Political Debacles

Greater Kashmir

 In 1986 the Congress government at the center dismissed the G M Shah government and Governor Jagmohan took over as the representative of the central
 In 1986 the Congress government at the center dismissed the G M Shah government and Governor Jagmohan took over as the representative of the central government and effective ruler of J&K. The rationale given by New Delhi to replace Shah with Jagmohan was the breakdown of the law and order machinery. This political move in which Kashmiri politicians were shunted around like pawns was a destruction of political autonomy and a creation of institutional paralysis. Tariq Ali summarizes the destructive effect of the despotic policies deployed by New Delhi during that fateful decade:”… during the 1980s India interfered in the region with increasing ferocity, dismissing elected governments, imposing states of emergency, alternating soft and hard governors. Delhi’s favourite despot was responsible for the suppression of the ultra-secular Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and the imprisonment and torture of its leader, Maqbool Bhat. Young Kashmiri men were arrested, tortured and killed by Indian soldiers; women of all ages were abused and raped. The aim was to break the will of the people, but instead many young men now took up arms without bothering where they came from “(Tariq Ali, “The Story of Kashmir,” In The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity. London: Verso, 2003. 246).
 In late 1986 Farooq Abdullah conceded defeat by forging an alliance with the Congress party at the center. The creation of this alliance was a death knell for regional political aspirations and cultural pride. Farooq’s attempt to establish harmonious relationships with the Congress regime at the center was met with contempt and derision by NC’s popular base but enabled his installation as head of state pending fresh assembly elections in March 1987. Farooq’s capitulation to New Delhi’s whims and caprices created a deep rift between the NC and its mass following, which was unwilling to accept New Delhi as its lord and master. Elections were held in Indian administered Kashmir in 1987 in order to constitute a legislative assembly and a state government. By then the National Conference had managed to alienate its popular base and represented only the interests of a powerful political elite. During this election, the NC was vociferously opposed by an unwieldy coalition of non-mainstream, anti-establishment groups, calling itself the Muslim United Front (MUF). The MUF was a conglomerate that lacked structure and a unifying political ideology. However, as an Indian newspaper with a wide readership observed during the campaign, the emergence of the MUF indicated that “the Valley is sharply divided between the party machine that brings out the traditional vote for the NC, and hundreds of thousands who have entered politics as participants for the first time under the umbrella provided by the MUF” (India Today, 31 Mar. 1987, 26). In 1987, the populace of Kashmir voiced the unanimous wish to elect a party that would redress their grievances and nurture their aspirations (Conversations with Political Activists in Kashmir 2007).
 But New Delhi wasn’t willing to let anti-establishment organizations rule the roost in a state in which it could exercise power only through proxy. This instance of the egregious erosion of democratic processes and institutions worked to the advantage of the Congress party which had been unable to form a mass base in Kashmir and had traditionally been perceived as the arch opponent of Kashmiri nationalism and cultural pride.
 By the late 1990s the purportedly secular policies of the Congress had been replaced by the Hindu nationalist politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party. By the late 1990s the purportedly secular policies of the Congress had been replaced by the Hindu nationalist politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party. In the Kashmir Valley Islamist groups mushroomed as Afghan mercenaries came across the border in order to perpetuate the reign of terror. The main rival organizations during that period were the home grown Hizbul Mujahideen and the Pakistani- sponsored and abetted Lashkar-i-Tayyaba and Harkatul Mujahidin (Conversations with Political Activists in Kashmir 2007). These groups assassinated each other’s militants, kidnapped Western tourists in order to extort money or for political mileage, harassed Kashmiri Pandits who had been an inextricable part of the region for centuries, took punitive action against Kashmiri Muslims who remained fiercely secular, and organized subversive action against Indian forces and officials. The factionalism in these groups enabled New Delhi to create unbridgeable gulfs between them, which disallowed them from joining forces in order to defeat the designs of the Indian administration and forces. Some of the Islamist groups in this region are the creation of Pakistani military intelligence (Tariq Ali, “The Story of Kashmir” 251). Governor Jagmohan employed ruthless measures to pulverize the support that these Islamist groups had managed to garner: “Night-long house-to-house searches became a part of everyday life. Young men were abducted by Indian soldiers, never to be seen again” (Tariq Ali, “The Story of Kashmir” 247). Jagmohan’s autocratic rule and the tyranny of Afghan mercenaries resulted in the militarization of Kashmiri culture and the torture of hapless Kashmiri civilians. The sense of disenfranchisement was aggravated in Kashmir by New Delhi’s rule, which lasted until 1996 when the Farooq Abdullah led National Conference came back to power. But Farooq’s collaboration with the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party further eroded the mass base of the National Conference. While the popularity of the National Conference was steadily diminishing, a new phenomenon was emerging in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir in 1988. A large number of young men had gone across the Line of Control, supposedly of their own volition, in order to acquire arms and combat training to fight for the cause of Kashmiri independence. On July 31, 1988 bomb explosions occurred outside Srinagar’s central telegraph office and at the Srinagar Club, an establishment for the political elite of the state. Although the attacks were launched by young Kashmiri men trained across the Line of Control, they had been planned by Muhammad Rauf Kashmiri, a Pakistani member of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, an organization committed to regaining the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir (Conversation with Political Activists in the Kashmir Valley, 2007). Events that were celebrated in the rest of India were overtly mourned in
Kashmir: August 15 (the day India gained independence in 1947), January 26 (India’s republic day in 1950), were occasions that evoked a resentful and pain-filled response in the Valley, creating a paralysis of sorts. In November 1989 another Indian parliamentary election was held in Jammu and Kashmir, which the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and other pro-autonomy groups asked the populace to boycott. The electorate responded to this call of the pro-autonomy groups to boycott the election by abstaining. The NC won unopposed in Srinagar, while in Varmul and Islamabad, the other two parliamentary constituencies in the Valley, the NC won enormous victories. Although the NC ostensibly represented the Kashmir people and was accountable to them, a large proportion of J&K’s population was not just alienated but palpably antagonistic “* toward New Delhi: “The political history of IJK (Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir) clearly does not fulfill even the procedural minima of democratic governance. With the partial exception of 1947-1953 and 1977-1984, New Delhi elites have ruled the territory through a combination of direct control and intrusive intervention, and through sponsorship of intermediary IJK governments unrepresentative of and hence unaccountable to the population. This policy appears to have been motivated by fear of Pakistani designs, and by suspicion and mistrust of the loyalties and preferences of most of Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir’s population. The strategy has had the effect of severely retarding democratic institutional development and rights of franchise, participation, and representation in IJK.
 This, aggravated by systematic elimination of IJK’s autonomous regime — coercive “integration’ effected via compliance of client IJK governments — has in time turned Indian elites’ fear of separatism into a tragically self-fulfilling prophecy” (Sumantra Bose, Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace 97-98). The systemic erosion of political opposition in J&K has delegitimized the voice of dissent and radicalized antagonism toward state-sponsored institutions and organizations. The exposure of Indian democracy as a brutal facade has instigated unmitigated disgruntlement and antipathy toward Indian democratic procedures and institutions in the State.

(Nyla Ali Khan is the grand daughter of Late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. She is Assistant Professor Department of English Thomas Hail 206 University of Nebraska-Kearney Kearney)