In what manner and to what extent has religious disparity affected the conflict (ongoing and past) in the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir?
The question arose and was decided so for three reasons.

1) The quantity and quality of information, from diverse sources:
Religion was the most controversial issue during Partition and remains so in related historical debates. Most historians of the Hindutva faction refer to religious ‘evidence’ or at the very least to religious matters as legitimate sources, repudiated by the secular historians.

2) The importance in relation to the conflict:
The issues most often debated are Muslim mosque and Hindu temple destruction, the legality and socio-economic ramifications of partition and territorial claims based on the notion of cultural and religious unity (Bharatavarsha). Even legal claims are heavily influenced by religious matters. I endeavoured to present this divisive issue as the central point upon which the debate rests by devoting the majority of my attention to it, relating it not to Jammu and Kashmir in particular, but to the broader Hindu-Muslim struggle as a whole (in order to demonstrate façade of politicking placed over what is, essentially, a conflict of ideologies in which both sides seek vengeance).

3) The intricacy and purpose of the debate:
As noted, there is a certain polarisation of stances within the debate into Hindutva and secular Marxist parties which naturally engenders a great deal of controversy. Moreover, with political backing in the form of the BJP (its policies less than favourable to the monotheistic and secular viewpoints the Marxist historians revere and/or defend) the issue acquires another dimension quite beyond the legitimacy of sources and narrative of individual perspectives. Indeed, this division into mutually hostile schools of thought is highly conducive to discussion of historical trends, which have their basis in either secularism or Hinduism - hence, the divergence. I have endeavoured to cover the politicisation of history with reference to the emergence of national ideals from colonialism, then Marxism and communalism from their respective predecessors (especially the reactionary communalist movement’s coincidence with the rise of the BJP and what that has engendered in terms of the re-interpretation of history.

The writeup below is of markedly higher quality and is spoken with more authority than mine. I do take exception to some of the so-called 'critiques' as they have little or no bearing on what I have written, but if you must believe one or the other in any case, I am not vouching for my own work.


When Britain hastily withdrew from India, some 580 Princedoms (mostly run by local Rajas within British India) were obliged to cede their lands to either party. The Maharaja Hari Singh Bahadur, ruler of Jammu and Kashmir (significantly a Hindu in a Muslim-majority region) elected to join India as a result of West Pakistani incursions and disputes over the legitimacy of his action thus arose. One of the pivotal questions relating to Partition, the legitimacy of legal claims to Jammu and Kashmir and the very formation of distinct Indian and Pakistani states is religion; moreover, it is imperative to view Jammu and Kashmir as being merely symptomatic of a broader ideological conflict which permeates all records and folds the local into the national (1). There is, therefore, a distinct bias in the work of all historians who chronicle the unfolding events.

Indian history today owes much to a nationalist ideal which developed before independence which held that (in direct opposition to the colonial British historiography histories) existing native evidence was admissible for critical examination and could thus be legitimised. Within nationalist historiography, there developed in time the Marxist trend which now defends itself against the rising tide of communalism, which is inherently hostile to its secular predecessor by virtue of its extreme (and often dubiously reputable) use of religious generalisations, further detailed below. On both sides of the debate the conflict is portrayed as the product of directly opposed beliefs, most prominently polytheistic Hinduism (known academically as ‘Hindutva’/‘Hindu principles’ (2) and atheistic Marxism (by circumstance enmeshed with monotheistic Islam and Christianity) and the history of conflict between them. One particularly volatile issue in which both Marxist and Hindutva parties have become embroiled is the firm hold which Marxist historians have held over many organs of public education such as the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), the National Council of Educational Research Training (NCERT), large parts of Indian academia, and much of the English-media newspapers and publishing houses. The progressive erosion of this grasp in light of the changing political tide now sees a distinctly religion-oriented approach to history under the auspices of patriotic revisionism, which is anathema to the endeavour to remove bias so highly regarded by the Marxist historians. Rather characteristically of Indian history, much debate and most accusations relate to the use of ambiguous and embellished accounts.

