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Paper No. 1144                                                          18/10/2004

by  B.Raman

(Text of a paper presented  at a conference on “Ethnic Minorities and Great Power Strategies in Asia”  held at Honolulu from October 12 to 14,2004, under the auspices of  the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies” )--------------


There is no separatist movement in the Muslim community of India outside the State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). A separatist movement amongst the minorities---whether ethnic, linguistic or religious--- generally arises due to feelings of discrimination and  feelings of unhappiness/anger and both ultimately leading to feelings of alienation. Successful separatism also requires national minorities constituting the regional majority in definable geographical areas. Outside J & K, such a contingency does not exist at present except in some bordering  districts of Assam. 

2.By and large, Indian Muslims, despite all their grievances, unhappiness and anger against the Government for various reasons, have kept themselves miles away from pernicious pan-Islamic ideologies advocated by jihadi terrorist organisations such as Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda and his International Islamic Front (IIF) because, for them, their cultural and political identity as Indians is  as important as their religious identity as Muslims. Indian democracy and the liberal Indian society have provided them with adequate and effective means of ventilating their grievances and having them redressed. In times of distress for their community, their greatest supporters and defenders have been liberal leaders of the Hindu community, the media, the National Human Rights Commission,  the National Minorities Commission and many non-governmental organisations. 

3. However, there is a separatist movement in sections of the Muslim community in J & K due  to historic, political,  geo-political and religious reasons. The Indian State had in the past been confronted with  insurgent-cum-terrorist movements in Nagaland and Mizoram in its North-East  to which it managed to find a political solution through negotiations with the insurgents and by convincing them that violence would  not pay. The militants/insurgents of the past in these areas  have given up their resort to insurgency/terrorism and have taken their due place as responsible and enlightened political leaders of their communities. 

4. A similar outcome in J&K is being impeded by the infiltration and operation in Indian territory of thousands of Pakistani jihadi terrorists in the name of Islamic solidarity and in pursuance of bin Laden’s pan-Islamic ideology, which advocates the division of the Islamic world into Islamic Caliphates in different geographical regions. 

5. It is, therefore, not surprising that it is taking the Indian State  a long  time to find a political solution in J&K. There is, however, no doubt that it will find a political solution to the indigenous aspect of the problem in course of time in accordance with its ideals of democracy and secularism. 



India is a pluralistic society. Its people speak different languages and practice different religions.  

2. The Hindus constitute about 80 per cent of India’s total population of one billion plus. The Muslims form about 14 per cent. The remaining six per cent are Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists,  and Parsis. Hindi, the official language of the country, is spoken by the majority of the population, particularly in the North---mainly in the provinces of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkand, Uttaranchal, Rajasthan and Delhi . The languages spoken in provinces such as Maharashtra (Marathi), Gujarat (Gujarati), Punjab and Haryana (Punjabi) and  Jammu & Kashmir (Urdu-Kashmiri) have similarities to Hindi. The languages spoken in Tamil Nadu (Tamil), Kerala (Malayalam), Karnataka (Kannada), Andhra Pradesh (Telugu), Orissa ( Oriya), West Bengal and Tripura (Bengali) and Assam (Assamese) are distinct from Hindi. However, the languages spoken in Orissa, West Bengal, Assam and Tripura have  similarities to each other. The languages/dialects spoken in Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya in the North-East have very little resemblance to the languages/dialects spoken elsewhere in the country.  

3. The Muslims of India speak the languages/dialects of the provinces/areas in which they live. And they generally used to  dress like the people of those areas. However, in recent years, under the spreading influence of religious assertiveness, growing numbers of Muslims in different parts of the country have started adopting a distinct dress code, but a large number  are still indistinguishable from others from the way they dress. 

4. Independent India, as it was born in 1947, consisted of provinces, which had been constituted by the British on the basis of administrative convenience. There was no province, which was definable ethnically, linguistically or religiously. After India achieved independence, there was a movement for the re-organisation of the Federation in order to constitute linguistically definable federating units or provinces. This demand was accepted by the Government of India after considerable violence, particularly in the South. There was also a demand for the constitution of ethnically definable provinces in the North-East, where people of mongloid origin are found. This too was accepted. 

5. At present, the Indian Federation has some ethnically definable federating units in the North-East (Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya), one religiously definable federating unit in J&K and linguistically definable federating units in the rest of the country, which constitute about 90 per cent of the total area of the country. 


6. The Muslim population of the pre-1947 undivided India had two components: 

·     The descendents of the Muslims, who had migrated to the sub-continent from outside-----mainly from Afghanistan and Central and West Asia. They were in a majority in the areas which now constitute the State of Pakistan.

·     Those and the descendents of those, who had been converted to Islam from Hinduism. They were in a majority in the Muslim communities of what constitutes the present India, including J & K, and Bangladesh. 

7. Before 1947, Muslims constituted the majority of the population in what is Pakistan of today, in certain districts of undivided Bengal, which form Bangladesh of today, and in the Srinagar Valley and certain areas of the Jammu Division of J & K. The remaining Muslims were spread over the rest of the country and constituted a minority in the areas of their habitation. 

