Insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir: History & Key Players
Jammu and Kashmir was largest of the Indian Princely States. The Hindu maharaja of Kashmir ruled over a heterogeneous population of 4 million of which 77 percent was Muslim, but since his state bordered both dominions of Pakistan and India, Maharaja thought he could play off one country against the other, join neither of them, and make his state wholly independent.
On 15 August 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh offered to sign a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan as well as India, which Pakistan signed but India did not. Pakistan wanted to merge Kashmir with itself. So, it sent raiders to back the Muslims in southwest Kashmir to revolt against the maharaja.
Since Maharaja knew that he might need to turn to Nehru for help, on September 29, 1947, he released National Conference Party (NCP) leader Sheikh Abdullah, the nationalist Muslim leader from jail in order to gain popular support. In October 1947, thousands of Pathan tribesmen from northwest Pakistan, armed and guided by the Pakistani army, entered Kashmir; on October 24, when the raiders were well within the state and closing in on Srinagar, the Maharaja asked Delhi to provide military assistance; Abdullah also urged that Delhi do so.
Nehru stated that unless some agreement is signed, India couldn’t send its army to a state where it has no legal standing. Accordingly, a treaty of accession was drafted with the promise of Article 370 in Indian Constitution to safeguard interests of the people of the state. According to the accession treaty, India was to look after only four subjects viz. defense, external affairs, communication and currency; while the local assembly was given powers to decide on all other matters. Similarly, the provisions of part VI of Indian constitution were not to be made applicable to Jammu & Kashmir and it was allowed to have its own Constitution. On the basis of such accession, around 100 fighter planes of Indian Air Force came into action to drive out the raiders. India was able to take back Srinagar as well as valley, however, by that time; Pakistan had already taken one third of Kashmir. The struggle continued for months and there was a fear of full-fledged war.
Here, Nehru made a strategic mistake and on the basis of suggestion by Lord Mountbatten, he referred the Kashmir problem to United Nations Security Council on 30 December 1947, requesting the UNSC for vacation of aggression by Pakistan. This decision was a blunder because instead of taking note of aggression; the UNSC sided with Pakistan and rechristened the problem as India-Pakistan dispute.
The UN passed some resolutions. On the basis of one such resolution; India and Pakistan accepted a ceasefire on 31 December 1948 which still prevails and the state was effectively divided along the ceasefire line. Nehru later blamed the dirty game played by Britain and US, behind the scene.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Abdullah was installed as head of a reconstituted government of Kashmir. In 1951, the UN passed a resolution, which asked for a referendum under UN supervision so that the people of Kashmir could decide their own fate. But one of the conditions of the referendum was that Pakistan had to withdraw its troops from the part of Kashmir under its control. Pakistan refused to withdraw its forces and India refused to hold any referendum. Since then, India has successively amended its constitution to make Kashmir as its integral part.
The Jammu & Kashmir council of ministers was to be headed by a Prime Minister (in place of Chief Minister of Indian states) and the constitutional head of the state was Sadar-i-Riyasat. In due course, the Prime minister was changed to Chief Minister and Sadar-e-Riyasat was changed to Governor and gradually the reach of Indian constitution was extended to Jammu & Kashmir. The Pakistan occupied Kashmir, though named Azad Kashmir, has remained dependent practically in all matters on Pakistan.
A UN Military Observer Group in India andPakistan (UNMOGIP) still continues to supervise the ceasefire line and reportthe violation of ceasefire. After 1971 war, India and Pakistan had signed Shimla Agreement in 1972. The agreement had formalized the 1949 UN ceasefire line with minor changes as ‘Line of Control’.
Insurgency in Kashmir
After its humiliating defeat in 1971 war, Pakistan adopted the strategy of proxy war with India by promoting insurgency in Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir. Till 1987, the insurgency in Kashmir was low intensity warfare. In 1987 assembly elections, an eleven party oppositional alliance won only four seats despite its popular support, and a dispute started about rigging in the elections. This dispute had set the stage for birth of insurgency in the Kashmir valley in 1989. Within no time, it was escalated and the armed insurgent groups demanded sovereignty and freedom the Indian state.
Key Players in Kashmir Insurgency
In the beginning, two main groups of the armed insurgents were the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and the Hizbul-Mujahideen.
Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF)
The JKLF (created in 1964) demanded for the unification of the Indian and Pakistani sides of Kashmir and independence for all of Kashmir. The JKLF was one of the main insurgent groups in Kashmir in 1990s. Despite its initial violence against Kashmiri Hindus, the JKLF claimed its movement as a secular. Later in 1995, the JKLF led by Yasin Malik renouncedthe use of violence and called for peaceful methods to resolve the issues. It also called for return of Kashmir Hindu pundits to the valley.
After the end of Soviet-Afghan war in 1988, the victorious Afghan Mujahideen were infiltrated into Kashmir with the support of Pakistan. They demanded for an Islamic state and unification with Pakistan. Later to strengthen their movement and to unify several Islamic insurgent groups, an apex organization of more than thirty militant-nationalist groups, the Kul-Jammat-e-Hurriyat-e-Kashmir (All Kashmir Freedom Front), was formed in 1993. But the government counter-insurgency during initial years had taken heavy toll on insurgent’s morale and capacity. It was exacerbated by the disunity between the fighting insurgent groups. While the JKLF demands independent Kashmir, the Hizl-ul-Mujahideen demanded unification with Pakistan. By the mid-1990s, public disillusionment with the prospects of the uprising became widespread. The erstwhile members of JKLF started cooperating with counter-insurgency operations of the Indian security forces. The combination of public disillusionment and counter-insurgency brought a temporary close to the secession movement. But by the end of 2000s another phase the fidayeen attacks started.
