Why Is This Happening? Contextualizing the lockdown of Kashmir with Hafsa Kanjwal: podcast and transcript
Chris Hayes speaks with Hafsa Kanjwal, a Kashmiri Muslim woman and assistant professor at Lafayette College, about the complex history of Kashmir.
Nov. 10, 2019
By Why Is This Happening?
NEW YORK, Nov 12 (APP): A Kashmiri-American academic and expert on South Asia Over the past few months communication coming in and out of Kashmir, the highly contested land between India and Pakistan, has been increasingly difficult. The Indian government lead by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken steps to blackout the region in to order to once and for all place Kashmir under Indian control.
The move has been roundly condemned by international groups, and serves as another dire warning of ostensibly liberal democracies engaging in authoritarian and illiberal behavior. This week, Hafsa Kanjwal, a Kashmiri Muslim woman and assistant professor at Lafayette college, talks about the complex history of Kashmir and the current lockdown the region now faces.
HAFSA KANJWAL: For too long India has been able to commit human rights violations in Kashmir without significant pushback because so many countries have strong economic ties with India and they see India as this obvious space for investment and a huge market. But I think that narrative of Indian soft power needs to kind of slowly erode. India is seen around the world as a place of Bollywood and yoga, and nobody can imagine the kinds of violations that the Indian government does.
CHRIS HAYES: Hello and welcome to “Why Is This Happening?” with me, your host Chris Hayes, there’s a phrase that someone said to me, I think tweeted at me or emailed me, and I think it might have even been in response to a podcast we did. That was the sheer number of things that require our moral attention is exhausting. It was a phrase which I keep thinking about because I keep obsessively reading the news as is my job and also my compulsion, which it’s funny how that works out and doing the show. There’s just so much just about the president and domestically. And then I will see something happening abroad and I’m like, “Oh my God, that looks awful.”
One of the things we’ve done in this podcast is to use this podcast to talk in-depth about things that are happening outside of the US that require our moral attention that are where people are suffering or being persecuted and to explain the foundations of that. We’ve done that in the podcast discussion. We did it on the origins of the war in Yemen, which the United States is culpable in insofar as we back the Saudis. We have backed and greenlit that war. We talked about it with the million members of Muslim minorities in Western China who are in reeducation internment camps.
There is something else happening not that far from Western China actually, that also requires our moral attention. And that is the situation in Kashmir. We’re going to explain the background and history. This serves as a Kashmir 101 primer in this episode, which is fascinating, and maybe you have encountered it or maybe you’re very close to this issue. But the basic story is that Kashmir is always been in a highly contested piece of land between India and Pakistan and since Partition, there have been battles and wars fought over it.
Two-thirds of it is controlled by India and India has a very popular, right-wing, Islamophobic demagogue running it named Narendra Modi. Modi in the last few months has taken moves to blackout Kashmir and to once and for all put it under Indian control. The mechanism and means he’s used to do that is terrifying. I mean I started seeing the story because a few months ago I started to see people retweeting into my feed that they hadn’t heard from family members in three days and then a week and then two weeks and then a month. Human rights groups have documented terrible conditions and abuses in Kashmir. There is essentially a kind of lockdown that is happening there.
What makes this particularly chilling is in the example of Western China and Uyghurs, and these are different situations, China is run by an authoritarian, single-party state called the Chinese Communist Party that does all sorts of awful things and has a government that is not a liberal democracy. India is the world’s largest democracy. It has a constitution and courts and rules of law and should ostensibly be the kind of place where the kind of authoritarian repression that’s happened in Kashmir is not possible and yet it is happening. To me, it is an extremely dire warning about the threats of what we might call illiberal democracy. Right? Those are not, and I want to be very clear here, that’s not like, “Oh it’s just India and bad India and bad Modi.” No, those threats are everywhere, including here in our home country.
They are throughout different parts of Europe, in Israel. There are lots of places that are democracies, that are ostensibly liberal democracies that have political movements that are pushing them to take the kinds of steps that trot over the most basic kinds of protections and liberties that we associate with the rule of law and liberal democracy. What’s happening in Kashmir is one of the most urgent examples of that. Now, I want to say two things. Kashmir is complicated and the perspective you’re going to hear here today is very specific.
