Conflict and Governance in Kashmir: An Appraisal

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Kashmir is among the contemporary world’s longest running and most tragic conflicts; its origin lies in the auspicious events in the wake of the 1947 partition of the Indian subcontinent. The struggle for independence against the Britishers gave birth to partition between two independent nations i.e. India and Pakistan. The politics of subcontinent significantly affected the princely states, and Kashmir was no more exceptional. The state of Jammu and Kashmir was ruled by Dogra rulers from 1846 till 1947. The oppressed nature of politics in the state gave birth to a  revolutionary party in 1932 under the pen name of All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference. The sole party objective was to achieve responsible government. It was under the leadership of late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah the organization was renamed All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference in 1939 and party was opened for non-Muslims. The ideology of this party was closely linked with the Indian National Congress. The party’s prime objective was secular in character which shaped the later political discourse in the state. The struggle against the Maharaja Hari Singh and the politics of the Indian Subcontinent greatly affected the state both internally as well as externally. Sheikh Abdullah and his party NC developed close relations with the Indian National Congress which gave birth to another organization, and old MC was revived in 1941. The politics of the state from here is a confrontation between both these parties i.e. NC and MC. People associated with MC were closely linked with the ideology of Muslim League and its leaders especially Jinnah, on the other hand, NC under Abdullah was profoundly influenced by a person like Gandhi and Nehru. The politics of protests and anti-Maharaja sentiment led to the substantial involvement of both INC and Muslim League in the state, resulted in divided public opinion, both the parties claimed to be the well-wishers of the people. When Britishers left India in 1947 with many unresolved issues like the boundary between the two countries with that the birth of Kashmir dispute. The state under Maharaja acceded with India conditionally on certain subjects like defense, foreign affairs, and communication. The state’s accession with rest of India was challenged from day one, both in Kashmir as well as from Pakistan. The great leader like Abdullah too also lost his stature as he was criticized by the parties who were either for Independent or accession with Pakistan.

Post-1947 state of affairs under Sheikh Abdullah and others

The State of Jammu and Kashmir as many authors claim is the only State of the Indian Union which negotiated the terms of its relationship with the Union, right from its accede with the union the state entered into the politics of protests. However, at the same time, the leadership provided by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in the early years from 1948 when he was installed as the Prime Minister of the state tried to improve the governance in the state. But with the passage of time since partition, Jammu and Kashmir State has rarely witnessed good governance. The major factors responsible for this dilemma have been the political instability, overt and covert destabilization of political institutions by the central governments and deficiency of determination of the local political leadership. All state political stalwarts from Sheikh Mohammad to present day Mehbooba continued obedient to their kings in Delhi and cultivated their interests for retaining or obtaining power. However, the relationship of state with India after the signing of the Instrument of Accession was determined by the provision of Article 370 or in another name greater autonomy was provided to the state within the framework of Indian constitution.

The first erosion of the state autonomy was started, none other than the tallest leader Abdullah and Nehru by signed Nehru-Abdullah Agreement in July 1952 known as (“the Delhi Agreement”). The central flag was given predominance, fundamental rights were made applicable to Jammu and Kashmir, and the dominion of the Supreme Court was extended to the state. As the Centre of power shifted from the Jammu-based ruler to Kashmiri leadership, NC under Abdullah became a monolithic party with a three program: one leader (Abdullah); one party (NC) and one programs (New Kashmir). On the other hand, on 23rd. November 1952 the Praja Parishad launched a powerful protests and campaign in Jammu Province and demanded complete accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian Union, the agitation opposed the special status given to the State of Jammu and Kashmir by the Central government with the slogan “EK Pradhan, EK Vidhan, EK Nishaan (one President, one Constitution, one Flag). More ever on 14th May 1954 the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 1954 was issued by the President of India with the concurrence of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. This Order implements the Delhi Agreement as ratified by the Constituent Assembly and also supersedes the Order of 1950. With the passage of time when Abdullah was in jail during 1953 to 60s the State’s Constitution was overridden by the Centre’s rules. Its basic structure was altered. The Head of State elected by the State legislature was replaced by a Governor, nominated by the Centre. This was done on November 21, 1964. On November 24, 1966, the Governor replaced the Sadar-i-Riyasat and state’s Prime Minister was replaced by Chief Minister after the State’s Constitution was amended on April 10, 1965. Debating to the article 370 has the article retained its original position or not. The answer to this question is giant No, as 47 orders have been made applicable to the state of Jammu and Kashmir from 1956 to 1994. Similarly out of the 97 union subjects 94 have been made applicable to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This clearly shows that article 370 has been eroded from time and made a dead provision. Thus the autonomy as visualized by article 370 has been eroded extensively.

The state saw one of its dark days of August 1953, when Abdullah government was dismissed and Sheikh Abdullah was put under detention for an indefinite period. The arrest of Abdullah later changed the further discourse of state politics as he was replaced by weak and incompetent administrator Ghulam Mohammad Bakshi, Sadiq and others under them state lost the ethos of democratic culture whatever was present during Abdullah’s tenure. The arrest of Sheikh Abdullah and his subsequent demand for plebiscite; central interference in the politics of the state, especially the imposition of ostracized governance and leadership with the support of the Central government, created a crisis of legality both for the national as well as the local government. Throughout the decades of the fifties and sixties, the regime was neither responsive to people’s aspirations, nor run on the moralities of accountability. B.K Nehru has rightly observed that “From 1953 to 1975, Chief Ministers of that State had been nominees of Delhi. Their appointment to that post was legitimized by the holding of farcical and totally rigged elections in which the Congress party led by Delhi’s nominee was elected by huge majorities.” The policy of the central government to install week administrator’s further created democratic deficit and governance in the state and Governance remains one of the major challenges in Jammu and Kashmir.

