At its core, what defines Kashmir's identity? Kashmiri women look through a window in Pulwama, South Kashmir amid crisis. [Image via PTI]

House Pawns or Field Leaders: A Case of Kashmir’s Identity

In the heart of Kashmir’s conflict lies a profound question: what defines Kashmir’s identity? Malcolm X’s powerful analogy of “House Negroes” and “Field Negroes” vividly illustrates this struggle. Upon employing this concept of Malcolm X on the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), it reveals genuine Field Leaders of Kashmir. Let’s delve into how this concept fits in the current situation of IIOJK. Moreover, why are Kashmiris voting in the Indian election they’ve long boycotted?

Malcolm X, a revolutionary African-American Muslim minister, was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement [Image via Al Jazeera].
Malcolm X, a revolutionary African-American Muslim minister, was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement [Image via Al Jazeera].

Historical Context

Gulab Singh and the successive Dogra rulers, who then had a free pass over the Kashmir valley, imposed further excessive taxes on the Kashmiris. This was an attempt to raise the 7.5 million rupees they had paid to buy Kashmir. Moreover, as a mark of their continued loyalty, the Dogra rulers catered to British demands for money and muscle. Under the Dogra rule, Kashmiris were forced to fight in all of Britain’s wars, including the two world wars.

Why the Dogra rule was possibly the worst phase in terms of the economic extortion in Kashmir? Most peasants were landless since Kashmiris were banned from holding any land. About 50-75 percent of cultivated crops went to the Dogra rulers, leaving the working class with practically no control over the produce. Not only every imaginable profession was taxed, but Kashmiri Muslims were also forced to pay a tax if they wished to get married. The absurdity of the exorbitant tax system reached a new high when something called zaildar tax was introduced to pay for the cost of taxation itself!

During the Dogra rule, native Hindus of the Kashmir Valley were slightly better off than the Kashmiri Muslims, as a result of the administration’s pro-Hindu bias. They were allowed to have more upper-class jobs, work as teachers and civil servants. This meant that amongst a predominantly Muslim population, the so-called “petite bourgeois” was dominated by the Hindus. The Dogra regime also replaced Koshur with Urdu as the official language in the region, making it even harder for the Koshur-speaking Kashmiri Muslims to break free from poverty. It manifests how the exploitation of Kashmiris started.

Portrait of Raja Gulab Singh, reproduced from "Recollections of India", drawn on stone by J.D. Harding, 1847 [Image via Frontline India].
Portrait of Raja Gulab Singh, reproduced from “Recollections of India”, drawn on stone by J.D. Harding, 1847 [Image via Frontline India].

Current Situation in Kashmir

What happened in the first six months of 2024? According to the Bi-Annual report published by the Legal Forum Kashmir, January-June saw a continued trend of state repression and counter-insurgency operations in the war-trampled region of IIOJK. It is reported by local media that a total of 202 Cordon and Search Operations (CASOs) have been launched by Occupying Forces. During these CASOs, vandalism, and destruction of nearly 25 civilian properties were reported. The first six months recorded 72 killings in multiple incidents. At least 32 Gun fights took place between Indian occupying Forces and the freedom fighters of Kashmir. Also, 22 instances of Internet shutdown in IIOJK were reported.

Renewal Colonization

Today, India’s repression of Kashmir is intensifying. When the “War on Terror” era began, successive Indian governments labeled Kashmiri calls for “azadi” (freedom) as “Islamic terrorism”, mirroring tactics used by Israeli governments in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Today the relationship between Israel and India is growing stronger.

Nearly 100,000 Indian army and paramilitary forces stationed in UN-recognised disputed territory operate through a legal instrument – the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The militarization has facilitated the process of colonization and illegal annexation. Moreover, in 2019, almost 50,000 military and paramilitary personnel were deployed in the region.

Also See: Kashmir: The Silenced Cry

Instances of ‘Atrocity Crimes’ Perpetrated by Occupying Forces

  • Since August 5, 2019, the occupying authorities have brazenly disregarded the established regulations and protocols designed to protect the health and environment of the local population.
  • On April 15, 2024, Baramulla police in Indian-occupied Kashmir booked 8 civilians under the Public Safety Act.
  • Afterward, on May 4, 2024, an armed resistance group attacked a convoy of IAF killing one corporal and injuring four others.
  • On June 10, 2024, at least nine people were killed and 33 injured when a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims plunged into a deep gorge after a suspected militant attack in the Reasi District of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The attack came at a time when Narendra Modi was taking oath as prime minister for a record-equalling third term.
  • On June 29, 2024, the first batch of Hindu pilgrims began the annual Amarnath Yatra in the Kashmir Valley amid heightened security. Around 15,000 pilgrims took the journey on the first day from both the base camps in Baltal in Sonamarg and Nunwan in Pahalgam. Around 60-70 thousand troops have been deployed to secure the Amarnath Yatra routes in the Union Territory.