The self-declared communalist Sita Ram Goel writes that monotheistic faiths such as Islam are inherently geared to repress others; he also condemns those who note that India has long been the domain of warring tribes and clans in saying that “if they look a little deeper, they will soon discover a type of unity which far surpasses mere political unity and which has proved more permanent. This is the cultural unity of Bharatavarsha.” (3) He continues in asserting that this claim is more credible than that of all others because this nationalistic concept predates all disputants’ claims or – in the case of Muslim Pakistan - their existence, if indeed the concept existed since the beginning of the Vedic Age of Indian civilisation as he believes. Sita Ram Goel was born in 1921 in a poor family (though belonging to the merchant Agrawal caste) in Haryana and quickly became familiar with the major trends in contemporary Hinduism (especially Arya Samaj and Ghandism) and was a Ghandian activist during his tutelage at Delhi University, where he took an MA in History. During the proliferation of Indian socialism in the 1930s and 40s, Goel adopted the ideal of Marxism and had finally resolved to join the Communist Party of India in 1948 (having vocally refuted the policy of endorsing a religion-based Pakistani state, it conflicting with his view of one Hindu Indian state) when the government of West Bengal outlawed the CPI due to its involvement in armed dissent. In an interview, Goel outlined how he was then “cured of communism” (4) by the late Ram Swarup, a fellow Ghandist and fervent anti-communist. Goel further stated that he perceives the writing he produces to be merely a product of Swarup’s teachings, which increasingly rooted his own in Hindu spirituality and so can be seen to have adopted an essentially reactionary stance. Indeed, the nationalistic tradition he cites as evidence is widely credited as having developed after partition and he establishes no demonstrable link between India’s beginnings and the modern state, save ambiguous religious similarities.

Goel also draws very heavily from the work of Shri H.V. Seshadri, which claims that Bharatavarsha (India) possesses – and from the very moment it attained a national identity possessed – legitimate sovereignty over all land to which it now lays claim on the basis that “…many were the seers and sages, poets and prophets – right from the Vedic age up to the modern times – who had fostered in the nation’s breast the integrated and whole picture of Bharat as the Divine Mother” and that “in the past one thousand years… the nation had never compromised, in principle, its sovereignty over any part of the motherland (3).” It is Goel’s policy to refute any claims which dispute Hindu ideology and supremacy, having referred to it as the ‘highest’ culture in human history, largely on the basis of its age and (supposedly consequent) venerability. Integral to his argument of a single, consistently united Hindu nation, he refutes the notion that the Islamic presence in India was ever more than a guise for Islam to proselytize. This pathological contempt of other religions invariably discredits the conclusions he draws - it is a vitriolic style which he himself acknowledges as being offensive.

To the contrary, though, there is a group of authors and columnists (Romila Thapar, Satish Chandra, K.M. Shrimali, K.M. Pannikkar, R.S. Sharma, D.N. Jha, Irfan Habib and Gyanendra Pandey) who operate under the auspices of the title of ‘Eminent Historians’ (acquired during the Ayodhya controversy, wherein a mosque built on a destroyed temple site was itself razed and the action dismissed by the Bharatiya Janata government, with the statement that “a mosque built on a destroyed temple is not a legitimate mosque” (5)). This group asserts that far from possessing a national identity and (as implied by the juxtaposition of Hindu and Muslim territorial disputations made by their opponents), India has indeed lacked cohesion and has previously submitted, in the main, to foreign rule, with few exceptions such as Jammu and Kashmir. Discovering (or, in their view, maintaining) assurance of this perspective is cental to the secular argument, as the Hindutva tradition holds that an ancestral unity is significant enough to constitute a valid claim. Also introduced here is the other primary point of contention: much controversy has hinged on the question of Muslim destruction of Hindu temples, broadly held to have been widespread before the dominance of Islam in India by the secular historians (6) as a second central argument is that Hinduism is overly revered and sympathised-with as being the universal victim in all circumstances.

These claims have been met unfavourably by those who hold their historical practices to be primarily religiously-oriented and who believe fervently in a long-standing Indian national ideal, particularly by journalist Arun Shourie, who possesses a Ph.D. in Economics from Syracuse University and has served as the editor of The Indian Express and in consultancy roles to the World Bank and the Planning Commission. Most glaringly, he is currently a Minister in the BJP government. Shourie greatly admires his like-minded colleagues such as Goel, quoting and subsequently describing his work as a “meticulous and unimpeachable study.” (7) More than an effort at ingratiation, this comment demonstrates the unity forged by Hindutva historians and so too the polarisation of stances.

He employs a number of non-Indian sources to substantiate this line, perhaps in the endeavour to create the impression of a thorough research practice, one of which (8) states that “Aurangzeb was a cold, calculating politician, and a fanatical Moslem, who stripped Hindus of their rights. Between 1665 and 1669, he gave orders for Hindu temples to be destroyed and for mosques to be erected from their debris." This is particularly pertinent because the Mughal Empire encountered many difficulties in controlling the Sikh population in the Jammu and Kashmir region and adopted aggressive measures to compensate, which he denotes is characteristic of monotheistic and exclusive ideologies. Indeed, he rages that his opponents make a practice of “suppressing facts, inventing lies, perverting discourse, and derailing public policy" (7) with regard to what he sees as their efforts to portray Hindus as exploitative feudalists and Muslims as benevolent liberators. This echoes the views of the Eminent Historians (a term he repudiates at length for its implicitly western ties) which are abhorrent to his conviction in the CPI’s anti-national policies and foreign Christian (i.e. monotheist) covert activities in India. He wholeheartedly endorses the aforementioned political editing on the basis that Hinduism is an integral and indivisible part of India’s cultural heritage.

