Kashmir: The Tumultuous History of the Valley of Flowers

Kashmir merged with India at a time when Pakistani forces had attacked Kashmir disguised as tribals, and started an insurgency in the state. Even after the merger, the part of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan remained a controversial area, and is known in India as PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir). In 1975 when Sheikh Abdullah assumed the position of Chief Minister of J&K, the state was peaceful for a brief period, until it tensions between the Indian National Congress and the people of Kashmir grew over their demand for self-rule, when it descended into chaos once again. After Sheikh Abdullah’s death, his son Farookh Abdullah– and now his grandson Omar– took over the reign.

Parallel to this, Mufti Mohammad Saeed started his political career with Democratic National Conference which later merged with INC (Indian National Congress). He served as a Cabinet Minister in the Central government and also the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, and later founded People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In 1989, his daughter Rubaiyya was kidnapped by militants, which led to rise of insurgency in Kashmir. Following his death, his other daughter Mehbooba Mufti led PDP and became the CM of Jammu and Kashmir, in alliance with the BJP.

Owing to this political instability and discontentment faced by the people, many Kashmiris started separatist movements against India, forming parties and groups which still exist today. These include Syed Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar and Yasin Malik. Some of these leaders want independence for Kashmir, while others seek Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. The Hurriyat Conference is an alliance of political parties and religious organisations aiming at self-determination of Kashmir, though the Indian government thinks them to be pro-Pakistan, as the latter’s High Commission invites them to Delhi every year, to hold meetings.

The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) is a group which led the armed insurgency against India after the 1989 Rubaiyya kidnapping incident. It does not hesitate to kill prominent figures and uses distinctly Islamic themes to mobilize crowds.

Hizbul Mujahideen is another important terrorist group founded by Jamaat-i-Islami , and is considered to be the largest indigenous militant group in Kashmir. It was recently designated as a foreign terrorist organisation by India, USA and the EU. Burhan Wani was a member of this group, and used social media extensively to garner popularity. After his death in 2016 anti-nationals took advantage of his image as a folk hero to create unrest in the region, by shouting pro-Pakistan slogans, and waving the Pakistani flag. As a result, 53 day curfew was imposed in the valley.

These militants also helped the Pakistani army sneak into the country. This eventually led to the proxy war between India and Pakistan in Kargil, 1999. After local shepherds reported the intrusion, the Indian Army sent a patrol, which discovered that the infiltration was in Dras and nearby sectors. The army and air force launched a major offensive, and recaptured

Tiger Hill and Dras. To stop it from turning into a full scale war, US president Bill Clinton personally asked Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to pull out of Kargil, and Indian army evicted the Pakistani intruders. Repeated Pakistani intrusions into Indian Territory continue to be a source of irritation for India.

Moreover, stone pelting, or “Kanni Jung”, of the Indian army was taken up by the Kashmiri after the 2008 Kashmir protests. It saw a resurgence in 2010 and 2016-17, when the Pakistani army even gave them their own anthem: “Sang Baaz”. Most of them were school and college going students, who confessed in an India Today interview, that they were being paid to do so.

Militants have started killing Indian soldiers and civilians brutally—the tally now lies in hundreds. These attacks have become more frequent since 2016, and Indian army has retaliated by firing pellet guns at the locals trying to protect criminals.

A year ago, in an attempt to destroy terrorist training camps, the Indian army conducted surgical strikes in Pakistani territory. Still, the valley faces difficult times. The people of Kashmir are forgetting about their wolf, and blaming the army for the present situation. Tourism, the backbone of Kashmiri economy, has been destroyed to the extent that today Kashmir is mostly dependent on the Central Government’s grants.

Picture Credits : deccanchronicle

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