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KASHMIR. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has been a disputed territory between India and Pakistan since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. Situated in the extreme northwest corner of the South Asian sub continent, it was one of the largest and most populous princely states of British India, sharing borders with India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China. The undivided state of Kashmir had an area of 84,471 square miles and comprised five distinct regions: the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu, Ladakh and Baltistan, Poonch, and Gilgit. The Kashmiri people are a mixture of different ethnic groups-Aryan, Mongol, Turkish, and Afghan. According to the 1941 census, its total population was 4,021,616; of these 77 percent were Muslims, 20 percent were Hindus, and 3 percent were Sikhs and other minorities. According to the 1981 Indian census, the total population of Indian-controlled Kashmir was 5,987,389; it consisted of 64.2 percent Muslims, 32.25 percent Hindus, 2.23 percent Sikhs, and the remainder Buddhists, Christians, and Jains. The population of the Pakistani part of Kashmir, according to the 1981 Pakistani census, was 1,983,465 99.8 Percent of the population was Muslim, while the rest consisted of Ahmadis, Christians, and Hindus.

The early history of Kashmir was dominated by clashes between Buddhism and Brahmanism, as rulers belonging to one or the other religion persecuted their adversaries. Islam entered Kashmir in the fourteenth century. Rinchan, a Buddhist ruler of Kashmir, embraced Islam in 132o at the hands of Sayyid Bilal Shah (also known as Bulbul Shah), a widely travelled Musavi Sayyid from Turkistan. Islam consolidated its hold during Shah Mir’s reign (1339-1344) The spread of Islam among the masses, however, was primarily due to “a long continued missionary movement inaugurated by and carried out mainly by faqirs or friars or dervishes and `ulama’ or theologians” (Sufi, 1949, PP. 8o-82). A large number of Muslim `ulama’ came from Central Asia to Kashmir to preach Islam. Sayyid Bilal Shah, Sayyid Jalaluddin of Bukhara, Sayyid Tajuddin and his brother Sayyid Husayn Simani, Sayyid `All Hamadani and his son Mir Muhammad Hamadani, and Shaykh Nuruddin are some of the well-known `ulama’ who played a significant role in spreading Islam.

The contribution of Sayyid ‘Ali Hamadani, popularly known as Shah-yi Hamadan, stands out above the rest. He was born at Hamadan (Iran) in 1314 CE. The rise of Timur in Central Asia forced him to leave for Kashmir. He belonged to the Kubrawi order of Sufis, a branch of the Suhrawardiyah. He paid three visits to Kashmir in 1372, 1379, and 1383 along with seven hundred followers and was successful in converting thousands of Kashmiris to Islam. His son Sayyid Muhammad Hamadani continued in the footsteps of his father in vigorously propagating Islam and influenced the Muslim ruler Sikander (1389-1413) to enforce the shari`ah and to establish the office of the Shaykh al-Islam. Hindu historians have blamed Sikander for the persecution of Hindus and destruction of their temples. By the end of the fifteenth century, a majority of the inhabitants of Kashmir had embraced Islam. The Muslim rule in Kashmir lasted for five centuries from 1320 to 1819, including the periods of the independent sultans (1320-1586), the Mughals (1586-1753), and the Pathans (1753-i819).

In 1819 Kashmir was conquered by Ranjit Singh, the Sikh ruler of Punjab, who ruled it until 1846. In the wake of the first Anglo-Sikh war the British sold Kashmir to Gulab Singh for 7,500,000 rupees under the Treaty of Amritsar, signed on 15 March 1846. He founded the Dogra dynasty that ruled Kashmir until 1947 Despite being the majority of the population, the Muslims were heavily oppressed during the Sikh and Dogra rule. Heavy taxation, forced work without wages (begar), laws discriminatory against Muslims, rural indebtedness, and widespread illiteracy were the common characteristics of the Sikh and Dogra rule. The state interfered in every aspect of Muslims’ lives; many mosques were in the possession of the state; the slaughter of cow was an offense punishable by death; and the murder of a Muslim was considered a crime of a lesser degree than the murder of a Hindu.

