Book Review: Tracing the History of Armed Struggles in Kashmir

Modern History of Kashmir is a gory tale of pain and agony. It symbolizes subjugation, oppression and occupation. However, Kashmiri Muslims never surrendered before the occupation. They resisted illegal Dogra and Indian rule over Kashmir and did not hesitate to pick up arms to break the shackles of slavery. Since 1947, apart from resistance on political front, many armed groups surfaced in Kashmir which challenged the occupational forces.

Rao Farman Ali, a Kashmir-based author and social activist, has tried to document the armed resistances of Kashmiris against India in his new book History of Armed Struggles in Kashmir. The cover of the book is carefully chosen and depicts an Indian army soldier wielding a gun behind concertina wire; symbolizing occupation.

Book Name: History of Armed Struggles in Kashmir.

Author: Rao Farman Ali Malik

Publisher: Jay Kay Books

The Narrative:

The first chapter of the book is about the geographical location of Kashmir, its mountain ranges, rivers, valleys, important mountains passes, etc. As geography and war are intertwined, the details in the chapter provided are vital to understand the Kashmir conflict. In the subsequent chapters, the author provides details of 4 major armed resistance movements which have surfaced in Kashmir against Indian since 1947.

In the 2nd chapter, the author has highlighted the subjugation & oppression of Kashmiris under Dogra rule. The details provided by the author are chilling. The author has particularly highlighted the discriminative and communal approach of Kashmiri Pandit elites towards poor & oppressed Kashmiri Muslims during the Dogra rule. It is heart-wrenching to read the shameful role of Pandit Raj Kak Dhar during the 1865 Shawl-baf agitation.

The details of the genesis of Kashmir dispute are amply covered in the book. However, the account of Tribal attack given by the author is somewhat biased. The Pogroms of Jammu Muslims at the hands of Hindutva forces under the patronage of Maharaja Hari Singh’s state forces have been discussed at length. The author writes that Maharaja intended to create a Hindu majority in the Jammu region. Author’s claim that Maharaja Hari Singh desired to remain independent is highly debatable in the light of the modern research on the issue.

Post 1947, after India occupied Kashmir under the farce of Instrument of Accession, the first indigenous armed group in Kashmir, the Mujahid Home Front was formed in 1948, under the patronage of Tehseer-ul-Islam. The group challenged the authority of Maharaja to execute the IoA in favour of India. However, the author has not provided any further details about the group. The subsequent events like arrest of Sheikh Abdullah, ratification of Accession by the state constituent assembly, lifting of customs barrier, disappearance of Moi-e-muqadas (a hair strand believed to belong to the Prophet of Islam [pbuh]) and its inexplicable recovery, change in nomenclature of PM to CM and president to governor, etc., led to the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. The author blames NC leader and Indian nationalist Moulana Saeed Masoodi for exposing ‘Operation Gibralter’ to Indian intelligence agencies. The author compares him with Maqbool Sherwani, the collaborator who helped India to repel the tribal attack in 1947.

According to the author, the failure of 1965 war to liberate Kashmir led to the rise of the second wave of armed struggle in Kashmir with the formation of National Liberation Front (NLF). The author has discussed the role of Maqbool Bhat in the freedom struggle of Kashmir. However, his arrest and killing of his close aide Tahir led a to gradual decline in the armed activities of NLF.

In 1968, another armed resistance surfaced in Kashmir in the form of Al-Fatah led by Ghulam Rasool Zehgeer. Plebescite Front (PF) tactically supported its armed activities. The author has provided comprehensive details about Al-Fatah: its constitution, strategy, training, planning, cadre formation, activities, etc. On 30th January 1971, Kashmiri Militants hijacked Indian Fokker plane ‘Ganga’ which highlighted Kashmir Issue internationally. However, the author correctly points out the Indian manoeuvring of the hijacking plan. The author writes that Hashim Qureshi was an Indian agent who hijacked the plane on the directions of Indian intelligence. This incident followed by 1971 war, which culminated in the dismemberment of Pakistan. The episode served as an excuse for Sheikh Abdullah to surrender the 20 year struggle for Plebiscite in Kashmir.

The 1975 Indira-Abdullah accord and the hanging of Maqbool Bhat in Tihar jail is briefly covered in the book. The book unambiguously establishes that 1987 rigged elections was not the reason of genesis of the modern armed struggle in Kashmir, it was rather a trigger which led to the explosion of anti-india sentiments in the form of AK-47.

The author writes that it was Zia-ul Haq who authorized the Operation Topac to liberate Kashmir from India. This led to the 4th armed struggle in Kashmir which continues unabated till date.  The author gives details of the various armed groups formed to fight India. He writes that a total of 134 armed groups operated in Kashmir in 1990s. He also provides details of ideologies of different armed groups and their goals. The book also highlights the role of different political, social and religious organisations like Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ahle Hadith, People’s Conference, Muslim Conference, etc., in the armed struggle.

The author writes that the armed groups in Kashmir had contradictory ideologies and goals which led to division and their mass proliferation. Taking advantage of the division within militant ranks, India succeeded in infiltrating these groups and turned the direction of this armed resistance towards infighting. As part of conflict management, India unleashed itself in its ugliest of avatars yet seen by the world. It introduced government-backed renegades popularly known as Ikhwanis who unleashed a reign of terror, unparalleled in the history of Kashmir. The book provides brief details about dreaded renegades like Kuka Parrey, Liyaqat Khan, Papa Kishtawari, Usman Majeed, Muma Kanna, Saitha Gujjar, etc., and turncoats like Firdous Syed, Javid Shah, Bilal Lodhi, etc.

What is wrong with the book

The book is largely based on first-hand accounts of the people involved in the armed struggle, which adds credibility to the book. Every chapter of the book is followed by notes which are an added advantage. Though the research done by the author is impressive, the overall structure and semantics of the book is flawed. There are serious typographical, spelling and grammatical errors in the book. The construction of several sentences is flawed. It is difficult to read a book, where a reader does not know where a sentence ends and next one begins. Some sentences seem to be directly translated from Kashmiri and Urdu. Certain sentences, paragraphs, quotes, phrases present in the book are without context which disrupt the overall narrative of the author. There is an avoidable repetition of content in the book. With such structure and presentation, it is difficult for a reader to get maximum out of the book and it gives an impression that no proof reading of the book was done before publishing. We expect the issues will be fixed in the next edition of the book.

The book reads like a passage and does not identify causes and fallouts of the important events in the history of the armed struggles of Kashmir, which is the main aim of writing history. The book, though flawed in structure and semantics, is nevertheless a step in right direction and an important read in the context of the latest armed uprising in Kashmir.

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