It is from a Kashmiri woman, a Kashmiri Muslim who obviously believes in the project of customary self-determination, does not think that India has acted well towards Kashmir from the very beginning of Partition. I know that this is a very contested history and you are getting one side of it here. So I just want to state that in the same way, like if I brought on a Palestinian author to talk about Israel Palestine or an Israeli author to talk about the history of the conflict. This is a perspective here. That said, what’s happening right now has is being roundly condemned by all kinds of international groups. It’s not just that some partisans think it’s bad that they’ve cut the Internet out for a month in Kashmir.
So that’s thing one to recognize. Thing two is there’s one point in which we talk about the ISI in the conversation. That is the intelligence service of the Pakistani government and the ISI is sort of notorious because they have made common cause with the Taliban, with all kinds of violent jihadists through the years. They have been viewed by particularly American foreign policymakers as kind of double dealing often insofar as they’ve cultivated ties, sometimes armed or trained or supported various Jihadi groups the U S is literally fighting at the moment that they are ostensibly partnered with the Pakistanis as well. This has been a thorn in the side of American policymakers for a long time. I do mention that. I mention the horrible terror attack that happened in the 2008 Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the bombing in Mumbai.
So today’s guest is Hafsa Kanjwal. She’s an assistant professor at Lafayette College. She has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan on the social history of modern Kashmir. She’s also from Kashmir. She was born there. Her family is there. You will hear in this episode, she describes her mother actually has recently gone back to Kashmir amidst the blockade and blackout that’s happening there. She is incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the region. I found this was one of those podcasts where I walked in and I knew a page and a half worth of stuff and walked out with a book basically of stuff. I had learned so so much in this conversation.
In this conversation, just so you know, a big chunk of it is before anything that’s happening now because it is impossible to understand what’s happening now without reaching back into history to understand what modern Kashmir is and what its antecedents were and what the political context of the struggle over it is. So you will also get, I think, a pretty good history of India and Pakistan and Partition and things like that. But crucially, I think what Hafsa does so well is bring the context and the history of this down to this incredibly human level to force us all to consider what it would be like if it were our families who were under the conditions that Kashmiris now find themselves under, and the degree to which what’s happening there really does demand our moral attention. You’re from Kashmir?
HAFSA KANJWAL: I am from Kashmir, yes. I was born there and I lived there until I was about six. And then my family left during the period of the armed rebellion. But I go back fairly often for my research and also to visit family.
CHRIS HAYES: And you now are an academic, you’re a historian. You have a Ph.D. from Ann Arbor and you study and write about Kashmir in South Asia.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yes, exactly. I did my Ph.D. on a Kashmiri history post-Partition and I teach South Asian history, including courses on Kashmir at Lafayette.
CHRIS HAYES: So maybe let’s start. I guess maybe we could talk a little bit about Kashmir pre-partition. What is Kashmir and why has it always had this kind of tug of war, liminal existence even, I think, pre-partition.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think it’s important because a lot of people only talk about Kashmir since partition, as if Kashmiri history began in 1947 and that’s certainly not the case. Historically, Kashmir has been a unique space. It was independent, ruled by its own Buddhists, Hindu and Muslim kings for a period of time. And then in the 16th century, you saw basically foreign invaders to Kashmir. The Mughals ruled over Kashmir, the Sikhs and then the Dogras. So in the period right before Partition, Kashmir was ruled by a Dogra Hindu ruler, and the British basically gave the Dogra family the territory for helping them in the Anglo-Sikh wars.
So this is a bit of the colonial history of the region. There were Hindus. There were Buddhists, and then there were Muslims. Some of them had come from families from central Asia who left central Asia, went to Kashmir and basically started preaching Islam to the local population. Others were basically converted from the Hindu population. There were lower caste Hindus who were basically pushing back against Brahmanical Hinduism and converted to Islam because they thought of it as being a more egalitarian religion.
CHRIS HAYES: Like liberatory essentially.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yes. Yeah.
CHRIS HAYES: Which is the story in through much of the subcontinent, converts to Islam being from lower castes and it being a sort of way out of this hierarchy.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yes, exactly. Yeah.
CHRIS HAYES: And so what is the language spoken in Kashmir?
HAFSA KANJWAL: So Kashmir, the state itself is quite diverse. Kashmiri is the language that’s spoken by the Kashmiri-speaking Muslims. But there’s also Dogras who speak Dogri. There’s other groups of Muslims that speak Balti and other languages. But Kashmiri is one language that’s at least spoken in the Kashmir Valley, which is where most of the troubles are.
