Wednesday, August 31, 2016

On Origins of Political Violence in Kashmir



Kashmiris have come to believe violence is the way forward. No matter which shade of political spectrum it is, no matter if publicly it is denounced, on the ground violence has a certain currency. There is a reason for it. People would say it is the religion or violence is against the oppression and the natural translation of violence is presented as rebellion. However, the simple reason there is violence in Kashmir is because certain people have always benefited from it politically, socially and economically.

On recounting the origins, depending on which political side is talking, 1990 Pandits exodus would be mentioned, the violence against Jamatis would be mentioned, exodus of Muslim leaders to Pakistan in 1950s would be mentioned and finally 13 July 1931 would be mentioned.

1931 is rightly the beginning point. But, how is it remembered. In a Dina Nath Nadim story about 1931, we read about a poor working class Kashmiri planning to murder a rich non-Kashmiri merchant. The man’s child is hungry while the non-kashmiri is rich and fat. It is a classic class struggle. However, that’s how art produced under Kashmiri nationalistic regime remembers it.

What is often not remembered is this little snippet of history provided by Ravinderjit Kaur in her book Political awakening in Kashmir (1996):


“On September 24, 1931, posters were pasted in the entire city, stating that the Muslims had declared Jehad against the Maharaja’s Government. The Superintendent of Police was asked to arrest three Muslim leaders viz. Saad-ud-Din Shawl, Ghulam Ahmad Ashai and Ghulam Mohammad Bakshi. But the police failed to arrest them: their houses were already guarded by numerous crowds. Soon after they were told that the police had gone back, Ghulam Ahmad Ashai and Ghulam Mohammad Bakshi left their homes and went to the residence of Saad-ud-Din Shawl at Khanyar. About fifteen thousand people from Srinagar and other adjacent villages and towns assembled at Khanyar. These people were armed with all kinds of weapons they were having at their homes; for the day before, Moulvi Mohammad Yousuf Shah had called upon the people to assemble at Khanyar with the weapons. In Shopian also the demonstrators assaulted the policemen,with the result that a Head Constable was beaten to death. The mob then entered the police station and burnt the records and other State properties. The police opened the fire. Two persons were killed and some others injured.”


It was perhaps unfortunate that violence lead to political change in Kashmir and the language it spoke in was religion. Violence of 1931 set the bad precedent: mob violence leads to change. Kashmiri needed many more such changes but it was mostly mob violence that got repeated.



In Nationalist Kashmiri narrative, 1931 is celebrated. Meanwhile, in 1931, Pandits mourned their dead and moved on. However, today they remember it as beginning of the calamity that befell them.


In Kashmiri Tahreek narrative, 1931 is celebrated. The anti-Jamati mob violence of 1980s is presented as the justification of their counter violence towards NC workers.


In between all these historic events, in these timelines there is an interesting violent episode that is not recalled. The 1946 Dyalgam incident. While 1931, showed how violence can be used, the 1946 incident saw the first proper use of it to suppress counter political thoughts. How it is mobilized. How the names may have changed but the game remains the same. It shows in which direction politics of Kashmir was going to go.


On 7th April, 1946, in the small village of Dyalgam in Anantnag, a gathering of peasants was called by Kisan Conference, the socialist third front which was battling for power against National Conference of Sheikh Abdullah and Muslim Conference of Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah.
Anantnag was supposed to be stronghold of NC, that something like could happened in their backyard, rattled the NC leaders. Mirza Afzal Beg who had been touring India to seek support for his party, returned to Kashmir to handle the upstart party. On that day, he arrived in the village with a force of 400 lathi bearing men in 9 lorries and 22 tongas. The violence began. Beg expected to win. He had precious experience in managing such violence.  Recounting the incident in “The History of Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir“, Premnath Bazaz who was part of Kisan Conference, links the violent method of Beg to the fact that he had earlier tasted success using the method. In 1936, Afzal Beg to settle a land dispute with Pandits of Mattan had arrived at the scene with a mob of 5000 men. Bazaar writes:


“The Hindus being only a few hundred in number were mortally afraid when they saw the big army approaching under the command of Afzal Beg. They shut themselves up in their houses and let the Muslims do what they liked. Happily nothing untoward occurred but the commander was satisfied with the results. The helpless minority of pandits had been humbled. Beg had mistaken peasants for Pandits in Dyalgam. That was his miscalculation and the cause of defeat.”
The peasants offered counter violence to the NC mob and the leader had to beat a hasty retreat. It is said, while he was escaping a peasant woman caught hold of him and to humiliate him put her headgear on his head. But, that was not the end of it. As often happens, he had to explain his defeat and found the easier scapegoats. Outside the town, he addressed his supporters and abused the Pandits for supporting the peasant movement.
Although NC forces were defeated, this did not stop them from using the other Kashmiri method to finish off the political opponents: the veiled threats. One of the victims of these threats was Pandit Prithvi Nath Bhat, B.A. LLB, member of Anantnag bar and vice-president of the Kisan Conference. In the resignation letter (reminiscent of similar letters politicians wrote to militant in 1990, and letters that even now some people write in Kashmir), he wrote:

“In the interest of life and property of my relatives and myself I wish to retire from politics. The incident in Dyalgam on 7th April, 1946, which ended in a clash between the adherents of the National Conference and the supporters of the Kisan Conference has made my bare existence impossible in Anantnag where our political opponents threaten to kill me. Mirza Mohammed Afzal Beg’s repeated venomous utterances against me have struck terror in the hearts of my kith and kin and I do not want to be the cause of their destruction. It is really a misfortune to be born in Kashmir and more so as a Hindu. The National Confrencites who are quite adept in the art of inciting people to violence in the name of religion can conveniently destroy me. I shall continue to serve the Kisan Conference, which is dearest to me, in other ways.”

Post 1948 as NC got more and more powerful with the support of India, the people opposing them politically faced the one natural Kashmiri option - die or exile. In 1951, Abdul Slam Yatu, the President of Kisan Mazdoor Conference was sent off to Pakistan on the condition he would never return. Other leaders of this third front like Shyam Lal Yechha, Pitambar Nath Dhar Fani, D.N. Bhan and Prem Nath Bazaz were thrown out of the valley. Even Moulvi Yusuf Shah was sent off to Kashmir. This in an ideological way was the origin of the proverbial Kashmiri saying that was to be raised by the mob in 1990, ”raliv-challiv-ya-galliv”, mix-runoff-or-die. Or, in a sad comical way the origin of Hindutva’s cry of, “send them to Pakistan”.


As we can see, today in Kashmir, socialists don’t matter. Pandit socialist don’t even exist in Kashmir. Pandits don’t even matter politically. NC, which first used the tool of violence, don’t matter. PDP (which claims to be the flag-bearers of pre-1950s NC), and whose founding-father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in 1986 first tested the same violent tool in Anantnag; they too don’t matter. If today Hurriyat or anyone else is using it, they too in future won’t matter. All that would be remaining would be an even more polarised public with even more easily inflammable passions.


The purification cycle will continue till violence is seen as a politically rewarding exercise. Or it will continue till no one is left to purge purify.



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