Death in Kashmir

by Pankaj Mishra
Death in Kashmir
Pankaj Mishra
The New York Review of Books
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Death in Kashmir




The village of Chitisinghpuraisin thesoutheastern corner of the valley of Kashmir, a few milesfrom thehighway that runs from thecapital, Srinagar, across high mountains to theIndian plains. A steep, winding, dusty road takesyou to ahigh plateau where, beyond afew milesof ricefields, thevillageliesin alittlehollow muffled by pine, walnut, and chenar trees.

It hasnoneof thewretchedness you associatewith rural India. In fact, thebrisk stream of cool, clearwater that dividesthevillage, themeadowed bank with thebathing cabin of rough timber and theleaflesswillowsand thegrazing stray cow suggest theromance of an isolated and self-sufficient pastoral community. Thevillagersareapple, almond, and ricefarmers. Someof them own transport businesses—thereis enough money around for thevillageto havetwo gurudwaras, domed prayerhallswith courtyards, onefor each sideof thevillage. Thehouses arelargein theexpansiveKashmiri way, unplastered bricks stacked in timberframes, exposed lofts bulging with hay;; each house hasits own fenced-in compound wherechickensrun around vegetablepatches;; television antennaeloom over thecorrugated iron roofs.

Theserenity of theplaceat first glanceseemsunreal: elsewherein thevalley ofKashmir, which isruled by India, theIndian military hasbeen fighting since1990 aparticularly brutal war with thousandsofMuslim guerrillas. Almost all oftheguerrillashavebeen trained in Pakistan by Islamicfundamentalists, and arefighting for integration of the Muslim-dominated valley with Pakistan, even though amajority of thefour million Muslimswho liveprecariously amid theviolencecaused by guerrillasand theIndian security forcesin thevalley prefer independence.

But thesecularguerrillaoutfitsthat werefighting for independencein theearly years of groups as Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba, which also recruit jihad-inspired citizens of Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight in Kashmir. India, which hasfought two wars with Pakistan over Kashmirin 1948 and 1965 and almost camecloseto anuclear war in 1990, seesitselfasfighting a “proxy war” with Pakistan in Kashmir, and the present Indian government in Delhi, which isdominated by Hindu nationalists, has sent closeto halfamillion soldiersto Kashmir to suppresstheinsurgency.

Thismakes theHindus in thevalley very vulnerable, and approximately 130,000 Hindus, almost theentireHindu population of thevalley, migrated to Indiaafter afew hundred ofthem werekilled by Muslim guerrillasin 1990. Morerecently, in early August, unidentified gunmen, alleged by theIndian government to bePakistan-backed guerrillas, massacred over ahundred Hindus. But Chitisinghpuraispopulated mostly by Sikhs, who form just over2 percent of thepopulation of Kashmir, and havemanaged to maintain their neutrality all through thelast ten years.

Thisexplainswhy thecommunity hasnever beforebeen targeted at any timeby either theIndian army or theMuslim guerrillas;; it also explains why theSikhs of Chitisinghpurawere, beforethisspring, equally, if uneasily, cordial with both the guerrillas, who often visited thevillagelooking for food, and thesoldiers from nearby Indian army camps, who cameon routinepatrols.

Most of theSikh familieswereat homeon theevening of March 20, 2000, preparing for supper, watching theextended coverageof Bill Clinton’svisit to thesubcontinent, and weren’t at all surprised when about seventeen men with gunsand dressed in army fatiguesshowed up and ordered themalesto comeout oftheir houses. Most people thought it wasa “crackdown”—theword had goneinto theKashmiri languageafter yearsof theIndian army’scordon-and-search operations.

TheSikhsweremadeto squat beforethe gurudwaras—and thishappened on both sides of thevillage—and were asked to producetheiridentity cards. TheSikhscomplied;; therewasnot much causefor suspicion at thetime: thearmed men in fatigues, who appeared to befrom theIndian army, seemed to becarrying out theformality of checking thenumber of men in thevillage.

But thereweresomeSikhs who suspected something unusual was about to happen and hid themselvesin theirhouses. Noneof thearmed men cameto look for them;; there wereenough peopleoutside.

Identity cards checked, thearmed men stepped back;; therewasasingleshot, and suddenly themen raised their gunsand started firing at theSikhs. In theend, thirty-five men wereshot dead on both sidesofthevillage;; all, except one, on thespot, on the muddy, hay-littered ground in front of the gurudwaras. It wasthelargest such killing by execution in Kashmir sincethebeginning of theanti-Indiainsurgency in 1990.

I heard thenewsfrom Abbasearly next morning. HeisaMuslim, theSrinagar correspondent of an Indian newspaper. Thedignity and solidity ofhis bearing—histall, well-built frame, theelegantly cut Kashmiri jackets hewore—madehim reassuring to be with in thecity whereeveryone—thetensecrowdsin thestreets, thejumpy soldiers in their bunkers, and thepassionateMuslimsspeaking oftheatrocities of Indian rulein bare, dark rooms—seemed to beon edge. A mutual acquaintancehad asked him to help meout during my stay in Srinagar;; and hehad doneso dutifully, but not without a certain wariness, which I put down to someslight resentment: Iwasn’t thefirst or last of theinexperienced, and possibly biased, journalistsfrom Indiahehad been asked to assist.

Hisvoiceon thephonewascalm. In thedays I had been in Srinagar, relatively and unsettlingly quiet days, thenewsof sporadiccustodial killingsand gun battles between Indian security forcesand guerrillasand land-mineblastscoming in only from other placesin thevalley, I had often heard him say, “If you livehere, you haveto be prepared for anything. Anything can happen anytimein Kashmir.” His words with their tingeofmelodramahad mademewonder if hesaw acertain glamourin hisjob, in the dangerousnatureof theworld heworked and lived in, likethereticent taxi driver who had been quick to point metoward thevegetablemarket whereseventeen Muslim civilians had been blown to bitsafew daysbeforeby abomb.1

Something even biggerhad now happened;; and Abbaswasassereneasalways. Hehad no detailsyet, but hethought weshould leaveimmediately for thevillage. When he arrived half an hourlater at my hotel with two other Kashmiri journalists, hismood was light. Theatmosphereinsidethebattered Ambassador wasalready oneof good-humored banter;; and thejokes and reparteein Kashmiri, which I couldn’t follow, got louder after each encounter with thefrankly contemptuous Indian soldiersat roadblocks, who poked AK-56 muzzlesthrough hastily rolled-down windows, demanded identity cards, and wanted to know whereweweregoing and forwhat.

In littlevillages alongsidetheroad men in blueand black cloak-like pheranstood in worried littlecirclesand glanced nervously, out ofthecorner of theireyes, at thecars racing past them. In thericeand saffron fields, stubbly and glittering with frost, soldiers stood with theirbacksto theroad, light machineguns slung over theirshoulders. Outlined against thebluemisty mountainsin thedistance, they werelikehunters from a nineteenth-century sketch.

At thevillageitself, wheretherewasnothing they could do, they looked morecasual, theelitecommandos almost dandyish in their black headdressand bullet-proof overalls, sheepishly standing wheresomeangry Sikhshad barred theirway to thevillage. There weretiny shards of glasson theground: somecar windows had already been smashed by theSikhs and aphotographer roughed up, hiscameralensbroken. Thesoldiershad watched it all and donenothing;; they now quietly watched theSikhs rageat thesenior officers from thearmy and policewho had begun to arrive, theircarsdisgorging more and moremen in fatigues.

TheSikhsweremostly survivorsfrom thenight before;; mostly middle-aged men, who had stayed in their homes when thearmed men came. Otherswerefrom nearby villages and had been in Chitisinghpurasincedawn. No onehad stirred out of his housefor closeto an hour afterthe massacre;; then somemen had comeout and seen thecorpses and trudged several milesin thedark to thenearest policestation. Thepolicearrived seven hoursafter themassacre, but could find no cluesto theidentity of thekillers. But theSikhsstanding beforethepolicemen now had already assumed that thekillers were Muslim guerrillas. They wereshouting at once, beating theirchests, feeding upon each other’senergy. Thearmy and policeofficers heard them expressionlessly. “Giveusguns and then we’ll deal with theseMuslims,” aman with along gray beard kept shouting. “They know what wedid with them in 1947. Wearenot cowardsliketheKashmiri Hindus! Do they think they can throw usout of Kashmir?! We’ll show them!” And then, spittlegrowing at thecorner of his mouth, headded, “Thisisacountry wehave ruled.” Thehistorical reference—to theearly nineteenth century, when Sikh governors sent out by theking ofPunjab had ravaged thevalley and tormented theMuslims— made, just for abriefmoment, theKashmiri Muslim policeman beforehim flinch.

Morejournalists and government peoplearrived. TheSikhswouldn’t let anyonepass, and continued to curseand lament. Behind them, afrightful clamor, asof athousand crows, arosefrom thetop of thehill wherethebigger gurudwarwas. It was thesound of weeping and wailing women, and it seemed to bewilder theroosters in thevillage, who wereto go on dementedly forseveral hours afterdawn, their exultant crieshanging discordantly in theair with thegriefand despair of thewomen.

All through thelong driveto thevillage, Ihad wondered about thismoment. It was strange, afterall thedread-filled anticipation, to comeup against what appeared, for reasons then unclear, afamiliarsight: thecorpses lined up on theground against the walled fenceof thecourtyard, grieving women around them, ahecticgaggleof photographers who weresoon to send images of thisremoteHimalayan villageinto the world.

I walked to theothersideofthevillage, where, in front ofthesmaller gurudwara, the armed men had shot seventeen of thethirty-fivedead men. Morebodies werebeing brought from hereto the gurudwarwherethewidowsand journalists had gathered: men trudging up and down thesteep, muddy slopes littered with chicken feathers and straw, balancing on their shouldersimprovised wooden stretchersthat appeared to have been hammered together overnight. Thebodiesslithered around on thestretchers, and theblood leaking from them left bright largestainson thefreshly planed wood: it was asiftherough way thebodies werehandled cameout of themanner, and scale, of death, morethan adozen men shot whilethey squatted beforethe gurudwara‘s scraggly fenceof corrugated iron and barbed wire.

In theend, therewasonly onebody left to carry;; and it took sometimebecausethe young wifeof thedeceased held her husband’s head in herlap and wouldn’t let go. A young girl in along red mirror-work skirt, probably herdaughter, stood by her side, freshly awakened and staring uncomprehendingly first at herdead fatherand then at her mother, who kept calling out anameasshewept and kept caressing, with rough, calloused hands, her husband’sface.

Outsidethebigger gurudwarstood thepoliceand army men, spiffily dressed, already stiff in anticipation of high-level visitsfrom Delhi;; thebored, silent groupsoflocal journalists;; thewomen and children warming themselves beforeatiny fireafter thelong night of grief;; thephotographers and cameramen competing for thebest view of the courtyard;; theeageryoung journalistsfrom New Delhi looking for blood;; thecriesof theroosters still incongruously mingling with thewailing of thewidows—somehow the occasion demanded amoreappropriateresponse.

And so when theSikhs, growing in numbers by theminuteasthenewsspread across thevalley, each new arrival bringing hisown outrageto thevillage, abused and drove out thefirst VIP, asenior stateminister, stoned hiscar, shattered his windscreen, his bodyguardslet looseafew rounds into theair from their AK-47sand caused temporary panicbecausesomepeoplethought that theguerrillashad attacked. Men began sprinting acrosstheforest outsidethevillage;; thecommandosthrew themselveson thedamp ground and prepared to shoot. No guerrillasshowed up, of course. But thelittle commotion assuaged thegrowing need fordramaand suddenly therewasrelief all around, and thecommandos appeared lessdandyish and moresheepish when they got up with muddy stainson their bullet-proof overalls.

But something suspect lay in that need fordrama, which, in thefew hoursit took to broadcast theTV imagesof thewidows, wasto beamplified all acrossIndia. Therehad been asmall warin Kashmir theprevioussummer when Pakistan-backed infiltrators, many ofthem regularPakistan army recruits, occupied high mountain positionspast the border. Hundredsof Indian soldiershad died whiletrying to dislodgethem;; and the media, slicker but also much morecoarseafter ten yearsof economicliberalization, had brought about ageneral intoxication with war in millionsof middle-classIndian homes. Opinion pollsin English-languagenewspapershad shown much of themiddleclass demanding an all-out invasion ofPakistan;; lettersin thepopularpresshad even called for anuclear bombardment ofPakistan. Themediaitself had joined in thefrenzy, with young, awkwardly helmeted reportersshouting into microphonesover thenoiseof artillery fire, “You havegot to behereto know what it is like!”

And that need for drama, forswift, brutal responsesto brutality, wasn’t going to be appeased by Bill Clinton’scondemnation of themassacre. When I left thevillageand went back to Srinagarlater that day, thegroupsof worried MuslimsI had passed in the morning had been broken up. They werealready in roped-off enclosures, squatting on theground whilesoldierssearched their houses. Buseswerebeing stopped and passengerslined up and interrogated by thesideof theroad: amultitudeoflittle crackdownsweregoing on in theregion.

Threedays after thekilling, whileClinton wasstill in India, ajubilant-looking senior bureaucrat in New Delhi announced a “major breakthrough” on Indian television: the Indian army and policehad just arrested, hesaid, aman called Yaqub Wagay, oneof the few Muslim residentsof Chitisinghpura, who had provided valuableinformation about theSikh killings. Another “major breakthrough” cametwo dayslater when five “foreign mercenaries” allegedly identified by Wagay as thekillersof theSikhs—guerrillasfrom Pakistan and Afghanistan—werekilled in an “encounter” during ajoint army-police assault on alonehut on top of ahill in aremotevillage, not far from Chitisinghpura, called Panchalthan.

Thiswas what needed to bedoneafter themassacreto appeasepublicoutragein India— theSikhshad been rioting forthreedays in Jammu City—and thearmy and policemen in Kashmir, men moreconfident in theirability to manipulatethemediaafter thewar last year when falsestoriesabout Pakistani brutality and Indian couragehad been tirelessly retailed, had known what to do.

The “encounter” with foreign mercenaries wasreported on thefront pagesoftheIndian newspapers, and thematter wasseen to haveended there. But soon thegovernment’s story ran into unexpected problems. Therehad been no post-mortem of thefivemen killed in the “encounter” at Panchalthan. Thefrightened local villagerswerebullied into quickly burying thebadly charred corpses;; but soon afterward they cameacross clothes and personal itemsneartheburial sitethat had been left burning by thesoldiers. These items now becameevidencecontradicting thegovernment’sstory.

Within just threedaysafterthekillings, seventeen Muslimshad strangely gonemissing from thevillagesaround Chitisinghpura. Threeofthem had been kidnapped before witnessesby armed men in ared Maruti van that was later discovered to havebeen one of theseveral vehiclesseized by thedistrict policeand parked in thedistrict police station. Theson of oneof themissing men heard about thediscovery ofhalf-burnt personal itemsin Panchalthan;; hetraveled to Panchalthan and found his father’s identity card and ring among theitems. Moreitemswereidentified, asvillagers cameforward to testify that thefivemen had been fired upon at closerange, soaked with kerosene, and then set alight.

Therelativesofthefivemurdered Muslimswalked in aprocession several miles to the district headquartersto appeal for apublicexhuming ofthebodies. After aweek of protests, thedemonstrationsgrew larger and then acrowd offivethousand Muslims was fired upon by thepolice. Ninemoremen died;; among thedead wastheson of oneof themurdered civilians, theonewho had traveled to Panchalthan and madethefirst connection between themissing men and thehalf-burnt personal items.

When thebodies werefinally exhumed, almost two weeks afterthemurders, they were discovered to havebeen badly defaced. Thechopped-off noseand chin of oneman—a local shepherd—turned up in another grave. Thebody of alocal sheep and buffalo traderwas headless—thehead couldn’t befound—but wasidentified by thetrousers that wereintact underneath thearmy fatiguesit had been dressed in. Another charred corpse —that of an affluent cloth-retailerfrom thecity of Anantnag, presumably kidnapped and killed becausehewas, liketheother four men, tall and well-built and could bemadeto resemble, oncedead, a “foreign mercenary”—had no bullet marksat all. Remarkably, for bodies so completely burnt, thearmy fatiguesthat they weredressed in werealmost brand new.2


had left Srinagar by then. I followed theeventsfrom Delhi, wherethey merged into thegeneral atrociousnessof thenewsemanating from Kashmir, newsthat was reported fitfully and sparingly, often in singlecolumns, in theIndian press, which wasconcerned from thevery beginning of theanti-Indiainsurgency not to report anything damaging to the “national interest.” Thenewsofthemassacrehad lasted for barely halfaday when it wasovertaken by Clinton’s reaction to it, his harder lineagainst Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, which emerged asthemost important aspect oftheaffair. The circumstancesof themassacre, theidentity ofthekillers, wereleft unexplored.