CHRIS HAYES: What I’m hearing from you is a place that is at a crossroads of a bunch of different intersecting cultures, and for long periods of time pre the colonial era is multi-ethnic, multilingual, multi-confessional. It is a kind of diverse and mixing pot place.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yeah, absolutely. It’s incredibly diverse geographically, but also it’s because of history, things that happened in history that kind of pushed certain groups of people to have to live in coexistence with each other.
CHRIS HAYES: It is on the border between India and Pakistan.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yes. It’s on the border between India and Pakistan and claimed by both countries.
CHRIS HAYES: Right. So in the sort of colonial era, despite the fact that it has a majority Muslim population, it has a Hindu ruler who was essentially granted authority by the British empire.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Right. Yes. And he was particularly harsh towards the majority Muslim population, who at the time were mostly peasants. Even up until 1941 which was before partition, only up to one percent of Kashmiri Muslims were literate. So most of them were having to partake in forced labor. They were agriculturalists, but most of their produce had to be given to the ruler as taxes, really large taxes. The historians basically say that the ruler ran a Hindu state and was discriminatory towards Kashmiri Muslims. In 1931 is when Kashmiris basically see that their history of self-determination begins in many ways.
So it’s even before partition, where Kashmiri Muslims, but then also other communities in Kashmir, began to articulate a sense of freedom or a desire for freedom against the Dogra rulers. That was their goal. That was their goal was to overcome this oppressive rule and to have a better employment, better forms of self-governance for Kashmiris themselves.
CHRIS HAYES: Is there an armed uprising in ’31?
HAFSA KANJWAL: At that time, no, it was not an armed uprising. It started on July 13th when there were people that were protesting and the Dogra army actually fired into a crowd. So even to this day, the 22 people that were killed by the Dogra army, it’s still commemorated as Martyrs Day in Kashmir.
CHRIS HAYES: Wow. What happens to Kashmir at partition?
HAFSA KANJWAL: Basically Kashmir is this unique space because it has a Muslim majority population and a Hindu ruler. The idea was that the princely states, over 500 of them, would have to decide whether they would join India or Pakistan. So all of these princely states kind of get broiled up into the logic of Partition. It was clear in many cases where the ruler was Hindu or the ruler was Muslim and the population were also Hindu or Muslim, but Kashmir was this space that was different, in addition to Hyderabad and another state called Junagadh.
But what happens in Kashmir is that there is a local rebellion led by Muslims in the region of Jammu, which is where the Dogras came from, and they fight against the Dogra ruler because they want to join Pakistan. They’re worried that the Dogra ruler is going to join India. He kind of takes his time. He doesn’t decide to join either country. It seems that he actually wanted Kashmir to remain independent away from both of these countries, just so that he could continue to have control over the people. This rebellion is really important because it’s often overlooked in history. So it’s an indigenous rebellion of Kashmiri state subject against the Dogra ruler. And in response, it’s quashed pretty heavily. So historians say that up to 200,000 people were killed in this rebellion and over 200,000 people were sent into exile into what would now become Pakistan.
CHRIS HAYES: What year is this happening?
HAFSA KANJWAL: This is happening in 1947, so at the time of partition.
CHRIS HAYES: So right at the point of partition?
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yes.
CHRIS HAYES: So just so people know, the British colonial administrative system, which was incredibly complex and heavy-handed, also had a lot of autonomy for the princely states, meaning that local, essentially feudal type rulers of both Hindu and Muslim, were sort of outsourced local administration. And then when time came for independence and Partition, they were the ones who were choosing which state. In most cases, that prince aligned with the…
HAFSA KANJWAL: With the people.
CHRIS HAYES: … population over which he ruled, and so it was fairly easy. Kashmir is this really important place where that breaks down, because you have a Hindu leader and you have a Muslim population. So the tension there is intense from the beginning.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yeah, exactly. So basically after this massacre, what ends up happening is that there’s tribesmen that come from northwest Pakistan. It’s contested historically whether they came on their own to liberate these Muslims from the Dogra ruler or whether they were supported by the Pakistan state. This is what the Indian government kind of points to, as everything was fine in Kashmir until the tribesmen came and wanted to take over Kashmir.
CHRIS HAYES: So there’s indeterminacy in ’47 and there’s a rebellion and there isn’t … Am I understanding you correctly? There is no legal declaration yet about which state it will join?
