Sumit Ganguly, "Explaining the Kashmir Insurgency: Political Mobilization and Institutional Decay, International Security, Vol. 21, no. 2, (Fall 1996)

On December 8, 1989, members of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front kidnapped Dr. Rubiya Sayeed, the daughter of the Indian Minister of Home Affairs, as she left a government hospital in Srinagar. The kidnappers refused to release her until several incarcerated members of their outlawed group were released. Following hasty negotiations over the next several days, the government in New Delhi agreed to meet the abductors' demands. In the weeks and months that followed, dozens of insurgent groups emerged and wreaked havoc throughout the Kashmir Valley, killing government officials, security personnel, and innocent bystanders. Although they were of varying ideological orientations, all the insurgent groups professed opposition to Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir, and the authority of the Indian state virtually collapsed there.

Since December 1989, the strength of the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir has fluctuated.(1) Faced with the wrath of many of the Islamic militant groups, more than 200,000 Hindus (known as Pandits) have fled the Kashmir Valley. Currently, nearly 400,000 Indian Army and paramilitary troops are deployed in the state. The security forces are battling at least a dozen major insurgent groups of varying size and ideological orientation, as well as dozens more minor operations. The more prominent of the insurgent groups include the nominally secular, pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and the radical Islamic and pro-Pakistani groups Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), Hizbollah, Harkat-ul-Ansar, and Ikhwanul Muslimeen. At least 15,000 to 20,000 insurgents, police, paramilitary personnel, and civilians have lost their lives since the onset of the insurgency.(2) India's continuing accusations of Pakistani support for some of these insurgent groups have eroded relations between India and Pakistan.

As of mid-1996, the insurgency appears to have reached a stalemate. Despite substantial Pakistani assistance and the involvement of several thousand Afghan mujahideen, the insurgents cannot prevail on the battlefield. Nor have the Indian security forces been able to crush the insurgents militarily. The present government strategy appears to be three-pronged: to apply substantial military pressure on the insurgents, to sow discord in their ranks with offers of negotiation, and to revive the political process in the state. This strategy has evolved from the government's experience of defeating insurgent movements in the neighboring state of Punjab and in India's northeastern states.(3)

The insurgency is fraught with considerable theoretical and policy significance. At a theoretical level it demonstrates the dangers states face when political mobilization occurs against a backdrop of institutional decay. The failure of governments to accommodate rising political demands within an institutional context can culminate in political violence. Such dangers are especially acute in poly-ethnic societies when politicized and discontented ethnic minorities encounter few institutional channels for expressing political dissent.

The policy significance of this theoretical point is that as economic modernization proceeds, growing levels of literacy, higher education, and media exposure will contribute to increased political mobilization. This heightened political awareness will inevitably contribute to greater political demands. As Samuel Huntington cogently argued, the processes of economic modernization generate increasing demands for political participation by opening up new opportunities for physical, social, and economic mobility.(4) Furthermore, as Myron Weiner has demonstrated, accelerating mobility in the context of scarce resources in a poly-ethnic society can lead to mobilization along ethnic lines and result in inter-ethnic tensions.(5) Faced with such increased demands and other ethnic tensions, states can resort to coercive strategies, which are, inevitably, short-term palliatives. Over the longer haul, states, especially poly-ethnic states, have little choice but to develop institutional capacities for accommodating rising demands for political participation.

What explains the abrupt rise of violent ethno-religious fervor in 1989 in India's only Muslim-majority state? Apologists for the Indian position have contended that the insurgency is the result of Pakistani propaganda and logistical support and training for the insurgents.(6) Pakistani apologists, in turn, argue that the insurgency represents the spontaneous rise of ethno-religious sentiment amongst the oppressed Muslim community of Jammu and Kashmir.(7)

More scholarly explanations have sought to locate the origins of the insurgency in the clash of competing nationalist visions, rampant electoral malfeasances, the rise of a frustrated middle class, or the breakdown of a composite Kashmiri cultural identity.(8) These explanations, though not without merit, are at best partial. Some do provide useful insights into the origins of the insurgency. Others offer explanations for the timing of the insurgency. None of them, however, adequately explains both components.

This article provides a detailed account of the historical origins of the insurgency, placing it within the context of Indo-Pakistani relations and regional security. I then examine a number of general explanations of ethnic conflict as well as the particular arguments that have been put forth to explain the Kashmir insurgency, and suggest a new explanation which challenges this existing body of work. My theoretically grounded argument attempts to explain both the reasons for the outbreak of the insurgency and its particular timing, contending that two interlinked forces - political mobilization and institutional decay - best explain the origins of the insurgency in Kashmir. I conclude with a discussion of the larger theoretical significance of the Kashmir case as well as possible policy prescriptions that flow from my analysis.

The Roots of Conflict: Tracing the Origins of the Insurgency

The first important facet of the Kashmir crisis involves Indo-Pakistani relations. Two of the three wars between India and Pakistan have been fought over the status of Kashmir. Pakistan's irredentist claim on Kashmir, based on the state's Muslim-majority population and its geographic contiguity, has twice prompted it to try militarily to seize the state. The first attempt took place shortly after the emergence of India and Pakistan from the detritus of the British Indian empire in 1947.(9) Pakistan made a second attempt to wrest control of Kashmir from India in 1965.

India, which is currently attempting to suppress the insurgency in the state, has held on to Kashmir with a tenacity equal to that demonstrated by Pakistan. Kashmir, with its Muslim-majority population, has long been an emblem of India's secular status; its very existence demonstrated that Muslims could thrive under the aegis of India's secular policy. Today, as India's secular fabric has raveled, the country's leaders seek to maintain their hold on Kashmir because they fear that Kashmir's exit from the Indian Union would set off powerful centrifugal forces in other parts of the country. Thus, the stakes for both states involve far more than territorial claims: the question of control of Kashmir goes to the very basis of the state-building enterprise in South Asia.

The second dimension of the Kashmir crisis - namely, the rise of an ethno-religious insurgent movement - is the central concern of the present analysis. Why, after forty-two years of Indian rule, did an insurgency abruptly break out in 1989?

The explanations that have been proffered to date do not adequately answer this crucial question. The matter of timing is an important one: we must ask not only why the insurgency occurred at all, but also why it did not occur at any earlier time, particularly during 1965 when a war was fought in Kashmir between India and Pakistan. During that conflict, the Muslims in the Kashmir Valley would have had ready allies had they chosen to challenge the authority of the Indian state.

I contend that two interlinked forces of political mobilization and institutional decay best explain the origins of the insurgency in Kashmir On the one hand, the developmental activities of the Indian government gave rise to accelerated political mobilization in Kashmir, making a younger generation of Kashmiris more conscious of their political rights. Simultaneously, on the other hand, the government was also responsible for the deinstitutionalization of politics in the state,(10) which drove the expression of political discontent into extra-institutional contexts. Eventually, with the last institutional avenues for the expression of dissent blocked, pent-up discontent culminated in violence.


Some historical perspective on the origins of the crisis demonstrates the key precipitating roles played by political mobilization and institutional decay. In 1965, the Pakistani military dictator Ayub Khan carefully orchestrated a strategy for fomenting a rebellion in Kashmir. The ultimate goal of this strategy, code-named "Operation Gibraltar," was to take advantage of the disturbed conditions within the state and seize Kashmir in a sharp, short war.(11) Despite this well-organized effort, no insurgency ensued. I argue that this was because conditions in the Kashmir Valley were not conducive to fomenting a rebellion.

Political developments in the subcontinent had led Ayub Khan to embark on this mistaken strategy. In 1962, India had been routed in a disastrous border war with China and had been humiliated by China's unilateral cease-fire after it had seized some 14,000 square miles of territory claimed by India.(12) In the aftermath of this crisis, India had turned to the United States and the United Kingdom to obtain military assistance, which, though forthcoming, was limited.(13) Nevertheless, the flow of Western arms and equipment into India(14) ignited a fear in Pakistani military circles that the window of opportunity for seizing Kashmir through the use of force might be about to close. Accordingly, a number of Ayub's advisers suggested to him that Pakistan needed to act soon if the Kashmir issue were to be resolved in Pakistan's favor.

