The state of Jammu and Kashmir covers an area of 84,471 square
miles. Of this area India occupies 49,560 square miles and Pakistan
controls the rest. The state, lying between 32°-17´
and 36°-58´ North latitude
and 73°-6´ and 80°-30´
East longitude is surrounded by China, Tibet, Pakistan, India
and Afghanistan. There is no doubt that it is of great strategic
importance because it has survived despite the many threats from
Soviet and Chinese Communist expansionism. Mahnaz Ispahani, an
expert in South Asian geopolitics, stated that "with the
partition of the sub-continent, Kashmir itself became of even
greater strategic value than in imperial times."
The 20th century dawned and the world witnessed struggles against
autocracy, feudalism and colonialism. The winds of these revolutions
crossed the peaks of the Himalayas and touched Kashmir. Repressed
for years, the Kashmiri people were already frustrated. In the
year 1924, these sentiments came to the fore in the form of a
memorandum, which was presented to Lord Reading, Viceroy of India,
upon his arrival in Kashmir.
In 1931, the people's dissatisfaction with the condition under
which they lived erupted and soon took the form of a popular movement.
This movement resulted in the end of feudal rule in 1947. But
this, in and of itself, did not bring freedom to the people of
Jammu and Kashmir. In fact from 1947 onwards a new chapter of
slavery was added to the history of this state. The British Empires
closed its show in the subcontinent and sailed lock, stocked and
barreled, back to England; but with the end of the British Raj
came a period of neo-colonial rule.
It was 9.00 a.m. on October 27, 1947, when Indian troops officially
started landing at the Srinagar airfield. In the words of British
historian Alastair Lamb, "From their arrival on October 27,
1947 to the present day, Indian troops continued to occupy a larger
proportion of the state of Jammu and Kashmir despite the increasingly
manifest opposition of the majority of the population to their
presence." To give legality to the invasion of a sovereign
country, India adopted various methods. The state of Jammu and
Kashmir was designated as a princely state within the British
Indian Empire. With the lapsing of the British paramountcy in
the princely states, the state of Jammu and Kashmir became independent
by "default." This gave the Maharaja the option of joining
either of the two countries. This was a requirement under the
rules of the British transfer of power in the Indian subcontinent
or what is called the Indian Independence Act.
The Act was enthusiastically welcomed by Quaid-I-Azam Mohammed
Ali Jinnah. In his words, "constitutionally and legally the
Indian states will be independent sovereign states on termination
of paramountcy and they will be free to decide for themselves
to adopt any course they like. It is open to them to join the
Hindustan Constituent Assembly or the Pakistan Constituent Assembly
or remain independent." Jinnah's stand was in accordance
with the law. But Congress' leadership was averse to the idea
and to them lapsed paramountcy meant reversion to Independent
status. The devotees of Congress felt jittery over the granting
of independent status to any of the princely states. Professor
Gowher Rizvi, MacArthur Fell, professor of International Relations
at Oxford University, put it this way: "The states were compelled
to accede to one or the other dominion in accordance with the
broad principles of Partition itself: Muslim majority states located
in territories contiguous with Pakistan would accede to Pakistan
and the rest would go to India . . . in these circumstances Kashmir
too would easily be disposed of. Over seventy-five percent of
the population was Muslim (according to the 1942 census, of a
total population of 40,021,616, Muslims accounted for 31,000,000
and Hindus 809,000 approximately) the state was adjacent to Pakistan
and irrespective of the wish of the ruler, the state would be
integrated with Pakistan."
When the Maharaja requested a standstill agreement from Pakistan,
it agreed. But India rejected his request outright. India adopted
various tactics to lend credibility to its invasion of Kashmir.
On January 1, 1948, India took the issue to the United Nations.
