Kashmir conundrum

Terrorism in the Kashmir Valley poses a significant internal security threat to the Indian state and has tremendous potential to trigger a military confrontation between India and Pakistan. However, the adverse impact of separatism and terrorism in Kashmir on Indian Muslims’ position in Indian society has not been adequately examined.


Kashmir has become an albatross around the neck of Indian Muslims. Terrorist activities and calls for “azadi” by a minority of Kashmiri Muslims are increasingly complicating Indian Muslims’ efforts to find a place of trust and dignity within the larger society. Kashmiri separatism accompanied by Pakistan-supported terrorism revives memories of Partition and raises questions about the loyalty of all Indian Muslims. It also immeasurably weakens the underpinnings of a plural society and secular state, which are already under threat from majoritarian nationalism.

The trajectory of Kashmiri politics has been distorted from the very beginning. New Delhi is responsible for a fair share of the problems it faces in Kashmir today because of its wrong-headed policies — from the removal of Sheikh Abdullah in 1953 to the rigged elections of 1987 that provided the immediate stimulus for the armed separatist uprising. But all this does not detract from the fact that the accession of Kashmir to India is an irreversible reality.


Unfortunately, a significant number of Kashmiri Muslims refuse to accept this reality unambiguously. While they may not be involved in violent actions against the Indian state, they are either unwilling or unable to forcefully oppose the twin forces of secessionism and terrorism. Furthermore, reported attempts by some Kashmiri youth to thwart counterterrorism operations when they are under way provide evidence of their support for terrorists. These actions add to the feeling in the rest of the country that Kashmiri Muslims are anti-Indian, and some of this sentiment affects the majority community’s perceptions of Indian Muslims in their entirety. Such ill-conceived actions also provide justification for the anti-Kashmiri feelings in the rest of the country that surface in times of crisis such as the Pulwama terror attack.

It is incumbent on Kashmiri Muslims to make it clear that they will have no truck with separatists and terrorists among them no matter what their own grouse may be against the Indian state. It is also obligatory for Indian Muslims to disown and denounce those among the Kashmiris who harbour secessionist tendencies. Indian Muslims paid a heavy price for Partition, which was based on the false notion, discredited by the separation of Bangladesh from West Pakistan, that nations can be defined on the basis of religion. Muslim opinion leaders must communicate that Indian Muslims do not intend to pay the price once again for the transgressions of some Kashmiri Muslims against the Indian state.

The writer is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Michigan State University and Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Center for Global Policy, Washington, DC

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 8:14:03 PM |

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