A series of events in India reinforced Pakistani elite perceptions that the moment was propitious for attempting to wrest Kashmir away from India. First, in December 1963, riots that had a strong anti-Indian tenor had broken out in the Kashmir Valley following the theft of a holy relic, believed to be a hair of the Prophet Mohammed, from the Hazratbal mosque in Srinagar, the capital city of Jammu and Kashmir. The Pakistani leadership immediately construed these demonstrations as signs of pro-Pakistani sentiment. Second, in the wake of the death of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964, Pakistani decision-makers inferred that India's unity was in peril without Nehru's towering influence. It was expected that various centrifugal forces, including caste, class, and ethnic cleavages would tear India apart.(15) Finally, a "limited probe" that the Pakistani military leadership conducted in April 1965 in an area known as the Rann of Kutch in the western Indian state of Gujarat failed to produce a vigorous response from the Indian military; the seemingly pusillanimous Indian response led the Pakistanis to believe that the Indians lacked stomach for battle.(16) Pakistani leaders reinforced these beliefs by falling back on racial and ethnic imagery, conjured up by British administrators for the purposes of colonial administrative convenience, to explain India's lack of military prowess.(17)

Based on this series of dubious assumptions, Pakistan began to infiltrate regular soldiers disguised as local tribesmen into the Kashmir Valley in the summer of 1965. Much to the dismay of the Pakistanis, however, the Kashmiris in the Valley did not rise up in revolt and make common cause with the infiltrators. Yet this cannot be attributed to a lack of anti-Indian sentiment on the part of the Kashmiris. As the demonstrations in the wake of the Hazaratbal theft had demonstrated, such sentiments were widespread within the Valley. However, these sentiments did not automatically translate into support for Pakistan and a willingness to resort to large-scale violence to express their discontent with Indian rule.

If the Kashmiris were indeed a "captive" ethno-national group as Pakistani apologists assert (and had asserted since 1947), what explains their failure to revolt when presented with this opportunity? Conditions were propitious: within India, a new and untested prime minister was in office. Riots had recently broken out in southern India over the imposition of Hindi as the national language, and the Indian army was just recovering from the humiliating military debacle with China. Within Kashmir, substantial assistance and armaments were available from the several thousand infiltrators who had percolated into the Valley between June and August.

The answer lies in the fact that this generation of Kashmiris was politically quiescent. The Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, which in pre-independence days had played a vital role in challenging Kashmir's ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, had dominated the politics of the state since independence. As long as the leadership of the National Conference did not raise the prospect of secession, the national government in New Delhi permitted the party wide latitude.(18) Consequently, the National Conference was free to engage in various forms of electoral malfeasance and skullduggery. The inhabitants of the Kashmir Valley tolerated the political chicanery of the National Conference partly out of loyalty to Sheikh Abdullah, the party's symbolic leader, and partly out of their lack of political sophistication, due to their low levels of literacy, education, and exposure to mass media. Consequently, the vast majority of Kashmiris, although they were discontented with elements of the prevailing political dispensation, lacked awareness of their political plight and the requisite organizational impetus, and therefore did not vigorously challenge the existing order.

Over the next twenty years, however, significant political changes within India at large and within Kashmir itself transformed the politically quiescent Kashmiris into a highly mobilized population. Kashmiris, routinely denied their voting rights in deeply flawed elections, witnessed the increasingly free exercise of franchise in other parts of India. Realization of this distinction grew with the expansion of education and mass media in Kashmir and contributed to a growing sense of resentment against the malfeasances of the Indian state.


Political mobilization in India, unlike many post-colonial states, took place early, and it defied the conventional pathways. During the nationalist struggle for independence, large numbers of India's adult populace entered the political arena. Under the extraordinary political leadership of Mohandas Gandhi, the Indian National Congress was transformed from an upper-middle-class, Anglicized organization into a broad-based mass political party. Gandhi's mass campaigns of civil disobedience promoted the notions of political accountability and universal franchise, and successfully mobilized India's indigent and still-illiterate peasantry.

After independence, several factors strengthened and expanded on Gandhi's legacy. For example, India started its independent history with at least notional universal adult franchise. Through the experience of elections at municipal, state, and national levels, increasing numbers of Indians became aware of the relationship between voting and public policy. Growing educational opportunities and concomitant increases in literacy and media exposure fed the momentum of political mobilization in India.

Such mobilization often contributed to class-based and ethnic agitations for autonomy and even secession.(19) The institutional capacities of the Indian state proved capable of dealing with these demands through a judicious mixture of negotiation, compromise, and coercion. For example, through the States Reorganization Act of 1956 and the development and implementation of the tri-language formula, India effectively dealt with the perils of linguistic agitation.(20) But although the country coped admirably with most demands for autonomy, its failure was quite striking in Kashmir. The Indian elite, including, albeit reluctantly, Prime Minister Nehru, were prepared to countenance various forms of political malfeasance in Kashmir because of the state's symbolic and strategic significance.

Nehru's successors Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, faced with the extraordinary task of governing a poly-ethnic state ridden with every conceivable social cleavage, increasingly deinstitutionalized Indian politics.(21) Indira Gandhi, in particular, expanded central authority and demonstrated a proclivity for personalized rule. Furthermore, the imperatives of political survival drove Indira Gandhi and her son and successor steadily toward plebiscitary politics. The Gandhis not only concentrated power in New Delhi but also increasingly resorted to coercive strategies to deal with any challenges to the central government's authority. All too often, these autonomist demands were characterized as threats to India's unity. The coercive strategies that were used to deal with the perceived threats only magnified them. In turn, the Indian state responded with greater force, exacerbating the initial problem in a spiral of coercion.(22)

The post-Nehru political generation's record with institution-building is far from exemplary. However, even the post-Nehru phase of Indian politics has seen some remarkable success, particularly in the political mobilization of vast segments of India's electorate. Nearly five decades of electoral participation played a formidable role in furthering the mobilization of the electorate. The remarkable growth of literacy and mass media has also served to expand demands for political participation.

This combination of institutional decline and political mobilization can contribute to political instability. Much of the violent political turmoil that exists throughout India is attributable to these processes.(23) The crisis in Kashmir is the manifestation of an extreme version of political deinstitutionalization and accelerating political mobilization. The early decay of political institutions in Kashmir, which the government in New Delhi did little to stem (and in some cases encouraged), and the dramatic pace of political mobilization proved to be a combustible mix.

Alternative Explanations for Ethnic Conflict

Explanations for protracted ethnic conflict abound.(24) An all-too-common, journalistic explanation dwells on putative "ancient hatreds" that erupt with unerring frequency.(25) Other more scholarly explanations focus on the role of ethnic stereotyping in arousing inter-ethnic friction that leads to violence, or on the collapse of state authority and the ensuing intra-group solidarity that exacerbates the spiral of misgiving between ethnic groups. Still other explanations point to the repressive policies of dominant ethnic groups as the provocation for minority uprising.(26) These theories have varying degrees of explanatory power. None, however, provides a cogent explanation for the origins or the timing of the intractable ethnic insurgency currently raging in Kashmir.


The "ancient hatreds" theory of ethnic conflict has acquired considerable currency in popular and journalistic usage. It has frequently been invoked to explain both internal and inter-state conflict in South Asia.(27) A short examination of the historical record, however, reveals the limitations of this theory in the South Asian context. It is undeniable that Islam came to South Asia as a conquering force. Furthermore, certain Muslim rulers, most notably Aurangzeb Alamgir in the eighteenth century, were hardly paragons of religious tolerance.(28) Yet the record of Hindu-Muslim relations during the period of Muslim rule in South Asia is not one of unrelieved discord and ethnic hatred. The interaction of various Hindu and Muslim communities for several centuries throughout South Asia produced significant syncretistic developments in art, literature, and architecture. Hindus and Muslims on occasion made common cause during the nationalist struggle against British rule. Perhaps the jingoistic rhetoric used by many modern-day politicians in India and Pakistan to distort the historical record to achieve short-term political ends invites the application of the "ancient hatreds" theory, but a dispassionate examination of the historical record suggests that the theory, like the rhetoric, is wrong.

More specifically, Islam did not come to Kashmir as a conquering faith, but through the influence of itinerant Sufi mendicants. Hindus converted to Islam not at the point of a sword, but through proselytization. Indeed, a number of Muslim saints were long revered by Hindus and Muslims alike. Furthermore, despite significant economic disparities between Hindu and Muslim communities that have widened over the last two hundred years, widespread ethnic violence did not erupt in Kashmir at any time until recently.(29)


Ethnic stereotyping involves attributing particular traits of personality, character, and intelligence to members of other ethnic groups.(30) The features that are attributed to other groups may be positive or negative.(31) Even apparently positive stereotypes of other ethnic communities can have adverse consequences for inter-group relations, by fostering resentment among the "non-endowed."