8. The Indian National Congress (INC---now called Congress (I) )---headed  by Mahatma Gandhi, which led the struggle for independence from the British rule, realised that the unity and territorial integrity of a country like India----with its plurality of ethnic, linguistic and religious groups--- depended not only on its political and territorial integration, but also on the emotional integration of all sections of its people---to whichever ethnic, linguistic or religious group they belonged. It also realised that social harmony in such a pluralistic society depended on the protection of the religious, cultural, economic and other rights of all sections of its people. This realisation marked the policies of the party, which drew its members and leaders from all sections of the people. 

9. Social disharmony and violence in a pluralistic society arise not due to any clash of civilisations, but due to a clash of emotions consequent upon frictions in inter-communal relations. Maintenance of inter-communal harmony through appropriate policies and administrative actions became the keystone of the INC’s policy. In an emotionally well-integrated society, every community, whatever be its ethnicity, language or religion, feels part of it and feels proud to be so. 

10. As against the INC’s philosophy and policies, those of the Muslim League (ML), which fought for the partition of India and the creation of an independent State for the Muslims, were based on its two-nation theory, which maintained that the Hindus and the Muslims of the sub-continent constituted two nations and hence could not live together. Its political campaign, often violent, sowed the seeds of disharmony in the relations between the two communities in many areas. It ultimately led to the partition of India and the creation of two independent States. To meet the demands of the ML, the British  created the State of Pakistan consisting of the Muslim majority  areas of Sindh, West Punjab, Balochistan, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (NWFP) and East Bengal. 

11. The two parts of Pakistan, widely separated by Indian territory, were called West and East Pakistan. Cultural incompatibility between the Urdu-speaking Muslims of West Pakistan and the Bengali-speaking Muslims of East Pakistan and between the descendents from the migrants into the sub-continent from outside, who were in a majority in West Pakistan, and the descendents of converts from Hinduism, who were in a majority in East Pakistan,  led to a movement for the independence of the Bengali-speaking Muslims  of East Pakistan, ultimately resulting in  the formation of Bangladesh in December,1971, after a violent struggle. The separation of Bangladesh after the loss of thousands of lives showed that where emotional integration is lacking, religion alone cannot be a uniting factor and that cultural solidarity is as important as religious solidarity, if not more. 

12. The ML, re-named the Pakistan Muslim League on August 14,1947, Pakistan’s Independence Day, was a political party based on religion as the motivating factor for political action and not a religious party for political involvement. The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, a religious party for political involvement, which was the precursor of today’s Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan as well as the tribal elements of the NWFP and Balochistan, headed by the late Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan of the NWFP and the late Abdus Samaad Khan Achakzai of Balochistan, rejected the two-nation theory and opposed the demand for partition for different reasons. 

13. While the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind opposed the demand for  partition on the ground that this would  put in jeopardy the future of the millions of Muslims living in other parts of  India, who would not seek to migrate to Pakistan, the tribal leaders of the NWFP and Balochistan opposed it because they believed in Gandhiji’s advocacy of the emotional integration of people belonging to different religions and did not accept that the Hindus and the Muslims constituted two irreconcilable communities. Their views did not prevail and Pakistan became a reality. 

14. The Partition was preceded and accompanied by extremely violent communal clashes between the Hindus and the Muslims in North India as well as in West and East Pakistan and the large-scale movement of people between the two countries-----the Hindus to India and the Muslims to Pakistan. The disturbances were particularly violent in the provinces of Punjab and Bengal, which found themselves divided. 

15. The large-scale migration of Muslims to Pakistan before and in the first few years after the Partition remained largely confined to North India. The South did not witness anti-Muslim violence on a large scale and  a similar migration. The reasons were partly historical and partly cultural. Historically, large parts of the South had been spared by and large the rule of the Muslim conquerors from outside and did not have any painful memories of past interactions with Islam, whether of the external or indigenous variety. The birth of Pakistan was not seen in the South with the same alarm as in the North----as a British midwived religious Trojan Horse to keep India weak and divided.  

16.Culturally, the Muslims of the South have very little in common with those of Pakistan. For the Indian Muslim, his cultural identity is as important as his religious identity, if not more. This is particularly true in the South. A Tamil-speaking Muslim feels more comfortable with a Tamil-speaking Hindu or Christian than with  a Hindi-speaking Muslim of the North or an Urdu-speaking Muslim of Pakistan. This is equally true of Muslims speaking the other languages of the South. The Muslims of India do not constitute a monolithic community. Since the 1980s, under external influence, attempts are being made by fundamentalist elements to create threads of monolithic unity based on religion, but these attempts have not made much headway so far. 

17. After India became independent, the Government headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister, took  steps to give effect to  policies, promised during the independence struggle,  for promoting the emotional integration of the people of the country and to protect the religious, cultural, economic and other rights of the ethnic and religious minorities. Amongst such measures, one could mention the implementation of the policy of secularism under which the State does not identify itself with any religion, the incorporation of the Chapter on Fundamental Rights in the Constitution which, inter alia, assures equality of opportunity to all people, and restrictions on  the settlement of people from other parts of India in the areas (North-East and J & K), where ethnic and religious communities, which are a minority in other parts of the country, are in a majority so that they do not have any fears of being reduced to a minority in their traditional areas of habitation. Successive Governments have also refrained from interfering in the religious practices of the religious minorities and have not succumbed to pressures from sections of the Hindu community  for introducing a uniform civil code to  regulate matters such as marriage, divorce, rights of inheritance etc in order to make them uniformly applicable to all religions. 