1998 saw a clash between Shourie and K.M. Shrimali (Professor of Ancient Indian History at Delhi University) during the television program ‘Your Court, You Judge’ wherein the first question put to Shrimali inquired as to whether Aurangzeb was a religious bigot. Shrimali noted that Aurangzeb's court had many Hindu nobles, which Shourie countered by highlighting that there were many Indians among the persons honoured by the British with titles despite religious and ethnic suppression (9), which Shrimali casually disregarded, despite Shourie pointing out that the passages Goel used to make the point were derived from publications of Aurangzeb’s court itself. Herein lies the primary issue with academic debate - neither Hindutva or secular factions hold the other in high regard and so more effort is spent on discrediting opponents than in constructing tenable arguments, a legacy of politically-sponsored approaches to history. It has, as aforementioned, been rather characteristic of the Eminent Historians to casually dismiss Goel’s work as being an intentionally destabilising assault upon the secular ideal of scientific history.

Romila Thapar, commonly regarded as the foremost of the ‘leading intellectuals’ as they are also known (and a rallying point for all others), is the Emeritus Professor of Ancient Indian History at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Dehli, has held a number of visiting posts in Europe, the United States and Japan and has recently been elected to a prestigious chair in the United States. Thapar wrote in response to Shourie’s allegations that "as regards the distortions of history, Shourie does not have the faintest idea about the technical side of history-writing…He is quite unaware that history is now a professional discipline and an untrained person like himself, or like the others he quotes, such as S.R. Goel, do not understand how to use historical sources. He writes that I have no evidence to say that Buddhists were persecuted by the Hindus. Shourie of course does not know Sanskrit nor presumably does S.R. Goel, otherwise they would look up my footnotes." (10) Ms. Thapar’s assertion that history is the exclusive province of those so educated has been a point of sore contention between the two diametrically opposed parties, one holding Ms. Thapar as a leader and the other holding Goel as an enlightened martyr. This formality is regarded as the product of westernised education, which introduces yet another sparring point.

Ms. Thapar announced that Goel’s reactionary writing is part of a misguided right-wing resurgence (coinciding with the election of the so-called communalist Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party) and runs at cross purposes to history as a discipline, which is “not a shuttlecock that can be thrown back and forth in accordance with the views of governments.” (11) Most notably, the recent efforts at the deletion of a number of passages from Indian school textbooks in accordance with the BJP’s tenets election has brought the stigmatic label of “political abuse of history.” (11) Ms. Thapar inadvertently summarises the group’s position in stating that “When one talks about history, one talks about it at two levels. One is information which has to be accurate, and the other is interpretation of that information.” (11) This clinical approach to history is in stark opposition to the Hindutva tradition, one relying on the vague notion of a religious collective (“history is the philosophy of nations” (12)) and the other holding the establishment of facts and the use of evidence to be paramount; Gyanendra Pandey, for example, stresses ‘event’ and ‘interpretation’ as being integral to historical studies (1).

Koenraad Elst, a Dutch Indologist and author whose publications concern language policy issues and, most importantly, the current political situation in India, entered the fray with his deconstruction of Thapar’s criticism, accusing her of a medieval approach to history (13) – half bullying, half reliant upon formal authority. Indeed, it is and has long been characteristic of the Marxist historians to so patronise the Hindu resurgence, disparaging lack of qualification (which Goel actually possesses) and poor research methods. Born in Leuven in 1959, Elst grew up in the Catholic community in Belgium. He was active for some years in what is known as the New Age movement (which placed strong emphasis on religious patterns of thought), before studying at the famed Catholic University of Leuven, graduating in (amongst other things) Indo-Iranian Studies and Philosophy. He took courses in Indian philosophy at the Benares Hindu University, meeting many Indian thinkers and leaders during his stay (1988-1992). Without doubt it was this all-engulfing grounding in theological matters which lead him to his current perspective. Neither Hindu nor Muslim, he is a fervent supporter of the former, describing at length his sympathies for its plight and his admiration for its resilience in the face of what he perceives as a struggle between unequal contenders (14).

More pertinent to the matter, Elst defended Goel’s citation of sources which claim the destruction of some two thousand temples (9) (most numerously under the rule of Aurangzeb) and that no investigation has yet been undertaken by a secular Marxist historian. Moreover, he accuses, it has been the deliberate policy of the ‘Eminent Historians’ to refute Goel’s numerous works without reasonable bases: to “deny his existence by keeping him unmentioned” (13) and thereby contravene their own philosophy of thorough investigation. It is true that Goel is apportioned little attention for his efforts; Ms. Thapar’s dismissal is indeed reminiscent of the colonial perspective on native historical practices, but this is a product of formal education in and approach to the subject - Goel’s qualifications, such as they are, do not necessarily engender competence in arguing his perspective beyond an understanding of acknowledging sources and rudimentary essay skills.