Concept of House Negroes and Field Negroes

African-American activist Malcolm X commented on the cultural connotations and consequences of the term in his 1963 speech “Message to the Grass Roots”. There he explained that during slavery, there were two types of slaves: “House Negroes” who worked in the master’s house, and “Field Negroes” who performed outdoor manual labor. He characterized the house Negro as having a better life than the field Negro, thus being unwilling to leave the plantation and potentially more likely to support existing power structures that favored whites over blacks. Malcolm X identified with the field Negro.

Who are the Genuine Field Leaders in IIOJK?

Dr Qasim Faktoo [Kashmir Media Service]

Mussarat Alam Bhat [Kashmir Media Service].

Muhammad Afzal Guru [Kashmir Media Service].

Asiya Andrabi [Kashmir Media Service].

Burhan Wani, Kashmir Resistance Leader [Kashmir Media Service]

Syed Ali Geelani’s forced burial, Afzal Guru’s unjust hanging, Masarrat Alam’s disappearance, Mirwaiz Umar’s house arrest, Qasim Faktoo, Asiya Andraabi, Yasin Malik and Burhan Wani’s resistance symbolize Kashmir’s anti-colonial struggle and endure political imprisonment. Their perpetual sacrifices made them categorize among Field Leaders with whom Malcolm X aligned.

On 28th August 2010, Asiya Andrabi was arrested by Jammu and Kashmir Police for waging war against India. On 17th September 2015, she was again arrested in connection with a couple of cases registered against her. On 6 July 2018 Asiya and two others connected to her, Nahida Nasreen and Sofi Fahmeeda, were shifted from Srinagar jail and brought to New Delhi by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Asiya Andrabi, a prominent anti-colonial resistance leader, and the wife of Kashmir’s longest-serving political prisoner, is currently serving out the 12th year of her detention. She is the wife of one of Kashmir’s longest-serving political prisoners, Dr. Muhammad Qasim, a scholar and pro-freedom leader, who has been behind bars for over 29 years now.

Burhan Wani and his ability to connect with IIOJK youth made him a prominent figure within the freedom movement. On July 8, 2016, a joint operation by the Indian occupation forces, including the army, police, and paramilitary tracked down and martyred Burhan Wani. The death of Burhan Wani was seen as a significant loss for the IIOJK freedom movement and a cause of concern about the human rights situation in the territory.

Since February 2022, Kashmiri journalist Fahad Shah has been incarcerated in Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu. He was arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir police and charged with sedition and “inciting terrorism and unlawful activities”. He is accused of publishing an article in the magazine he founded, The Kashmirwalla eleven years prior in 2011, which was deemed to incite “terrorism” and “unlawful violence”. He faces between five years to life imprisonment or the death penalty.

From Basharat Pir’s Kashmir tale to Shujjat Bukhari’s silenced peacemaking and Hamid Mir’s celebrated journalism, each voice resonates. Fahad Shah and Yusuf Jameel, abducted reporter & Parveena Ahangar, relentless seeker, reflect resilience. Khurram Pervaiz, detained advocate, raises concerns.

Also See: Palestinian and Kashmiri Freedom Struggles: A Comparison

Do House Leaders Exist?

Mehbooba Mufti, Ex CM J&K [Image via Kashmir Media Service].

Omar Abdullah, Ex CM J&K [Image via Kashmir Media Service]. At core: what defines Kashmir's identity? Malcolm X's analogy of "House Negroes" and "Field Negroes" vividly illustrates this struggle.

Engineer Rashid, who is in Delhi’s Tihar jail, defeated National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah in the Lok Sabha polls from the Baramulla constituency by a margin of more than two lakh votes. Jailed leader Engineer Rashid took oath as a Member of Parliament on Friday. Afterwards, he was released on a two-hour custody parole by the Patiala House court in Delhi.

On 5th January 2009, after the 2008 Kashmir Elections, the National Conference won the maximum number of seats, and formed a coalition government with the Congress party. Omar Abdullah was sworn in as the 11th Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. He remained in office from 5 January 2009 – 8 January 2015.

On 4 April 2016, Mehbooba Mufti of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) took oath as the woman Chief Minister of the country’s only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, at the head of a coalition government that includes the BJP.

Now, the point to dwell on is if Kashmiris don’t accept the Indian Constitution then why they are in the election process? Moreover, House Leaders are also taking oaths to the Indian Government. The House Leaders are serving in the masters but at the same time what master is doing? Are Masters carrying out revisionist policies in Kashmir and if they are then where the sacrifices of Field Leaders reckon upon?

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the South Asia Times.

Mishaal Malik, presently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in International Relations at Quaid-e-Azam University, demonstrates a commitment to scholarly inquiry, particularly focusing on research related to South Asia and East Asia.

Mishaal Malik, presently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in International Relations at Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU), serves as a Research Associate at South Asia Times (SAT). Mishaal demonstrates a commitment to scholarly inquiry, particularly focusing on research related to South Asia and East Asia. She can be reached on X, formerly Twitter at @MishaalMalik502.

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