18. While the restrictions on the settlement of people from other parts of India in the bordering areas where the national minorities are in a regional majority were effectively enforced against Indian nationals, successive Governments failed to prevent the large-scale illegal migration of Muslims from Bangladesh into these areas, particularly into Assam and Tripura. This has already reduced the ethnic tribals of Tripura to a minority in their traditional homeland and has triggered off fears of a similar thing happening in Assam. It is these fears of an Islamisation of the bordering areas by unchecked illegal migration from Bangladesh, which initially triggered off the separatist militancy in Assam in the 1980s. Muslims already constitute 30.9 per cent of its total population of 26.6 million as against the national average of 14 per cent. They constitute the majority in six out of the 27 districts of the State. They  were already in a majority in four of these districts before Bangladesh was born in 1971 and have become the majority in two more districts since Bangladesh was formed. 


19. There is no separatist movement amongst the Muslims of India outside the State of J & K. A separatist movement amongst the minorities---whether ethnic, linguistic or religious--- generally arises due to feelings of discrimination and  feelings of unhappiness/anger and both ultimately leading to feelings of alienation. Successful separatism also requires national minorities constituting the regional majority in definable geographic areas. Such a contingency does not exist at present except in the bordering  districts of Assam mentioned above. 

20. Thanks to the foresight and vision of  Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and other leaders of the independence struggle and of the founding fathers of the Republic of India and the sincerity and determination of their successors to continue on the path of the emotional integration of the people, the Muslim community does not feel discriminated against by the State---either at the federal or provincial level---in matters of education, employment and economic development. The Indian Constitution does not prohibit any Indian citizen from occupying any office because of his or her ethnicity, language or religion. While there are no provisions for any negative discrimination, there is a provision for positive discrimination in favour of the backward classes in order to enable them to attain levels of social and economic equality with the rest of the population. 

21.In the 57 years of India’s independence, Indian Muslims have been able to rise to the highest levels in various spheres of activity, governmental or non-governmental. Three Muslims have held office as the President of India, including the present incumbent of the post, who had served as the head of India's  sensitive missile establishment and as the Scientific Adviser to the Government of India with great distinction  before becoming the President. Muslims have served as Cabinet Ministers in charge of sensitive portfolios, the Chief of the Air Force, as Cabinet Secretary, the seniormost civilian head of the Indian bureaucracy, who co-ordinates the functioning of the various Ministries and Departments of the Government of India, including its intelligence agencies, as Home Secretary, who is responsible, inter alia, for internal security, and in many other important and sensitive posts. Their religion did not stand in the way of their occupying such posts. 

22. In the private sector too, Muslims have done well. Reputedly the richest Indian today, who is one of the towering leaders of India’s IT industry, is a Muslim. Even in J&K, those, who have taken to arms against the State, do not talk of any discrimination by the State against the Muslims because of their religion. 

23. However, one could discern some feelings in the Muslim community all over the country that while the creamy layers of their community have done well in the Indian society, the poorer sections of their community have not done as well  and have not been looked after as well by the State as compared to the poorer sections of the Hindu community in matters such as educational development etc. Similar feelings are discernible in the Christian community too. 

24. The present Government of India and the parties constituting the present ruling coalition have taken note of these feelings and have pledged to initiate corrective measures. On  September 29,2004, the Union Cabinet approved the setting-up of a commission for the welfare of socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities. This decision was taken in pursuance of a promise made in its National Common Minimum Programme under the section on “Social Harmony and Welfare of Minorities” ‘to establish a national commission to see how best the welfare of socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities, including reservation in education and employment, is enhanced.” 

25. There are  thus no worrisome feelings of discrimination by the State against the Muslims so far and  any creeping feelings in this direction have been taken note of and corrective measures sought to be initiated. However, there are worrisome feelings of unease/unhappiness/anger in sections of the Muslim community due to periodic incidents of anti-Muslim violence by the Hindus,  their feelings of  the humiliation of their religion and community by the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh by a Hindu mob in December,1992, their perception of the failure of the State and its security agencies to protect them, and their perception of the increasing religious assertiveness of sections of the Hindu community,  generally referred to as the Hindutva elements, which, not only in their view, but also in the view of many Hindus themselves, who feel concerned over the direction the Hindutva movement is taking, could weaken the strong bonds of emotional integration of the people of different communities. 


26.The measures for strengthening the emotional integration of the people of different communities taken by successive governments have not been able to  prevent periodic eruption of anti-Muslim violence in different parts of the country---mostly in the North. Such incidents of violence were an unfortunate feature of the Indian society during the British days. In their efforts to discredit Mahatma Gandhi and weaken the independence struggle, the British followed a divide and rule policy in order to sow seeds of suspicion and fears in the minds of the Muslim community. The  Muslim League and its movement for the creation of an independent Muslim State were godfathered by them. 

