| By Prof GM Athar |
The Kashmiri nation under the banner of National Conference led by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah launched ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign against Maharaja Hari Singh in mid-May 1946. And 10,000 volunteers of National Conference established Kashmir Militia Force to defend Kashmir against the Pakistani tribal raid on 22nd October 1947.
The Kashmiri nationalists struggled for People’s right of national self-determination under the banner of Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front led by Mirza Mohamad Afzal Beigh.
The struggle continued from 9th August1955 onwards and the Kashmiri youth finally started armed struggle against Indian control on 31st July 1988.
The 1980s armed struggle was under the banner of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front which was established by Mohamad Maqbool Bhat in1966.
Although, Mohamad Yasin Malik, Chairman, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, abandoned the path of violence in1993.
Yet, his political organisation and several other nationalist organisations have continued their peaceful struggle for independence in Kashmir.
The abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir State and downgrading it to a Union Territory by the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre on 5th August 2019, has further alienated the Kashmiri nation from Bharat ruled by the Hindutva forces of the country.
The withdrawal of NATO forces led by United States from Afghanistan and the establishment of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan by the Taliban Government in the country has again given some hope to the people of Kashmir to achieve victory in their political struggle.
The present paper is an endeavour to discuss the viability of Kashmir as an independent country and the challenges and prospects for realising such a nationalist goal by the people of Kashmir.
A brief account of various dimensions of Kashmiri nationalist struggle is given as under:
Statehood for Jammu and Kashmir:
The Modi Government at New Delhi has downgraded Jammu and Kashmir State to a Union Territory because of a few important reasons.
The main reason behind downgrading the Jammu and Kashmir State is Hindu empowerment in the state.
The Indian National Congress led by Jawaharlal Nehru abolished the Dogra autocracy in the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, which led to the political empowerment of Muslims in the Muslim dominated state.
Although, the Jammu based Hindus were not politically marginalised but their century old hegemony was challenged.
To realise the goal of Hindu empowerment in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory, the Modi Government established the Delimitation Commission to further increase seven more Legislative Assembly Constituencies in the Union Territory to benefit the Jammu Dogras, Pakistani Hindu refugees, Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes, Kashmiri Pundits and Kashmiri Sikhs so as to neutralise the domination of the Kashmiri Muslims in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly.
The second most important objective of downgrading the state into a union territory was to abolish the decades old institutions of governance in the union territory through direct intervention of the central government, and to bring the administrative apparatus of the union territory under the control of the most preferred bureaucrats to advance the BJP agenda.
The third important objective is to control the militancy in the state without any resistance to anti-people policies by the local politicians and bureaucrats.
The fourth objective was to demoralise the people of Kashmir to break their resolve to demand liberation.
In case the Jammu based BJP is unable to have a Hindu Chief Minister, the next step would be to demand the separation of Jammu Division from Kashmir Division.
The RSS had much earlier proposed the trifurcation of former Jammu and Kashmir State but in Jammu Division the main difficulty for the BJP is that out of 10 districts only Kathua, Samba, Jammu and Udhampur are the Hindu dominated and the Gulabgrah sub-district of Reasi district is Muslim dominated.
So only 4.5 districts are Hindu majority whereas 5.5 districts having common border with Kashmir Division are Muslim dominated.
The BJP is unable to overcome this practical problem in the path of establishing a Hindu dominated Jammu State.
However, the day BJP would succeed in establishing a separate Jammu State the Kashmiri Muslim dominated Kashmir State would automatically come into existence.
For the time being the people of Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory are unitedly demanding the restoration of Statehood and State-Subject Laws of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Kashmir based People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration is demanding the restoration of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution as well but without the favourable verdict the of Supreme Court of India, the 4th August 2019-Position of Jammu and Kashmir is not possible in the near future.
Autonomous Status for Jammu and Kashmir State:
Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have stated inside as well as outside the Indian Parliament that the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir would be restored at its appropriate time without spelling out the actual definition of appropriate time.