The fidayeen attacks were carried out the LeT, an organisation of religious radicals founded and headquartered in Pakistan and led by Pakistanis. The LeT entered India during 1990s as part of an ISI strategy. The Lashkar-e-Taiba recruited local Kashmiris as a fidayeen cadre. But the large majority of those who executed these attacks were Pakistanis. Later LeT involved in the terror attacks of Mumbai in 2008. Fidayeen attacks fell off steeply after 2003, and the influx of insurgents from the Pakistani side of the LoC also declined sharply. The LeT and smaller groups of “jihadi” persuasion retained a presence in Kashmir.
It was launched in 1999 by Maulana Masood Azhar, a former militant commander released by India from prison for the 1999 hijacking of an airliner. JeM’s objective was to unite Kashmir with Pakistan. JeM was known to its involvement in several suicide attacks in J&K including the one on J&K Legislative Assembly in October 2001, the attack on Indian Parliament in December 2001 besides a few other terrorist attacks inside India during 2005-06. Despite the fact that this organisation was believed to have been implicated in two attacks on President Musharraf and was banned in Pakistan in 2002, it continues to operate fairly openly in parts of Pakistan. The other prominent terrorist organisations that have been operating in the valley are Lashker-e-Taiba, Al-Badr, Harkat-ul-Ansar, Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami(HuJi).
Moderate and Extremist Groups in Kashmir
The insurgent groups had divided into two groups in Kashmir viz. moderates who want a peaceful solution; and extremists who continued violent means to promote their cause. Extremists include a small portion of the local Hizbul- Mujahideen cadres, who are largely dominated by violent Pakistan-based and sponsored groups such as Lashkar-e- Taiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. By 2006, the insurgency in valley declined to a trickle of incidents, limited to the rare car bomb and an occasional ambush, and the frequent raids by Indian security forces on hideouts. But since last few years, stone-pelting by youths against Indian security forces started increasing.
Government approach in Jammu & Kashmir Insurgency
India’s present response to insurgency in Kashmir is multi-dimensional. It includes:
- Military response against violence and prevention of infiltration across border areas,
- Political dialogue and negotiations with those who have given up violence,
- Economic and social developmental measures to improve the living conditions and employment prospects of the local population,
- Encouraging the democratic activity in the Kashmir
- Diplomatic initiatives towards peace which include confidence building measures with Pakistan, and international counter-terrorism cooperation with friendly countries.
Military response against insurgency in Kashmir
- Indian army’s Northern Command is prime responsible for tackling terrorism and insurgency in Kashmir.
- Operations of the Army, police, and the paramilitary forces in the region are coordinated by a Unified Headquarters.
- The Paramilitary forces include the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and Special Forces.
- The Rashtriya Rifles (RR) is a specially organized force to deal specifically with counter insurgency.
- The main aspect of Indian approach to counterinsurgency operations in Kashmir is to stop the infiltration of insurgents from launch pads and training camps in Pakistan across the LOC and the between gaps in the International Border.
- To plug the major infiltration routes, India fenced the LOC. The retired Army soldiers from the local villages have been organized into Village Defence Committees.
- India is continuously following up the modernization of its army with new equipment and training. Intelligence agencies have been organized to provide real-time information.
Political dialogue and negotiations
- From 1997 onwards India is following a dual strategy of holding dialogues and negotiations with moderate groups.
- Till 9/11 attack, the negotiations with moderators were on slow pace but since then they have picked up.
- In 2004, the union government had initiated a reconstruction plan with an outlay of Rs.24,000 crore.
- This was mainly in infrastructure, power and transport.
- The present NDA government has announced Rs. 80,000 crore developmental package.
- The developmental activities as part of the package include power, renewable energy, urban development, railways and roadways, health, tourism, Pashmina Promotion project welfare of displaced people, flood relief etc.
Development of democratic practices
- In spite of turmoil and instability in the region, India is regularly conducting the assembly elections and parliament elections in state.
- And election by election, voter participation has risen consistently. The high voter turnoutwas seen as a sign that the people of Kashmir wanted peace and harmony.
- The 2002 attack on the J&K legislative Assembly and Indian Parliament by Pakistan-based militant groups have strengthened India’s position vis-à-vis Pakistan in convincing international public opinion that the Kashmir issue cannot be resolved without Pakistan’s action on terrorism emanating from its territory.
- India is also following several confidence-building measures to reactivate relations between the two countries, which had become severely strained after the Mumbai terror attack.
- Recently, India and Pakistan have started the process of dialogue on several issues, including Kashmir.
- Meanwhile, the Union government is holding talks with moderate groups in Kashmir for a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir issue.
- While it is difficult to convince Pakistan to abandon its claims over Kashmir, Indian government can create a positive attitude in the people of the state with increased constitutional autonomy for the state, which might satisfy the moderate groups within the valley.