Kashmir Separatists Demand an End to Indian Rule Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Kashmir separatist movement drew attention to the rights of the Kashmiri people to determine their own political allegiances.

Summary of Event

The physical beauty of the Kashmir region has been so peacefully integrated with the spirit of its people that, traditionally, the people seemed to have lived in a nearly perfect autonomous world of their own, although the region lacks the minimal homogeneity that is crucial to harmonious life. The line of the region’s rulership has been equally heterogeneous: The Hindus ruled it until the fourteenth century, and the Muslims took over from them for the following five centuries. In 1819, the Sikhs started their rule, giving in to the British in 1846. The British later sold Kashmir to the Hindu maharajah, consequently reducing its autonomy to that of an independent satellite princely state functioning along with five hundred or more of its kind under the protectorate of British India. Kashmir;separatist movement [kw]Kashmir Separatists Demand an End to Indian Rule (1989) [kw]Separatists Demand an End to Indian Rule, Kashmir (1989) [kw]Indian Rule, Kashmir Separatists Demand an End to (1989) Kashmir;separatist movement [g]South Asia;1989: Kashmir Separatists Demand an End to Indian Rule[07110] [g]India;1989: Kashmir Separatists Demand an End to Indian Rule[07110] [c]Indigenous peoples’ rights;1989: Kashmir Separatists Demand an End to Indian Rule[07110] [c]Independence movements;1989: Kashmir Separatists Demand an End to Indian Rule[07110] Abdullah, Sheikh Mohammad Nehru, Jawaharlal Gandhi, Rajiv Abdullah, Farooq Jagan Mohan Singh, Vishwanath Pratap Bhutto, Benazir Gales, Robert M.

When India became independent of Great Britain on August 15, 1947, it was divided, based on the dominant religious affiliations of its regions, into two dominions, which later became the constitutionally secular but mostly Hindu India and the Islamic republic of Pakistan. The existing princely states, such as Kashmir, were allowed to opt to be part of India or of Pakistan or to stay independent, although some historians think that the last option was not clearly enunciated. The Kashmiri, wishing to retain their independence, followed the spirit of their popular leadership, especially that of the intensely secular Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who incessantly propelled the predominantly Muslim Kashmir into a confederation of India with reasonable guarantees for Kashmir’s autonomy.

Sheikh Abdullah’s leadership, however, faced challenges in the town of Poonch, in the southwestern corner of Kashmir. The oppressive rule of the maharajah had built a strong nucleus of animosity toward him and everything he stood for. Consequently, the leadership in Poonch gravitated toward Pakistan. Politically weak at the outset, this movement snowballed into an overpowering military operation from July to October 22, 1947, because of active support from the Pashtun, a tribal group from Pakistan’s northwestern frontier province. Inspired by an old antagonism of a tribal nature but politically primed by a sense of fraternal obligation to help their kinfolk across the border, this impatient group invaded Kashmir from its western borders, threatening the future of the Hindu maharajah. The maharajah, Han Singh, had no choice but to seek India’s protection. On October 26, 1947, Kashmir became a part of India, giving India the legal right to fight against the Pashtun incursion, which India believed to be the work of Pakistan’s governor-general, Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

On October 27, 1947, India sent its choice military force to Kashmir. Bloody warfare broke out between the people of Kashmir, strengthened by the armed tribal Pashtuns as well as by a growing number of infiltrating Pakistan army regulars, on one side and the remarkably well-equipped forces of the Indian army on the other. On December 31, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, the prime minister of independent India, complained to the United Nations regarding the aggressive acts of Pakistan against what had become the legal soil of India. Pakistan, in a countercomplaint made on January 15, 1948, strongly questioned the legal validity of the maharajah’s accession to India, as the decision was made by the maharajah without giving the people of Kashmir an opportunity to express their opinions. Pakistan argued that the accession was thus provisional, pending approval of the Kashmiri people.

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The categorical imperative to provide for the right of a group of people to choose their own country through a plebiscite conducted by the United Nations was recognized by Lord Mountbatten, governor-general of India, in his letter of acceptance of the accession addressed to the maharajah on October 27, 1947. The right of people to choose their country was also recognized by the prime ministers of the two countries in a series of telegrams exchanged between them. The United Nations also decided in favor of a plebiscite.

Hostilities continued until July 27, 1949, when the two countries signed what is known as the Delhi Agreement, Delhi Agreement (1949) in which they agreed to cease fighting at their respective points of control and, in effect, divide Kashmir into two parts. The north and west, composing a third of the undivided Kashmir, was claimed by Pakistan and called Azad Kashmir, meaning “free Kashmir.” The south and east, roughly two-thirds of the original princely state called Jammu and Kashmir Jammu and Kashmir , provisionally joined India. With time, India discovered legal grounds to renege on the plebiscite issue in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan, for its part, decided not to relinquish its control of Azad Kashmir, resulting in two more wars in 1965 and 1971. The animosity between India and Pakistan erupted into active hostilities at the slightest imbalance in their relations, jeopardizing the rights of the people of Kashmir to create a country of their own choice.

