by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 9, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1443)
There are many locales where Muslims are suffering brutal occupation and wars. Kashmir ranks among the top. Together with the Palestinian people, the Kashmiris have endured much suffering since 1947.
Palestine is the holy land and home to Masjid al-Aqsa, the first qibla of the Muslims. Kashmir is equally important because the illegal Indian occupation has affected the lives of 8-10 million Kashmiris. They have suffered under the yoke of Indian colonial occupation for more than seven decades.
Their struggle began long before Indian forces illegally invaded and occupied the state of Jammu and Kashmir (to use its proper name) on October 27, 1947. Every year, tens of thousands of people worldwide hold rallies and seminars to commemorate October 27 as Black Day for Kashmir. This year was no different.
India’s illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is a sordid tale of treachery and mindboggling hypocrisy in which the British colonialists and Hindu chauvinists were both involved.
The people of J&K—the overwhelming majority being Muslim—staged their first uprising in 1927 against the settlement of non-Kashmiris in their state. Their second uprising occurred in July 1931 against the Hindu ruler Hari Singh.
I informed observers would immediately note that the Kashmiris’ yearning for freedom predates the creation of Pakistan and India in August 1947. The British had to relinquish control of India because the Second World War had left them exhausted and financially drained. They no longer had the capacity to cling to colonial possessions, especially the vast landmass of the Indian subcontinent that was home to some 360 million people at the time.
But true to their devious nature, the British indulged in political intrigue that created a number of problems as they departed. These continue to bedevil the now 1.6 billion population of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent.
Since there were two large and distinct communities in India—Hindus and Muslims—and it was clear that they could not live peacefully together (the Hindus were not prepared to accept the rights of the large Muslim minority), separation was the only way out. A formula for partition was agreed upon.
Muslim majority areas would constitute Pakistan while Hindu majority areas would become part of India. Leaders of the two communities agreed to this. There were also 500 or more princely states. While they enjoyed relative autonomy under British colonial rule, their case was a little problematic because in many instances, the ever-manipulative British had installed Hindu rulers on Muslim majority states and vice versa. This may have been a good administrative ploy, its consequences for the people of these states were devastating.
At the time of partition, it was stipulated that the princely states were free to join either India or Pakistan keeping in mind each princely state’s population composition and geographical contiguity. The situation of most states was straight forward.
Three states—Hyderabad Deccan, Junagarh and Manawadar and Jammu and Kashmir—were a little problematic. The first two had Muslim rulers but Hindu majority while J&K
had a Hindu ruler but a Muslim majority.
India promptly dispatched troops to Manawadar and Hyderabad to occupy the states because they both had a Hindu-majority. In Kashmir’s case it sent troops to occupy the state because the ruler (called maharaja) happened to be Hindu and had allegedly asked for help in the face of the people’s uprising.
Jammu and Kashmir was geographically, culturally and linguistically much closer to and contiguous to Pakistan than India. The Kashmiris naturally assumed that their state would become part of Pakistan. When the maharaja, Hari Singh, prevaricated, the people rose up in revolt.
The ruler fled the capital city Srinagar, and in an act of supreme treachery and intrigue, allegedly sought India’s military help. That ‘help’ was made conditional on the maharaja signing an instrument of accession, albeit temporarily, to India.
There is much speculation that no such instrument exists. India has not produced one in public to prove its existence. Based on this fraudulent claim, Indian troops landed in Srinagar amid pledges by Indian rulers including the new governor general, Lord Mountbatten, and Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, that once law and order was restored, a referendum would be held to determine the wishes of the people.
The people had already spoken through their uprising that had resulted in the ruler fleeing the state. Indian occupation troops massacred 200,000 Muslims in Jammu (according to Horace Alexander’s account in the British magazine, The Spectator, January 16, 1948). British author and historian Ian Stephen said 500,000 Muslims were killed. Another 350,000 Kashmiris were forced to flee Jammu in panic, seeking refuge in Pakistan.
This was the first of several ethnic cleansing operations of the Kashmiri Muslims. From a 62% majority in Jammu, Muslims were reduced to a minority of 31%. The Indian army’s genocide of Kashmiris, aided and abetted by the Hindu terrorist outfit, the RSS, and backed by Congress party goons, led to war between India and Pakistan.
Pakistani forces backed by the people of Kashmir and tribesmen from Pakistan, made quick headway in pushing the Indian occupation forces back. Sensing defeat, India took the matter to the UN Security Council. After detailed discussions and consultations, both India and Pakistan agreed that a referendum should be held in Kashmir.
While it was India that took the matter to the Security Council, it became clear that it was acting duplicitously. India merely wanted to buy time.
This is what India has done since 1948. Instead of honoring its pledges to the people of Kashmir and the world, today it says Kashmir is its “integral” part. The overwhelming majority of Kashmiris reject this ludicrous claim as evident from their resistance to the 900,000 Indian occupation troops that have indulged in horrific crimes including killings and rape.
In August 2019, India unilaterally abrogated the autonomous status of J&K. This was preceded by the incarceration of thousands of
Kashmiri political leaders as well as youth. Even pro-Indian politicians were not spared. While the majority have since been released, those leaders demanding the right of the self-determination continue to languish in prison, including many in the notorious Tihar Jail. Ashraf Sehrai, an 80-year-old Kashmiri leader, died in prison from COVID because of lack of medical treatment.
In March 2020, India also changed the Domicile Law allowing non-Kashmiris to acquire land in Kashmir and settle there. This is a clear attempt at changing the demographic composition of Kashmir. At least four million non-Kashmiris have been granted domicile since.
The people of Kashmir are not prepared to accept such changes. They demand the right of self-determination. This has been their demand since even before Indian troops illegally landed in Srinagar and have continued to indulge in mass murder and other atrocities.