27. The expectations that with India becoming independent and embarking on the path of democracy, secularism and emotional integration, such eruptions would become a thing of the past have not been fulfilled. The decades since independence have seen periodic  eruptions of anti-Muslim violence in different parts of the North, the latest of them having taken place in Gujarat in February 2002. Amongst the triggers for these riots were  inter-communal tension during the observance of the respective religious festivals of the two communities, allegations of sexual misbehaviour by a member of one community towards a member of the other, reactions to the periodic massacres of Hindus in the then East Pakistan and the consequent exodus of Hindu refugees to India and the anger caused in the Muslim community by the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December,1992. 

28. A disturbing feature has been that while the lead roles in the anti-Muslim riots of the first three decades after independence were largely taken by the Hindu refugees from Pakistan, particularly Sindh, who had been re-settled in different towns of the North, and whose painful memories of the atrocities inflicted on them and their families by Muslim mobs in Pakistan caused a certain irrationality in their responses to inter-communal incidents, many of those, who had taken part in the riots of the last two decades, came from generations, which were born and grew up in India and had no such painful memories to nurse. 


29. A complicating factor has been the competitive assertiveness of certain sections of the two communities witnessed since the 1980s. The assertiveness in the Hindu community has been as a reaction to that first noticed in the Muslim community. This assertiveness in sections of the Muslim community manifested itself in the following ways: 

·     A mushrooming of fundamentalist madrasas funded by external sources in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

·     Flow of funds from Saudi Arabia to encourage the Muslim youth to study the Arabic language in order to be able to read the Holy Koran in Arabic.

·     The adoption of a typical dress code by growing numbers of Muslims in order to distinguish themselves from non-Muslims.

·      Opposition to family planning.

·     Opposition to any action by the Government against the large number of illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh. Such action was sought to be projected as anti-Muslim and anti-secular.

·     Opposition to a uniform civil code for all religions.

·     Intensification of the proselytisation activities of the Muslim clerics, particularly in South India. This too was funded by external money originating from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

·    Assertion of the right of the Muslims to worship in public places if the accommodation available in the mosques is not adequate.

·     Demands for special concessions for Muslims in matters such as subsidies to enable them to undertake pilgrimages to their holy places in Saudi Arabia. Such concessions, which have been granted by the Government, are not available to other religious groups for their pilgrimages. 

30. This led to a backlash and counter-assertiveness  in sections of the Hindu community. Such feelings of Hindu assertiveness to counter the Muslim assertiveness are not confined to the so-called Hindutva elements alone . Many Hindus not identifying themselves with the Hindutva organisations share the opinion that there is a need for a more assertive response to the Muslim assertiveness. This backlash has manifested itself in the  form of opposition to the proselytisation activities of the Muslim clerics and special pilgrimage concessions to them, demands for action against illegal immigration from Bangladesh and the mushrooming madrasas, demand for the enactment of a uniform civil code for all religions, criticism of the opposition of many Muslim leaders to family planning, which is seen as intended to encourage an increase in the Muslim population etc. 

31. The Hindu assertiveness has also taken the form of a movement to have what is perceived as the historic wrongs committed by the Muslim rulers/invaders of the past corrected. In this connection, one could cite the movement for the replacement of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya by a Hindu temple devoted to Ram.  Many believe that a Ram temple, which existed at the place, had been destroyed by the Muslim invaders of the past and replaced with a mosque. The matter is now sub-judice. 


32. The Hindutva elements, who project themselves as Indian and not Hindu nationalists, maintain that secularism does not mean what they describe as minorityism, that is, pampering the minority communities and accepting all their demands, whether justified or not. According to them, it does not also mean refraining from articulating one’s concerns over what are viewed as disturbing trends in the Muslim community. 

33. The present generation of the so-called secular leaders cannot escape a share of the responsibility  for the substantial appeal of the so-called Hindutva elements to large sections of the Hindu community, not only in India, but also in the Indian diaspora abroad. The Indian nation had not produced more genuine and committed secular leaders than Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Mrs.Indira Gandhi. They strongly defended and protected the interests of the religious minorities. At the same time, they did not hesitate to act against disturbing trends in the minority communities, which could be detrimental to the national interests. One could cite the action taken by them against foreign Christian missionaries, who used foreign money for their poselytisation activities, the action taken by Indira Gandhi against Muslim proselytisation in Tamil Nadu in the 1980s and her promised action against illegal Muslim immigration into Assam following the outbreak of student violence on this issue in Assam in the 1980s. 

34. The Congress of the past enjoyed unchallenged political primacy and its leaders could, therefore, take decisions objectively and in the national interests without unduly worrying about their impact on the number of votes they could get from the Muslims. Today’s Congress is a much weakened political force dependent on other political formations for coming to power and surviving in it. Its dependence on the Muslim vote is consequently greater than that of the past leadership of the party. Decisions relating to the Muslim community are consequently taken not objectively with the national interests in view, but subjectively, with partisan political interests being the main consideration. 


