.”

Admiral Ramdas, former chief of the Indian navy who is today vice president of the India chapter of the PIPFPD, agrees that the movement has got communalised but blames the Indian state for failing to address the political dimensions of the issue. “Communalisation, whether overt or covert is reprehensible and needs to be condemned. The reasons for the brutalisation of the state of Kashmir is not due to the presence of the troops, as much as due to the callous neglect by the Centre which has succeeded in creating a situation warranting deployment of troops,” admiral Ramdas told CC. “This situation has been fully exploited by the Pakistani government and its extended arm, the ISI.”

Nayar, who has recently donated the entire Rs. 1 crore available to his as a MP to widows and orphans of violence in Srinagar, strongly argues for a quick political end to the issue through a three–party negotiated settlement. He also points out that the Indian government, by its intransigent and problematic stances now and in the past, has also contributed to the communalisation of the movement.

An example is the pre–election rhetoric of the NC and the Centre of “return of Pandits to the valley connected to ‘normalcy’ returning”. “Why should we connect the two?” he asks. The Kashmiri wants his rights, not ‘normalcy’ but he also wants his sisters and brothers, the Kashmir Pandits, back. By linking the two, we are asking for too much: for the Kashmiri to give up his legitimate struggle for genuine autonomy!”

Nayar strongly feels that the government of India must honour its commitment under section 370 of the Constitution and go back to the state assembly with all the legislation extended by the Centre to the state, with all the laws implemented after 1952–’53 and leave it to them to decide which they want to keep or abrogate. “Personally, the issue of plebiscite I feel is a far gone one now, 50 years too old and one apt to be converted to a religious pin–pong between two sides. No one can really afford it.”
Will Jammu go to the Kashmir way?

Some among the Kashmiri pandit who had to migrate from the valley earlier are wondering whether they will be forced to move again

Will history repeat itself and will there be another migration? Some residents of Jammu are seriously pondering these questions.The fear is not entirely baseless. And the reasons are more than one. Recently, the circulation of some anonymous letters to a few Kashmiri Pandit families —living in Trikuta Nagar, a posh locality in Jammu city and Dwega Nagar (Bantalab), situated on the outskirts of city — asking them to vacate their houses, has sent shivers down the spines of Pandits re–located here.The recent threats are reminiscent of similar ones received by Kashmiri Pandits in 1989–1990 when each family had received threatening calls, letters and even notices in the local papers asking them to leave the Valley. (The Hizbul Mujahideen’s open threats asking KPs to leave within 48 hours were published in a local Urdu paper, Al Safa). Fearful of their safety then, they had left. Similarly, the once sleepy town of Reasi in Jammu is agog with activity these days as a number of people from villages like Dharmari, Armas etc. in the upper reaches of Udhampur district are migrating to Reasi to escape the wrath of the militants.

The entire hilly belt, spread over 1,000 square kilometres, was rocked by the massacre of 28 persons on the night of April 17 when militants struck in village Prankote. This incident was the first of its kind in the trouble–torn state. When militants had earlier attacked Sangrampura, Wandhama (January 25, 1998 when 20 KP residents were killed) and Gool Gulabgarh earlier this year, the killings had not been so bestial as in Prankote that fateful night. Not a single bullet was fired but the hapless villagers were killed with sharp-edged weapons and even burnt alive. Since this incident, there has been some migration of the Hindus living in that region. Anywhere from 300-1,000 families have already migrated from this belt in the upper reaches of Jammu after the April 17 massacre.

Many of the influential, better-placed Kashmir Pandits, victims of the forced migration from the Valley earlier, see this as one more step in the well–planned strategy of the ISI and other Islamic forces to wipe out the community ethnically from the valley. J.N. Koul, President of All India Kashmiri Samaj (AIKS) who is also the president of SOS Villages of India, feels that what is happening even in the Jammu region now is also part of the Pan–Islamic movement.
“They are planning to wipe out areas of Hindu–domination and thus make a comfortable place for themselves to live”, he says. The KP leaders who gathered at Chandigarh on May 2 to participate in a two–day zonal conference were aware of the fact that anonymous letters had been received by a few KP houses in Jammu. “We know about it but we do not want to publicise it because then it will create a feeling of insecurity among the Hindu community,” said H.N. Jattu, a KP leader. He added that after their organisation has ascertained all the facts, they will be taking the matter up with the Administration. On the question of the return of the KPs to the Valley, however, Jattu remains sceptical. He feels that whenever any concrete step is taken towards the return of the Pandits, some militant–inspired incident occurs.

