Kashmir Question and Marxism Leninism: (An analysis for debate)”
This booklet deals about the Kashmir question and analyses it from a Marxist Leninist perspective.
We would be soon printing this booklet.
History of Kashmir in Brief
It would not be an academic exercise, if we discuss the History of Kashmir and particularly its political history to understand the current imbroglio.
The mountain state of Kashmir has always been a ‘great game’ territory for the invaders and imperialists since long. This inaccessible yet strategically important region of Asia had always endured a political pressure where it was squeezed between China, Tibet, Russia and the British Raj. Today the state is still squeezed, between India, Pakistan and China, with everyone in the play having a part of it. (see map below)
The principality of Jammu and Kashmir took shape from the mid-1840s when Gulab Singh, a stooge of the emerging East India Company purchased it. A century later it was the biggest by area, and second biggest by population, of all India’s titular princely states that were kept as a show piece of the Raj or as in words of Professor Rushbrook Williams the British spokesman on States’ question who referred to these princely states as friendly fortresses in debatable territory, in 1930.
But the area has a long history.
The poet Kalhana in his epic Rajtarangini chronicled the history of Kashmir from ancient days. The area came under imperial suzerainty in the third century BC during the reign of Ashok, when it became part of the great Ashoka’s Mauryan Empire. The ‘golden period’ of the valley was during the Kushan period, it was the time when art, architecture and learning flourished. Kashmir became an important place on the famed Silk Road.
The region saw raise and fall of several kings and dynasties. During this time elsewhere in the world Islam as political ideology was at its zenith. The first interaction of the region with Muslims happened in form of traders and travelers seeking fortune. Reference to Muslim settlements in Kashmir can be found in Kalhana’s reference to the Turukshahs (Turks) and Marco-Polo’s recordings regarding the employment of the “Saracens” ( a reference to an Arab or Muslim, especially at the time of the Crusades) as butchers by the Hindus.
In 1320, Zulju or Dhu ‘l Qadr Khan invaded Kashmir at the head of a large army. The Mongols plundered and enslaved the people, burnt down buildings and destroyed crops. In the words of Jonraja, “Kashmir presented a pitiful spectacle. Further pitilessly wailed and moaned when father fought his son. Brother separating from his brother lost him for ever…Depopulated, uncultivated, grainless and gramineous, the country of Kashmir” After a stay of eight months, Zulju left the valley through Banihal pass, where he perished along with his prisoners in a heavy snowfall. Famine was the natural consequence of the wholesale destruction of the stores of grain and of standing crops by Zulju’s army. (Asimov, History of Civilizations of Central Asia).
Sufis from Persia and Central Asia also flocked to the region and were instrumental in converting the population to Islam. The early Islamic influence on Kashmir was largely based on Sufism, whose imprints can still be seen in the various facets of life in the region.
The first great Muslim ruler was Shahab-ud-Din who ascended the throne in 1354 and conquered Baltistan, Ladakh, Kishtwar and Jammu. During his reign Islam gained ascendancy and there were large scale conversion of the Hindu and Buddhist population. Though Hinduism survived and the vestiges of bureaucracy remained in the hands of the Brahmins. During the subsequent reign of Bud Shah learning and culture flourished the art of weaving and papier mâché making were introduced during his long reign that lasted from 1420 to 1470.
During all these time the region was witness to, some of the most intriguing politico-social struggle reminiscent of that era. In 1586, the Mughal emperor Akbar sent a military expedition to subjugate and take control of the area following centuries of Hindu, Buddhist and independent rule. The majority of population was converted to Islam though the inaccessible regions like Ladakh and some other parts managed to remained outside the shadow of Islam. So we see that the earliest interaction with Islam happened much before the coming of Mughal and Afghans hence the Islam practised in Kashmir had different characteristics than the Islamic ideology followed by the latter.
For instance, Gilgit-Baltistan was ruled by many local rulers amongst them Maopons of Skardu and Rajas of Hunza were famous. The Maqpons of Skardu unfied Gilgit Baltistan with Chitral, Ladakh especially in the era of Ali Sher Khan Anchan who had a friendly relation with Mughal court. Ali Sher Khan who was follower of Noorbakshia Islam had united Baltistan and expanded its frontiers to Ladakh and western Tibet in the east, and in the west to the borders of Ghizar and Chitral. Noorbakshia Islam which was a variant of Sufi form of Islam found widespread following in the mountainous region.
The Mughal rule has been described in the book Kashmir in Conflict India, Pakistan and the Unending War, by Victoria Schofield in the following words:
Akbar, adopted a policy of conciliation and entered into marriage alliances with the Kashmiri nobility. His rule, both throughout India and in the valley, was known for its liberalism. Of all the rulers of Kashmir, Akbar’s son and successor, Jehangir, who ascended the throne in 1605, is perhaps best remembered for his love of the valley. During his reign Jehangir beautified Kashmir with over 700 gardens. On his deathbed, he was reportedly asked if there was anything he wanted, to which he replied: ‘Nothing but Kashmir.’ His son, Shah Jehan, who succeeded him in 1624, also loved Kashmir and the valley became a popular place of refuge for the Mughal nobility away from the plains of India during the hot summers.
The rule of Aurangzeb witnessed a period of great religious prosecution for Hindus and the Shias, as a result his reign saw brutal tarnishing of them, which by early 18th century was manifested in Hindus migrating from the valley. Though another theory says that the migration was on account of Hindu Brahmin’s greater interaction with outside world and thus for greener pasture. Whatever the reason may be, but Hindu exodus on large scale did take place.
