Posts Tagged ‘Kashmiris’

Kashmiris say ‘India Out!’

Saturday, January 18th, 2020

By 1947 Britain had boxed itself into an impossible position in India (not least by the earlier actions of Lord Curzon as Viceroy in Bengal in 1905) and it was clear that the only option was for a British withdrawal from the whole area. Clement Atlee who had become UK prime minister since the 1945 election had long been a supporter of Indian independence and the question was not whether this should happen, but how it could be managed in a way that satisfied both Muslim and Hindu communities and avoided catastrophic bloodshed.

It was indeed a hugely complex situation. As well as the British Raj, there were also several hundred princely states in a looser arrangement with British rule. And as well as Muslims and Hindus, there were also some areas where Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains were in the majority. The British Government ruled that the area would become independent at the latest by June 1948, but Lord Mountbatten, newly appointed Viceroy announced his plan on June 3 1947 with independence only just over 2 months away on 15 August 1947.

The plan called for various existing Indian legislatures to vote on whether to be a part of India or Pakistan or be partitioned and set up a boundary commission to establish partition, but failed to deal with the princely states, where the decision of which dominion to join would be a matter for the prince alone.

Protesters in Kashmir have been killed and many deliberately blinded bu Indian forces

Mountbatten was clearly poorly advised and was as he said a soldier not a civilian and he assured those who predicted a bloodbath at partition that the army would be able to control the situation: ” I shall see to it that there is no bloodshed and riot.” In the event around 10 million people were displaced and somewhere between 200,000 and 2 million killed, with violence being encouraged by some of the princely rulers, including in Kashmir.

Kashmir had a Muslim majority but a Hindu prince who was hesistant to join Pakistan and went to Mountbatten for military help when Pakistani forces invaded part of the area; Mountbatten agreed to help on condition it would become a part of India. In 1948 the UN intervened and brokered a ceasefire, declaring that a referendum of Kashmiris be held – which never happened. There were further military conflicts between India and Pakistan in Kashmir in 1965 and 1999.

Since then the Indian controlled area named Jammu and Kashmir has been under military occupation by Indian troops. The severity of control by police and army increased following an armed revolt by Kashmiris calling for independence in 1989. Elections in the area are now widely thought to be rigged in favour of pro-India groups.

The special position of the area was recognised in 1954 by Article 370 of the Indian constitution, with separate laws on  citizenship, the ownership of property and fundamental rights. In particular these prevented non-citizens of the area buying land and property in the state.

On 5th August 2019 the Indian government cancelled the 1954 provisions, bringing Jammu and Kashmir under the same conditions as other Indian states. Kashmiris protested and there was a further security clampdown, with communications to the country being severed and a further influx of Indian soldiers – there are now around 800,000 there.

Kashmiris protest at India House
Kashmiris protest in Trafalgar Square

Kashmiris call for freedom

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

A YouGov survey back in 2016 found that 43% of UK respondents still felt that the British Empire was a good thing, over twice as many as those who felt it was bad, with a similar figures for those who think we should be proud of colonialism as part of our history or regret it.

I wasn’t one of those asked for my opinion (the chances of that were small, as the sample was only 1733 out of the UK population of around 65.65 million) and would probably have refused to give an answer as there wasn’t a category that expressed my feelings. Clearly the British Empire was a good thing for Britain, as the opulent architecture of our major cities from the 19th and early 20th centuries demonstrates. And while the disastrous effects on other civilisations and many brutal and immoral acts in the building and maintenance of our Empire are clear, there are also more positive instances. And in some countries we took over from earlier invaders or rulers who were even less principled and more harsh and brutal, though for Kashmir this was less clear.

The history of Kashmir is complex but certainly at the start of the ‘Common Era’ (still AD to most of us) it was a considerably more developed and ancient civilisation than anything in Britain. Originally an important centre of Hinduism and Buddhism it largely converted to Islam in the 13th and 14th centuries and around 1580 was conquered and became part of the Mughal empire. Around 1820, it was conquered again by Sikhs, who imposed harsh anti-Muslim laws and exorbitant taxes. The First Anglo-Sikh war waged by the East India Company between 1845 and 1846 resulted in Jammu and Kashmir becoming a princely state under British suzerainty. The persecution of Muslims, now by Hindus, continued under what was a tyrannical feudal system.

Logically, Kashmir, over three-quarters Muslim should have become a part of Pakistan, but after popular protests and a guerrilla campaign supporting this, the country’s ruler appealed to Lord Mountbatten, Governor General of India, for help – and Mountbatten only granted this on condition that Kashmir became a part of India. Pakistan disputed this and the countries went to war over Kashmir, ending with a truce and a UN resolution that the people of the country should have a referendum. This never happened and there were further wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999. Pakistan now controls around a third of the country, India about half and a smaller area is held by China.

The country is still a ‘disputed territory’ and the is a huge presence of Indian military and para-military forces in the area under their control, estimated at around 1 for every 17 Kashmiris. At the 1948 ceasefire Kashmir was promised special status with a substantial autonomy by India, but increasingly this has been abandoned. Recent years have seen greater activity by movements calling for the restoration of autonomy and for freedom and independence.

Maqbool Bhat Shaheed was the pioneer of the Kashmiri Freedom Struggle and in 1968 was captured in Kashmir and sentenced to death following the murder of an Indian CID officer. With others also sentenced he escaped from prison through a tunnel and made his way to the Pakistan administered area – were he was arrested and tortured for several months. In 1971 masterminded the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane which was forced to land in Lahore, Pakistan. The hijackers demanded the release of over 20 members of the Jammu Kashmir Nationalist Liberation Front (JKNLF) in Indian prisons, asked for political asylum in Pakistan and wanted a guarantee from the Indian government that their relatives in Kashmir would not be persecuted.

Although the hijackers were first welcomed in Pakistan, when it was realised that the JKNLF wanted the Pakistan occupied area of Kashmir also to be liberated they were tried in a special court charged with collaboration with the Indian intelligence services. Released after 2 years he returned to Indian administered Kashmir where he was captured in 1976. Bhat appealed for clemency stating that the original trial had been unfair, but after the murder of an Indian diplomat kidnapped in Birmingham demanding his release, his appeal was dismissed and he was executed on 11th February 1984.

Kashmiris call for freedom

Kashmir Awami Party call for Freedom


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