Opinion

Five Myths Indians Have On Kashmir

In the last decade, the voices claiming Kashmir as an integral part of India have not only grown shriller, but more pervasive too. It should, however, not come as a shocker as a country that aspires to become a superpower is supposed to be more assertive in terms of wielding its authority and power in the region.

Photograph by Abid Bhat

Photograph by Abid Bhat

But Kashmir, even according to India’s constitution is a ‘disputed territory’ and the more than two-decade-old bloody conflict in the region has so far claimed at least 70, 000 human lives, including civilians, Kashmiri and foreign militants and government forces.

Just as we can’t deny that Kashmiris have a right to choose their future as promised when the state temporarily acceded to the Indian Union, we can’t gloss over the fact that people in the rest of India are growing more vocal against any sort of secession.

While the unfamiliarity of majority of Indians vis-à-vis Kashmir issue can’t be neglected, a major chunk, despite being aware of the legitimate rights of its people, are playing deliberate dumbs because of their ultra-nationalism.

In this article, we have highlighted five major myths of Indians regarding the Kashmir issue. The reasons, among others, are lack of knowledge about the events that led to the accession of the state with Indian Union and the geo-political events across the world in the last decade or so.

Indians can’t buy land in Kashmir because of Article 370

There is nothing new in the law that restricts Indians from buying land in Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, the provision is rooted in the state’s history. Just like there are laws that restrict Indians from buying land in Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Kashmir too, since its days of Dogra king, has such laws called the State Subject Laws.

“That is an old rule coming on, not a new thing, and I think that it is a very good rule which should continue, because Kashmir is such a delectable place that moneyed people will buy up all the land there to the misfortune of the people who live there; that is the real reason and that reason has applied ever since British times and for one hundred years or more,” Nehru told Indian parliamentarians in the Lok Sabha.

There are people, mostly ultra-nationalists like the RSS and the BJP, claiming that Kashmir is not witnessing a growth and a boom in job market because industrialists can’t buy land there. To ensure that the provision doesn’t hamper the growth, the state allows industrialists and investors to rent land, as much as they need, on a 90-year lease.

Also, because of Article 370, the Government of J&K carried out massive land reforms in 1950 – making it an inclusive economy. Because of these reforms, the households living below poverty line in the state is a meager 3 per cent as against 26 per cent in the rest of India.

Kashmiris are happy with India. It is just Pakistan creating a turmoil in the state

Pakistan, which is an important party to Kashmir dispute, has undoubtedly been providing moral and diplomatic support to Kashmir’s freedom struggle since its inception in late ’80s. Even if it doesn’t admit, its military trained thousands of Kashmiri militants – both nationalistic and pro-Pakistan – and provided them with ammunition to fight Indian forces.

Majority of Kashmiris, roughly between 75 per cent and 95 per cent in the valley, according to a poll conducted by London-based Chatham House in 2010, supported Kashmir’s freedom from both India and Pakistan.

Muslims attacked Kashmiri Pandits in early 90s and forced them out of the valley

True that Kashmiri Pandits left the valley out of fear as the armed revolt began against the Indian rule. But before blaming the Muslims, a majority in the valley, we need to take a holistic view of the circumstances at that time. There was no civil society, government machinery had collapsed and the state was under President’s rule, represented by governor Jagmohan.

Saadut, a Kashmir blogger writes: “While most of these killings happened after January of 1990, there has been no plausible reason given to why most of the Pandits fled on the night of 19 January 1990. The only coincidences close to this date are joining of Jagmohan as governor of J&K one day prior and the repeated massacres by Indian forces right after 19 January. Sadly many facts in India have been twisted to create a demonic image of every Kashmir Muslim, blaming them for every crime of this conflict.

“Sample this ‘(all pundits) will remember the night of January 19 — the night when their Muslim neighbours, friends and colleagues turned against them. The night when they kept awake all night, as frenzied mobs on the streets and inside mosques called for their extermination.’ (The Hindu 20th January 2014, There Are No Goodbyes). This claim aims to make you believe that on the night of 19th January 1990 Pandits houses were surrounded by hostile and ‘blood seeking’ Muslims, resulting in their migration. How would it be possible, under unrelenting curfew from 17th January itself with shoot at sight orders, Muslims managed to assemble and surround Pandit habitations on the night of 19 January, and then within minutes of this Pandits managed to pack their belongings, seek friendly passage from ‘this hostile crowd’, call up state run SRTC and then drive away under armed escort’? Logic and reason surely fail here.

