Skip to main content
Sabrang
Sabrang
Communalism Dalit Bahujan Adivasi

Invitable logic

Haseeb A. Drabu 01 May 1998

The communalisation of the militant movement was a forgone conclusion


GUEST COLUMN

For which state in the country is India—Constitutionally speaking — not a “secular” republic? The answer, which is bound to surprise, is Jammu and Kashmir. This particular aspect of the Indian state, as described in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution, doesn’t apply to Jammu and Kashmir, To put it simply, India is not a secular state as far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned.This for a state which inspite of being Muslim–dominated joined the Indian Union assured of its ostensibly secular principles. This, for a state, which during the communal holocaust accompanying Partition remained entirely peaceful making Mahatma Gandhi see a ray of hope in the sub–continent. This for a state which did not see any semblance of communal tension when the Babri Masjid was demolished. Yet today, civil society in Kashmir stands thoroughly polarised and fragmented.

Even though the more gruesome aspects of communalisation have become visible only recently, the communalisation of the militant movement was a foregone conclusion. If anything, what is surprising is that the change in the character of the ethno-nationalist militant movement that started in 1989, took so long to happen. Everybody involved with the politics of Jammu and Kashmir — be it the government of India, the state government, militant organisations, indeed, even the people of Kashmir—has contributed to the communalisation of the movement in the valley. Before we look at the different factors that helped foster this development it might be worthwhile to look at how the entire movement came to become structurally bound towards being communal.

In analysing the growing influence of communal forces within the state, it is important to recognise that the state of Jammu and Kashmir comprises of three distinct regions: the Muslim–dominated valley, the Hindu–dominated Jammu province, and the Buddhist–dominated Ladakh. This cross-classification of geography and religion made the state highly vulnerable to communal tensions.

The only feature that had kept communalism at bay in a state apparently so obviously prone to it was the high level of ethno–nationalist sentiment that prevailed atleast in the Valley. The feeling of ethnicity and imagined nationalism blurred the religious distinctions to a significant extent. During the peak of militancy from 1989 right until 1993 even, there were no community–based killings in Kashmir for the militant movement was almost entirely directed against the Indian State.

But in the need to combat militancy which was threatening the stability of the Indian nation state, different arms of the State machinery, ensured that the distinction between the State and civil society was obliterated and the struggle for self–determination was presented and perceived as a revolt against the Indian (implicitly assumed to be, Hindu) society. The lines were thus drawn by the actions of the state and the first impact was that Kashmiri Pandits, a minority in the Valley, felt insecure and threatened.

 
That they should have felt so was but natural. But what was of utmost significance was that this sense of insecurity was legitimised by the state government, which at that point of time was controlled by the governor, Jagmohan Malhotra (now a BJP MP). By legitimising the fear of the minority and providing them with logistical support to move en masse out of the Valley, the ethnic movement was communalised almost instantly. The other operational factor that heightened the communalisation of the militant movement was the complete decimation of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, again by the Indian State. Even though the JKLF was fighting for secession, it was avowedly secular in its outlook. The decline in the mass and muscle power of JKLF resulted in the control of the secessionist movement going over from a secular leadership into the hands of Islamist organisations, most notably the Hizbul Mujahideen. Once the (JKLF) loss control of the movement in the Valley, its communalisation was imminent. The fall of JKLF and the consequent rise of the Hizbul Mujahideen was partly related to the fact that the Indian security forces managed to completely eliminate the top rank leaders of the JKLF by 1993 while a similar assault could not be carried out against the Hizbul Mujahideen.Apart from the deliberate acts of the Indian State, the JKLF’s loss of base also had to do with its own ideological failure, thereafter. Bereft of arms, the JKLF was not radically different from any mainstream regional political party, especially the National Conference. Looked at closely, the pristine agenda of the National Conference for autonomy is very close to the concept of azaadi that the JKLF had been propagating. In that sense, it did not envisage a very innovative change in the system.

On the contrary, the Hizbul Mujahideen offered the people of Kashmir a new system based on the principles of Islam — Nizam–e–Mustafa. Without getting into the desirability of such a system, what it offered the people was a change from the existing system that hadn’t delivered. The groundwork for this had already been done through schools set up by the Jamaat–i–Islami in areas where state schools did not exist.

This is turn changed the contours of militant activity which had been confined to the urban part of the Valley. Militant activity shifted to the plains of Doda and Kishtawar (and from thereon to Udhampur) which had a strong presence of other communities, unlike in the Valley where Kashmiri Pandits were in a minuscule minority. And by 1993, they had almost completely left the Valley.

With militancy losing much of its gun power and the writ of the state being re–established, its continuation hold was sought to be ensured through the targeting of the vulnerable minorities in areas outside the Valley like Prankote in Udhampur.