In Chitisinghpura, Ihad spoken to someelderly Sikhsstanding around asmall tea shack. They werewary ofmeand couldn’t tell memuch: they had heard theordersfor them to comeout, they had stayed put in their homes, and then they had heard the gunfireand criesof pain. They couldn’t imaginewho thekillersmight havebeen. This wasKashmir: no onereally knew what wasgoing on. Thearmed men could havebeen sent by theIndian army;; it could havebeen theMuslim guerrillas. They did remember that themen spokeUrdu and Punjabi (ameaninglesscluesincemany Indiansand Pakistanisand Kashmirisspeak thetwo languages), and that someof them were drunk.3

Thewarinessof theseelderly men had much to do with theirnew senseof vulnerability to both theguerrillasand theIndian soldiersin theirisolated setting—avulnerability that remains. Just afew daysafter thekillings, almost all oftheSikhsin thevillagewhom I had seen so stridently blaming theMuslim guerrillas on themorning after themassacre had migrated to India. Morerecently, theSikh association formed to protect Sikhs after thekillingshavebegun to talk about thepossibleinvolvement of Indian security forces.4AllthePakistan-basedguerrillaoutfitshavecontinuedtodenytheir involvement in theChitisinghpurakillings, and to blameIndian security forcesfor them. Therehavebeen no further attackson theSikhsin thevalley—and thequestions about why Muslim guerrillasshould attack civilian membersof acommunity they have not bothered for over adecade, why they should do so hours beforeClinton’s arrival in Indiaand thereby inviteinternational opprobrium and discredit their cause, haven’t been satisfactorily answered.

Thereareother intriguing facts. Of thetwelveother Muslim civiliansthat went missing around thesametimeas themurdered five, four werespotted at, and eventually rescued by local villagersfrom, an army camp nearPanchalthan. It isquitelikely they had been kidnapped for thesamereason thefivemurdered men were: to bepresented, oncedead, as “foreign mercenaries” responsiblefor thekillingsoftheSikhs. Thefateoftherest is still unknown, and as with many missing Muslimsin Kashmir they arelikely to show up in oneof thedaily policelistsof “killed militants.” Meanwhile, thefamily of Yaqub Wagay, theMuslim man arrested in Chitisinghpurafor allegedly assisting the “foreign mercenaries” in thekillingsoftheSikhs, hasrefused to put up bail for him out of fear that he’ll bemurdered as soon ashe’s out of prison. A senior Kashmiri official connected with theinquiry told methat Wagay was innocent, and had been with four other men, including aSikh, when themassacretook place. Wagay istheIndian government’sglaringly weak link between thekillingsin Chitisinghpuraand the “encounter” at Panchalthan, which makes him just as likely to bekilled in prison as outsideit.

TheIndian failureto identify or arrest even asingleperson connected to thekillingsor thekillers, and thehastinessand brutality of theIndian attempt to stick theblameon “foreign mercenaries” whileClinton wasstill in India, only lends weight to thenew and growing suspicion among Sikhsthat themassacrein Chitisinghpurawas organized by Indian intelligenceagenciesin orderto influenceClinton, and thelargecontingent of influential American journalists accompanying him, into taking amuch more sympatheticview of Indiaas ahelpless victim of Islamicterroristsin Pakistan and Afghanistan: aview ofIndiathat somevery hecticIndian diplomacy in theWest had previously failed to achieve.

That view is what theIndian government offered again in early August, when more than ahundred people, mostly Hindu, werekilled in Kashmir, aweek after thebiggest pro-Pakistan guerrillaoutfit, theHizbul Mujahideen—which, interestingly, washeld responsibleby theIndian government in March for thekillings in Chitisinghpura— declared what turned out to beavery brief cease-fire.

It is still not clear—and probably won’t befor sometime—what actually happened, even during themost widely reported oftherecent killings in Pahalgam, theKashmir town where, according to theIndian government, two pro-Pakistan guerrillas killed morethan thirty Hindu pilgrims. Laterreportssaid that thetwo suspected guerrillas were killed by soldiers of theCRPF (Central ReservePoliceForce), oneoftheIndian paramilitary organizationsin Kashmir, soon after they assaulted aheavily guarded military camp;; and in thefifteen to twenty minutesit took theCRPF to kill theguerrillas seven peopledied in thecrossfire. TheIndian primeminister himself, on avisit to Pahalgam, wasconfronted with hostilesurvivorswho accused theCRPF of looting and killing pilgrimsand Muslim shopowners of Pahalgam for almost forty-fiveminutesafter thetwo suspected guerrillashad been shot dead.5

In anothermysteriousincident reminiscent of Chitisinghpura, gunmen in uniform were seen massacring nineteen migrant laborers, thepoorest and most defenselesspeoplein Kashmir, afew hours after thekillingsin Pahalgam. But therewashardly any follow-up coverage;; and few peopleknow who killed thirty-fivepeople, someof them Muslims, in theremotejunglesofDodain South Kashmirin early August, sincethereportsabout themurdersseemed based on nothing morereliablethan press statementsput about by theIndian policeand army.

TheIndian government blamed guerrillaoutfitsworking “at thebehest of Pakistan”;; the intention behind thekillings, it said, was to disrupt thepeaceprocess. But it is not clear why Pakistan, which has long bankrolled theHizbul Mujahideen and which brought about itsdeclaration ofcease-fire, should cancel its own moves by organizing killingsin Kashmir, particularly at atimewhen theworld’sattention wasfixed on theregion. It is morelikely that oneormoreguerrillaoutfitsopposed to thecease-fireacted without Pakistan’s supervision orapproval. TheIndian primeminister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, accused Lashkar-e-Toiba, which ismostly composed of fanatical holy warriorsfrom Pakistan and Afghanistan. But that organization, which, along with theHizbul Mujahideen, wasalso blamed for killing theSikhsof Chitisinghpura, condemned the killingsand rejected thepossibility that itsrecruits might havemurdered civilians—a disavowal that isin contrast to itsusual eagernessin claiming attackson theIndian military and police, such astherecent bombing in Srinagar, which killed thirteen army and policemen, and which wasclaimed by both Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba. Thereis, as yet, no convincing evidencelinking them to any of themorethan six separateincidentsof extremeviolenceagainst civilians. Thesekillingsthus taketheir place, along with themurderoftheSikhs, with somevery relevant but ultimately obscureand unexplained incidentsin Kashmir’srecent history.

As it turned out, themassacres in early August weren’t what undermined thecease-fire, which continued for another week beforebreaking down overtheIndian government’s refusal to includePakistan in any discussion of Kashmir. This failurewas inevitable. TheHindu nationalists, to whom theMujahideen’sunilateral cease-firecameasashock, could not haverisked alienating much oftheir middle-class constituency by talking to General Musharraf, Pakistan’smilitary ruler, who is held chiefly responsiblein Indiafor thedisastrous battlesbetween Pakistan-backed infiltratorsand theIndian army in Kashmir last year, in which hundredsofIndian soldiersdied. Themassacres were presented by an aggrieved-seeming Mr. Vajpayeeto Bill Clinton as anotherreason why hecan’t sit acrossthenegotiating tablefrom General Musharraf.

What haslong been clear is that theIndian government doesnot wish to involve Pakistan orany other country in what it considersto bean internal matter. In thefirst fifty yearsofitsexistence, theIndian statehasseveral timesdefused secessionist uprisings acrossIndiawithout any external assistance, through locally produced carrots and sticks, ablend of forceand appeasement. You can seethesamegradualistic strategy at work in Kashmir, wherethegovernment has attempted in thelast few yearsto win over at least somerepresentatives of thedisaffected population: someofthemost corrupt and rich men in Kashmir areformerguerrillas. At thesametime, it hastried to crush militarily thosefundamentalist outfits operating from Pakistan who believe, somewhat fancifully, that jihad, if pursued vigorously enough, might forceIndiato concede Kashmir.

However, theinsurgency in Kashmir, unlikeprevious insurgenciesin Punjab and Assam, pitsIndiaagainst an unstable, traditionally hostile, and now nuclear-armed neighbor. Thismeansthat even if Indiawereto succeed in pacifying Kashmiron its own, thepossibility ofacalamitouswar in South Asiawould remain.

A moreenduring peacecan only bereached through three-way talksbetween India, Pakistan, and therepresentativesof Kashmir. In thisrespect, thecease-firewas agood beginning;; itsimmensepopularity among Muslimsin Kashmir certainly madeall the warring sides awareof theneed for change. But theIndian government, as much as the jihad-minded guerrillas, seems to preferthestatusquo in Kashmir. Thefailureof the cease-firemeansnot only that it hasmanaged to avoid talking to Pakistan. It has intensified its campaign to internationally demonizePakistan, which includestrying to persuadetheUSStateDepartment to put Pakistan on itslist ofterrorist states. By parleying, however briefly and fruitlessly, with theHizbul Mujahideen, it hasalso managed to present itself beforetheworld as being flexibleand open-minded about Kashmir whilecreating thepossibility of asevererupturebetween thelargest guerrilla outfit and themorehard-lineIslamicgroupsthat stressthefutility of any kind of negotiationswith theIndian government and want to carry on their jihad against India.6

Thenumber of atrocitieson both sidesin Kashmir is so high, and thesituation in general so murky, that it ishard to get to thetruth, to confirm, for instance, India’s claim, in both lateMarch and early August, that Muslim terroristsarealwaysresponsible for them. Few peoplein Indiaeven talk of Chitisinghpuraanymore;; it did not comeup when thesenior bureaucrat I had seen on television in March accusing theHizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toibaof killing theSikhstraveled to Srinagar in early August to talk to theguerrillas about ground rulesfortheshort-lived cease-fire. And the forgetfulnessand murkinesswill remain: therecent killingswill soon besupplanted by something bigger;; therewill betheusual exchangeofallegations between Indiaand Pakistan, theusual outrageand condemnation around theworld;; and no morethan a few peoplewill know what isreally going on.

At present, what supports India’sforcefully articulated senseof victimhood afterthe incidents of March and August isthebasicfear and distrust in theWest of anything related to Islamicextremism. TheUnited States refused to join Indiain blaming Pakistan for therecent killings in Kashmir, but theStateDepartment has kept up its pressureon Pakistan to rein in theKashmiri guerrillasand theirIslamicfundamentalist sponsors in PakistanandAfghanistan.Thecease-firebytheHizbulMujahideenisbelievedto havebeen aresult of somegentlearm-twisting of thePakistan government by theState Department.8

Theinvolvement of theStateDepartment is also hinted by thespeed with which the Indian government responded, afteritsinitial silence, to thecease-fire. Sincethecease-firebrokedown, it hasrepeatedly declared itswillingnessto talk to any guerrillaoutfit without involving Pakistan. Thereis an immediateincentivefor theIndian government in working up acertain amount of enthusiasm about any US-mediated dialoguewith the guerrillas: someof themoresignificant American sanctions imposed on Indiaafter it conducted nucleartests in 1998 arestill in place. And then theHindu nationalists, who now claim that Indiachosethewrong and losing sidein thecold war, and many of whoserichest patrons belong to the800,000-strong Indian-American community, are keen on building astrong military and economicrelationship with theUnited States.

Thecautiously pro-Indiapoliciesnow followed by theUnited Statesderivefrom the assumption that India, sinceit is morestableand economically strongerthan Pakistan, would beareliableally in South Asia. Theassumption may well provetrue;; but it makesthegovernment of Hindu nationalists much too complacent, and endsup undermining thealready fragilesafeguardsfor civil libertiesin India’simperfect democracy.

Thegovernment has been steadily indifferent to theseveral requestsfrom human rights organizationsand Indian political partiesforan independent probeinto themassacresof March and August. In theIndian parliament, theUnion Law Minister asked members from opposition parties to drop their demand for an inquiry into therecent killingssince it only helped Pakistan “point accusing fingersat India.” A spokesman of theBJP exhorted members of parliament to instead “concentrateon exposing theevil designsof Pakistan.”9

TheIndian media, which usually shares such blinkered nationalism, is unlikely even to attempt to find out thetruth behind thekillings. A few hoursafter themurderofthe Sikhsin March, thepremier TV channel wasalready asserting, though itscorrespondent had yet to reach thesite, and noneof thepoliceand army officersassembled could offer aclue, that thekillingswerethework of Pakistan-backed guerrillas;; and thiswas to becomethegeneral Indian view. Later, thenewsofthearmy’skilling thefive “foreign mercenaries” at Panchalthan wasreported in thesameunquestioning way. Theprotests of thevillagersagainst Indian officialswerehardly mentioned by theIndian pressuntil unarmed demonstratorswerefired upon and ninemen died, and then thenewswas lost again.

Thereis no point in blaming theKashmiri journalistswho represent Indian newspapers in thevalley. All of them know from experiencewhat their bossesin Delhi will or will not publish. And it isn’t easy even on therareoccasion that they havefull liberty to investigate;; thethreat of violencefrom theguerrillasand theIndian security forcesis ever-present, and can’t beunderestimated: several journalists exploring human rights violations havebeen murdered, many morebeaten up and threatened.

One’sown capacity for exposing oneself to human distresson this scaleturnsout to be small. Thefiguresalonearenumbing. Morethan 30,000 people, mostly Muslims—and theseareconservativefigures—havebeen killed, maimed, ordisappeared in the last ten years. TheIndian army and policehavelost afew thousand men, whilethey havekilled many moreMuslim guerrillasand civilians. Thereishardly afamily among thefour million-strong Muslim population ofthevalley which hasn’t been affected by either side. Abbas said, whilewediscussed possiblestoriesI could cover, “You must do widowsand orphans.” I had foolishly asked, “Wherecan I find them?” Abbas had let theremark go;; hesimply said, “Anywhere.” And it was true: widowsand orphanswere asubiquitousas graveyardsand ruins in thevalley.

But I did otherthings;; and after each ofmy travels around thecity and thevalley I came back to thehotel room, relieved that theday’s work wasover, and that Icould retreat for somehoursat least from theworld around me, from thestories—of torture(onehospital alonewitnessed 250 casesofdeath by acuterenal failure, caused by putting human bodiesunderheavy rollers in thearmy’sinterrogation centers called Papa1 and Papa2), of summary executions, rapes, kidnappings, and arson—storiesthat cameout unprompted in themost casual of conversationswith Kashmiris, and that formed the grisly background to lifein thevalley.


Theoldest among Kashmirisoften claim that thereisnothing new about their condition;; that they havebeen slavesofforeign rulers sincethe sixteenth century when theMoghul emperor Akbar annexed Kashmir and appointed alocal governorto rulethestate. In the chaosofpost-Moghul India, theold empirerapidly disintegrating, Afghani and Sikh invadersplundered Kashmir at will. Thepeasantry wastaxed and taxed into utter wretchedness;; thecultural and intellectual lifeunder indigenousrulersthat had produced someof thegreatest poetry, music, and philosophy in thesubcontinent dried up. Barbaricruleswereimposed in theearly nineteenth century: aSikh who killed aMuslim nativeof Kashmir was fined nothing morethan two rupees. VictorJacquemont, a botanist and friend of Stendhal who cameto thevalley in 1831, thought that “nowhere elsein Indiawerethemasses aspoor and denuded asthey werein Kashmir.”

But that background ofconstant suffering can remain invisibleto thecasual visitor;; the physical beauty of theplace—enhanced by thevalley’s isolation from therest of the world, and moretempting for foreign adventurers—is still, after ten yearsof violence, overwhelming. All through my stay, memoriesofprevioustripskept bubbling up, visitsmadein lesstroubled times, just beforetheinsurgency began in 1990, especially that first visit which for me—asfor anyonewho had never been away from thehot dusty Indian plains—wasthefirst exhilarating revelation of beauty.

I hadn’t then really noticed theKashmiris. They did appear very different with their pale, long-nosed faces, their pherans, their strangelanguage, so unlikeany Indian language. They also seemed oddly self-possessed. But in theenchanting new world that had opened beforeme—thebig, deep blueskiesand thetiny boatsbecalmed in vast lakes, thecool trout streams and thestately forestsofchenar and poplar, thered-cheeked children at roadsidehamletsand in appleorchards, thecows and sheep grazing in wide meadows, and, alwaysin thevalley, thesurrounding mountains with their mysterious promise—in so privatean experienceof beauty it washard to admit theinhabitantsof thevalley, hard to acknowledgethemoreprosaicfactsoftheir existence: thedependence upon India, thelack oflocal industry, thegrowing number of unemployed, educated youth.

Then, astheyearspassed, thenewsfrom Kashmirtook itsplacewith theother news— equally bad, of murdersand destruction—from Punjab and theNortheast: thedistant struggles that were, ultimately, marginal to one’s own lifein avery largeand deprived country wherealmost everyoneisstruggling. In any event, onecouldn’t alwaysget the necessary information about Kashmir. Thereweresomegood bookspublished by small imprints;;butyouhadtosearchhardforthem.1Toreadwhatwasreportedinthepress wasto betold that Pakistan had fomented troublein Kashmir, and theIndian army was taking careofit. It wasto understand that therereally wasn’t aproblem except oneof law and order, which therelevant military and paramilitary organizationswould soon deal with. Themissing physical detailshad to beimagined;; and they turned out to be much grimmerthan I oncecould havethought.


Srinagar’s big hotel, with its vast lawnsand nudetreesoverlooking thelake, wasempty in March;; but thestaff still felt obliged to work themselves up each morning, likethe Indian papers, into cheerful falsehoods: “Everything isfinetoday, sir. Thereisno problem at all, thereis asmuch violencehereasin any Indian city.”

