Killing Fields Of Kashmir: Massacre After Massacre

January, a month of massacres. Cartoon by Mir Suhail
Celebrated author William Dalrymple had just arrived in Delhi as a foreign correspondent in November 1989 when he was sent to Kashmir to cover the low-intensity violence that marked the beginning of the ongoing insurrection in the region. He found the violence was still ‘an amateur affair of young, largely secular-minded Muslims armed with unreliable homemade weapons’. The uprising had begun in a disorganised fashion. It was triggered, wrote Dalrymple in The New York Review of Books in May 2008, 'by anger over ‘the Indian government’s neglect of Kashmir’s dominantly Muslim population; its blatant rigging of the state’s elections; and its continuing refusal to hold a long-promised referendum on Kashmir’s future’.

The state responded with a heavy hand to the early signs of the insurrection; impromptu house-to-house searches were among the tactics used to deal with it. During one of the searches on January 20, 1990, residents in Srinagar were dragged ‘out of their beds’, beaten, and abused under the open sky in a sub-zero climate. Reports of alleged 'molestations and arbitrary arrests' during the searches fanned the flames of simmering anger. The anger spilled over to the streets the next day. Dalrymple writes several thousand Kashmiris, including much of the local civil service, broke a curfew and marched peacefully out of the old city, waving placards complaining about police violence during the search operations. ‘When the vanguard of the crowd was halfway across the Gowkadal [sic] bridge, at the center of [Srinagar] town, the [federal paramilitary] CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force] opened fire, with automatic weapons, from three directions.’

Scores lay dead within minutes, making it the worst massacre in Kashmir’s recent memory and the first since the insurrection began a few years earlier. Kashmiris were stunned. Kashmir, a sparsely-populated and close-knit Valley of now over seven million people, had probably never lost so many lives in a single day. The killings were perhaps the worst in nearly four decades; an estimated thousand (official toll: sixty) people were killed in protests against Kashmiri leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s arrest in 1953 on trumped charges.

Many were shot in Gaw Kadal from behind as they tried to run for their lives. All that news photographer Meraj-ud-din could see were the dead when he reached the scene. He saw bodies of children, women, and men, which were later brought to a police compound, where he cried, shouted, and screamed: 'Don't do this to the people.' The number of fatalities in the Gaw Kadal massacre remain unclear. According to M J Akbar, then a journalist and now a member of ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), there was no doubt that the ‘paramilitary bullets left more than fifty dead’. Others have put the toll at as high as one hundred. Many frightened protesters drowned in the Jhelum after jumping into its icy cold waters.

Dalrymple saw the magnitude of the tragedy when he rushed to Srinagar the following day and went straight to a hospital, where he found every bed in the building occupied and the overflow lining the corridors. Farooq Ahmed, ‘an educated and urbane city engineer’ who survived the massacre, described to Dalrymple how after the firing, ‘the CRPF walked slowly forward across the bridge, finishing off those who were lying wounded on the ground’. Ahmed fell flat on his face and managed to escape completely unhurt when the shooting began. Just as he was about to get up, Ahmed saw soldiers ‘coming forward, shooting anyone who was injured’. Someone pointed at Ahmed and shouted, ‘that man is alive,’ and a soldier began firing at him with a machine gun. Ahmed was hit four times in the back and twice in my arms. Another soldier raised his gun seeing that he was still alive, but an officer told him not to waste his ammunition as the man would die soon anyway. 

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Ahmed was thrown into a truck full of dead bodies. The truck drove around Srinagar for half-an-hour before unloading the corpses at a police station, where Kashmiri policemen spotted Ahmed still breathing and rushed him to hospital. Ahmed, then in his thirties, was supposed to be on essential services duty in charge of water supply to Srinagar’s old city on January 21, 1990. He could not, however, make it to work as he was unable to collect his curfew pass from the district commissioner’s office near Gaw Kadal. Making the most of the break, Ahmed thought of seeing his uncle, who lived in the vicinity. As he was on his way, he got caught in the procession seconds before it was fired upon. He survived because the bodies of the dead and dying piled up around him and shielded him from bullets. Ahmed remained motionless as guns fell silent.

