Faultline Kashmir

The goal of the other contestant is to free it using force against force. Faultline Kashmir caused three major wars between Pakistan and India in the first twenty-five years of their existence.

Samuel Huntington defines fault line conflicts as vicious and bloody conflicts rooted in religious or ethnic identity of people. These conflicts tend to be protracted, sometimes punctuated by truces and agreements that soon break down, re-starting the conflict with much more intensity and thereby resulting in increased numbers of deaths and destruction without any comparable gains. At such times moderates take centre stage stressing the need for negotiation. Negotiations again fail leaving the field clear for extremists. And the process goes on and on for generations. Huntington, therefore, labels such conflicts as “off-again-on-again” conflicts (The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order). Palestine, Sinkiang, Moro-Philipine, Tamil-Sri Lanka, Chechenia, Rohingya-Burma, Nagorno-Karabakh, Kashmir, are some examples.

Fault line conflicts, observes Huntington, are struggles over control of territory; or of territory as well as people. The goal of one contestant is to keep it by force. The goal of the other contestant is to free it using force against force. Faultline Kashmir caused three major wars between Pakistan and India in the first twenty-five years of their existence.

Fault line Kashmir has its roots in the 1947-religion-based partition of British India. Then, the Princely Kashmir State had one of the two rational choices: either to opt for independence from the two new states that emerged in place of British India; or to go for a similar partition of territories followed by accession of non-Muslim majority zones to India and of Muslim majority zones to Pakistan. As it turned out, Kashmir State became a cause of belligerence between Pakistan and India; and war resulted in an irrational partition of the State. India captured Muslim majority zones of Kashmir State under various pretexts and indulged in double speak on the issue of Kashmiris’ right to self-determination. Pakistan wished to capture the whole State, including its non-Muslim majority zones, on the strength of Muslim majority vote.

In a fault line conflict the contestants project the territory at stake into a sort of symbol of their history and identity. Thus for Pakistan, Kashmir is the shah rag (jugular vein); and for India atoot ang (integral part); both implying that they are incomplete without Kashmir. The people inhabiting the territory, who be the real owners of it, perhaps do not count.

From 1947 on, India failed to positively respond to demands for right to self-determination in Kashmir. Instead they relied on co-optation of Big Men like Sheikh Abdullah, Karan Singh, G.M. Bakshi, G. M. Sadiq, leaving Kashmiris’ original grievance intact. In 1989 the conflict turned violent inside Kashmir. Consequently Kashmir fell victim to assassinations, kidnappings, massacres, migrations, rape, detention, torture, enforced disappearances, custodial killings. But this was not all. Like in any other fault line conflict, the stakeholders on Kashmir shifted their identity.Initially Kashmiris took to arms led by an ostensibly secular and nationalist organization called the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) which sought complete independence of the former Princely Kashmir State.

Yet they appealed to Muslims only through Islamist slogans they borrowed from Muslim United Front (MUF), a coalition of right wing Muslim parties of Kashmir formed in 1986; MUF itself had raised these slogans during election-1987 under the influence of Afghan “jihad”. Perhaps JKLF believed that non-Muslims would anyhow not lend support against India and that even Muslims could not be mobilized without recourse to use of religious slogans. They even assassinated non-Muslims accusing them of working for Indian intelligence agencies (not that they did not assassinate Muslims; but Muslims are lesser human beings in Kashmir). Initially they were supported by Pakistan. Pakistan then shifted support to Islamist pro-Pakistan groups more particularly the Hizbul Mujahideen which soon became dominant. Not only that, Pakistan in coming years facilitated the transfer of Islamism to Kashmir.

The United States and its European Allies, in conjunction with the Muslim world, had invented Islamism (the use of Islam for political purposes) to mobilize Muslims from around the world to fight Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Just as this Islamism turned the Afghan war of independence into a global Islamist enterprise, so did this Islamism turn Kashmir into an Islamist affair so much so that JKLF was soon supplanted by Hizbul Mujahideen and after a generation of fighting even Hizbul Mujahideen was progressively supplanted by global Islamist organizations, if not completely, then at least partially.

Huntington observes that once started, fault line conflicts take on a life of their own and develop into an action-reaction pattern. Just as inside Kashmir the conflict was being given a new identity, that of a global Islamist affair, the extreme right wing in India came to the fore and attempted in reaction to shift their perspective on Kashmir. Previously they talked of merging Kashmir with India constitutionally, i.e., by abrogating the Article 370 of the Constitution of India which, in theory, implied that the provincial Government and the Legislative Assembly of Kashmir would be taken into confidence. Having come to power they turned more aggressive and demanded, without reference to Kashmir Government and Legislature, abrogation of Article 35A of the Constitution of India which constitutional provision has so far prevented outsiders from settling in Kashmir. In between they attempted to manufacture a biblical claim on Kashmir by invoking its Hindu past and by identifying various spots in Kashmir Valley as Hindu pilgrimage sites. In fact the Hindutva brigades have cashed on Islamist rhetoric used in Kashmir. It has sort of helped them to capture more political space in India than they otherwise would have been able to.
If the things go on at this rate it seems very probable that no resolution of Kashmir issue would be forthcoming in next hundred years.

Fault line Kashmir needs resolution. To that purpose Kashmir is in need of statesmen not factious politicians. Politicians in Kashmir have developed entrenched interests. They seem to be interested in running personalized factions (what in Kashmiri is called wandabaazi). The “freedom seeking” coalition called Hurriyat is a group of more than fifty personalized factions (wandas), each keen on its own survival (same with “mainstream” factions). It seems that either status quo suits them or they are at a loss to understand how to proceed. Consequently Kashmir suffers. So what is needed is increased activism on part of civil society given the failure of political society to give proper lead to the people. Time demands that the civil society take the initiative into its own hands. It must try to treat the maladies afflicting Kashmir, without waiting for local factious politicians, or for governments of India and Pakistan.
First and foremost civil society would have to correct the narrative on Kashmir. Fault line Kashmir is a political dispute in which religion has a very limited role. That is to say that if a plebiscite were taken, a person’s voting behavior would be influenced by his religious affiliation. Even so, if majority of Kashmiri (Muslims including) vote for non-Muslim majority India, it would be their self-determination. By no means is Kashmir a civilizational clash between Hinduism and global Islam.

There is only a very thin line between Hindutva-Islamist narrative and the original historical issue concerning the State Subjects (Permanent Residents) of Kashmir State. Furthermore, instead of seeking to humiliate India in Kashmir as Soviet Union was in Afghanistan, Pakistan in Bangladesh, USA in Vietnam and now again in Afghanistan, the civil society, enjoying the benefit of freedom from the compulsions of global political strategy, and also not ensnared by foreign money and dictation, must seek a roadmap which is a win-win for all parties concerned, the State Subjects of former Princely Kashmir, Pakistan, and India. Especially it should seek an honourable exit for India from this quagmire. This is not to say that Pakistan and India are free to do as they wish. India and Pakistan, primarily in their own interests, and then in the interests of peace in South Asia, need to shun their respective policies aimed at harming each other and to acknowledge that the ultimate right of shaping the final destiny of Kashmir States lies with the general mass of States Subjects of that State. Co-optation of Big Men Will serve only transitionally.


Ashiq Hussain

Ashiq Hussain is based in Indian Administered Kashmir and is author of three books on the K-conflict.
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