Freedom struggle in occupied Kashmir takes a secular turn

A series of events took place in which Kashmiri pandits (Brahmin) or non-Kashmiri settlers in occupied Kashmir were attacked. Rahul Bhat, a Pandit employee, in Budgam’s Chadoora  was shot dead. on May 12. A Hindu teacher was shot dead outside a school where she worked. Some unknown person hurled a grenade at a group of Bihari workers, mostly brick-kiln labourers.  In protest,hundreds of Pandit employees left the valley.

Apparently to alter the demography of the occupied Kashmir, over 4,000 Pandits were recruited since 2008 under the Indian PM’s special employment package. Bihari settlers were issued domicile certificates to work and settle in the Valley.A vast tract of land was allotted to the military.

The Modi government had been reciting the mantra that it as all hunky dory since abolition of the statehood. The killing of non-Kashmiri settlers brought home the truth that the situation was not peaceful in occupied Kashmir.

Hindus in Jammu launched violent protests  that the Pandit employees and Bihari employees should be relocated to safer locations.Indian government relocated  the 177 protesting employees to safer urban centres.

Resistance Movement

The militants have changed their strategy. They no longer take to social posts to own responsibility for the killing of the non-Kashmiris. A secular sounding Resistance Group appears to be in the forefront. Modi government however continues to propagate that it was just another spliner group of religious outfits like Lashkar-e-Toyaba, Jaishe-Mohammad or their ilk.

Who is the Resistance Group?

The Resistance Front emerged in the aftermath of August 5, 2019, when the Central government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of autonomy under Article 370 and split the state into two Union Territories. It also repealed Article 35A, which had guaranteed special protections to people defined as “permanent residents” of Jammu and Kashmir. The sweeping legislative changes were made after placing the region under lockdown and a communications blackout.

The group first surfaced with a grenade attack in October 2019. Injuring at least eight civilians on Srinagar’s busy Hari Singh High Street, it was the first grenade attack in the city after the region lost special status. The group then announced its arrival on the chat platform, Telegram. The group’s statement said that the attack marked the “inception of indigenous resistance of Kashmir to flush out the occupational Indian regime out of IOJK [Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir]”. It also warned of more attacks in future.

India says it was in April 2020 that the group first drew their attention. An intense gunfight between militants and security forces in the Keran sector of the Line of Control, in North Kashmir’s Kupwara district, left five personnel of the army’s elite Special Forces dead. An equal number of militants, all native Kashmirs, were also martyred.

The Resistance Front struck again that month, this time in Sopore, a town in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district, killing three personnel and injuring two others from the Central Reserve Police Force. More attacks followed in May 2020: a 16-hour gunfight with security forces in Kupwara district that killed five security personnel. Another attack on Central Reserve Police Force personnel left three personnel

Members of The Resistance Front keep a low profile, unlike the Hizbul Mujahideen militants of recent years, who became household names and faces through their social media presence. “They don’t have a face,” said the senior police officer. “They know exposing their faces or releasing their pictures and videos will basically make them more vulnerable. Usually, the announcement of new recruits comes through audio messages.”

Lesson from Kashmir history

The Kashmiri has been ruled by Shah Mirs and Sultans (1339-1586), Mughals (1586-1751), and dogra (1846-1947).An immutable lesson of history is that they never reconciled with foreign rule. If they could no longer fight an invader with arms, they pelted stones on invaders (Moghal).  The stone throwers were called dilawars, and the Moghal, were addressed as shikas mogle. This Kashmiri-language expression is spoken when something is lost. For instance, I drop a qawah cup I carry for a guest. The cup gets broken. The qawah -thirsty exclaims shikas mogle! C’est dommage in French language (it’s too bad, or it’s tough). The Moghal were Muslim. Yet, the Kashmiri hated them. Shikas mogle affords a peek into the Kashmiri heart and mind. They cursed foreigners, be they be Muslim. They are honest and simple, rather gullible though not imbecile, people. They hate cheating and consider Akbar `the Great’ an epitome of treachery. Akbar invited Kashmir ruler Yusuf Chak (1579 – 1586) for talks. But, treacherously imprisoned and killed him in Bihar state. Be it noted that Akbar had failed to subjugate Kashmir in his earlier two expeditions. After take-over, the Moghal lived in a walled nagri, city, later called Srinagar). The helpless Kashmir used to throw stones at walled city to express their anguish. The general feeling of hatred, kashmiriat, was akin to what Ibn-e-Khuldoon calls asabiya (national cohesion). It ran across all sects (shia-sunni), religions, castes and creed.

