BY RSN SINGH
The deceit of Kashmiri leaders and separatists in the Kashmir Valley, rooting for Pakistan, has acquired outrageous proportions. These elements largely belong to five districts in Kashmir Valley and constitute not more than 15 percent of the Sunni population. These include pro-Pakistan manipulators like Yasin Malik, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, Shabir Shah, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Asiya Andrabi, and some politicians from the Valley centric political parties. The pro-Pakistan machinations of these politicians, circumvents public scrutiny because of their art of duplicity, mastered over the years. Beguiling both Delhi and Islamabad, their forked tongue articulations has kept the Kashmir pot boiling. It is not uncommon for the father to speak in favour of Pakistan and separatists, even as the political heirs, son or daughter, adopt the contrary stance and vice-versa. For some 60 families in the Valley, the industry of ‘Kashmir Problem’ is a huge financial windfall.
The map above exposes the geographical and sociological fallacy of the anti-India and pro-Pak industry in the Kashmir Valley.
Hijacking of Jammu and Kashmir
The map above reflects the reality of Jammu and Kashmir, Indian and Pakistan Occupied territories combined. This reality has all along been ignored or misinterpreted by vested interests. Out of the total area of 2,22,236 Sq.Km, the area presently held with India is approximately one lac Sq Km. The various regions within the Indian territory, as part of the total, measure as follows:
|Map Reference||Region||Area (Sq.Km)||Percentage|
Note: The regions have been divided and numbered for ease of understanding of geographical and demographic character. They do not strictly follow geographical and political demarcations. In the Kashmir Valley, Badgam has been shown as separate entity because of its Shia majority. The upper reaches of Kupwara district are inhabited by Gujjars/Bakkarwals/Pahari Muslims (3). The areas of Poonch, Rajouri have also been indicated under Reference (3), as they too have majority comprising Gujjars/Bakkarwals/Pahari Muslims/Hindu/Sikhs and others. Parts of Doda have been included in Reference (4), as more than 40 percent population is of Hindus and majority of rest being again Gujjars/Bakkarwals/Pahari Muslims. The percentages of various regions as indicated are approximate guidelines purely for purposes of analysis.
From the Map it is evident that within the overall territory of J&K, the Kashmir Valley constitutes less than 10 percent of area, overwhelmingly inhabited by Sunni Muslims. In the East, it is impacted by Gujjars/Bakkarwals/Pahari Muslims of Doda region and further East by a huge mass of Shia majority Kargil. Beyond Kargil in the East, is Buddhist Ladakh, which when combined with Aksai Chin is the largest geographical entity of J&K. In the South it is impacted by Hindu majority Jammu and Doda region. In the Southwest of Kashmir Valley are the regions of Poonch and Rajouri, where Gujjars/Bakkarwals/Pahari Muslims/Hindus/Sikhs are in majority. In Kupwara, Baramulla and the higher reaches in the North, are areas dominated by Gujjars/Bakkarwals/Pahari Muslims. Further North is the Shia majority area of Gilgit-Baltistan, gobbled by Pakistan.
From the map therefore, it can be averred that the Kashmir Valley (135 km long and 32 km wide), constituting less than 10 percent of the area, is circumscribed demographically by Gujjars/Bakkarwals/Pahari Muslims, Shias, Hindus, Sikhs and further beyond, Buddhists. These religious and ethnic communities are devout Indians and are repelled by the idea of Pakistan. Geographically almost 90 percent of Jammu and Kashmir weighs on the Kashmir Valley. Yet, it is the Sunni Kashmiris, who have been dominating the J&K discourse. In debates on all television channels there is no or little representation from the other four larger entities.
It is a geographical truism, that larger and elevated landmass determine the ecological wealth of valleys and the plains, and sustain much large and dense populations. Compared to the Kashmiris, the inhabitants of the elevated regions of Ladakh and Kargil, and Pir Panjal range have as much, if not higher stakes in the J&K discourse, as in the Kashmir Valley.
Even in financial terms the mountains and hills are a bonanza for the state apparatus dominated by Kashmiris. About two million people visit Amarnath every year. On the other hand, every year, Vaishno Devi attracts 10 million pilgrims. The past religious umbilical with the Indian mainland serves the Kashmiri Muslims in many ways.
The map also depicts the manner in which the Kashmir Valley is circumscribed by the people of Gujjars/Bakkarwals/Pahari extraction on higher reaches, and non – Sunni Kashmiri majority regions of Jammu, Poonch, Rajouri, Kargil and Ladakh regions. They are defenders of their motherland. In all wars with Pakistan the Gujjars and Paharis have served as eyes and ears of India. Jihadism emanating from Pakistan has been spurned by them, but embraced by the Sunnis of Kashmir. It is these people, who face the depredations and difficulties of living on the border. People living in the Valley are immune to these difficulties. Unencumbered by hostile borders and tough livelihood, the 60 odd families of the Valley enjoy the bounties of India in terms of indulgence and development.