In their softly lit, carpet-muffled offices, with traysof teaand biscuits reg-ularly brought in by uniformed servants, Indian officialspresented statisticsabout thenumberof guerrillas killed, and thenumber of guns, rocket launchers, and grenadesseized. In a gloomy room, thecarpet and curtains and sofaupholstery dark with grime, piles of unread newspapersin onecorner, amemberof theKashmir Bar Association presented mewith somecounterstatisticsabout thenumber of Muslimskilled (80,000 in his estimation), tortured, raped, or gonemissing.

A day beforeIarrived, asenior guerrillafrom oneofthepro-Pakistan outfitshad been shot dead. But weariness—therehad been too many killingsof that sort—and thefear of being fired upon by theIndian policeor army kept thepublicmourners in their homes;; thestreetsremained clear of thethousandsofgrieving men who had oncetaken the corpses of “martyrs” to thegraveyards that werenow scattered everywherein thecity, often adjacent to destroyed houses, asudden swarm ofgreen headstonesand irises in the dusty, broken streets.

Thefestival of Eid cameand went, but theshops still closed early, thetensebusyness abruptly giving way to silenceand darkness, and each evening, in littlestockades beside theroads, sheep with purplepaint on theirback restlessly awaited slaughter. Thelong boulevard along thelake, filled in my memory with vacationers, remained deserted and dusty, thehotelson theboulevard serving asbarracksfor paramilitary soldiers. The houseboatscowered under thesnow-capped mountainsto thenorth, thejaunty names on theirgables—MissEngland, Manhattan Adventure—as gaudily ironical astheBright Career Institutesighted in an alley full of spectacularly ruined houses, heapsofbricks that had already been plundered for wood.

Filth lay in small moundseverywherein thealleys and bazaarsof thegray old city—the stronghold ofthepro-Pakistan guerrillas—whereIndian soldiersstood alert in their improvised bunkersat every bend and corner. Thebunkersseemed likelittletraps, their sandbag wallsroofed with corrugated iron and blueweatherbeaten tarpaulin, with LMG muzzles pointing out from littlesquarish holesbetween thesandbags, behind which you occasionally saw thefrightened eyes in dark faces, thehelplessnessofsoldiersin this hostilesetting, hundredsofmilesaway from home, somehow mademorepoignant by the “Happy Eid” messagespainted in Urdu on littlecardboardsstuck to thesandbags. And everywhereon thenarrow roadsyou saw, and hastily stepped asideto makeway for, thebig machine-gun-topped trucksin fast-moving convoysofthreeorfour, often flying thedefiant banners—”IndiaIs Great”—of abesieged army.

Themilitary controlled theroads, but thepro-Pakistan guerrillaswerestill at largein the countryside, theforests and hollows, thehills and flatlandsofthevalley. Themyths onceattached to them had been embellished: they now cameout of nowhere— detonated alandmine, ambushed aconvoy, fired and threw hand grenades at street patrols—and then disappeared. Thesoldiersand thepolicemen emerged from theshock and blood to rageagainst whomever they could. Thevictims wereoften civilianswho just happened to bearound when theguerrillasstruck. Wholetowns and villageshad been laid wastein thisway: shopsand bazaars burned, housesrazed, peopleshot at random.

It washow Jalaluddin’scopy shop at Pattan, asmall town few milesnorth of Srinagar, cameto bedestroyed by local policemen. Theguerrillashad comeearly in themorning, shot onepoliceman on themain street and then disappeared out of sight. First, the policemen camelooking for theguerrillas, and accused theMuslim shopkeepersof helping theguerrillasescape. Then, beforetheshopkeeperscould pull down their shuttersand escapethemselves, morepolicemen came, thistimewith cansofpetrol. Jalaluddin’sshop wasthefirst to beset alight possibly becauseit wasvery new: hehad only recently brought thecopy machineand Hondagenerator from Delhi, along and difficult journey during which hehad to bribehisway past morethan oneroadblock.

Thefirehad quickly spread to theadjacent shopsin theramshacklerow of singlerooms lining thehighway, footwear and grocery stores, computer and typing institutes, shaky in structure, quick to combust with theirwooden frames. Thesmell of burnt wood was still in theairwhen I went to Pattan two days later.

“If you livein Kashmir, you haveto beprepared foranything,” Abbas had said, and Jalaluddin, and otheryoung men, had already moved beyond rage, hoping now to receivecompensation from thegovernment for thedestruction oftheir property large enough to enablethem to rebuild their shops. Themen—well-educated and articulate, and handsome, with sharp featuresand artlessly staring eyesin theKashmiri manner— werematter-of-fact about thelack of options. Therewereno jobs to behad if you couldn’t afford largebribesto government officials: 50,000 rupeessimply to get fourth-class employment asa chapras(servant), thelow-paid connection with adespised government that then exposed you and your family to thefury of theguerrillas.

You didn’t haveto beinvolved with theguerrillasto haveyour property destroyed: the policeand thesecurity peopleknew all about theyoung men who had goneover to Pakistan;; they had all their updated records. Thearson was yet anotherway of asserting their power. An old man, short and squat, with dull, bloodshot eyes in around, puffy face, cameand stood behind Jalaluddin ashespoke. Hewastheowner of thehousethat thefirehad consumed, and had been lucky to get out with hiswife, fivedaughters, and two grandsons. It washisstory that theyoung men began to tell me—thecousin who had been killed in an “encounter,” theson, abanana-seller in thebazaar, whom the policehad kidnapped and then returned after aransom payment of5,000 rupees.

Theyoung men insisted on showing metheextent ofthedestruction. Thecopy shop had been completely gutted, thewooden beams charred and swollen into akind of delicatefiligree. Thecream-colored xerox machinelay on thefloor, theshiniest and most expensivething in theshop, and it was with lingering solicitudethat Jalaluddin turned it over and around to show theshattered glassand blackened underside. Oneof thewallshad collapsed, exposing thederelict shell, largerwhen seen from above, of the adjacent burnt house, whereagarish posterof aSwisschalet remained on oneof the barewalls, thebroadbrushed sentiment on it still legible: “A smileworks magiclikethe sun and makesthingsbright for everyone.”


TheMuslim middleclass in thevalley still largely consistsof peopleconnected to the government aselected or non-elected officials, and during theinsurgency it hadn’t stopped carving out privateprofits from publicworks: if anything, theviolence and instability, theconstant destruction and rebuilding, hasoffered moreopportunitiesof raiding thestateexchequer. Jammu, theHindu-majority city outsidethevalley, isfull of newly built mansions of senior ministersand bureaucrats;; in remotevillagesin the valley, corruption finding itsown level everywhere, themassivenew housesof local petty officials stand apart from theenclosing shabbiness.

Twenty milessouth ofSrinagar, past steep slopesand startlingly panoramicviewsof pear and appleorchardsand ricefieldsand thetall mountainson thehorizon, liesthe hillsidetown ofCharar-e-Sharif. It washerethat, to thegreat grief of Kashmiris, both Hindu and Muslim, theshrineof Kashmir’sfifteenth-century patron saint, Sheikh Nuruddin, wasburned down in 1995 during thefighting. In Kashmir, Islam escaped the taint it acquired elsewherein thesubcontinent from forced conversionsand temple-destroying during theseveral centuriesofinvasions and conquests by Muslims from Arabiaand Central Asia. It cameto thevalley in thefourteenth century by way of Central Asian and Persian missionaries, and, blending well with earlierHindu and Buddhist cultures, took on auniquely Kashmiri character;; it wasto becomeknown not for invaders, but fortheSufi saints whom both Hindus and Muslimsrevered. Sheikh Nuruddin wasoneof theearliest and greatest of thesesaints.

It wasn’t clearwho started thefire: theguerrillas, somefrom Pakistan, who, contemptuous of thepacificism of Sufi Islam, had turned theshrineinto abunker, or the Indian army, which had laid asiegearound theshrine. But thedestruction was international news, and for somemonthsvariousKashmiri political and religiousoutfits aswell asthegovernment repeatedly promised to rebuild theshrinevery fast.

Fiveyearslater, when I visited them, Charar-e-Sharif and its inhabitantsappeared overtaken by eventsin thevalley. Therebuilding amounted to an ungainly corrugated-iron roof over unpainted walls in themiddleof aslushy field. A lot of money had been collected from shocked devotees;; thegovernment had pitched in;; but littlework was done, thefundsforit disappearing, aswith all delayed reconstruction projects, into many pockets.

Thepart ofthetown that had been destroyed and partly rebuilt wasstill amessof rubble and open guttersand uncollected garbage. A few new housesand shopshad comeup: small, bare, windowlessrooms, often with plasticsheetsas doors, whereancient men sat embroidering wicker basketsfor kangri(thelittleearthenwarepotswith charcoal embers that Kashmiris keep undertheir pherans), their thin legsdrawn up against the walls, ahookah quietly smoldering besidethem.

Word of my presencein thetown quickly spread. Thecar, thenotebook, and thecamera had their own associationshere, and now, as I prepared to leave, about forty men appeared beforethetiny stationery storewhereI had been talking to some schoolchildren (thereareabout twenty schoolsin thethinly populated region). Themen had walked fourmilesfrom their village, acrossthehilly countryside, after hearing that an official-seeming person wasin town. Thepipesin their areahad burst and therehad been no water foreight daysnow. They had trudged to theassistant engineer’s office but had found it locked;; they had goneto thelocal policestation but hadn’t been allowed ahearing;; they werenow melting thesnow in thegulliesfor waterbut there wasn’t much snow left from thewinter. Raggedly dressed, largeholes gaping from their pherans, theirthickly bearded faceswhitewith dust, they seemed to haveemerged out of an eighteenth-or nineteenth-century sceneof wretchednessin thevalley—ofthekind that would havemadeVictor Jacquemont concludethat nowherein Indiawerethe massesaspoorand denuded as in Kashmir.

Thecontinuing backwardnessof Kashmir, its failure, or inability, to join themodern world and find new identitiesfor itself: it waswhat thecommissioner of Srinagar, an official of thecentral Indian government, had spoken to meabout at his house;; and, moreindirectly, what Abbashad said when hetold meon thevery first day I met him that hisancestors had cometo Kashmir from Samarkand in Central Asia.

Their connection to theIslamicworld outsideIndiawas often exaggerated by leadersof Indian Muslimsin thenineteenth and twentieth centuries;; it was oneway of holding on to an ideaof personal and collectiveworth amid thegeneral degradation oftheMuslim community under colonialism. What struck me, however, wasthat Abbas, whosework asacorrespondent for amajor Indian newspaper gavehim status, even prestige, in Kashmir, even needed to maketheclaim. But it was really an ideaofdignity and selfhood that hewasaffirming—an ideathat could takeon aspecial urgency among such thoroughly trampled-upon peopleastheKashmiris.

Thetroubles began, Kashmirissay, with foreign rule. After theMoghuls, Afghans, and Sikhs, thevalley fell in themid-nineteenth century to apetty Hindu feudal chief who had helped theBritish defeat theSikhs. TheBritish ceded theentirestate—thevalley together with Hindu-majority Jammu, and Buddhist-dominated Ladakh and the northwestern partsthat later wereto comeunder Pakistani rule, isslightly smaller than Great Britain—to theHindu feudal chieffor ameager sum of 7.5 million rupees. The saleisstill asourceofrageand shameforKashmiris.

Things didn’t improvemuch under thenew Hindu rulers. In 1877, afaminekilled one third ofthepopulation. Thousandsof underfed, underclothed Muslims died while carrying rationson their backsfor troopsin remoteHimalayan outposts. Even prostitutespaid onehundred rupees astax to themaharajah;; Muslimsfound slaughtering cows werebanished to theremoteAndaman Islands in theIndian Ocean. Muslimswererarely given jobs;; theadministration wasstaffed overwhelmingly by the small minority ofHindus(about 4 percent ofthepopulation in thevalley). The maharajah and his Hindu courtiersbuilt up fabulousprivatefortunes.

Theson of thelast Hindu maharajah ofthestate, Karan Singh, recordsaBuddha-like epiphanyinhisautobiography.1Bornin1931attheHotelMartinezinCannes,an entirefloor of which had been taken over by hisfather, hespent hischildhood in Kashmir moreor less freeof contact with Muslims and poverty. Hisfather, Hari Singh, wasfond of shooting and hunting and racing;; also, it issaid, ofLondon prostitutes. Life in his palacewasan endless search for entertainment. AsSingh writes, “Wespent hours working up lists forlunch and dinner parties, seating plan and menus.” Oncehisfather asked afriend to takeSingh around thecity and show him thekingdom hewould one day inherit. Thefriend drovehim to theMuslim majority areas, and pointed at the dilapidated buildingsand shabbily dressed men on thestreets, and said, “Theseareyour people.” Karan Singh wasastonished.

Themoreastonishing thing about this event isitsdate, in the1930s. Barely ten years later, Indiawas freeof both colonial ruleand themaharajahs;; theMuslim eliteof India wereto demand and receiveaseparatehomeland in theform of Pakistan;; and the maharajah ofKashmir, faced with achoicebetween joining Indiaor Pakistan, wasto reluctantly accedeto India, which had adopted asecular, democratic, and egalitarian constitution, giving to Indiansanew ideaof themselves, of theirpast and potential.

But such wasthecourseofIndian history until then that it wasmostly Hinduswho took up theseopportunities, who saw in modern education and themodern world the possibilities of personal and communal development. TheMuslimsof India, whose political power had been comprehensively destroyed by theBritish, and many ofwhose leadersremained trapped by fantasiesof recapturing their old glory in India, took some timebeforeeven attempting to catch up with theHindus.

In all thistime, theMuslimsof Kashmir, cut off from largerevents and trendsin British-ruled India, and held down by thetiny Hindu minority ofrulersand administrators, werebarely ableto moveat all. Illiteracy and poverty werewidespread;; political opposition to theHindu maharajah wasmet with brutality. Asin India, afew educated Muslimswereleft to carry theburden of their country’shumiliation and backwardness.


  1. 1 Thiswas oneof themany random unclaimed incidentsof violencein thevalley where no onecould say who might havebeen responsible.


  2. 2 In April thisyear, almost threeweeks afterthekillings, theBJP-backed local government in Kashmir reluctantly announced an investigation and DNA identification testsforthebodies, but no onein Kashmir expectsanything to comeout ofit. Even the DNA test results, which haveyet to beannounced, cannot betrusted. Last year, a disinterred corpsewasidentified by Indian DNA testersasthat ofaBritish tourist kidnapped and killed in 1995, along with threeother Western tourists, allegedly by a Pakistan-based guerrillaoutfit, whileDNA testsin England contradicted this.


    1. 3 Thisclueappeared, but could also havebeen invented by theSikhs, to ruleout the involvement of Muslims. ThKashmiTimes, which isedited and owned by non-


    2. Kashmiri Hindus, and ispossibly themost reliablesourceof information about the valley, reported on March 26 that someofthevillagersinitially claimed that thekillers wereclean-shaven, diminutive, and dark-complexioned, which makesthem seem very unliketheguerrillas.
  3. 4 See ThKashmiTimes, June28, 2000.


  4. 5 See ThKashmiTimes, August 4 and 7, 2000.


  5. 6 TheIndian government hereseemsto beadopting a tacticthat hassuccessfully marginalized what wasoncethelargest and most popular guerrillagroup in Kashmir, thesecularJammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, which declared acease-firein themid-1990s, went nowherein itstalkswith theIndian government, and wasquickly pushed into irrelevanceby moreassertiveIslamicgroupsliketheHizbul Mujahideen.


  6. 7 See ThNeYorTimes, "Pakistan OutlinesPlansto Curb Militant Networks," June 10, 2000, and "South AsiaCalled Major Terror Hub in aSurvey by US," April 30, 2000.


  7. 8 See "TheIceMelts, But Slowly," Outlook, August 14, 2000.


  8. 9 See ThAsiaAge, August 9, 2000, and, August 8, 2000.


  1. 10 Someof themoreuseful bookson thesubject are: SumantraBose, ThChallengiKashmi(New Delhi: Sage, New Delhi, 1997);; Sumit Ganguly, ThCrisiinKashmi(CambridgeUniversity Press, 1997);; Balraj Puri, KashmirTowardInsurgenc(Delhi: Orient Longman, 1995);; Ajit Bhattacharjea, KashmirThWoundedValle(Delhi: UBS, 1994);; VictoriaSchofield, KashmiiConflic(I.B. Tauris, 2000).


  2. 11 Autobiograph(Oxford University Press, India, 1997).



The Birth of a Nation



TheMuslims of Indiawerelateto embracetheinadvertent benefitsofcolonial rulein thenineteenth century: theaccessto themodern world that Western-styleeducation provided to theHindus and that created apan-Indian intelligentsia—peoplelikeGandhi, Nehru, and Tagore—who went on to assumetheleadership of thefreedom movement. Many oftheMuslim leadersstill dreamed of reviving thepower and glory of Muslim ruleover India, which theBritish had comprehensively destroyed. Asindependence from colonial rulebegan to appear apossibility in theearly twentieth century, many educated Muslims began to know new anxieties about their people’sinferiority vis-à-vis both theBritish and theHindus.