As blood streamed in all directions, Ahmed pretended to be dead. He was drenched in blood and could have easily passed off as one of the fallen protesters but his reflexes frustrated his attempt. His luck ran out when he could not help but raise his head to escape the burning charcoal of a protester’s kanger (portable fire pot Kashmiris use to keep themselves warm) that had fallen near him. A trooper immediately rushed forward, alerting his superior to the unhurt Ahmed among the pile of corpses. As a gun was aimed at him, he begged for his life. He pleaded that he was on his way to work and not really a part of the protest march. The superior was unwilling to ‘forgive’ the ‘traitor’, whom he accused of wanting ‘Pakistan in Kashmir’ before pumping bullets into him. Ahmed held his head with both hands. He felt a burning sensation in his arm and back when the bullets pierced his body. He somehow managed to say a prayer; he thought of his two little girls before passing out.

From his hospital bed Ahmed told the Independent (London), the CRPF should have given a warning, telling people to go back. 'But there was no warning, so people thought the procession was allowed. Then there were two shots in the air, and more shots, shots and shots; people were falling down. I also fell down.' 

In 2005, an anonymous eyewitness told Human Rights Watch they were not then used to the sound of firing and everyone was shocked; they had not expected the troops to fire. 'Soon, there were people falling down all over the place. I remember the man standing next to me saying, "I know I have been shot but I can't feel anything." I looked at him. And then I saw his foot. There was a bullet stuck inside his shoe All around people were groaning with pain.' By the time police brought trucks and started taking the dead and wounded away hours later, dogs had begun sniffing at the bodies. 'I will never forget one sight. I saw a dog eating a human arm,' the eyewitness told Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch investigated the massacre and confirmed the disproportionate use of force. However, no inquiry was ordered; no heads rolled. All that the government did was to bar foreign correspondents, including Dalrymple, from entering Kashmir for reporting the massacre. Public anger, meanwhile, bottled up. Kashmir was locked down and turned into an open air prison with the imposition of 16 round-the-clock curfew following the massacre. Shoot-at-sight orders were implemented until February 6, 1990, that prevented Kashmiris from even properly mourning or burying their dead. 

Human Rights Watch has noted the consequences of the Gaw Kadal massacre and the failure to hold the perpetrators accountable have been far-reaching. It fuelled the disorganised insurrection. The state responded with militarisation and much harsher methods to counter it. In a May 1991 report, Human Rights Watch said in the weeks that followed the massacre, crowds of marchers were fired upon as governor Jagmohan-led state administration increased the use of force.

The firing on marchers included those on hundreds of people trying to march to the UN office in Srinagar to present a memorandum on March 1, 1990. At least forty-seven people, including five women, were killed in Srinagar’s Zakura and Tengpora that day. The next big massacre followed two months later on May 21, 1990, when mourners at the funeral of assassinated preacher Mirwaiz Muhammad Farooq were gunned down. The mourners fell to bullets hours after four unidentified assailants quietly walked into the 45-year-old preacher’s house, signed the guestbook and pumped 15 bullets into him before escaping. Officials blamed the Hizbul Mujahideen insurgent group for killing the influential cleric and ‘papal figure’. They cited his ‘support’ for its rival Kashmiri nationalist Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) as the motive behind the assassination. The Mirwaiz’s supporters, including the JKLF, denied the claim. The New York Times reported that one of the preacher’s relatives had said he did not think ‘the assailants were Kashmiris’.

