Hazrat Umer Farooq says,” Man was born free, but why you have kept him in chains of slavery?” Freedom has been the watchword and rallying point in Kashmir for many decades. Certainly it is not everybody’s privilege to sing the song of freedom. Only those hearts throb for it that actually see the claws of oppression in a human society and have courage to speak for the welfare of mankind. A freedom loving heart is full of affection for humanity and is always ready to take risks for the freedom of the suffering people.
The people of Kashmir have been facing traumatic conditions under despots for centuries. Even their own Kashmiri Kings except a few were not kind to them. But it was the Mughal King Akbar who treacherously brought Kashmir under his Delhi rule. The tragic episode upset Kashmiris in every way and much more terror and tyranny was perpetuated by Afghan governors and Sikh rulers. This humiliating state of affairs did not end here. Although the British inflicted an ignominious defeat on the Sikh rulers of Punjab, but Kashmiris were sold to Dogra Rajas of Jammu, who under the patronage of British treated them like deaf and dumb cattle for one hundred years. According to the British historians the status of Kashmiris was definitely worse than the people of France before the French revolution. The governors of Delhi, Kabul and Lahore looked down upon Kashmiris as the Roman Pro-councils treated Africans. The famous commissioner of settlement for Kashmir Walter R Lawrence was compelled to make these remarks in his book the “Valley of Kashmir”
“It is the matter for surprise that under rapid transition of governments varying in race, religion and language, the people of the valley should have retained their peculiar nationality unimpaired.”
After the Sikh rulers Dogra rulers of Jammu thought it their prerogative to suppress and terrorize the people of Kashmir. It is here when the dark age of Kashmir entered into the 20th century. After the first war of India’s independence in 1857 some British journalists and writers went to Kashmir and on their return to London, they wrote their observations in some magazines of London. They say, “Kashmiris have been brutally terrorized so they express their grief in mosques in Fajr prayers, their hearts are broken, which might have caused 1857 calamity to British citizens in Meerut and Delhi. These writers say it was not the right decision to hand over the destiny of worshipers of one God to the idolaters, who follow many gods and goddesses”. It is a fact that the Kashmiris during that age used to express their grief in Natiyah verses with an impressive language.
In the third decade of the 2oth century the people of Kashmir began street protests against the religious and political injustice and economic exploitation, resulting in the tragedy of 13 July 1931, when dogra police massacred 21 Muslims under indiscriminate firing, before the central jail of Srinagar. It sent shock waves throughout the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and as its after effects people began offering great sacrifices and facing medieval punishments by the Dogra rulers till 1947, when India became free and a new country—Pakistan was born on the map of South Asia. The creation of Pakistan was a historical victory for the Muslims of the sub continent. The people of Jammu and Kashmir were already aware of the Pakistan movement and they were sympathetic towards it. They were eagerly awaiting the clarion call of the dawn of freedom in Kashmir. The termination of the British Raj in India meant an end to the rule of princes in India but no body knew that another dark period of trial and tribulation was in store for Kashmiris. The leaders of the Indian national congress and the fanatic Hindu communalists were aware of the geo political importance of the state of J&K. Therefore they had started wooing Kashmiri leaders in 1930s in many ways. Consequently their hypocrisy and the relations between Pandit Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah laid down adverse effects on the destiny of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947. The congress leadership of India believed in extending their own strategic interests to the far-flung mountain ranges, skies and waters of the region. A close associate of pandit Nehru Mr. VP Menon wrote in his book ‘the story of integration’ that ‘Kashmir was important for our security and integrity in the region’. Before the partition of India Gandhiji and some other Hindu leaders paid mysterious visits to Kashmir and discussed future of the state with the Dorgra rulers and national conference leaders. In the light of their impressions they chalked out their future strategy about Jammu & Kashmir. The confession comes from the pen of Jag Mohan a former Governor of occupied Kashmir who is known for his anti Muslim role both as Governor of Delhi under the rule of Indra Ghanghi and as Governor of Kashmir in 1990. In his book,” My frozen turbulence in Kashmir” He testifies:-