It is no coincidencethat theperson who articulated best thefearsand frustrations of Indian MuslimswasaKashmiri, Mohammad Iqbal, oneof themost important Muslim philosophical thinkers of modern times. Iqbal wasborn in 1876 in what isnow Pakistan to an illiteratefamily of shawl peddlers and tailors. Hisparentsmanaged to send him to school and college, wherehedid very well. Hewasalready famous for his poetry when hewent to Cambridgein theearly yearsof thetwentieth century to study philosophy.

Iqbal followed many other Indians in being deeply impressed by theprogressmadeby Europein thenineteenth century;; theideaof individual struggleand fulfillment, and the related ideaof theindividual’sresponsibilitiesto society and thenation, could not but comeas arevelation to peoplefrom listless subject communities. Iqbal cameto admire Nietzsche. Theideaof theSuperman, of self-creation and self-assertion, spoketo him in thepowerful way it alwayshasto peoplefrom colonized countries. But hewasalso disturbed by racism and hypercompetitiveness, and whilein Europe, struggling with the complex mix of admiration, fear, and insecurity theplacearoused, hebecameeven more awareof hisMuslim identity. Thehistory of Islam acquired new meaningsfor him;; from aship thesighting of Sicily, thesetting of oneof Islam’s greatest triumphsin Europe, could makehim weep.

Hecameback to Indiaconvinced, likemany Indiansbeforehim, that theprogressofhis community lay not in imitating Europebut in reforming and reviving thereligion he had been born into. To this end, hebegan to exalt masculinevigor and thegreat Islamic past in his writings. Hebecameadetermined criticof Sufism, ofthemystical and folk traditionswithin Islam that advocatetherejection oftheego and theself, and that had found such ahospitablehomein his ancestral Kashmir. Hesaw thesetraditionsas emasculating Muslims, making them inadequatebeforetheoutstanding tasksdemanded of theself and of thelargerIslamiccommunity.

Iqbal’sideasabout Islam in Indiahad to havepolitical ramifications. Politics itselfat that timeof colonial oppression was primarily aquest fordignity, an assertion of identity first, and then only secondarily an attempt at creating new institutions. As such, it could not beseparated from religion, from thelarger sense of ashared cultureand past which wasthebeginning of thepolitical senseforall deprived and subjugated peoples. If, as Iqbal believed, Islam had weakened itself by mingling with thelocal traditionsof Hinduism, its original purity under thedemocracy established by thefirst four caliphs couldn’t berecovered within an Indiadominated by Hindus. TrueIslam, asIqbal conceived it, could bereinstated only ifIndian Muslimsformed aseparatenation. The ideawhich Iqbal put forward at an important political meeting of Muslims in 1930 was thebeginning ofthetwo-nation theoryå?which, seventeen years later, worked itselfout in thepartition of Indiaand thecreation of Pakistan.


For most Hindusin India, Iqbal isthemisguided instigatorofthemovement for Pakistan. Ihadn’t really thought of him in connection with Kashmir until recently, when I met Dr. Mohammad Ishaq Khan in Srinagar, theKashmiri capital. Dr. Khan teaches medieval history at Kashmir University in Srinagar, and hasdonepioneering work on Islam’s acculturation in theHindu-Buddhist environment of Kashmir. Heisa small, round-faced man, gentlein demeanor;; hespeaksslowly, as if unaccustomed to talking much of hiswork, but in clearqualified sentencesthat indicateaquietly active mind. During thepast decade, theyearsof theinsurgency, when theuniversity ceased to function, hehas donehis best work: abook on thespiritual dimensionsof Islam that stressed thecontemplativeaspects of thefaith overtheideological ones.1

In oneof theKashmiri newspapersI read during arecent visit to Kashmir—pages that werefull of bad newsbut alwaysoffering something lively in theireditorial pages—I read apieceby Dr. Khan describing hisrecent visit to Pakistan. Hehad met many Kashmiris settled there;; but hehad stayed away from theawkward subject ofpolitics altogether. When asked why heand other Muslim intellectualsin Kashmir weren’t involved in theanti-Indiainsurgency, hehad thought ofthePersian sufi Rumi’swords: “Theintellect isdestroyed by partial reason.”

But hedid visit Iqbal’stomb in Lahore;; and in astriking passagehedescribeshow overwhelmed hewaswith emotion asheapproached thetomb: “I couldn’t control myself. Tearsstarted pouring from my eyes.”

Dr. Khan’sallegiancewasto theSufi tradition ofKashmir, which Iqbal had rejected. Hissuspicion of Islam as ideology had only grown after theviolenceand suffering caused by theinsurgency, which oneof his own studentshad joined, someonewhom Dr. Khan remembered asdenouncing, in theway Iqbal oncehad, Sufi Islam for turning theKashmirisinto apatheticslavesof Hindu India. Thestudent had goneto Pakistan for training in themilitary campsand risen high within theleading pro-Pakistan guerrilla group, Hizbul Mujahideen, beforebeing killed in Srinagar early last year.

Iqbal’spersonal responseto Europeand Islam and themelancholy beauty of hispoetry had been reduced in theend to simpleideologies that had sent thousands of other young men to an early death. Nevertheless, theideaofIqbal astheman who had brought a hopeofredemption to theMuslims of thesubcontinent survived, and—thisis what struck me—still had thepower, many decadeslater, ofmoving even someonelikeDr. Khan, committed to theintellectual life, to tears.

It wassomewhat easierafterthat to imaginetheimpact Iqbal had on millionsof Muslims acrossIndiawith hispoetry and philosophy—something comparableto Gandhi’s influenceon theHindus;; and it wassomewhat easierto enter theIndian Muslim’ssense of dispossession, and understand how much thecharismaand persuasivepower of men likeIqbal derivefrom theraw unformed natureof their communities.

For Kashmiristheperson who cameto embody their fateageneration afterIqbal was Sheikh Abdullah, oncehailed astheLion of Kashmir, who for morethan half acentury sincetheearly 1930sremained themost popularleader of Kashmiri Muslims. His funeral in 1982 wasattended by hundredsofthousands of mourners. But eight years later, hisgravewasdesecrated—amoment that marksnot only thebeginning ofthe insurgency, but also thedeclineof thepolitics of personality in South Asia.

Abdullah’searly mentorwasIqbal, whom hehad met in 1924 in Lahore, when Iqbal wasat theheight of his fame. Iqbal had first visited Kashmir, theland of hisancestors, threeyearsbefore, and had comeaway distressed by thecondition of theMuslims: “In thebitter chill of wintershivers hisnaked body,” hewrote, “whoseskill wrapstherich inroyalshawls.”HehadjoinedtheMuslim-ownednewspapersofLahorein highlighting thefateof theKashmiris Muslim under Hindu rule: how though they formed 96 percent of thepopulation therateof literacy among them wasonly 0.8 percent.3

Iqbal wassympatheticto Abdullah, who, likehimself, camefrom afamily of poor shawl sellers, and wasoneofthefew Kashmiri Muslimswho had managed to educate themselvesup to thepoint wherethey found their way blocked by discrimination on grounds of religion: under theMaharajah, only Hindus, who wereamere4 percent of thepopulation, wereallowed to aspireto higher education and betterjobs. Abdullah had to leaveKashmir and go to Aligarh, near Delhi, wherethefirst collegeproviding Western-styleeducation exclusively to Muslims had been set up in 1875. On hisreturn to Kashmirin 1930, hehad joined asmall group of graduatestudentsfrom Aligarh who called themselvestheReading Room Party.

Barely ayear later, Kashmirwitnessed thefirst majordisturbanceagainst theautocratic ruleoftheMaharajah. A Muslim called Abdul Qadirwho wasworking asabutler for a European resident wasarrested for giving aseditiousspeech. Crowds who cameto protest at theprison gateswerearrested;; moreprotestsfollowed, and then at somepoint thepolicefired on thedemonstrators. Twenty-onepeopledied. Then theprocession carrying thebodiesfor burial becameunruly, and Hindu-owned shopsalong theroute to thegraveyard werelooted.

TheMaharajah’sHindu army cracked down morebrutally on Muslim dissenters. Abdullah spent ayearin prison with other members of theReading Room Party. When hewasreleased in 1932, heannounced theformation oftheMuslim Conference: it was thefirst organized opposition to theregimeof theMaharajah in Kashmir. Therewas a special edgeto Abdullah’s relationship with theMaharajah. No two men could have been moredissimilar: thehorse-racing Maharajah with aweaknessforfraudulent Hindu holy men, and thedevout Muslim and brilliant manipulator of themasses. In his opposition to theMaharajah, Abdullah found himselfsupported by leadersof theIndian nationalist movement against colonial rule, particularly Pandit Nehru, who under Gandhi’s patronagehad becometheunchallenged leader of theCongressParty. The friendship between Abdullah and Nehru grew fast.

Therewasaspecial reason forthat friendship. Nehru’sBrahmin ancestorscamefrom Kashmir, and had moved just afew decadesbeforehisbirth in 1889 to Delhi and Allahabad, wherethey becameoneof thefirst familiesofmodern India. Therewas alwaysan airofthesolitary visionary about Nehru. Hewassent to Harrow and Cambridgeby hisAnglophilicfather. During histimein Europehewasmuch influenced by European ideasof socialism and nationalism. Hisdiscovery ofIndiacame later and madeall themorevaluablefor him thediscovery of hisroots in Kashmir, the ancestral connection which wasdeepened by thepantheisticfeeling he, aman who disdained organized religion, had fortheHimalayas.

In 1924, Iqbal had told Abdullah that though hisbody wasconfined to Indiahissoul existed in Kashmir. Nehru camecloseto making thesameclaim in his various scattered writingson Kashmir. Hehimself visited thestateasayoung trekkerand wasenraptured. In ThContinenoCirce, Nirad Chaudhuri wroteof theHindu senseof lossassociated with theHimalayas: thecold regions theAryan settlersofNorth Indiahad comefrom, thelonging expressed by Nehru himselfwhen hewrotein hisautobiography, “And I dreamofthedaywhenIshallwanderabouttheHimalayas.”Inofficialandpersonal correspondence, Nehru kept coming back to what hehimself described ashis “partiality for Kashmir.”

That partiality took several forms, and wasto shapeIndian attitudestoward Kashmir well after hisdeath. By thetimehemet and befriended Abdullah in themid-1930s, he had already begun to put into shapehisblueprint foran independent India. In Abdullah, hesaw someonewho shared hisconviction that theold social and economicorder of India, represented by the maharajahsand big landlords, had to bedestroyed through land reforms and centralized economicplanning. Abdullah wasalso receptiveto his advocacy of secularism: it wasunderNehru’spersuasion that Abdullah changed the nameof theMuslim Conferenceto theNational Conference, and acquired agreater following among thesmall minority of Hindus in theKashmirvalley, aswell as among theHindu majority in Jammu, thesouthern part of thestate, which, though distrustful of Abdullah, found reassuring his growing proximity to Indian nationalist leaders.


As thecreation of Pakistan becameacertainty, much to theheartbreak of Gandhi and otherswho had wanted to seeaunited Indiacomeinto being, Nehru becamedetermined that Kashmir and itsMuslim majority should bepart oftheIndiahehad envisaged and so painstakingly worked toward: an Indiathat was committed to democracy, secularism, and socialism. Hewas convinced that theideaof aseparatenation fortheMuslims—the “two-nation” theory first proposed by Iqbal and embraced by thefeudal Muslim eliteof North India—wasamistake;; hedidn’t think it could solvetheprob-lem oftheMuslim community, theproblem hedefined associal and economicbackwardness. Hethought thelandlordsand mullahs who had kept theMuslim massesaway from thebenefitsof education would merely consolidatetheirpower in anew state.

Abdullah’sown view of thedemand forPakistan was morequalified and less emotional. Hefelt, as heconfessed in hisautobiography, asubconscioussympathy for it5;;hesawitasaMuslimreactionagainstHindusectarianism,whichhebelieved, despitehispersonal regard for Gandhi and Nehru, theCongress Party insidiously practiced. Indeed, hethought hecould discern strains of Hindu revivalism in Nehru’s sentimental attachment to Kashmir.

Hecould also seethat Kashmir’s Muslim-majority population and geographical location madefor anatural affinity with thenew stateof Pakistan being carved out from the western, aswell aseastern, partsof British India. At thesametime, hefelt himself out of sympathy with themen leading theagitation forPakistan, particularly Mohammad Ali Jinnah, thepork-eating barrister from Bombay, who did not disguisehiscontempt for theKashmirisand yet assumed that thestatewith itsMuslim majority had no option but to join thenew homeland for Indian Muslims. Abdullah also feared that thepoor Muslimsof Kashmir would get abad deal in thefeudal setup of Pakistan. So it was that in theyears leading up to thepartition of IndiaAbdullah cameto think ofindependence and democracy as thebest option for Kashmir.

Thesameidea, without of coursethedemocracy bit, had struck theMaharajah, who, as thetimeof British withdrawal from Indiacamenearer, was faced, astheruler of the largest of the562 states under British paramountcy, with achoicebetween Indiaand Pakistan.

TheMaharajah’sautocraticwayscontinued aslocal opposition to him intensified. In 1946, heput Abdullah and othermembers of theNational Conferencein prison for running ahighly popular “Quit Kashmir” campaign against him. Nehru’s support for Abdullah had already alienated theMaharajah from theIndian leadership;; Gandhi’s questioning thelegitimacy of hisruleover Kashmir, which had its dubiousorigin in a saledeed in 1846 between theMaharajah’sancestorsand theBritish, madehim more receptiveto emissaries from Pakistan who began to visit him with greaterfrequency. Thepartition ofIndiawasthreemonthsold and hewasstill talking with both Indian and Pakistan representatives, hoping to buy timeand preservehisregime, when aquick seriesof events forced him to act.

Violenceand rioting during Partition had affected thesouthern part of theMaharajah’s state, whereSikh refugeesfrom Pakistan joined Hindu nationalistsand members of the Maharajah’spolicein attacking Muslims. Tensof thousandsof Muslimswerekilled. (Half acentury later, Iheard an old Sikh speak of thesemurderswith prideat Chitisinghpura, theKashmir villagewherein March thisyear thirty-fiveSikhs were massacredbyunidentifiedgunmen.)ManymoreMuslimsfledtoPakistan,wherethe newsof theirsuffering outraged thealwaysvery volatileMuslim tribesmen of the northwestern provinces on thePakistan borderinto declaring jihad against the Maharajah. In oneofthe impetuousand confused actionsthat inaugurated and forever marked thePakistani position on Kashmir, afew officersofthePakistani army provided aragtag army ofjihad-minded tribalswith armsand helped them acrosstheborder into Kashmir—all thisat thetimewhen thePakistan government was still trying to win over theMaharajah to join Kashmirwith Pakistan.

TheMaharajah’sarmy wasno match for theenergetictribal forces, who advanced swiftly through thenorthwest partsof Kashmir;; an oldergeneration ofKashmirisstill remembersthekillingsand looting and rapesthat they committed on theirway to Srinagar. TheMaharajah panicked asthey camecloserand closer. Hisson, Karan Singh, describesinhisautobiographythemomentwhenthelightswentoutinthepalace— theinvadershad destroyed thepower station—and thenoiseof howling jackals suddenly arosein thedarknessand silence. TheMaharajah appealed to theIndian government for military assistance;; but thelegalisticresponsefrom Delhi was that the Indian army could enter Kashmir only after thestate had formally acceded to India. Therewasno choicenow for theMaharajah. Asthetribal army drew nearer to Srinagar, hefled thecity for theHindu-dominated city of Jammu, wherehewent to bed after instructing his aide-de-camp to shoot him in his sleep iftheIndian government’s representativedidn’t turn up with theinstrument ofaccession. Heneverreturned to Kashmir and died in far-off Bombay in 1962.

TheIndian army finally arrived in Srinagarin lateOctober 1947, and itsoffensive against theinvaders becameafull-fledged war with Pakistan that lasted morethan a year. A cease-firewaseventually declared under theauspicesof theUN on January 1, 1949, by which timethe Indian army had driven theinvadersout of thevalley. However, thenorthwestern part of theprincely state, which isdifferent, culturally and socially, from theKashmir valley and closerto theMuslim Punjab, remained under Pakistani control, and, though named Azad (Free) Kashmirå?iseffectively as much a part ofPakistan asthevalley isof India.

It wasSheikh Abdullah, released from prison just threeweeks beforetheinvasion, who had organized thedefenseofSrinagar. TheNational Conferencecameout in support of theIndian army. Abdullah not only endorsed theaccession to India, but also worked up popularKashmiri support for it, which wasn’t hard sincetheatrocities committed by the tribal army had put fearofPakistan in theKashmiris, and thisfear took along timeto fade.

In retrospect, thetribal invasion seems to havespoiled everything. Now theissueof Kashmir acquired adegreeof complication from which it neverrecovered.

Nehru took thedisputeto theUN on January 1, 1948, and offered to hold aplebiscite under international auspicesto confirm theaccession to India. Thissounds generous given that Nehru already had what hewanted: physical control of thevalley. But Nehru also wanted thelegitimacy of popularsupport for Indian ruleover Kashmir. He was confident that, with Sheikh Abdullah on hisside, Indiawould win aplebiscitein Kashmir.

