Jihad versus mass movement
As the Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988, some of the armed groups fighting the Soviet troops looked for new pastures
The period between 1963 and 1987 is generally considered the period of the rise of Kashmiri nationalism.
Kashmiris aspiring for freedom from Indian yoke initially tried to put up their case through the Kashmir State Assembly. Elected governments were however frequently dismissed by New Delhi. Governor’s rule was imposed six times, once for as long as six years and eight months. Elections were openly rigged in favour of pro-India candidates and parties. Peaceful protestors were arrested, tortured, and killed in custody. Indian troops were inducted in thousands and special laws enforced to crush peaceful resistance. The press meanwhile remained under strict censorship. Given the consistent failure of democracy, people were forced to take resort to militancy.
Meanwhile changes were taking place in the region which were to impact the course of events in the Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK).
As the Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988, some of the armed groups fighting the Soviet troops looked for new pastures. Some traveled to their own countries like Algeria, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Chechnya and Dagestan. Others crossed over to IoK. The new militants who entered Kashmir were different from the indigenous Kashmiri militants in a number of ways.
The indigenous militants had a local agenda. They were fired by an urge to liberate their motherland. The future of Kashmir after liberation remained a question of debate among them, with some aspiring to integrate it with AJK under Pakistan while others supporting an independent Kashmir. With the local population mostly comprising moderate Muslims the indigenous militants had no communal or sectarian agenda.
The groups trained in Afghanistan with Saudi funding however had been indoctrinated by their Salafi mentors and had a narrow communal and sectarian outlook which required expulsion of the Kashmiri Brhmins as well as the elimination of Brelvis and Shias who they considered apostates. Those trained by Hamid Gul’s ISI were keen to bleed the Indian troops, wrest the Kashmir valley out of India’s hands and then destroy India through acts of terrorism. Soon the battle hardened and better armed terrorist groups elbowed out the indigenous militants.
The rise of terrorist groups trained in Afghanistan had two negative outcomes.
First, the newcomers implanted a narrow, sectarian ideology alien to the inclusive Kashmiri culture. Their activities divided the Kashmiris instead of uniting them.
Second, with numerous terrorist groups entering the IoK with an agenda of fighting not only India but also the West, New Delhi succeeded in convincing the world that the unrest in Kashmir was sponsored by Pakistan. After Nine-Eleven, the US and the European countries looked at the militancy in Kashmir with growing concern.
It was towards the turn of century that peaceful struggles against the Indian occupation unfolded with unprecedented energy.
The years 2008, 2010 and 2016 were marked by three popular movements in the Valley. These struggles proved beyond doubt that the entire Kashmiri population was fed up with the Indian occupation and would settle at nothing short of total freedom. Further that their struggle was entirely homegrown rather than foreign inspired. The three mass movements united the local population instead of polarising it on religious or sectarian grounds.
The three peaceful struggles exposed the brutality of the occupying army which the terrorist groups were incapable of.
The movement that united the Kashmiris (2008):
The 2008 movement started when the government of IoK agreed to hand over 800 acres of land for Indian pilgrims on Amarnath yatra. The issue however soon moved beyond the land deal and turned into a popular movement calling for self-rule. The struggle brought together rival Hurriyat factions led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Umar Farooq. JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik also joined hands with the Hurriyet.
India tried to suppress the mass movement through state repression. The struggle started in May and by August 28 close to 70 Kashmiris had died in the peaceful protests.
The 2008 movement made many in the West realise that despite calling itself the largest democracy, the Indian state maintained a highly repressive character not in consonance with the spirit of democracy.
To take just one example Washington Post ran a story on 28 August 2008 by Emily Wax titled ‘Peaceful Protests In Kashmir Alter Equation for India’.
The writer noted that “Despite the government’s use of force, many Muslims in Indian-controlled Kashmir seem determined to find peaceful ways to voice their separatist aspirations. The slogans of the fighting in the 1990s, such as “I’m going to Pakistan to get an AK-47,” have disappeared as the non-violent movement flourishes, especially among the young… Muslim Kashmiris say they are tired of the daily humiliations at the hands of India’s 500,000-member security force, posted in apple orchards, saffron farms and hospitals. Many say they are subjected to constant identification checks, car searches and arrests without reason by soldiers armed with assault rifles and wearing flak jackets. ”
The impact of the 2008 movement was greater than that of all the acts of terrorism that had so far been conducted.
The Year of Killing the Youth (2010):
“When I get older
“I’ll be stronger
“They’ll call me freedom
Just like a moving flag”
The chorus with Kashmiri flags waving in the background became a title song of the movement in 2010.
The new wave of protests was a reaction to the Indian army’s fresh atrocities in occupied Kashmir. In April the Indian army claimed to have killed three ‘Pakistani infiltrators’ in an encounter. It transpired however that the three were in fact innocent local youngsters earlier hired to do manual work for the Indian army. They were executed in cold blood to get promotions. Protests against the brutal killings spread throughout the valley after the tragic death of Tufail Mattoo on June 11. Mattoo was a schoolboy who was playing cricket in a playground in Srinagar when a tear gas canister hit him directly on the head, killing the boy instantly. The killing underlined the plight of the children in a colony controlled by an army of occupation.
Official figures reveal around 110 people lost their lives and 137 were injured in incidents from May 10 to September 21. The schools in the valley were we shut for almost a month and a half in 2008 and for more than three months on 2010.
The media in India had all along accused Pakistan for causing trouble in Kashmir. The 2010 movement made a section of the press indulge in soul searching over the Kashmiris’ struggle. There were suggestions in papers like The Hindu and Indian Express to mainstream parties to reach out to the moderate elements of the Hurriyet and for revival of talks with Pakistan.
The Year of the Dead Eyes (2016):
India has never been criticised so openly and strongly in the international media for oppression in Indian Occupied Kashmir as during the ongoing mass movement . As many as 73 people were dead in 58 days of the movement by Sunday Sep4. The year is likely to go down as one of the bloodiest in IoK’s history.
In 2010, the protests were restricted to Srinagar, Baramulla, Sopore and Anantnag. This time, the entire Valley including the countryside is on fire. It is no more an urban based movement.
One shell from a pellet gun has hundreds of small metallic pieces that fan out in a six-foot circle. Scores with eye injuries are in danger of going blind permanently
As a senior Kashmiri Journalist working with Reuters has put it, “This time, it’s about people’s anger. If the previous generations were anti-India, this generation hates India.”
The Washington Post says (July 21) “Wani has become something that India has long feared: a homegrown militant openly lionised across the embattled region, a powerful symbol against Indian rule who has united Kashmir’s many factions. Today, rock-throwing high school students paint his name on shuttered storefronts — “BURHAN OUR HERO” — while everyone from fearsome insurgents to moderate politicians mourn him.” “A high-ranking Indian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to talk openly, worries that the brutality of India’s clampdowns, and its ineptness with such basic concerns as traffic enforcement and criminal investigations, have left Kashmiris with no trust at all in the government.”
Hundreds of Kashmiris including children and youth have got eye injuries caused by Indian security forces’ pellet guns. One shell from a pellet gun has hundreds of small metallic pieces that fan out in a six-foot circle. Scores with eye injuries are in danger of going blind permanently.
A New York Times article titled “The Victims of India’s Pellet Guns” (August 29) denounces the inhuman way India tries to control the protest. The movement has put Indian on the defensive as never before