Does this mean that the people in the Valley do not want them back or that those now in control of the movement are blatantly communalising the issue? The KP leadership is of the belief that the situation has become sharply communalised, a fact manifest in the recent selective massacres. The government, in their opinion, has been shockingly silent, allowing Hindus to become victims to the nefarious designs of Islamic forces.

The Jammu and Kashmir Human Right Commission, which has recently submitted its report to the state government on the Wandhama massacre, had observed that serious security lapses were responsible for the carnage. The JKHRC has also recommended security cover for the Kashmiri Pandits, who live in the Valley. KP migrants settled in Jammu are also being resented by the local Dogras of Jammu who clearly see them as competing for resources and power.

“Even the people of Jammu do not want Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu though we are contributing to Jammu’s economy,” says Jattu. “How do we know that it is not local Jammuites who are responsible for these anonymous threats to KPs asking them to leave their houses? Only after we ascertain the truth of who is behind them will we explore the steps to be taken.”

Panun Kashmir (PK), a Kashmir Pandit organisation that has been consistently demanding a separate homeland for Kashmiri Pandits, long before any militancy was evident in the state, categorically rules out any question of a return of KPs to the Valley. Apart from a separate homeland for KPs in Kashmir, there demands includes statehood for Jammu and Union Territory status for Ladhakh. This organisation has allied itself with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the BJP at the Centre, contributing to the further communalisation of the dialogue.

PK leaders, Dr. Agnishekhar and Dr K.L.Chowdhary say that the question of the Pandits’ return must form part of a board–based discussion with Indian political leaders from every spectrum and thereafter with National Conference leaders. “We need to know whether the Indian nation wants us or not? Does the nation think that our survival is paramount for national interests?” asks Dr Ajay Chrangoo, vice-chairman and head of the political affairs wing of Panun Kashmir. He has represented the community and PK at many human rights conferences abroad.

But the more marginalised Pandits and other Hindus living in camps at Nagrota and Muthi in treacherous conditions, however, are quite critical of their own leadership. These ordinary Pandits who are not part of any organisation and do not identify with the more elitist PK feel strongly that leaders belonging to the All Party Hurriyat Conference and the Kashmiri Pandit community residing in the camps should be invited to discuss the issue together if the issue of their return is to be seriously pursued at all.

For them, the clearcut stand taken by various sections of the leadership in the Valley in unequivocally condemning the massacres offers a ray of hope as do the visits of both Mohammed Yasin Mallick and Shabir Ahmed Shah to the sites of the carnage (even attending the funerals) in Jammu.
The Valley even observed an entirely successful hartal to protest the selective killings and prominent Kashmiri nationalist leaders clearly condemned the actions of the militants.

But for PK and Dr.Chrangoo the fact that it took the Indian government about six months to recognise that an exodus of Pandits had taken place in 1990 is still a sore point. For him and the PK, their migration is still perceived as part of an engineered campaign to displace the Pandits out of the valley. Similar designs may be afoot in Jammu,” he feels.

While speaking to this correspondent, Shailendra Aima, member, working committee of PK and editor of Kashmir Sentinal, a fortnightly published by PK Foundation, revealed that representatives of his organisation were invited for discussions with central and state leaders soon after the Wandhama carnage. The PK demand for a separate homeland for KPs, within Kashmir, was discussed at length and an outcome can be expected soon, he said. He refused to go into the details of the meeting for “it may jeopardise the whole exercise”. Aima did say that he hoped it may bring out some results.

The writer is a Jammu–based journalist.
Whose Kashmir is it anyway?
In May 1998, Communalism Combat, a monthly magazine published from August 1993-November 2012 published a cover story on the state of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir. This article appeared in that edition. Today, much of this also seem relevant.

The starkest lesson of the Kashmir problem hold for those intrested in preserving India's unity is the pressing need to ensure apeople oriented devlopment.

kashmiri Women

First Published on: May 1, 1998

In the three months, Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed two of the worst–ever massacres in the state. The tragic incidents not only cast serious doubt on the ‘return–to–normalcy’ propaganda of the central and state governments, but also give an inkling of the intractable nature of the dispute and its potential to spawn a long-run insurgency.There are several factors contributing to the complex nature of the Kashmir problem that is becoming increasingly intractable. A way out of the stalemate lies in the holding of some kind of talks between all or at least two of the parties to the dispute. But neither India, nor Pakistan, nor the Kashmiris have shown much flexibility in deciding upon the modalities of the dialogue.