35. It needs to be underlined, however, that the emergence of the competitive assertiveness of sections of the Muslim and Hindu communities and the ongoing debate on the true nature of secularism are  part of India’s democratic process. It should not be misinterpreted to mean as the beginning of any polarisation of the two communities. It is definitely not. 

36. It is true that sections of the Muslims are increasingly assertive in projecting their religious identity, but, despite this, an overwhelming number of the community continue to be vigorously nationalist and patriotic. It has not supported the pan-Islamic ideas emanating from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, it has kept away from organisations such Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda and the International Islamic Front (IIF) and their pernicious pan-Islamic ideologies and has not played any role in the jihads of Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and Iraq. 

37. There has so far been not a single act of terrorism in Indian territory attributable to Al Qaeda. The report of the USA’s National Commission, which enquired into the 9/11 terrorist strikes, contains over 350 references to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran, with over 200 references to Pakistan alone. There are also many references to secret preparatory meetings held in other countries such as Malaysia, Spain, Germany etc. 

38. As against this, there is only one reference to India--- to a visit by Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. The report, however, does not say when and why he came to India. It is evident from the report that Al Qaeda elements preferred to keep away from India. This was because of the lack of local support from the Indian Muslim community, without which one cannot keep meetings and preparations secret. 

39. Indian Muslims, despite all their grievances, unhappiness and anger, have kept themselves miles  away from such pernicious organisations and ideologies because Indian democracy and the liberal Indian society have provided them with adequate and effective means of ventilating their grievances and having them redressed. In times of distress for their community, their greatest supporters and defenders have been liberal leaders of the Hindu community, the media, the National Human Rights Commission,  the National Minorities Commission and many non-governmental organisations. 

40. Having stated that, one has to flag two disturbing trends which need attention from the policy-makers and national security managers: 

·     Incipient signs of the prevailing unhappiness/anger in some sections of the community driving some of the Muslim youth to take to terrorism to give vent to their anger. Examples: The Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which has been responsible for many acts of terrorism in different parts of India involving the use of explosives, and the Al Ummah of the South ( mainly Tamil Nadu and Kerala), which has been responsible for many acts of explosions in Tamil Nadu, including the series of co-ordinated explosions in Coimbatore in February,1998. The indications are that both these organisations have been provoked into taking to terrorism by the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. While there is strong evidence of the linkages of the SIMI with the jihadi terrorist elements  in Pakistan and the Gulf countries, similar evidence is lacking in the case of Al Ummah.

·     The attempts of Pakistani jihadi organisations allied with Al Qaeda in the IIF, which are in the forefront of the terrorist movement in J&K since 1993, to spread their pan-Islamic ideologies and activities to members of the Muslim community in other parts of India outside J & K. They have been responsible for a number of acts of terrorism in other parts of India such as the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 and the series of explosions in Mumbai (Bombay). Their clandestine cells have been detected even in the South, particularly in Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. 


41. There are two aspects to any analysis of the separatist movement in J & K---the Pakistani factor and the domestic factor. Before discussing them, it would be in order to make some general observations. Firstly, J&K is the only State of the Indian Federation where Muslims, the national religious minority (14 per cent of the national population), are in a regional religious majority (60 per cent of the State’s population of 7.7 million ). 

42. Secondly, J & K (50,513 sq.miles) has three distinct geographical and administrative regions---the Kashmir Valley (6,893 sq.miles), the Jammu Division (9,880 sq.miles) and the Ladakh Division (33,740 sq.miles). The Muslims, the State majority, are in a regional minority in the Jammu and Ladakh Divisions. Their majority is concentrated in the Kashmir Valley, including Srinagar, the capital, which constitutes about 13 per cent of the land area of the State. The Hindus are in a majority in the Jammu Division and the Buddhists in the Ladakh Division. Thus, the Muslims are in a minority in about 87 per cent of the land area of the State. 

43.Thirdly, parts of the pre-1947 J&K State  are presently  occupied by Pakistan and China. The part occupied by Pakistan  consists of what Pakistan calls Azad (meaning Free) Kashmir (4,144 sq.miles) and what India calls Pakistan-occupied Kashmir ( POK) and the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan—29,814 sq.miles ). Of the part occupied by China, one portion (the Aksai Chin area of the Ladakh Division—1971 sq.miles) was occupied by it in the 1950s by taking advantage of the absence of an Indian army presence there and the other portion, which originally was part of the Northern Areas, was transferred by Pakistan to China in 1963 (1,868 sq.miles) in return for Chinese military assistance to Pakistan. 

44. Fourthly, while the Muslims of J&K are largely descendents of converts from Hinduism, those of the POK are largely descendents of the migrants from Afghanistan and Central and West Asia. The Muslims of the Northern Areas, including the territory transferred by Pakistan to China, are partly the descendents of the migrants and partly the descendents of converts from Hinduism and Buddhism 

45. Fifthly, culturally, the Muslims of J&K and the Northern Areas have more in common with the Hindus and the Buddhists of India than with the Muslims of Pakistan. The Muslims of the POK have more in common with their co-religionists in Pakistan than with those in J&K. 