Ethnic stereotyping does explain a great deal of the conflict and violence that has wracked South Asia. In Sri Lanka, for example, ethnic stereotypes of the Tamil minority were used by the Sinhalese majority to justify the former's systematic disenfranchisement. Ultimately, this polarized Sri Lankan politics and contributed to a pogrom against Tamils in the capital, Colombo, in 1983. Similarly, segments of the dominant Hindu community in India have generated ethnic stereotypes of Muslims. Such ethnic stereotyping, combined with the demagogic appeals emanating principally from the right-wing, jingoistic Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliated organizations, has contributed to widespread rioting and violence directed against various Muslim communities.(32) The fanning of such ethnic hatred reached its zenith in December 1992, when a well-orchestrated mob of BJP sympathizers stormed and destroyed a fourteenth-century mosque in Ayodhya in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.(33) In the wake of the destruction of this mosque, riots swept India, during which several thousand Muslims were killed.

In the Kashmir case, the issue of ethnic stereotyping was largely irrelevant until the outbreak of the insurgency. Despite significant economic disparities between Hindus and Muslims, and Hindu dominance of most political and economic institutions, widespread communal hatred did not exist in Kashmir. Even if the two communities did not enjoy extensive social interaction, violent inter-ethnic conflict was not prevalent. Instead, a common bond of Kashmiri identity, popularly referred to as Kashmiriyat, prevailed.(34)

However, since the outbreak of the insurgency in 1989 and the flight of large numbers of Hindus from the Kashmir Valley, ethnic stereotypes are now coming to the fore. The displaced Hindus of the Kashmir Valley now tend to see their former Muslim neighbors as little better than marauders. The violence, the loss of life, and the destruction of property, as well as the entry of battle-hardened Afghan mujahideen into the fray, have contributed to the rise of ethnic stereotyping. The Muslim population of the Kashmir Valley, in turn, whose loyalties are widely questioned by the security forces, now distrust Hindus with equal vigor.


The concept of the ethnic "security dilemma" is derived from Neo-Realism.(35) In an anarchic international milieu lacking a paramount authority, states are the ultimate guarantors of their own security. Consequently, they must acquire the necessary military strength to protect their sovereignty and territorial integrity. The acquisition of such military capabilities, however, can be seen as threatening by other neighboring states. Neighbors unable to discern or trust the "defensive" quality of the state's weapons acquisitions also seek to arm themselves. Consequently, efforts undertaken to enhance one's own security end up undermining it; this is the "security dilemma."

Barry Posen has applied this theoretical construct to situations of state collapse in which domestic politics resembles the anarchic international order.(36) In the absence of state authority, a potential security dilemma resembling that faced by nation-states can emerge among discrete ethnic groups in a poly-ethnic state. When ethnic groups have to ensure their own security, their group identity can assume increased significance. Increased group identification, Posen argues, produces greater group cohesion and confers significant military advantages to infantry armies. Simultaneous increases in group cohesion among separate ethnic groups may lead each group to formulate a worst-case analysis of the others' intentions. Demagogic leaders all too frequently drive such analyses and selectively use the historical record to arouse ethnic passions. Under these conditions, groups with greater offensive capabilities may attack more vulnerable ethnic groups caught in geographic enclaves. Such actions can culminate in a vortex of action and reaction.

The ethnic security-dilemma theory provides a compelling explanation for ethnic violence in the Indian subcontinent at the time of British withdrawal in 1947, but not for the current spate of violence in Kashmir. At the time of the partition of British India and the creation of the independent states of India and Pakistan in August 1947, state authority collapsed for all practical purposes. As millions of Hindus and Muslims fled in opposite directions, anarchic conditions prevailed. Police and paramilitary forces were no longer neutral, and the departing British government lacked the necessary will and capacity to maintain order.(37) In this milieu, demagogic politicians from both communities exploited cultural myths and demonized political adversaries. These appeals both fostered group cohesion and provoked the anxieties of minority communities. As group cohesion and solidarity crystallized, both Hindus and Muslims, especially those trapped in geographic enclaves, feared significant power shifts. Accordingly, they targeted members of other communities to fend off a potentially dangerous future. Soon, competitive retaliation became the order of the day, and mass carnage spread across much of northern India.(38)

The ethnic security-dilemma theory has, however, little or no relevance in explaining the origins of the Kashmir crisis. The Hindu and Muslim populations in Kashmir had lived as neighbors for several hundred years, and had experienced three wars (between India and Pakistan, in 1947-48, 1965, and 1971) without significant inter-ethnic conflict. No existential threat confronted the Muslim community in the Valley in the years preceding the outbreak of the insurgency. While there is little question that, since the outbreak of the insurgency, intra-group cohesion and solidarity has dramatically increased within the Kashmir Valley, since 1990 the Valley has been virtually "cleansed" of its Hindu population. Consequently, the security dilemma explanation is more apposite to the aftermath of the outbreak of the insurgency. Today, as the authority of the Indian state is widely contested in Kashmir, the Hindu community does fear the wrath of the Muslim insurgents, and the members of the Muslim community not involved in the insurgency fear retaliation from the displaced Hindus.


Finally, violence between communities sometimes results from widespread discrimination along ethnic lines. Ethnic discrimination refers simply to policies or actions that dominant ethnic groups pursue which result in inequalities in "ethnic group members' well-being or political access in comparison with other social groups."(39) A dominant ethnic community may be able to use an amalgam of coercion and rewards to ensure the quiescence of minority communities. In this context the Malaysian case is instructive. Repressive policies, coupled with the leavening effects of economic growth, have blunted the sharp edges of potential conflict in Malaysia. After riots in May 1969 threatened the political and social stability of the country, Malaysia embarked on an extensive strategy of social engineering. The policy sought explicitly to disassociate race from occupation. This policy of social restructuring, called bumiputra (literally, "son of the soil"), legalized discrimination in favor of ethnic Malays, the majority population. Yet despite this systematic and blatant discrimination, Malaysia has been able to maintain ethnic peace. The two principal ethnic minorities, the Chinese and the Indians, have remained politically quiescent. Although the Indian community in particular nurses many grievances, neither minority group has resorted to violence to redress its disadvantaged status. The reasons for Malaysia's ethnic peace are complex; briefly, it has been maintained through a deft mix of political coercion and economic growth. There is little question that ethnic Malays have been the principal beneficiaries of Malaysia's bumiputra policies. On the other hand, the two major ethnic minorities have also benefited to varying degrees from steady economic growth.(40)

This theory cannot explain the Kashmir case. The pre-independence Hindu ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, did not pursue explicit policies designed to exclude Muslims from access to education or government employment. Nevertheless, the Muslim majority were subjected to widespread discrimination.(41) Yet only a handful of communally based challenges to his rule took place. In post-independence Kashmir, by contrast, the Muslims' legacy of past economic discrimination has, to some extent, been overcome. Disparities remain, but the grievances of the insurgents focus far more sharply on the shortcomings of the political process than on economic inequalities.


A number of more specific explanations for the crisis offer partial explanations for the origins of the crisis. For example, Ashutosh Varshney has traced the origins of the crisis to the clash of three competing visions of nationalism: Kashmiri, secular, and Islamic.(42) At one level, his argument is apt: the Kashmir crisis does involve a clash of competing national visions. But this argument still fails to explain the specific timing of the insurgency. If the decline of secular nationalism is one of the factors behind the insurgency, then why did it not break out in the 1950s, when Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed under pressure from Hindu nationalist organizations in Jammu for his putative disloyalty to the Indian Union?(43)

Prem Shankar Jha, an Indian journalist, has argued that the revolt in Kashmir can be traced to middle-class frustrations. He contends that employment opportunities have not kept pace with the growth of an educated middle class in Kashmir Consequently, the rebellion represents the expression of collective and growing frustration with the lack of economic opportunity. Furthermore, unlike Indians from other regions who seek employment in all parts of India, Kashmiris are unwilling to relocate.(44) Jha's argument is partially correct, but it fails to explain the depth of resentment against the Indian state, nor does it explain the ethno-religious dimensions of the insurgency. Finally, Jha's argument cannot account for why some of the insurgents argue for unification with Pakistan, given Pakistan's failure to develop the portion of Kashmir it has controlled since 1947.

Finally, Alistair Lamb, a British scholar, has written two narrative accounts of the historical factors that contributed to the insurgency.(45) His works are atheoretic and tendentious. Lamb selectively uses the historical record to highlight India's real and putative malfeasances in Kashmir His work offers little explanation of the Kashmir conundrum.

Political Mobilization and Ethnic Conflict

I argue that the Kashmiri insurgency arose out of a process of political mobilization that was juxtaposed with steady institutional decay. The political mobilization of Kashmiris started later than in the rest of the Indian state, but it accelerated dramatically after the 1970s. Institutional decay in Kashmir began as early as the 1950s, much earlier than in the rest of India. These two trends intersected as a new generation of Kashmiris emerged on the political scene.

Political mobilization refers to the process by which individuals enter as actors into the political arena. It involves growing demands for political participation. Instead of remaining politically quiescent and accepting the existing political dispensation, mobilized populations actively seek to influence their political destinies. Political mobilization stems from increasing literacy, media exposure, access to higher education, and the concomitant growth of political knowledge.

