Kashmir: Freedom Struggle or an Islamist Insurgency?


By: Anmol Gupta

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Since time immemorial, human beings have fought bloody wars to subjugate, exploit or to fend off divergent cultures. The Persian empire around 500 BC, the Roman Empire around 100 AD, the Mongols around 1200 AD, the Spanish in 1500s AD, the Ottomans in 1700 AD and the British and other European superpowers till the first half of the twentieth century subjugated vast lands and their people leading to innumerable freedom struggles, resistances and wars of independence. All throughout the twentieth century, scores of countries including India and Pakistan fought and gained independence from the imperialist powers occupying them. In a country like India, people across religious lines be it Hindu or Muslim, across cultural lines be it Telugu, Gujrati or Punjabi fought together to gain independence for their country.Protests Kashmir

At the time of independence of India and the creation of Pakistan, honoring its centuries old composite culture Kashmir became the only Muslim majority state in the region to cede to a secular India instead of opting for a Muslim Pakistan. But since 1990, the region has witnessed an armed struggle to gain independence from a Hindu Majority India. Today, the people in the Kashmir valley insist that this armed movement in Kashmir is a Freedom struggle to gain independence from India just like the struggle in 1947 that took place in India to gain freedom from the British. But the question remains if it really is a struggle for independence or something else.

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Around the time of India’s independence vast oil reserves were discovered in Saudi Arabia and from being an impoverished state during the early part of the twentieth century, the country by the 1960s had transformed itself into an economic powerhouse (backed by petroleum money). The country is also the home of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab or the founder of Wahhabi School of Islam that aimed to restore Islam to its purest monotheistic form (Tawhid) and thus removing idolatry, impurities and innovations that may have seeped into Islam. Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab’s teachings are the official, state-sponsored form of Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia. With the help of funding from Saudi petroleum exports, the movement underwent explosive growth beginning in the 1970s and now has worldwide influence through Saudi Arabia funded places of worship. It is worth noting that more often than not insurgents across the globe subscribe to this particular Islamic school of thought.

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The growth of this Wahabbi influence corresponded with scores of Islamic Insurgencies taking root across the globe. The Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (and also in Libya), Al Shabaab in Somalia and Taliban in parts of Afghanistan have already established totalitarian Shariah compliant regimes in areas under their control. While insurgents like Caucasus Emirate in Chechnya, the Ansar Dine in Mali, the Al Qaeda in Yemen, Libya and Algeria, Hamas in Israel/Palestine, the Runda Kumpulan Kecil(RKK) in Southern Thailand, Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Phillipines, Hezbollah in Lebanon, East Turkestan Islamic Movement in China, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan etc are all fighting for the creation of Islamist regimes and in most cases are deeply influenced by the Salafist/ Wahabbi Islamic school of thought. In addition, influenced by the Islamic State many terror attacks have been carried out all across the world with Nice, Paris, Istanbul and Orlando being the latest instances. Hence, there is a possibility that the turmoil in the Kashmir Valley is only an extension of this global phenomenon and not a genuine freedom struggle.

In a legitimate freedom struggle the cross sections of the society (except for vested interests) strive towards their common goal of independence but Kashmir has already witnessed an ethnic cleansing of the worst kind wherein the India leaning Kashmiri Pandit minority was driven out of the valley (almost to the last member) when this so called freedom struggle started. It is well documented that following the murder of prominent members of the community how threats were issued from loudspeakers placed at Mosques to drive the Pandits out of the valley.

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Freedom struggles have been fought following the subjugation and imposition of foreign culture. But can any right minded Kashmiri deny that the language that is so dear to them is Indo Aryan in nature and derives heavily from Rigvedic Sanskrit. Can anyone provide a single instance of the suppression of the Kashmiri culture in Kashmir? Or can any Kashmiri deny the fact that Kashmir historically has remained a part of India since times immemorial and has eternally been a vital part of the composite Indian Culture?

In Kashmir, the separatist leaders have championed the cause of integration of Kashmir with Pakistan but can any right minded Kashmiri explain the merits of merger with a state which has itself failed on every front.

Separatist Leader at Narbal 1

In Kashmir, the separatist leaders have championed the cause of integration of Kashmir with Pakistan but can any right minded Kashmiri explain the merits of merger with a state which has itself failed on every front. In fact, through the Nehru-Gandhi family ethnic Kashmiris have been the Prime Ministers of India for more than 30 years in independent India’s seventy year history. Or the movement in Kashmir is indeed an Islamist insurgency wherein the Pandits are the lesser Kashmiris and hence, their achievements and aspirations of little consequence.

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If India was an occupation force in Kashmir it would have exploited Kashmir of its resources for the benefit of the other regions of the country but on the contrary every year India has been pouring tens of thousands of crores of rupees into the valley for the benefit of its people. Kashmiris in a way in India are a pampered lot. The amount of assistance (per capita) given to J&K by the central government is 8 times the assistance offered to Uttar Pradesh. The average Kashmiri is prosperous because the government chose to keep the average UP wallah poor. It is a known fact that the revenues of J&K state are not even adequate to cover the pension and salary bill of the state. Hence, it can be concluded that India in Kashmir has never operated as an imperialist empire would. Also, if the people in Jammu and Ladakh given the discriminatory treatment at the hands of the Kashmiri administration can consider them proud Indians, then it may be assumed that the problems in Kashmir are the creation of its own people.

The average Kashmiri is prosperous because the government chose to keep the average UP wallah poor. It is a known fact that the revenues of J&K state are not even adequate to cover the pension and salary bill of the state.

The arguments stated above point that the problem in Kashmir is neither on account of economic or cultural subjugation of its people nor are they supported by the cross sections of the society. In this light perhaps, it can be assumed that the problem plaguing Kashmir is indeed Islamic Fundamentalism as the world over radicalized groups have shown their discomfort in becoming a part of larger secular societies. The display of IS flags following Friday afternoon prayers and the course of action for the insurgency being directed through loudspeakers placed at Wahabbi influenced mosques is testimony to the radicalization of the Kashmiri people. The fact remains that the tolerant Sufi Islam in Kashmir has been hijacked by the Saudi Wahabbi Islam since the 1980s which considers it a heresy.

Gandhiji had praised Kashmir and Kashmiriyat for maintaining communal harmony in 1947 when the entire subcontinent had been plagued by madness. It is time that the composite culture that prevailed for centuries in the valley is restored and Islamic insurgents are showed the boot. Kashmir since historical times has been a part of India and the future of its people lie with a secular and an economically resurgent India. The world in general and the future generations of Kashmiris in particular will not forgive those who are hell bent on turning this ‘Heaven on Earth’ into an extension of Syria and Iraq. One can only hope that sense prevails!

The writer is a MBA in Finance and has recently shifted base to Jammu after working in various corporates for 8 years

U4UVoice does not endorse the opinion reflected in this article neither does the article necessarily reflect U4UVoice policy.