The issue taken to Hindutva writing by secular historians is that so much of their work is based on presumption, whereas the former condemns the latter for stifling India’s national ideals. One party is religious itself or an advocate thereof, the other is not so. In essence, there is no issue but religion which afflicts the documentation of broader Indian - and so Kashmiri - history.

For simplicity’s sake, I repeated footnote numbering. It’s not technically a good referencing practice, but there’s enough to digest here already.
1. Gyanendra Pandey, Remembering Partition: Violence, Nationalism and History in India, p.21-44
3. Shri H.V. Seshadri, the Tragic Story of Partition (2nd edition) , p.82.
6. Romila Thapar, Communalism in the Writing of Indian History, p.15-16.
7. Arun Shourie, Eminent Historians: Their Policy, Their Line, Their Fraud, ch: “the Policy of Broad Toleration!”
8. K. Antonova, G. Bongard-levin, and G. Kotovsky, A History of India, p.189.
9. Sita Ram Goel, Hindu Temples: What Happened to them, the Islamic Evidence, p.107.
10. Romila Thapar, letter to Manish Tayal (UK) of 7-2-1999
11. Romila Thapar, ‘Communalism and History.’
14. Koenraad Elst - Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society (foreword)

Internet Sources:
• (Author unknown, 2002, ‘Welcome to,’ Ayodhya Institute)
• (Author unknown, last update unknown, ‘Homepage of Bharatvani Institute,’ Bharatvani Institute)
• (Ajay Sharma, last update unknown, ‘Aligarh Historian Society,’ institutional base unknown)
• (Various authors, last update unknown, ‘World History Archives: the History of India’, Hartford Web Publishing)
• (Various authors, last update unknown, Hindutva Series: Hindu History - a Search for Our Present in History, Nation of Hindutva)
• (N.S. Rajaram, February 2002, Sita Ram Goel, Bhartiya Pragna)
• (Koenraad Elst, December 6 1996, ‘BJP Retreat from Ayodhya,’ institutional base unknown)
• (Author unknown, April 17, 2003, Romila Thapar Named as First Holder of the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South at Library of Congress, the Library of Congress)
• (Author unknown, last update unknown, Sabrang Alternative News Network, ‘Sabrang Communications & Publishing Pvt. Ltd.’)
• (Koenraad Elst, 2001, ‘Harsha of Kashmir - a Hindu Iconoclast?’, Sword of Truth)

• Antonova, K., Bongard-levin, G., and Kotovsky, G. (1979), A History of India, Moscow: Progress Publications.
• Danielou, Alain (1971), Histoire de l’Inde, Paris: Fayard.
• Durant, Will (1935), the Story of Civilisation: Our Oriental Heritage, New York: Simon and Schuster.
• Elst, Koenraad (1991), Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society, New Delhi: Voice of India.
• Elst, Koenraad (1992), Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam, New Delhi: Voice of India.
• Goel, Sita Ram (1987), Muslim Separatism: Causes and Consequences, New Delhi: Voice of India.
• Goel, Sita Ram, (1993), Hindu Temples: What Happened to them, the Islamic Evidence, New Delhi: Voice of India.
• Pandey, Gyanendra (2001), Remembering Partition: Violence, Nationalism and History in India, Cambridge University Press.
• Rajaram, N.S. (2000), Collapsing Pakistan, New Delhi: Voice of India.
• Rajaram, N.S. (2000), Nationalism and Distortions In Indian History, New Delhi: Voice of India.
• Seshadri, Shri H.V. (1984), The Tragic Story of Partition (2nd edition) , New Delhi: Jagaran Publications.
• Shourie, Arun (1993), Eminent Historians: Their Policy, Their Line, Their Fraud, New Delhi: Voice of India.
• Swarup, Ram (1957), On Hinduism: Reviews and Reflections, New Delhi: Voice of India.
• Thapar, Romila , Communalism in the Writing of Indian History.

Other Media:
• Joshua, Anita (2001), ‘Excising the truth’, The Hindu, 2 December.
• Thapar, Romila, letter to Manish Tayal (UK) of 7-2-1999.
• Thapar, Romila (2002), ‘In Defence of History’, Thiruvananthapuram Lecture, 2 March.
• Thapar, Romila (year unknown), ‘Communalism and History’, South Asia Citizen, (date unknown).
• Thapar, Romila (1999), ‘the Rediff Interview,’ South Asia Citizen, 4 February.