By the mid-18th Century the great Mughal empire had started witnessing the downward spiral, during this time that the Afghan invader Ahmand Shah Durrani who was on his looting and invading spree of India was invited by Shah Nawaz Khan, to also invade the provinces of Multan, Lahore and Kashmir. He also extended his cooperation in this activity in return of being declared governor of Lahore.
In 1752, Durani seized Kashmir from the weakened Mughals, whose 166-year hold on this region roughly 450 miles from Kabul had been reduced by Nadir Shah’s destructive efforts in Delhi in 1739 and by the loss of territory west of the Indus River to him. Kashmiris had long enjoyed, or endured, trade, cultural and occasional political links with people who lived in eastern areas of what later came to be called Afghanistan. However, compared with the Kashmir Loving Mughals, Durrani and his lieutenants proved to be unenlightened rulers of Kashmir. (Christopher Snedden, Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris, Oxford University Press).
The Afghan rule was an era of extreme cruelty particularly towards the Hindus. The rulers were only interested in extortion of money from the people and the ordinary masses lived in fear of their life and limb. Several of the local population were captured and sent to Afghanistan as slaves. The reign also witnessed the complete collapse of the local economic enterprises that had attained a great level over the period of several centuries. Due to heavy tax regime the shawl industry fell in depression and declined. From 40,000 shawl looms during the Mughal Empire it was reduced to only 16,000. It only saw a revival during the British time owing to increasing demand for Kashmiri Shawls in European market, something that persists till today. Yet the Kashmiri Pandits even then were found to be useful in administrative services, and the Afghans used their expertise with impunity.
The rule of Afghans was ended by the Sikh empire. In 1819 Ranjit Singh was able to take Kashmir. But the Sikh rule brought nothing new in the life of ordinary man. In fact the Sikh rule was equally if not more ruthless than the Afghans and the Sikhs proved to be equally unenlightened rulers who bleed the territory dry with their incessant demand of taxes. The ordinary masses were grinding under the yoke of barbarianism and feudal oppression. Ranjit Singh never visited the valley of Kashmir.
The Hindu assertion over Muslims was demonstrable during this time, for instance cow slaughter was made a crime that was punishable by death. The account from various travellers portrays a picture of starvation, deprivation and oppression that was hallmark of Oriental Despotism. The rulers unlike those of the past were not at all interested in developing and promoting the art and craft, but on the other hand they were only interested in finding ways of extorting more taxes.
During this time due to increasing impact of imperialism the region’s centuries of isolation ended as a result we have several accounts of travelers and other Europeans. English explore William Moorcroft provides crucial insight into the condition of the people in the early years of Sikh rule. He wrote about the perceptible decline in the public work under the Sikh regime and also the Islamic ruler’s penchant of destroying Hindu temples during their rule. He wrote
“These canals are, in general faced with stone, derived frequently from the ruins of Hindu temples, the sculpture on which is turned inwards… They are crossed in various parts by wooden bridges, and upon the whole afford evidence of the munificence and public spirit of the ancient princes of Kashmir. When properly taken care of, and filled with running water, they no doubt contribute to the salubrity, as well as to the cleanliness of the city ; but their general condition is now that of decay, and they render the town neither cleanly nor salubrious.”
In 1831 French botanist Victor Jacquemont, arrived in the Kashmir valley. On the condition of Srinagar, he wrote, was the ‘most miserable in the world . . . nowhere else in India are the masses as poor and denuded as they are in Kashmir.’
It was a period of general decline for the region. Kashmir was witnessing an acute economic and social decay. Moorcroft depicts the decadent situation succinctly. He wrote;
“The general character of the city of Kashmir is that of a confused mass of ill-favoured buildings, forming a complicated labyrinth of narrow and dirty lanes, scarcely broad enough for a single cart to pass, badly paved, and having a small gutter in the centre full of filth, banked up on each side by a border of mire. The houses are in general two or three stories high ; they are built of unburnt bricks and timber, the former serving for little else than to fill up the interstices of the latter; they are not plastered, are badly constructed, and are mostly in a neglected and ruinous condition, with broken doors, or no doors at all, with shattered lattices, windows stopped up with boards, paper, or rags, walls out of the perpendicular, and pitched roofs threatening to fall. The roofs are formed of layers of birch bark covered by a coating of earth, in which seeds dropped by birds, or wafted by the wind, have vegetated, and they are constantly overrun with grass, flowers, and seeds. The houses of the better class are commonly detached, and surrounded by a wall and gardens, the latter of which often communicate with a canal: the condition of the gardens is no better than that of the building, and the whole presents a striking picture of wretchedness and decay.”
Another traveler Godfrey Vigne, wrote:
‘Not a day passed whilst I was on the path to Kashmir, and even when travelling in the valley, that I did not see the bleached remains of some unfortunate wretch who had fallen a victim either to sickness or starvation.’
The brazen condition that was termed as Oriental Despotism by Marx; was portrayed graphically by Moorcroft. The description provided, quells every myth of glory of Indian (and Muslim) rulers assiduously presented by the right wing propaganda and it also helps the student of Marxism who have doubt on Marx’s brilliant formulation about Oriental Despotism and Asiatic Mode. Let us see what Moorcroft witnessed; on the general condition of the society that was due to centuries of oppression and loot in decline and decadence, he writes;
“There are no public buildings in the city of Kashmir entitled to notice for their architectural or antiquarian merits. The oldest building is the tomb of the mother of Zein-ul-abaddin, who reigned in the middle of the fifteenth century, and who is said to have made use of a more ancient Hindu temple for the purpose.”