Two popular Islamic institutions-the Mir Waiz, the hereditary office belonging to Jami’ah Mosque of Srinagar (of the Hanafi school), and the Shafi’i institution of Shah Hamadan at Khanqah-i Mu’alla-played a useful initial role in highlighting the socioeconomic grievances of the Muslims; however, with the rise of the educated middle class, a political consciousness began to emerge among the Muslims of Kashmir. In 1922, the Young Men’s Muslim Association was formed in Jammu by Choudhry Ghulam Abbas, and a Reading Room Party was established by Shaikh Abdullah in 1930 to address the situation of the Muslims. A mass resistance movement was triggered in 1931 when a state functionary forbade the imam to deliver the khutbah (sermon) before the Friday prayer. A fiery speech was delivered by one `Abdulgadir against the Maharaja’s un-Islamic injunctions. On 13 July 1931, twenty-two Kashmiri Muslims were martyred when the police opened fire on the mob protesting against the arrest of `Abdulgadir. On 14 October 1932, the All Jammu and Muslim Conference was formed under the leadership of Shaikh Abdullah. This organization became the principal vehicle for mobilizing the Muslim masses against the Maharaja’s oppressive rule. The Mir Waiz, Muhammad Yusuf Shah, initially gave enthusiastic support to Shaikh Abdullah but later distanced himself and became actively hostile to him.

Soon the political situation in Kashmir came under the influence of politics in the subcontinent, where the All-India National Congress was promoting the “one nation theory” that India, despite its communal divisions, was one nation; the Muslim League answered with the “two nation theory” that there existed two major nations in the subcontinent, Hindus and Muslims, that differed from each other in all respects. A split occurred among the Kashmiri Muslims as well when Shaikh Abdullah grew closer to the secularist-nationalist view of Indian National Congress and renamed the Muslim Conference the National Conference. Choudhry Ghulam Abbas revived the Muslim Conference in October 1941; it became closely identified with the Muslim nationalist view of the Muslim League and passed a resolution in favor of joining Kashmir with Pakistan. [See All-India Muslim League.]

On the eve of the partition there were three main political forces in Kashmir: The National Conference, the Muslim Conference, and the Dogra dynasty. The National Conference led by Shaikh Abdullah wanted to join India; the Muslim Conference led by Choudhry Ghulam Abbas was in favor of joining Pakistan; and the Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh apparently wanted to remain independent, because he knew that accession to India or Pakistan would eventually mean the loss of his throne and the replacement of his autocracy by some form of democratic government. The Maharaja offered a standstill agreement to both India and Pakistan in order to maintain communication and supplies. Pakistan entered into agreement, but India did not. In that emotionally charged” atmosphere, there began a planned mass murder of Kashmiri Muslims in Jammu and Poonch with the active connivance of Maharaja Hari Singh, and this led to an estrangement of relations between Pakistan and Kashmir. The Maharaja’s government charged Pakistan with aiding the rebels and establishing an economic blockade to force accession. Pakistan saw a plan by the Hindu ruler to exterminate the Muslim majority. The Pakistanis were further alarmed by the frequent contacts of the Indian leaders with Maharaja and the speedy construction of the road linking India to Kashmir. Further developments were the replacement of Prime Minister Pandit Kak (who had signed the standstill agreement with Pakistan), by Mehr Chand (who openly sided with India) and the sudden release from jail of Shaikh Abdullah, whose policy was decidedly anti-Pakistan. All these events convinced the Pakistanis of the Maharaja’s long-term plan to accede to India. The scale of the mass murder of Muslims can be assessed from the fact that two hundred thousand Muslims were massacred by the Maharaja’s forces in Jammu alone. At this point hundreds of Pathan tribesmen from the North-West Frontier province of Pakistan entered Kashmir to help their Muslim coreligionists. The Maharaja quickly decided to accede to India on 22 October 1948. India accepted the accession provisionally, subject to a referendum held under international auspices to ascertain the wishes of the people of Kashmir. India dispatched its own troops to Kashmir and also complained to the United Nations, charging Pakistan with aggression against the territory that had legally become part of India. Pakistan challenged the legality of the accession on the grounds that the Maharaja had already fled from the scene and was no longer in authority to sign the instrument of accession. Over the years, several mediation efforts by the UN, bilateral Indo-Pakistani negotiations, and the two India-Pakistan wars over Kashmir (1947 and 1965) failed to resolve the dispute. India now continues to hold the greater part of Kashmir, while Pakistan maintains its control over a smaller part known as “Azad Kashmir.”