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yes, exactly.
CHRIS HAYES: In that period of indeterminacy, folks from northwest Pakistan come into Kashmir?
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yes.
CHRIS HAYES: And the Indians say, “This is where things go South.”
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yes. But there’s people who join them who are actually within the Jammu Kashmir state. They’re Kashmiri state subjects, and they also join these tribesmen to try deliberate Kashmir. What ends up happening is that the Maharajah panics. He turns to the government of India, asks them for military assistance, and the government of India basically says that we will help you, but you have to formally accede to us. You have to sign a treaty of accession.
CHRIS HAYES: I see. So this Dogra Hindu ruler who has a bunch of majority Muslim subjects who are now in revolt and being aided by citizens of a foreign state, Pakistan, turns to India. This nut knocks him off the fence.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yes, exactly.
CHRIS HAYES: He says, “Okay, come help me fight off these Pakistani invaders.” And India says, “Yes, but then you have to join India.”
HAFSA KANJWAL: You have to join us. Yes. So again, there’s disputes over whether he signed the treaty before the Indian army came or whether it was after all of that. I mean it remains to be seen historically. But the treaty of accession was signed. It basically called for Kashmir to be acceded to India and India would have control over Kashmir’s foreign affairs, communications, and defense. Everything else would be still left to the local Kashmiri state.
CHRIS HAYES: I see. So there’s local autonomy built into the original agreement?
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yes, original agreement, and this was an agreement that had existed with other princely states as well who had acceded. But over time, once the Indian nation-state began to cohere and form, that level of autonomy was kind of eroded and all of the states became under this federal structure of India. It’s important to think that nothing was set. Everything that was happening was happening as history evolved. There was no kind of grand vision. We can look back at it now and think that, of course, India always had the centralizing mission, but things are a lot more complicated than that.
CHRIS HAYES: Well, I mean even in the U.S. context, right? I mean the amount of independence the 13 colonies have when they first become states is quite different than what they have by 1840 and certainly after the Civil War. There’s a centralizing force that happens in which these very distinct state entities become more and more coherent as a federal national whole.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Right. Absolutely.
CHRIS HAYES: You’re saying something similar happens in India?
HAFSA KANJWAL: Something similar happens to other states in India, but in Kashmir, things are still very different. The treaty of accession is signed. The Indian army comes into Kashmir officially on October 27, 1947 and this is when Kashmiris believe that their military occupation began. The two countries, India and Pakistan formally go to war. India manages to gain control over two-thirds of this former princely state, and then Pakistan has control over one-third. So the territory of Kashmir is actually split.
CHRIS HAYES: That’s the line to this day?
HAFSA KANJWAL: That’s a line to this day. Initially-
CHRIS HAYES: Like North Korea, South Korea, the same thing. That’s the line.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yes. Initially it was called the “ceasefire line” by the U.N. and then now it’s called the Line of Control. India actually interestingly takes the dispute to the United Nations. So it’s India that internationalizes the conflict from the get-go. It takes it to the United Nations. The United Nations has the first resolution in 1948 on Kashmir that basically called for a cessation of hostilities between the two countries and the implementation of a plebiscite. So that Kashmiris themselves could decide what country they want to be a part of. That fundamentally is the crux of the issue today is that that plebiscite has not taken place.
CHRIS HAYES: Never happened?
HAFSA KANJWAL: Never happened. And over time India completely eroded Kashmir’s autonomy, even the limited autonomy that it had on paper. For Kashmiris, India has served as a colonizing power since 1947.
CHRIS HAYES: Do all Kashmiris feel that way though?
HAFSA KANJWAL: A vast majority do. A vast majority of Kashmiri Muslims do. There are Kashmiri Pandits or Kashmiri Hindus, which is a small minority of Kashmiris. Many of them would probably want to be a part of India. But again, the issue there is that fundamentally this movement for self-determination is not just about one group or one religion. It’s kind of thinking broadly in terms of the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir and that each region and the peoples of each region has the right to express themselves. And of course in all colonial contexts, you will have people who will be against or for what the vast majority of the people want.
CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. I mean we had Patrick Radden Keefe in here months ago to talk about his book about the troubles in Northern Ireland. And of course in Belfast there are unionists. They’re not the majority, but there are unionists in Belfast who want to be part and there are folks that want independence or want to join the actual Irish Republic. That is exactly the source of the conflict. So the line here gets drawn in ’47, the Line of Control, two thirds of it under Indian control, one third under Pakistani control. Over the next seven decades there are series of wars fought essentially over that territory, right?
