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Kashmir observes birth of conflict

Kashmir party supporting Accession with India in October 1947, says revoking autonomy has left it dismayed, disempowered

Hilal Mir   | 27.10.2020
Kashmir observes birth of conflict

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir

For over the past 30-years, a large section of people across the divide in Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan have been observing Oct. 27, as the Black Day. But in India, Oct. 26 is celebrated as the day, when Kashmir acceded to India.

The issue of Jammu and Kashmir and rivalries between India and Pakistan took birth on the day when the Indian army landed in Srinagar, the capital of the region at the request of Hindu ruler Hari Singh after he in a controversial decision acceded the Muslim majority territory with India.

India says, that it was forced to send troops to aid the Hindu ruler, who was facing wreath of Pathan tribal warriors, who had invaded his territory. But the counter-narrative is that the “unpopular “ruler was facing a revolt from his Muslim subjects.

His military actions against people had led the tribesmen from neighboring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, province of Pakistan to come to the rescue of “persecuted” Kashmiri Muslims.

Interestingly, the dominant Kashmiri nationalist political formation at that time the National Conference (NC), had supported the Hindu ruler’s decision and welcomed Indian troops to save the state from getting “forcibly” annexed with Pakistan.

But last year, when India scrapped autonomy after imposing a communications and military lockdown, top NC leaders say they are dismayed.

India’s decision of stripping autonomy of the region on Aug. 5, 2019, has hit the NC’s ideological beliefs, that stood for return of greater autonomy to the region under Indian rule.

“The Aug. 5 decision has shattered all beliefs. Therefore, Oct. 27, 1947, will not be viewed with the same sentiment as before,” said Hassnain Masoodi, a leader of NC and member of Indian parliament.

Masoodi, who is also a retired judge of the high court said people of Kashmir had aligned with India hoping their autonomy would be respected in a secular and democratic country.

“But Aug. 5 was the last nail in the coffin. A very big change was forced, that is lethal for

Kashmiri culture, autonomy. It has affected the psyche of people,” he said.

Revocation of autonomy

Besides revoking autonomy, the Indian government also scrapped a law that prevented outsiders from buying properties in Jammu and Kashmir or applying for government jobs, stoking fears of demographic flooding of the Muslim-majority region.

The Indian government has introduced a domicile law making an unspecified number of outsiders eligible for citizenship of Jammu and Kashmir. The old symbols of autonomy -- a separate flag, constitution, Urdu as official language -- have vanished.

Celebrating Accession Day, India has for the first time declared Oct. 26 as a public holiday in its controlled part of Jammu and Kashmir.

Also, for the first time, several billboards were put up in Srinagar announcing Oct. 22, as Black Day, when tribal fighters had defeated the army of the Hindu ruler. They had been put up by a little-known organization, the Centre for Inclusive and Sustainable Development.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Sheikh Showkat Hussain, noted political commentator said there was an attempt to rewrite events and write victor’s version of history.

“But in the age of social media, you cannot force narratives down the throats of people. It was done in the past when the Indian state tinkered with Kashmir’s autonomy. Its manufactured narratives would go uncontested then, not anymore,” said Hussain.

Referring to the Soviet Union, he said the iron curtains put up by the communist country for over half a century did not work when it collapsed.

“People remember everything, especially when suppressed,” he added.

Elderly people recall events

Recalling the events of October 1947, Abdul Gani Parray, an 86-year-old former schoolteacher living in the outskirts of Srinagar said he saw airplanes landing and a contingent of soldiers marching in his locality.

“They were very aggressive, a far cry from the saviors NC had portrayed them,” said Parray, then a 14-year old boy.

Luckily, Parray said, a Sikh family which had taken refuge in the area, convinced them not to harm local people.

The Sikh family had escaped from Baramulla (northern Kashmir), where the tribal fighters had allegedly killed non-combatants.

“The soldiers left a few days later, which allowed the residents to move around. But what we discovered, besides the people running to safer areas on foot or horse-driven carriages, was a couple of dead bodies in nearby Rambagh locality. One of them was a mentally unsound man named Ghulam Qadir Baig,” said Parray.

Journalistic, oral, and other accounts of the day have put the number of Kashmiri civilians killed by Indian soldiers from 4-11.

“It took us no time to realize that these soldiers were no saviors. I was in the procession in which the body of Baig was carried to Lal Chowk. The mourners questioned the NC leaders. They pacified the people. But history showed what the motive behind the arrival of soldiers was,” he said.

Historian Abdul Ahad said the motive of soldiers was to gain a foothold in Kashmir at a time when the rules of Partition dictated that Kashmir should become a part of Pakistan. He said that the controversial Accession was used as a pretext to send the army.

But, he said, there is a big difference between Oct. 27, 1947, and Aug. 5, 2019.

“The political developments after Oct. 27, 1947, made Kashmir a neo-colonial territory where the natives at least enjoyed some semblance of self-rule. On Aug. 5 Kashmir became an Indian colony in the classical sense of colonialism. The Muslim majority is being ruled from New Delhi now. They have been thoroughly disempowered,” he said.

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