The UN adopted two resolutions, on August 13, 1948 and January
5, 1949. These resolutions granted the right to self-determination
through a plebiscite, to be held under the supervision of a UN-appointed
plebiscite administrator. Both India and Pakistan accepted this
Mahatma Gandhi said, ". . . the will of Kashmiris is the
supreme law in Kashmir." Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
said in Parliament, "From the very beginning it has been
our declared wish that the people of Kashmir should themselves
decide their future. We will continue to adhere to our policy
whatever happens. In a pursuance of our policy, we agreed to hold
a plebiscite provided the condition necessary for its peaceful
conduct were fulfilled." Nehru reiterated this stand on a
number of occasions. He once reminded the president, Dr. Rajinder
Prasad, "We are committed to abide by the decision of the
people of Kashmir, whatever it might be. We are committed secondly
to a plebiscite. If the people of Kashmir decide to remove or
do away with their old ruler, we must accept that decision in
view of our repeated assurances to that effect. If they want to
leave India, that also we have to accept because of our assurance.
We could of course want this done in the proper way and having
due regard to constitutional proprieties."
Selected works of Jawaharlal Nehru, second series, volume 18, April 1-July 15, 1952. Ed. S. Gopal: "Plebiscite was not a foreign phenomenon to the process of India's partition. The fact of the matter, however, was that the plebiscite policy had been established long before the Kashmir crises erupted in October 1947. It was an inherent part of the process by which the British Indian Empire was partitioned between two successor Dominions."
Why did India take the issue to the United Nations? There was
no sincerity of purpose nor did it have the intention of allowing
the people of Kashmir to exercise their right to self-determination.
Pervez Iqbal Cheema, Professor and Chairman of the Department
of International Studies at Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad,
expressed the following perspective: "The simple answer seems
to be the initial Indian attempts were to enforce a military solution
in Kashmir, but failed to throw tribesmen out of Kashmir territory
and to annihilate the Acadia Kashmir forces. It was the failure
of the Indian army to enforce a quick military solution because
of the strong resistance of the Azad Kashmir forces which prompted
India to take the case to the United Nations. This could be one
of the reasons, I believe, that India wanted to buy time to consolidate
its position in Kashmir and then follow its plan of annexation."
To forge ahead with its plan of annexation, to be defiant in the
face of the intensity of the UN resolution, and to back-track
from its commitment of granting the rights to self-determination,
India has enacted the modern drama of forcing a process of "rigged
elections and sham democracy," in the words of a senior Indian
journalist, Tavleen Singh, upon the Kashmiri people.
The first elections were held in September 1951 and 73 or 75 members
of this Assembly ran uncontested. The electorate boycotted the
whole affair. The assembly was to " . . . determine the future
shape and affiliation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir."
India's intelligence Chief, Mr. B.N. Mullick, exposed the government's
method of rigging the election: "Nomination papers of most
of those who could form an opposition were rejected."
By no acceptable standard was the Constituent Assembly a representative
body. Justice Mufti Bahudin Farooqi characterized the members
as "nodding goats of Sheikh Abdullah." Most of the members
of this Constituent Assembly were semi-literate. In the words
of historian M.S. Pampori, "Most of this Constitution-making
body was chosen if not from illiterates, then from semi-literates
who could not understand even the definition of the Constitution,
not to speak of its language and implications." Noted jurist
of the Bombay High Court, A.G. Noorani, recently wrote in The
Statesman, that "Sheikh Abdullah rigged the polls
with merciless efficiency, drawing grateful applause from Nehru.
His advice to the Sheikh's successor, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad,
was not to refrain from rigging, but to leave just a few seats
for the Opposition and thus provide a fig-leaf to cover the nudity
of ravaged credibility. The advice was repeated later by one of
Indira Gandhi's closest advisors . . . "
The words of Syed Mubarik Shah Naqshbandi, delivered at the State
People's Convention at Srinagar in 1968, are as relevant today
as they were then. He said, " . . . the resolutions passed
by the Security Council had vested the people of J&K with
the right to a plebiscite, and these resolutions could not be
abrogated except by an agreement between India, Pakistan, and
the people of Jammu and Kashmir." India, which had taken
the issue to the UN, has never moved for amending or dropping
the resolutions of 1948 and 1949. Therefore India is fully aware
that the Constituent Assembly has no authority to ratify the accession
of the state to India, as it has attempted to do. Indeed, on March
30, 1951, the UN Security Council confirmed this and emphasized
the irrelevance of the Constituent Assembly in deciding the future
It is absolutely clear that there is no moral or legal leg upon
which the State Constitution can stand much less upon which the
elections from 1951 can be justified. Indeed, the 1951 elections,
as well as the recent ones, are a naked attempt to hoodwink international
opinion and divert attention from the primary issue and that is:
settling the status of Kashmir in accordance with the resolutions
passed by the United Nations.