“As protests kept swelling, Muslims believed ‘Azadi’ was just round the corner while Pandits got scared by the sheer quantum of this rebellion. It was this fear in Pandits that many agencies (including some armed men) exploited for own interests. While most Pandits from Srinagar, already under a fear psychosis, were escorted in state buses on 19th January curfewed night, right after Jagmohan had taken over, Pandits from rural areas migrated in later months and years, trailing the exodus trend in fright and scare.

“Most Pandit killings (219 killed in 20 years) happened after later part of 1990 while the repetitive massacres right after 19 January.  Gaw Kadal massacre happened one day after 19th January (on 21st Jan 1990, 52 killed and more than 250 critically injured), the Alamgari Bazar massacre on 22nd January 1990 (killing 10 civilians and fatally injuring scores), the Handwara massacre on 25th January 1990 (killing 25 civilians and critically injuring dozens others). The list of such massacres by Indian forces seems unending while the reasons of 19th exodus strangely linking to their occurrence.

“Credence to this also comes from other statements; Jagmohan in an interview to Current, May 1990, “Every Muslim in Kashmir is a militant today. All of them are for secession from India. I am scuttling Srinagar Doordarshan’s programmes because everyone there is a militant… The bullet is the only solution for Kashmir. Unless the militants are fully wiped out, normalcy can’t return to the Valley.”Wajahat Habibullah recalling how Muslim groups appealed to the Governor (via Habibullah) to stop Pandits from leaving, his suggestion to Governor Jagmohan about a television (and radio) broadcast of requests from hundreds of Muslims to their Pandit neighbors not to leave Kashmir, being rejected by Jagmohan.

“On the contrary Jagmohan announcing that ‘the Government cannot guarantee any safety of Pandits….if Pandits decided to leave, refugee settlement camps had been set up for them and also that departing civil servants among the Pandits would continue to be paid their salaries’. The state was clearly pushing for an exodus.”

More details here: http://www.saadut.com/2014_01_19_archive.html

Had the people in Kashmir, both Muslims and non-Muslims, not lived in harmony, then the region wouldn’t have been calm when whole of the India was burning in the run up to the partition of the sub-continent. Even when Hindus in Jammu – just 300 km from Srinagar, massacred at least three lakh Muslims in 1947 during the past Partition inter-religious violence, not a single person from the minority Hindu community was harmed in the valley. Historians have called it an act of ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Jammu region.

On August 10, 1948, The Times (London) published a report [‘Elimination of Muslims from Jammu’, Part II, 10th August 1948, p. 5] by “A Special Correspondent”, saying “2,37,000 Muslims were systematically exterminated – unless they escaped to Pakistan along the border – by all the forces of the Dogra State, headed by the Maharaja in person and aided by Hindus and Sikhs.

Article 370 breeds more separatism in Kashmir

The article has acted like a bridge between J&K and the Government of India since the state’s fleeing Maharaja ‘conditionally’ acceded to the Indian Union. According to the Instrument of accession, Indian government was only responsible for Jammu and Kashmir’s “Foreign Affairs, Defence, Communication and ancillary matters”. However, the article, which has been eroded over the years and is like an eroded shell, according to a commentator, provided India a window to apply its laws to the state.

Till the article, even in this form, isn’t untouched, people in the state feel they have still something to cling to, but the day it is abrogated, it would prove counter productive and add to the alienation in the state.

“The separatists, on the other hand, would love to see the constitutional arrangement be scrapped because Kashmir in their view would then “become a clear Indian military occupation” without a “legal instrument” guiding its relationship with the Indian Union,” writes Parvaiz Bukhari, a Srinagar journalist.

Indian forces are saviours of Kashmiris

In my discussions with a cross section of Indian youths, including the supposedly educated ones, I have been always stoned with lines: ‘Indian Army protects you’, ‘They sacrifice their lives for your safety’, etc. Undoubtedly, these men, including young, educated officers and 8th or 10th pass foot soldiers, sacrifice their lives for their country. Whatever their motivation of joining the army or paramilitary forces, for a Kashmiri they are part of an occupying force. Nobody would expect a mother who has lost her young son to the bullet of an Indian soldier to see him as a protector. And there are thousands of such mothers in Kashmir, who are silently suffering in the confines of their homes.

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