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An Intractable Problem Under Scrutiny

Neera Chandhoke

By Verghese Koithara
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2004, pp. 314, Rs. 350.00


The problem of Jammu and Kashmir and of the Kashmir valley in particular, must be the most explored and the most overworked theme in a variety of studies that range from conflict, to nationality and nation, to federalism, to patriotism, to security, to terrorism, to accounts of the Partition, to communal conflict, and to India-Pakistan relations. Looming large over all these scholarly imaginations is the ‘P’ factor—Pakistan, the ‘T’ factor—terrorism, the ‘S’ factor—security, and in the aftermath of 9/11 the ‘I’ factor—Islamic terrorism. Arguably, in the excessive concern with security, terrorism, and particularly nationalism—concern with which borders on fascism at times—something is lost; that something being the way in which the people of the Kashmir valley live out their everyday lives. For instance when I embarked on a project to compare militancy in Punjab and Kashmir, I found much to my dismay that though reams have been scripted on the political economy of Punjab, especially on the political implications of the agrarian revolution, very little has been written on the political economy of Jammu and Kashmir; and this though J&K has carried out one of the most successful of land reforms in the history of India.   In July 1950 the Sheikh Abdullah government carried out comprehensive land reforms in the state in keeping with the agenda of ‘Naya Kashmir’. Prior to this almost all of the arable land in Jammu and Kashmir had been owned by 396 big landlords and 2,347 intermediate landlords, who were mainly Hindu and who had rented out land to the predominantly Muslim peasantry on highly exploitative terms. Between 1950 and 1952, 700,000 Muslim landless peasants in the valley, but also 250,000 lower-caste Hindus in Jammu, ‘became peasant proprietors as over a million acres were directly transferred to them, while another sizeable chunk of land passed to government-run collective farms. By the early 1960s, 2.8 million acres of farmland… and fruit orchards were under cultivation, worked by 2.8 million smallholding peasant-proprietor households’ [Bose, 2003, 28]. Tillers and even the formerly landless became in the process, peasant proprietors. And what was even more significant is that unlike other cases of land reform in India-wherever they were implemented albeit reluctantly-land was transferred without any compensation to the landowners. Yet even in the multi-volume series on land reforms in India that Sage has brought out, land reforms in J&K warrant only one chapter.   More significantly, hugely successful land reforms in the state throw ...

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