The preacher’s admirers went off the deep end as the news of his assassination spread. Thousands of mourners rushed to the hospital where the Mirwaiz’s bullet-riddled body was kept. They snatched his body from the police and marched towards his home in his stronghold of old Srinagar. Thousands more poured onto the streets to bid a final farewell to the much-loved preacher. As the mourners reached the CRPF’s battalion headquarters, the troopers stationed there fired at them. At least 62 mourners were killed; two bullets pierced the Mirwaiz’s coffin, inflicting fresh wounds to his dead body that fell on the ground as the pallbearers ran for cover. The government claimed that a section of mourners had attacked the troopers and forced them to fire. BBC’s Satish Jacob countered the claim and blamed the troopers for being ‘wholly at fault in firing on the funeral procession’. He refuted the official claims and asserted that there was ‘no evidence that there was any provocation prior to the firing or anyone from the crowd fired’.

Iconic BBC journalist Mark Tully, who covered atrocities like the Gaw Kadal massacre, has likened the firing on the Mirwaiz’s funeral with ‘[t]he colonial practice of firing on demonstrators’. In his book India in Slow Motion, Tully observes that ‘[n]owhere is there more evidence of colonialism than in the Indian police forces, which do so much damage to the country’s cause in Kashmir’. 

The colonial practice continued, resulting in more massacres. None has been more brutal than the one in Sopore on January 6, 1993, when at least 60 people were killed. The slain included those burnt alive in burning buildings. The massacre followed the killing of two Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers in a militant attack. The government initially insisted ‘gunfire had hit an ammunition dump’ and set off fires and ‘killed most of the victims’. The explanation did not add up; officials failed to explain how so many people had died of gunshot wounds. Harrowing accounts of the massacre in the foreign press, which had since been allowed to report from Kashmir again, forced officials to admit that BSF members had gone on a ‘shameful’ rampage.

The Independent’s Tim McGirk reported that the paramilitaries ‘set fire to hundreds of shops and houses and allegedly massacred more than 55 Kashmiri civilians in revenge after separatist[s] ambushed a military patrol’. He called the incident ‘one of the worst atrocities’ by paramilitary forces in their attempts to crush the uprising.’ McGirk wrote that for more than four hours, the forces 'wreaked revenge in a crowded shopping district’. He quoted a woman saying the troopers fired indiscriminately as they went ‘berserk, shooting women and children at random’. McGirk reported the BSF sprayed a public coach with machine-gun fire, killing the driver and more than 15 passengers. Three cars were also fired upon before shops and houses were set ablaze after people were herded into them. ‘Then the security forces shot them, splashed paraffin over the bodies and set the buildings alight,’ the Independent reported. ‘Officially, more than 250 shops and 50 homes were destroyed, but Kashmiri sources claim that 450 buildings were burnt down. Another 25 bodies may still be trapped in the smoking rubble, claim witnesses,’ it added.

The US State Department took cognisance of the Sopore massacre in its 1994 report titled ‘India Human Rights Practices’. The report quoted witnesses saying that the BSF personnel ‘used rags dipped in fuel to spread the flames’ besides firing indiscriminately on civilians. It put the death toll at forty-three and added that fourteen people were wounded while three hundred homes and businesses were burnt. 

Sopore was brutalised again and again but the town has shown exemplary resilience in rising back literally from the ashes every now and then. However, on that cold day on January 6, 1993, no one expected the town to bounce back. Days after the massacre, Time magazine echoed the sentiments of the town when it reported on the January 18, 1993:
Perhaps there is a special corner in hell reserved for soldiers who fire their weapons indiscriminately into a crowd of unarmed civilians. That, at least, must have been the hope of every resident who defied an army-enforced curfew in the Kashmiri town of Sopore last Thursday to protest the massacre that left 55 people dead and scores injured.