One factor that seems to have escaped much of the analysis of the Kashmir issue is that a straight-forward question of class conflict has being given, through militancy, an exclusively anti–Centre and anti–India turn. Kashmiri society is perhaps the most elitist of all in India, with only a miniscule and privileged section keeping a stranglehold on the resources of the state.

It would not be an exaggeration to state that many in the Valley cannot afford to entertain even the wildest hopes of upward mobility. For example, in many a village of the Tangmarg, people drink irrigation water, while the education and medicare systems are in a shambles. But it is not uncommon to find middle–rung government engineers owning palatial houses. The government spent Rs 11 crore on the Winter Games ‘fiasco’ in Gulmarg, which adjoins water–starved Tangmarg.

The consequence over the years of such exploitation has been that a large section has little stake in the stability of Kashmiri society. If, as alleged, ISI agents offer a poor villager a lakh of rupees and a gun to direct his resentment against the Indian State, many with few hopes otherwise of emancipation from poverty are willing to take up the offer.

The starkest lesson the Kashmir problem holds for those interested in preserving India’s unity is the pressing need to ensure a people–oriented development. For too many years the Centre has turned a blind eye to how the Kashmiri elite ran its affairs. Central funds, in fact, became a means to buy the political loyalties of the elite.

The Farooq Abdullah regime cites militancy to secure funds from the Centre but blocks questions or inquiries on how these are disbursed. The National Conference claim of being the ‘only Indians in Kashmir’ is opportunistic and aimed at remaining entrenched in power. It is convenient, periodically, to raise a cry about the dangers of secessionism. The Kashmiri elite is in fact flourishing in a sanitised environment in Srinagar while catastrophic battles take place in the villages. It is they who are victims of violence by the security forces or militants.

Sections of the security forces, too, have developed vested interests in the prevailing anarchy. For many, peace would entail a return to guarding India’s borders in more inhospitable climes. Sections of the army, down to the junior–most rung, are quite drunk with the absolute power they enjoy, a level that not even senior army officers in Delhi would command.The brunt of the people’s resentment welling up from this whole scenario is directed against the security forces who wield their authority with harshness and are the direct oppressors. The resentment against security forces has struck roots far too deep in the psyche, blinding people to all other realities contributing to the starkness of their lives.

For example, the National Conference leaders often talk of ‘the army killing our people’ while obliterating their own record of how they and their ilk have literally sucked the blood of their own people. It must be admitted that the security forces have not helped their cause through sophisticated and targeted action, adopting instead a high–handed attitude of indiscriminately savaging the civil population. A three–day encounter in a south Kashmir village recently destroyed 70 houses and led to 11 deaths. Meanwhile, Srinagar itself continues to be inundated with new–model Maruti 800s. The army’s strength ensures a subdued level of anarchy and this suits the elite fine. The National Conference government’s lack of enthusiasm for any kind of talks stems from the fear that any settlement with the militants may lead to its downfall, given the mass alienation of the people from its style of governance.

Militarily, the Indian army has admitted that it has reached its threshold limit trying to contain militancy. The costs of fighting are heavy. A conservative estimate puts Indian security–related expenditure in Kashmir at Rs. 13,000 crore annually. One common complaint among army officers is that the allied government agencies are not manning services with efficiency, leaving the forces with even such tasks as building bridges, conducting medical camps and repairing roads. A solution to the problem now rests on political, administrative and economic measures, but these have been given little impetus.

Money is coming into the Valley not only from Pakistan but other countries supporting the separatist and the ‘Islamist’ cause. Even as the number of local Kashmiri militants declines, Pakistan finds little trouble in pushing in the foreign insurgents, who come from Afghanistan, Pakistan and even the odd Sudanese. Unlike Punjab, the borders of the Valley are virtually impossible to seal. And, as long as a Pakistan — driven by the vengeance accumulating from Partition, the wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971 that included the loss of East Pakistan — chooses to send in armed groups, violence remains a grim reality.

The latest apprehensions stem from the prospects of reduced levels of conflict in Afghanistan following the ongoing peace talks. Military–trained Afghans freed from the battle there, Indian intelligence sources feel, could be sent into Kashmir, with Taliban elements, partial to the “Pakistan cause” at the forefront. The Kashmiri people have little say in the matter now. It is ironic that a movement that started off for freedom has led to a situation where to day the people have the lowest level of rights and freedom.