Among minority populations in poly-ethnic societies, such increased political awareness usually leads to greater sensitivity to ethnic discrimination.(46) The growth of such sensitivity leads to greater demands for political involvement and participation. Under such conditions, ethnic groups may mobilize along ethno-political lines for collective action.(47) As demands for participation from an ethnic community grow, states can adopt two possible strategies of response. At one level, they can seek to repress the calls for increased participation. To this end, states can limit the free expression of ideas, incarcerate emergent political leaders, and place curbs on various forms of organized political activity. Such strategies of denial are, at best, short-term palliatives. In the longer term, if they wish to avoid widespread conflict and upheavals, states have little or no choice but to direct these demands into institutional arenas.

The possibility of these demands turning into violent conflict are especially great in poly-ethnic societies. As newly mobilized ethnic groups enter the political arena and face (or perceive) widespread and protracted discrimination, they will organize along ethnic lines to articulate and seek redress of their grievances. Such grievances may be accommodated and channeled through organizational and institutional channels, such as judicial, legislative, and other organizational entities that provide pathways for the articulation of grievances and representation for venting discontent. Frequently, states may lack adequate substantive resources to address all these demands. But even carefully crafted symbolic gestures and concessions can allay the strength of such demands.(48) Indeed, on a number of occasions, the Indian state has successfully provided this room for political maneuver and has fended off more intractable demands.(49) Such adroit responses were possible thanks to the existence of robust political institutions.

If, in contrast, states provide few institutional means for the expression of ethno-political grievances and fail to offer other rewards, newly mobilized ethnic minorities may resort to violence to express their demands. Faced with violent ethnic protest, states will tend to adopt largely coercive strategies. Such strategies are mostly counterproductive, however: repression alone does not beget political quiescence. On the contrary, it may have the effect of eliminating more moderate leaders and the radicalization of the movement.(50) Eventually, such strategies may culminate in a spiral of violence. Even if the violent political protest is suppressed, underlying grievances will remain and contribute to recrudescent violence.

The explanation offered here attempts to account for the rise of such ethno-political violence in four components or stages. First, it assumes the existence of a minority group in a poly-ethnic society that over time becomes aware of political and economic discrimination. Second, requisite institutional entities for the expression of such dissent are lacking. Third, faced with protracted discrimination and no available institutional means for expressing dissent, a segment of the community resorts to violence to alter the status quo. During this process, more moderate leaders who counsel restraint and compromise become increasingly marginalized. Fourth and finally, the state in question can either seek to make concessions and address the underlying grievances or resort to repressive tactics.(51)

The growth of political mobilization in Kashmir occurred at a slower pace than in the rest of India. The reasons lie in Kashmir's peculiar political history. In the closing days of the nationalist struggle in India, Kashmir was under the tutelage of Maharaja Hari Singh, not the most enlightened of princely rulers. Steady opposition to his reign gathered force as independence and partition approached. The principal opposition was organized behind the All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference. Its leader, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, had originally sought to mobilize Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir and to exact concessions from the maharaja. Accordingly, Abdullah's political party, which was founded in October 1932, was initially known as the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference. Under the influence of Jawaharlal Nehru, Abdullah broadened the party's political base; it renamed itself the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference after considerable vigorous debate. During World War II, the party moved closer to the principal nationalist organization, the Indian National Congress, and distanced itself from the Muslim League, led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah.(52) Within Kashmir, the National Conference spearheaded efforts to bring about political and economic reform. The platform announced by the National Conference in September 1944 proposed a new constitution that would lead to representative government based on universal adult franchise and that would guarantee civil and political rights to all Kashmiris. The platform also called for extensive state intervention in the economic arena to bring about equity and social justice.(53) Another organization, the Muslim Conference, founded in 1934, gravitated toward Jinnah and the Muslim League.

There is very little doubt that Abdullah's National Conference enjoyed widespread support within the state.(54) Yet Abdullah's strategy of political mobilization, although populist, was not democratic.(55) The organizational structure of the National Conference belied its socialist and democratic ideology.(56) As a political party, it was constructed largely around the person of Abdullah and his close advisers. Decision-making was highly centralized and concentrated in his hands. Little internal dissent was allowed. Abdullah's tight grasp of the reins of power contributed to tensions between him and some of his most trusted lieutenants, principally Mohiuddin Karra, Maulana Masoodi, and Mirza Afzal Beg.

Abdullah's successors, with the possible exception of G.M. Sadiq, perpetuated his authoritarian ways. As a result, no honest political opposition was ever allowed to develop in the state. An early analyst of the politics of Jammu and Kashmir wrote,

Time has now come to pass judgement on Abdullah's Government. Internally, it was hardly democratic. Opposition was suppressed, and civil liberties existed in name and for those who shared his views. His economic views were radical but he combined them with the working of the like-minded totalitarian Governments elsewhere. He enjoyed tremendous popularity, yet resorted to questionable means to gain an electoral majority.(57)

Abdullah's policies significantly limited the growth and development of political institutions within Jammu and Kashmir Consequently, even though a Constituent Assembly was convened in October 1951 and the state adopted its own constitution, the mechanisms of political representation were stunted from the outset. Unlike elections in the rest of India, elections in Jammu and Kashmir were largely farcical. The National Conference and its operatives dominated the politics of the state.(58) Furthermore, the central government in New Delhi did little to stay the hand of the National Conference as long as it did not question the accession of Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian Union.


The National Conference did much, particularly in its initial years in power, to improve socio-economic conditions in the state. It provided the basis for the emergence of a new generation of Kashmiris better educated than their predecessors, more conscious of their political rights and prerogatives, and impatient with the earlier generation of political leaders. This generation would eventually come to challenge the National Conference.

Maharaja Hari Singh had done little to ameliorate the social and economic backwardness of his kingdom. During his reign, the principal source of income, land, was held largely by two classes of landlords. The jagirdars owned entire villages from which they extracted revenue. The monarch had granted them these jagirs, some in perpetuity. The muafidars were individuals such as pandits (Brahmins) or faqirs (Muslim mendicants) who paid no taxes on the lands assigned to them by the monarch. These two groups of landlords rented out most of the available cultivable land under exploitative conditions.(59)

Given its socialist proclivities, one of the first political initiatives that the National Conference undertook after winning office was to abolish this landlordism. Two pieces of legislation were passed in 1950: the Abolition of Big Landed Estates Act and the Distressed Debtors Relief Act. The first confiscated all parcels of cultivable land greater than 23 acres and either distributed them to landless peasants or converted them into state property. The second created a board that instituted policies for the relief of debt. Although these initiatives alienated a significant segment of the Jammu-based Hindu landed gentry, they won Abdullah the powerful loyalty of lower- and middle-class Muslims and Hindus.(60) Long after Abdullah was dismissed as the prime minister(61) and incarcerated in 1953 for ostensibly conspiring to declare Kashmir's independence from the Indian Union, large segments of the Kashmiri peasantry remained loyal to him. And even though subsequent National Conference governments proved inept and corrupt, Abdullah's personal stature in Kashmir remained largely undiminished.


The socio-economic transformation of Kashmir, begun under Sheikh Abdullah and continued by his successors and increasingly by the national government in New Delhi, transformed the electorate from a politically passive to an increasingly politically alert and assertive population.(62) As Kashmiris acquired more and more education, were exposed to the mass media, and achieved greater social and physical mobility, they became aware that the free exercise of adult franchise existed in virtually all other parts of India. Only in Kashmir were elections routinely compromised. This discrepancy drove their discontent. After years of frustrated attempts at meaningful political participation, and in the absence of institutional means of expressing dissent, the resort to more violent means became all but inevitable.

One vital mechanism of political mobilization was the growth of educational institutions. Table 1 illustrates the dramatic growth in literacy rates during the 1970s and 1980s. In the ten years from 1971 to 1981, the overall literacy rate in Jammu and Kashmir grew by more than 43 percent, the third fastest growth rate in the nation.(63) Table 2 shows a similarly dramatic increase in enrollments in educational institutions.

Table 1. Literacy Rates in Jammu and Kashmir, 1961-81. 


         Male      Female      Total population      Increase 


1961     16.97      4.26            11.03 
1971     26.75      9.28            18.58             68.45% 
1981     36.29     15.88            26.67             43.54% 


SOURCE: Census of India 1981, Handbook of Population Statistics 
(Delhi: Government of India, 1988), p. 60. 

In addition to the growth of formal education, Kashmir saw a dramatic growth in madrassa (Islamic schools) education.(64) The growth of madrassas received a tremendous boost after 1983, with the emigration of a significant number of Bangladeshi maulvis (Muslim religious teachers) from the eastern Indian state of Assam to Kashmir after the massacre in the Assamese village of Nellie.