“ Gandhi’s visit to Kashmir in July–August 1947, his meeting with the Maharaja on August 1, dismissal of R.C. Kak from the office of prime Minster on August 10 , release of Sheikh Abdullah on September 29, after tendering ‘unqualified apology’ in his letter of September 26, strengthening of the road link between Pathankot and Jammu, and the scheme to construct a boat bridge over the river Ravi, all would seem to suggest that ground was being prepared for accession of the state to India; at least the possibility was not being ruled out…..”(Page 83)
After Sheikh Abdullah’s release on Sep 29, Pandit Nehru sent a letter to him in Srinagar through Dawarika Nath Kachru Secretary General of the All India States people’s conference, who attended a high level meeting of the top leaders of the National Conference in Srinagar and also met with Abdullah and wrote a letter to Mr. Nehru on 4 Sept, 1947:-
“Sheik Sahib and his close associates have decided for the Indian Union. But, this decision has not been announced yet and the impression is being given that so far the National Conference have taken no decision.” (Kashmir article 370 by Mohan Krishan Teng)
The disclosures of this letter refute India’s propaganda that the decision to accept accession of Kashmir and sent aerial troops to Srinagar on October 27, was made after the tribesmen attacked Kashmir. In order to seal the destiny of the people of Kashmir and remove all geo-hurdles in the way of Kashmir’s accession with India Vice Roy Lord Mountbatten played through Red Cliff the final mischief, by changing the boundary commission report to hand over Muslim majority district of Gurdaspur to India. After this conspiracy a fictitious letter of accession in the name of Maharaja was drafted and thus Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar on October 27 1947. This tragic event struck a hard-blow on the long struggle of freedom for Kashmir and now they had to fight with equal zeal and zest against the neo-imperialism of India in Kashmir. The people of Kashmir accepted the new challenge and decided to carry on their struggle for freedom. The government of India was frustrated to see the angry reaction of the people of Kashmir against the accession with Delhi. So Lord Mountbatten and Nehru in their separate messages to Pakistan and Kashmir declared this accession as provisional and assured that the people of Kashmir will be given every opportunity to decide their future through a free, fear and impartial plebiscite, under the international supervision of UN. On August 7 1952 Pt. Nehru declared:-
“It is an international problem. We do not want to win people against their will and with the help of armed forces and if the people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir so wish to Part Company with us, they can go their way and we shall go our way. We want no forced marriages, no forced unions like this so we accept this basic preposition that this question is going to be decided finally by the good will and pledge of the people of Kashmir, not I say, by the good will and pleasure of even this parliament, if it so chooses, not because this parliament may not have the strength to decide it. I do not deny that because this parliament has not only laid down in this particular matter that a certain policy will be pursued in regard to J& K state but it has been our policy…
But whether it is a pain and torment, if the people of Kashmir want to go out, let them go because we will not keep them against their will however painful it may be to us. That is the policy that India will pursue…Because the strongest bonds that bind will not be the bonds of your armies or even of your constitution, to which so much reference has been made, but bonds which are stronger than the constitution and law and armies—bonds that bind through love and affection and understanding of various people…”
Gandhiji visited Srinagar for the first time at the age of 77. The public opinion in Kashmir forced him to declare:-
“…the princes being the creation of British imperialism and the British having quitted India, the people in the states were their own masters and Kashmiris must therefore decide without any coercion or show of it from within and without to which dominion they should belong.”
While addressing the Security Council on 8 February 1957 Krishna Mennon Defense Minister of India said:-
“If it is possible for any sovereign state to cede territory, if as a result of plebiscite, if ever it did come, the people decided that they did not want to stay with India, then our duty at that time would be to adopt those constitutional procedures which would enable us to separate that territory.”
