"A book for every common Kashmiri to get acquainted with the historical background of Kashmir Issue—reviews Prof. A.G. Mir
Writing about Kashmir comes quite easily to Rao Farman Ali. The present book: History of Armed Struggles in Kashmir is fourth one in succession on Kashmir by Mr. Farman, the other three being 1) Jammu Kashmir: Resolution Through Reconciliation for Peace and Dignity(2010); 2) Kashmir Under the Shadow of Gun(2012) and; 3) Kashmir: Orphans, Nurture and Challenges (2016).Born and bred as a child of the epoch of crises, the writer in Mr. Farman has received a ticklish jolt to respond spontaneously to the eventful happenings all around. As the proverb goes: What’s bred in the bone will come out in the flesh, Rao Farman’s dedicatory notes to all his books signify unequivocally his deep humanitarian concerns for the silent sufferers of the ongoing conflict—no matter, whether it is his uncle Shaheed Muhammad Maqbool Malik, or Advocate Jalil Andrabi or Hirdai Nath Wanchoo or even the women, children and youth—worst casualties of the Jammu and Kashmir State. It is with this mindset that Mr. Farman is ever seen moving about restlessly from forum to forum attending conferences and seminars, writing in social media, presenting papers and writing books and so on. He has now attained more than one dozen years of experience in Social Entrepreneurship. He has scores of local, national and international presentations of papers to his credit. He has some studies on Education, Child Protection, Child Labour and Conflict Resolution also to his creditable literary possessions. Peace, Strategic Studies and Journalism and Applied Psychology are his other areas of preference.
The book under review i.e. History of Armed Struggles in Kashmir, comprises six chapters in addition to a preface and seven Appendices. It contains all other essential items like: Acknowledgements, List of Abbreviations, Footnotes, Detailed Notes, Bibliography and Index. The printing of the Book with its size, font, standard and cover design are on the internationally accepted pattern. The Publisher: Jay Kay Books, Kashmir is very famous and has a history of publishing Heritage Books on Kashmir. Thus, the printing of the book is fine and up to the mark.
Chapter 1 of the book gives a detailed historical, geographical and topographical account of the Jammu and Kashmir State. The total description of the facts and figures given here is, more or less, a replica of what we find in his earlier publications especially Jammu Kashmir: Resolution Through Reconciliation…….It is a repetition but the repetition has a certain relevance because the title of the book warrants so. The problem as it exists in the State at present owes its origin to its physical and the physiographical locations especially in the vicinity of the countries and regions that surround it. Situated between 320 —15` to 370 —05` Latitude East and 720 —35`to 800 —20` Longitude North, the Jammu and Kashmir princely State of 1947 is bounded by China in the North and the East, Afghanistan in the North-West , Pakistan in the West and India in the South. The State has thus been a target of attention for all these countries. It is mainly for three reasons: 1) For its captivating scenic beauty, lush green pastures, precipitous gleaming and snow-covered mountain peaks, the perennial murmuring rivers and rivulets, vast lakes, trees and herbs of rare quality, pines and deodars, typical and atypical species of animals, apples, apricots, pears, walnuts and cherries of world standard, Shahtosh and Pashmina, tourist resorts, glaciers, historical gardens, Dal Lake, Wular Lake, Tulip garden, Patni Top, mountain ranges and passes for trekking and winter games and so on; 2) For its Strategic and geographical importance and 3) For its having been trade route connecting various regions of the world. This State has a continuous recorded history that dates back to 4000 B.C. “Twenty one dynasties of Hindus, Buddhists, Kushans, Huns, Hans, Shahmeers, Chaks[Sultanates], Mughals, Pathans, Sikhs and Dogras have ruled it till 1947 A.D”. It is pertinent to mention here that this State has been a famous Centre of Sanskrit and Buddhist scholarship. It is recorded to have produced many a person of great eminence in scholarship and literature. For this reason also Kashmir has been often visited by many people from countries abroad.
One important thing to note about this State is that it has existed as an Independent State for long, long time and it has been ruled by a long line of kings of the dynasties (both alien and native) mentioned above. It lost its statehood during Mughal rule and since then the State saw the Sikhs , the Afghans, the English(indirectly) and the Dogras as her rulers. One thing which is common with all these periods of “exotic” rule is that this nation has experienced gruesome tyranny and ruthless administrative dispensations ever and always. During these protracted and long-drawn out periods of atrocious treatment Kashmiris have definitely at times, given tough resistance but their toleration of the sufferings and miseries has been a greater measure than their moments of resistance . The nation has been taken as a gift item, a commodity to be gifted or sold by someone to some another one for insignificant and paltry dividends.