The growth in educational facilities at a variety of levels meant that increasing numbers of Kashmiris became literate. Literacy enables individuals to have a better comprehension of the social and political forces that affect their lives. Consequently, they gain an increased awareness of politics at local, national, and international levels.

The expansion of mass media also bolstered the process of political mobilization. As shown in Table 3, tremendous growth has taken place over the last four decades in the print media throughout India and in Kashmir in particular. In the span of approximately fifteen years, the number of newspapers published grew by some 500 percent.(65) In addition to the dramatic increase in the actual numbers of newspapers published, Kashmir also saw significant increases in newspaper circulation. Though the data are incomplete, they are nevertheless revealing. In 1982, total newspaper circulation in Kashmir was [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 2 OMITTED] estimated to be around 119,000. Two years later, the circulation had risen to 192,000. In another five years, the figure was 369,000. Interestingly, by 1990, newspaper circulation was down quite sharply - to only 280,000, perhaps due to militant threats against various newspapers, as well as to the flight of many Kashmiris from the Valley. In 1992 it stood at 297,000.(66)

Finally, Kashmir, along with other parts of India, has seen a significant growth in the electronic media, especially television and video and tape recorders. Kashmir was one of the earliest states in India to have access to television, because the Indian government wanted to ensure that the Kashmiris were not exposed only to Pakistani broadcasts. Thus Srinagar was the third "television center" to be commissioned in India after Delhi and Bombay in 1972. Access to television broadcasts is, of course, dependent on the availability of television sets. Making accurate estimates of the numbers of television sets in use is problematic, but the fact that licenses were required for the purchase of television sets before 1985 does provide some basis for an assessment. In 1981, for example, the Department of Posts and Telegraphs issued 3,262 licenses. By 1984, the number had increased sixfold to 20,896. It should be noted that the number of licenses issued, is at best, an imperfect indicator; by the mid-1980s fewer and fewer individuals bothered purchasing television licenses. The most recent estimate, made in 1992, suggests that Kashmir had 118,000 television sets, or 1 per 65 residents.(67)

Table 3. Newspapers Published in Jammu and Kashmir and in India, 


                       1965         1970         1975         1984 


Jammu & Kashmir          46          102          135          203 
All India             7,906       11,036       12,423       21,784 


SOURCES: Mass Media in India 1978 (New Delhi: Publications Division, 
Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, 1978); Mass Media in India 
1986 (New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information & 
Broadcasting, 1987). 

The availability of videocassette recorders (VCRs) and videotapes has greatly expanded the reach of television coverage. Statistics on the availability of VCRs in Kashmir are hard to come by. In 1982, it is estimated, India overall had 180,000 VCRs, which accounted for 11.6 percent of those homes that had television sets. In 1983, the estimate of VCRs was 530,000, 34.2 percent of television-owning homes. In 1984, the figure had risen to 610,000. Although no Kashmir-specific data are currently available, Kashmir is probably not significantly different from other parts of India.

Given the dramatic expansion in literacy and media exposure, the current generation of Kashmiris is far more conscious of its political rights and privileges. This generation is also more aware of political developments well beyond the Valley of Kashmir and is far more politically sophisticated and knowledgeable than previous generations of Kashmiris who had been loyal to Sheikh Abdullah and his family.(68) This generation has proved unwilling to tolerate the political skullduggery that long characterized Kashmiri politics. The deinstitutionalization of Kashmiri politics would, however, prove very costly for the Indian state.

Explaining Political Decay

The literature of political development in the 1950s and 1960s assumed that, to use Robert Packenham's phrase, "all good things go together."(69) In other words, economic development would inevitably contribute to political development.(70) Political development, for the most part, was assumed to mean the development of democratic institutions. Samuel Huntington in 1968 forth-rightly questioned the premises of the first wave of the political development literature.(71) Far from contributing to democracy, Huntington argued, economic development might lead to widespread political instability, especially in the absence of robust political institutions. Such institutions, he contended, were critical for maintaining political order in societies undergoing rapid economic modernization. Modernization, in Huntington's view, opened up new possibilities of social and economic mobility, reduced the familiar ties of kith and community, and generated increasing demands for political participation. In the absence of well-developed political institutions that could mediate these demands, the quickening pace of economic modernization could give rise to political decay and eventually instability.(72) Huntington believed that among the vast majority of states in the post-colonial world, India had considerable promise because of the strength of its political institutions: a highly professional civil service, a well-developed electoral system, and a political party (the Indian National Congress) that encompassed a variety of interests.


The decline of those promising political institutions in India, especially since the days of Indira Gandhi, has been commented on at length elsewhere.(73) In Kashmir, the process of institutional decay started even before Indira Gandhi. The singular political tragedy of Kashmir's politics was the failure of the local and the national political leaderships to permit the development of an honest political opposition. From the time of independence to his dismissal from office in 1953, Sheikh Abdullah dominated the politics of Kashmir. Subsequent National Conference regimes used the prerogatives of office to prevent the growth of any meaningful opposition.

New Delhi tolerated this because Kashmir, as India's only Muslim-majority state, was central to the nation-building enterprise in India.(74) Nehru and other national leaders contended that the existence of a Muslim-majority state in India demonstrated that all faiths could thrive under the aegis of a secular state. Pakistan's irredentist claim on Kashmir, along with the state's ambiguous international status, made India's national leadership especially concerned about Kashmir's position within the Indian Union. As a consequence, the national political leadership, from Jawaharlal Nehru onward, adopted a unified stand on the internal politics of Jammu and Kashmir: as long as the local political bosses avoided raising the secessionist bogey; the government in New Delhi overlooked the locals' political practices, corrupt or otherwise. Prime Minister Nehru, with characteristic candor, wrote to the Kashmiri journalist and activist Prem Nath Bazaz in 1962, "It is true that political liberty does not exist there in the same measure as in the rest of India. At the same time there is much more of it than there used to be."(75)

As a result of local chicanery and national laissez-faire, every election since the very first in March 1957, save those in 1977 and 1983, was marked by corruption and deceit.(76) Over the years, any opposition to the National Conference was steadily driven out of the institutional arena.


Why did the mobilization in Kashmir take place along ethno-religious lines? Four factors are significant. First, the state is divided into districts that also produce a religious division. Srinagar and the surrounding Valley of Kashmir are predominantly Muslim. The districts of Leh and Kargil, which until 1979 formed the single district of Ladakh, have predominantly Buddhist and Muslim populations, respectively. Jammu is predominantly Hindu. The predominantly Muslim composition of the National Conference had little appeal among the Hindus of Jammu. Furthermore, acknowledging the difficulties of courting the Jammu Hindus, the National Conference all but wrote off Jammu for electoral purposes.(77) Buddhist-dominated Leh was also outside the ambit of National Conference politics.

Second, the geographic isolation of the Valley separated Kashmiri Islam from the larger currents of Muslim politics in India. Indian Muslims rarely made common cause with fellow Muslims in the Valley,(78) and the Muslims of the Valley never developed extensive ties with Muslim communities in the rest of India. As a consequence, they did not air their grievances as part of the national community but as a regional sub-community, with particular parochial concerns. Furthermore, divisions exist even among Kashmiri Muslims.

They were divided, first and foremost, by geography. Cut off from their co-religionists in Jammu by 15,000-feet mountain peaks, impassable in winter, the Muslims of Srinagar and its surrounding valley had evolved, over the centuries, a quite separate culture. While the people of Jammu spoke Dogri, a dialect akin to Punjabi, those of Srinagar spoke Kashmiri, which is closer to Persian; [the Muslims of Srinagar] built with brick and wood, rather than mud; and they dressed in a distinctive style typified, in the case of males, by the double pointed cap and the all-purpose cloak, the farran.(79)

Furthermore, Muslims face discrimination in the mainstream of Indian society, and there is no substantial Kashmiri Muslim expatriate community. Thus, the Muslims of the Valley were reluctant to venture into the rest of the country to seek their fortunes.

Third, as has been observed in other contexts, notably in Iran and Egypt, when secular politics fails to offer adequate channels for the expression of discontent, political mobilization tends to follow ethno-religious lines.(80) This avenue of protest had a long history in Kashmir. In the 1930s, Sheikh Abdullah's Muslim followers had battled those of Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah. Furthermore, even after independence a steady undercurrent of ethno-religious sentiment had swirled around the Jammat-i-Islami. On occasion, Sheikh Abdullah had even encouraged the followers of the Jammat to instill fear in New Delhi. Abdullah threatened to unleash the forces of the Jammat unless New Delhi supported him unequivocally.(81)

A fourth and final factor was responsible for the ethno-religious direction of the movement: Pakistan, sensing an opportunity to weaken India's hold on Kashmir, funded, trained, and organized what had been a loose, unstructured movement into a coherent, organized enterprise directed toward challenging the writ of the Indian state in Kashmir.(82) The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1990 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union greatly facilitated Pakistan in arming and assisting the Kashmiri insurgents. Significant numbers of battle-hardened Afghan mujahideen could now be directed toward a new cause. These Afghans had more to offer than direct support; their experience of ousting the Soviets from Afghanistan provided a model of opposition and resistance to a powerful state and its well-organized military.