46. The pre-1947 undivided India consisted of large areas in different provinces directly controlled and administered by the British and a number of princely States, ruled by their traditional rulers, which enjoyed a certain measure of administrative autonomy. Under the agreement entered into by the British with the INC and the ML, while the British-controlled territory was partitioned between India and the newly-created State of Pakistan, it was decided that the rulers of the princely States would decide whether their State would join India or Pakistan. 

47. Though J&K was a Muslim majority State, its ruler was a Hindu and he decided that the State would join India. The State was, therefore, made a part of India. Pakistan has not accepted the decision of the ruler and has repeatedly claimed the State as rightly belonging to it under the two-nation theory under which the ML fought for the partition of India. It has described the decision of the ruler as a violation of the agenda for the partition and describes the future of the State as constituting  “the unfinished agenda of the partition.” 

48. Even before the ruler could make his decision in favour of joining India, Pakistan tried to pre-empt it by sending its troops in the garb of tribals into J&K in order to forcibly occupy it and instigated a revolt by the para-military forces in the Northern Areas against the ruler. After the ruler’s decision, the Government of India sent its troops into  J&K and stopped further intrusion by the Pakistan Army into the State. However, it could not eject the Pakistan Army from the territory already occupied by it before a cease-fire agreed to at  the UN came into force. 

49. India, which took the issue before the UN, agreed to the holding of a plebiscite in the State in order to  ascertain the wishes of the people of the State on its future. A UN Security Council Resolution on the subject recognised India’s locus standi in the entire State pending a plebiscite and stated that the holding of a plebiscite had to be preceded by the withdrawal of the Pakistani forces from the territory occupied by them and the restoration of the Indian responsibility for the maintenance of law and order in the entire State. 

50. This resolution subsequently became untenable due to the following reasons: 

·     Pakistan refused to withdraw its forces from the territory occupied by it and to restore the Indian authority for the maintenance of law and order till a plebiscite was held, as demanded by the UN.

·     Unilaterally, in violation of the UN resolutions, it made changes in the administrative dispensation of the territory occupied by it. It divided it into two parts. The POK, populated largely by the Sunnis,  was given the façade of autonomy with its own Constitution, but with the Government in Islamabad having powers of superintendence over it. The name of the Northern Areas of Jammu and Kashmir,  populated largely by the Shias, was changed as the Northern Areas of Pakistan and it was made directly governable by the Government in Islamabad, with the Government of the POK not having any powers for its governance.

·     A part of the Northern Areas was transferred to China in 1963 and merged with the Xinjiang province of China.

·     In order to dilute the Kashmiri component  of the population, the Islamabad Government re-settled a large number of Punjabis and Pashtuns in the POK and the Northern Areas. This included about 150,000 ex-servicemen. 

51. Because of these reasons, India has held that the UN resolution on a plebiscite has become untenable. During a visit to India in 2001, Mr.Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, also agreed that the UN resolution had become untenable. 

52. The State of J&K has its own Constitution drafted by a Constituent Assembly. Elections have been held regularly in the State. While there were allegations of the rigging of one of the elections held in the late 1980s, the remaining elections have been free and fair. The last elections held in October,2002, in which over one- third of the registered voters exercised their franchise  in defiance of acts of terrorism and intimidation against those participating in the elections by the jihadi terrorist organisations, resulted in the defeat of the then ruling party, the National Conference. Diplomats of foreign embassies, who were present in the State during the elections, certified that they were free and fair. Mr.Robert Blackwill, the then US Ambassador to India, also certified that the elections were free and fair. 

53. While Pakistan has considerably changed the demographic composition of the territory under its occupation in order to dilute  the Kashmiri composition, the Government of India has preserved the Kashmiri composition as it was in 1947 by enacting laws, which prohibit non-Kashmiris from settling down in the State. The only demographic change since 1947 has taken place in the Valley from which the Hindu Pandits, the original inhabitants of J&K, were driven out by the jihadi terrorist organisations sponsored/supported by Pakistan. 

54. Pakistan failed in its efforts in 1947-48 and in 1965 to acquire J&K through the use of military force. At the Shimla conference held in 1972 after its  humiliating defeat at the hands of the Indian Army in the war of  December 1971, the late Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, its then Prime Minister, had reportedly agreed with Mrs.Indira Gandhi, India’s then Prime Minister, that the only viable solution to the problem would be on the basis of the conversion of the Line of Control (LOC) into an international border. He did not want this to be formalised in writing in the Shimla Agreement, but promised to work towards this after India released the thousands of Pakistani prisoners of war in its custody. 

55. But, having achieved their release and return to Pakistan, Bhutto went back on his word and denied any such agreement or promise. However, till 1989, with memories of its 1971 defeat still fresh, it refrained from another military adventure in J&K. Since 1989, taking advantage of signs of alienation in J&K against the Governments of the State and India, it has embarked upon a proxy war against India, by using various Kashmiri and Pakistani jihadi organisations as surrogates for organising acts of terrorism in the State, without its own army directly getting involved. 