As thingsturned out, theIndian offer ofaplebisciteunderthesupervision of theUN wasnever redeemed. Therewas no withdrawal of theIndian and Pakistan armiesfrom Kashmir, which had to beachieved beforetheplebiscitecould takeplace, and theissue got bogged down in various legalitiesastheyearspassed. Pakistan remained in occupation of onethird ofthestate, and denounced theaccession to Indiaasfraudulent sincein itsview theMaharajah had surrendered all authority by fleeing Srinagar after the Muslimsrebelled. TheIndians kept dismissing theclaim and saying that it wasPakistan that had acted illegally by invading thestateand frequently raised therhetorical ante—as they still do—by saying that theonly unresolved issuefor Indiawas thereturn of Pakistan-occupied territories.

Positions hardened on both sidesas thecold war cameto thesubcontinent. The State Department under John Foster Dulles alwayssuspected Nehru of being soft on communism, and wasopenly contemptuous of hisnon-aligned position. TheUS drew closer to Pakistan, which it included, in themid-1950s, in such military treaties as CENTO and SEATO. Thisfurtherstiffened Nehru’sposition on Kashmir;; therewasno moretalk of aplebiscite. TheSoviet Union under Khrushchev becameaconsistent supporter of Nehru’sline, which becametheofficial Indian line, that Kashmirwasan integral part of India, and thusnot subject to any international arbitration. Thecease-fire linebetween Indiaand Pakistan in Kashmir, called theLineofControl (LOC), becamea defacto international border.

Thiswould havebeen theend ofthedispute: thestatus quo accepted by all parties asan unalterablereality. Certainly, in thoseearly years, thepopulationsin both Indian-and Pakistani-held Kashmir seemed content to bewherethey were. Sheikh Abdullah was now in charge, and almost thefirst thing hedid in hisfivedifficult yearsasprime minister of Kashmir from 1948 to 1953 was to initiateaseriesof ambitiousland reforms whereby ownership rightsto landsin excessof twelveand ahalf acres wereabolished. In effect, thismeant taking land away from theHindu landlords and distributing it among poor Muslim tenants. It wasamini-revolution, and it assured Abdullah the gratitudeand support of two generations of Kashmiri Muslims.

But lessthan four decadeslater, Kashmiriswereto takeup arms for thefirst timein their long history;; Indiawas to faceapopularinsurgency in Kashmir, and comecloseto nuclear war with Pakistan. Thegraveof Sheikh Abdullah, eight yearsafter hiscrowded funeral, wasto requireround-the-clock protection from vandals.


Jinnah’s demand for Pakistan had innocuousbeginnings: from being adesirefor a guaranteeof Muslim rightsin aHindu-majority India, it developed into ademand for a confederation ofIndiawhereMuslims would not haveminority statusbut would share power with Hindus. However, theHindu leadersof theCongressParty, so closeto achieving real political power forthefirst time, werein no mood to shareit.

Theclumsily partitioned provincestoward theeastern and thewestern bordersofIndia weren’t what Jinnah hasasked for—therewerealmost asmany Muslimsin Indiaas in thenew stateof Pakistan—but it wasall theCongresswasprepared to part with. In the end, with theBritish impatient to depart and hustling everyoneelse, it was theCongress that waseager to settlefor partition in order to consolidateitshold on themuch bigger Hindu-majority provincesand theinstitutionsofthe colonial state—thearmy, the bureaucracy, and thepolice—that wereits great inheritancefrom theBritish.

Among thepeoplewho took aharder lineasaresult ofthedemand for partition was Nehru, who, for most of alifetimespent fighting theBritish, had never accepted theidea of Pakistan, and had held on to theideaof aunited multicultural India. Thebloodshed that accompanied thepartition cameasabigger blow to him;; hewasnow more convinced than ever of theneed to have, in thecolonial way, astrong central government for India, with aslittleautonomy aspossiblefor thediversecommunities that constituted it. Hewas to regard all regional assertiveness—and therewasmuch of that acrossIndiain theFifties—with suspicion. National unity, along with secularism, becamehis mantra, which was taken up by almost all political parties, and echoed by the colonial bureaucracy that was keen on holding onto its own power.

It washard, nevertheless, to keep down sectarian demandsin acountry as diverseas India, whereindependencehad released anew longing for self-expression, where millionsof previously disfranchised peoplecould find apolitical voiceonly through the community they wereborn to. A lesser leaderwould haveproved disastrous here. Nehru dealt astutely with thedemandsfor alinguisticreorganization of India, which in theSouth Indian stateof Tamil Nadu, for example, had developed into amovement for outright secession. Heused acarrot-and-stick policy—amix of limited democracy and staterepression—to pacify variousregional groups and keep them within India.

But hisown emotional connection with Kashmir madehim wield abig stick therewith Sheikh Abdullah, who, soon after becoming primeminister, had comeup against the problemsofrunning alargemulti-ethnic, multi-religious state—problemsnot unlike thoseNehru himself faced, but which Abdullah was much lessequipped to deal with. Hewas primarily theleader of theMuslimsof theKashmir valley, who represented the majority ofthestate’s population, 53 percent. But therewerealso theinfluential Hindu majority in Jammu to thesouth, who resented Abdullah’sradical politics, and the Buddhists of Ladakh, who wereworried about thepower of thevalley’sMuslims.

As usually happens, thelack of apolitical opposition, partly ensured by Nehru, turned Abdullah into an authoritarian ruler. Impressed by theSoviet model, hemadetheparty inseparablefrom theadministration;; and, astheaggrieved toneof his letters to Nehru shows, heinterpreted all opposition to him as an attempt to underminehispersonal authority, and, by extension, theright of theKashmiri Muslimsto run thestateafter centuriesof foreign rule.

When theHindu nationalists in Jammu, theforebearsof theBJP (BharatiyaJanata Party), which dominatesthecurrent Indian government, organized in theearly 1950s thedispossessed landlordsand followersof thesulking Maharajah into amovement for greater integration with India, Abdullah becamemoreinsecure. Hehad bargained hard with theIndian government to preservethestatefrom excessiveinterferenceby New Delhi;; Kashmir, heargued, needed special guaranteesfor theprotection of its autonomy. Henow revived his ideaofan independent Kashmir, bringing it up with, among other visiting diplomats, Adlai Stevenson in 1953.

Thiswas disturbing news for Nehru. Henow felt Abdullah moving away from him and toward acourseof action that waslikely to end in India’slosing Kashmir, and losing with it itssecular credentials. Hewas quick to act: Abdullah wasdismissed in 1953 and put in prison, wherehestayed, initially without trial, forall but four months of thenext eleven years.

Thissoundsrather unbecoming of Nehru, who by then wasknown internationally asa statesman. But national unity had becomehisobsession. Hehad praised Abdullah’s land reforms;; hehad ensured that no political opposition to Abdullah could grow in the state;; hehad offered personal friendship to him. But now Abdullah was working against the “national interest.” Thesupport and dismissal ofAbdullah wasconsistent with Nehru’s belief that politicsin Kashmir revolved around personalities. It waswhat hehad told an activist who wasarguing forademocraticopposition to Abdullah: therewas, Nehru asserted, “no material for democracy in Kashmir.”8

Theother side, then, of Nehru’s enchantment with Kashmir wasafear of losing control, apossessiveness that hegradually transformed into anational imperative: Kashmir, he began to argue, couldn’t beseparated from Indiawithout exposing theMuslimsin the rest of Indiato retaliation from Hindu fanatics. You still hear aversion ofthis ideain liberal circlesin India: that communal riotsof thesamescaleand intensity asthose during thepartition of Indiaarearound thecorner if Kashmir isallowed to break away.

And then, in 1953, an old protégéof Abdullah named Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed took over as primeminister of Kashmir, and did everything Nehru wanted to constitutionally integrate Kashmir into India. Promisesofautonomy madeearlier to Abdullah werecancelled;; and fearofviolencecameto dictateIndian policy.

Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed washimselfsidelined after serving ten yearsastheIndia-approved primeminister of Kashmir, and was imprisoned in 1965 when hesought to undermineanIndia-backedchiefminister.KashmirwithoutSheikhAbdullahreverted to being what it wasforcenturiesunder Mughal rule: adependency, itsfatecontrolled by adistant great power whoserepresentativescould do what they wished to aslong as no onerocked theboat. Its political life, which had really only begun with Abdullah, cameto bedominated by small men with small aimsofpersonal empowerment and enrichment, by constant intriguesand betrayals.

Elections wereheld periodically in order to demonstratebeforetheworld thedemocratic natureof theDelhi-imposed regime. But they werefarcically rigged: thenomination papers of opposition parties would berejected or their candidates beaten up and arrested;; theNational Conferencewon most electionsunopposed. A concerned Nehru had to tell Mohammed that it might look better ifhewereto loseafew electionsto afew “bona-fideopponents.”1Thecentralgovernmentpouredmoneyintothestatefor development and education;; and, for afew Kashmirisat least, thestakesfor holding on to power went higher. A new eliteofpoliticiansand bureaucratsemerged out of the cultureofcorruption that grew around theadministration.


As in thehistory of any dependency and its court politics, what you cometo missin accountsof Kashmir isasenseof thepeople, theway lifewent on in thevillagesand towns. Oneof theimages that comesto mind isof thecorrupt government official in his largehouse, hissonsstudying in thebest collegesofIndia. Theother imageis of the peasant in his ricefield and mud hut, living as depressed alifeas hewaswhen, in 1831, theFrench botanist Victor Jacquemont visited theregion and found it themost wretched in all ofthesubcontinent.

But theimagealtersas you read about therisein literacy levelsin thestate. In all likelihood, today thepeasant’sson hasgoneto school—oneof thehundredsopened by theIndian government—and has even goneup to thenew university or themedical and engineering colleges;; thepeasant himself hasn’t donebadly with his appleorchards— horticulturestill forms themainstay of theeconomy.

In lessthan two decades, thepeasant’s son hasbecomeready forajob, but then finds that hisoptions arevery limited. Modern education hastaken him away from alifein thericefields or theappleorchards;; but thereisno local industry in thevalley. Theonly jobsareto behad with thegovernment;; and herehe findshimself excluded by the cultureofbribery and nepotism. In India, hefindshimself aforeigner, likely to be discriminated against on groundsof religion;; it isnot easy foraMuslim to find ajob or rent ahousein aHindu-dominated region.

It is thissenseof ablocked futurethat educated Kashmiriscameto have, along with the realization, hammered into them by repeatedly rigged elections, of their political impotence, that eventually led to theinsurgency in theearly 1990s.

In 1975, out of jail and onceagain chief minister of thestate, Abdullah entered into an arrangement with theIndian government whereby hepromised to giveup thedemand for self-determination in exchangefor becoming what other men beforehim had been: a satrap of theIndian statein Kashmir.

Therewasadownsideto thetotal investment of faith invited by charismaticindividuals likeIqbal, Abdullah, even Nehru. In theabsenceof institutions, thewelfareof acountry comesto depend on afew favored ideas, and, moredangerously, on personal temperament. Thesuccessorfailureof individualshas consequences, sometimes damaging, for many futuregenerations. With Iqbal, thedanger alwayswasthat his followerswould go for thesimplest and most emotional oftheideashewastrying out in his mind;; and after thefirst flurry ofland reforms, Abdullah wasn’t ableto offer anything moreto Kashmiristhan his formidablerhetoricand theglamorousmyth of the prisoner of conscience.

A few monthsbeforehedied, Abdullah, in thestyleof third world dynasts, anointed as hissuccessor hisson, aUK-based doctor. Farooq Abdullah, inexperienced but enthusiastic, had barely begun when heran into problems with IndiraGandhi, who had by then evolved herown authoritarian style. In 1975 shebrought herfather’sanxiety about national unity to anew hysterical pitch as shearrested opposition leaders for being “anti-national” and suspended fundamental rights.

In Kashmir, Mrs. Gandhi found herselfthwarted by Farooq Abdullah, who refused her offerofan election alliancebetween her party, theCongress, and theNational Conference. Abdullah’svictory in theelectionsof1983, and subsequent hobnobbing with otherpoliticiansopposed to her, madeMrs. Gandhi determined to get rid ofhim. Her tacticshereresembled thoseof thecolonial state, something theBritish had employed to great effect: encouraging religioussectarianism in orderto downplay regional disaffection with thecentral government. In Punjab, shehad built up Bhindranwale, an illiterateSikh preacher, asacounterweight to theprovince’santi-Congressgovernment;; thepreacher subsequently turned into amurderousdemagogue and declared war on India. Undeterred by thesetback in Punjab, sheset to work on building up an atmosphereofHindu jingoism over theissueofKashmir.

A few stray anti-Indiademonstrationsand violent incidents wereheld up as evidenceof Farooq Abdullah’sunreliability. TheIndian press, which fordecadeshad faithfully followed thegovernment lineon Kashmir, went along with Mrs. Gandhi. Not that the Hindu middleclasses needed much persuasion. By then Nehruvian nationalism had begun to degenerateinto Hindu nationalism, into asearch forexternal and internal enemies—theenemies who, when they werenot the CIA orPakistan, invariably belonged to theminority community, whether Sikh, as in thecaseof Punjab, or Muslim. Themass murder arranged by Congress leadersof 3,000 Sikhs in Delhi after Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination in 1984 cameout of that frenzy of Hindu xenophobiaMrs. Gandhi had herself encouraged.

Abdullah’selected government wasillegally dismissed in 1984 by Jagmohan, a governor specially appointed by Mrs. Gandhi after shifting theprevious governor, who had refused to moveagainst Abdullah, out of Kashmir. Thenew government, madeup of defectors from Farooq Abdullah’sparty, theNational Conference, had to imposea curfew for seventy-two out ofitsfirst ninety daysin officein orderto keep down public agitation against it. Then, in early 1986, Jagmohan dismissed thegovernment and took charge.

During his tenureasgovernor of thestateof Jammu and Kashmir in theEighties and then again in theearly Nineties, Jagmohan did morethan anyoneelseto provoke insurgency in thestate. Hecameto beknown asapro-Hindu bureaucrat during Mrs. Gandhi’s Emergency when hesent bulldozersinto Muslim slum coloniesin Delhi as part ofan attempted “beautification” of thecity. In Kashmir, an isolated statewith a docilepopulation alwaysseeming ready to betrampled upon, hewas no moresubtle.

Hesaw thedistinct cultural identity of Kashmiras something that had to beundermined beforethestatecould join what in Indiaisreferred to, without irony, asthe “national mainstream.” With thisall-subsuming ideain mind, hesought to imposeapeculiarly Hindu modernity on thestate, wheretheunrestricted saleof alcohol waspermitted but Muslimswereforbidden to slaughter sheep on aHindu festival day—apointlessact sinceno prohibitionson meat exist forKashmiri Hindus. Thenumber of Muslimsbeing recruited in government servicewent down. TheHindu nationalistsareknown to admiretheresettlement policiesfollowed by theIsraeli government in theoccupied territoriesin the1970s, and Jagmohan may havebeen inspired by them in encouraging non-Muslimsto work in Kashmir.

Thebacklash wasnot long in coming: what acolonized peoplefear most is the possibility of being swallowed up by thedominant alien culturein their midst;; that’s why theBritish had left thegreat religionsof thesubcontinent and theirmany subculturesmoreorless untouched. Asin Algeria, Iran, and Egypt, anxiety about modernization, cultural influencesfrom elsewhere, and rampant unemployment turned, becauseofJagmohan, into an anxiety about religion: thenotion that not only Muslims but Islam itself wasin danger—thesamefearthat had led many Indian Muslims in the mid-1940sto suddenly embrace, afteryears of relativeindifferencetoward it, theideaof Pakistan.

Thepopularity of Islamist partiesgrew and grew all through the1980s, helped by the growth of madrassas, theprivately owned theology schools which wereoften run by Muslimsfrom Assam in eastern India, overathousand milesaway, wheremasskillings of Muslims in theearly Eighties had forced theirmigration to Kashmir. TheseMuslims from outsideKashmirbrought their own fundamentalist variety of Islam to thevalley: theclerics suddenly wanted to imposenew prohibitions restricting women’s rights;; they wished to ban Bombay filmsand beauty parlors.

TheIslamist partiescametogether to fight theelections of 1987, in which Abdullah teamed up with theCongress. Just threeyears after being thrown out by theCongress, Farooq Abdullah decided hecouldn’t do anything in Kashmir without thesupport of theruling party. But his power-sharing arrangement with theCongress wasseen as anotherhumilia-tion for Kashmir. To no one’ssurprise, hewon theelections, and Kash-mirisstill talk about theactiverigging that went on by Indian election officials. Opposition candidatescomfortably in thelead suddenly found themselves defeated;; candidatesand polling agents werebeaten up and tortured. Syed Salahuddin, thecurrent leaderofHizbul Mujhadeen, theleading Pakistan-based guerrillaoutfit, wasimprisoned after having nearly won his race.

“Thereisno material therefordemocracy”: theexpressed contempt of Nehru’sbelief, amplified overtime, at last began to affect anew generation ofKashmiris, theyoung, educated sonsofpeasants and artisansalready reduced to futileresentment by corruption and unemployment. It was also around thistimethat thefirst groups of young Kashmiri men, most of them highly educated, someeven with engineering degrees, and almost all of them jobless, stoleacrossthevast open border into Pakistan.