The success of the Palestinian intifada further reinforced both the violent aspect and the Islamic fundamentalist aspect of the insurgent movement in Kashmir. Owing to the Indian government's close links with the Palestine Liberation Organization, a sizeable number of Palestinian students had attended Kashmir University in Srinagar in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These Palestinian students became an important conduit for information about the success of the intifada against the Israeli forces on the Gaza and the West Bank. Their struggle animated many university students in Kashmir.(83)

In transforming the socio-economic landscape of Kashmir and producing a generation of politically aware Kashmiris, while also leaving the growth of political institutions in Kashmir stunted and corroded, the national and state-level governments left open few institutional channels for the expression of political discontent and dissent. Moreover, the national government construed demands for political autonomy as incipient secessionist moves. This set of policies inevitably drove the emergent generations of Kashmiris toward more extreme forms of political expression. As secular and institutional pathways of expressing political dissent were curbed, political mobilization and activism increasingly proceeded along an ethno-religious dimension.


In the first two decades following the 1965 Indo-Pakistani war, Kashmir lay largely quiet. Even during the 1971 war, the majority of Kashmiris remained loyal to India. Furthermore, the breakup of Pakistan after the 1971 war dealt a significant blow to the Pakistani irredentist claim on Kashmir. Many Indian political commentators promptly questioned Pakistan's claim on the Muslims of Kashmir when it could not keep its two wings together on the basis of religious faith.

Between 1965 and 1989, however, the process of political mobilization and the undermining of political institutions throughout India, but particularly in Kashmir, accelerated. There was a brief respite in the mid-1970s, when the hopes of the politically aware Kashmiris were raised by the release and return of Sheikh Abdullah after years of house arrest. The government also agreed to review several pieces of central legislation that had been passed pertaining to Kashmir.(84) Abdullah's return to Kashmir was nothing short of triumphant. He promptly assumed the chief ministership and the leadership of the National Conference, and his party won a comfortable majority of seats in the next election in 1977, one of Kashmir's few openly conducted and fairly contested elections.

Yet this respite from Indira Gandhi's chicanery was brief. Sheikh Abdullah died in September 1982. He was succeeded first by his son, Farooq, a political neophyte who had none of the political survival skills required by the rough-and-tumble politics of the state and none of his father's charisma and political stature. In the 1983 state assembly elections, which were also reasonably fair (by Indian standards), Farooq rebuffed Indira Gandhi's efforts to forge an electoral alliance with the National Conference in Kashmir, and contested the elections alone. The National Conference again triumphed. But determined to install a Congress regime in Kashmir, Gandhi dismissed Farooq Abdullah on tenuous grounds in July 1984, replacing him with G.M. Shah, a disaffected member of the National Conference.

Shah's term in office was short and troubled. The abrupt dismissal of Abdullah had deeply offended a new generation of politically conscious Kashmiris. Shah, who commanded no wide following within the state, was seen as a central government stooge. During the next two years, a variety of political disturbances - strikes, demonstrations, and bombings - wracked the state.

G.M. Shah proved singularly inept at curbing the rising tide of violence. In 1986, he too was dismissed on the grounds of corruption and failure to maintain public order in the state. In November of that same year, Rajiv Gandhi (who had become the prime minister following his mother's assassination in October 1984) signed an accord with Farooq Abdullah, under the terms of which Farooq was returned to the chief ministership of Jammu and Kashmir. This accord forms yet another critical turning point in precipitating the insurgency. Whatever sympathy and legitimacy that Farooq had had in the eyes of the emergent Kashmiri youth was now lost. The accord reduced him to the stature of a mere stalking horse for the Congress Party in Kashmir.

In the 1987 election, considered to be the most compromised in Kashmir's recent history; the Congress Party and the National Conference jointly contested the state assembly elections; they were opposed by the Muslim United Front (MUF), a conglomeration of political parties. In this election, voters were intimidated, ballot boxes tampered with, and candidates threatened. Whereas previous generations of Kashmiris, whose political consciousness was low, had long tolerated all manner of electoral irregularities, the generation that had emerged in Kashmir during the long years of Sheikh Abdullah's incarceration did not have the same regard for the Abdullah family, nor was it willing to tolerate such widespread electoral fraud. Indeed, it is rather telling that several key insurgent leaders, Shabir Shah, Yasin Malik, and Javed Mir, were polling agents for the Muslim United Front in the 1987 elections. These individuals, along with thousands of their peers, were well aware that most elections in India are largely free and fair. (Even when electoral fraud occurs elsewhere in the country, a free press and the watchdog role of the Election Commission lead to the countermanding of electoral returns). The extensive electoral malfeasances that they witnessed in 1987 convinced this younger generation of Kashmiris that the national government in New Delhi had scant regard for their political rights and reckless disregard for democratic procedures. With no other institutional recourse open for expressing their disenchantment with the flawed political process, they resorted to violence. The insurgency has taken the lives of tens of thousands, forced hundreds of thousands from their homes, and shows no sign of abating.


An examination of the origins of the insurgency in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir suggests a path along which ethno-religious movements may develop. The utility of this explanation may extend well beyond the subcontinent. Increasing political mobilization among minority communities is virtually inevitable across the globe. States may try to rely on coercive mechanisms to limit demands for political participation, but Kashmir is a striking reminder of the dangers. Attempts to fend off such demands through coercive means can only contribute to political deinstitutionalization in the long term. The costs of such institutional decay are, as the Kashmir insurgency demonstrates, extraordinarily high.

The growth of political assertiveness of minority communities in democratic states is virtually inevitable. As minorities acquire increased literacy and education, they will become more conscious of their political rights and will seek to assert them. Nondemocratic, poly-ethnic states can suppress minority demands for political participation through co-optation, coercion, or repression.

Democratic poly-ethnic states, however, cannot resort to such strategies with impunity. In the longer run, the adoption of such policies proves to be enormously corrosive of the very values that they uphold and espouse. The seven-year-old insurgency in Kashmir has already had pernicious effects on the Indian polity. To aid the armed forces in their efforts to contain the insurgency, the Indian government has passed draconian legislation that severely curbs personal freedoms and civil liberties in Kashmir. The legislation also enables members of the security forces to use force with virtual impunity.(85) These measures, once on the books, are difficult to reverse.

At another level, the failure of institutional mechanisms for resolving political problems leads to the adoption of coercive and military strategies, with adverse consequences. Continued reliance on the Indian army to quell civil unrest in Kashmir and other parts of India bodes ill for civil-military relations in India. Even the higher echelons of the Indian army have warned about the dangers of excessive reliance on the army to deal with civil violence.(86) The dangers of a military coup in India are hardly imminent. However, in any poly-ethnic state, the use of the army against particular ethnic groups poses the distinct danger of communalizing the armed forces. For example, a significant number of Sikh troops of the Indian army mutinied after the 1984 attack on the Golden Temple in the city of Amritsar in Punjab.

Finally, the breakdown of political order in poly-ethnic states often provides ethnic compatriots in neighboring states with grounds to intervene.(87) Pakistan's irredentist claim to Kashmir has spurred its substantial involvement in this conflict. To date, India and Pakistan have successfully avoided another full-scale war. However, as the insurgency drags on, and border tensions persist, war may still ensue through a mix of misperception and inadvertence.

This article is drawn from my forthcoming book. I wish to thank Kanti Bajpai, Traci Nagle, and Jack Snyder for their substantial comments and assistance.

1 See Sumit Ganguly, Between War and Peace: The Crisis in Kashmir (Cambridge, U.K., and Washington, D.C.: Cambridge University Press and Woodrow Wilson Center Press, forthcoming); Vernon Marston Hewitt, Reclaiming the Past: The Search for Political and Cultural Unity in Contemporary Kashmir (London: Portland Books, 1995). See also Jyoti Bhusan Das Gupta, Jammu and Kashmir (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1968), which provides an excellent historical account of the origins of the Kashmir problem in the context of Indo-Pakistani relations.

2. Michael E. Brown, ed., The International Dimensions of Internal Conflict (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996), Table 1, p. 5.