India was successful in stalling, if not eliminating, foreign criticism that it had violated any moral or natural rights of the people of Kashmir through the instrument of accession signed by their ruler. India was not as successful with the people of Kashmir, whose faith in the Indian government progressively eroded as the government aggressively asserted its sovereignty through a series of increasingly unfair but seemingly legal measures. The Jammu and Kashmir elections of 1987 are one example. It is an open secret that in these elections the right of the people to express themselves freely through voting was violated in favor of Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress Party and its colluding partners in the National Conference, the first indigenous political party in Jammu and Kashmir. The National Conference had been fighting for the self-determination of its people. Political maneuvering resulted in the election of an ideologically neutral and administratively inept chief minister, Farooq Abdullah.

The success of the Gandhi-Farooq alliance, according to some Kashmiri Muslims, was a continuation of the Indian government’s refusal to acknowledge Kashmiri political rights. Muslims;Kashmir Demonstrations began against what they viewed as Indian oppression. The Indian government read these demonstrations as a renewal of the preaccession movement to secede Kashmir from India. Consequently, on August 9, 1989, in the name of enforcement of law and order, India sent its army into the state. The army, in conjunction with the state governor, Jagan Mohan, instituted controls prohibiting international press reporters and representatives of human rights groups from entering Kashmir. The Indian army arrested, wounded, and killed many peaceful protesters; The New York Times reported at least six hundred killed as of June 2, 1990. The army’s major attack, reminiscent of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, was directed against a group of mourners carrying the body of their preacher. Dozens of mourners were killed, and a “soft” demonstration of real grievances developed into a die-hard movement for separation from India.

Significance

The first and the most immediate, although probably short-lived, impact of the “separatist” movement was the negative effect it had on the tourist industry, the chief source of foreign earnings for Kashmir. With long curfews in place, one of them lasting for sixteen days, and a variety of law-enforcement personnel—Indian army troops, the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force, the Border Security Force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Patrol, National Security Guards, and various intelligence agencies—keeping track of the scores of “separatist” groups, Kashmir was anything but a holiday playground for the contemporary tourist.

The second and more significant effect of the movement was the great damage done to the traditional goodwill that had existed between the Hindus and the Muslims of the region. At the height of the movement, extremists among the separatists killed prominent Hindu government officials, including the assistant director of information and the director of the government-run Srinagar Television Centre. These extremists created terror in many other Hindus, just as the police created similar feelings in them. Thousands fled from their homes to improvised camps, depending on the hospitality of the Indian government. Such instances have not been without their opposites, in which Muslims have attacked the extremists in defending their Hindu neighbors. These instances grew in number with the increasing unpopularity of the extremists among Muslims. Amicability between Hindus and Muslims was bound to suffer irrevocable damage.

The third effect of the infighting, the most significant of all, was an increase in the potential for nuclear war. India and Pakistan, two of the nuclear powers of the Third World, may have locked themselves into adversarial positions more to strengthen their coalition governments at home than to address the problem of the people of Kashmir. The special envoy sent by the United States, Robert M. Gates, along with special officers of the Soviet Union, helped to offset the threat of nuclear war by raising consciousness at the Indo-Pakistan level as well as the international level. As the issue of separatism failed to be resolved, these effects accumulated. The peace and the rights of the Kashmiri people continued to be violated in a dispute that continued into the twenty-first century without resolution. Kashmir;separatist movement

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Akbar, M. J. Nehru: The Making of India. New York: Viking Press, 1988. Authoritative thematic biography of an avowed secularist, Jawaharlal Nehru, by a journalist and political analyst who became a secular politician. Illuminates the history of the Kashmir problem.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bose, Tapan, Dinesh Mohan, Gautam Navlakha, and Sumanta Banerjee. “India’s ’Kashmir War.’” Economic and Political Weekly 25 (March 31, 1990): 650-662. Investigative journalistic essay incorporates news analysis, interviews, and contemporary historical insights. Five appendixes at the end of the essay provide factual support for the views developed.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jalal, Ayesha. “Kashmir Scars: A Terrible Beauty Is Torn.” The New Republic, July 23, 1990, 17-20. Develops the concept of biradari, or brotherhood, as a meaningful way of understanding the problems between these countries. Written by a scholar at the Harvard Academy of International and Area Studies who has authored major monographs on the period surrounding the births of India and Pakistan.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lamb, Alastair. Incomplete Partition: The Genesis of the Kashmir Dispute, 1947-1948. Hertingfordbury, Hertfordshire, England: Roxford, 1997. Argues that the Kashmir problem was a direct product of the process used to divide India and Pakistan. Examines possibilities for resolution of the dispute.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. The Kashmir Problem: A Historical Survey. New York: Praeger, 1967. Provides an explanation of the Kashmir problem in simple terminology for general readers. Covers the 1947-1966 period.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Malik, Iffat. Kashmir: Ethnic Conflict, International Dispute. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Political analysis divides the Kashmir problem into two parts: the dispute between Kashmiri Muslims and Indians, and the dispute between Pakistan and India.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Singh, Balbir. State Politics in India: Explorations in Political Processes in Jammu and Kashmir. New Delhi: Macmillan India, 1982. Presents a fairly comprehensive Marxist analysis of the politics of Jammu and Kashmir.

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