Theyoung men werereceived by middle-level army officersin Pakistan, and set up well, with salariesand privatehousing. They weretrained in theuseof light weapons for somemonths;; many of them wereasked to return to thevalley and bring back more young men. Other recruitssmuggled armsand ammunition into thevalley. Slowly, the trafficacrosstheborder grew: in lessthan threeyearsthousandsof young Kashmiri men had been acrosstheborder, wherethey formed thefirst guerrillagroupsthat began awar of liberation in 1990.

Pakistan wasanatural choice. It had tried to liberateKashmir by forcetwiceby sending in armed infiltrators—first in 1948 and then in 1965—and on both occasions had failed to musterenough support among thelocal population, which, though not entirely happy with Indian rule, wasalso wary ofPakistan. But thefast-growing disillusionment with Indian rulethrough the1980smademany Kashmirislook toward Pakistan for assistance: it wastheonly country in theworld that consistently affirmed, at least rhetorically, theKashmiri “right to self-determination.”

For thePakistani army officerswho received theKashmiris, thecreation and support of theguerrillagroupsrequired no expertise;; they had donesimilarthings, on amuch largerscale, for themujahideen fighting theSoviet army in Afghanistan since1979. Most of them worked fortheISI (Inter-Services Intelligence)which was set up to coordinatethewar effort in Afghanistan with theCIA, and had cometo haveavery largeextra-constitutional rolein Pakistan.

Thearmy’s control ofPakistan had never weakened sincethelast monthsof 1947, when thewar with Indiaover Kashmir turned thenew country, lacking the administrativecenter or theinfrastructureof theformercolonial government, into a national security state, with over 70 percent of thenational budget being spent on defense. Ethnicand linguisticaffinitieshavealwaysbeen stronger than religion in the subcontinent, and Islam turned out to beaweak nation-building gluein Pakistan. The feudal and professional Muslim elite’sfear of being overwhelmed by Hindu India mutated into an anxiety about theassertion ofethnicidentities in Sind, Baluchistan, and East Pakistan. Theneed to pacify ethnicminoritieswhileaffirming thepowerofthe central government—atricky maneuver which in astronger and moredemocraticstate likeIndiahad ended up promoting political life—only further expanded theroleof the army and thebureaucracy in Pakistan.

In 1979, when theSoviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan was thirty-two years old, and still without acoherent political life. Just eight yearsbefore, it had suffered the traumaticsecession of East Pakistan with its largeBengali Muslim population, which became, with India’sassistance, Bangladesh. It wasruled despotically by an army general, Zia-ul-Haq, who had just hanged hisformerprimeminister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and theprimitiveeconomy with atiny manufacturing basewaspropped up by export of cheap labor to theMiddleEast.

TheCIA found Pakistan aready host for itsproxy war against theSoviet Union. Billionsof dollarsworth of arms and ammunition arrived in Pakistan over thenext ten years, transforming thesocial and political landscapeof theentireregion whilecreating a strong Islamicfundamentalist movement all around theworld.

Thearmswent to themujahideen fighting theSoviet army, and theirsalein theblack market wasalso used to financean illegal drug trade—adisastrous link that eventually resulted in, apart from cheap heroin on thestreetsof New York, an estimated five million heroin addictsin Pakistan. Thearmy wasbrought into thecivil administration, and organizationsliketheISI acquired their currently limitlessand sinisterpower during thistime.

Most damagingly, Zia-ul-Haq revived theideaofan Islamicsociety in order to postpone thetransition to civilian rulehehad promised soon after his coup against Bhutto. The statefundsthat weremadeavailableto Islamicorganizationswent into raising armed outfitsthat attacked Muslim minorities such astheShi’itesand theAhmediyas;; and violent conflict within rival Islamicgroupsbrokeout in many partsof thecountry.

Of thethreemillion Afghanswho cameasrefugeesto Pakistan, many went to the provinceof Sind, wherelocal opposition to their presencedeveloped into aparticularly savagecivil war in Karachi, thelargest city. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees weregiven food, shelter, and elementary Islamicinstruction at madrassarun by an Islamicorganization closeto thePakistani army and sponsored by Saudi Arabia. It was thestudentsat these madrassathat, assisted by Pakistan, went on to form theextremist Taliban that now controlsmuch of Afghanistan.

TheSoviet retreat from Afghanistan in 1989 wasclaimed as avictory by the fundamentalists. Thefantasy of anew extensivejihad, such astheonein theseventh and eighth centuriesthat had established Islam as aworld religion, attracted thousands of Muslimsfrom countrieslikeEgypt, Algeria, Yemen, and Sudan to Pakistan. It was one of thesemen who attempted to blow up theWorld TradeCenter in New York in 1993. Thisglobalized jihad, which began asaCIA-initiated moveto uniteall Muslimsagainst godlesscommunism, found new promotersafter 1989, such asOsamaBin Laden, whosenetwork of Muslim militants now spanstheworld. Many of theMuslimstrained in Afghanistan went on to becomeleading activistswithin Islamicfundamentalist movementsin Egypt, Algeria, and theCentral Asian republics.

In Pakistan, about ahundred thousand unemployed men went to fight thejihad in Afghanistan;; and afew thousand among them would go on to fight in Kashmir. The Pakistani army itself was infiltrated by Islamicfundamentalists;; and thereisaquitereal possibility at present of thesefundamentalistsseizing political power in anuclear-armed Pakistan. Thereareother equally ruinousaftereffects of theAmerican-Pakistani adventurein Afghanistan. ThegenerousAmerican and Saudi Arabian support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan created and enriched apowerful lobby composed ofarmy officers, smugglers, and drug barons, whosespecial, often conflicting, needsnow shape Pakistan’s domesticand foreign policies, and usually work against Pakistan’s own larger interests.11

Jihad alonebringsabout adegreeof consensusamong Pakistan’scorrupt ruling elite;; holy war isnow thevery profitableraison d’êtreof many of them. AsthePakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid pointsout in hisalarming book, when American interest in Afghanistan dwindled in theearly 1990s theISI turned itsattention to thelongstanding disputeover Kashmir, which had alwaysaroused much patrioticsentiment within Pakistan.1Allthroughthe1990s,theuprisingagainstIndianruleinKashmir,andthe hecticmobilization by theintelligenceofficersof theISIfor afresh jihad against India, camein especially handy as distractionsfrom themany social and economic breakdownswithin Pakistan.

Indiawasalwaysthesignificant enemy. Thewar over Bangladesh with Indiain 1971 had ended in utter humiliation for thePakistani army, with 90,000 ofitssoldierstaken prisoner;; and revengemotivated many ISIofficersasmuch astheneed to keep pressing thehot button of jihad. Onereason why American arms and money forthemujahideen in Afghanistan wereso eagerly accepted by Zia-ul-Haq wasthat they seemed to give Pakistan a “strategicdepth” in any potential conflict with Indiaover Kashmir. In the mid-1990s, thegovernment of Pakistan risked international isolation in supporting the Taliban, partly becausethelatter provided facilities in Afghanistan for thetraining of Muslimscommitted to thejihad in Kashmir.

Thewar in Afghanistan thus brought Pakistan to an unexpected fulfillment of its original mission: instead ofbecoming thepurehomeland of Muslims, it becamethe capital of aglobal movement for jihad, aholy waragainst infidels, who seemed to be everywhere. It wasn’t what Iqbal, insecureafterhis timein theWest, thrown back to regretting thedead glory of Islam in Europe, could haveimagined when hefirst proposed ademocraticsociety of believers. And it wasn’t what theKashmiris, accustomed to amorebenign version ofIslam, could haveimagined when they turned spontaneously to Pakistan forassistancein their struggleagainst India, and found themselvesenlisted into ajihad.

Thefirst murders, kidnappings, and bombingsby Pakistan-backed guerrillasbegan in Kashmir in 1989, whileFarooq Abdullah wasstill heading acivilian government. Later that year thedaughterofthehomeminister in thefederal government in Delhi, anative of Kashmir, wastaken hostage, and then released in exchangefor fiveguerrillas. Large crowdswelcomed thereleased men on thestreets of Srinagar. They werefired upon by Indian police;; fivemen died. Thereweremoreprotests, bigger and bigger demonstrations: hundreds of thousandsof men and women filled thestreetsof Srinagar, shouting “AzadiAzadi”(Freedom, Freedom). Peoplestill speak of thestrangeenergy in theair at thetime: everyoneshared theheady expectation that freedom wasjust around thecorner, and thenewsoftheSoviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and television imagesof thefall of theBerlin Wall and thegreat demonstrationsof Eastern Europe only deepened thedelusion.

It wasthen, early in 1990, that theIndian government again appointed Jagmohan as governor;; hearrived with asenseof mission whosefanaticism approached that of the Islamicguerrillas. Farooq Abdullah resigned, leaving Kashmir without an elected leader. A seriesof ruthlessactions quickly followed. Hundredsofyoung men suspected of being guerrillasweretaken away from their homes, tortured, and sometimeskilled. Unprovoked firingson demonstratorsalonecost hundreds of lives—thanksto jumpy soldiersfar from home, given asimpleideaof theenemy, and licensed to kill. Thousands of Indian soldierswerebrought into thevalley—theircurrent numberis between 300,000 to 400,000. Foreign journalistswereexpelled and local journalists found themselvesconfined to their houses.

A wholeset of severelawswereintroduced—not that so many wereneeded, sinceall safeguardsfor civil liberties had completely collapsed by then. You could bepicked up anywhere, interrogated, or killed;; and no onewould ever cometo know what happened. Third-degreemethodsof torturewereused on old men and even thevery young. TheKashmiri-American poet AghaShahid Ali quotesadoctor who attended to asixteen-year-old boy released from oneof theinterrogation centers: “Did anything in hislinesof Fatereveal that thewebsof hishands would becut with aknife?”13

By thetimeJagmohan wasreplaced, after six months asgovernor, theentireMuslim population ofthevalley had revolted against Indian rule. Thelocal policemutinied;; the legal sys-tem staffed by Kashmiriswascloseto collapse;; morethan ahundred thousand Hindus fled;; thehospitals wereflooded with tortured and maimed young men;; and thousands of young men weremissing, presumed dead, or in Pakistan.


  1. 1 Mohammad Ishaq Khan, ExperiencinIsla(New Delhi: Sterling, 1997).


  2. 2 Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, FlameothChinarAAutobiography, abridged and translated from theUrdu by Khushwant Singh (New Delhi: Viking, 1993), p. 3.


    1. 3 SeeVictoriaSchofield, KashmiiConflictIndiaPakistananthUnfinisheWar


    2. (I.B. Tauris, 2000), p. 16.
  3. JawaharlaNehruAAutobiograph(Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 38.


  4. 5 Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, FlameothChinar, p. 56.


  5. 6 Seemy article "Death in Kashmir," ThNeYorReview, September 21, 2000, pp. 36-42.


  6. Autobiograph(Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 57.


    1. 8 SeeBalraj Puri, KashmirTowardInsurgenc(New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1995), p.


    2. 47.
  7. 9 Thehead ofKashmir'selected government wasno longer referred to as primeminister after 1965, but, as in other Indian states, was known simply aschief minister.


  1. 10 Sarvepalli Gopal, JawaharlaNehruBiography, Vol. 2 (Harvard University Press, 1980), p. 262.


  2. 11 ThecostsforPakistan's already feebleeconomy havealready been high. In 1997-1998, thesmugglers, working with impunity, alonedeprived Pakistan of$600 million in customsrevenue.


  3. 12 TalibanMilitanIslamOianFundamentalisiCentraAsi(YaleUniversity Press, 2000).


  4. 13 "Dear Shahid," in ThCountrWithouPosOffic(Norton, 1997), p. 43.



Kashmir: The Unending War



full-scaleinsurgency against Indian rulebrokeout in theMuslim-majority valley of Kashmir in 1990. Dissatisfaction with Indiahad been building up over theprevious decade, along with thedesirefor independence. In 1988 and 1989, armed young Muslim men began to attack government officialsand Kashmiri Hindus;; someof these young men even went over to neighboring Pakistan to ask forweapons and money. Thecustodial killingsand tortureby theIndian authoritiesof young Kashmiri men suspected of being insurgents mademany moreKashmiri Muslimsdecideto seek military assistancefrom Pakistan, which had been hosting thedecade-long CIA-sponsored jihad against theSoviet Union in Afghanistan.

Theunprovoked firings on unarmed demonstrators by theIndian policeand army in the early monthsof1990—arecurring, iflittle-reported, event in Kashmir over thenext few years—alienated even pro-IndiaKashmiris. William Dalrymple, theEnglish writer and journalist, who had managed to pass himself offas atourist to Indian authorities— foreign journalists werethen banned from visiting Kashmir—was walking with hiswife behind apeaceful group of demonstratorsin Srinagar, thecapital, in May 1990 when bulletssuddenly cameflying from themilitary bunker in front. Hemanaged to escape unhurt, but many didn’t. Hehad met aKashmiri survivor ofaprevious, much bigger massacrewho had been thrown, half-dead, by Indian soldiersinto atruck full of corpses, which wasthen driven around thecity for an hour beforebeing unloaded at a policestation.

Such cruelties—coming afterthecorruption and arbitrarinessofIndian rulein the previousfour decades—created avast number of humiliated men in Kashmir, forwhom therewassomething attractiveabout theupsurgeof nihilisticenergy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So intent weretheKashmirisupon arming themselves and fighting for independencethat their cultural and political differences with thePakistanis became relatively unimportant. Thefirst men who went over to Pakistan werestill thinking of an independent and secularKashmir.

army’s intelligence agency, the ISI, found moreKashmiris who werewilling to fight for integration into Pakistan, thecountry stopped bankrolling thesecular Kashmiri

guerrillas who wereseeking independence. They werebetrayed to Indian intelligence agencies, and many of them also killed, by themoremilitant pro-Pakistan guerrillas. Thesenew insurgentswereseen ashard-lineIslamicterrorists, especially after they kidnapped and killed Hindus and, later, European and American tourists in Kashmir. Among Kashmiri Muslims, who belong to thepeaceableSufi tradition of Islam, they cameto befeared fortheir ultra-Islamicfanaticism, which often erupted into violence against women and other unprotected civilians.

Kashmiris, who had expected asmuch international support ashad been given to the East Germansand theCzechs when they filled thestreetsin late1989, weresurprised by thecautiouspro-Indiapolicies followed by theEU and America. But diplomatsand policymakersin theWest had their reasons to beworried. In 1994, astheTaliban achieved major victories in Afghanistan, thenetwork of international terrorism began to spread. Islamicfundamentalist outfitsin Pakistan becamestronger;; so did theISI, which had cometo play alargerolein shaping Pakistan’sdomesticand foreign policies. As the Taliban began consolidating its position in Afghanistan, theISI and thefundamentalists began to export jihad to Kashmir. TheKashmiri guerrillagroupswerebrought together by theISI in an umbrellaorganization called theUnited Jihad Council. Theguerrillas, who had comeasraw young men from Kashmir, weretrained in theuseof light weaponsin Afghanistan and Pakistan, and then sent back to Kashmirto wagewar on India. Thetrafficacrosstheborder grew very busy. Almost every Muslim you meet in Kashmir hasfriendsor acquaintanceswho went to Pakistan. ThePakistani involvement in Kashmirreached anew pitch when, in thesummerof1999, Kashmiri guerrillasalong with Pakistani soldiers werediscovered to haveoccupied strategicHimalayan heightsin India-held Kargil. Thisalmost caused awar.

Therewereother, larger reasonsbehind theinsurgency in Kashmir, which lay in changes in India. Nehru’ssecular vision wasundermined by his successorsthroughout the1970s and 1980s;; thedemocraticinstitutionshehelped to createwereenfeebled by thedetermination of hissuccessors, notably IndiraGandhi, to concentrateabsolute power in thecentral government and to deny federal autonomy to themany diverse regions and ethnicand linguisticminoritiesthat constituteIndia. In theearly 1990s India’snominally socialist, protectionist economy wasopened up to foreign investment, giving riseto anew middleclass of peoplein businessand in theprofessions. Aswith most new middleclassesits memberswereeagerto hold on to what they had recently acquired;; and their politics wereon thewholeconservative. As many of them saw it, India’sstability had to beensured by bruteforce, ifnecessary, in placeslikeKashmir and thenortheastern states, sincestability wasgood for business, both locally and internationally. It wasan attitudemost strongly articulated by theHindu nationalist party, theBJP, which thenew middleclasshelped elect to powerin 1998.

Under theHindu nationalists, India’seconomy was further globalized, creating asmall new eliteof businesstycoons and reanimating thecultural and emotional linksmany affluent Indian-Americanshad with their homecountry. TheBJP attempted to give India, and thisglobal Hindu middleclass, agreaterinternational presenceby conducting nuclear testsand lobbying for apermanent seat in theSecurity Council of theUnited Nations. Thegovernment’s obsession with India’sunity, and itsdeep suspicion of internal and external enemies, went beyond thenationalism of theCongressParty. As theparty in power, theBJP has had moreopportunity to enforceitsnineteenth-century ideaofnationhood—onepeople, oneculture, onelanguage—which now threatensto promotemoreconflict in adeeply pluralisticsociety.