(The writer is based in Srinagar)
Invitable logic

The communalisation of the militant movement was a forgone conclusion


For which state in the country is India—Constitutionally speaking — not a “secular” republic? The answer, which is bound to surprise, is Jammu and Kashmir. This particular aspect of the Indian state, as described in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution, doesn’t apply to Jammu and Kashmir, To put it simply, India is not a secular state as far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned.This for a state which inspite of being Muslim–dominated joined the Indian Union assured of its ostensibly secular principles. This, for a state, which during the communal holocaust accompanying Partition remained entirely peaceful making Mahatma Gandhi see a ray of hope in the sub–continent. This for a state which did not see any semblance of communal tension when the Babri Masjid was demolished. Yet today, civil society in Kashmir stands thoroughly polarised and fragmented.

Even though the more gruesome aspects of communalisation have become visible only recently, the communalisation of the militant movement was a foregone conclusion. If anything, what is surprising is that the change in the character of the ethno-nationalist militant movement that started in 1989, took so long to happen. Everybody involved with the politics of Jammu and Kashmir — be it the government of India, the state government, militant organisations, indeed, even the people of Kashmir—has contributed to the communalisation of the movement in the valley. Before we look at the different factors that helped foster this development it might be worthwhile to look at how the entire movement came to become structurally bound towards being communal.

In analysing the growing influence of communal forces within the state, it is important to recognise that the state of Jammu and Kashmir comprises of three distinct regions: the Muslim–dominated valley, the Hindu–dominated Jammu province, and the Buddhist–dominated Ladakh. This cross-classification of geography and religion made the state highly vulnerable to communal tensions.

The only feature that had kept communalism at bay in a state apparently so obviously prone to it was the high level of ethno–nationalist sentiment that prevailed atleast in the Valley. The feeling of ethnicity and imagined nationalism blurred the religious distinctions to a significant extent. During the peak of militancy from 1989 right until 1993 even, there were no community–based killings in Kashmir for the militant movement was almost entirely directed against the Indian State.

But in the need to combat militancy which was threatening the stability of the Indian nation state, different arms of the State machinery, ensured that the distinction between the State and civil society was obliterated and the struggle for self–determination was presented and perceived as a revolt against the Indian (implicitly assumed to be, Hindu) society. The lines were thus drawn by the actions of the state and the first impact was that Kashmiri Pandits, a minority in the Valley, felt insecure and threatened.

That they should have felt so was but natural. But what was of utmost significance was that this sense of insecurity was legitimised by the state government, which at that point of time was controlled by the governor, Jagmohan Malhotra (now a BJP MP). By legitimising the fear of the minority and providing them with logistical support to move en masse out of the Valley, the ethnic movement was communalised almost instantly. The other operational factor that heightened the communalisation of the militant movement was the complete decimation of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, again by the Indian State. Even though the JKLF was fighting for secession, it was avowedly secular in its outlook. The decline in the mass and muscle power of JKLF resulted in the control of the secessionist movement going over from a secular leadership into the hands of Islamist organisations, most notably the Hizbul Mujahideen. Once the (JKLF) loss control of the movement in the Valley, its communalisation was imminent. The fall of JKLF and the consequent rise of the Hizbul Mujahideen was partly related to the fact that the Indian security forces managed to completely eliminate the top rank leaders of the JKLF by 1993 while a similar assault could not be carried out against the Hizbul Mujahideen.Apart from the deliberate acts of the Indian State, the JKLF’s loss of base also had to do with its own ideological failure, thereafter. Bereft of arms, the JKLF was not radically different from any mainstream regional political party, especially the National Conference. Looked at closely, the pristine agenda of the National Conference for autonomy is very close to the concept of azaadi that the JKLF had been propagating. In that sense, it did not envisage a very innovative change in the system.

On the contrary, the Hizbul Mujahideen offered the people of Kashmir a new system based on the principles of Islam — Nizam–e–Mustafa. Without getting into the desirability of such a system, what it offered the people was a change from the existing system that hadn’t delivered. The groundwork for this had already been done through schools set up by the Jamaat–i–Islami in areas where state schools did not exist.