Indira-Abdullah Accord 1975 and Politics of Governance

The return of Abdullah from a separatist tendency to mainstream politics in 1975 by singing the infamous Kashmir Accord with the late prime minister of India Indira Gandhi was yet another setback to Kashmir autonomy. The Sheikh who claimed to be the tallest leader surrender the plebiscite front for which he was in jail. The message was clear from the center that the clock cannot be turned back. The central government from time to time made Interference in the affairs of the state. The manipulation of internal affairs became worse when the Congress and Indira Gandhi returned to office after the brief interlude of Janata rule in 1977-79. The return of Sheikh Abdullah could not provide good government during the second spell of his term as Chief Minister, because of some secretive compulsions and the Centre’s conspiracies. Sheikh Abdullah died in 1982 and Farooq Abdullah, his son, had assumed the party’s leadership. What followed was shameful. The death of Sheikh created a leadership vacuum both within the ranks of NC as well as in the state. The Central government now finds it easy to replace one administrator with another week and incompetent leaders. The Farooq led government was not able to deliver after 1982 which led to the change of guards, and he was dismissed from the office. Farooq was replaced by the G.M.Shah, which lasted for two years and was rejected from the office in March 1986; this regime is known by the pen name of GUL Curfew because people saw its worst days of misgovernance under his week administration. These were the years of rapid concentration of power in the hands of New Delhi Governments and growing intolerance toward all opposition in the state. The signing of Rajiv-Farooq accord between NC-Congress and the worst rigged 1987 election which further led to the collapse of administrative institutions and governance in the state.

Insurgency and Governance in Kashmir

The results of rigged elections of 1987 were turning point in the history of Kashmir, the state entered a new phase, the emergence of militancy and the direct central rule of the state under the most communal Governor, Shri Jagmohan. The unfortunate migration of Kashmir Pandits from the valley in the backdrop of armed struggle and a communal governor like Jagmohan led to the further governance and democratic deficit in the state. However, whatever claims the NC had to be an independent force in Kashmir during pre-1987, it lost that ground and the social base. The election itself was rigged and deceitful, New Delhi’s tactics generated a wave of widespread anger in sentiment, and Azadi freedom movement was reborn with fierce means this time, deteriorated by poor governance, extensive corruption and lack of jobs. The fraudulent elections acted as a engender, that set Kashmir on a radical path. The process further worsened between 1987 and 2002 when the democratic process broke down altogether. Kashmir witnessed openly popular insurgency against the Indian state. To quote one of the Kashmiri firebrand opposition leaders Abdul Ghani Lone, “It was this [subversion of democracy] that motivated the young generation to say ‘to hell with the democratic process, and all that this is about’ and they said, ‘let’s go for the armed struggle.”. The period of Farooq Abdullah from 1996-2002 of NC’s rule was only on papers rest the collapse of administration and institutions in the state was a major problem created by the counter insurgency operations against armed struggle; the government barely cares about the widespread corruption and nonperformance. Since 1990, Kashmir has been subject to a range of legislative provisions. Among them, three are germane to this discussion, namely, the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces Special Power’s Act (AFSPA), the Disturbed Areas Act (DSA), and the Public Safety Act (PSA). The imposition of black laws, raise grave concerns regarding the legal basis of legislation and governance in Kashmir. If the principle of legality derives from clearly defined laws and legal procedures, then the PSA and AFSPA fall well short of this principle. Both pieces of legislation violate the inalienable right to life. People got ruthlessly killed by the state apparatus and institutions which lead to the people’s movement and anger in the valley. The serious human rights violations and disappearance also created alienation and rift between the people and the institutions of the state.


The politics of conflict and dispute had significantly affected the governance of the state and therefore unless measures will not be taken to create an atmosphere for peaceful dialogue with all parties. With that, restore the system by deepening and consolidating democratic institutions the state will not come out from the mess called miss-governance. The governance of the state is closely linked with the nature of the state dispute from the beginning of accession. The breakdown of institutions by both central as well as the state governments from time to time have created governance deficit in the state. The arrest of Abdullah in 1953 had created a sense of political separation among people, and further maneuvering on the part of the central government with democratic institutions of the state from time to time has created a credibility crisis for these institutions in the valley. Apart from it, erosion of Article 370 as a result of Indian government’s efforts to consolidate the basis of Unitarian nationalism in J&K has reduced the scope for liberal politics in Kashmir. In the mid-1990s after the worst rigid elections, the state entered the new stage were all its institutions were destroyed by the wave of the insurgency and counterinsurgency operations, which led to the breakdown of all institutions of the democratic process in the state.
This article is taken from my research paper “Governance and Conflict Politics in Kashmir: A case Study from Accession to Insurgency” presented by the Author in International seminar in Jamia Milia Islamia, organized by UGC-Human Resource Development Centre JMI, New Delhi in collaboration with UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Institute of Kashmir Studies University of Kashmir on “Governance, Human Rights and Regional Co-operation in South Asia opportunities and challenges of Globalization” held on (19-20 April, 2017)