The Christian missionary schools and other educational institutions have ensured that most people with articulation skills in English to be concentrated in the Valley. Probably apart from India, the bounties of nature, Pakistan and ISI have made some of them self-serving indolent anti-nationals. In the Valley these are essentially centered around the districts of Srinagar, Pulwama, Anantnag, and lower reaches of Kupwara and Baramula.
These are the people who scream about their border sensitivity even as people of other extractions suffer on the border areas, both on the Line-of-Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB), i.e. 1,216 km (of which 790 Km run along the LoC). Once the militants sneak through the higher reaches and descend into the Valley, they enjoy the hospitality industry created for promotion of jihadi terror not only in J&K but whole of India. Every major terrorist attack in India, including 26/11 had Kashmiri footprints. The separatists of the Kashmir Valley are oblivious about the people of Ladakh and the 1750 Km border with China they have to contend with, in terms of threat and harsh environment. When most Kashmiris talk about their being border sensitive state, their horizon is limited to only a small part of PoK which very naturally discounts Gilgit-Baltistan.
Gilgit-Baltistan – a forgotten territory
The area of Gilgit-Baltistan has never figured in the J&K discourse in India by the self-appropriated Kashmiri spokesmen. It did not matter to the Kashmiri leaders when in 1949 the region was incorporated into Pakistan by way of Karachi Accord. No tears were shed when 80 percent of the PoK was hived off. No Kashmiri politician even moaned when in 1963 Pakistan ceded 5180 sq km of this territory to China. Even now there is no concern about the heavy presence of Chinese in the region, and the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor that has the potential to permanently alter the discourse of geography and sociology. As per reports China is investing $100 billion in Gilgit-Baltistan, $18 billion on tunnels alone. The announcement by Chinese President about Silk Route connecting Pakistan with Central Asia has disconcerted them, rather than enthused. People in the region continue to clamour for constitutional rights. The elections held under the GIilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Government Order of 2009 in June this year have not assuaged their political aspirations. Politicians and Hurriyat leaders in Kashmir could hardly be bothered!
J&K politics dominated by Sunnis of Kashmir have been completely insensitive to the pains and aspirations of Shias of the state. It is ironic that whenever there is talk of people to people contact, there is not even a faint mention about the desirability of connect between people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kargil region. It appears that there is tacit gifting of Gilgit-Baltistan to Pakistan, the same Pakistan which till 2005 designated the region as ‘Northern Areas’ and directly ruled it from Islamabad till 2009, as if it was an area without soul ‘for the military and by the military.’
This lack of sensibility to Gilgit-Baltistan seems to extend to the Indian establishment as well. Kargil conflict was perhaps the result of acceptance that nothing could be done to salvage the region from Pakistan. They thought it was fait accompli. This attitude or approach impaired our defence preparedness and Musharraf took advantage of it.
There are several reports to suggest that there is a concerted attempt by the Pakistani establishment to reduce the Shias to minority in Gilgit-Baltistan. Sunnis have been given lucrative jobs to settle in the region as incentives. The Northern Light Infantry is being increasingly being manned by non-locals. The International Crisis Group report says: “Since 2001, Shia resentment over inclusion of Sunni religious rituals and perceived anti-Shia basis in text books in public school has resulted in school boycotts and occasional clashes and curfews.”
Pakistan’s treachery in not claiming the bodies of the soldiers of Northern Light Infantry, just because they were Shias belonging to the Gilgit-Baltistan region, did not stir the conscience of pro-Pakistan elements in the Kashmir Valley.
Kashmiris have no linkages with PoK (less Gilgit-Baltistan)
The map indicates the area of what remains part of the PoK in Pakistan which it refers to as Azad or Independent. When Raza Mumtaz Hussain Rathore dared to take up issues concerning Gilgit-Baltistan, his PPP government was ousted by Nawaz Sharif in 1991. Then Islamabad blatantly rigged the elections later that year. Sacking of governments in PoK is notoriously usual feature. Between 1953 and 1962, three governments were sacked. In 1964, the first President of Azad Kashmir was sacked because he wanted a separate Indus Water deal with mainland Pakistan. In 1974, ZA Bhutto sacked the Qyaoom government and in 1977 Zia dissolved legislative assembly and established military rule. Even now the main center of power is not the Azad Kashmir government, but the Kashmir Council in Islamabad. Where is the ‘Azadi’ then, in PoK or the Kashmir Valley? The pro-Pak Kashmiris need to answer.
This tail to Gilgit-Baltistan is 400 km long and 16-32 km in width. The ten districts of PoK i.e. Bhimber, Mirpur, Kotli, Sudhonti, Poonch, Bagh, Muzzafarabad, and Neelam have negligible Kashmiri population. While the South PoK has distinct Punjab influence, North PoK has half-a-dozen different languages, i.e. Pahari, Mirpuri, Gojri, Hindko, Punjabi and Pashto.