The people of Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory also believe that the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir would be restored back before or after the elections are held in the state.
So in order to address the Kashmir issue, the restoration of statehood is not any solution for the decades old political problem.
The Kashmir based Indian mainstream political parties of Jammu and Kashmir such as National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, People’s Conference and several other smaller parties have promised the people of Kashmir to restore the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir State.
Restoration of the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir State is the question of political existence for the Kashmir based Indian mainstream political parties of Jammu and Kashmir.
So sooner or later the Government of India has to restore the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir to remain politically relevant in Kashmir, because coercion cannot prove to be a sustainable strategy to win the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir.
Sovereign Status for Jammu and Kashmir:
The restoration of autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir would not prove to be a permanent solution of the Kashmir issue because of a number of reasons.
Firstly, Kashmir has a very long history as a sovereign country from times immemorial to its takeover by the Mughal Army in 1586 A.D.
So it is very difficult to subdue the history conscious Kashmiri nation.
Secondly, the Islamisation of Kashmir by the Central Asian and Persian Sufi Syeds as well as the Persio-Arabic civilizational influences on Kashmir from fourteenth century onwards has made the region a part of the Muslim Civilizational realm rather than the Indic realm.
So the emotional attachment of the Kashmiri Muslims with Urdu region, Persian region, Turkic region and Arabic region is quite natural.
Thirdly, the Indian troops have killed one lakh freedom fighters in Kashmir over the past 34 years, whose graves are in every village of Kashmir and almost every family has been negatively impacted by the on-going liberation struggle in Kashmir.
It is very difficult to make the Kashmiri nation to forget about the sacrifices of its people during the present freedom struggle.
Fourthly, a huge number of Kashmiri diaspora from both sides of Line of Control is living in the democratic countries of the World, especially in Europe, North America and Australia, who are pro-active in demanding the right of national self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Fifthly, the Kashmir Question is still pending for its resolution in the official files of the United Nations Security Council and the United Nations Military Observation Group is still stationed at Srinagar and Rawalpindi to monitor the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
Sixthly, Pakistan is a party to the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, so unless its concerns are addressed, it will continue to raise the Kashmir issue in every bilateral, multilateral and international forum.
Seventhly, the political future of the four million people living in Azad Jammu and Kashmir is directly linked to the future of Jammu and Kashmir, so their role in the liberation struggle in Kashmir can’t be undermined.
Rightly, the emotional bond of the Muslim World with the Kashmiri Muslims makes the Muslim leaders like Mahatir Muhammad, Rajab Tayyib Urdgan and several others to express their solidarity with the people of Kashmir.
Ninthly, the democratic world values very much the people’s right of self-determination for the state-less nations of the world, so the justice loving people of the world irrespective of their religion, region, ethnicity, language and culture support the people’s right of national self-determination.
So in the age of globalisation the people of Kashmir will continue to get the moral support of the democratic world in their struggle for right of national self-determination.
Lastly, the non-state actors pursuing national and supra-national political goals in the Muslim World in general and Af-Pak region in particular will continue to change the status quo in Kashmir.
So the cumulative impact of the above mentioned factors would be that the Government of India would be compelled by the circumstances to resolve the Kashmir issue permanently.
It is therefore, in the interest of both India and the people of Kashmir if the Government of India declares the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir as a sovereign country.
The sovereign state of Jammu and Kashmir can sign a Comprehensive Security Treaty with India to defend itself from any external aggression.
In case Pakistan and India agree to demilitarise Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory respectively, the demilitarised territory can be unified to establish the sovereign, secular and democratic Republic of Jammu and Kashmir as a buffer state between India and Pakistan.
Even if India is reluctant to demilitarise the Hindu majority districts of Jammu region, still then the Muslim dominated 15.5 districts of Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory would be a significant geographical area necessary for the establishment of an independent country.
The 10 districts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir when added to the Muslim dominated territory will enhance further the geographical and demographic size of the sovereign Republic of Kashmir.
The writer can be accessed via the email address email@example.com