TheBJP had kept up asteady rhetoricon Kashmir throughout most of theNineties, when they wereout ofpower, even as aharsh crackdown in thestatewent on: India, they said, had becomea “soft” state, easily bullied by itsneighborsand secessionists;; they spokeofa “pro-active” policy and “hot pursuit” of terrorists acrosstheborder into Pakistan. In 1999 thewar with Pakistan-backed infiltratorsin Kashmir brokeout, the first in Indiato befought beforeTV cameras, and suddenly many in themiddleclass adopted theBJP’s extremerhetoricabout the “Kashmir problem.”

During thelong yearsof rulefrom Delhi, most middle-classIndianshad been generally indifferent to local politicsin Kashmir;; forthemoreaffluent, thevalley itself wasa vacation spot, cherished for sentimental reasons. Pakistan wasnow seen asan even more implacableenemy. Renewed patrioticsentiment and thetelevised demandsfor ruthlessnessagainst thePakistanisfor their support oftheguerrillasaffected theIndian army: afriend back from thefront told meof aPakistani soldier in Kargil whosearms had been cut off and who, ashebled to death, kept pleading futilely to theindifferent Indian soldiersto takehis money out of his pocket and send it to hischildren and aging mother in Pakistan.

As theIndian army announced oneimprobablevictory after another, TV reporters and newspaper journalists emerged ascheerleaders, and then in July 1999 when, under American pressureon Pakistan, theinfiltratorswithdrew from thestrategicheights, they led thecountry in celebrating what theHindu nationalist government described as Pakistan’s military and diplomaticdefeat. Thejingoism—encouraged by Bill Clinton’s visit to Indialast spring, during which heseemed to endorseIndia’sclaim to superpower status and reprimanded Pakistan—got louderafterthenews of further violencein Kashmir, including themassacreof thirty-fiveSikhsin Chitisinghpurain March and thekilling ofover ahundred Hindusin early August.1


For much of the1990s, when theCongressParty was still in power and Kashmir was ruled by agovernor appointed by Delhi, Indian bureaucrats, often men of quality sympatheticto theKashmiris, ran thestate;; they had madeit possibleforelectionsto be held in 1996 without fear of large-scaleviolence, and indeed with alarger turnout of voters. Sincemost of thepopular political groupsin Kashmir opposed to Indian rule boycotted theelections, Farooq Abdullah, theformer leaderofKashmir’sNational ConferenceParty, who had been backed by India, returned asKashmir’s chief minister after many yearsofsitting idle. But in 1998, theBJP won thenational election, promising, among other things, a “pro-active” policy in Kashmir. At atimewhen the tensionscaused by nuclear testing by Indiaand Pakistan in 1998 had barely lessened, thewar in Kashmirbegan.

Ifthebattlesin Kashmir hardened publicopinion in India, thewell-reported arrestsof Muslims, allegedly terrorist agentsoftheISI, in variousparts of Indiafurther fed Hindu suspicionsabout Muslimsin general, and Kashmiri Muslimsin particular. At Chitisinghpura, hoursafterthemassacreof thirty-fiveSikhslast March, I met amid-level officerfrom theBorder Security Force, oneof theparamilitary organizations fighting theanti-Indiainsurgency. HewasaKashmiri Hindu, ashort, paunchy man. He wasn’t worried about theprospect oflargenumbersofSikhsfleeing Kashmir after the massacrein theway theHindushad doneafterbeing targeted by Muslim separatists.

“IsolatetheMuslimsin Kashmir,” hesaid, “and then we’ll haveafreehand to deal with them.” Hethought all pro-Pakistan guerrillasweretraitorsand Pakistan’shenchmen deserved no mercy. Hehimself hadn’t let go ofany oftheseparatistshehad captured in thesix years hehad spent in Kashmir. Hehad, hesaid, used tortureto get information from them and then killed them.

Thisreflected popularHindu sentiment about theKashmir problem, wherehuman rights violations by themilitary, instead of being punished, becametheaccepted meansof reasserting Indian authority overthestate. Iheard thesameview about isolating the Muslimsfrom Pakistan and dealing severely with separatists when I visited thesouthern, Hindu-majority city of Jammu in theplains, in an in-terview with aleader of theBJP, Mr. Khajuria, oneoftheup-and-coming men within hisparty. Supplicants—job-seekers, men with big shiny boxes of sweets to offer Khajuria—thronged outsidehis flat, often spilling into theliving room furnished with theregulation green carpet of government officesand sofas upholstered in dark bluevelvet, with toy airplaneson display in theglasscabinet, just below largeframed picturesof stern-looking BJP ideologues. Khajuria, asmall round man with abig wart on thebridgeof hisnose, kept scolding gently as hepushed hisway through into theroom: “Can’t you seeI am doing an interview?”

Hehad been aleader of thestudent wing of theBJP at Jammu University, and still had thesweetly ingratiating manner of theineffectual student politician. Icould have predicted beforethemeeting most ofwhat hesaid: Indiawasfacing “total war” with Pakistan which could only beended by invading and conquering Pakistan;; theISI was now encouraging Indian Muslimsto increasetheirpopulation in Indiathrough hectic breeding;; and Muslims wereat best unreliable.

But I wasstill taken aback when—eagerto makean impression, and bolder now in his remarks—hesaid that Kashmiri Muslimsonly understood thelanguageof the danda, thepoliceman’sbaton. That wasthelesson ofthemaharajah’s rule. “Givethesecurity forcesafreehand,” hesaid, “and theKashmir problem would besolved in two weeks.”

TheKashmiri Muslim politician MirwaizOmar Farooq observed when I met him this past spring in Srinagarthat theHindu nationalistsweredetermined to hold on to the valley but had littleinterest in theKashmiris, and knew very littleabout theirlong history and culture. Just twenty-seven yearsold, and slightly built, Farooq isthe youngest of theleading separatist politiciansin theMuslim-dominated valley. Most of hiscolleagueswerein prison in thewestern Indian stateofRajasthan when I saw him;; hehimself wasunder housearrest, and asmall posseofpolicemen wereoutside asserting their presenceby checking under all incoming cars for bombs. On theclean-cut lawnswherethetrimmed tall hedgeslooked, distractingly, likegiant hand grenades, asmall group ofmen waited foran audience. Though much older, they werereverential toward Farooq, who wasalso thereligioushead of old Srinagar, aposition occupied by hisfather, an opponent of thepro-IndiachiefministerSheikh Abdullah, until his assassination in 1990.2

At theageofeighteen, Farooq had becometheleader of thecoalition of parties fighting for liberation from Indian rule: thenews, Iremember, wasgreeted with derision in India, asasign of Kashmir’s political immaturity. But peoplegrow up fast in adversetimes, and Farooq spokewith thesubtlety and skill of an older, moreexperienced politician.

Hewas among themajority of Kashmiris, hesaid, who thought theinsurgency had failed, and not only that: it had also undermined an ancient and gentlecultureby introducing it to thedangerouscult of thegun. Therewas now no alternativeto a dialoguebetween Indiaand Pakistan which would also involverepresentativesof Kashmir. Although heopposed Indian rulein Kashmir, and worried about the hardening of attitudesin India, hewasalso concerned about theriseoffundamentalist Islam in Kashmir. Therewasno alternativeto asecular democraticstateand rapid economicpro-gress. It was Nehru’s vision for Indiaall over again. Ironically, in Kashmir, that vision had been dissolved by thesameIndian statethat was entrusted with thegreat powerto realizeit.

Still, theKashmiristhemselvesarequick to embrace themodern world wheneverthe opportunity comestheir way. You can seemovement and growth even after ten yearsof damage. Education suffered themost in adecadeof endlesscurfewsand strikes, and yet even so, it isnow oneof themost popularsmall businesses in thevalley: alittle room and agraduateisall you need to set up aprimary “English-medium” school or “coaching institute.” You areassured of customers: parents who can’t afford anything fancier but areanxiousfortheir children to maketheir way into thelarger world ofjobs and professional careers, their anxiety so great and widespread that even madrassas— theschoolsrun by thefundamentalist Jamaat-I-Islami—havehad to secularizetheir syllabus.

At thetimewhen political activity had been restricted by theinsurgency, Omar Farooq had been accumulating degreesin computer scienceand political scienceand wasnow taking coursesto get an M.Phil. degreein Islamicstudies. I went to themarket in Pattan, atown afew miles north of Srinagar, which isregularly destroyed and rebuilt aftereach battlebetween thepolice and guerrillas, and found two “computer institutes” there: tiny roomsreally, with acomputer in each, full of restlessyoung men—restless becausethere wasno power and they paid by thehour to learn Windows 95. At Kashmir University in Srinagar—itsvast green campus bordering alakeand monitored by snow-capped mountains—thelines of studentsfor enrollment in thenew semester arevery long. Studentswith gunsruled thecampusnot so long ago;; many of them went to Pakistan and werekilled by Indian security forces on theirreturn to thevalley. Therehad been encounters and raidson thecampus. Theuniversity, set up in 1948 and already in 1988 known asoneof thebest universitiesin India, effectively ceased to function in the Nineties. Most oftheKashmiri Hindus on thefaculty left. Theanomieand corruption elsewherehad infected theuniversity: therewasmass cheating on examsand the percentagesof students passing their examsreached an unusually high 90.5 percent. The lowest point wasreached in 1992, when theuniversity awarded degreeswithout holding examinations.

But theIndia-backed driveto restorepeaceto thestateafter theelections in 1996 benefited thosein education;; theuniversity quickly reformed itself during thebrief respiteit wasallowed. Thefaculty wasrestaffed: moreKashmiri Muslimsnow occupied senior teaching positions. Seminarsand conferenceswereheld again;; thestudentswere serious. Thepercentageofstudentspassing their examswasback to normal. Someof theMuslim studentswho went to collegesand universitiesin Indiacameback after being continually harassed by thepolice;; theuniversity had set up new departmentsof biotechnology and geology for them.

For morethan acentury after 1846, when theBritish ceded Kashmirto apetty Hindu chieftain for7.5 million rupees, theKashmiri Hindushad dominated theMuslim-majority population of thevalley. Then theland reformsof Sheikh Abdullah, introduced during histimeas theIndia-backed leader of Kashmirfrom 1948 to 1953, and thespread of freeprimary education had created anew classofambitiousKashmiri Muslims. But no new institutionshad been provided to accommodatetheseMuslims;; and theolder onesweremonopolized by theminority of Hindus who ran theschools and colleges and had adisproportionatepresencein thebureaucracy.

At first, theabrupt departureof theHindus from thevalley after theinsurgency began in 1990 wasfelt asablow. But thespacevacated by them had been gradually filled. In the last ten years, alongsidetheinsurgency and thebloodletting, anew generation of Kashmiri Muslims had grown to taketheir positionsin thebureaucracy, theuniversities, and themedia;; and it washard not to beimpressed by thisnew middle-class intelligentsia, by thejournalists, academics, and politiciansyou saw in thevalley— peoplelikeAbbas, my Muslim guidein Kashmir, Dr. Khan, thethoughtful scholar whom I had met in Srinagar, and OmarFarooq himself. They madeit possibleto believethat therehad cometo Kashmir, along with immeasurablesuffering and pain, a new political and intellectual life;; that as oncein India, thestruggleforgreaterliberty had turned out to beariteof passage, an awakening that owed asmuch to modern education as to thestill-strong Sufi Islamictraditionsoftoleranceand civility.

Pakistan—busy exporting jihad everywhereeven asit slowly imploded—couldn’t have been expected to beresponsiveto that awakening;; thesection in northwest Kashmir which it continued to hold was themost underdeveloped part of Pakistan, and it had donelittlefor it. Indiawasthebigger, economically stronger, moredemocraticcountry that could haveaccommodated Kashmir, madeit part ofitsgrowth. But thegap between Indiaand Kashmir hasgrown even wider in thelast ten years. Middle-class Indiahasdeveloped fast after theliberalization oftheeconomy, whileKashmir, despite recent revivalsin education, hasremained imprisoned within abasiceconomy built around horticultureand handicrafts.


Thegovernment keepsinviting theseparatiststo renounceviolenceand engagein dialogue;; army and policeofficersspeak routinely of “winning back theheartsand minds of theKashmiris.” But this isn’t going to beachieved simply by sending Kashmiri schoolchildren on toursof India—oneoftheIndian government’s populist measures, which, asonearmy officertold me, would not only appeasethenew generation of Kashmiris but would makethem realizewhat abig and powerful country Indiais. That isamessagethat hasalready been conveyed by closeto halfamillion Indian troopsin Kashmir—thevariousarmy and paramilitary groups, someofwhose moreprotected members, ten long years aftertheinsurgency began, havedonewell for themselvesin Kashmir.

In Srinagar, I met MehboobaMufti, thedaughter of asenior pro-IndiaKashmiri politician from thestatewho now mainly livesin Delhi, likemany otherpro-India Kashmiri politicians. Shehasacquired areputation forbeing oneof thebravepeople who travel around thevalley exposing and investigating theexcesses of both the security forcesand theguerrillas. When I saw her shehad just returned from visiting the borderwith Pakistan near thedistant north of thevalley. Theareawas known for timber smuggling;; and recently threetimber smugglers, who had been caught whilemurdering somevillagers, had fingered thecommanding officer of thelocal army unit astheir protector. That wasn’t all. Thefabled beauty ofthewomen in thearea—who struck Ms. Mufti as being ofaCentral Asian race—invited troublefrom theIndian soldiers stationed there. Therehad been stories of prostitution and rapein thepast. Most recently thecommanding officer had wanted to marry oneoftheseven daughtersofapeasant. Thewoman wasalready married;; and so wasthearmy officer. Thepeasant father, who refused, was taken away, and piecesof hisbody werereturned in asack to thevillage. Thearmy said that theman knew about aguerrillahideout and was leading an army patrol to it when hestepped on amine.

Thereweresimilar storieseverywhereleft unreported, similar rumorstoo dangerousto investigate, sincewhat wasat stakewasthe “national interest”—it wastheexcusethe India-backed chief ministerofKashmir, Farooq Abdullah, himself had used in 1999 in thestatelegislaturewhen asked by YusufTarigami, theloneCommunist legislator, to reveal thekillers of fifteen Muslim villagers in Jammu, thesouthern, Hindu-majority region of thestate. It waswhy, Mr. Tarigami told me, therewas going to beno independent investigation into thekilling oftheSikhsat Chitisinghpura, despite repeated requests by human rightsorganizations.

Oneof theseorganizations, Amnesty International, has put Indian intelligenceagents and “renegademilitants,” whosepatronsaretheIndian army, along with armed opposition groupson itslist ofthoselikely to beresponsibleforthekillings. These “renegademilitants,” so-called after thearmy began to recruit captured or “reformed” guerrillas forspecial operations in which thecostsin human livesand thearmy’s reputation werelikely to betoo great, arenow themost dreaded peoplein thevalley, morethan theJihadi guerrillas, morethan thearmy and policeofficialsin remoteareas or thejumpy soldiers in theirbunkers.

In theearly yearsoftheconflict, 1994 to 1996, therenegadeshad comein very handy: they had helped thearmy rebuild itsintelligencenetwork in thevalley;; they had helped track down and kill hundreds of guerrillastrained in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They had proved lesseffective against theFidayeen, thenew “suicidal” guerrillas, often Pakistani citizens, who had started coming to thevalley in largernumbersafter the battlesof 1999;; and alot of therenegades had been murdered by theFidayeen. They still threatened, and sometimeskilled, thefamilies of guerrillas living in thevalley;; or thosejournalistsand human rightsactivistswho wereseen as too eager to report the excesses committed by thearmy. In return, thearmy and thecivil administration looked theother way when therenegadeskidnapped and killed for money.

But now, and increasingly, asthetalk of restoring order and normalcy to thestate continues, therenegadeshavebegun to beseen by thegovernment of Farooq Abdullah asaliability. Oneof them hasbecomeamember of thestatelegislature, but therearestill 1,500 oftheseyoung men with gunson thegovernment’s payroll. A senior government official spokeofthem to measFrankenstein’s monsters;; therenegades were, hesaid, themost visibleand hated symbol of Indian ruleover thevalley, and it wasn’t going to beeasy to tamethem.

At Anantnag, atown thirty-fivemilessouth ofSrinagar, wheretherenegadeswere considered unassailable, I tried to seetheirlocal “commander.” But hewasaway in Delhi—an unexpected sign of his status with theIndian government;; therenegades had recently helped set up theBJP officein Anantnag. A politepoliceman directed meto the houseofanother commander in thesameprotected compound. Partsofthehouse looked relatively old, and therest wasunder construction, themoney for it coming, it seemed, in installments. When finished it was going to beavery largehouse, itssize and thehigh wallstopped with glass shardsmaking it look likesomething from an affluent Delhi suburb.

A young, good-looking man in kurtpajamascameout after much apprehensive peeking through theholesin theheavy iron gate. It wasthebrother of thecommander, Rashid;; Rashid himself was at his headquarters acoupleof milesaway, and theyoung

man drovemethere.