Journalist Sameer Bhat’s blog ‘A Town Torched is a poignant and dignified account of the unimaginable atrocity in his hometown of Sopore he witnessed:

By nine o’clock a military patrol was out, doing rounds of the main marketplace. Suddenly gunmen emerged from a narrow alley and shot random bullets at the party before quickly disappearing … Taken off guard, the security detail ran back to their barracks only to emerge again as Frankenstein’s monsters, spitting hellfire. In the next fifty-odd minutes, they murdered fifty-five people in cold blood. And burnt the town down.
… Helpless people, trapped in flames, had only two choices to make and both, it turned out, cost them dearly. Stepping out of their shops meant getting bumped off on the spot. Those who hid in their shops were roasted alive. The dead bodies had faces – that smiled, loved and beamed a few hours back – too disfigured to be kissed a final goodbye.
… The nearby shops were burning in maroon fire with real people in them. A hundred thousand books in the local women’s college were turning to dark dust in the library. The foot soldiers of the world’s largest democracy looked on with a ghoulish glee.

The dust had barely settled on the Sopore tragedy when at least 16 people were killed and 250 businesses and houses set ablaze in retaliation to the torching of an abandoned bunker in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk three months later in April 1993. The New York Times’s Edward A. Gargan saw smoke still billowing from the ‘smouldering piles of rubble of Lal Chowk’ when he visited the scene a few days later. He found ‘charred wooden beams, blackened bricks and crumpled corrugated roofs fil[l]ing the cavities where shops and homes once stood’. The journalist met an eyewitness, Vishad Kumar Chaurasia, who sobbingly narrated the events of the fateful day when armed forces ‘began burning down the heart of this war-torn city’. Chaurasia was huddled on a mat under a thick quilt at the house of a Muslim friend, who wept silently in the corner. He described his sudden panic ‘as the orange flames first lapped at his second floor home’ and his ‘frenzied fear as paramilitary troopers sprayed the area with their assault rifles’. His family tried to escape, running down the stairs, but as they reached the street, a bullet hit his brother’s head and another mother’s face.

Another massacre that year followed on October 22, 1993, when at least sixty people were killed in South Kashmir’s Bijbehara town when people who had taken to the streets against the siege of Srinagar’s revered Hazratbal shrine were fired upon. UK-based journalist Murtaza Shibli, who belongs to the area, wrote that the paramilitaries had thrashed his teacher and warned that the town ‘would soon forget to laugh’ days before the massacre. Other residents reported that they were threatened and warned that the town would be burnt to the ground to get rid of those ‘sheltering militants’.

A rare magisterial inquiry a month later concluded that the firing on the protesters was ‘absolutely unprovoked’. The report dismissed the BSF’s claim that it was ‘forced to retaliate to the firing of militants for self-defence’ as baseless and concocted. It vindicated the residents and confirmed the massacre was committed ‘out of vengeance’. The inquiry indicted a senior paramilitary officer for his tacit approval of the decimation. The federal government refused to approve the prosecution in a civil court of the officer and 14 troopers for the massacre.

A General Security Force Court acquitted the troopers. The National Human Rights Commission’s attempt to examine the genuineness of the trial came to naught. The BJP-led central government refused to accede to the panel’s request in 2002 to examine the trial transcripts for determining whether a genuine attempt was made to secure convictions. 

In 2010, Dalrymple, who covered Kashmir undercover at times, called the atrocities he witnessed from his first morning in Kashmir in 1989 ‘some of the most chilling’ he had ever seen. The abuses constituted blatant violation of international humanitarian law. However, far from reconsidering its policies, according to human rights consultant Patricia Gossman, Delhi made things worse:
… new laws [were] enacted granting security forces increased powers, limiting defendants’ rights, imposing restrictions on public gatherings, and prohibiting virtual[ly] any public expression of dissiden[ce]. Indian counterinsurgency tactics in Kashmir have continued to include practi[c]es that directly contravene international humanitarian law, some of which could be considered war crimes.
Many years later, writer Pankaj Mishra cited his conversation with an anonymous BSF officer during one of his visits to Kashmir to explains the mindset behind these atrocities. He writes that the mid-level officer, a short, paunchy Kashmiri Hindu, told him ‘isolate the Muslims’ in Kashmir and then ‘we’ll have a free hand to deal with them’. Mishra wrote that this reflected the ‘popular Hindu sentiment about the Kashmir problem, where human rights violations by the military, instead of being punished, became the accepted means of reasserting Indian authority over the [Muslim-majority] state’.

