Phases of Struggle for Muslim Empowerment in Kashmir

The assertion of Muslim identity and the social, economic and political empowerment of Muslims of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir have been through out the objectives of the popular movement in the state since 1931.However, a careful examination of the twentieth century political history of Jammu and Kashmir State reveals that the people’s movement in the state has evolved over the period of time in response to various internal and external socio-economic and geopolitical dynamics.The struggle for Muslim empowerment in Kashmir can be grouped into six broad phases.A brief account of all these phases is given as under:

1.KASHMIR FOR KASHMIRIES CAMPAIGN: In 1889 the official language of princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was changed from Persian to Urdu with the result the English knowing Bengalies and Urdu knowing Punjabies and others were offered government employment in the state which created a sense of job insecurity among the local youth.The first organised people’s movement in Kashmir was started in1927 by the educated youth beloninging to Hindu Mahasabha of Kashmiri Pandits and the Dogra Praja Parishad of Jammu Hindus started the “Kashmir for Kashmiries” campaign.


Although, Muslim Conference was changed into National Conference in 1938, yet the the character of the party remained dominantly Muslim. From 1932 to 1937 the main objectives of Muslim Conference were redressal of the grievances of the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir State who were discrinated against in education and training, government employment, defence services, administration and governance in the Dogra kingdom.


The “Naya Kashmir” manifesto of National Conference was a more comprehensive program for abolition of hereditary rule, landlordism, socio-economic backwardness and religious orthodoxy in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Following the tribal invasion in Kashmir on 22nd October 1947 the automatic ruler of the state was compelled by the circumstances to seek military assistance from New Delhi after having a limited accession of Jammu and Kashmir State with Indian Union on 26th October 1947. Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah was initially appointed as the Emergency Administrator of Jammu and Kashmir State on 29th October 1947 and subsequently became the Prime Minister of the state on 6th March 1948.National Conference Government led Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah abolished autocracy,  landlordism, managed the introduction of Article 370 in the Constitution of India and reached an agreement with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on the centre-state relationship in 1952.The agreement on dual citizenship for the people of Jammu and Kashmir State, separate flag, constitution, the nomenclatures of the Sadr-e-Riyasat and Wazir-e-Azam were the main features of the Nehru-Abdullah Accord of 1952.The opposition of Hindu nationalists to a separate constitution, flag, Sadr-e-Riyasat and Wazir-e-Azam for Jammu and Kashmir agreed upon in the Delhi Agreement made Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah apprehensive about the safety of political future of Kashmir with India.He launched a scathing attack on the Indian leadership on 13th July 1953 and threatened an Algerian type armed struggle for liberation of Kashmir from India.


On 8th August Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah was dismissed from Prime Ministership and immediately put behind the bars on 9th August 1953.The Abdullah loyalists launched a strong protest against the arrest of their leader.

Mirza Mohammad Àfzal Beigh launched Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front on 9th August1955 to struggle for the People’s right of self-determination. After a prolonged political struggle of two decades the Plebiscite Front was dissolved following the Beigh-Parthasarthy Accord in early 1975. From 9th August 1953 onwards Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, Prime Minister of the state carried forward the “Naya Kashmir” manifesto of National Conference.He made the ratification of Jammu and Kashmir State’s accession with Indian Union through Jammu and Kashmir State Constituent Assembly on 6th February to end the political uncertainty within the state, managed the introduction of Article 35-A in the Indian Constitution to strengthen the State Subject Laws of Jammu and Kashmir State.He also made the financial integration of Jammu and Kashmir State with India to ensure the budgetary allocation for the economic growth and development in the state.The adoption of a separate constitution for Jammu and Kashmir State by the Jammu and Kashmir State Constituent Assembly on 17th November1956 and it’s implementation on 26th January 1957 was the other big achievement of Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad.The step by step erosion of the internal sovereignty of Jammu and Kashmir State from 1957 onwards by New Delhi in collaboration with its local collaborators reached its climax when the nomenclatures of Sadr-e-Riyasat and Wazir-e-Azam were replaced by the Governor and Chief Minister respectively in March 1965.


Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah started political struggle for the restoration of Greater Autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir State after reviewing the National Conference in 1977. Following the Rajive-Farooq Accord in 1986 the Muslim United Front emerged as the champion of the struggle for restoration of the internal sovereignty of Jammu and Kashmir State in 1987 Assembly Elections.The rigging of elections by National Conference-Congress alliance in 15 Assembly segments as well as police repression of Muslim United Front volunteers on 23rd March 1987 developed a sense of deprivation in the political opposition in Kashmir.


Four youth code named as “HAJY” Group comprising of Hamid Sheikh, Ashfaq Majeed Wani, Javid Ahmad Mir and Yasin Malik joined the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front led by Amanullah Khan crossed the Line of Control to seek arms training from across the border to start armed struggle on 31st July 1988 for liberation of Kashmir from Indian control.The armed struggle however was subsequently dominated by the pro-Pakistan milit organizations like Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkare Toiba Jaishe Muhammad Harkatul Ansar Jaishe Muhammad and Ghazvatul Hind.The people of Jammu and Kashmir State in general and the Muslims of Kashmir in particular raise the slogan “We want freedom” during their anti-India demonstrations  for the last three decades.The option of an Independent Jammu and Kashmir has in fact exhausted on 22nd October 1947 when the Pakistani tribal raiders invaded Kashmir, yet the pro-liberation people of the state are demanding their freedom from lndia.

Prof.G.M Athar can be reached at