Kashmir Politics

The Secessionist Movement

Thus, this phase of secessionist movement in the Kashmir Valley started in April 1988 on account of a combination of various factors, both external and internal, around that time.

These factors are :

1. External factors

Secessionist Movement in Kashmir (1988-89)

(i) Resurgence in the activities of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) following the return of Amanullah Khan (Chairman, JKLF) from UK to Pakistan in early 1987 and the nexus between the JKLF and Pakistan.

(ii) Involvement of the intelligence agencies of Pakistan (Inter Services Intelligence Directorate and Field Intelligence Unit) in giving arms training to Kashmiri youth beginning February 1988.

2. Internal factors

(i) Return of Pakistan-trained Kashmiri youth to Kashmir Valley from around April 1988 onwards.

(ii) Leadership provided to the secessionists in initial stages by Shabir Ahmed Shah following his release from detention in May 1988.

(iii) Expulsion of the J&K JEI from the Muslim United Front giving a new vigour to its anti-national activities since it was no longer inhibited by electoral constraints.

(iv) Tactical alliance of the J&K JEI with the secessionist forces, including the People's league (PL), Islamic Students' League (ISL) and Islami Jamaat-e-Tulba (IJT).

(v) Estrangement between Dr. Farooq Abdullah and Maulvi Farooq (Chairman, Awami Action Committee) in early 1988 driving the latter to adopt a pro-militant stance.

(vi) A political vacuum that was created following the alliance between the NC-F and the Cong(I) which was exploited by the secessionist and anti-national forces.

3. Other factors.

(i) Support of People's Conference, Awami Action Committee and Ummat-e-Islami to the movement for the removal of the Farooq Abdullah government.

(ii) Growing pro-Islamic content of the secessionist movement and increasing exploitation of religion by the secessionists and fundamentalists.

(iii) Inter and intra-party dissensions among the alliance partners (NC-F and Cong-I) and inadequate political and administrative response to firmly tackle the situation.

Since April 1988, a distinct momentum was imparted to the terrorist movement, largely on account of the activities of the JKLF and the People's League. Infiltrations were still few and smuggling of sophisticated weapons was still in a nascent stage. Some amount of explosives were however, brought in, using smuggling routes with smugglers acting as conduits. It was after the release of Shabir Ahmed Shah in May 1988 that the various secessionist groups began to take an organised approach in their actions and activities. There was no coordinated leadership as yet, but JKLF elements were being guided and instigated from Pakistan. This was essentially a preparatory stage and the failure of the State administration to take action at the incipient stage was clearly an encouragement to the militant elements.

By the end of August 1988, the JKLF, the People's League and the ISL had acquired a capacity to engage in organised violence. This was well demonstrated by the violent incidents lasting for nearly 5 days, following the death of General Zia. The violence crippled activities in several parts of the Valley. The violent incidents of August were followed by a series of explosions in parts of Srinagar city during September. There was also evidence of better planning and well-directed attacks against individuals. DIG Kashmir, A.M. Watali, was one such target of an armed attack, though he escaped. There was also enough evidence to show increasing interest and directions from the Pakistani intelligence agencies to build up a coordinated movement with a single focus.

There was a qualitative change in the pattern of violence after January 1989. The use of sophisticated fire-arms and extensive use of explosives, mostly imported from Pakistan, greatly transformed the situation. Selective explosions were used to create an atmosphere of tension or panic. The number of infiltrations by Pakistan-returned Kashmiri youth also went up.

1989 saw a succession of agitations by the various secessionist groups. Some of the calls were given by individual groups but almost all were endorsed by the various militant formations. 26 January was observed as 'Black Day'. Considerable violence occurred all over the Valley on 11 February on the occasion of the death anniversary of Maqbool Butt. Serious violence erupted again in several parts of the valley in protest against Salman Rushdie's book despite the fact that the book had already been banned in India. For nearly 5 days almost all activity in the valley came to a halt. Even more serious violence occurred during April-May, the first lasting for nearly a week protesting against the arrest of Kashmiri youth by the police and the second, for 4 days in the name of the 'Quit Kashmir' movement.

Meanwhile, Kashmiri youth continued to cross over to Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir in small groups. These youth were trained in the use of explosives to blow up bridges and buildings and were also given training in sophisticated fire-arms. Considerable quantities of sophisticated explosives including timing devices and AK-47 rifles were also made available to these individuals. Guidance by Pakistani intelligence agencies was also forthcoming and it was suggested that the targets should be selective and intended to make the Kashmiri people rise against the Indian government and bring down the State government in Kashmir. Threatening letters were also sent to non-Kashmiris and Hindus asking them to quit the valley. Thereafter, a major campaign began for a pro-Islamic reform movement led by the JEI J&K and its front organisations like Hizb-e-Islami and Hizb-e-Mujahideen. This was accompanied by selective attacks against pro-accession political activists, police/security agencies, government establishments and members of the minority community (Hindus). With the advent of strong reformist threats, the level of subversion went up.

The nature and content of the subversive threat in the valley acquired a momentum of its own. By the last quarter of 1989, the agitations were increasingly characterised by spontaneity, and incidents of violence became extensive and affected larger areas, including rural places. In the Kashmir Valley, Srinagar remained the focus of violence followed by Baramulla, Anantnag, Pulwama, Badgam and Kupwara districts. Following the rise in the intensity of militant violence, including assassinations and intimidation of political opponents, the traditional political parties became inactive and marginalised. As a result, the poll boycott call (November 22 and 24) given by the secessionist groups was successful. Most of the electorate also refrained from exercising their franchise. In the two PCs (Baramulla and Anantnag) where elections were held, the percentage of polling was 5%.