The massacres coincided with a campaign for the demolition of a Mughal-era mosque in Ayodhya. The Hindu nationalists argued that the mosque had to be razed for the construction of a temple in its place, where the Hindu god Ram is believed to have been born millions of years ago. Hindu nationalist L.K. Advani led a ‘religious, allusive, militant, masculine and anti-Muslim’march across India to campaign for the demolition. The nature of the campaign was reflected in slogans like ‘Mussalman kay do he sthan – Pakistan ya qabristan [there are only two places for Muslims – graveyard or Pakistan]’ raised during the campaign.

Attacks on Muslims followed the mosque's demolition. The violence started in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, where author Ramchandra Guha notes, ‘Hindu mobs attacked Muslim localities, and – in a manner reminiscent of the grisly Partition massacres – stopped trains to pull out and kill those who were recognizably Muslim’. The violence soon spread to other parts of the country. In Mumbai, where hundreds o Muslims were killed in the aftermath of the demolition, the Sri Krishna Commission probed the pogrom and found the 'the attitude was that one Muslim killed, was one Muslim less'. According to then BJP leader Arun Shourie, the events in Ayodhya demonstrated that the Hindus ‘have now realised that they are in very large numbers, that their sentiment is shared by those who man the apparatus of the state, and they can bend the state to their will’. Shourie saw the events, in Guha’s words, as a ‘prelude to the reshaping of India as a nation’ into a Hindu Rashtra.BJP’s parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is dedicated to the idea and prepares volunteers ‘for a lifetime of service’ for the Hindu Rashtra. With the mosque’s demolition, the RSS now saw its dream almost fulfilled. 

In Kashmir, Jagmohan Malhotra, a favourite of the RSS who later joined the BJP, took over as Jammu and Kashmir’s governor shortly before the Gaw Kadal massacre,  forcing Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah to resign in protest, saying he would not cooperate with ‘a man who hates the guts of Muslims’. Jagmohan’s appointment was a quid pro quo arrangement between the then prime minister, V.P. Singh, and the BJP that supported his government. Singh agreed to appoint him to assuage the Hindu party’s reservations about the appointment of the first Muslim and Kashmiri – Mufti Mohammad Sayeed – as federal internal security minister.

Jagmohan had a reputation of a ‘pro-Hindu’ bureaucrat’ that he had earned for his role in demolishing slums that led to a massacre in Delhi’s Muslim-dominated Turkman Gate in the 1970s. He first came into prominence when he emerged as the head of the Delhi Development Authority and an important member of a coterie around Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s son, Sanjay Gandhi, during the 1970s. Sanjay was given charge of Delhi, where removal of slums became one of his top priorities. Here, writes Guha, his ideas coincided with that of Jagmohan, who wanted to emulate Baron Haussmann, who had cleared Paris of slums and transformed the French capital. Guha writes that Jagmohan’s ‘admiration for autocratic methods was catholic’ and that Sanjay Gandhi’s support and the emergency cover gave legitimacy to his ‘preference for coercion over persuasion’.

Jagmohan’s operations focussed on Delhi’s Muslim-majority old city. Within two days, starting on April 13, 1976, a bulldozer demolished a slum of recent origin, housing 40 families, at Turkman Gate area. It then moved on to demolish a set of concrete houses of ‘uncertain antiquity’. Negotiations temporarily halted the demolitions before over one hundred houses were razed upon resumption of the operation. The area’s women and children squatted in desperation and dared authorities to have the bulldozers run over them. More people joined them to resist the demolition. They were fired upon. The estimates of those killed vary; it remains unclear how many were actually mowed down as the media had been muzzled under the emergency laws.  