I begin by critiquing the above WU, but please read on for my own analysis of the Kashmir problem.

First, the issue of 'religion' in the Kashmir dispute, to be honest is a very tangential one. Surprising as this statement may seem, there is enough evidence to suggest that Kashmir can be viewed as a 'Centre-State' problem within the Indian Union rather than a religious problem. I think it's fair to say that the Indian government has squandered numerous chances to bring democracy to J&K but religion had little role to play in this. J&K was not discriminated against because it was Muslim, but because of its sensitive geo-strategic position which required that an iron grip be maintained on it. The growing insurgency hence is not a result of either Muslim fundamentalism out to destablise India (as the Hindu right would claim) or a case of 'freedom fighters' battling the evil Indian state (as Pakistan would claim). It is a result of mismanagement, and suppression of Kashmiri autonomy, coupled with instances of excesses by the Indian army that has seen the situation evolve into one that is so explosive today. As and when elections have been held in Kashmir, freely and fairly, a certain degree of calm has indeed been restored. But the Rajeev-Farooq accord, or the numerous rigging of elections in the past, has done little to restore the faith of the Kashmiri people in India.

Again the WU suggests that much of the discourse on Kashmir in India and Pakistan (from there is very little serious academic work, rather surprisingly, on Kashmir), is tinged with this religious aspect. While this could certainly be the Pakistani perspective, since their claim to Kashmir is on religious grounds, this is is certainly not the case in India. The debate over Kashmir in India, to begin with, is very muted and often non existent. To oppose the inclusion of Kashmir within India, you would be labelled 'anti national' at best, and 'seditious' at worst. Next, even those who work on the issue, tend to view through the prism of democratization rather than religion. Personally, I would argue that the religious or legal claim that Pakistan has over Kashmir is slightly tenuous (after all not a single one of the Instruments of Accession that were signed were democratic in any sense of the term, so why pin point Kashmir?. Finally, if Kashmir was a Muslim majority provice right in the heart of India, and over which the Indian state had firm administrative control, the entire problem would have taken on a different hue. e.g. Hyderabad was a province with a substantial Muslim population and a Muslim ruler that was absorbed without a fuss into the Indian Union. Hence, the roots of the Kashmir Dispute lie elsewhere.

The destruction of temples and the building of mosques over them, are very very tangentially related to the Kashmir dispute. They are a product of the distortions that right wing historians love propagating. In truth, even if Babur did destroy a mosque in Ayodhya in the 16th century, I see no reason, why that would justify the destruction of a mosque by 20th century Hindus. Anyway, that is hardly ever used as a justification or argument in the Kashmir dispute specifically. In fact, Kashmir, as I will argue in the next paragraph has been a thorn in the side of right wing historians. While they seek an abrogation of Article 370, which grants special status within the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir, the very fact that a Muslim majority state ought to exist within the Indian Union, flies in the face of their demand that all Muslims are inherently traitorous (that is their second explanation for the insurgency) and ought to be thrown back into Pakistan.

Further, the Hindu-Muslim divide is a complex issue, both historically and sociologically. There is evidence that when Islam first came to India, it was not greeted with hostility, but was accepted just as all other religions have been into this country. Further, the 'Hinduism' that prevaled in the Vedic ages, or later during the Sultanate period, was clearly very different from the one that the Hindutva advocates would like to propagate. Even today, at the very grassroot level in India, there are plenty of instances where Hindus and Muslims live side by side in relative peace.

On the question of the hold that Marxist historians have over the ICHR and the NCERT, the truth is that most of the 'eminent historians' that India has produced have happened to be Marxists. The work of most of the right wing RSS historians, is often so shoddy that it barely deserves mention, containing as it does venom spewing rhetoric more than hard fact. Marxists historians are incidentally have not limited themselves to reconstructing modern Indian history. The best work in Ancient and Medieval India is also a product of Marxist historians that any Hindutva historian will be hard pressed to match. Such is the level of their scholarship, that most right wing historians in fact end up debating within the parameters that these historians have set down. Now, as a note of warning, it is not as if the Marxist historians are entirely blameless. There is evidence to suggest their history is indeed biased, and often too deterministic. But that of course brings us back to the question of the nature of historical truth and whether indeed there exists one such truth. If we believe this post modernist notion, then all we can do is distinguish between 'good' history and 'bad' history based on whether one's historical hypothesis is backed up by adequate evidence and scholarship and in this clearly the Left in India has outdone the Right.

It is interesting that Goel refers to the CPI has anti national. Surely he is aware that the RSS, the vanguards of Hindu Nationalism, were active collaborators with the British and one of their members Nathuram Godse killed Gandhi! Also, its rather amusing that the Left in India is chided for its 'foreign' links when most of the funds for the Sangh Parivar comes from the West, from expatriates, who having foregone Indian citizenship, now need to re-establish their claims to their motherland.