In the vicinity of the Jammu and Kashmir State, the entire sub- continent after having fought one hundred year war of independence, has tasted the fruit of freedom but, as ill luck would have it, the Jammu and Kashmir State has in the wake of this momentous changeful period obtained nothing but a worser state of affairs than it was in up to 1947. Out of 565 princely states, it is the only state that has fragmented into parts and every part is under the occupation of different Dominions, though the war of Independence of this State also was going on side by side with the sub-continent’s independence struggle. Families are divided; cultural groups are separated, Ladhakis don’t know Baltis, Valleyites don’t know people of Shakshum valley; people of Jammu are unfamiliar with the population of Muzaffarabad and Baltistan, though all of them were and are in the real sense citizens of the same state. What a tragedy? Total state of Jammu and Kashmir “ gives a description of the two sides of LoC—the Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir having an area of 95561.48 Sq. Kms(though India claims 101000 Kms) and the Pakistan administered Kashmir having an area of 82227.32 Sq. Kms, 44447.20 Sq. Kms are with China including 8000 Sq. Kms of Shakshum that ceded in 1963.” This, in fact, is the present geographical and political position of the Jammu and Kashmir state at present. The author wants this background to be kept in mind by every reader before he tries to understand the genesis of the Kashmir Imbroglio as it stands today.
After having given the geographical and historical background in good detail in the first chapter, the book moves on to the crux of its subject matter i.e. Resistance Struggles. Kashmiris before being sold lock, stock and barrel to Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu on 16-03-1846 by the most infamous treaty of Amritsar, had experienced two very cruel terms of alien rule. From 1752-1819 AD, a period of sixty seven years of Afghan rule and from 1819 to 1846 AD twenty seven years of Sikh Rule. During both the periods inhuman ways of exploitation, levying of heavy taxes, forced labour, degrading ways of governance, contemptuous disregard to human dignity, callous indifference to basic human rights have been the main characteristics. Histories are full of such harrowing tales. One can’t afford to give a detail account of such atrocious measures in a book review. Reading the book itself together with other reference sources can present the true picture. One mechanism that Kashmiris are said to have learnt and adopted was either to invite powers other than their rulers with the expectation that their aspiration would be accommodated in the new set up or they would use the good offices of comparatively influential or closer— to— the— ruling class sections of the society to have their sufferings a little bit palliated. Still , on the whole, there were no stiff resistances shown during these periods of despotic rule periods beyond the clever manoeuvering on compromise and toleration.
With 16th March,1846, a new phase started in the history of Jammu and Kashmir State. On defeating the Sikhs, the British sold or in real sense gifted our State to Gulab Singh Dogra of Jammu as a reward to what some writers describe as his “treachery against the Sikhs.” It is on this occasion that the Treaty of Amritsar was signed. In fact, the real history of resistance of the State against violence and repression started from this period. Gulab Singh being an upstart went much beyond his predecessors in all acts of unjust taxation, extortion and mis-governance. “ He had taxed heavily it is true, but he sucked the life blood of the people. They(his predecessors) had laid violent hands on a large proportion of the fruits of the earth, the profits of the loom, on the work of men’s hands. But he skinned the very flints to fill his coffers,” quotes the book from our living historian Dr. Abdul Ahad’s, Kashmir Rediscovered. Books like : Valley of Kashmir by Lawrence, Kashmir Misgovernment by Robert Thorp(edited by Fida Muhammad Hasnaian) and scores others are full of spine-chilling tales of extortion and inhuman repression, but the lines quoted above present the quintessential cognition of what was the general state of affairs throughout the reign of hereditary Dogra rule of 106 years.
