On 27 October 1947, Indian Troops set foot on Kashmiri soil to occupy Srinagar. This act of force led to bloody war(s) and series of UN Security Council resolutions. In our mainstream discourse we are often told that Kashmiri struggles began after the inception . There is very little information and debate about how long Kashmiris are fighting for their right of self-determination. But the truth is, Kashmiri struggle goes way back before partition. Their resistance has been very organized and mainly associated with class.
Where it began: Kashmir Valley was owned by Sikh emperor, Ranjit Singh but in 1846, during the Anglo-Sikh war the British East India Company defeated the Sikh Empire eventually Gulab Singh, a Dogra, who later served as the ruler of Jammu in the Sikh Empire, chose to side with the British in the Anglo-Sikh war bought Kashmir as it was a commodity for sale. East India Company “sold” Kashmir to Gulab Singh for a sum of 7.5 million rupees as a reward for his loyalty. If one has to define the Gulab Singh regime in one word that will be “economic extortion”. Even though the economic exploitation was unanimous but not everyone was equally affected by it. Kashmiri Pandits- native Hindu Kashmiris enjoy some privileges like upper class jobs and less criminal punishment. Muslim on other hand were at the bottom of the stratum which ignite a sense of resistance among them.
Where it led: The workers’ resistance against the the Dogras started as early as in 1865 to improve the work conditions. The Dogra regime brutally crushed the resistance but workers kept on organizing protests and finally had a breakthrough when Kashmir Silk factory workers held a strike in 1924. In following years, some young, left-wing Muslim intellectuals established the “Reading Room Party” to organize the people and find a way to seek freedom from autocracy and oppression. They held meetings in mosques to propagate “political consciousness” which expanded from the intelligentsia to the middle classes. Eventually they moved on from mosques to larger scale open meetings. One out of millions of state brutality incidents includes a case when Kashmiri protested against sedition charges on a young Kashmiri leader to which state responded by violence and killed 22 young protesters.
What historians wrote: Kashmiri resistance’s narrative has been fabricated by historians from both sides of the aisle. It is almost impossible to pinpoint the factual history but one fact about Kashmiri resistance before partition was obvious i.e. Kashmiri struggle is not anti-Hindu rather it is strictly anti-tyrant. Within the valley some organizations gave it a religious turn which resulted in riots and loot of Hindus possessions.
Where it ended: In 1947, when colonial masters left the continent, they left some wild ideas in both Pakistan and Indian administration’s mind. India presented the Indian Independence Act 1947 which gave Kashmiri two options either become independent or merge with India or Pakistan. To be very clear, this choice was precisely given to the tyrant of Kashmir; Dogra Singh not Kashmiri people. Their right of self-determination was snubbed by the ruler and ignored by the administration entirely. Dogra wanted to merge the valley with India but Pakistani troops confronted them and the rest is violence, brutality, rapes and disappearances.
What’s next: Indian government provided a mandate in form of Article 370 to Kashmir; which on a visceral level seems normal but its root is embedded in the blood of Kashmiris. Right of self-determination has been mystified intensely by both stakeholders. In Pakistani context Kashmir wants to become its part while in Indian narrative Kashmir is totally okay with its contemporary ruler.
What is being ignored: Kashmir, its people and their demands. Kashmir’s right of self-determination is only possible if Kashmiris are part of the conversation. Both countries are fighting over the ownership of this valley. Kashmir is under lockdown for more than a year now, the entire world has been cut off from the valley. We don’t even know what exactly is happening there which is inhumane at best and heinous at worst. Fiery rhetoric from both sides is doing nothing for the people of Kashmir. They’re failing Kashmiris here, they’re failing humanity here.