Pankaj Mishra writes that Jagmohan in Kashmir was ‘no more subtle’ and ‘did more than anyone else to provoke insurgency’ in ‘an isolated state with a docile population always seeming ready to be trampled upon’. During Jagmohan’s first stint as the governor in the 1980s, author Victoria Schofield notes that ‘[Kashmiri] Muslims found that they were being excluded from key jobs’. She writes there was a general onslaught on 'Muslim culture and identity, both through the educational curriculum and socially’Pankaj Mishra has echoed Schofield. He writes Jagmohan saw the ‘distinct [Muslim] cultural identity of Kashmir as something that had to be undermined before the state could join what in India is referred to, without irony, as the “national mainstream”.’ With this all-subsuming idea in mind, he writes, Jagmohan sought to impose a peculiarly Hindu modernity in the state, where the unrestricted sale of alcohol was permitted but Muslims were not allowed to slaughter sheep on a Hindu festival day. Mishra calls it ‘a pointless act since no prohibitions on meat exist for Kashmiri Hindus’. He adds that a backlash was not long in forthcoming:
As in Algeria, Iran and Egypt, anxiety about modernisation, cultural influences from elsewhere, and rampant unemployment turned, because of Jagmohan, into an anxiety about religion: the notion that not only Muslims but Islam itself was in danger – the same fear that had led many Indian Muslims in the mid-1940s to suddenly embrace, after years of relative indifference toward it, the idea of Pakistan.
Jagmohan seemed to be in a hurry. He dissolved the state legislative assembly within days of taking over as the governor on February 19, 1990, for legitimacy to use ‘force on an extensive scale’.He accelerated the state’s militarization by getting additional CRPF companies deployed. Jagmohan pre-empted every move to revive the suspended state assembly and reinstate the elected government to remain totally in command. His decision to dissolve the assembly surprised even the federal government. Jagmohan’s bosses in New Delhi and two advisors in Srinagar came to know about the dissolution through the media. 

Schofield writes that Jagmohan was ‘driven by his own sense of personal mission’ and was determined to brutally crush the insurrection even if it meant ‘targeting virtually the entire population’Academic Navnita Chadha Behera echoes Schofield and notes that the governor resorted to the policy of inflicting ‘collective punishment on a disloyal population’ which backfired. Behera writes that he failed ‘to observe a thin though vital distinction between militants, sympathizers of militants and innocent civilians’. His policy, she continues, seemed to be that, ‘if you are a Kashmiri, you are a Muslim, you are pro-Pakistani and you have to be dealt with accordingly’. Behera notes that this proved to be disastrous and pushed the populace to becoming ‘anti-Indian and turned the most apolitical Kashmiris into active supporters of militancy’.

 ‘… the situation is so explosive that I can’t go out of this Raj Bhavan (governor’s residence). But I know what is going on, minute by minute. The bullet is the only solution for Kashmir. Unless the militants are fully wiped out, normalcy can’t return to the valley,’ Jagmohan wrote. ‘I could not walk barefoot in the valley full of scorpions – the valley wherein inner and outer forces of terrorism had conspired to subvert the Union and to seize power … I must equip myself to face all eventualities. I could leave nothing to chance.'

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Jagmohan refused to trust anybody in running the administration. Civil servant Wajahat Habibullah writes that Jagmohan’s insistence on keeping every decision in his own hands crippled ‘[t]he moribund administration’. The governor vacillated, ‘out of touch’ with reality and ‘under siege’ in the governor’s mansion. Jagmohan relied totally on ‘incapacitated intelligence services’ for all information. He ‘rejected any effort at public outreach and deliberately sought to marginalize every branch of local government, including the police, all of whose loyalty he had begun to suspect’.

Jagmohan’s officers reasoned with him to take it easy, but he would have none of it. He even tried to scuttle the federal government’s move to appoint socialist George Fernandes as Kashmir affairs minister to offset the impact of Jagmohan’s repression. Jagmohan dismissed Fernandes’s conciliatory approach as ‘unpractical’ and berated him for trying to talk to Kashmiri dissidents.

