The Kashmir Story
By Dr. Ajay Chrungoo
John Ruskin, the famed British
essayist, classified books into two categories - Books of the hour and
Books of all time. 'In search of a future-The story of
a new book on Kashmir
by David Devdas, a
well-known columnist, defies this classification. The book offers rich
historical material, flaunts interesting formulations, yet it has major
structural weaknesses. The very premise on which Dev Das tries to build his
thesis of 'alienation' is flawed and untenable. Even his assertions on
origins of the terrorist movement are not backed up by facts. Still the book
retains its relevance. It is scholarly and a valiant attempt to contest someo f
the myths, assiduously perpetuated by different actors with vested interests.
David Devdas tries to locate
Kashmiri alienation (read Muslim alienation) in 'Frustrated aspirations'
of new groups of educated youth aspiring for jobs. He attributes 'historical
socio-economic resentment' against Kashmiri Pandits and their
disproportionate share' in professional trainings and jobs as the basis of
so-called 'thwarted aspirations'. At times the author makes confused and
contradictory statements. For example at one place he says 'Selfish
aspirations have run amok'. The 'frustrated' and 'selfish' expressions have
two conflicting connotations. What can be the basis for study of share of
different communities in land, trade, manufacturing, jobs and trainings and even
demography other than historically verifiable data? Devdas does not provide any
statistics at all. Anecdotal tales do history.
'Frustrated aspirations' thesis has been directly lifted up from 'Frustrated
Middle Class', a hackneyed expression used by
Prem Shankar Jha
in 1990. Jha's sympathies, if
his writings and public stances are any indication, lie with exclusivist
Kashmiri Muslim sub-nationalism. His contribution to distortion of facts to
render legitimacy to this regressive sub-nationalism has been legion. As
terrorist movement unfolded in Kashmir a self-righteous
section of Indian Civil Society, rooted in left-liberal politics, sought to rake
up 'economic reasons' behind the armed revolt.. The objective was to
obfuscate the theo-fascist character of the movement. How could the
religious-based separatist campaign build the emotive pitch for the terrorist
movement without raking up extreme religiosity? For this identifying a religious
minority as 'the other' was a compulsion. It has been true of all
communal movements in history. Inventing imaginary wrongs committed by Pandits
against the majority community became a necessity - both to build a
'socio-economic rationale' for the theo-fascist movement as well as to unleash
religious-cleansing against Kashmiri Hindus.
takes a communal view of history. He identifies religious communities as
homogenous groups, ignoring class and social stratification. How do few members
of the community, who may have held substantial jagirs, make up the whole
community? More than 80% of Kashmiri Pandit population lived in the city of
Srinagar at all times during the past 200 years. How many of them were
landowning families? How many Pandit families were engaged in big shawl trade?
Why should a historically persecuted minority be subjected to psychological
retribution just because few Pandit families happened to be part of landed
gentry? Is it not to build a rationale for permanent cleansing of Kashmiri
Pandits for all times to come?
tribal invasion there were innumerable instances where Pandit families were
saved by their Muslim tillers. How could this be possible if Pandit landlords
had been harsh towards their tenants? During 1819-1947 one does not come across
a single peasant revolt in Kashmir.
Why has it been so? If peasant question was missing in National Conference
campaign in pre-1947 period it was because landlordism was not a serious issue
at all. Peasantry suffered because of low-yield of agriculture and occasionally
because of excesses committed by revenue bureaucracy. Before 1931 Kashmiris were
reluctant to take land because of difficulty in paying revenue. It was after
1931 when proprietary rights were granted in Kashmir that Kashmiris-both
communities began investing in land. In 1948-1950 when new regime initiated land
reforms Sheikh Abdullah and Bakshi Gh. Mohammad were cool to the idea. Mirza
Afzal Beg, who himself was a landlord, and GM Sadiq supported land reforms for
communal and communist reasons respectively. Sheikh Abdullah came to support
land reforms at a later stage when threat of plebiscite was looming large and
Pakistan was raking up religious emotions to clinch the issue. Pt Rish Dev, a
communist leader and Director of 'Debt Cancellation Board' has authored a study
on the land reforms in
Kashmir, an English
translation of which is now available. He has provided shocking details of how
landlords of the majority community behaved towards their tenants and also
circumvented land reforms through political patronage. Normally, the tenants
should have had more resentment against their co-regionalists. Devdas takes a
very superficial view of Kashmir's rural scene,
remaining contented in listening to 'daleels' rather than dissecting the problem
deeper. If sections of landed gentry, shawl and other traders, educated youth
from majority community were fuelling communal passions against Pandits it was
because geo-political factors were in operation. The Britishers had been putting
enough pressure on Dogra Maharajas over the issue of Gilgat. They were not happy
with Maharaja Hari Singh, particularly over his role during Round Table
Conference. There was also spillover of communal politics from Punjab.
