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Ethnicity, Separatism and Violence


D. Suba Chandran

KASHMIR IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE: DEMOCRACY AND VIOLENT SEPARATISM IN INDIA
By Sten Widmalm
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2002, pp. 226, Rs. 350.00

CROSSING THE FRONTIERS OF CONFLICT IN THE NORTHEAST AND JAMMU AND KASHMIR: FROM REAL POLITIK AND IDEAL POLITIK
By Lt Gen V.K. Nayyar (Retd)
Shipra Publications, Delhi, 2005, pp. 312, Rs. 650.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 5 May 2006

What gave birth to violent separatist movement in Jammu and Kashmir? Could the conflict and violence in Kashmir have been avoided? What role does ethnicity play in conflicts in general and the various conflicts in India in particular? Is Kashmir an ‘inevitable ethnic conflict of incompatible identities’? Is Pakistan the cause for militancy in J& K and India’s northeast? Is economic deprivation and the suppression of Kashmiris by India a reason for the conflict in Kashmir and also a reason for Kashmiris wishing to join Pakistan? These are the major questions that Stan Widmalm and Lt Gen V.K. Nayyar attempt to address in their respective books Kashmir in Comparative Perspective and Crossing the Frontiers of Conflict in the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir. While Widmalm main focus is only on Kashmir, General Nayyar expands the canvass, to include India’s Northeast. The fact that one author is an academic from Europe and the other a renowned retired military general provides interesting insights into the same issue from different perspectives.   Widmalm rightly concludes that though Pakistan supported militancy in Kashmir, ‘the preconditions and impetus for the separatist movement was created within the state itself’. Nayyar categorically writes – ‘confining (Kashmir conflict) to the proxy war will be courting a failure’. Undoubtedly, events since the 1977 elections, considered to be the only free and fair one since independence paved the way for the political upheaval, mainly in the Kashmir Valley. Widmalm sees the 1977 election as the rise of democracy and the subsequent events leading to its fall. It never arose and democracy was never given a chance. Can 1983 be pointed as a beginning of decline of democracy? Events since 1977 had their own momentum – death of Sheikh Abdullah, lack of intra party democracy in the National Conference, the dismissal of Farooq, Farooq-Rajiv Gandhi accord, Jagmohan’s tenure as Governor and the 1987 election only consolidated this process. General Nayyar also underlines this aspect and puts it succinctly – ‘political ineptness in dealing with J&K has resulted in Kashmiris feeling isolated from the national mainstream and within the state itself’.   But what generally goes unnoticed or under-noticed is that to a large extent the Jammu region and Ladakh completely stayed out of this upheaval then and does so even now. Second, it was during this period that the administrative machinery also broke down by failing to deliver and became a symbol of corruption. Sumit Ganguly’...


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