3. This strategy may be inapplicable to Kashmir for several reasons. First, neither the Punjab nor the northeastern states were the subjects of international territorial disputes. Because Kashmir is claimed by Pakistan, far greater international attention and scrutiny has been focused on the crisis there. Second, unlike the Punjab, the vast majority of Kashmir's population is alienated from the Indian state. Third, Kashmir's location makes foreign infiltration into the state and support for the insurgency far easier. India was able to seal the Indo-Pakistani border in the Punjab. Fourth, the insurgents in Kashmir have access to a vast arms bazaar that extends from Pakistan to Afghanistan. On this point see Jastit Singh, Light Weapons and International Security (New Delhi: Indian Pugwash Society and British-American Information Council, 1995).

4. Samuel Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1968).

5. Myron Weiner, Sons of the Soil: Migration and Ethnic Conflict in India (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1978).

6. For a forceful statement of the Indian position, see K. Subrahmanyam, "Kashmir," Strategic Analysis, Vol. 23, No. 11 (May 1990), pp. 111-198.

7. One of the best statements of the official Pakistan position is Shaheen Akhtar, Uprising in Indian-Held Kashmir (Islamabad: Institute of Regional Studies, 1991).

8. For a variety of explanations for the origins of the Kashmir crisis, see Raju G.C. Thomas, ed., Perspectives on Kashmir: The Roots of Conflict in South Asia (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1992). Also see Asghar Ali Engineer, ed., Kashmir: Secular Crown in Fire (New Delhi: Ajanta Publications, 1992).

9. At the time of independence and partition, two classes of states existed in the Indian Union: those of British India, ruled directly by the Crown, and the "princely states," nominally independent as long as they recognized the "paramountcy" of the Crown. Upon British withdrawal from the subcontinent, the doctrine of paramountcy was to lapse, and the rulers of the princely states had to choose to join either India or Pakistan, basing their decisions on geographic propinquity and demographic composition. Kashmir posed a peculiar problem: its monarch, Maharaja Hari Singh, was Hindu, his subjects were predominantly Muslim, and the state abutted both India and Pakistan. As Hari Singh vacillated on the question of accession, Pakistani troops disguised as local tribesmen attacked the western reaches of his state. Hari Singh appealed to New Delhi for military assistance. Prime Minister Nehru agreed to provide assistance only after two conditions were met: the maharaja had to sign the Instrument of Accession and join India, and Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, the leader of the largest and most popular organization within the state, had to give his imprimatur to the accession. These conditions were met, and in late October 1947 Indian troops were airlifted into the Valley. They halted the advancing invaders but not before a third of the Valley had fallen into Pakistani hands. In January 1948 India referred the case to the United Nations. Between 1949 and 1960 the UN made a number of attempts to resolve the dispute, but none of its proposals proved acceptable to both sides. See Jyoti Bhusan Das Gupta, Jammu and Kashmir; Sumit Ganguly, The Origins of War in South Asia, 2nd ed. (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1995); Alistair Lamb, Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy, 1846-1990 (Hertingfordbury, U.K.: Roxford Books, 1991); Prem Shankar Jha, Kashmir, 1947: Rival Versions of History (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996); H.V. Hodson, The Great Divide: Britain-India-Pakistan (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1969); and Major-General Akbar Khan, Raiders in Kashmir (Karachi: Pak Publishers, 1990).

10. The classic statement of this problem of political mobilization and institutional decay is Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies.

11. The most dispassionate account of "Operation Gibraltar" and its aftermath is Russell Brines, The Indo-Pakistani Conflict (New York: Pall Mall, 1968). For a first-person account see Mohammed Musa, My Version: India-Pakistan War 1965 (Lahore: Wajidalis, 1983).

12. Steven Hoffman, India and the China Crisis (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).

13. Raju G.C. Thomas, Indian Security Policy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989).

14. See, for example, "Survival or Extinction?" Dawn (Pakistan), November 28-December 2, 1964.

15. Many American social scientists and journalists made this prediction. The most influential, if alarmist, statement of this position can be found in Selig Harrison, India: The Most Dangerous Decades (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1958).

16. The Indo-Pakistani border in the area of the Rann of Kutch, which is mostly a trackless waste, was poorly demarcated during the time of partition. The Indian response was less than vigorous because Indian military analysts and politicians attached little significance to this tract. Indian troops engaged the Pakistani troops, but executed only a holding action - they did not expand the scope of the conflict. Following British mediation, India agreed to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice.

17. On this point see Sumit Ganguly, "Deterrence Failure Revisited: The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965," Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 13, No. 4 (December 1990), pp. 77-93.

18. Nehru, on the advice of Indian intelligence agencies, had Sheikh Abdullah removed from office 1952 on rather tenuous grounds. In fact, it was feared that Abdullah was on the verge of declaring Kashmir's independence.

19. For further exploration of this issue, see Harrison, India.

20. Jyotirindra Das Gupta, Language Conflict and National Development: Group Politics and Language Policy in India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970).

21. India's three other prime ministers between Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi served such short terms in office that they had limited impact, if any, on institution-building. Lal Bahadur Shastri, who succeeded Nehru, was in office for a little more than a year. Morarji Desai became the head of a coalition government, lasting less than two years, after Indira Gandhi's electoral defeat in 1977. Chaudhuri Charan Singh served as the interim prime minister for a month, until 1980, when Indira Gandhi returned to power.

22. See Kuldeep Mathur, "The State and the Use of Coercive Power in India," Asian Survey, Vol. 32, No. 4 (April 1992), pp. 337-349.

23. For a discussion of violent political agitation in India and its consequences for Indian democracy, see Raju G.C. Thomas, Democracy, Security, and Development in India (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996).

24. See Elizabeth Crighton and Martha Abele Mac Iver, "The Evolution of Protracted Ethnic Conflict: Group Dominance and Political Underdevelopment in Northern Ireland and Lebanon," Comparative Politics, Vol. 23, No. 2 (January 1991), pp. 127-142.

25. For a thoughtful critique of the "ancient hatreds" argument, see Lloyd and Suzanne Rudolph, "Modern Hate," New Republic, March 22, 1993, pp. 24-29.

26. Literature on ethnic conflict includes Michael E. Brown, ed., Ethnic Conflict and International Security (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993); Robert Gurr and Barbara Harff, Ethnic Conflict in World Politics (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1994); Donald Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985); Manus I. Midlarsky, ed., The Internationalization of Communal Strife (London: Routledge, 1992); and Joseph V. Montville, Conflict and Peacemaking in Multiethnic Societies (New York: Lexington Books, 1991). For a review and assessment of the literature on ethnic conflict, see Saul Newman, "Does Modernization Breed Ethnic Conflict?" World Politics, Vol. 43, No. 3 (April 1991), pp. 451-478.

27. On the invocation of this theory to explain inter-state conflict in South Asia, see S.M. Burke, The Mainsprings of Indian and Pakistani Foreign Policies (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1974). For a challenge to the impression of unyielding conflict between India and Pakistan, see Sumit Ganguly, "Discord and Collaboration in Indo-Pakistani Relations," in Kanti P. Bajpai and H.C. Shukul, eds., India, Pakistan, and International Society: Essays for A.P. Rana (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1995).

28. See John Richards, The Mughal Empire (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

29. Ian Copland, "Islam and Political Mobilization in Kashmir, 1931-34," Pacific Affairs, Vol. 54, No. 2 (Summer 1981), pp. 228-259.

30. For a discussion of the concept of "ethnic stereotyping," see Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict, esp. pp. 116-171. Also see the introduction in Brown, ed., The International Dimensions of Internal Conflict, pp. 21-22.

31. Some of the roots of ethnic stereotypes can be traced to the European colonial period. Colonial authorities often manufactured ethnic stereotypes for the purposes of imperial administrative convenience. One enduring ethnic stereotype that was promoted by the British was that of the "martial race," which was attributed to climate and geography: "In the hot, flat regions [southern India] ... are found races, timid both by religion and habit, servile to their superiors, but tyrannical to their inferiors, and quite unwarlike. In other parts ... where the winter is cold [northern India and what became Pakistan], the warlike minority is to be found." O'Moore Creagh, Indian Studies, as quoted in Hasan-Askari Rizvi, The Military and Politics in Pakistan (New Delhi: Konark, 1988), p. 138. See also Stephen P. Cohen, The Indian Army (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971).

32. See Veena Das, ed., Mirrors of Violence: Communities, Riots, and Survivors in South Asia (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1990); and Asghar Ali Engineer, ed., Communalism and Communal Violence in India (Delhi: Ajanta, 1989).

33. For the controversy surrounding the Babri mosque, see S. Gopal, ed., Anatomy of a Confrontation (New Delhi: Viking/Penguin, 1991).

34. See T.N. Madan, "The Social Construction of Cultural Identities in Rural Kashmir," in T.N. Madan, ed., Pathways: Approaches to the Study of Society in India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995).