Mr. Farman Ali Rao has taken due care to refer to the historians who have picked up the threads of Kashmir resistance during this period of new developments of hapless future dispensation. Though the period around 1846 AD was still the period of dark, uneducated and un-enlightened Kashmiri society, but still their vast experience of abject slavery and servitude of centuries had made them conscious of the wider damaging implications of the new arrangements for future. They knew what troubles would be ahead for them. Understanding the “ crucial and ‘ubiquitous’ factor in Kashmir history which was bound to deprive them of their control on the means of production and livelihood, and subject them to the new forces of coercion and extortions,” they rose in unison under the leadership of Imam-ud-Din. The agitating mob comprised manufacturers, merchants, hill chiefs and so on. The agitation could not be quelled till the British armed intervention. Such protests, agitations, strong affirmations and assertions against the cruel policies and merciless governance of the Dogra regime continued all along the period of 106 years. As a result of such uprisings (big and small) the Kashmiri society did definitely, on occasions succeed in getting smaller concessions here and there but overall the resentment, anger and discontent kept on simmering in them resulting in the volcanic eruptions especially on two occasions till the fateful year of 1931.
In April 1865(29th of the month), Shawl workers from all corners of the city of Srinagar, taking the lead, agitated against the atrocities meted out to them day in and day out. Workers in procession raising slogans marched to Zaldagar, Srinagar. They burnt the effigy of “ Daroga” of Shawl department-Raj Kak Dhar, who had not only been instrumental but was personally involved as a Shawl contractor for sucking the blood of Shawl-bafs . The Dogra forces crushed the uprising by charging with guns and spears. Hundreds suffered minor and major injuries and so many drowned and on record 28 dead bodies were returned to the people by the army. Till now many people had been martyred in cold blood stealthily but this time the resistance leaders were killed, jailed and fined openly and with impunity.Names of Robert Thorp, Sheikh Rasool, Abli Baba, Quda Lala, Sana Shah and others shall ever be remembered and revered in this regard among the first martyrs of Jammu and Kashmir Resistance Struggles against the illegal occupation and unwarranted repression. Time went on changing. After Gulab Singh, Ranbir Singh abd after him Pratap Singh succeeded to the throne of Kashmir in 1885. By now a fresh awakening was growing up all around. Various organisations and Anjumans had started coming up in consequence to the outside influences. English Mission Hospitals and Mission Schools, as well, played a part. Western political concepts travelled fast in the sub-Continent and the State also had a share of this general awakening. In this background, a large number of workers working in Srinagar silk factory on four and a half annas per head per day wages made a petition for enhancement of wages as the factory had shown a phenomenal growth of 25 lakh rupees per year. The petition was turned down. As a result workers decided to observe a strike. A good number of labourer leaders were arrested. This added fuel to the fire. The government was compelled to raise the wages even though the hike was nominal. What is of more importance is that this labourer unrest became “epoch-making” in the sense that it turned into a collective social action by gaining supporters from all walks of life. It was now 1924, “the silk factory strike, thus, brought the conditions of the Kashmiri Muslims into focus.” The lava of anger against atrocities that had simmered in the choked psyche of Kashmiris, especially Muslims started bursting out in the form of different types of political activities which in turn “ became the core of their political thinking and social action henceforth.” A stage for 1931 had now been properly set.
The earlier years of the thirties of the 20th century marks the beginning of modern Kashmir. The Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir, for genuine reasons of having suffered for hundreds of years at the hands of imposed aliens and also for influences or fast changing social and political scenario at the international and local level, were developing a growing concern to start organised struggle against the present autocratic rule.
It was in this backdrop that a political organisation : All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference was formed on 21st June 1931. Only after 21 days i.e. 13th July 1931, Police firing on agitating procession inside the Central Jail took toll of more than two dozen souls and the day is now remembered as the State Martyr’s Day. This event unleashed terror all round. All sections of people including women protested and a list of women martyrs was added to the resistance history of the State. The Muslim Conference broke into two groups; National Conference was born out of it. Freedom movement was moving ahead very fast side by side with the freedom struggle of the sub-continent. After the World War II, Britain planned to leave the sub-continent acceding to the demand of dividing British India into the dominions—India and Pakistan. The Princely States were given the option to either accede to India or Pakistan. 562 out of 565 merged to either of the two Dominions before 14th and 15th August 1947 (Respective dates of formation of Pakistan and India). The Dogra ruler of Kashmir wished to be Independent and sign a Standstill agreement. He delayed the process till mid October, 1947. Situation went murky in October 1947 and the State fell apart to the Control of the newly born Dominions of India and Pakistan. Both countries have been accusing and counter accusing each other for the conditions existing all these years till date. Over this period of 70 years the two countries have grown to the stubborn stands of “Integral Part” and “Jugular Vein” with complete disregard to the aspirations of victim Kashmiris.