This little diversion aside, let's return to the question of destruction of temples and mosques. There is plenty of evidence now to suggest that the destruction of temples by Mahmud Ghazni and Muhammad Ghauri was prompted by material rather than religious reasons. These temples, notably the one at Somnath was a storehouse of wealth and by destroying them he would be able to get his hands on gold sufficient to further his Central Asian campaign. If Ghauri or Ghazni's chief aim was temple destruction, there were other numerous smaller temples they could have destroyed on their way to Somnath, which were left unscathed.

While this is not an apology for Ghauri or Ghazni, who seem like singularly unpleasant men, the truth also is that many HINDU kings destroyed HINDU temples. A temple was often a symbol of royal sovereignty and there is evidence from Kashmir of a son destroying the temple his father built in order to establish that it was he, not his father who was in charge now.

I am also intrigued about the broader point that Goel is trying to make. Is he suggesting that because Aurangzeb was a bigot, hence that burden should be borne by present day Muslims? Or that Indian history is one long series of Hindu-Muslim conflict in which the Hindus have always been the victims and the Muslims the oppressors? It is also interesting how most of the Hindutva historian focus exclusively on North Indian history, and completely ignore the South (which at least in geographical terms is just as large), where Hindu rulers have ruled for years, and their record espeically in Sri Lanka, and in dealing with dissident Buddhists is far from exemplary.

Finally, I still fail to see how this historiography has affected the Kashmir debate, at both the academic and the popular level. At the popular level, there is a general consensus that Kashmir should belong to India because we are a secular nation and that Kashmiris have as much a right to remain a part of India as anyone else. Of course, this sits uneasily with the right, who while defending India's territorial integrity have always been critical of the people they call 'pseudo secularists'. In order to defend Kashmir, it is the same rhetoric that they have to now refer to.

At the academic level, there is a growing consensus that Kashmir is a problem of political mismanagement and must be dealt in such terms. Of course, Jammu and Kashmir is evenly divided into three regions- Jammu (predominantly Hindu), Kashmir (with a Muslim majority) and Ladakh (which has a Buddhist majority). So there is no single religious voice that can claim to represent the people of Kashmir (I've used this term through out to refer to all three regions taken contiguously).

Having critiqued the WU by PopeHypocriteIII, I shall now go on to discuss what I think are the real roots of the Kashmir Dispute:

The Kashmir issue is so complex that to classify it as merely a product of Indo-Pakistan conflicts or of religious divisions would be simplistic. The Kashmir conundrum is both a product and a symptom of Indo-Pakistan conflicts. The roots of this animosity between the two nations go much deeper than Kashmir but the problems in this state have been the most virulent manifestation of this animosity. However, apart from the historical roots of the conflict, arising from the confusion of Partition, it is possible to see Kashmir in terms of mobilization and the over centralization of the Indian state.

In the post Partition period, Jammu and Kashmir (henceforth only referred to as Kashmir) stood out as a unique case. It was a province with a Muslim majority but a Hindu ruler. It is actually three very different regions- Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, with different religious majorities, and a bewildering array of ethnic, linguistic and caste formations, all merged into one. It has immense strategic importance for both countries, unlike Hyderabad or Junagadh since it is contiguous with Pakistan. In the confusion following Partition, Kashmir was attacked by a band of Pathans from the North West Frontier Province who were determined to incorporate it within Pakistan. The much-despised ruler- Maharaja Hari Singh, signed an Instrument of Accession (the precise timing of his signature is a source of much dispute and since there are no original documents from that period, it is very difficult to resolve one way or another), in return for Indian help. The ceasefire line that was drawn up then, holds to this day as the Line of Control (LoC). The Accession treaty was later incorporated into the Indian Constitution and the Maharaja was persuaded to hand over power to Sheikh Abdullah, a politician who had been leading a popular movement against him.

It is quite clear that many on both sides of the border will regard Kashmir as ‘unfinished business’ left over from Partition. While this could have been the cause of discord between the two nations, the internal strife within Kashmir and the rise of insurgency and militancy is another matter altogether. The two countries have had other sources of dispute- fishing rights, water sharing, nuclear politics and so on. Some of these have been sorted out bilaterally and some are still burning issues. But the reason why Kashmir is different and more difficult to resolve is because of the mobilization within Kashmir that has threatened the legitimacy of Indian control over the state. It is important to note that for a brief period it did seem as if democracy would work in Kashmir. But repeated suppression of opposition by the Indian state, growing mobilization within Kashmir, all contributed to an explosive situation.