On the virtual loot in name of taxation by the government he further states that
“Everywhere the people were in the most abject condition, exorbitantly taxed by the Sikh Government and subjected to every kind of extortion and oppression by its officers. The consequences of this system are the gradual depopulation of the country. Not more than about one-sixteenth of the cultivable surface is in cultivation, and the inhabitants starving at home, are driven in great numbers to the Plains of Hindustan. In like manner the people of the city are rapidly thinning, though less from emigration, than poverty and disease: the prevalence of the latter in its most aggravated forms was fearfully extensive.”
In the regime…
“every trade is taxed, butchers, bakers, boatmen, vendors of fuel, public notaries, scavengers, prostitutes, all pay a sort of corporation tax, and even the Kotwal, or chief officer of justice, pays a large gratuity of thirty thousand rupees a year for his appointment, being left to reimburse himself as he may.”
For the farmers the tax was backbreaking with the regime expropriating as high as seven-eighths of the produce.
The Dogra Rule
In 1846, under the terms of the Treaty of Amritsar, the British sold the valley of Kashmir to a Hindu Dogra ruler, Gulab Singh. As ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, he was at last able to include Kashmir, apart from other regions like Jammu, Ladakh, Baltistan and numerous smaller hill states, thus increasing significantly the size and population of his titular state. For first time in modern history people of different linguistic, religious and cultural traditions were brought under the jurisdiction of one ruler though the British imperial power wielded significant power and was the bulwark on which this “kingdom” survived. The inclusion of the predominantly Muslim, and more densely populated, Valley of Kashmir meant that Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists were in the minority. This altered the demographic profile of the Dogra kingdom forever.
Though due to their subservience to first the East India and then to the British imperialists, the Gulab Singh dynasty survived, and even became one of the staunchest ally of the Raj. To the extent that during the 1857 war of independence, the state of Jammu and Kashmir, under the joint reign of ailing Gulab Singh and his son, Ranbir, whole heartedly supported to British appeals for help. While their subject languished in poverty, the rulers sent a large amount of money to the Company that was used to pay the salary for the troops stationed in Punjab whose pay was in arrears. The Maharaja Ranbir Singh had ordered his troops to forbid the rebels to seek asylum in Kashmir. Those who did were immediately arrested, and handed over to the British. Knowing fully well the treatment that the British had for the rebels.
Frederick Engels, who watched events closely vividly, commented after the fall of the City of Lucknow to the United Kingdom-
‘The fact is, there is no army in Europe or America with so much brutality as the British. Plundering, violence, massacre — things that everywhere else are strictly and completely banished — are a time-honored privilege, a vested right of the British soldier. The infamies committed for days together, after the storming of Badajos and San Sebastian, in the Peninsular war, are without a parallel in the annals of any other nation since the beginning of the French Revolution; and the medieval usage, proscribed everywhere else, of giving up to plunder a town taken by assault, is still the rule with the British. At Delhi imperious military considerations enforced an exception; but the army, though bought off by extra pay, grumbled, and now at Lucknow they have made up for what they missed at Delhi. For twelve-days and nights there was no British army at Lucknow – nothing but a lawless, drunken, brutal rabble, dissolved into bands of robbers, far more lawless, violent and greedy than the Sepoys who had just been driven out of the place. The sack of Lucknow in 1858 will remain an everlasting disgrace to the British military service.'(Frederick Engels; Details of the Attack on Lucknow)
On the other hand, the Kingdom provided shelter in the valley to English women and children, seeking refuge from the plains. Most importantly, to show their continuing the Dogras agreed to send a Kashmiri force to assist the British in the siege of Delhi, although the British never had absoluted faith on the maharaja and had continuing doubts about their loyalty to the company rule. They kept the soldiers inactive for several months and only after Gulab Singh’s death in August 1857, was the force allowed to depart.
After the rebellion was quenched and India came under direct rule of crown, Queen Victoria conferred on Maharaja Ranbir Singh the title of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India and his gun-salute was raised from ?? to ??. Ranbir proved to be more popular –and less formidable – than his father, however, there was no improvement in the conditions for the people. The country remained in the hands of officials mostly the Kashmiri Pandits, who were neither motivated nor intellectually capable to undertake any reforms or help grow the economy in modern sense. Overall the country remained a backward feudal economy that was in state of stagnation/exploitation, dependent on archaic technology, and witnessing a social backwardness, and the minority of ruling class was interested in protecting and promoting the interests of the Raj (Dogras) and its collaborators (comprising mostly of Pandits and Punjabis) than with advancing the welfare of the general masses (refer to P. N. Bazaz, The History of Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir (Srinagar: Gulshan Publishers and Exporters,2003), pp. 91-2).
The ruling family were Dogri-speaking Hindus from Jammu – in other words, outsiders in the eyes of many Kashmiris – who managed to agglomerate, though never quite bind together, a huge area stretching north from the Punjab plains, through valleys in the Himalayan foothills, to some of the high mountain ranges. The Kashmir Valley was the heartland of their fiefdom, though it accounted for well under half of the princely state’s total population and less than a tenth of the land area. It was the center of the Kashmiri language and culture and of a tolerant Sufi-influenced form of Islam, the religion of more than ninety per cent of the Valley’s population. The maharajas were, by and large, wealthy, sporting Anglophiles. They presided over an autocracy where the Muslim majority was disadvantaged, facing heavy taxes and other feudal-style impositions and with little prospect of education or advancement.