Even on the issue of jobs, the
greater share of which is supposed to have gone to Pandits the boot is on the
other leg. There have been two phases of separatist armed insurgency - 1960s and
1980s. 1960s was the age of plenty. Large-scale development and huge funds
pushed by the Central government into Kashmir flooded Kashmir with jobs.. There
was, infact, paucity of people to fill the vacancies. If Kashmiri Pandits could
also gain entry into State government sector particularly as teachers, it was
understandable. At the time of exodus in 1990 the number of Pandit employees was
13 thousand among 4 lakh state government employees. Out of this 6500 worked in
education sector alone. So where was the question of resentment over jobs and
trainings? Moreover, besides increased number of jobs available there was a
revolution in agriculture and dairy, productions increased many fold. There was
also boom in carpets/handicraft and horticulture sector. Even the poorest of the
poor became beneficiaries of the expansion of Handlooms.
Communalism, Secessionism and Fundamentalism:
for economic reasons behind the eruption of armed revolt is to search for black
spots on the sun. The origins of communal-separatist movement in Kashmir need to
be looked into elsewhere. In 1947 the size of Kashmiri Muslim educated class was
small. Due to free education and better economic opportunities it expanded
manifold. Whether it was Land Reforms, Debt cancellation or expansion of
development sector there were no politically meaningful campaigns to back these.
These were implemented as part of 'Correcting Historical Wrongs'. This
strengthened communal political consciousness among the youth who grew up
between 1947-1964. The threat of reopening of accession also loomed large. This
introduced an element of opportunism. And finally, the youth was exposed to
communal-secessionist politics of Plebiscite Front since 1953.
with this campaign the fundamentalist organisations-Jamaat Islami, Ahli Hadith
and Allawale were trying to bring religious consciousness in tune with Wahabi
orientation. Since 1980 the Kashmiri youth were exposed to transnational jihad
also. It was not 'frustrated aspirations' but heightened sense of communal
identity and increasing proclivity to fundamentalist-secessionist ideas that was
breeding alienation from
India. Instead of countering
this trend the mainstream politics tried to sail with it.
makes some bizarre formulations. One that the areas which benefited from Land
Reforms and Development were not pro-Pakistan. Secondly, the pockets where land
reforms had been rolled back-by consolidating orchards which were exempt from
land ceilings the Jamaat dominated. Thirdly, doctors and engineers came to be
attracted by Jamaat Islami.
Jamaat Islami's strongholds
were Zaingir-Pohru belt and Sopore in north Kashmir, Kulgam-Shopian in South
Kashmir and Mochow-Soibug-Wadawan in Central Kashmir. In Srinagar it was the
Solina area which Jamaat considered its bastion. None of these areas had
anything specific which was not common to rest of the Valley. There has
always been a thin line between pro-Pak sentiment and local Muslim
sub-nationalism. Infact, there has been inter-changing of roles. To locate
pro-Pak sentiment in thwarted land reforms and non-development is to fly from
facts. Lastly, it were not doctors and engineers as professional groups who
were more enamoured by Jamaat Islami. The cadres from Jamaat came mostly amongst
teachers (who had access to Jamaat literature), masons, Pir-Syed group who
leaned towards Wahabism-Debandi ideology, some members of low social origin who
needed a superstructure ideology for respectability.
Jamaat Islami's top leaders
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Saadudin, Qari Saifuddin etc. started their career as
teachers. Geelani's father was a casual night watchmen and not a member of
ruined feudal class. Another section which identified itself with Jamaat Islami
were corrupt members of bureaucracy and upstart elite. In this case cover of
Jamaat Islami provided a smokescreen to camouflage their misdeeds. An excellent
study of this phenomenon titled 'Kashmiri Muslim Society-Changing Contours'
by Dr. K.N. Pandita was published in Kashmir Times, Jammu in 1991.
Devdas wrongly singles out National Conference leadership for seeing Jamaat
Islami only as a doctrinal grouping and not as a socio-economic force. None
of the leaders-Bakshi, Sadiq or
Sheikh Abdullah treated Jamaat
Islami as a threat-either as a doctrinal threat or as a socio-political force.
They maintained opportunistic relationship with Jamaat Islami. Mir Qasim even
rewarded them with 5 assembly seats in 1972.
In fact, emerging rural elite
used Jamaat as a vehicle for getting share in administrative and political
power. Qasim-Jamaat alliance was its manifestation.
David Devdas would like us to
believe that ISI started training Kashmiris in subversion only after December
1987. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Not only a leading news agency but
also government's own sources had confirmed that by May 1984 hundreds of
Kashmiri youth had undergone training in 13 camps set up by Pakistan and were
paid Rs 20 thousand on return by ISI. Who were these people who underwent
training if JKLF/Islamic Student League went for training only after December
1987? Devdas is silent on this.
Dev Das has a
solution - Indo-Pak problem can be resolved only if Kashmir heals itself. He
remarks, "That healing must be internal. Harmony within
Kashmir is not possible
without moral courage. It involves accommodation of others' aspirations and that
is only possible through non-attachment and discipline".
Will Kashmiris listen?