India has had numerous chances to allow democracy to flourish in Kashmir and to allow the Kashmiri people a stake in their own future. However, many of these attempts have been sullied by rigging, manipulation and a suppression of dissent. While democracy established roots in the rest of the country, Kashmir has had to wait longer than most Indian states for it to make an appearance in the form of elections. The first Vidhan Sabha elections were held only in 1962 and the first Lok Sabha election in 1967. The sensitive nature of the region meant that political opposition has always been regarded with suspicion and seen as treacherous rather than a natural product of a flourishing democracy.

In November 1951, elections were held in Kashmir to elect a Constituent Assembly. The election papers of those opposed to the National Conference of Sheikh Abdullah were declared invalid on a variety of ‘technical’ grounds and some opposition parties boycotted the election. The annulment of election papers was viewed as illegitimate and Abdullah began to lose some of the goodwill he had garnered. While the initial agreement between Abdullah and the central government in Delhi had revolved around minimal involvement by Delhi, it soon became apparent that the Indian state’s growing centralization was at odds with the Kashmiri desire for a degree of autonomy in handling its own affairs. Again, the sensitive location of the state meant that such demands would always be viewed as secessionist. Abdullah’s imprisonment and dismissal was the first blow to democracy within Kashmir. However, it is also argued by some Kashmiri nationalists today that it was Abdullah’s repeated willingness to compromise at crucial junctures with the Congress that undercut Kashmir’s autonomy and the belief in democratic processes within the state.

Three other key events further demoralised popular opinion within Kashmir in the period 1956-65. The change in status of the ‘prime minister’ of Kashmir to that of Chief Minister, and the ordinance that allowed for Parliament to make laws for Kashmir while President’s Rule was in place were manifestations of the Indian state’s uneasiness with Kashmir. The title of sadr-i- riyasat (head of state) was changed to that of the Governor of Kashmir who would be appointed not by the Kashmir Legislative Assembly but by the Indian President. Already Nehru had announced his unwillingness to go ahead with the promised plebiscite in Kashmir and coupled with these fundamental constitutional changes, Kashmiri autonomy was quickly becoming a contested issue. It can be argued that the discomfiture and suspicion of the Indian state was perhaps unwarranted at this stage especially since unrest in the valley was largely limited and even when Pakistan made some attempts to incite the local population, these were not met with much enthusiasm. This state of affairs is rapidly overturned in the next two decades and much of that change is due to the failure of democratization within Kashmir.

The politics of the 1970s in Kashmir was marked by a tussle between the National Conference and the Congress that mirrored a broader struggle for centralization by the Indian state that was being resisted by Kashmiris desirous of their autonomy. The domestic gains of the 1971 war were frittered away and the Beg-Parthasarathi Accord was never seriously implemented. This period also sees the emergence of a new generation of Kashmiris who began to chafe against the steady suppression of political dissent. Finding virtually all institutional channels of expressing their discontent closed, they mobilized over time and resorted to other more violent methods of protest. Since secular politics, as represented by the National Conference was corrupt and undemocratic, it is not surprising that the movement often took on ethno-religious dimensions.

The 1980s again saw the centralizing tendencies of Indira Gandhi contributing to further discontent within Kashmir. This decade saw the emergence of Farooq Abdullah, who despite his lack of political experience or skill won the 1983 elections rather handily with the Congress a distant second. Such a result was anathema for Mrs Gandhi who then plotted his dismissal. While Farooq was never the most popular politician, his dismissal on the flimsiest of grounds, further reinforced Kashmiri belief that India’s claim to being the upholder of democracy was mere hypocrisy. It is only towards the end of this period that we begin to see the serious drift towards insurgency. Political instability within the valley and the security and economic conditions of the state began to worsen. The central government while doing little to address the discontent of the Kashmiri people, by centralizing more power, was making itself directly responsible and accountable for their misery. The lack of faith in the democratic process that was steadily gaining ground reached a crescendo with the Rajiv-Farooq alliance before the 1987 elections.

This was an alliance that most political scientists would be hard pressed to explain. It was not an alliance between two parties with broadly similar aims, but an alliance of convenience between the two major rivals in the state. It conveyed to the Kashmiri people the message that they would not be allowed or trusted to freely exercise their franchise. Not merely content with this alliance, the state elections were then heavily rigged. Voters were intimidated; ballot boxes tampered with and election officials were harassed. This election marks the closing down of the last avenue for legitimate political dissent within Kashmir. With rising communal tensions in the country, also extending to the valley, insurgency was now only a short step away. By 1988-89, violence had become endemic to the Valley. Further repression, especially during the tenure of Jagmohan to deal with this violence only contributed to spiralling militancy. His iron handed strategy proved costly and did little to stop the insurgency. Instead, it fuelled disgust against India and frayed relations between the Muslims and the Pandits within the state.