The book gives even the minutest details of the Kashmir issue. Raids of the tribesmen, Maharaj’s seeking help from India, signing the Instrument of Accession, Indian Army landing in Kashmir, India’s taking the Issue to the United Nations, India’s commitments of deciding the Issue by Plebiscite, The U.N. Resolutions, Article 370 of Indian Constitution, formation of State Constituent Assembly, Delhi Agreement, Dixon Plan, Ousting of Shaikh Muhammad Abdullah, Indo-Pak Wars, Tashkant Agreement, Simla Agreement, Indira -Abdullah Accord, Lahore Declaration, Agra Summit, Musharraf’s 4-point formula so on and so forth. In this sense the book is of great value to the common reader, as well as to a serious reader who is interested to know and investigate any further dimensions of the Kashmir Issue. People are quite often talking of the U.N Resolutions on Kashmir, or even of Article 370 and the Special Status of Kashmir, or even about various bilateral Agreement and other historical documents but quite possibly most of them have never had any access to peruse these documents. The author has done a good job to compile these in Appendices of the Book. A good service indeed. The whole material is available at hand.
Basically, as the book is intended to describe the armed struggles in Kashmir, the author, while giving the general narrative of the genesis of the problem does not lose sight of the intended goal of the title. Right from 1948 when Jammu and Kashmir Police claimed to have recovered some ammunition, crude bombs, hand grenades and tin boxes of fuses on to the Home Front, Kashmiris had started challenging the validity of the instrument of accession. Yes, the said challenge goes on unabated till date. However, the manifestations have been both peaceful and violent, unarmed and armed. Activities subversive in nature undertaken by Bagh Ali’s group and Mohib Ullah’s group of activities find a mention in the book. In 1960 Aman Ullah Khan and others formed a Committee to support Kashmir resistance movement and Kashmir Liberation League was formed by K. H Khurshid. Students and Youth League, Operation Gibralter(Infiltration into Kashmir), National Liberation Front(Maqbool Bhat), United Freedom Front, Muttahida Mahaz-e-Azadi, several underground cells, Red Kashmir, Youngmen’s League, Quami Azad-e- Mahaz, Student’s Revolutionary Council, Al- Fatah , Popular Front, Liberation Front(not JKLF), People’s League, Student’s Islamic Organisation, Islami Jamait-e-Talaba and so on, find a detailed mention in the book together with their activities.
The author takes the reader on to the next chapter of the Armed Revolt in Kashmir( 1988 onwards). After the abortive fall back of Operation Gibraltar, Kashmir freedom lovers were knocked senseless but temporarily. The spark of liberating Kashmir had still not extinguished in their hearts. In 1980’s, they started exploring the chances of stirring up the wounded ego of Pakistan so that to garner support for another operation. Activities went on in secret. Operation Topac started to support Kashmir resistance. All groups upper ground and underground made it a point to recruit their brigades for the ensued expedition. “ Pindi Chalo” became the catchword. Preparation went on at full swing till mid 1989. A full- fledged armed revolt started and entire Kashmir became a battlefield. India was taken aback initially. It took her some time to regain the balance. Firings, crackdowns, night raids, drubbing, strikes, hartals, killings, disappearances, kidnappings, rapes, imprisonments, clamping of curfews, AFSPA, PSAs, and other types of War Crimes were rampant everywhere. It is recorded that 134 militant groups were active in 1990-1991. The book under review narrates the fast moving events like infighting in militant groups creation of Pro-India Ikhwan, giving up arms and adopting the democratic ways of resolving the Issue, upper ground separatists talking to Indian Government for restoration of Peace, Public uprisings of 2008, 2010, 2016 etc.
The entire book, no doubt describes the history of the Resistance Movement in Kashmir with all its bloody manifestations but beneath the surface lies the undercurrent of great craving for peaceful solution of the problem for the overall benefit of the two contending countries in general and for the common public of the sub-continent in particular, especially for Kashmiris.
Before concluding this review, it is quite in place to mention that there are many loose ends here and there in the book with regard to its linguistic and semantic structures. A little more care, on the part of the author, could have made it up to the mark. It is expected that care is taken to make up these deficiencies in the next edition.
( Prof. Abdul Gani Mir is a retired Degree College Principal, feedback at email@example.com