In Kashmir, it is confusion, worse confounded

The people of Kashmir are at a fix when it comes to the vexed Kashmir issue. On certain occasions people seem to be deeply conscious about the struggle for self determination, while on other occasions they deviate completely as if they never struggled for it. Kashmiri people flock together for every leader, be he from the mainstream or from the separatist camp. They enthusiastically participate in public rallies, chant slogans in favour of both the camps, as the occasion demands.  It signals the paradoxical behavior of people as the ideologies of the two camps are diametrically opposite each other. This behavior has been seen since the times of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and Sheikh Abdullah. Kashmiris have never been clear about their goal and stance. While some of them are votaries of full independence , some want a merger with Pakistan and others  feel their future is safe in the hands of India.

Beginning from 1990 when in January, Jagmohan was appointed as governor and Farooq Abdullah resigned as the chief minister of the state. Governor’s rule lasted up to October 9, 1996. People of Kashmir during this period joined many rebel groups and were fully conscious about their right to self determination. People almost of every age group contributed the struggle for right to self-determination . People felt they were close to something, but they were not clear what it was.Some rebel groups were fighting for full independence both from India and Pakistan, while others were fighting for a merger with Pakistan.  

As normalcy started returning to Kashmir and state assembly elections were held after a gap of six years, with  an overall voter turnout of 53.92 per cent, according to government claims. The Indian mainstream media exploited the poll percentage at both national as well as international level, which had serious implications for Kashmir struggle.
However, the people did not cease to join the rebel groups, but the graph remarkably went down as  many  of them started to shun the path of violence . They felt that violence was not the solution to the Kashmir imbroglio. It defamed the  struggle and labelled the combatants as terrorists.

The struggle got a new lease of life in 2008 following the Amaranth land row. People in every nook and corner of the valley started protesting against it because it was seen as a gross violation of article 370 which gives special status to J & K. The agitation soon turned into a  movement. People started following strike calls of separatist groups and the whole valley remained closed for almost two months. people made chalo calls(long marches) given by the  separatist leaders successful .  Yet, the people in these marches were seen divided. While some chanted slogans in favor of Pakistan, many were shouting in favour of absolute independence. The pro-azadi leaders emerged as the sole representatives of the people of Kashmir rendering the mainstream parties well-nigh irrelevant.

Soon after this agitation, assembly polls were held and the people in the valley enthusiastically participated in these elections defying the poll boycott calls of separatists. Despite their boycott calls, the voter turnout rose by 7% and the overall turnout was recorded at 60.5 per cent. The Indian media again exploited this huge participation of people in elections and described them as a “triumph of Indian democracy”.

In June 2010, a new wave of pro-azadi movement swept following the killing of a local teenager Tufail Matto. People from all towns and villages supported this movement. The separatists camp launched a “Quit Kashmir movement” and new slogan “Go India, Go back” was introduced and people welcomed it enthusiastically. The unrest continued for almost three months, during which 120 lives were lost. The separatists re-emerged as the representatives of the multitude. To normalise the situation, government arrested many upper-rung separatists leaders. Ultimately, normalcy returned to the valley and people got busy with their day-today routine. The Kashmir struggle remained in its own shell and could not move further.

The assembly elections in 2014 had a negative  impact on Kashmir  struggle as the voter  turnout registered its highest in the last 25 years  at 65 per cent. India termed the overall polling percentage as “historic and unprecedented.

Now a new trend over the funeral prayers of rebels has emerged. People in huge numbers participate in their last rites. At some places  such prayers are offered several times.  But the irony is that these are the same people who participated in  all these elections and prompted India to strengthen its claim over the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
The pro-freedom camp is also in a dilemma as the separatists are also divided like the common masses. There are different pro-freedom parties with different ideologies and agendas.  Some groups believe in complete independence from both India and Pakistan, some seek  freedom with democratic laws,  while for many  freedom means a  merger with Pakistan. The factional and ideological divide among the pro freedom leader has also divided the people.

Kashmiris will have to decide what they want as a people and clarify their stance through seminars, debates and multi-level discourse. '

The author is a student at the Center for International Relations at IUST, Awantipora. He may be contacted at

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 August 2016 on page no. 2

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