An overlook at the Insurgency in Kashmir and way forward

Indian security forces personnel in Kashmir/ Image source: STR/AFP/Getty Images


Insurgency is Kashmir is the order of the day since early 1989. Though, Kashmir is not the lone state facing the heat of insurgency and nor it is the first one to come under the clutches of insurgency. However, when one looks at the present situation in Kashmir, it looks quite odd among other insurgency infected state and it will be not wrong to say that it’s the worst insurgency affected region in India. The scope of insurgency in Kashmir is such that it has shaped the foreign policy of India for many decades and still had a huge influence on domestic politics. The question arises that why insurgency did not happen just after partition.

This article assesses the possible circumstances that lead to the insurgency in the valley. What is the present situation in the valley especially after the abrogation of article 370? And what could be the possible way forward?

Image source: Photo by Yawar Nazir/ Getty Images


Jammu and Kashmir is the northernmost state recently got converted into Union Territory after the abrogation of article 370, which gave special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir since 1954. Kashmir though lays at the northern end of the country always remains at the centre of India’s foreign policy and plays a pivot role in domestic politics of India. For instance, there was a huge celebration by ruling-Bhartiya Janta Party after the abrogation of article 370 on 31 October 2019 and opposition especially congress see it as the shift in the policy nurtured by them and considered it as undemocratic move. Further, some scholar also termed it as the dark blot on Indian democracy. Then the general question arises why there is such a sharp ideological contrast in policies of the political party in India? Is giving special status to Kashmir has something to do with the insurgency in the region? And why Kashmir insurgency is different from the insurgency in other states? Some argued that Kashmir Insurgency is the outcome of the frustration of middle-class Kashmiri whose employment opportunities cannot be put at pace with the growth of education level. However, this point loses its value when many insurgent groups claim for unification with Pakistan, given Pakistan’s failure to develop the pat of Jammu & Kashmir it has occupied since 1947.

Political analyst and scholar argued a different perspective depending on the lens they wore in their eyes. There is a certain circumstance that germinated the root of insurgency in Kashmir. First and foremost is the presence of the autocratic system within the democratic one. J&K national conference which was earlier known as All J&K Muslim conference formed in 1932 headed by Sheikh Abdulla. There is very little argument that Abdulla’s national conference enjoyed wide support within the state yet Abdulla’s political mobilization was Populist, not democratic. His policies significantly limited the growth and development of political institution within the J&K. Sheikh Abdulla used the prorogation of office to prevent the growth of any meaningful opposition. When election in all over India is free and fair, the election in J&K was completely rigged and farcical totally favouring the national conference. New Delhi did little to do away with this situation as long as Abdulla did not question the accession of J&K into India. This leads to the complete isolation of the people in the valley from the rest of India where besides the ruling there exists the opposing party as well.

The fact that national conference candidate won unopposed on all 43 seats a week before the date of election gives testimony to this. Any descanting voice against the conference was not tolerated and this made Abdulla the sole figure in the Kashmir politics.

Second, the political mobilization, it refers to the process by which individual act as an actor in the political arena. Political mobilization, assent more with the economic modernization, increasing level of literacy, high education and media exposure. Samuel P Huntington rightly argued that increased political awareness will surely increase the political demand of the nation.

As Kashmiri acquired more education and there is a significant rise in the literacy of the people during 1970s and further, with the arrival of television they became aware that their adult franchise was compromised when rest of India is voting to express their political opinion and this lead to dissent within the national conference as well.

Third, the concept of ‘ethnic security dilemma’ as applied by Borey Posen to such situation, when the ethnic group has to ensure its own security, their identity can assume increased significance. The government of the era tries to put all its effort to keep the identity of Kashmiri unique (especially Muslims) when the whole of India is working to make people of different states, Indian. This increased significance leads to cohesion among the separate ethnic group. Islamization of Kashmir indicates to this concept only. Further, the growth of ‘Madarsas’ saw a spontaneous boost in 1983, with the immigration of the significant number of Bangladeshi ‘Maulvis’ who from Assam after the massacre in the Assam’s village of Nellie.

Forth, the defeat of soviet in Afghanistan gave necessary confidence to now workless ‘Mujahedeen’ to spread the fresh row of jihad in the Kashmir. Pakistan which has almost lost its hope to formulate rebellion in Kashmir is now trying to seize the opportunity by helping ‘Mujahedeen’.

Fifth, which finally became the igniting point is the assembly election of 1987. This election is considered to be the most compromised and undemocratic in Kashmir’s history. Both Congress and the National Conference was fighting jointly and was opposed by MUF (Muslim United Front). The young youth who were aspiring to be the part of main politics and want to resolve the issue through democratic channel find themselves on the receiving end. They find themselves betrayal, as they have worked to lead huge mobilization during the election campaign. The ill politics alienated the young blood of the valley forever. This incident leads to the formation of a secessionist and militant organization like JKLF (Jammu and Kashmir liberation front), Hizbul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen etc. supported by a foreign terrorist organization like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The success of Palestinian Intifada in Israel gave the necessary threshold to fire the light of rebellion in the region. Thus, we can assume that for almost 40 years after independence valley was at peace but this peace was actually utilized by then governments for their vested interest and interest of the nation as a whole was kept at bay. The government who boasts of protecting the right of minority and believe in the secular fabric of the country then failed to protect the minority in the state of J&K.