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yeah, yeah. There are wars, and the big war obviously 1947, 1948. Another war 1965 and then the Kargil war in 1999.
CHRIS HAYES: And each of those wars come to essentially the same equilibrium standstill?
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yeah. They result in India and Pakistan kind of going to the table and agreeing to have bilateral talks over Kashmir but nothing really happens. In all of the aftermath of these wars, Kashmiri voices and the Kashmiri people have been the ones that have not been at the table or not been included in these negotiations over their future.
CHRIS HAYES: So these are state to state negotiations between the state of Pakistan, the state of India whose army is are, in some senses, on both sides occupying Kashmir.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Right, exactly.
CHRIS HAYES: What is life like for folks living in Kashmir in the Indian territory and the Pakistani territory?
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yeah, that’s a good question. In the Indian side of Kashmir, it’s important for people to know that it is the most militarized zone in the world. So over 700,000 Indian troops are in Kashmir. If we just think about at the height of the occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan there might’ve been between 150 to 200,000 U.S. troops. So this is an incredible amount of foreign troops that are not just at the border with Pakistan but also in civilian areas. As a result, life has been completely shifted in accordance to this. So there’s been a number of human rights violations that have occurred, especially since the late 1980s. There’s been mass rapes of Kashmiri women by Indian soldiers. There’s been enforced disappearances. Kashmiri human rights groups say that between eight to 10,000 people, mostly young men, have been disappeared which means that to this day their families do not know about their whereabouts. There’s been mass graves that had been discovered by international organizations, extrajudicial killings, torture.
I mean, there’s a whole slew of human rights violations that have gone on. But beyond that, daily life is just difficult for any average Kashmiri. If you think about the day to day in terms of going to school, running a business, things like that, just things don’t happen under a state of normalcy. So even today, schools have not been operating in Kashmir for over two months now. And this is a regular feature of most young people’s lives. During days that have been curfewed where there’s strict shoot on site orders, businesses are not in operation. So every single aspect of daily life gets impacted by this occupation.
CHRIS HAYES: What is it like on the Pakistani side?
HAFSA KANJWAL: So the Pakistan side, I have not been to the Pakistan side. But what we certainly know is that there are certain human rights violations that occur. The U.N. has reported on them, but they in no way compare to what’s happening on the Indian side. This has been documented and recorded. Just recently, India did not allow a U.S. senator to go and visit Kashmir and see what’s happening there, but Pakistan did. The Pakistani side of Kashmir, he was allowed access there. So I think a lot of people try to equate the two countries when it comes to their respective sides of Kashmir. But I don’t think that that kind of equivalence can be made.
CHRIS HAYES: One of the arguments you’ll hear in American foreign policy circles about Pakistan’s activity in Kashmir is essentially that, I’ll give the broad strokes of it and have you respond to it, essentially that Pakistan is a smaller country than India. It’s a poorer country, considerably, than India. They had a kind of nuclear arms race between the two of them and both achieved nuclear weapons.
At a certain point, Pakistan realized that they couldn’t win that kind of shooting war with India, particularly along the line of control. The ISI, the Pakistani Intelligence Services began cultivating jihadis and terrorists to essentially wage a kind of dirty war against India that they have … and this is documented. The ISI has cultivated and armed and trained various jihadi groups, that they have been behind numerous horrible and gruesome attacks inside India, the hotel one being sort of the most prominent, and that essentially Pakistan is sort of independent of the human rights abuses happening in the occupied Kashmir, that Pakistan has sort of essentially fomented a kind of dirty war via attacks on civilians and the funding of terrorism as their means of trying to pry Kashmir loose from India.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yeah, I mean I think this is a narrative that’s certainly exists and I for sure would not condone anything in terms of what Pakistan and the ISI has done in Kashmir. What I would say though is that it’s important to understand that even when the armed rebellion began in the late 1980s, it wasn’t indigenous armed uprising. It was led by young Kashmiris who felt that the constitutional means and the peaceful means, their peaceful means of protest, were not working. India rigged this primary election in 1987 when different political formations in Kashmir had decided that they would actually take part in the electoral process and that once they came to power that they would kind of declare Kashmir to be free from India. And those elections were rigged. That is what directly led to young men from Kashmir starting in Kashmir attacks against Indian state installations. They complete …
CHRIS HAYES: So there’s an armed uprising in 1980s when, basically after the political parties have sort of gone to the end of their road through political means, there’s an armed uprising that starts then. You’re saying that that is an indigenous armed uprising of Kashmir.