56. This proxy war has passed through four  phases. In the first phase, between 1989 and 1993, Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment relied largely on indigenous Kashmiri organisations for sponsoring terrorism in J&K and kept the acts of terrorism confined to the State. Between 1993 and 1999, after finding that the indigenous Kashmiri organisations were unable to make headway, it started infiltrating a large number of well-trained and well-armed mercenaries of Pakistani jihadi organisations into the State to step up the acts of terrorism. Simultaneously, it started spreading the acts of jihadi terrorism to other parts of India outside J&K. 

57. In 1999, after finding that even the mercenaries were not able to make headway, it infiltrated its army units into the Kargil area of the Ladakh Division and occupied the mountain heights there, in an attempt to disrupt movements on the Srinagar-Kargil road and help the mercenaries to spread their acts of terrorism to the Ladakh sector. 

58. Its attempts to project its troops as indigenous militants, as it had done in 1947-48 and again in 1965—were rejected by the international community and many countries, including the USA and China, exercised pressure on Pakistan to withdraw its troops from the Indian territory and respect the LOC. It had to succumb to American pressure in this regard. 

59. This failure of another attempted use of its Army led its military-intelligence establishment to revert to its pre-1999 policy of using the mercenaries of Pakistani jihadi organisations, now allied with Osama bin Laden in his IIF,for stepping up terrorism in the State as well as in other parts of India. 

60. The attack on India’s Parliament in December,2001, by two of these jihadi organisations and the consequent mobilisation of Indian troops once again brought pressure on Pakistan from the USA and other countries to stop using terrorism against India and to dismantle the anti-India jihadi terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory. 

61. During the visit of A.B.Vajpayee, India’s then Prime Minister, to Islamabad in January,2004, to attend the SAARC summit, President Pervez Musharraf gave a written undertaking that Pakistan would stop the use of the territory under its control for acts of terrorism directed against India. This assurance has not resulted in the dismantling of the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory. Nor has it led to any decline in acts of terrorism in J&K. However, Pakistan-sponsored jihadi terrorist organisations have not mounted any major act of terrorism in Indian territory outside J&K since August 25,2003, when there were two explosions in Mumbai (Bombay). 


62. Pakistan’s proxy war against India to acquire J&K has been facilitated by the existence of pockets of discontent and alienation in the local Muslim community. Such pockets were not due to any feelings of discrimination against the local Muslims. None of the indigenous militant organisations has levelled allegations of discrimination against the Government of India. Successive Governments in New Delhi had, in fact, gone out of their way to avoid any action or policy, which could be misinterpreted as interference in the local religious affairs or as an act of discrimination. 

63. Nor were they due to any economic reasons. In fact, a common impression amongst large sections of the Hindus outside  J&K has always been that the Govt. of India has been over-generous to the people of the State in matters of economic development. There were and even now there are  more signs of abject poverty in other States of India  than in J&K. 

64. If at all there were any acts of discrimination in the State, those were against the Hindu and Buddhist minorities than against the Muslim majority. The Kashmiri diaspora in the West consists largely of the Muslims, commonly called Mirpuris, who fled the POK and the Northern Areas of Pakistan, because of acts of discrimination, economic deprivation and repression directed against them by the Pakistani authorities and Hindu Kashmiri Pandits, who fled the Valley because of similar acts directed against them by the local authorities. There has hardly been any exodus of Muslims from J&K to the West. Those, who had fled because of the acts of terrorism, have fled to other parts of India and settled down there. The Muslims of J&K feel safer in other parts of India and do not feel the need to migrate abroad. The Mirpuris, on the other hand, do not feel safer in other parts of Pakistan, particularly the Shias of the Northern Areas, and, therefore, find themselves forced to migrate abroad. 

65. The pockets of discontent and alienation in the J&K Muslim community were  largely due to political reasons such as the resentment over the domination of the State’s political scene by the National Conference for many years, perceptions of its autocratic ways of functioning, poor governance, perceptions of widespread corruption and favouritism in recruitment to Government  services, allegations of rigging of elections to ensure the dominance of the National Conference etc. 

66. The pockets of discontent and alienation in J&K are not confined only to the local Muslim community. They are to be found even in the Hindu and Buddhist communities for similar reasons. The alienation in those communities has been aggravated by a lack of genuine autonomy for their regions. While the mainstream political parties of the State keep demanding more and more autonomy from the Govt. of India, they are not prepared to grant similar autonomy to the Hindus and the Buddhists in the areas inhabited by them. 

67. When the militancy started in 1989, spearheaded by jihadi terrorists who had been put through their jihadi inoculation by the ISI in the jihad against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, the Indian Security Forces were taken by surprise. Though the Indian Security Forces had faced ethnic, ideological and religious terrorism of various kinds in the North-East, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab before 1989, they were new to the kind of  brutalities, in the name of jihad, inflicted by the jihadi terrorists in J& K on innocent civilians. A consequent over-projection of the capability of the terrorists and an over-estimation of the threat posed by them by the police and the intelligence agencies  led to an over-reaction by the Security Forces and excessive use of force, leading to a number of incidents of perceived human rights violations. This contributed to an aggravation of the feelings of alienation in the Muslim community. Within a couple of years, the Security Forces managed to evolve an appropriate counter-terrorism response, which brought down such instances of human rights violations and avoided hardships to the civilians. 