Kashmiri Pandits/ Image source: DD

In 1989, the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pundit shows how the entire state machinery was completely paralyzed by the outburst of the above-mentioned factor simultaneously. Ironically, three-decade after the incident, generation of ‘Kashmiri Pundit’ are still in relief camp but it failed to mobilize both nationalists (who through CAA want non-Muslim to gain Indian citizenship to appease Hindu voter) and liberals (who want the issue of Rohingyas (Myanmar), Ahmadiyya (Pakistan) and Hazara (Afghanistan) address to mobilize there Muslim vote in the country).

Thus, the Kashmir issue is more about the different opinion of a political party within India. If there had been a unified national policy on Kashmir, formulated after thorough debate and discussion in the Indian parliament, while taking consideration of all the stakeholders, as the true democracy does, there would have been no internationalization of Kashmir issue.

When the secessionist movement is an uprising, the state is left with little scope to manoeuvre its skill. It left with the two option i.e. first, use of hard power to suppress the inciting voice but this comes with the possible risk of retaliation and maligning of the foreign power in already chorus environment.

Second, taking consideration of the stakeholder and fulfilling the demand voiced by the people but here is the catch that the state may have a little resource to fulfil the required demand. The government of the day tries both in case of Kashmir and with the data from the ministry of the home affair and by various governments specified sources, from 1989-2012 there is a sharp decline in militancy and 2012 considered to the year when valley returned to normalcy. Around 1.3 million tourists visited J&K and local people started converting their homes into lodges or paying guest to accommodate these arriving tourist.

The new wave of Insurgency and changing trend

With the NDA’s government at centre after 2014, the situation in Kashmir has changed a lot and new wave on insurgency can be seen. The new trend in the insurgency is much to do with the scope of development in communication. The Internet had played an important role in reviving the militancy in the Kashmir. Militant is now using a safe encrypted platform like WhatsApp to communicate and recruit young boys. New generations of local youth are educated and tech-savvy. In the early 1990s, Kashmir youth has to cross LoC for training in the various camp located in PoK. They had to cross rough terrain, jungle and had to infiltrate back into the Indian side after intense training for 3-4 months. 

However, new recruitment is totally on the line of ‘jihad’ and propaganda run by mullahs sitting across LoC through hate speech on the social media platform. Young frustrated youth toe on the religious line to scarifies there life for Islam. Thus, this trend of recruiting local youth has tremendously increased during the past 5-6 year. There is certainly reason to it; first, the huge deployment of armed forces makes it difficult for the infiltrators to cross LoC and second, Pakistan who was continuously funding the terrorist organization is itself facing the heat of secessionist movement in a different part of the country especially in Baluchistan and not to talk about the down sliding economy of the country, which has recently received the bailout packages from IMF and soft loan from Saudi Arabia and China.

However, the quality of training of self recruited youth is very poor. These militant does not last long in combat. The gunfight between Burhan Wani and Security Forces last for just 15 min. New recruits are best known for their inflammatory opinions over social media. This trend of recruiting local youth has far more repercussion; first, it shows that youth are self-radicalized for the insurgency, which was not the case during the early insurgency when youth were supporting the forces to find out militants.

Second, it is very difficult for the forces to catch self-radicalized youth as happened in the case of Pulwama attack on 14 February 2019, which claimed the life of 40 CRPF personnel, when a local youth of Pulwama Adil Dar barged the car full of explosive on the CRPF convoy. Further, there is a very interesting fact that in the early phase of militancy, the distrust and ideological difference were seen among the terrorist organization but now the terrorist groups seem united and there is huge distrust and misunderstanding between people and the government.

The government by completely shutting the internet facilities across the valley ensuring that no new self-radicalization of youth could take place but forgetting that the frustration of not using the internet is further radicalizing the youth. As tech-savvy generation can afford not to have food but cannot afford to be away from technology for too long.

Image source: The Print


The Kashmir problem was not as typical as it was projected. The only fallout was the intension and vested interest of certain section that put the situation from bad to worst. The past government while making India democratic does not apply the same formula to the J&K and kept a blind eye on the situation, those required a good debate and discussion. Taking the matter to the UN was not a bad option had the regulation of internal politics was proper.

The present government is still following the age-old path of containing the situation by complete blockade and coercion, which by no means can be a possible solution. It will be the situation like a soda bottle, which look at peace and calm when capped but rushed out with intensity when uncapped at any point of time.

Thus, the need of the hour is to bring all political party on the table and formulate a national policy on Kashmir while taking the proper assessment of need and aspiration of all stakeholders. This will not only benefit the Kashmir, as people will be aware of policy shaped for them and will give confidence to the secessionist voices to work with the government for the development of the UT. India is the land of Buddha and Gandhi, both have changed the vision of humanity. Following the path shown by them can bring lots of change in the situation of J&K.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Vaibhav Kullashri

Vaibhav is a Research Associate at The Kootneeti

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