This is turn changed the contours of militant activity which had been confined to the urban part of the Valley. Militant activity shifted to the plains of Doda and Kishtawar (and from thereon to Udhampur) which had a strong presence of other communities, unlike in the Valley where Kashmiri Pandits were in a minuscule minority. And by 1993, they had almost completely left the Valley.

With militancy losing much of its gun power and the writ of the state being re–established, its continuation hold was sought to be ensured through the targeting of the vulnerable minorities in areas outside the Valley like Prankote in Udhampur.

As pointed out earlier, with the activity shifting to the plains, there was a sense of normalcy returning to the Valley. A trickle of Kashmiri Pandits started coming back to the Valley especially those from the rural areas. With the character of the rural area having changed in the last seven years — Sufist Islam (known as Rishism in the Valley) having given way to more regimented and ritualistic and perhaps even more aggressive forms of Islam— the communal element started getting primacy over the ethnic element that had earlier dominated.
This change in the basic feature of Kashmir will take not only time but also an enormous amount of genuine effort backed by political legitimacy to reverse it. This doesn’t seem likely in the short run as the continuation of militancy even in the form of a virulent communalism suits the interests of those who are ruling the state — be it the army or the civil authorities.

(The writer is resident editor, Business Standard, Mumbai).
Who loses in the head-count?
The migration of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley, after they had received threats in the name of Hizbul Mujahideen (published in local papers) in 1989-’90 remains one of the major tragedies of the Kashmiri situation. According to the office of the relief commissioner in Jammu, 28,561 families (about 1.5 lakh people) have registered with them as migrants. Of these families, 25,215, i.e., nearly 89 per cent, are Hindu, 1,468 are Muslim, 1,803 are Sikh and 75 are ‘others.’ Registration entitles the migrants to relief and rehabilitation.However, the state government’s own estimate of total migrants is 60,000 families, that is, close to 3,00,000 people. The camps in and around Jammu city house 90 per cent of the migrants. There are also camps in Udhampur at Kathua. There are still 8-9,000 Kashmiri Pandits living in the Valley in the face of all odds.

One bitter resentment of the migrant is that while each refugee gets only Rs 450 per month upto a maximum of Rs. 1800 per family, a surrendered militant is given as much as Rs. 2,400 per month! Kashmiri nationalist leaders claim that 70,000 innocent Kashmiris and Jammuites have fallen victim to the movement since 1989 (two-thirds due to state violence, the rest through the actions of the militants). Other independent groups put the estimate of the total loss of life closer to 25-30,000. About 60 per cent of the KP migrants — self-employed, small businesspersons and traders — have been the real sufferers. So also 25,000 Kashmiri Muslims, at least, who have also moved out of the state out of fear but do not enjoy any of the monetary benefits offered to state government employees and even medical students of the more affluent KP community.

Thirty-forty per cent of the migrant KP community all over the country has certainly faced the tragedy of being displaced. But medicos of the J and K state government, who draw a salary of Rs.1,500 per month continue their private practice. Many states, among which Maharashtra is one, have reserved seats for (KP) migrants in professional colleges.
State and the valley
COUNTER–INSURGENCY sarkari militant groups patronised by the Army, the Border Security Force(BSF), the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Indo–Tibet Border Police (ITBP) have let loose a reign of terror in the Valley, before and after the elections.Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference made two promises during its election campaign: disarming the sarkari militant raj and restoration of the J and K’s pre–1953 status vis–a–vis New Delhi. Protecting people from the excesses of the armed forces was also implied. But arbitrary acts of the armed forces, appear to have actually increased after the formation of the civilian government.

Why? The decision of the state government to totally renege on its promise, opting instead to ‘regularise’ the sarkari militants by appointing them to the ranks of Special Police Officers or security officers for ministers and VIPs! Some have also been recruited into the SOG (Special Operations Group), also called the Special Task Force (STF) of the J and K police. This action amounts to putting the stamp of law on their illegal deeds. The victims of these sarkari militants have included journalists, lawyers, writers, teachers, human rights’ activists, cadre of the Jamaat–e–Islami and Hurriyat leaders. Ordinary civilians have been subjected to rape and torture.Several gross cases of human rights violation, rape and torture have been documented by several Indian human rights groups. Officers of the Indian army have been indicted in many of these cases. Even today, there are 60,000 army personnel Alongwith the BSF, CRPF, ITBF and the J and K STF, the figure is anywhere in the region of 1-1.5 lakhs