The state remained a hotbed of feudal despotism and backwardness till the middle of the 20th century when it suddenly became an international issue following the truncation of British India into the dominion of Pakistan and India. Since then the state has been an area of imperialist machinations be it during the cold war or after.
Jammu and Kashmir during the British Era and after
When, a century later, the sub-continent was partitioned at independence in 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh, Gulab Singh’s great-grandson, could not decide whether to join the new dominion of Pakistan or India. For over two months, his state remained ‘independent’. In October, after large numbers of tribesmen from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier invaded the state, he finally agreed to join India. His decision was immediately contested by Pakistan on the basis of the state’s majority Muslim population. War between India and Pakistan was finally halted in 1948 by a ceasefire supervised by the United Nations.
At the time of transfer of power, Jammu and Kashmir was one of the most backward region in the entire sub-continent.
Economic profile of the state of Jammu and Kashmir on the eve of India’s Independence was extremely distressing. The economy was in an underdeveloped condition– characterized by the lowest per-capita income and consumption-level amongst the states of the Indian subcontinent. Mortality rate was high and literacy rate was low. The major explanation for economic stagnation was the denial of state support to industry and agriculture, and the lack of investments on social infrastructure such as education and health services. It is pertinent to mention here that the state’s support to agriculture and industry is indispensable during a country’s early stages of development.
In 1947, at the time of the birth of India and Pakistan, the state of Jammu and Kashmir with a population of four million people, most of it concentrated in the fertile valley of the Jhelum River of the Indus River system, was one of the least developed regions in the Indian subcontinent . The economy of the state was overwhelmingly rural and agricultural in character. Nearly 90% of people lived in villages and derived their livelihood from agricultural and related pursuits using traditional and low productivity techniques. The extreme backwardness of the state was reflected by the abysmal mass poverty, deprivation, hunger, disease and ignorance . The electricity generation capacity was less than 5MW, communications were poorly developed in most parts of the state and the average life expectancy was only about 27 years. (R. C. Bhargava “Economic Background” in Baghwan Sahay (ed.), Jammu and Kashmir, 1969 Guide(Srinagar: Universal publications, 1969))
But in view of the archaic agrarian structure, the agriculturalists and the agricultural workers in Kashmir were not having a fair deal as they had to carry on their shoulders the burden of absentee landlordism. In 1921, the Census Report noted: It would be observed that out of every 10,000 persons 8,173, i, e about 82 per cent, are dependent on the exploitation of animals and vegetation. Or more properly speaking on pasture or agriculture…. Of the agricultural population more than 98 per cent are ordinary cultivators, 1.4 per cent are supported by the raising of farm stock, while the aggregate share of growers of special products and forestry does not exceed .4 per cent. 1,160 persons out of every 10,000, or 11 per cent of the population, were employed in industries of different kinds, the more notable among them being the industries of dress and toilet (30.4 per cent), textiles (23.1 per cent), wood (12.2 per cent), food industries (8 per cent), metals(6.4 per cent) and ceramic (6.1 per cent). For every 10,000 persons only 86 derive their livelihood from transport, which does not come up to 1 percent of the total population … Only 3.3 per cent of the total population follow the calling of trade… Public force absorbs. 7 per cent of the population (Army 59 per cent, police 41 percent), while the corresponding share of public Administration works out at 1.08 per cent.
“Azad” Kashmir or Pak Occupied Kashmir?
In October 2005, a massive earthquake of 7.6 magnitude hit the area called as Azad Kashmir (or Azad Jammu and Kashmir, AJK) termed as Pak Occupied Kashmir (PoK) by India, causing massive devastation in terms of both life and property. It was the first time when outside world took cognisance of the area. The facts emanating from the region painted a horrid picture of under development, poverty and isolation. A report by Human Rights Watch mentioned, that this territory has been used by Pakistan-backed militant groups as a staging ground for attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.
Very little is known about Azad Kashmir, other than that the territory has been under virtual Pakistani control though its international status is unclear. Technically the territory that is of 5,134 square miles (13,297 square kilometres) in size is neither a sovereign state nor a province of Pakistan, it but is a “local authority”. Even the UN has not defined the status of this area. UNSC resolution states: “Pending a final solution, the territory evacuated by the Pakistani troops will be administered by the local authorities under the surveillance of the Commission…”
Subsequently, the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) implicitly recognised the de-facto position of the Azad Kashmir government. On September 2, 1948, Josef Korbel, a member of the United Nations Commission on India and Pakistan, during his meeting with Pakistan representative said: “By ‘local authority’ we mean the Azad Kashmir people, though we cannot grant recognition to the Azad Kashmir government.” Apart from these remarks, there has been no reference on the status of AJK in subsequent UNSC debates.
Pakistan has declared that Kashmir’s future must be determined in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiris, but in reality it has been doing the opposite. In AJK the Pakistani military and ISI dominated every aspect of the people’s life. The area has been used for Pakistan’s economic activity and is today a virtually an area for expropriation and exploitation of resources of Pakistani bourgeoisies. According to the AJK government website the Rural to Urban ratio is 88:12, clearly indicating the backwardness of the area even after 70 years of “azaadi”. AJK today remains one of the closed area of the world with no foreign access or functioning independent media. Hence it requires some analysis. In the extant texts that have been churned in India and Pakistan both in mainstream media and the communist literature, the authors of this document were appalled to see negligible to no mention of Azad Kashmir neither about the areas economic development nor that of the democratic aspiration of the people. Hence we decided to devote a separate part on Azad Kashmir.
