In this piece, Khan Khawar Achakzai argues that Congress's role in Kashmir's politics is as deceptive and corroded as the BJPs' is brazen and open and has tried to suppress every valid aspiration of people of Kashmir.
The garden of Kashmir became a wound of pain,
The master’s pleasure became the people’s indigence
They fell upon the soul of Kashmir,
As voracious dogs set loose.
The doors, walls, roofs, and streets,
And every soul complained like a doleful flute.
The hearts of the tyrants were as hard as stone
They were too implacable to feel the people’s pain.
(Saidudin Shahbadi in his book Book Bagh-e-Sulaiman while recording the horrors of Afghans on Kashmiris)
While Kashmir had been in a continuous state of mourning, the death of the 14-year-old Mudasir in an encounter in the outskirt of Srinagar city on 9 December 2018 raked up an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, and dejection among the people of Kashmir. Quite a few people rightly blamed India, calling it an abject failure of the Indian state and few others blamed the militant organizations for inducing such a young boy into the militant ranks, while others, quiet ostensibly, reiterated their tired cliché of supposed failure of the pro-human rights, pro-resistance lobbies in Kashmir. With so much distress and discontent in air, the deliverance seemed almost impossible, but just within a couple of days of the killing the cold December air had suddenly started reeking of an intangible and subtle but glaringly conspicuous jubilation among the people of Kashmir as the Indian news channels kept on breaking news, some in awe and others in exultation, the loss of the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 5 Indian states. The reasons for the glee were well known. BJP somehow happens to represent anti-Muslim rhetoric in the subcontinent and by default, the Congress gets the image (a façade really) of the savior of minorities and the preposterous secular face of a nation where mob-lynching’s by Gau Rakshak crowds are an everyday norm.
The replacement of BJP with Congress might bring some relief to the oppressed Muslim of India, but what has Congress given the Kashmiri Muslim? The question swung into action polemical tirades all over the intellectual circles of Kashmir.
Over the last six decades, Kashmir has been the center of the geopolitical concerns, a cause of constant imbroglio between the two nuclear nations of India and Pakistan in the Asian Pangea. In an attempt to exert political muscle both these nations have been involved in the politics of dominance and high-handedness. And no party has played a bigger role in this politics of high-handedness and deception than the Congress. Starting from as early as 1930s as during the process of the renaming of Sheikh Abdullah led Muslim Conference to National Conference to this day when blinding and maiming of hundreds of Kashmiri youngsters fills newspaper columns every day, Congress has been central to the dogma of deception created and sustained over Kashmir.
The deception of Congress entered the largely indigenous political struggle of Kashmir when Sheikh Abdullah, the so-called Sher-e-Kashmir, met with the Congress premier Nehru in 1937, and both seemed to have formed a mutual admiration group. It was at this time, it is said, that corruption crept into the heart of the yet to be towering leader of Kashmir. This meeting convinced Abdullah to convert his struggle for Muslim interests struggle for ‘national interests’, and so the renaming of his party. The Nehru-Sheikh friendship marks a definitive moment in Kashmir’s history of betrayals that played a crucial role in securing Kashmir for India, against the will of a large number of its inhabitants.
In 1946, Abdullah led a massive ‘Quit Kashmir’ movement against the Dogra ruler. The atmosphere was politically charged and Abdullah was jailed. After his election as the Congress president, Nehru came in full support of Abdullah and came to Kashmir to free him. This move antagonized the Maharaja, to the extent that one year later, despite being against the idea of joining Pakistan, the Maharaja became reluctant to be a part of the Nehru-led India, but just within a few months a supposed ‘instrument of accession’ was signed between the Maharaja and the representatives of Congress under extremely unusual conditions. Lots of scholars have blatantly rejected the signing of an ‘instrument of accession’ and instead call it the biggest heist pulled off by the Congress, with Nehru being the main actor. Abdullah, after becoming the prime minister of Kashmir had kept on with his demand for a plebiscite and was now seen as a constant embarrassment by Congress. He was dismissed by Karan Singh, who was the Sadr-e-Riyasat. He was implicated in ‘Kashmir conspiracy’ case in 1953 by the same Nehru who had once called him his ‘blood brother’ and was incarcerated for next 10 years, installing Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad, the Sheikh’s subordinate, as the Prime Minister of Kashmir. This is the period when the erosion of the special status of Kashmir, warranted under the Article 370 and 35-A of the Indian constitution to maintain the demographic composition of the state in order to enable a plebiscite, started at the behest of the Congress. This erosion was facilitated by the likes of Bakshi and Sadiq, who were seen as the instruments of Indian policy in Kashmir. After his release from the jail in 1964, Abdullah again started his call for a plebiscite under the famous ‘Plebiscite Front’. Yet again, the Indian National Congress shamelessly jailed Abdullah and banned his plebiscite front, silencing the wishes and aspirations of the common Kashmiris. The National Conference was merged with Congress and it was ruling at both New Delhi and the state. Congress didn’t leave a single stone unturned in decaying every fiber of autonomy. The article 370 and 35-A aren’t even an iota of the original, all thanks to the constant abrasions by Congress and its state actors. Needless to say, any voice of dissent was silenced during this time.