35. The concept of the "security dilemma" is derived from John Herz, "Idealist Internationalism and the Security Dilemma," World Politics, Vol. 20, No. 2 (January 1950); and Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1976). For the standard statement of the neo-realist position, see Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979).

36. Barry Posen, "The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict," in Brown, ed., Ethnic Conflict and International Security, pp. 103-124.

37. For a good introduction to the transfer of power and the conditions prevailing in South Asia in 1947, see Leonard Mosley, The Last Days of the British Raj (London: Weidenfield and Nicholson, 1961).

38. See Mary Doreen Wainwright and C.H. Phillips, ed., The Partition of India: Policies and Perspectives (London: Allen and Unwin, 1975).

39. Gurr and Harff, Ethnic Conflict in World Politics, p. 88.

40. S. Jayasankaran, "Balancing Act," Far Eastern Economic Review, Vol. 158, No. 51 (December 21, 1995), pp. 24-26; William Case, "Aspects and Audiences of Legitimacy," in Muthiah Alagappa, ed., Political Legitimacy in Southeast Asia: The Quest for Moral Authority (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1995).

41. Copland, "Islam and Political Mobilization in Kashmir."

42. Ashutosh Varshney, "Three Compromised Nationalisms: Why Kashmir Has Been a Problem," in Thomas, Perspectives on Kashmir, pp. 191-234.

43. See, for example, Ishtiaq Ahmed, State, Nation, and Ethnicity in Contemporary South Asia (London: Pinter, 1996), esp. pp. 145-146.

44. Prem Shankar Jha, "Frustrated Middle Class, Roots of Kashmir's Alienation," in Engineer, Secular Crown on Fire, pp. 34-37.

45. Lamb, Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy; and Lamb, Birth of a Tragedy: Kashmir, 1947 (Hertingfordbury, U.K.: Roxford Books, 1994).

46. See Weiner, Sons of the Soil.

47. Milton J. Esman, "Political and Psychological Factors in Ethnic Conflict," in Montville, Conflict and Peacemaking in Multiethnic Societies, pp. 53-64.

48. See Murray Edelman, The Symbolic Uses of Politics (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972).

49. See Subrata Kumar Mitra, "Room to Maneuver in the Middle: Local Elites, Political Action, and the State in India," World Politics, Vol. 43, No. 3 (April 1991), pp. 390-413.

50. Nikki R. Keddie, Religion and Politics in Iran: Shi'ism from Quietism to Revolution (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983).

51. On occasion, states may have to adopt a "talk and fight" strategy. Some ethno-national protesters may be well past the stage of concessions and compromises.

52. The Muslim League was the principal political party that promoted Muslim separatism in British India and was instrumental in the creation of Pakistan. Its support was found primarily among the landed gentry in the United Provinces of northern India. See Paul Brass, Language, Religion and Politics in North India (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1974); Prem Nath Bazaz, The History of Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir (Karachi: National Book Foundation, 1954), p. 179; and Das Gupta, Jammu and Kashmir.

53. Das Gupta, Jammu and Kashmir, pp. 66-67.

54. See Ian Copland, "The Abdullah Factor: Kashmiri Muslims and the Crisis of 1947," in D.A. Low, ed., The Political Inheritance of Pakistan (New York: St. Martin's, 1991).

55. For a detailed, if biased, account of Abdullah's strategies of mobilization and his rise to power, see Bazaz, The History of Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir.

56. This phenomenon was hardly unique to the Indian political context. For the classic statement of this discrepancy between ideology and organization, see Robert Michels, Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy (New York: Dover, 1959).

57. Das Gupta, Jammu and Kashmir, p. 209.

58. The one important exception was the communal Praja Parishad Party, formed in November 1947 and led by Prem Nath Dogra and Balraj Madhok, which had a substantial following in the Hindu-dominated areas of Jammu.

59. Das Gupta, Jammu and Kashmir, p. 188.

60. Das Gupta, Jammu and Kashmir, pp. 189-190.

61. The special circumstances of Jammu and Kashmir's accession to India permitted the chief minister of the state to be referred to as the prime minister.

62. For a sophisticated discussion of the economic transformation of Jammu and Kashmir, see M.L. Misri and M.S. Bhatt, Poverty, Planning, and Economic Change in Jammu and Kashmir (New Delhi: Vikas, 1994). Some economists argue that the increasing flow of money from the central government into Jammu and Kashmir created a dependent economy in the state. Interview with senior Jammu and Kashmir government economist, New Delhi, January 1994.

63. For the ranking of literacy growth rates, see Afsir Karim and the Indian Defence Review Team, Kashmir: The Troubled Frontiers (New Delhi: Lancers, 1994), pp. 188 and 250.

64. Jagmohan, My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir (New Delhi: Allied, 1993), pp. 179-180.

65. I am indebted to Professor Kanti Bajpai of the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, for these figures. They were compiled from Mass Media in India (New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, various years). These volumes have been published more or less annually since 1978.

66. Figures from Mass Media in India, various years.

67. Figures from Mass Media in India, various years.

68. The collapse of the Soviet empire in the late 1980s profoundly animated a younger generation of Kashmiris. Many reasoned that if the might of the Soviet empire could be challenged, so could the writ of the Indian state.

69. See Robert Packenham, Liberal America and the Third World (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1975).

70. For an early critique of the these premises of political development and nation-building, see Walker Connor, "Nation-Building or Nation-Destroying?" World Politics, Vol. 24, No. 3 (April 1972), pp. 319-355.

71. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies.

72. For a thoughtful critique of Huntington, focusing on his emphasis on "political order" and his neglect of questions of the legitimacy of institutions, see Mark Kesselman, "Order or Movement? The Literature of Political Development as Ideology," World Politics, Vol. 26, No. 1 (October 1973), pp. 139-154.

73. See James Manor, "The Dynamics of Political Integration and Disintegration," in A. Jeyaratnam Wilson and Dennis Dalton, eds., The States of South Asia: Problems of National Integration (Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1982).

74. See Ganguly, The Origins of War in South Asia.

75. Jawaharlal Nehru, as quoted in M.J. Akbar, Kashmir: Behind the Vale (New Delhi: Viking/Penguin, 1991), p. 159.

76. These two elections were free of electoral malfeasances. In 1977, Abdullah had recently returned to power and was at the peak of his popularity. Consequent1y, he saw little reason to engage in electoral skullduggery. Furthermore, the newly formed Janata government was acutely conscious of its credentials for probity and fairness. In 1983, Farooq Abdullah, who had inherited his father's mantle, enjoyed considerable popularity. For a particularly harsh indictment of Sheikh Abdullah's rule in Kashmir, see Prem Nath Bazaz, Democracy through Intimidation and Terror (New Delhi: Heritage Publishers, 1978).

77. See Balraj Puri, Simmering Volcano: Jammu's Relations with Kashmir (New Delhi: Sterling, 1983).

78. One of those rare occasions was the theft of the Moe-e-moqdas (a hair of the prophet Mohammed) from the Hazaratbal Mosque in Srinagar in December 1963. News of this tragic incident set off rioting as far away as Calcutta.

79. Copland, "The Abdullah Factor," p. 224.

80. See William O. Beeman, "Images of the Great Satan: Representations of the United States in the Iranian Revolution," in Keddie, ed., Religion and Politics in Iran; and Fouad Ajami, "The Sorrows of Egypt," Foreign Affairs, Vol. 74, No. 5 (September/October 1995), pp. 72-88.

81. See Ganguly, Between War and Peace.

82. See, for example, John Ward Anderson and Kamran Khan, "Pakistan Shelters Islamic Radicals," Washington Post, March 8, 1995, pp. A21-A22; and Edward W. Desmond, "Pakistan's Hidden Hand," Time, July 22, 1991, p. 23.

83. Interview with Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, Kashmiri Muslim religious leader and chairman of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference of Kashmir, New York, October 1995.

84. Balraj Puri, Towards Insurgency (New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1993).

85. Asia Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, Kashmir: A Pattern of Impunity (New York: Asia Watch and Physicians for Human Rights, 1993).

86. Sumit Ganguly, "From the Defense of the Nation to Aid to the Civil: The Army in Contemporary India," in Charles H. Kennedy and David J. Louscher, eds., Civil-Military Interaction in Asia and Africa (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1991), pp. 11-26.

87. Michael E. Brown, "The Causes and Regional Dimensions of Internal Conflict," in Brown, International Dimensions of Internal Conflict, pp. 597-598.

Sumit Ganguly is Professor of Political Science at Hunter College and at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He is author of Between War and Peace: The Crisis in Kashmir (forthcoming from Cambridge University Press and the Woodrow Wilson Center Press).

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