In next few paragraphs, the readers will allow us, to quote relevant paragraphs from the Human Rights Watch report titled “With Friends Like These…” published aftermath of earthquake, to understand the de-facto, de jure and the ground status of this territory.
Azad Kashmir was one of the most closed territories in the world. While Jammu and Kashmir state had known considerable tourist traffic prior to the beginning of the insurgency there, the areas of Kashmir on the other side of the LoC had seen little external interest or presence after the end of the British colonial era in 1947-a situation used by Pakistan to exercise absolute control over the territory.
In the first seventy-two hours after the earthquake, thousands of Pakistani troops stationed in Azad Kashmir prioritized the evacuation of their own personnel over providing relief to desperate civilians.
Azad Kashmir is a legal anomaly. According to United Nations (U.N.) resolutions dating back to 1948, Azad Kashmir is neither a sovereign state nor a province of Pakistan, but rather a “local authority” with responsibility over the area assigned to it under a 1949 ceasefire agreement with India. It has remained in this state of legal limbo since that time. In practice, the Pakistani government in Islamabad, the Pakistani army and the Pakistani intelligence services (Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI) control all aspects of political life in Azad Kashmir-though “Azad” means “free,” the residents of Azad Kashmir are anything but. Azad Kashmir is a land of strict curbs on political pluralism, freedom of expression, and freedom of association; a muzzled press; banned books; arbitrary arrest and detention and torture at the hands of the Pakistani military and the police; and discrimination against refugees from Jammu and Kashmir state. Singled out are Kashmiri nationalists who do not support the idea of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. Anyone who wants to take part in public life has to sign a pledge of loyalty to Pakistan, while anyone who publicly supports or works for an independent Kashmir is persecuted. For those expressing independent or unpopular political views, there is a pervasive fear of Pakistani military and intelligence services-and of militant organizations acting at their behest or independently.
Human Rights Watch has previously reported that torture is routinely used in Pakistan, and that acts of torture by military agencies primarily serve the purpose of “punishing” errant politicians, political activists and journalists. Azad Kashmir is no exception. Though torture is not commonplace, it is threatened often, and-when perpetrated by the military-is carried out with impunity.
Tight controls on freedom of expression have been a hallmark of the Pakistani government’s policy in Azad Kashmir and are also documented in this report. This control is highly selective. Pakistani-backed militant organizations promoting the incorporation of Jammu and Kashmir state into Pakistan have had free rein- particularly from 1989 when the insurgency began to 2001-to propagate views and disseminate literature; by contrast, groups promoting an independent Kashmir find promoting their views sharply curtailed. But frequent official repression of freedom of expression and assembly is not limited to controls and censorship specific to Kashmiri nationalists, journalists and election cycles. This repression can also be violent and very publicly so. For example, Pakistani police usedlahtis (canes) and rifle butts to break up a peaceful demonstration in Muzaffarabad on November 11, 2005, by approximately two hundred earthquake survivors protesting eviction from their makeshift camp. Several protestors, including children, were injured as a result of police efforts to break up the demonstration.
Pakistani-backed militant organizations promoting the incorporation of Jammu and Kashmir state into Pakistan have had free rein- particularly from 1989 when the insurgency began to 2001-to propagate views and disseminate literature; by contrast, groups promoting an independent Kashmir find promoting their views sharply curtailed. But frequent official repression of freedom of expression and assembly is not limited to controls and censorship specific to Kashmiri nationalists, journalists and election cycles. This repression can also be violent and very publicly so. For example, Pakistani police usedlahtis (canes) and rifle butts to break up a peaceful demonstration in Muzaffarabad on November 11, 2005, by approximately two hundred earthquake survivors protesting eviction from their makeshift camp. Several protestors, including children, were injured as a result of police efforts to break up the demonstration.
Virtually all independent commentators, journalists, as well as former and serving militants, Pakistani military officers and Pakistan-backed Azad Kashmir politicians speaking off-the-record told Human Rights Watch that there was continuing militant infiltration from Azad Kashmir into Jammu and Kashmir state, but were not willing to be quoted for fear of reprisal from the ISI. Most of those interviewed were of the view that though the level of infiltration had decreased substantially since 2004 (a brief spike in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake notwithstanding), there have been no indications that the Pakistani military or militant groups had decided to abandon infiltration as policy.
The report is replete with evidences and instances of Pakistan’s stranglehold over every aspect of AJK life.
The present government structure came into being as a result of the declaration of 24 October 1947. At that time another claim for a separate independent Kashmir was made on 4 October 1947 by the name of “Republic of Kashmir”, the evidence of which can be seen on the print and electronic media of the time. When the UN established a cease fire, the area under the control of Pakistani abated raiders established a government called the Azad Kashmir on 24 October 1947. Rules of business were framed in order to run the administration of the territory. The courts and legal codes were formulated in 1948 for running the judicial administration. Some laws that were prevalent in the former Jammu and Kashmir State kept.
In 1952, the rules of business were revised in which limited system of administration as well as the legislation were provided. The rules of business were revised on several occasions between 1947 and 1960. From 1947 to 1960, the person holding the confidence of the working committee of the Muslim Conference was nominated as the president of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Initially for sometimes, there was office of Supreme Head also existed who approved the legislation for Azad Jammu and Kashmir, this office was abolished in 1952 and, from then the President became the executive head, assisted by council of ministers.