As pointed out earlier, with the activity shifting to the plains, there was a sense of normalcy returning to the Valley. A trickle of Kashmiri Pandits started coming back to the Valley especially those from the rural areas. With the character of the rural area having changed in the last seven years — Sufist Islam (known as Rishism in the Valley) having given way to more regimented and ritualistic and perhaps even more aggressive forms of Islam— the communal element started getting primacy over the ethnic element that had earlier dominated.
This change in the basic feature of Kashmir will take not only time but also an enormous amount of genuine effort backed by political legitimacy to reverse it. This doesn’t seem likely in the short run as the continuation of militancy even in the form of a virulent communalism suits the interests of those who are ruling the state — be it the army or the civil authorities.

(The writer is resident editor, Business Standard, Mumbai).
 

Invitable logic

The communalisation of the militant movement was a forgone conclusion


GUEST COLUMN

For which state in the country is India—Constitutionally speaking — not a “secular” republic? The answer, which is bound to surprise, is Jammu and Kashmir. This particular aspect of the Indian state, as described in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution, doesn’t apply to Jammu and Kashmir, To put it simply, India is not a secular state as far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned.This for a state which inspite of being Muslim–dominated joined the Indian Union assured of its ostensibly secular principles. This, for a state, which during the communal holocaust accompanying Partition remained entirely peaceful making Mahatma Gandhi see a ray of hope in the sub–continent. This for a state which did not see any semblance of communal tension when the Babri Masjid was demolished. Yet today, civil society in Kashmir stands thoroughly polarised and fragmented.

Even though the more gruesome aspects of communalisation have become visible only recently, the communalisation of the militant movement was a foregone conclusion. If anything, what is surprising is that the change in the character of the ethno-nationalist militant movement that started in 1989, took so long to happen. Everybody involved with the politics of Jammu and Kashmir — be it the government of India, the state government, militant organisations, indeed, even the people of Kashmir—has contributed to the communalisation of the movement in the valley. Before we look at the different factors that helped foster this development it might be worthwhile to look at how the entire movement came to become structurally bound towards being communal.

In analysing the growing influence of communal forces within the state, it is important to recognise that the state of Jammu and Kashmir comprises of three distinct regions: the Muslim–dominated valley, the Hindu–dominated Jammu province, and the Buddhist–dominated Ladakh. This cross-classification of geography and religion made the state highly vulnerable to communal tensions.

The only feature that had kept communalism at bay in a state apparently so obviously prone to it was the high level of ethno–nationalist sentiment that prevailed atleast in the Valley. The feeling of ethnicity and imagined nationalism blurred the religious distinctions to a significant extent. During the peak of militancy from 1989 right until 1993 even, there were no community–based killings in Kashmir for the militant movement was almost entirely directed against the Indian State.

But in the need to combat militancy which was threatening the stability of the Indian nation state, different arms of the State machinery, ensured that the distinction between the State and civil society was obliterated and the struggle for self–determination was presented and perceived as a revolt against the Indian (implicitly assumed to be, Hindu) society. The lines were thus drawn by the actions of the state and the first impact was that Kashmiri Pandits, a minority in the Valley, felt insecure and threatened.

 
That they should have felt so was but natural. But what was of utmost significance was that this sense of insecurity was legitimised by the state government, which at that point of time was controlled by the governor, Jagmohan Malhotra (now a BJP MP). By legitimising the fear of the minority and providing them with logistical support to move en masse out of the Valley, the ethnic movement was communalised almost instantly. The other operational factor that heightened the communalisation of the militant movement was the complete decimation of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, again by the Indian State. Even though the JKLF was fighting for secession, it was avowedly secular in its outlook. The decline in the mass and muscle power of JKLF resulted in the control of the secessionist movement going over from a secular leadership into the hands of Islamist organisations, most notably the Hizbul Mujahideen. Once the (JKLF) loss control of the movement in the Valley, its communalisation was imminent. The fall of JKLF and the consequent rise of the Hizbul Mujahideen was partly related to the fact that the Indian security forces managed to completely eliminate the top rank leaders of the JKLF by 1993 while a similar assault could not be carried out against the Hizbul Mujahideen.Apart from the deliberate acts of the Indian State, the JKLF’s loss of base also had to do with its own ideological failure, thereafter. Bereft of arms, the JKLF was not radically different from any mainstream regional political party, especially the National Conference. Looked at closely, the pristine agenda of the National Conference for autonomy is very close to the concept of azaadi that the JKLF had been propagating. In that sense, it did not envisage a very innovative change in the system.