Even senior members of the Indian intelligentsia have ridiculed
these elections as fraudulent. G.M. Sadiq, a member of Bakhshi
Gulam Mohammed's cabinet, stated that "In the recent by-elections
to the Charar-I-Sharif Assembly Constituency the ruling party
managed, despite the withdrawal of opposition candidates, to pull
in over 90 percent of the votes. These undemocratic practices
permeate even election to the local bodies. In the elections held
in November 1957 to the Town Area communities of the six towns
in the valley, 78 nomination papers out of 81 belonging to the
opposition were rejected on the flimsiest grounds." The elections
during the time of G.M. Sadiq were no different from those held
during the Abdullah or Bakhshi rule. Commissioner Abdul Khaliq
in fact declared all 16 candidates of the Sadiq Congress elected
as they were unopposed.
In the 1977 elections, the National Conference party won 48 seats
in a house of 76. The Janata Party, which ruled in New Delhi,
won 13 seats; Congress 12, and the Jamaat-I-Islami won one. The
National Conference ferociously contested the Government of India's
official stand on Kashmir, stating that the issue of accession
had yet to be settled. In scores of speeches, Sheikh Abdullah
and his lieutenants pronounced that "This election was in
fact an anti-India vote."
In 1983, another sham election was held in Jammu and Kashmir.
Farooq Abdullah returned to power with active help from various
levels of the Government of India. In 1988, Parliamentary elections
were held in Kashmir. Only two percent of the electorate turned
out to vote.
In the post 1989 period, the people's movement for the right to
self-determination assumed new dimensions. After exhausting all
peaceful options to make India honour its word, a section of Kashmiri
youth took up arms against India's illegal occupation of Jammu
and Kashmir. These young men nursed the sapling of Kashmir's freedom
struggle with their warm blood. Thousands of them attained martyrdom;
thousands were maimed and disabled. The youth in particular, along
with countless thousands made immense sacrifices to attain the
cherished goal of freedom. According to a conservative estimate,
more than fifty thousand people have been killed by Indian forces
in Kashmir since 1989.
It was as if Kashmir had been transformed into a vast cemetery.
Under the auspices of the Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace, Dr. Paula R. Newberg wrote: "Srinagar, once known
for shimmering lakes, ornate house boats, and majestic Himalayan
peaks, is now a city of cemeteries. Along its meandering lanes
and riverbanks, Kashmiris bury their dead and mark their calendars
by atrocities that kill their children . . . Since 1989, the number
of dead has reached tens of thousands, the exact number unknown.
Mostly boys and men, they have died for their religious beliefs,
their political beliefs or because they were in the way. The circumstances
of birth have become the accidents of death."
To perpetuate its occupation of Kashmir, the Indian Government
has deployed more than half a million soldiers and a quarter of
a million paramilitary forces. In 1993, the London-based Observer
indicated that the army/civilian ratio was as high as one
to eight. The Observer . . . "It is difficult to count uniformed
men in Kashmir. Indian newspapers occasionally print government
figures that indicate as few as 150,000; but officials in Kashmir,
foreign diplomats and journalists have always assumed that this
is the number of regular army only in or near the valley. Paramilitary
troops account for 100,000 to 400,000 more men, depending on seasons,
political events and the seriousness of military engagements.
Even though the most visible of the security forces in urban areas
parade in full light of day, those in hills are harder to find.
By the beginning of 1995, over 400,000 troops were reportedly
deployed in Kashmir, including eight army divisions and other
independent brigades across the state."
