To answer the question Why do Kashmiris struggle for freedom from India, we need to into the root of the matter. The Kashmir struggle for freedom started even before the partition of the subcontinent. The British sold Kashmiri people and land to the Dogra’s for 75,00,000 Nanakshahis. This is the beginning of the Kashmir freedom movement or Kashmir Azadi. Allama Iqbal Described this sales deal as:
ای باد صبا گر بہ جنیوا گذر کنی
حالی ز ما بمجلس اقوام باز گو
ہقان و جوی و کشت و خیابان فروختند
قومی فروختند و جہ ارزان فروختند
Oh the breeze of dawn
If thee reach Geneva
Tell our tale of fate
To the League of Nations of the world
They sold the peasants and farms
Streams and orchards
The whole nation was sold as slaved
With a little price of gold
The Dogra Raj taxed Muslims of the valley heavily, they were also made to work for free (Begar). Severe punishments such as drowning in the lake Wular were common for even the smallest violations of the ridiculous laws. Religious ceremonies or political gatherings were prohibited. In 1931, after a sermon against the rulers, TheDogra Army ransacked the villages of Makila, Dana, and Jandial and burned the inhabitants alive.
The Dogra oppression is what stirred Kashmir freedom movement or Azadi, led by Sheikh Abdullah. The Kashmir struggle for freedom was running parallel to the freedom struggle in the rest of the subcontinent.
The Partition Of the Subcontinent:
The partition of India is marked with the blood of thousands of migrants in Jammu and Kashmir too. Dogra Army killed 237,000 Muslims out of 8 lakh Muslim population of Jammu, On the direct orders of Maharaja.
The valley of Kashmir, on the other hand, remained free of any communal violence, that is because Kashmiris identified themselves as Kashmiris regardless of their religion. The Muslim Majority had their hearts with the newly formed Muslim state but the Dogra ruler wanted accession with India.
The 1948 war between India and Pakistan:
Pakistan Army and tribesman invaded the princely state to set it free. Sheikh Abdullah called Kashmiri’s against the invasion. The Kashmiris who were in favor of an independent Kashmir responded positively.
However, the Maharaja Hari Singh appealed to Mountbatten for assistance and the Lord agreed on the condition that Hari Singh Acceded to India. Indian soldier entered Kashmir and the as the fight continued India took the matter to the UN. On 5 January 1949, UNCIP (United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan) resolution states that the question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through a free and impartial plebiscite.
The First elections in Kashmir:
Even though India agreed to the plebiscite, it never wanted to lose Kashmir. And India clearly knew that people of Kashmir do not want to stay with India. India called for first elections in 1951 and Sheikh Abdullah won unopposed.
Autonomous Kashmir Under Indian Rule:
Kashmir had a separate flag, constitution and law, it had a PM or Wazeer-e-Aam and a Sadar-e-Riyasat which was to be selected by the legislative assembly. But the first President was Karan Singh appointed only because he was Maharaja’s son.
In 1953 Pakistan and India decided to appoint a Plebiscite Administrator by the end of April 1954. But same year in August the President removed the PM Sheikh Abdullah on the grounds that he has lost the majority. He wasn’t given a chance to prove his majority on the floor. He was then jailed for 10 years.
Puppet Government was installed, which approved the accession of Kashmir to India. And the PM became CM while the president became Governor appointed by the central government. So much for autonomy.
This move ignited the sentiments of Kashmiris further and fired the Kashmir struggle for freedom.
The operation Gibraltar by Pakistan Army:
During the 1965 war, Pakistan launched Operation Gibraltar, but due to lack of planning, most of the Pakistani commandos embraced martyrdom. The Indian Army burned down the whole neighborhood of Batamola, Srinagar. Because they had information some Pakistani commandos were hiding there.
Batamaloo Arson 1965
This failed operation is what triggered the Kashmir freedom.
The rigged elections of 1987:
the 1987 elections became the final nail in the coffin and Kashmiris eventually lost trust in the election system.
“I remember that there was massive rigging in the 1987 elections. The losing candidates were declared winners. It shook the ordinary people’s faith in the elections and the democratic process.”
-Khem Lata Wukhloo, A Pundit leader belonging to INC.
In the 1987 Elections young Kashmiris fought under a new party, they had massive support. But when the ballots were counted the Indian army captured the polling booths. And announced Congress/NC candidates as winners. While the actual winners were thrown in the jails.
These people became the pioneers of the Kashmir freedom movement. The Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Gillani also contested that selection.
Thein 1990 intensified the Kashmiri struggle for freedom.