Keeping in view the world opinion and the past history of Kashmir, the Security Council also upheld the principle of the right of self determination, affirming that the people of Kashmir would be given opportunity to decide their future through a free, fair and impartial plebiscite to be held under the auspices of the UNO. Thus a cease-fire was executed between India and Pakistan. After the truce agreement between India and Pakistan the state of Jammu and Kashmir got divided and its people were separated from each other. Now India began using all evil and sinister methods to curb down the demand for plebiscite. At the same time the commander-in-chief of the Indian army addressed a top level gathering of national conference in the Baramula camp. He said, “The basic emergency task of the army has finished, but the goal to give this accession a truly public color is to be started now. This goal can be achieved by political and cultural activities and not by force. You are the future upholders of this mission.”
India and Sheikh Abdullah knew well that the people of Kashmir had not liked the Indian army in their State. Even National Conference was divided over the accession issue. Only Abdullah due to his personal relations with Mr. Nehru plunged Kashmir into this whirlpool. On the very first day of the troop landing in Srinagar, the Indian soldiers killed some civilians on their way to Badami Bagh Camp and humiliated women in the city of Srinagar and elsewhere. The people had gathered in Lal Chowk and expressed their anger against the military attack and the human rights abuses by the army in Srinagar. All these developments were of grave concern and shame for both the Indian leadership and the National Conference leaders.
India feared humiliation in Kashmir from every angle. He had made the promise of plebiscite before the world. The people of Kashmir were more eager to see the arrangements for plebiscite and certainly in spite of torture in police custody, imprisonment and exile of many political workers, there were strong pro-Pakistan tendencies among Kashmiris. Therefore, India paid equal attention to both military and political aspects in Kashmir. Notwithstanding the UN resolutions, India began raising the numerical strength of her army and stockpiling of arms and ammunition in Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah’s Government and his party were given free hand to crush the opposition and free press by draconian laws. Thus workers of the national conference launched a campaign of terror against the pro-plebiscite workers throughout the state. They would not wait for police to arrest a man, rather they themselves having arrest warrants in their pockets picked political workers and arrested them for listening to Radio Pakistan or Azad Kashmir Radio. These were banned radio stations in early 1950s.
In order to divert the public attention from plebiscite, Sheikh Abdullah with the tacit approval of Delhi conducted sham elections for the state constituent assembly in 1951. But before that the assembly of 1946 was illegally dissolved. In the 1951 assembly elections all the 75 candidates of the ruling party were returned unopposed. The UN Security Council had already passed the resolution declaring that the elections in Jammu & Kashmir would never be accepted as a substitute for plebiscite. Dr. Joseph corbel member of the UNCIP has made the following remark on the so called elections in, his book danger in Kashmir” “No dictator could do better than this”.
In spite of her lofty claims about democracy India continued human rights abuses in Kashmir and held every time fraudulent elections in the state. This practice continues unabated to this time. In July 1977 when a former Home Minister Mr. Chaudry Charan Singh visited Kashmir in connection with election campaign, he confessed that all the previous elections held in Jammu and Kashmir were rigid and manipulated. The story of elections for the State Assembly since 1951 is always a ridiculous one, whether these elections were held under the rule of Sheikh Abdullah or Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad or Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq or Mir Qasim or Farooq Abdullah. The stand to boycott these elections by the freedom fighting parties has every time been vindicated.