Jane's Intelligence Review reports that "at least fifty-six
of 148 battalions of Border Security Forces - each including one
thousand men - are engaged in Kashmir. Thirty-nine in the valley
and seven in Doda District are involved in counter-insurgency
operations. Ten along the line of control are involved in border
security operations." Indian sources suggest that more BSF
battalions have been deployed in the last year. The Central Reserve
Police Force has the second largest presence. It was substantially
increased in the summer of 1994 to as many as eighteen battalions
each of the Territorial Army, the National Indo-Tibetan Border
Police, the National Security Guards and the Jammu and Kashmir
Armed Police. Since the summer of 1994, between three and thirty
battalions of Rashtriya rifles, trained by the Army, were on duty
a week later in Srinagar and Udhampur Doda Consistencies. If one
looks at the number of security forces in one constituency and
number of voters, the ratio is nearly one to one. Nowhere else
in the world have elections been marshaled in this manner.
Not satisfied with the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and paramilitary personnel to subjugate the people of Kashmir, India introduced bands of renegades--hard-core criminals and hoodlums--to add to the miseries that already characterizes daily life in Kashmir. These renegades who operate under the direct command of the Indian army and Border Security Forces have been programmed to kill freedom-lovers, eliminate journalists, knife political activists and butcher human rights activists. They have killed thousands of people, plundered thousands of houses, raped hundreds of women and looted the natural wealth of Kashmir. One such famous renegade is Kuka Parray, who has had a change of career: once a smuggler of Kashmir's timber resources, he now leads a band of thugs under the banner of India.
Veteran journalist A.G. Noorani called these renegades the "vigilantes
hired to kill." He wrote, "The technique of state sponsored
terrorism was tried out not only in Punjab but also in the Northeast.
The experiment in Kashmir is on a far larger and more ruinous
scale." With regard to the coalition between the army and
the renegades he wrote, " . . . it is no longer a state secret
to be admitted in private. It is a public scandal." Mr. Bairaj
Puri said that this is " . . . not an outside import into
the valley but entirely conceived and produced by New Delhi."
In its report on "India's Secret Army in Kashmir" (May
of 1996) Human Rights Watch/Asia states, "Officials in Kashmir
routinely claim that the detainee was killed in an 'encounter'
with the security forces . . . Security legislation has increased
the likelihood of such abuses by authorizing the security forces
to shoot to kill and to destroy civilian property. Under these
laws, the security forces are protected from persecution for human
rights violations . . . There is no question that civil and security
officials in Kashmir are aware of the widespread use of torture.
Petitions pending before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court provide
ample documentation, including medical evidence, of the systematic
use of torture."
To stage the drama of a political process, these armed gangsters
were made to launch parties and to participate in the sham elections.
The role conceived by the army and other intelligence agencies
for these renegades even ruffled the feathers of pro-India politicians.
From Farooq Abdullah to Taj Mohuddin, these politicians made fervent
demands to the government of India to disarm the renegade forces.
Commenting on the role of the renegades in the sham elections
of May 1996, Taj Mohuddin, a Congress party candidate, said "the
Election Commission has shut its eyes. I have lost my faith in
the set-up. He even threatened self-immolation if the Government
did not disarm the renegades." Janata Dal candidate from
Anantnag Maqbool Dar also made repeated demands that they be disarmed,
even after he was inducted as a State Minister of Home Affairs
in New Delhi. Only after agencies sponsoring these elements prevailed
upon him did he backtrack on this demand.
The lack of credibility of these elections--held under the shadow
of guns, both with the army and these hired killers under the
government's wing--has been exposed by politicians pushing the
interests of New Delhi in Kashmir. Farooq Abdullah, who has earned
the dubious distinction of defending India's policy of arson,
rape, plunder and killing in many international forum also pronounced
these elections as "Farcical and rigged." Gulam Rasool
Kar, another Indian protégé in Kashmir, and president
of the National Conference, demanded repolling in seventy booths.
Indian Home Minister, Mr. Inderjit Gupta, while talking to the
press in August of 1996, and as reported by the BBC India Service,
said " . . . in Jammu and Kashmir all elections held to date
were rigged to serve the interests of successive Congress governments."