Journalist Edward Desmond has blamed Jagmohan's policies for ‘greatly exacerbate(ing) the extent and the bitterness of the rebellion in Kashmir’. Desmond visited Kashmir nearly a dozen times between late 1989 and the end of 1991 including twice in secret and in defiance of a ban on foreign reporters. He wrote that Jagmohan’s ‘failure – or unwillingness – to contain the highly undisciplined paramilitary forces drove a large part of the population into the arms of what was at first a relatively small group of insurgent organisations’. Desmond pointed out that the rights organisations had extensively documented the abuses under his watch. He called out Jagmohan’s arguments that Delhi has all along been too ‘permissive’ toward the Kashmiris, saying they were ‘impossible to swallow’. . Even more fundamental than that, he added, ‘Jagmohan is unwilling to acknowledge that New Delhi had all along subverted the spirit of the agreement that made Jammu and Kashmir a part of India’. Desmond, who called Jagmohan an obtuse Hindu nationalist, asked him to only consider New Delhi’s ‘suppression of democracy in Kashmir’ to find the roots of the trouble. 

Jagmohan seemed to be determined to reverse the imaginary ‘permissive’ attitude towards the Kashmiri Muslims. For this, he, in Behera’s words, brandished ‘an iron fist’ and ‘unleashed the coercive arm of the Indian state to eliminate terrorism and force Kashmiris into submission’. Behera writes that the militants without an effective counter-strategy were no match for India’s massive military power. She adds that the ‘real threat to the Indian state emanated not from the militancy but from the mass processions symbolizing complete rejection of state authority’. Behera insists that it would ‘be uncharitable to characterize the mass rallies as a product of the militants’ strategy and that they were more in the nature of spontaneous outbursts that even overwhelmed the militants, who were unable to purposefully and effectively harness it for achieving Azadi’.

Civil servant Ashok Jaitly noted that what Jagmohan ‘did in five months, they [militants] could not have achieved in five years’ in pushing the Kashmiris into their arms. Jaitly called the mistrust of Muslims one of the reasons for the Kashmir problem. He believed that Jagmohan’s vindictive policies greatly exacerbated it. ‘Whatever we want to do we are faced with the fact that Delhi has never trusted Kashmiris. I have always maintained that, and maintained it because Kashmir is a Muslim state. Farooq [Abdullah] misses no opportunity to say this in public … And when I ask him why, he says it is because he wants non-Kashmiris to know he knows what they are thinking, what is in their hearts,’ Jaitly told Mark Tully while he was still a civil servant based in Srinagar.

Mark Tully wrote that Jaitly was not the only member of the elite Indian Administrative Service in Kashmir, ‘who believed India had never trusted Kashmiri Muslims’. Jaitly was among the civil servants, who wrote to Jagmohan’s predecessor, Girish Chandra Saxena, expressing their outrage over the shootings on unarmed Kashmiris.

Sameer Arshad Khatlani is an author-journalist based in New Delhi. He has been a Senior Assistant Editor with Hindustan Times, India’s second-biggest English newspaper. Khatlani worked in a similar capacity with The Indian Express, India's most influential newspaper known for its investigative journalism, until June 2018. Born and raised in Kashmir, he began his career with the now-defunct Bangalore-based Vijay Times in 2005 as its national affairs correspondent. He joined Times of India, one of the world's largest selling broadsheets, in 2007. Over the next nine years, he was a part of the paper's national and international newsgathering team as an Assistant Editor. 

Khatlani has reported from Iraq and Pakistan and covered elections and national disasters. He received a master’s degree in History from the prestigious Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi. Kaylani is a fellow with Hawaii-based American East-West Center established by the US Congress in 1960 to promote better relations and understanding with Asian, and Pacific countries through cooperative study, research, and dialogue. 

Penguin published Khatlani’s first book The Other Side of the Divide: A Journey into the Heart of Pakistan in February 2020. Eminent academic and King’s college professor, Christophe Jaffrelot, has called the book ‘an erudite historical account... [that] offers a comprehensive portrait of Pakistan, including the role of the army and religion—not only Islam.' 


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