Sheikh Abdullah and Delhi rulers failed to suppress and change the popular sentiments of Kashmiris between 1947 and 1953, although the government had been armed with very harsh laws of detention without trail. Strangely, if on the one hand the Indian government was sharpening its teeth against Kashmiris, on the other hand Sheikh Abdullah was becoming isolated from the people in the state. 19 July 1953 is a remarkable day of those fateful years when against all political odds citizens of Srinagar defied prohibitory orders and thousands gathered in Nawakadal Srinagar to protest against the accession with India. Some leading members of the ruling National Conference and some Hindu lawyers led by Khawaja Ghulam Mohiuddin Qarah participated in a big demonstration and launched the political movement for freedom and Pakistan. The new Phenomenon terribly shook the government and the party of Sheikh Abdullah. He began rethinking and some other factors also created differences between sheikh Abdullah and the Government of India, resulting in the arrest of sheikh Abdullah on 9 August 1953. His deputy Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad took over as the new prime Minster of Jammu and Kashmir. The following decades saw a strong popular movement of plebiscite growing in Jammu and Kashmir, and the people in thousands faced imprisonments, tortures, detentions and killings for decades together. Two political organizations namely J&K Plebiscite Front patronized by Sheikh Abdullah and Kashmir political conference founded by Kh. Ghulam Mohiuddin Qarah were the leading organizations of the times in Jammu and Kashmir. This was certainly a unique period of freedom movement in Kashmir, when the inhabitants of the occupied region from Ladakh to Kathua irrespective of cast, creed and region took part in the struggle for independence. No black laws or revengeful steps by the regime could deter the people from lining-up with the struggle.
On 29 December 1963 the occupied state rose in revolt against India and Indian stooges, when the sacred hair was stolen mysteriously from Hazratbal Shrine cum Mosque. The demand for the sacred hair instantly changed into a full-scale mass freedom movement in the length and breadth of Kashmir. Pandit Nehru was forced to release many political workers including Sheikh Abdullah from prisons. After having detailed talks with Abdullah in Delhi, Pandit Nehru sent him and his associates Mirza Afzal Bagh, Mouvlana Masoodi and others to Pakistan to negotiate a constitutional settlement of Kashmir with Pakistan. The process of dialogue could not move forward due to the death of Pt. Nehru. Thus Sheikh Abdullah cut short his visit and returned to Delhi without any success on the dispute of Kashmir.
1965 the freedom struggle in Kashmir was at its peak and we have a comment of Seleeg Harison, then correspondent of Washington post over the situation in the State of Jammu and Kashmir:-
“I visited Kashmir in July in 1965, and I cam e to know that the inhabitants of Kashmir are against Indian rule in a solid manner, and 12 Indian army brigades are trying to contain the movement of the right of self determination.”(Washington post 14 August 1965)
This situation was used by India as a pretext to cross the international border and attack Pakistan from Lahore. But after 7 days war the world leaders intervened and thus the war came to an end, which was followed by Tashkent Pact between the two countries on 10 January 1966.
During the September war the ‘Defense of India Rules was promulgated and many people were arrested under draconian laws in thousands and detained for years without trial. Many People especially living along the cease-fire line were forced to migrate to AJK and Pakistan and many more were killed, tortured and humiliated in army camps. In 1966 Indian spying network was further strengthened and additional troops were sent to Kashmir to quell the mass uprising in the state but in spite of the cease-fire between India and Pakistan the struggle for freedom spread throughout the state and a new phenomenon in the form of underground armed activities was introduced by the younger generation. Many villages and towns were burnt and looted by army between Aug and October 1965, which includes the wide spread fire of Batmallo Srinagar on August 14 1965. The Indian Army was blamed for this fire too.
The Tashkent Pact 1966 was followed by Simla Pact in 1972 between India and Pakistan. On the other side India engaged Plebiscite Front leaders and maneuvered another Delhi accord with Sheikh Abdullah in 1975. It is also called Indra-Abdullah Pact 1975. But the people of Kashmir rejected every time these bilateral agreements. On February 28, 1975 the whole of Jammu and Kashmir went on a historical strike over a call given by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Late Zulfiqar Ali Bhuthoo to protest against the Delhi agreement of Sheikh Abdullah and Indra Gandhi, which is an echoing day in the history of Kashmir. State wide movement of plebiscite received severe set back from bilateral agreements and Daka fall, resulting in mounted pressure on the movement in 1970s. But a new generation of Kashmiris kept the flame of freedom burning. They looked forward and discovered new horizons amidst dark clouds and hostile winds. Although some groups of young men had started underground armed struggle in 1960s, but the struggle launched in late 1980s was more pronounced, which sent away more forceful signals of liberation to the world in general and India in particular. It means that the fire of freedom will not extinguish in Kashmir till Kashmiris regain their lost independence. Every big or small event in 1970s and 1980s frustrated India and puzzled and stunned political and religious leaders who became irrelevant in Kashmir. A daylong forceful demonstration by thousands of cricket spectators against India in the Sonawar stadium in Oct 1983 shook India and the chief Minister Farooq Abdullah was angrily asked to explain his weakness behind this anti India outburst in the heart of the capital. On 11 Feb. India challenged Kashmiris by sending Muhammad Maqbool Butt to gallows in Tihar jail Delhi, disregarding legal procedures and international human rights law, resulting in further alienation of Kashmiris from India. In 1987, Muslim United Front an amalgam of different political and religious parties participated in assembly elections to challenge India through the ballot paper. But, India and Farooq Abdullah raped the sanctity of the ballot by rigging the elections and declaring NC candidates as winners. The subsequent events further exposed India’s nefarious designs in Kashmir.