The May 1996 elections in Jammu and Kashmir were not only farcical
but were also a blemish on the concept of democracy. It was an
election without voters or candidates. To enact the drama of elections,
the Indian government had to invent candidates as well. This was
done with the help of its intelligence agencies. Most of the candidates
were armed mercenaries, working in conjunction with Indian security
forces. Even politicians who have been holding a brief in Kashmir
for India disassociated themselves from these sham elections.
The state Janata Dal leader had expressed concern over the party
high command decision to field party candidates. In an interview
with The Kashmir Times, 4th April 1996,
it was reported that he had already communicated to the party
high command that the atmosphere was not conducive to hold elections
and participate in them. Another politician holding a brief for
India in Kashmir, Congress party candidate Mian Bashir Ahmad,
told The Kashmir Times, 6th April 1996:
"The coming elections will be marred by large scale rigging
and there was every likelihood that the electorate would not be
allowed to exercise their right of franchise freely and fairly."
He added, "the situation was not conducive for the holding
of elections." Even the National Conference, which plays
India's card in Kashmir, stayed away from these polls.
How can one claim to have democractic elections without the people's
participation? It was said by the people to have been "a
big joke." The government of India failed to even rope in
employees and was forced to import election staff from outside
the state. On 14th April, The Sunday Times
of India published that "About 46,000 employees will
be deployed on election duty at 6,190 polling stations spread
across six constituencies. The majority of these employees will
be central government staff from Delhi. These employees would
be handling 4.4 million voters in 14 districts of the state. The
Union Home Ministry and the DOPT are coordinating election duty
of the employees. Each polling booth will be manned by five persons
which includes one Urdu speaker. The government will provide a
personal security of at least two persons to each of the employees
. . . A circular by the Department of Personnel and Ttraining
(DOPT) to the employees who are short listed by the Union Government
for Kashmir duty will be given one month's basic salary . . .
before their trip to the troubled state." They were also
given insurance of Rupee five hundred thousand.
The All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC) boycotted these sham
elections. The adverse attitude of the general public towards
these elections was pointed out by The Hindustan Times
on 15th April 1996: "Unnoticed by casual onlookers,
parliamentary candidates enjoy bullet-proof cars . . . escort
vehicles piloting them up and down Kashmir is indeed a luxury
for them. But that is hardly enthusing the people in the Valley.
They continue to remain indifferent."
At election time, the government imposed a virtual ban on the
publication of newspapers in the Kashmir valley. First, all the
newspaper editors were summoned by the State Home Department,
and were asked to strictly follow the code of conduct drawn up
by the Government. This was followed by the issuance of a circular
which imposed a restriction on the reporting of facts. In order
to make newsmen tow the Government line, journalists were kidnapped
and turned into hostages by the mercenaries working under direct
command of the Indian Defence Ministry. Reporters working from
New Delhi who ventured to file reports in violation of the restrictions
earned the wrath of the Government: many received threatening
phone calls from the State Information Department. Essentially,
the Government's objective was to prevent the message of the APHC
from reaching the people.
The entire state had been converted into a battle ground, with
barracks, army and other forces dotting every nook and corner
of Kashmir. It made free expression impossible. The holding of
public rallies and meetings remain banned.
In order to educate people about the implications of the farcical
elections, the APHC launched a mass contact programme by going
door to door. To prevent this, Indian authorities made attempts
on the lives of the APHC leaders. On May 9, in Sopore, the leaders
were fired upon. In Narabal, a land mine was detonated near where
some leaders had gathered. This left only one option for expressing
dissent against the atrocities and elections. They began to observe
shut-downs, wheel jams, and hartals (strikes).
When the APHC called a strike, the response was overwhelming.
The Kashmir Times (22nd May 1996) reported,
"the city wore a deserted look with people preferring to
remain indoors. All the shops, business establishments, government
and semi-government offices besides banks were closed. Transport
was off the roads."
On 23rd May 1996, polling was held in Anantnag and
Baramulla. The Kashmir Times described it as a "Tamasha,"
a joke. Sabina Inderjit of The Times of India wrote, "A
polling station about 20 km. from here . . . wore a deserted look
with no civilians about except a group of security personnel .