In another change of governance in 1960, the President was elected through the “votes of basic democrats” with another body known as “Azad Jammu and Kashmir State Council.” Interestingly this system of basic democracy was introduced by none other than the military dictator of Pakistan General Ayyub Khan. In 1970 a major constitutional amendments were implemented leading to the system of adult franchise and a semi-democratic setup was introduced through Azad Jammu and Kashmir Act, 1970.
For the first time, Azad Jammu and Kashmir Act, 1970 promulgated a system of elected Legislative Assembly as well as President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of adult franchise. The people of AJK, and the refugees of Jammu and Kashmir settled in Pakistan, were given the right to vote. The territory saw the presidential system of government for about four years when, in 1974, the parliamentary system was formulated under the AJ&K Interim Constitution Act, 1974. Since then this constitution is still remains interim. In 1974, the Assembly comprised of 40 members, elected on the basis of adult franchise with two seats reserved for women. Today there are 41 directly elected members (29 from Azad Kashmir and 12 from refugees settled in Pakistan), 8 members are indirectly elected of which 5 are women, one member from religious scholars, and one is technocrats and other professionals and one representing the overseas Kashmiris. The Prime Minister is elected by the members of Legislative Assembly and acts as the chief executive while the President is the constitutional head.
The Azad Kashmir Assembly which is the de-facto legislature is subservient to the Pakistani Prime minister led Azad Kashmir Council that wields the real power. Azad Kashmir Council has been called as the “supra power” by the Azad Kashmir High Court. Even The AJK Prime Minister can be dismissed by Pakistani Minister of Kashmir Affairs or the Chief Secretary who is appointed by Pakistani Government. The Chief Secretary is like the old regent who were deputed by the British Government in the princely states during the Raj.
Kashmir Council, that is headed by the chief executive of Pakistan is more powerful institution and has power to surpasses and overrule the decision of the legislative assembly and even the executive and constitutional powers of both the Prime Minister and President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Out of 56 subjects of the 1974 Interim Act, “Kashmir Council” headed by Chief Executive of Pakistan deals with 52 subjects and it has both the legislative and executive powers. Irony of the fate is that majority of Kashmir Council members are not elected by people of AJK directly or indirectly and they are not Kashmiri nationals as well.
After the 1974 interim Act, political parties of Pakistan were given free hand in expanding their operations to AJK and political rivalry of Pakistani politics came in AJK as well. Hence the polity of AJK far from being that of an independent territory is mirror of that of Pakistan. All the political parties of AJK are those from Pakistan and hence answerable to their party heads in Pakistan instead of people in AJK. In fact most of the politicians of the PoK are nothing but head of their own clan and tribe, from whom they derive their political standing, in a way the extension of the Pakistani parties have only furthered and strengthened the medieval tribal relationship than fostering any genuine democratic institution. Because of the nature of the constitutional restrains imposed in 1974 interim Act, it became virtually impossible for any local Kashmiri party to function, leading to either their decimation or complete marginalisation. For instance the Section 4(7) (2) of the interim constitution of AJK states– “No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan”.
Every important post of the territory is nominated from Pakistan with the ISI and the Pakistan army controlling the machinery. The judiciary of the territory is subservient to the Islamabad with the AJK judiciary having no real control.
The freedom of expression as well as freedom of political association is brutally suppressed. The harshness is more severe in case of groups or individuals who attempt to propagate the independent nationalist line is severely curbed with arrest and detention. AJK does not have any independent newspaper neither does it have independent Radio or T.V, before the earthquake even the mobile and telephones were controlled and tightly monitored by the Army. In fact Pakistan has worked on the premise of selective control on the freedom of expression. The militant groups that have been advocating the merger of J&K into Pakistan are not only promoted but also helped materially and financially. But any expression that has nationalistic strand is curtailed and nipped in the bud. Trorture is regulary invoked by the ISI, Pak Army and by the AJK police – who are nothing but an extension of ISI and the Army against errand politicians and activists who are found not toeing the official line of Pak on Kashmir, or who advocate independence of Jammu & Kashmir. In fact every official and legislature has to sign an official document stating that Kashmir would become an integral part of Pakistan (Kashmir banega Pakistan).
The oath of the AJK’s President and Prime Minister reads: “As President/Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, I will be loyal to the country (Pakistan) and the cause of accession of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan” While Loyalty to Pakistan is mentioned but the President or Prime Minister has no loyalty towards their own territory or people. In fact the entire legal structure of this territory is nothing but caricature and mockery of an independent state and polity. It has made this territory a virtual colony akin to the princely states of the Raj or like the Bantustans that were created by the apartheid era South African government.
The Human Right Watch report mentioned that, “Azad Kashmir’s political party landscape, since the early 1990s real decision-making authority and the management of the “Kashmir struggle” has rested firmly with the Pakistani military through the ISI and ISI-backed militant organizations”
The status of AJK shows the real intention of Pakistani establishment, that though on all international arena has declared that it will abide by the decision of the people, but in reality its intention is to only merge the territory into its own sovereignty.
The intention to discuss the status of this territory was to bring to light and counter the Pakistani claim that it stands for the self determination of the Kashmiri people, something that it has been able to get support at least in some quarter of the west. Even several Leftist parties and intellectuals in the West have at some time supported Pakistan and its intention of supporting the Kashmir struggle. In reality just like India Pakistan is also only interested in gobbling this piece of land. Whereas India has maintained that the state to be its integral part Pakistan has adopted a more diplomatic and complex stance that also needs to be exposed and criticised.
1987 elections and the emergence of Islamic militancy
It would not be out of place to detail the emergence of the militant groups in Kashmir particularly the change of character since 1990.