A few years later in 1975, a much mellowed Abdullah made another comeback to the center of things. The Indira-Abdullah pact paved the way for him to become the chief minister of the state at the cost of demanding plebiscite. The accord was seen as a betrayal of Kashmiri people by their once ‘Lion of Kashmir’. The NC continued to be in power, compromising the very principles which it had claimed to support all through the years of its upheaval and popularity. After the death of Sheikh in 1982, the government in Kashmir under Farooq Abdullah was yet again dismissed by the Indian stooge Jagmohan. Farooq, who had begun to encourage anti-India forces in the Valley, and the Congress, which had been calling the National Conference an anti-India body, got together for another unholy collaboration which came to be known as the Rajiv (Gandhi) - Farooq Accord of 1987.
The Kashmiris were flabbergasted by the pact between Farooq and Rajiv because it clearly implied that politics of both: the Congress and the National Conference was nothing but a game for power and that didn’t care two about the fate of Kashmiris. The Kashmiris felt cheated, once again! Disgruntled at the deception of Congress and National Conference, the youth reorganized themselves under the banner of the Muslim United Front (MUF), which garnered immense support from the masses, and participated in elections. The elections were shamelessly rigged by Congress and National Conference and Farooq Abdullah came into power. This saw the beginning of militancy in Kashmir. During the armed upsurge, thousands of people were killed, hundreds displaced and arrested all under the nose and blessings of the Congress. The ’90s marked the worst phase of the Kashmir conflict when youngsters would be taken from homes, tuitions and playgrounds and subjected to torture and killings and disappearances. Thousands of men were killed in encounters, real and fake. There were immaculately organized massacres. All these mis-developments were guided by the policies of Congress under the leadership of P.V Narasimha Rao whose era marked the most gruesome period of the Kashmir conflict. There were operations such as ‘Catch and Kill’ and the daily count of dozens had become disturbingly normal. Every normal day was marred by routine crackdowns, cross-firing, and killings.
An auxiliary armed force composed mainly of surrendered militants, known as Ikhwan, (often referred to locally as Naabedh) played a paramount role in neutralizing the political and ideological opponents to India’s rule in Kashmir. They were involved in torture, rapes, extortion and various armed pillages all over the valley. There are incidents when women were raped on roads, the bellies of pregnant women were torn open, men were dismembered in public by the ‘counter insurgent’ forces who had a constant backing from the Congress. Later, the foundation of SOG and STF was laid down by the National Conference in 2000 and it was further enhanced by the People’s Democratic Party in 2003.
The idea of solving the Kashmir issue diplomatically was marred by the fact that India never considered the ‘will of Kashmiris’ as a stakeholder to the Kashmir issue, hence nullifying the whole idea of a meaningful dialogue. The governments in power in New Delhi kept changing but that didn't have any considerable change in the policy of the Indian state in Kashmir.
There were massive uprisings during the Amaranth Land row and unbridled use of force was used which saw hundreds of innocent civilian casualties.
Again in 2010, with Manmohan Singh in power in New Delhi, there was a massive uprising against the killing 17-year-old Tufail Mattoo in police firing. The uprising saw more than 130 dead. There was the introduction of lethal pellet guns that were very conveniently okayed by New Delhi and which lead to grievous and fatal injuries. Similarly, after the killing of a militant leader in 2016, there were massive protests in both urban and rural regions of Kashmir, which were crushed down with unchecked and unwarranted use of force by the state. The valley became a ghost town in all these uprisings. Schools were closed, businesses were shut down, and phones didn’t ring.
The diplomatic and political developments over Kashmir issue have been stagnant with India, irrespective of who is ruling, accusing Pakistan of cross border terrorism and the pro-Azadi voices in Kashmir of sponsoring lawlessness in form of stone pelting and protests. The previous Pakistan governments also seemed to be least concerned about the peaceful solution of Kashmir.
When the UN OHCHR presented its first report on the human rights violations in Kashmir the Congress supported the BJP’s stand-in dismissing the UN report on human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, terming it a “prejudiced attempt” by vested interests to hurt India’s sovereignty and national interests.
Successive governments in New Delhi, both Congress or BJP, have tactically muted every opinion that goes beyond the idea of ‘Akhand Bharat’. These policies have alienated a significant proportion of the Valley’s population from the regional regimes, while also raising questions about the Indian government’s complicity in anti-democratic activities. From the Kashmiri perspective, Indian independence and the concomitant development of democratic political institutions, their elections, and central parties, hold very little meaning. Much as in Dogra period, Kashmiri Muslims are still suspect, still disenfranchised, still poor and still deprived of the decision to chose their political fate. While being denied the right to freedom of expression and subjected to grotesque rights violations, Kashmiris are expected to proclaim an unquestionable allegiance.
Congress, just like BJP (or even more), has tried to suppress every valid aspiration of people of Jammu and Kashmir. While BJP has done it openly, Congress backstabbed the Kashmiri, time and again.♦
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Wande Magazine.