The growing pro-Islamic content of the secessionist movement and the increasing fundamentalism of the J&K JEI provided further fillip to the secessionist movement in the valley. The militant faction of the J&K JEI led by S.A.S. Gillani (ex-MLA) steadily gained ground in 1990-91 and also maintained a rapport with the militants in the secessionist movement. The J&K JEI systematically extended its influence to the Muslim majority districts of the Jammu region, particularly Doda district. In the wake of the increasing fundamentalist thrust, Hindus and their establishments became the targets of attack in the Kashmir Valley as also in Doda district of Jammu region, particularly after the 'Shilanyas' (9 November 1989) at Ayodhya. This created panic among the hindus in the valley.

The administrative response to growing threats of secessionism, subversion and terrorism, which was inadequate to start with, had by and large collapsed by the middle of 1989. Some initial successes during 1988 and early months of 1989 that resulted in the capture of arms and arrests of Pak-trained militants, could not be sustained. Since the successful observance of a 4-day 'Quit Kashmir Movement' (11-14 May 1989), the subversives gradually acquired full sway over the valley with both the State administration and secular parties in the retreat. With the growing failure of the State government to meet the secessionists' challenge, the pace of subversion including those in government services - police, acquired momentum and by the end of 1989, it was the secessionist elements whose writ ran in the valley. Efforts to confront them led to large scale violence and resistance.

During January, following the promulgation of Governor's rule (January 19), attempts of the State Government to assert its authority through deployment of security forces and curfew restrictions resulted in resistance and confrontation. Secessionists, in a change of tactics, organised a large number of processions and demonstrations which submitted a memorandum to the UN office at Srinagar. This was followed by attempts to inject elements of civil disobedience affecting the functioning of government offices. Mosques and the clergy gradually became a very significant component in mobilising the support of the masses for the movement. The morale of the secessionists and the people were sustained by a propaganda blitz from across the border, holding out hope of intervention and support of the Islamic world. The feeling of alienation among the common people was further sustained on the plank of alleged excesses by security forces.

Since March 1990, militant violence which was earlier confined to Srinagar city proliferated to rural belts in all parts of the Kashmir Valley. In a bid to wipe out nationalist forces and disrupt political process in the Kashmir Valley, the militants subjected political activists and their property to continuous attacks. The militants assassinated a number of pro-accession political leaders including Abdul Sattar Ranjoor (State C.P.I leader- 23 March ) Ghulam Nabi Butt (Ex-MLA, Cong I- 24 March ), Anwar Khan (NOT leader- 25 March ), Mir Mustafa (Ex MLA- 25 March ), Sheikh Abdul Jabbar (Ex Minister- 18 April ), Shiekh Mohd Mansoor (Ex MLA NC/F- 11 May ), Maulvi Mohd Farooq (Chairman, Awami Action Committee- 21 May ) and Maulana Masoodi (veteran NC leader- 13 Dec ). The sudden spurt in political assassinations led to large scale resignations from the pro-accession parties. Thus, normal political activities gradually came to an end.

Simultaneously, the militants intensified attacks against government employees and offices to demoralise the administration. By December 1990, around 300 government employees including 131 security personnel were killed by militants. Prominent among those killed were A.K. Raina (Dy Director Supplies- 20 March ), H.L. Khera (G.M. HMT Factory Zainakote- 10 April ), Prof. Musheer-ul-Haq (V.C., Kashmir University), J.N. Raina (Jt. Director Sericulture, 26 June ), Abdul Aziz (Addl Dy. Commissioner, Srinagar- 29 June ) and Parvez Qadiri (Conservator of Forests- 20 Aug ). These killings generated unprecedented fear psychosis among the government employees and paralysed the normal functioning of the administration. The militants also forced the State government employees to go on strike on one pretext or the other. The last spell of the 72-day strike (15 Sept to 25 Nov) was unprecedented.

Growing communalisation of the secessionist movement in the valley coupled with the killing of Hindus (173 till Dec) by the militants caused panic among non Muslims leading to a mass exodus. Over 40,000 Hindus and 1500 Sikh families left the valley. Most of them traversed to Jammu causing considerable strain on the communal situation in the city and its environs, besides socio-economic complications.

Proliferation of a large number of militant groups, mostly at the behest of Pakistani intelligence agencies, led to growing confusion and splintering among their ranks during 1990. Efforts to float a United Front, politically through the J&K Tehrik-e-Hurriat (a conglomerate of 11 secessionist bodies) and on a militant plane, through the United Jehad Council, both pro-Pakistan bodies, suffered due to the JKLF (pro- Independence) remaining outside their purview. Worried over persisting intra and inter group dissensions among the major militant groups of JKLF, PL and Hizbul Mujahideen, Pakistani authorities initiated a series of discussions with Kashmiri militant leaders in Pakistan and Kathmandu after September 1990. Plans to close ranks and coalesce a United Front to sharpen the militant struggle remained major areas of consideration. The higher intensity of violence since August 1990, coinciding with upgradation in induction of sophisticated arms, was generally sustained. This was despite the large number of arrests of Kashmiri militants and increasing recovery of arms. Sustained pressure of security forces to an extent contained the situation and the trend of violence. Despite strengthening border vigil, clandestine movement of men and material continued.