. . A short drive ahead, hordes of people were seen trekking on
the highway, under the watchful eyes of the army . . . a group
from Hatiwara village in Anantnag alleged: The army came at 5
a.m. and threatened us that if we did not vote, we would be killed
and our house burnt down." The case was the same at Bijbihara,
Pampore, and Pulwama. "Arthur Max of The Associated Press,
described the scene: "[Baramulla] Indian Army troops herded
Kashmiris to the polls yesterday for the rebellious state's first
elections in seven years, forcing Kashmiris to participate in
an Indian government election they want no part of . . . soldiers
roused villagers and townspeople from their homes soon after dawn
and escorted them to the polling stations . . . in nearby Sopore,
hundreds of people gathered in a square and shouted independence
slogans, defying orders to vote . . . At Delina . . . a half dozen
soldiers herded a line of men towards a polling station. Wearing
camouflage helmets, the soldiers blew whistles and waved sticks
to keep the men moving."
Resident Mohammad Shafi said, "the army came early in the
morning and dragged people from their houses. But we gathered
all the men, women, boys and girls to come here, we will not vote.
We do not want to be with India. They have destroyed our lives.
We want only freedom."
Reporting from Baramulla, John F. Burns wrote for The New York
Times, 24th May 1996: "Indian troops moved
into villages and urban neighborhoods, across the vale of Kashmir
at dawn today (23rd May 1996) herded the villagers
from their beds to vote . . . but after widespread allegations
that tens of thousands of troops were deployed to force Muslims
to vote at a gunpoint, the message India wanted to send to the
world appeared likely to be lost or at least heavily muffled."
His headline read. "A showcase election in a Muslim state
becomes a show of force by New Delhi." The Washington
Post carried a picture of women shouting anti-India slogans
outside the polling place. Similar reports were carried in newspapers
all over the world.
Indian authorities at New Delhi, their agents at Srinagar, and
Indian diplomats unnerved with these reports started a campaign
against newsmen from various parts of the world and called these
reports "exaggerations." But Indian mediamen were telling
the same story. Ajith Pillai of The Outlook reported,
" . . . in village after village this correspondent visited,
the story was the same. Crowds of people squatted outside polling
stations like herds of sheep." Ritu Sarin of The Indian
Express reported, "Three persons were killed when BSF
jawans and armed renegades opened fire in a crowded market. Two
among the dead were brothers: Yusuf Altaf (15) and Tahi Altaf
(14). Their shattered father sat in a room full of mourners .
. . He said that even if his two sons had not been killed, nobody
in his neighborhood would have cast their vote on 30th
May." He announced, "If there is death on one side,
and a ballot box on the other, we would choose death."
In the month of September, India has started the process all over
again, having called for state assembly elections in Kashmir.
The outcome has been no different than it was in May.
For centuries Kashmiris have lived under suppression and subjugation.
The worst hit by this has been the Kashmiri Muslim. In the words
of the Muslim Conference leader, the late Chowdhary Ghulam Abbas,
"The condition of Muslims in all respects was very bad .
. . Poverty, penury, helplessness and humiliation was their destiny.
They earned livelihoods from menial jobs." A Kashmiri Muslim
was all along discriminated against by Hindus, who were in a minority,
but were always hand in glove with the ruling Hindu elite. Sir
Walter Lawrence, who was appointed as the settlement Commissioner
by Maharaja Ranbir Singh writes in his book, The valley of Kashmir,
"in recent times there were very few Pundits who were not
in receipt of pay from the state, and the number of offices was
legion." But though this generosity in the matter of office
establishment was an enormous boon to the Pundit class, it was
a curse and a misfortune to the Muslims of Kashmir; for "
. . . the Pundit does not value a post for its pay, but rather
for its perquisite." The laws were discriminatory against
Muslims, and there was no aspect of life for which Muslims were
untaxed. William Moorcraft writes about Dogra rule: "The
murder of a native by a Sikh is punishable by a fine to the government
from sixteen to twenty rupees . . . [from this amount] four rupees
were paid to the family of the deceased if he was a Hindu and
two rupees if he was a Mohammedan."