In 1987, the election to the Jammu and Kashmir assembly were held. The radical anti-establishment leadership that had emerged during the 1970s and the 1980s was poised to win these elections on the massive anti-incumbency against the National Conference government that was seen to be inefficient, corrupt and had capitulated to Delhi for being in power. The anti-establishment parties formed an umbrella organisation led by Jamaat-e-Islami (of Kashmir) called the Muslim United Front (MUF). The MUF consisted of the socio-political and religious organizations who wanted to resolve the dispute by peaceful means and hence participated in the elections. These groups wanted the Kashmir dispute to be solved through talks and as per the UN mandate.
However in the turn of events, whose fault should only be attributed to the then Rajiv Gandhi’s diplomatic and political incompetency, the elections were massively rigged in favour of Nation Conference, something that was acknowledged by both the national and international media. What was unimaginable was that not only the Indian state massively rigged the electoral results it perpetuated a wide scale violence against the MUF. The Muslim United Front (MUF) polling agents were thrown out of booths and beaten up leading them to take up arms against the Indian state and crossing over to PoK. The leaders of the Front like Mohammad Yousuf Shah and others were falsely imprisoned. The act of India and particularly that of Rajiv Gandhi can only be termed as brazen, careless and one of acute diplomatic fiasco. The arrest of Shah, gave opportunity to the hard core Islamists like Syed Salahuddin, the chief of the Hizb-ul-Mujahedin to tighten his grip on the movement and lead it directly to the arms of ISI and Pakistani military establishment. Salahuddin was the chief of United Jihad Council that was formed in the PoK by ISI.
The youths who till then had demonstrated faith on the election system witnessing the violent face of the Indian Government, soon fell out of all the “democratic” framework for dispute resolution. The crossed over to Pakistan to take up arms against the India, an act that the Indian establishment had pushed them to take.
The events of 1987 are itself a testimony of how India was itself responsible for the current impasse and how it closed all the doors for the Kashmiris, forcing them in the arms of ever prying Pakistan, who had still not come in terms with the events of 1965. Then, thinking that the Muslims of Kashmir would raise in unison with it, it had sent several hundreds of military and paramilitary personnel masquerading as civilians into Kashmir to generate an uprising. However, the ploy was foiled by the people themselves who turned against the Pakistani aggressors and handed them over to India. However, after 1987, things changed forever. The Kashmiris who had remained loyal to India were pushed to the walls and into the arm of Pakistan. The idea of Kashmiri self-determination was buried forever and all those who dreamt of independence were either side-lined, jailed or killed both by India and by Pakistan.
After 1987 and particularly after 1989 when the India started its violent clampdown on the protestor, the political situation in Azad Kashmir, transformed rapidly, as the India’s violent clampdown on the nascent militant movement intensified in Jammu and Kashmir. The situation worsened and a stream of Kashmiris particularly from the Valley began to cross into the territory. The government of Pakistan and the Azad Kashmir authorities welcomed these refugees with much fanfare at the time for the propaganda value of hosting the refugees was of immense diplomatic hype. Pakistan for the first time was able to show case the international community, about the seriousness of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and thereby augmenting its stance that Indian control over Kashmir was not only illegitimate under international law but also despised by those living under it. The refugees from the Indian Kashmir was a major diplomatic victory and their arrival underlined the fact that the Kashmir question is far from being resolved. Many of those who crossed over to AJK were fleeing persecution from the Indian security agencies.
However, large sections of those were the Kashmiri nationalists who had taken up arms against the Indian state for Independence of the entire J&K. During this time of the Kashmiri rebellion against Indian control, the indigenous Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) that wanted independence for the territory remained the engine of the Kashmiri nationalist movement and in control of the movement. This movement was a genuine movement for liberation and was a nationality struggle for self-determination led by the progressive section of the Kashmiri bourgeoisies
These militants majority of them being from JKLF who crossed over to Azad Kashmir in the 1989-91 period were entirely different from those who have spearheaded the insurgency against the Indian state from the mid-1990s onwards. Both in their ideological view and even in interpretation of Kashmiriat while the JKLF was a secular national liberation movement strongly grounded in Kashmir, and was overwhelmingly Kashmiris from the central valley, many from Srinagar.
The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) originated from the Jammu and Kashmir National Liberation Front (JKNLF) and the Plebiscite Front. The Plebiscite Front or rather the forum it is said was launched at the behest of the late Sheikh Abdullah, at a time when he was at loggerheads with India’s Union Government. Though Sheikh never joined the front which was managed by his long term comrade in arms Mirza Mohammad Afzal Beg. The Front according to the former Chief Minister of Kashmir Syed Mir Qasim, called for a plebiscite or referendum to be held under the auspices of the United Nations, to decide the issue of sovereignty over Jammu and Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah’s demand for a plebiscite led to the boycotting of state elections in the 1960s by large numbers of the state’s population. After the Sheikh-Indira Accord was signed, militant, pro-independence elements within the Plebiscite Front walked out to continue the movement to secede from India.
In the Seventies and early Eighties, the JKLF mostly operated from London and PoK, with Amanullah Khan and Hashim Qureshi directing from London and Farooq Haider and Mohammed Muzzafar from PoK. The activities were confined to propagating the third cause i.e that of a plebiscite in J&K and mobilising international support for this objective.