68. The counter-terrorism response took into account not only the need for an operational response, which would avoid hardships to civilians, but also the need for an appropriate economic response which would protect the livelihood of the common people and an appropriate humanitarian response to keep the educational and medical services going. In J&K, India has been confronted with what we call cross-border terrorism, that is, acts of terrorism by trained and armed terrorists infiltrated across the border from Pakistan. There is a counter-infiltration aspect to the State's response, which is handled by the Indian Army, assisted by the para-military forces  and a counter-terrorism aspect, which is handled by the Police, with the help of the para-military forces. 

69. India has never used its Air Force and heavy infantry weapons in its campaign against the jihadi terrorists. The Police is always used as the weapon of first resort and the Army as the weapon of last resort in specific instances in which the Police finds itself overwhelmed by the superior force of the terrorists. 

70. The indigenous terrorist organisations operating in J&K fall into the following groups: 

·     Those who want J&K to become part of Pakistan under the two-nation theory. They are spearheaded by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI), which is a branch of the JEI of Pakistan, and its militant wing called the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), whose leader Syed Salahuddin, though a Kashmiri, is based in Pakistan.

·     Those who want independence for the whole of Kashmir, including J&K, the POK and the Northern Areas. They are spearheaded by the J&K Liberation Front (JKLF), some of whose leaders are based in Pakistan and others in J&K.

·     Those who merely call for granting what they call the right of self-determination to the Kashmiris, without specifying whether they want it to join Pakistan or become independent. They say it is for the people to decide. 

71. The anti-Government campaign is co-ordinated at the political level by the Hurriyat Conference based in J&K and at the operational level by the United Jihad Council based in Pakistan. 

72. Confronting  them politically are the mainstream parties. Unlike the States of the North-East, which did not have a tradition and a history of a mainstream political movement, J&K has had a long history of such a movement inspired by the democratic, liberal and secular ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress. The National Conference, headed by the late Sheikh Abdullah, rejected the Muslim League’s two-nation theory and suuported the Congress’ struggle for a united independent India. The Congress itself has  had a strong presence in the Jammu and Ladakh Divisions. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which is presently in power in coalition with the Congress and other parties, is an offshoot of the National Conference formed by some leaders who left it due to unhappiness over the domination of the party by the Abdullah family. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is closely identified with the Hindu community, too has a strong presence in the Jammu Division. J&K has always had a small, but active communist movement looking after the interests of the workers. 

73. All these mainstream political parties, to whichever part of the political spectrum they belong, have always rejected resort to insurgency and terrorism for achieving political objectives. They take note of the feelings of alienation in some sections of the Muslim community and advocate or demand more autonomy to the State in various degrees. Some of them question the contention of the Government of India that the State already enjoys genuine autonomy to a considerable extent. 

74. The questions before the Government of India in its efforts to find a political solution to the problems confronting the State are: 

·      How to meet the aspirations of the mainstream parties for genuine autonomy for the State as a whole?

·     How to meet the aspirations of the people of the Jammu (mainly Hindus) and Ladakh (mainly Buddhists) Divisions for sub-regional autonomy for the regions?

·     How to make the indigenous terrorist organisations realise that violence is not an option and persuade them to negotiate with the Government of India in order to find a political solution to their grievances?

·     How to deal effectively with the terrorist activities of the pro-bin Laden jihadi terrorist organisations of Pakistan such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), which are members of bin Laden’s International Islamic Front (IIF) and neutralise them? They pose a threat not only to peace and stability in J&K, but also in other parts of India. 

75. There is a need for a comprehensive counter-terrorism doctrine, based on national and regional consensus, which could simultaneously address all these questions. The Indian State had in the past been confronted with an insurgent-cum-terrorist movement in Nagaland and Mizoram to which it managed to find a political solution through negotiations with the insurgents and by convincing them that violence would  not pay. The militants/insurgents of the past in these areas have given up their resort to insurgency/terrorism and have taken their due place as responsible and enlightened political leaders of their communities. 

76. A similar outcome in J&K is being impeded by the infiltration and operation in Indian territory of thousands of Pakistani jihadi terrorists in the name of Islamic solidarity and in pursuance of bin Laden’s pan-Islamic ideology, which advocates the division of the Islamic world into Islamic Caliphates in different geographical regions. 

77.In Nagaland and Mizoram too, there was considerable ISI involvement in the insurgency in the form of training and supply of funds and arms and ammunition, but there was no involvement of foreign mercenaries. Despite this, it took the Govt. of India 19 years to find a political solution in Nagaland and 18 years in Mizoram. 

78. Its task is much more complicated in J&K because of the factor of cross-border terrorism and the role of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment in  keeping terrorism alive. It is, therefore, not surprising that it is taking it a long time to find a political solution. There is, however, no doubt that it will find a political solution to the indigenous aspect of the problem in course of time  in accordance with its ideals of democracy and secularism.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter. E-Mail: )