India continued to maintain a facade of legitimacy through Shaikh Abdullah’s National Conference in the post-partition era. Faced by the prospects of public unrest and international attention on Kashmir, the Indian government sought to rely on Shaikh Abdullah’s popularity among the Kashmiri masses. On I I August 1952 Shaikh Abdullah announced an agreement between himself and Jawaharlal Nehru that granted the state of Jammu and Kashmir special privileges within the Indian Union. It was vested in the Constituent Assembly to determine the scope and extent of the state’s accession to India. This was the first of the three attempts by the Nehru family to agree with the Shaikh Abdullah family on the controversial status of Kashmir; the other two were Shaikh Abdullah’s accord with Indira Gandhi (February 1975) and Shaikh Abdullah’s son Farooq Abdullah’s agreement with Rajiv Gandhi (November 1986). Shaikh Abdullah and his son used the unsettled issue of the accession of the state to improve their bargaining position with Delhi. However, Shaikh Abdullah’s government was dismissed by India in 1953, and he was put behind bars for a long time. Puppet governments installed by India compromised on the issue of accession, legalizing it through the state assembly according to Indian government’s wishes. With the death of Shaikh Abdullah in 1982 a major contextual change occurred in Kashmiri politics as the Indian government lacked a popular public figure with whom it could negotiate.

A powerful mass resistance against Indian rule has emerged since 1987, with the Islamic movement playing the leading role. The origins of the current mass uprising in Kashmir can better be understood in the context of the Indian state’s policies (1947-1987) in the political, economic, and cultural spheres. Politically, despite Indian promises at the highest level to the Kashmiri people and the UN, the Indian government never allowed the Kashmiris to exercise their right of selfdetermination. The view of the Indian government has been that the Kashmiri people have expressed through the successive state assembly elections their desire to remain with India. However, the UN, in response to Pakistan’s complaint, made it clear that the state elections under the Indian control cannot be considered a substitute for a plebiscite held under UN auspices. After 1953, India went back on its promise of holding a plebiscite under UN auspices and declared Kashmir to be an integral part of India. The results of most of the state elections held since the partition have been characterized as manipulated or completely rigged by observers. The issue of self-determination has never died down.


Absence of genuine political participation created a deep-rooted alienation among the masses. Economically, Kashmir continued to remain a hinterland with little infrastructural development and a subsidy economy dependent on the center. Expansion of educational facilities continued to increase the number of unemployed graduates, whose joblessness exacerbated their dissatisfaction with the political process. In the cultural sphere, growing emphasis on secularism generated a backlash contributing to the popularity of Islamic political parties, especially the Jama’at-i Islam (established in 1953) and the Islam! Jami`at-i Tulaba, its allied student body. Islam remained the most powerful stimulus despite the secular outlook of successive governments. [See Jama’at-i Islami.] This was evident from the several crises faced by the state that led to severe breakdowns of law and order: the Hazratbal riots in 1963-1964, the mass agitation of July 1965, the riots of May 1973, and continuing mass resistance since 1987.