Even before the inception of JKLF, its leaders under various other banners had indulged in violent activities. The most famous instance being the hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft ‘Ganga’ in 1971; Altaf and Hashim Qureshi, two prominent leaders, hijacked the plane. Maqbul Butt, one of the co-founders of the outfit and who had in December 1968 escaped from an Indian jail, was reportedly involved in planning the hijacking. In 1976, Butt returned to India, only to be arrested the same year. In 1980, he was sentenced to death for killing a police officer in 1968. The sentence was, however, kept in abeyance. On February 3, 1984, according to the official JKLF communique, “some JKLF enthusiastic activists who without approval, and even knowledge of their leadership, kidnapped Indian Deputy High Commission in Birmingham”, Ravindra Mahtre, and demanded Butt’s release. The demand was turned down by India and Mahtre was killed on February 6. As a retaliation the death sentence against Butt was revived and he was hanged on February 11. The abductors of Mahtre, who were JKLF members had floated the Kashmir Liberation Army to carry out the act. The hanging of Butt was seen as retaliation by the government; that further led to the alienation of the Kashmiri youths against India. After the rigged elections of 1987, JKLF got a new life when, several youth crossed the LoC and received arms training. Simultaneously, the JKLF was able to establish its network in Srinagar and, in 1988 with two bomb blasts in Srinagar; commenced the present phase of armed insurgency in the State.
All through its history the JKLF has demanded conducting a plebiscite in J&K, but has made no effort to conceal its preference for an independent, sovereign State. This latter position is in direct conflict with Pakistan’s contention that Kashmir in its entirety belongs to it.
Pakistan has on occasion been, hostile to the JKLF. For instance, when Maqbool Butt escaped from Indian jail in 1968 and crossed over to Pakistan, he was jailed for a few months.
ISI had to depend upon the JKLF in the initial stages of the insurgency as it lacked its own network in J&K. Once the JKLF began bringing in people for training, the ISI gradually weaned away a considerable section of them from the JKLF. Using money and weapon supplies as baits, the ISI bought the loyalty of several militants.
Since 1994, when the ISI organized thirteen militant groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir state into the Muttahida [United] Jihad Council, army-backed militant organizations have shared, with the Pakistani military through the ISI, real decision-making authority and the management of the “Kashmir struggle.” Even mainstream political parties allowed representation by Pakistan in the Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly are largely sidelined. As the government-backed militant groups gained strength and dominance, Kashmiri nationalist militants left the movement or were sidelined and eventually began to be persecuted by the authorities and their proxies. Soon after Pakistan began supporting the U.S.-led “global war on terror” in 2001, the United Jihad Council ceased to operate publicly. Several groups simply changed their names and now operate independently or through clandestine underground networks. The Pakistani intelligence apparatus retains close associations with these groups.
By 1991, with ISI’s help the pro-Pakistan Hizb-ul-Mujahideen gained greater terror potential as compared to the JKLF. Moreover, the formation of Harkat-ul-Ansar, Lashkar-e-Toiba and numerous other smaller outfits contributed to the marginalisation of JKLF. Besides this, JKLF has been directly targeted by the ISI and the outfits that were controlled by it with armed attacks. For instance, the ISI attempted to forcibly shut down a JKLF training camp in Kotli district, PoK, on February 11 and 12, 1998. In another incident, Hizb militants killed two JKLF cadres on July 13, 1997, in Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK.
- Hizbuk Mujahideen (HUM) was carved out of JKLF, and it was followed up with creation of more smaller factions, at behest of ISI, like
- Mujhahideen-e-Islam out of HUM
- Muslim Mujahideen (MM) was splinter section of Al Umar Mujahedeen (AUM) which itself was a splinter group of JKLF. Even the JKLF student wing the Student Liberation Front could not remain united, the SLF split into several factions and the prominent being Al Umar Commandos
Even when the JKLF starting losing its dominant role of the movement and its support base in the PoK started to join the Islamist organisations like Hizbul, Lashkar-e-Taiba, they remained essentially secular nationalist. That is why the dynamics of violence and protest were very different from that being witnessed today, unfortunately the response from the Indian state had always been that of utilizing force. It seems the SoP of Indian force is to kill first and question later.
The groups that took over the struggle from mid-1990s were the hard-core Islamic jihadist deriving inspiration from the mujahedeen movement against the Soviets in Afghanistan. With respect to Islam they were all for the Wahhabi school preaching the puritanical Islam as practised and propagated by Taliban and Osama. They never proclaimed their desire for independence but have always maintained that Kashmir is and will become part of Pakistan. Thus groups like Hizbul-Mujahedin became more near to the Pakistani military establishment. In November 1995, a BBC documentary programme showed evidence of camps in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan, supported by the Jamaat-i-Islami (political wing of the Hizb), where fighters were trained and openly professed their intention of fighting in Kashmir.
Since 1994, when the ISI organized thirteen militant groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir State into the Muttahida [United] Jihad Council, army-backed militant organizations have shared, with the Pakistani military through the ISI, real decision-making authority and the management of the “Kashmir struggle.”
As the government-backed militant groups gained strength and dominance, Kashmiri nationalist militants left the movement or were sidelined and eventually began to be persecuted by the authorities and their proxies. Soon after Pakistan began supporting the U.S.-led “global war on terror” in 2001, the United Jihad Council ceased to operate publicly. Several groups simply changed their names and now operate independently or through clandestine underground networks. The Pakistani intelligence apparatus retains close associations with these groups. Today, all the militant groups operating in the region owe their existence to Pakistan and without their support they would find it impossible to operate.
Other chapters to be uploaded soon
You may like to read another section from the same booklet, titled Marxist Leninist Understanding on the Right of Self Determination and National Question,