The biggest lie that has been peddled by the pro-Pakistan Kashmiris in India is about their affinity with the people in the PoK. It is reiterated that there is absolutely no affinity, linguistic or cultural, between the people of Kashmir Valley and the PoK. The affinity is actually shared by the Gujjar and Pahari Muslims, who reside in the upper reaches of J&K along the border and the LoC. It is these people, who have been most affected by the Indo-Pak hostilities and division of J&K. While the Kashmiris of the Valley have been most vocal about cross-border linkages, they have minimally used the bus service between Srinagar – Muzaffarabad and Poonch (India) – Rawalkote. It is the Gujjars and the Paharis who have been enthusiastically availing the facilities. Therefore, there is a formidable physical, social, cultural and linguistic wall between the Kashmiris and the PoK. It may also be mentioned that as per the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation, Gujjars constitute 20 percent population of J&K. Since 2002, Gujjars and Bakkarwals have been demanding a separate state, Gujristan. As per one estimate, the Gujjars influence 20 of 87 assembly constituencies.
A large number of people of PoK extraction have been forced to migrate to Britain because of poor economic prospects. This includes a large number of Mirpuris, who had displaced after the construction of the Mangla dam in the 60s. Over 280 villages and the towns of Mirpur and Dadyal were submerged and over 110,000 people were displaced. As per an estimate, nearly 8,00,000 Mirpuris constitute 70 percent of British-Pakistani community. There is no such parallel in the J&K.
Islamabad has sought to change the demography of PoK by settling nearly 30,000 Afghan families. This is a clear pattern in Pakistan to settle Pashtuns to dilute ethnicity of Karachi, Quetta and now the PoK as a neutralizing feature against insurgency and separatist movements by the majority community. The presence of the Afghans poses the danger of inroads by Taliban. Compare this with the stance of pro-Pakistan Kashmiris in India, who consider few acres land allotted to Amarnath Shrine Board as colonization by their mother country.
Hafiz Saeed has played havoc by introducing jihadism in the region. The PoK is a major training ground for LeT cadres, who also use it as a base for terrorist operations against India. When the Pakistan military was found wanting in the relief operations in wake of massive earthquake in 2005 in which nearly 1,00,000 people lost their lives and three million people were rendered homeless, Hafiz Saeed and his organization JuD came to the fore and is considered to have made substantial difference. Later, however, he extracted the price by turning the area into a jihadi laboratory.
The Islamic militancy agenda has weighed heavily on Islamabad while deciding on the type of dispensation in Azad Kashmir. Benazir Bhutto assumed power after demise of Zia in 1988. Sardar Qyaoom, who ruled PoK for decades as President and PM, warned about her ascension: ‘’to undo Islamic ideology and weaken Pakistan Army’’. Speculation was rife that she would sack the Qyaoom government in PoK. Curiously it was the pro-Pakistan leaders in Kashmir who prevented it. They met President Leghari during his visit to India and pleaded with him to ensure that Qyaoom continued in office as he was critical to the survivability of the militant-network assiduously created over the years. The Qyaoom government completed its tenure till 1990. This explains the compulsions behind Pakistan dignitaries from foreign and security apparatus insisting on meeting the Hurriyat leaders visiting India. A lot of issues regarding militancy in Jammu and Kashmir are coordinated during these meetings.
Just as the Muftis and Abdullahs in the Kashmir Valley, the political landscape of PoK has been dominated by political empires setup by Sardar Mohammad Ibrahim Khan and Mohammad Abdul Qyaoom Khan. But these PoK political families have assured that the interests of Pakistan reign supreme. They are not hostile to their own military. But the pro-Pakistan elements in the Valley treat the Indian military as enemy even as it protects them from Pakistan and China in most trying conditions.
The Jammu & Kashmir problem between India and Pakistan is basically a Kashmiri Sunni narrative, which is scripted by a small segment of pro-Pakistan elements inhabiting a portion of less than 10 percent of the entire region. It is a narrative that finds affinity with Pakistan just on the basis of Kashmiri variety of Sunni Islam. These Kashmiris have ensured that all other competing narratives and dissonant voices are crushed. It is for this reason that half a million Kashmiri Hindus were hounded out of the Valley in 1991. It is for this reason that till today more than 54,000 families, victims of partition and the wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971 have not been compensated, neither rehabilitated nor given the rights as in other parts of the country. These one and half million people are perceived as a threat by the Kashmiri leaders and the separatists.
The solution to the problem does not lie with Musharraf’s plan or Ambassador Lambah’s plan. The solution lies in calling the ‘bluff’ of these handful of pro-Pakistan Sunni Kashmiris in the Valley. The rest can be sorted out with Pakistan easily.
(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)