To gag the Kashmiri, the dogra had baned  prayer-leader (Imam) Munshi Mohammad Ishaque to deliver Eid sermon in the Municipal Park of Jammu, desecrated Holy Quran, and began trial (in  camera) of arrested Kashmiri protesters by a kangaroo court. On July 13, 1931, a 22-year-old youth Qadeer picked up a stone, pointed his finger towards maharajah’s palace, and shouted “destroy its every brick”. The dogra instantly shot him, along with 22 others, dead. Since then the Kashmiri observes martyrs’ day, besides solidarity day (February 5) since 1991.

India’s propaganda about maltreatment of Hindu Kashmiri pandits is a stark lie. The Kashmiri pandit is unlike the Indian cow vigilantes, or marauders of Babri masjid. 

India should learn a lesson from the history of Kashmir.  Or, perhaps our own history concerning our eastern wing (Asghar Khan, We’ve Learnt Nothing from History). Dogra oppression spanned 101 years, 1846-1947 followed by  Indian yoke for over 71 years, until today. The struggle for freedom goes on.  The sooner India replaces  its terrorising military operation All-Out,  with –get-out, the better.

Brutal laws

Modi’s government applied the Public Safet Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act to stifle dissent. The Public Safety Act (PSA), 1978, of Jammu & Kashmir is an administrative detention law that allows detention of any individual for up to two years without a trial or charge. The Public Safety Act allows for the arrest and detention of people without a warrant, specific charges, and often for an unspecified period of time.

Kashmiri journalist Sajad Gul was arrested under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act [JKPSA],, a day after a court granted him bail in connection with a police case that accused him of criminal conspiracy. Gul was working with an NGO The Kashmir Walla and was arrested by police for allegedly “spreading disinformation through fake tweets regarding the recent anti-terrorist operation”.

Vague grounds

Section 8(1)(i) of the Public Safety Act provides for the detention of any person acting in a manner that is prejudicial to ‘public safety’ and ‘security of the state’. These two terms are not defined anywhere in the Act. It is surprising to see the frequency of these terms in detention laws but no subsequent effort to define them.

In Mohammad Yousuf Rather vs. The State of Jammu & Kashmir (1979), the Supreme Court held:

“This Court has disapproved of vagueness in the grounds of detention because that impinges on the fundamental right of the detenu under Article 22(5) of the Constitution to make a representation against the order of detention when the grounds on which the order has been made are communicated to him. The purpose of the requirement is to afford him the earliest opportunity of seeking redress against the order of detention. But as is obvious, that opportunity cannot be said to be afforded when it is established that a ground of detention is so vague that he cannot possibly make an effective representation”

Sacro-sanctity of “vague” provisions

Yousuf Rather, another detenu under the PSA faced a blow by the insertion of Section 10A into the Act in 1985. This section reads that “such order shall not be deemed to be invalid or inoperative merely because one or some of the grounds is or are (i) vague (ii) non-existent, (iii) not relevant …”

Now with the grounds being severable, detention can stand on each one of them separately. Therefore, if one ground of detention is vague, it would not vitiate the complete order. This provides for a unique problem, which is somewhat illustrated through Qayoom’s case.

In Qayoom’s case, reliance was placed on confidential intelligence reports which the Judges were shown but the detenu was not provided with. The non-disclosure of such information finds statutory backing in Section 13(ii) of the Act. But, in a case where detention fails on all grounds but stands on the ground of alleged activities that are mentioned in confidential reports, would the rights of the detenu be violated?

Former Jammu & Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were booked under the stringent PSA by the administration on February 6, 2020. National Conference general secretary and former minister Ali Mohammed Sagar, senior PDP leader Sartaj Madani was booked under the PSA. Earlier, on September 16, 2019, ex-CM Farooq Abdullah was detained under the provisions of PSA. Ironically, the Act was first promulgated in 1978 during the chief ministerial tenure of Sheikh Abdullah, father of Farooq Abdullah. Many political leaders and parties have condemned their detention and termed the PSA as a ‘draconian Act’.

Need for dialogue

In an interview, many Indian retired generals exposed the “myth of normalcy” in the occupied Kashmir. They pointed out those talks with all stakeholders including Pakistan was the only way to restore peace in Kashmir.

Emerging scenario

The Hindu protests in Jammu have been demanding crackdown on the Kashmiri population in the Valley. Already the Indian security forces are killing scores of Kashmiris, even minors, in the guise of fake encounters.The killing of pndits maybe used as an excuse to carry out genocide of the Kashmiri population.

Amjed Jaaved
Amjed Jaaved
Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.