1980’s was a decade of political upheavals, trials and tribulations, which gave people self-confidence and the freedom movement, achieved the character of all-pervading popular Intifada in 1990. Further Indian onslaught and intransigence pushed the movement towards armed struggle. It was backed by popular support and became known by the term Jihad. Thus began a new period of great human sacrifices in Kashmir. The people of Kashmir discovered new soul, spirit and new world in their land of birth. The Indian claim to be a big democracy of the world was fully exposed in Kashmir. India to every Kashmiri was now a wolf in lambs’ clothes.
During the past fifteen years India has committed heinous crimes in Kashmir in the form of untold and unprecedented abuses of human rights on men, women and children, besides genocide and custodial killings of over eighty thousand people. India’s naked dance of rape, murder, loot and arson continues unabated in the occupied region. The question is asked how long the champions of world peace and civilization will see the truth and wait.
The roots of the freedom movement have gone very deep into the history of Kashmir. The people of Kashmir believe in unfettered struggle and are never ready to retrieve and compromise even under untoward circumstances of oppression. In the past Kashmiris revolted against the sale deal of Amritsar and they equally rose against the annexation of Kashmir by India in 1947 and showed to the world the ugliest face of India’s so-called secular democracy. The Kashmir struggle has almost historical continuity. Neither agreements between India and Pakistan nor between Srinagar and Delhi could break the chain of its continuity in the last fifty seven years. Kashmir struggle is based upon the right of self-determination under the principle of universal declaration of human rights and UN resolutions on Kashmir. Notwithstanding moral crisis in the conscience of the world powers UN continues to regard Kashmir as a disputed region where people have not exercised their inalienable right—the right of self-determination. It is the oldest international dispute on the UN agenda and also the Indo-Pakistan record can bear witness to this fact. India always made futile attempts to portrait it as its internal constitutional problem but the unprecedented sacrifices of the people of Kashmir compelled former president Bill Clinton to call it a flash point of Asia. Nowadays no world leader has to say anything other than this remark by any American leader.
The current struggle is homegrown and nourishes with snowball spontaneity. India calls this movement as imported terrorism, which is a big lie. The relationship between Kashmiris and freedom fighters is like a fish in the water. Our society has embraced this movement and every section of the society has played vital role in furthering glorious cause of freedom. It is not a class war or communal, religious conflict, but the final goal of our struggles is freedom from India. There are no communal prejudices in Kashmir. Our peoples overwhelming majority believe in the simple teachings of Islam, never in narrow nationalism or terrorism. We believe in patriotism and communal harmony. In fact, Kashmiri Muslims and non-Muslims lived together a peaceful life in the past. But it was sad that the Hindu minority was misled by Indian communalists and thus they fled away from the valley in 1990. They fail to sympathize with the trauma of Kashmiri Muslims, who are humiliated by the brute force of Indian military. Despite hard facts Kashmiri Muslims have time and again invited migrant Hindus back to main stream of Kashmir. The present struggle owes its birth to the sacred blood of Kashmiris, and hopefully it will reach its destination with the help of almighty Allah.