The Impact of the Afghan war on Kashmir struggle for freedom:
This was about the time when the Afghan war was coming to an end, the battle-hardened mujahideen were eager to contribute to the Kashmiri struggle for freedom. More and more Kashmiri youth started crossing LOC for military training in the Azad Kashmir. The freedom fighters were of two kinds those who were fighting for independent Kashmir (Kashmir Azadi) and those who were fighting for the merger with Pakistan.
The black law, AFSPA:
Under AFSPA the Army officers are given legal immunity, they are above prosecution and there can’t be any legal proceedings against their actions.
Every time the forces are accused of mistreatment or violation of human rights AFSPA is shamelessly flashed to defend them.
In a 1990 interview to Current, The Governer Jagmohan said, “Every Muslim in Kashmir is a militant today. All of them are for secession from India” he went on to add that “The bullet is the only solution for Kashmir.” he clearly stated that normalcy cannot return to the Valley of Kashmir unless we wipe out every militant.
Kashmir freedom movement was triggered by this mentality.
The ’90’s Militancy phase in the Kashmir struggle for freedom:
The 90s was the darkest era of human rights violations in India, Around 1 lakh people were killed, and thousands went missing without any trace. Rape, arson, and torture became a norm for Indian military man. And the black Law of AFSPA protected them, even the mission sent to probe the rape cases were not allowed to report the true picture.
E.N. Rammohan, who was part of an investigative team, told The Hindu, “I am convinced there have been rapes, even if I can’t say how many.” But when the report came, the Army officers were cleared of all charges.
Human rights violations in Independent Kashmir Azadi:
International Committee of the Red Cross briefed US officials in India, claiming the Indian army “condoned” torture and “sexual penetration” upon Kashmiris.
Medecins Sans Frontieres carried out a study, which noted, ‘Sexual violence has been routinely perpetrated on Kashmiri women, with 11.6% of respondents saying they were victims of sexual abuse,”
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international too reported immense violations of human rights in the occupied Kashmir, including torture, rape, and extrajudicial killings.
Kashmir struggle for freedom movement entered, The age of pelting protestors in 2000:
The 2000 era observed minimum militancy while Palestine style protestors would appear on street chanting slogans and throwing stones at the army. Social media plays a huge role in organizing protests and rallies. Also, it is easier to spread the news of violations, still this did not stop India, and the pellet guns were introduced to be used against armless protestors.
Shopian rape and murder case:
The bodies of two women were found in a stream, the medical reports confirmed they were raped and later murdered. The Indian army tried to cover the incident as a case of drowning, but the water level in the stream was ankle-deep, this enraged Kashmiris, and the Jammu and Kashmir assembly.
— SSR (TeamIVF)🇵🇰 (@Saif__Says) August 21, 2019
Unmarked mass graves were found in 2009:
Mass graves were discovered in the north of Kashmir containing 3000 unmarked bodies. Apart from this unmarked/unnamed mass graves were found in Kashmir containing about 3000 bodies.
Fake encounter at Sona Pindi was reported, in which, a police insurgent was found guilty of luring three Kashmiri youth, and later killing them in a fake encounter for the reward money. This broke Kashmiris into violent Protest. As a result, 6 army personnel were given the death penalty but it was revoked later, increasing the bitterness in the Kashmiris.
Burhan Wani, the martyr of the Kashmir freedom Movement:
Burhan Vani, a 21-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander became a symbol of freedom. Instead of hiding his identity he flaunted himself, with video msgs and pictures he inspired many young men to raise arms. The poster boy for Kashmiri militants embraced Shahadat in an encounter with the Indian Army. His death served as a combustible in the already burning Kashmir. The whole valley protested with his portraits in hands. Burhan Wani is a milestone in the Kashmir’s struggle for freedom or Kashmir Azadi.
Even before revoking article 370, the major provisions of autonomy were already amended by presidential orders. There have been 47 amendments in article 370, The last notable provision was prohibiting outsiders to buy land in the valley. Article 370 gives the Valley of Kashmir a “special status”, but there are other states where outsiders can’t buy land, such as Himachal Pradesh.
Revoking of 370 is actually more symbolic, it has taken away the last hope from Kashmiri people. Kashmiris are enraged with an ages-old sense of being wronged. The complete lack of trust in the central government has made people look towards Pakistan. Because the Pakistani people and governments have always considered Kashmiri’s as their own. It is evident by the living conditions in the Azad Kashmir and the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
So why are the Kashmiri people struggling for Kashmir azadi? Because they are deprived of their basic human rights. Years of exploitations and oppression has pushed them to the wall. They are treated as second-grade citizens in their own land. They are killed, raped and tortured at the hands of Army and nobody is looking out for them.
The deep hatred in the hearts of Kashmiris is the basic fuel for the people of Kashmir struggle for freedom or Azadi.