On the contrary, the Hizbul Mujahideen offered the people of Kashmir a new system based on the principles of Islam — Nizam–e–Mustafa. Without getting into the desirability of such a system, what it offered the people was a change from the existing system that hadn’t delivered. The groundwork for this had already been done through schools set up by the Jamaat–i–Islami in areas where state schools did not exist.

This is turn changed the contours of militant activity which had been confined to the urban part of the Valley. Militant activity shifted to the plains of Doda and Kishtawar (and from thereon to Udhampur) which had a strong presence of other communities, unlike in the Valley where Kashmiri Pandits were in a minuscule minority. And by 1993, they had almost completely left the Valley.

With militancy losing much of its gun power and the writ of the state being re–established, its continuation hold was sought to be ensured through the targeting of the vulnerable minorities in areas outside the Valley like Prankote in Udhampur.

As pointed out earlier, with the activity shifting to the plains, there was a sense of normalcy returning to the Valley. A trickle of Kashmiri Pandits started coming back to the Valley especially those from the rural areas. With the character of the rural area having changed in the last seven years — Sufist Islam (known as Rishism in the Valley) having given way to more regimented and ritualistic and perhaps even more aggressive forms of Islam— the communal element started getting primacy over the ethnic element that had earlier dominated.
This change in the basic feature of Kashmir will take not only time but also an enormous amount of genuine effort backed by political legitimacy to reverse it. This doesn’t seem likely in the short run as the continuation of militancy even in the form of a virulent communalism suits the interests of those who are ruling the state — be it the army or the civil authorities.

(The writer is resident editor, Business Standard, Mumbai).
 

Related Articles

Sunday

03

Jan

Pan-India

Saturday

05

Dec

05 pm onwards

Rise in Rage!

North Gate, JNU campus

Thursday

26

Nov

10 am onwards

Delhi Chalo

Pan India

Theme

Stop Hate

Hate and Harmony in 2021

A recap of all that transpired across India in terms of hate speech and even outright hate crimes, as well as the persecution of those who dared to speak up against hate. This disturbing harvest of hate should now push us to do more to forge harmony.
Taliban 2021

Taliban in Afghanistan: A look back

Communalism Combat had taken a deep dive into the lives of people of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Here we reproduce some of our archives documenting the plight of hapless Afghanis, especially women, who suffered the most under the hardline regime.
2020

Milestones 2020

In the year devastated by the Covid 19 Pandemic, India witnessed apathy against some of its most marginalised people and vilification of dissenters by powerful state and non state actors. As 2020 draws to a close, and hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers continue their protest in the bitter North Indian cold. Read how Indians resisted all attempts to snatch away fundamental and constitutional freedoms.
Migrant Diaries

Migrant Diaries

The 2020 COVID pandemic brought to fore the dismal lives that our migrant workers lead. Read these heartbreaking stories of how they lived before the pandemic, how the lockdown changed their lives and what they’re doing now.

Campaigns

Sunday

03

Jan

Pan-India

Saturday

05

Dec

05 pm onwards

Rise in Rage!

North Gate, JNU campus

Thursday

26

Nov

10 am onwards

Delhi Chalo

Pan India

Videos

Labour

Why are Anganwadi Workers protesting in Bengal

Anganwadi Workers and helpers have launched protest in Bengal demanding higher wages, compensation and recognition as government workers. Listen to some of these Anganwadi workers’ plight from Malda, Bengal.

Labour

Why are Anganwadi Workers protesting in Bengal

Anganwadi Workers and helpers have launched protest in Bengal demanding higher wages, compensation and recognition as government workers. Listen to some of these Anganwadi workers’ plight from Malda, Bengal.

IN FACT

Analysis

Stop Hate

Hate and Harmony in 2021

A recap of all that transpired across India in terms of hate speech and even outright hate crimes, as well as the persecution of those who dared to speak up against hate. This disturbing harvest of hate should now push us to do more to forge harmony.
Taliban 2021

Taliban in Afghanistan: A look back

Communalism Combat had taken a deep dive into the lives of people of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Here we reproduce some of our archives documenting the plight of hapless Afghanis, especially women, who suffered the most under the hardline regime.
2020

Milestones 2020

In the year devastated by the Covid 19 Pandemic, India witnessed apathy against some of its most marginalised people and vilification of dissenters by powerful state and non state actors. As 2020 draws to a close, and hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers continue their protest in the bitter North Indian cold. Read how Indians resisted all attempts to snatch away fundamental and constitutional freedoms.
Migrant Diaries

Migrant Diaries

The 2020 COVID pandemic brought to fore the dismal lives that our migrant workers lead. Read these heartbreaking stories of how they lived before the pandemic, how the lockdown changed their lives and what they’re doing now.

Archives