Theheadquarters wasalargebuilding that had been vacated by aKashmiri Hindu family. It had been built into amini-fortress, with boarded-up windowsand atall, corrugated iron gate, behind which, in thelargecourtyard, young men stood dramatically poised with light machineguns to repulseany attack. Thereweregood reasons for their defensiveness: oneof thecommanders of therenegades had been shot dead aweek beforein acrowded bazaar, and somemonthsago theimprovised explosivedevicehidden in an auto rickshaw and intended fortherenegadeshad turned thehouseten meters away into ahugemound of rubble.

Rashid was waiting outsidethegate, and to seehisbodyguards, teenageboyswith oversized guns, wasto feel thefearand uncertainty theirpresencebrought to the neighborhood, to thetensemen in thelittlemeat shopsand bakeries lining thealley. His lean, wiry frame, sharp featuresand thick moustache, his thick gold ring and bluejeans gavehim aBombay movie-starglamour and an impression of brutepoweruntil the moment hespoke. Then thequivering jaw and broken syllablesbetrayed hisjitteriness: thejitteriness, I thought, of thedoomed man;; it madehim an attentivehost and keen talker. Hesaw meastaking back an important messageto theIndian government conveying his senseofIndia’sdisregard for therenegades, thepoverty and isolation to which they had been reduced, thetemptation they felt to go back to Pakistan;; and he shouted at thebodyguards when they showed up with lukewarm tea.

It washard to get him to talk about thethingsI wasinterested in, which hementioned indifferently when pressed: thebachelor’sdegreein sciencefrom thelocal college, the lack ofwork, thejourney, out of no clearmotivation, to Pakistan with twenty-eight other men, thetraining in light weaponsin Pakistan and Afghanistan for eleven months, then thereturn to thevalley as aguerrilla, thesudden disillusionment with thearmed movement for independence, and therecruitment by thearmy. Hewasfrankly puzzled when I asked him to expand on littledetails in his narrative—about thecamp commanderin Pakistan named afterAurangzeb, thelast great Mughal emperor and persecutorofHindus;; thedeception in Pakistan wherehehad to present himself asa fundamentalist pro-Pakistan Muslim in order to receivehistraining and small salary. But hewent on at somelength about hislocal patron, abrigadier in theIndian army. The brigadier had asked him to lead an anti-guerrillaoperation very recently, and hehad obliged by killing thetwo guerrillaswho had infiltrated an army camp. Hepointed at thethin, unshaven, middle-aged man in grimy kurtpajamasIhad thought of asa supplicant awaiting histurn: hewastheonewho had covered Rashid as hewent, guns blazing, into thelittleroom wheretheguerrillashad holed up, and then had shot oneof thedying men as heattempted to reach for ahand grenade. Thisthin, unshaven man, Rashid said, had been rewarded by having apolicereport lodged against him for “asking” arich merchant in thetown for somemoney. What, after all, could hedo with thelittlemoney hewas given by thegovernment?

It wasat thismoment that something hit thehigh corrugated iron roof sloping into the courtyard, adeep, heavy sound, and everyone—Rashid, I, thethreeboyswith guns— frozefor an agonizing second. It wasseveral minutes afterthescruffy cork cricket ball had pattered offtheroof into theopen drain around thecourtyard that I heard my heart pounding wildly.

Rashid’sfacehad gonewhite;; and theshameof that confession of fear waswhat made him grow wild when Iasked him about theFidayeen. Heand hismen werethetrue Fidayeen, heshouted—peoplewho werebeing martyred forbeing faithful to India. Then headded that hewas ready to takeon theFidayeen any time. All heneeded wasa “freehand.”

A “freehand”: you heard thewordsvery often in thevalley, and it spoke, asnothing elsedid, of thebreakdown of communications, theend ofdialogue, and theunthinking preferencefor violenceand terror. Rashid had been puzzled when I asked him to explain what hemeant by a “freehand,” becausehehad already doneso indirectly: hehad made it clear, without saying so explicitly, that thegovernment, and busybodiesfrom the pressand human rightsgroups, should turn theother way whiletheharassment of the familiesoftheguerrillas, and thetortureof suspected informers, and themistreatment of civilians went on.


Theideaof a “freehand” wasn’t very different from what government officials themselvesmeant. Thewordswerepart oftheofficial vocabulary, morepotent than the previoustalk of “pro-activepolicy,” which really meant thepursuit of guerrillasacross theborderinto thetraining camps, easy to fantasizeabout in Delhi but impossibleto achievewithout starting, asalmost happened in 1990, awar with Pakistan. The borrowed phrase “ethniccleansing” was even less effective. Aftereach killing of Hindus, it was said that theguerrillaswereengaged in “ethniccleansing”;; but, ethnically, theSikhs and Hindus wereno different from theMuslimsof thevalley. In theend, thefew attempts at subtlerhetoricalways collapsed into crudely aggressive demands for a “freehand.”

Theuseof a “freehand” means that thecycleof retribution will go on for amuch longer time. In Pattan, outsideSrinagar, just afew daysafter I left, thelocal policestation was attacked with grenadesand rockets. Thistime, thefrustrated policemen looted and burned down theentiremarket. I didn’t go back;; I didn’t feel I could facethehelpless shopkeepers I had met on my previousvisit. I went instead to Jammu, thecity of the plains, where, far away from thenew mansionsofthepoliticiansand bureaucrats, thousands of Hindu refugeesfrom Kashmir now live.

It wasin early 1990, during Jagmohan’sfew months asIndia’s appointed governor— and with, somesay, hisactiveencouragement—that most of the140,000-strong community of Kashmiri Hindusleft thevalley. Jagmohan had originally been made governor of Kashmir in 1984 by Mrs. Gandhi in order to dismissKashmir’s elected government;; hehad served for fiveturbulent yearsduring which his aggressively pro-Hindu policiesfurther alienated Muslimsin thevalley from India. Hislimited comprehension of theinsurgency—assimply alimited law-and-orderproblem which could becontained fast—isapparent in his memoirabout histimeas governor of Kashmir.3 Many Kashmirisbelievethat hewanted theHindussafely out oftheway whilehedealt with theMuslim guerrillas.

TheHindushad formed akind of elitein thevalley;; they had alargepresencein the bureaucracy, both in thevalley and in Delhi, wheregovernment policy on Kashmir often cameto bedictated by thefearsand concernsofthis tiny minority. Their connectionswith India, and their relativeaffluence, madethem highly visibletargets during thefirst few monthsof theinsurgency in 1990;; several government officialswere assassinated by pro-Pakistan Muslim guerrillaswho also committed random atrocities against Hindu civilians: rapes, murders, kidnappings.

Few of theapproximately 130,000 Kashmiri Hinduswho left thevalley in lessthan two monthsafter theinsurgency began havebeen ableto return. Theordeal ofdisplacement wasless difficult to bear for theprofessional eliteof doctors, engineers, and academics, who, on leaving thevalley, could renew their linkswith theoutsideworld: they now form adistinct diasporawithin Indiaand in theUK and America, wherelargenumbers of them havesettled. It wasthelesswell-off Hindus in thecountrysidewho suffered the most.

A few milesout of thecity of Jammu, on astony, treeless plain, you suddenly come acrosshundreds of one-room tenementswherethousandsof Kashmiri Hindus havebeen living for thelast ten years, waiting, without much hope, forthingsto improve. It was early spring in thevalley and still cold when I visited thecamps, but around Jammu the temperatures had begun to rise, and thesun felt moresevereon therocky exposed ground. Thetarthat held together thethermocoal roof of theigloo-shaped tenements had already begun to melt, and moretar washard to find: you had to bribethe roadworkslaborersfor alittlebit of it.

It wasn’t theonly thing that worried Gautam, theHindu I met in oneof thecamps. He had left his appleorchardsnear Baramullain thenorth ofthevalley in 1990 with sixty-fiverupeesin hispocket to comehere. Therehad been no water foreight daysand the plasticbucketsused for storagehad begun to run dry.

Gautam sat behind awindow with iron bars, half-slumped on thesinglewooden cot in hishalf-sleeved vest and pajamas. Thesmell of burned onion cameout ofthetiny room whereall fivemembersofhis family slept. Thewallswerebareexcept foracalendar with picturesof Ramaand Sita;; therewereafew steel utensilson thewooden shelfover arusty gascylinder;; asmall television sat on arickety stool. Outside, in thecramped littlecourtyard edged with an open stagnant drain, a mangy dog slumbered in theshade of theoverburdened clothesline, and thetin doors of thepubliclatrineswerecut so low that you could seetheblank faceof theperson squatting over theholein thefloor.

I wasn’t invited in. Gautam, when herelaxed morewith me, said bitterly, “Wearelikea zoo, peoplecometo watch and then go away.” Hefelt betrayed by Jagmohan and the other politicians, especially theHindu nationalists, who had held up thecommunity as victimsof Muslim guerrillasin orderto get moreHindu votes, and had then donevery littleto resettlethem, find jobsfor theadultsand schoolsfor theyoung. Hehad been back to thevalley just once: hehad been persuaded to do so by hisMuslim neighbor who personally cameto therefugeecamp to escort him back to hisvillage. Thewarmth between theHindu and Muslim communities of thevalley—so alikein many ways for theoutsider, so hard to tell apart—had remained intact, and had acquired akind of poignancy after such along separation.

But when hereturned, hefound his househad been plundered;; children wereplaying cricket in hisappleorchard wherethetrees had been cut down for firewood. Then he waskept awakeby fear on his first night, by thesound of gunfire, asound hisMuslim neighborshad gotten used to. In themorning hehad heard thenewsofthedeathsof fiveIndian soldiersin thegun battlewith guerrillas. Enraged soldiers wereexpected any minuteto launch a “crackdown.” Gautam followed theyoung men of thevillageand took thefirst bus out.

Hehadn’t been back;; hedidn’t know if hecould. Hisson, fourteen yearsold now, had very few memoriesofKashmir, had grown up in adifferent world, with asenseof injusticeand therageof theyoung. Gautam often had to stop him from denouncing Muslimsand Islam.

I didn’t seetheboy: hewasat school. Therewas apictureof him in asmall plastic frame;; with largeseriouseyes in his paleKashmiri face, hereminded meof theMuslim boy I had met somedays beforeat agraveyard in Srinagar.

It had been my first day in Srinagar. A famousguerrillahad been killed by thearmy the day beforebut therehad been no publicmourning. At theIdgah graveyard for “martyrs”—placed at theedgeof avast, bald field scarred with muddy puddles, and full of signboardswith exhortations: “Lest you forget that they gavetheir today for our tomorrow”—therewasonefresh gravebut no mourners. Thegravewas of ayoung man who had been taken away by thepolicefrom hishomefor interrogation. A very old man sat on oneof theother graves with ateenageboy in largethick-framed glasses, both hunched in thecold over a kangri—thelittlepot with charcoal embers they carried under their cloak-like pherans. Theboy, Jamal, took mearound, stepping agilely across thegraves, hisdark eyessomberbehind hisglasses.

Theearliest graves in that Srinagar graveyard had claimed themost reverenceand space: they wereset in largeplots, with bead necklacesand plasticgarlandson them. But then thenumbers had begun to rise, and thegraveshad been set closer together;; the headstoneengravingsacquired auniformity of messageand style: thegreen-painted word “martyr” occurred in all of them. Theboy pointed out thenew graveto me: the earth still moist underthewrinkled plasticsheet;; it had no headstoneyet, but anarrow, freshly dug bed of yellow irisesran around thegrave. Irises were, Jamal said, theflowers used to honortheMuslim dead in Kashmir.

Hecouldn’t havebeen morethan fiveyears old when theinsurgency began but he knew thenamesofall the “martyrs.” Thereweresomein his own family: hiselder brother, who had been killed two yearsago, soon after hereturned from Pakistan;; his father, who had died ofburn injuriesafter being tortured with hot iron rods. Hehad dropped out of school, and now cameto sit in thegraveyard each evening. Iasked him why, and hesaid, his largeeyes earnest, that hewanted to becloseto themartyrs;; they had died aholy death in thecauseofjihad, and werenow in paradise. Later, hesaid that hismother was worried about thesevisitsto thegraveyard;; shehad been going to various shrinesand making him wear amuletsto prevent him from becoming a “militant” likehisbrother.

Hewanted to know what Indiansin Indiathought of their army killing theKashmiris, and it was theguilt brought on by this question that mademestay longer at the graveyard. Windowsopened in therain-dampened housesoverlooking thegraveyard, and curious faces appeared in them, watching metalk to Jamal. Theday, already gray, began to quickly die. Thetaxi drivergrew nervous: theareawasthestronghold of the pro-Pakistan guerrillas.

When Ileft, theimageIcarried with mewas of theyoung boy and theold man sitting against thedirty overcast sky and themist-hazy mountains and theflat, puddle-stained field;; and it added to thedesolation of thosefirst few daysin Srinagar, which—although theterriblescenesof themassacrewereyet to come—had begun to contaminatemy early memoriesof Kashmir, ofthelandscapethat had oncebeen arevelation of beauty.

On oneofmy last days in Srinagar—oneof themany days of protest strikes, enforced by theguerrillas, thecity surreally deserted in themiddleof thelong, sunny afternoon— I went back to thegraveyard. Thereweremoregraves;; and, with spring finally resurgent in thevalley aftermany cold days, theiriseswerein full bloom.

But Jamal was gone. Theold man sat all alonein themiddleofthegraveyard, and he didn’t know whereJamal was. Hehadn’t been to thegraveyard in several days, but his mother had comelooking for him.

It wasmany daysafter I left Kashmir that I read in thepapersnewsofateenageboy who had driven acar full of explosives into thearmy cantonment in Srinagar, and blown himself up: it wasthefirst suicidebombing in thevalley. Theboy went to alocal school, and neither of hisparentshad known about hisconnectionswith theJihadi outfits. Hecouldn’t havebeen Jamal, who had only oneparent, but it waswhilereading about him that I thought of Jamal again;; I remembered thewideseriouseyes;; I remembered histalk of martyrdom and paradiseand death.


Thecycleof violenceand destruction hasbeen so swift and severein Kashmir;; the insurgency haspoisoned and destroyed so many lives. Yet theinsurgents’ political causeremainsaslonely and hopelessasbefore. Independence, which amajority of Kashmiris seem to want, or integration with Pakistan, which for many Kashmirisis the second-best option after independence, arenot possibilities that any Indian government can ever considerwithout immediately losing thesupport of theHindu middleclasses. TheEuropean Union and theUS areunlikely to risk antagonizing India, with its lucrativemarkets and resources and thetrappingsofademocracy, by taking up the Kashmiri cause.

All Kashmiriscan hopeforat present isachangein Indian attitudes, abit more breathing space, abit lessheavy-handedness. But any changein Indian attitudes is unlikely aslong as jihad-minded guerrillasbased in Pakistan continueto wagewar against Indiain Kashmir;; aslong as thechaosand anarchy of Pakistan makeit difficult even for itsarmy, which iscurrently ruling thecountry, to rein in theguerrillas or their Islamicfundamentalist sponsors.

Theelected legislatureof Kashmir recently asked theBJP-dominated central government to fulfill thepromisesof autonomy that Nehru had offered to Kashmiri leaderswhile trying to persuadethem to help integratethestatewith Indiain thelate1940s and early 1950s. Limited autonomy for Kashmir within agenuinely federal Indiamight beamore practical solution than theonethat proposesthecreation ofan independent Kashmir with open borders, whosesovereignty would beguaranteed by both Indiaand Pakistan. Theideaof autonomy, ifsincerely pursued, might eventually find somesupport among Kashmiris, and help diminish theinfluenceof Islamicfundamentalistsin theregion. But theBJP fears, with good reason, that theslightest concession it makesin Kashmir would encouragemany moreofIndia’sdisaffected constituent states to present theirown case for greaterfederalism. Thiswould bring to nothing theHindu nationalists’ longstanding effortsto redefineIndia’smany religious, ethnic, and linguisticminoritiesas “Hindu,” and to turn Indiainto aproud and united superpower.4

Thedemand for autonomy wasrejected by theBJP, with aspeed and vehemencethat, together with therepeated failureof Indiaand Pakistan to even reach thenegotiating tableon Kashmir, indicatethat thereisgoing to belittlerespitefor Kashmiris, trapped between, and within, the crudenationalismsand fundamentalisms of theirneighbors. Thetensof thousandsof Kashmiri victims of thedecade-long violencewill haveto wait much longerfor even somepartial justice.

But then you can’t hopefor much justicein thesubcontinent, wherefulfillment comes to very few among theneedy and restlessmillions, and whereaspiration itself can feel likealuxury. In Kashmir, isolated and oppressed forso long, and then dragged into the largerworld of competing men and nations and murderous ideologies, morepeople havebeen confronted with thisawareness in thelast ten years than in all ofitstormented modern history.

Thenumber of young men likeJamal who attempt to dissolvethepain of that awarenessin thenihilism ofjihadi martyrdom isgrowing. At thesametime, thereare many moreKashmiris who wish to maketheir own peacewith that pain, who are wearied by thebloodletting and resigned to their lack ofoptions, and who now want the relativestability of thetimebeforetheinsurgency to return, even if it involves living with thehumiliation of continued Indian ruleover thevalley: theprivate, uneasy accommodations with theworld which keep thedeprived millionselsewherein the subcontinent from exploding into rageand destruction, and which arebeing increasingly madeby Kashmiris, even as, cruelly, thesuffering of their first great war goes on.


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