Kashmir, evokes a myriad of emotions from arousing serenity to becoming the bone of contention between countries and religions, evolving over the decades, from the blue skies and canoes caressing the Dal etched in the annals of Tagore, to becoming the keyword in political propaganda and hard-line Hindutva driven nationalism. Suspended in a continuous state of suppression and revolt, the story of the valley has become synonymous with a narrative of the common people getting torn in between clash of interests between bureaucracies, political parties and nations.
To decode the endless cycle of violence and unrest in the valley, we will flip through decades of history, rummage through years of political infighting, and look at tangible events and facts to see through the façade of communalism that has been defining the Indian political history for the past decades. Kashmir has become a convenient whipping boy for all political parties to garner votes and sway emotions.
Indian independence was indeed a ground-breaking revolutionary movement that pioneered non-violence and Non-Cooperation to fight the colonial brutality and establish a sovereign independent nation. But more than often the movement and its history are conveniently sugar coated to appeal to the wider perceptions and match the emotional reminiscence of the masses. The latest political trend of drawing in voters by appealing to their patriotic and nationalistic sides and force feeding them diluted history and hate politics, turns blind eye to the bloodshed and riots that followed partition. The submission to the idea of carving up a nation into two among religious lines was a sign of desperation of the leaders to end the struggle and settle for what they could salvage. Religion, communalism and identity politics drove the decisions instead of the pillars of secularism and freedom this nation was supposed to grow on. The division of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan marked the beginning of a new era of political swamp that has grown to engulf millions caught in crossfire. Pakistan was never a nation born out deep seated ideological differences with the mothership, but it was a gift, wrapped and delivered to Jinnah for his silent support of the British Raj and his help in world war II.
In 1932, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah set up the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference to fight for Kashmiri freedom from the Maharaja’s rule, which eventually became the National Conference (NC) in 1939. On May 15, 1946 NC launched the Quit Kashmir movement demanding abrogation of the Treaty of Amritsar and restoration of sovereignty to the people. The movement was greeted with massive crackdown by the Hari Singh regime, with death toll up to 20 and arrest of over 300 in the initial days. Nehru, a close friend of Sheikh, lead a personal campaign in support of the Quit Kashmir movement and was arrested in June, when he came down with his team of lawyers to defend the arrested Sheikh Abdullah.
When the plans of partition where put into action, the 600 princely states under British Raj where given three choices: either join India or Pakistan or continue as independent nations under the common wealth .
Faced with popular agitation and built up grief, staying an imperial nation was not a practical option. Instead they sided with either of the two nations. Within a few months of signing of independence, Patel had succeeded in getting 561 states to be an integral part of India. However, Maharaja Hari Singh was reluctant in finalizing a decision. Demographically, the valley was Muslim dominated but ruled by a Hindu king. Being situated between India, Pakistan and China, it was strategically and commercially important station possessing immense advantage, becoming the chased price of both nations.