The current phase of mass resistance against Indian rule began in 1987 when an alliance of several Islamic parties, the Muslim United Front (MUF), was expected to win convincingly but ended with a mere four seats, allegedly because of massive rigging in the state elections. The state elections of 1987 were the catalyst for a new phase of armed struggle against Indian rule. The Indian government alleges that the Kashmiri struggle has been instigated and supported by Pakistan, while Pakistan maintains that the Kashmiri resistance is entirely indigenous in character and that Pakistan supports the movement only morally. The movement has been remarkably successful in mobilizing widespread support among the Muslim population over the past five years. Several offers of political dialogue made by the Indian government have been turned down by the freedomfighters, who declared that they were not willing to talk within the framework of the Indian union; according to them, talk is possible only after the implementation of the UN resolutions on the Kashmir dispute.

The Kashmiri resistance is divided into two major factions. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), established in 1965 under the leadership of Maqbool But and currently headed by Amanullah Khan, wants an independent Kashmir based on secular nationalism; the Hizbul Mujahidin, founded in 1989 and headed by Ghulam Mohammad Saffi, is committed to jihad and seeks the accession of Kashmir to Pakistan. The Hizbul Mujahidin is more powerful than the JKLF and enjoys widespread grassroots support. The Indian government has responded with massive repression of the Kashmiri people, employing security forces of more than four hundred thousand men. According to the most conservative estimates, since 1987 the Indian security forces have killed more than twenty thousand Kashmiris, engaged in widespread molestation of women, burnt down houses, and brutally tortured able-bodied youths, leading to thousands of deaths in custody. These harrowing atrocities have been documented in detail by Indian human rights groups as well as such international groups as Amnesty, Asia Watch, and Physicians for Human Rights (see Kashmir under Siege: Human Rights in India, An Asia Watch Report, Washington, D.C., 1991; Kashmir 1991: Physicians for Human Rights, London, 1991; and Amnesty International’s 1993 Report, reproduced in the daily newspaper Dawn, Karachi, 1o April 1993). Despite this massive repression, the Kashmiri peoples’ struggle continues unabated and shows little signs of weakness.

[See also India; Pakistan.]


Bamzai, P. N. K. A History of Kashmir. New Delhi, 1973. Useful but somewhat biased account of the political, economic, and social history of Kashmir.

Bazaz, P. N. The History of Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir. Reprint, Islamabad, 1976. Personalized but insightful account of the contemporary history of Kashmir.

Brecher, Michael. The Struggle for Kashmir. Toronto, 1953. Excellent study of the origins of the Kashmir dispute during the partition of the Subcontinent.

Gupta, Sisir. Kashmir: A Study in India-Pakistan Relations. Bombay, 1967. Relatively sophisticated Indian perspective on the Kashmir dispute.

Korbel, Josef. Danger in Kashmir. Princeton, 1954. Excellent account of UN involvement in the Kashmir dispute.

Lakhanpal, Puran L., ed. Essential Documents and Notes on the Kashmir Dispute. Delhi, 1965. Useful collection of important documents on Kashmir.

Lamb, Alastair. The Kashmir Problem. New York, 1966. Fairly unbiased and brief account of the Kashmir dispute.

Lamb, Alastair. Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy, 1946-1990. Hertfordshire, 1991. The best account of the Kashmir dispute, up to date and authoritative.

Parmu, R. K. A History of Muslim Rule in Kashmir, 1320-1819. New Delhi, 1969. Contains an excellent account of the spread of Islam in Kashmir.

Saraf, Muhammad Yusuf. Kashmiris Fight for Freedom. 2 vols. Lahore, 1977. Detailed and in-depth study of the modern history of Kashmir, including personal recollections.

Sufi, Ghulam Muhyi’d Din. Kashmir. z vols. Lahore, 1949. Comprehensive and monumental history of Kashmir from the earliest times.

Suharwardy, Abdul Haq. Tragedy in Kashmir. Lahore, 1983. Good account of the origin and evolution of the Kashmir dispute from a Pakistani perspective.

Thomas, Raju G. C. Perspectives on Kashmir. Boulder, 1992. Combines Indian, Pakistani, and Kashmiri perspectives on the Kashmir dispute.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/kashmir/

  • writerPosted On: July 20, 2014
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