Apart from the persistent lack of democracy within the state, the handling of the insurgency has also contributed to growing disaffection. The actions of the Indian security forces have angered most Kashmiris. It can be argued that if the Indian government had allowed human rights organizations and groups to operate and conduct serious and professional investigations of rights abuses, then the conflict may not have become as politicized as it has. Its refusal has given the Kashmiris an additional reason to distrust the government’s goals and motives. By isolating moderates and labelling them extremists, and by harassing ordinary Kashmiris, who would not have otherwise harboured separatist feelings, the Indian government has helped to polarize opinion within Kashmir without offering political alternatives acceptable to most Kashmiris. The ubiquitous presence of security forces adds to the perception of fear in the Valley. There is little transparency or accountability in their functioning and events such as those at Charar-i sharif only alienate the local populace further. That incident in May 1995, is seen by many as a defining moment when the last hope that politics might over ride the brutality of war, was lost. It hardened political sentiment on both sides, and left little scope for trust or negotiation. The root problem has now become the repression that defines the counter insurgency. The complete breakdown of civil administration, civilian bureaucracy and infrastructure is often invoked as a symbol of Indian military and administrative callousness towards Kashmir.

The role of nationalism in fuelling this dispute is again a complex one. Varshney has identified three distinct strands of nationalism each with their own contradictions. He argues that the raison d’etre for Pakistan’s involvement in Kashmir has been religious but that if Pakistan ever succeeded in ‘liberating’ the Kashmiri Muslims they would hurt the interests of a far greater number of Muslims across India. On the other hand, if they did not help the rebelling Kashmiris, they would compromise the very founding principles of their existence. Similarly, the only beneficiaries of the withdrawal of Kashmir from the Indian Union would be the Hindu nationalists whose argument that Muslims are inherently treacherous and have been ‘pampered’ would seem to have been vindicated. Thus Kashmir is central to India’s efforts at keeping secularism alive. But this explanation by Varshney only elucidates upon the complex factors at play behind the scenes and explains succinctly the issues at stake. What it fails to do is explain why the insurgency developed when it did, and the reasons for its virulence. Nationalism need not necessarily lead to separatism and it here that the absence of democracy becomes a crucial factor in Kashmiri politics.

The role of Pakistan in the entire imbroglio has often come under criticism from Kashmiris themselves. They see Pakistan using Kashmir as a tool for its broader agenda against India which has been self defeating for the Kashmiri people. Moreover, its policies in the region of Kashmir that it occupies (known as Azad Kashmir/Pakistan Occupied Kashmir depending on which side of the border you live in) have also come under severe criticism. By the 1990s, the fortunes of the old political forces in the region had been exhausted. The old Muslim Conference is now seen as being ideologically bankrupt and incapable of protecting radicalism. Pakistan has been as guilty as India of not allowing the Kashmiri voice to speak out.

In conclusion, it might seem fair to view Kashmiri insurgency as a product if a fundamental paradox between the mobilizational success and institutional failure of Indian democracy rather than as a mere product of Indo-Pakistan conflict. While the mobilization within Kashmir took place at a slightly slower rate (as did the onset of democracy), the early reforms introduced by the National Conference proved decisive. It led to a new generation of Kashmiris- better educated and more aware of their rights and privileges than the previous generation, and who would eventually challenge the dominance of the NC. For Kashmiris, the discrepancy between the democratic rights available in the rest of the country, but not to them was stark. This was compounded by institutional decay caused by the failure of local and national leaderships to permit the development of an honest political opposition. All of this contributed to the insurgency, which was then kept alive by the actions of the Indian security forces that fostered resentment, and the inability of the Indian government to deal with the root causes of Kashmiri grievances.

For those interested in a bibliography please refer to the following. These are the 'standard' text books on Kashmir that you would find on the reading list of most South Asian faculties, and are all easily available: 1. Amrita Basu and Atul Kohli: Community Conflicts and the State in India.
2. Articles on Kashmir in Frontline magazine, 19 November 1993.
3. Suranjan Das: Kashmir and Sindh
4. Sumantra Bose: Kashmir: Sources of Conflict, Dimensions of Peace in Economic and Political Weekly, VOl 13, March 27, 1999.
5. Sumit Ganguly: The Crisis in Kashmir
6. Balraj Puri: Towards Insurgency?

Also, N.S. Rajaram cited in the WU above is an engineer turned historian who was suddenly catapulted to fame when he claimed to have deciphered the Harappan script. Please see Suvrat's excellent write up on The Harappan Civilization and the RSS for details on how and why Rajaram was exposed.

The WU on The Kashmir Dispute is an excellent summary of the various issues at stake and covers some of the stuff I've said at far greater length.

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