HAFSA KANJWAL: It is an indigenous, yeah. But of course they realize that they are no match for this great power, India, this military power. And India brings in over 700,000 troops in that time. So they turned to Pakistan for both military and financial support. Many of the young men cross over to Pakistan, get trained, come back. But in addition to local Kashmiri fighters, there are foreign fighters that also come in. They are remnants of the jihad against the Soviets, for example. They come into Kashmir. What ends up happening though is that the initial Kashmiri groups were pro-independence. The groups that Pakistan supported like Hizbul Mujahideen were pro-Pakistan. So there ends up being an infighting amongst the different militant groups that India is kind of able to take advantage of.
CHRIS HAYES: Right. So this indigenous movement for armed uprising for independence and self-determination when the Pakistani’s intelligence services start supporting it because they’re a state trying to protect their own geopolitical interests, those folks are, you guys should be part of Pakistan.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yes.
CHRIS HAYES: And so there’s tensions between those.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Infighting. Yeah. There’s infighting between the two different groups. In addition to that, India introduces a militia, counter insurgency militia, also a militant group called al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen. These are basically renegade militants who were either arrested or tortured and made to somehow work for India.
CHRIS HAYES: And they’re Muslim as well?
HAFSA KANJWAL: And these are Muslim groups. Yes. This group was primarily responsible for a lot of the atrocities that you hear about in terms of the human rights violations by the militant groups that happened including rapes of women and other killings that they did.
CHRIS HAYES: I see. So it’s not actually the official Indian army. It’s a sort of paramilitary …
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yes.
CHRIS HAYES: It’s a militia that’s sort of stood up by the Indian state.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yeah. The army of course is committing its own whole human rights violations, but then these other groups that they’ve sponsored and unleashed upon a population are also committing different violations.
CHRIS HAYES: What happens to that armed uprising?
HAFSA KANJWAL: India is able to put it down quite effectively and for most of the 2000s we basically thought that the armed uprising is over. It seems like Kashmiris are kind of fatigued with their resistance. Over 70,000 people were killed in this period.
CHRIS HAYES: Jesus.
HAFSA KANJWAL: So people are obviously having to struggle with the aftermath. This is also when psychological issues and post-traumatic stress disorder begins to really become rampant in Kashmiri society. So there is a bit of a, I guess you could say a fatigue in the general population. But India kind of allowed the international community to feel that things were normal in Kashmir and Kashmiris had given their consent to Indian rule. That was certainly not the case. What ended up happening is that in 2008 a new a youth led movement, largely nonviolent, against Indian rule erupted again. It was precipitated by a decision by the Indian government to transfer some land to a shrine board, a pilgrimage board that was overseeing a Hindu pilgrimage in Kashmir. Kashmiris were worried that this land transfer would basically entail that India would start to control and take over Kashmiri land and resources.
Almost a million people peacefully gathered in Srinagar tham, in the main capital of Kashmir. This is of a population of eight million people in the valley. So you can imagine how many people gathered. They were protesting and demanding that the U.N., again, implement the resolution for self-determination. A series of these protests, India responded to quite violently. They fired live ammunition into the crowds killing dozens of people at a time. So this was a movement that was led by the generation that had grown up during the militancy. These are people who would be at that time in their twenties and their thirties and all they had witnessed in Kashmir was militarization and human rights violations. They were a lot more adamant about the future of Kashmir to be determined by Kashmiris themselves.
CHRIS HAYES: We should also say that the context here, 2008 on the Indian side, is that over this period of time the Indian National Congress which is the party of Gandhi and Nehru which had this in its founding document in the Indian constitution. This vision of multi religious pluralism even if not honored in the way it acted, the state actually dealt with Kashmir, but as a sort of ideological north star for the project of modern India. That that Indian National Congress is supplanted increasingly by an essentially Hindu nationalist right-wing party called the BJP that have their antecedents in the kinds of movements that actually led to the person that assassinated Gandhi for being insufficiently Hindu nationalist. What role does the BJP’s ascent play in the way that India is acting towards Kashmir?
HAFSA KANJWAL: I think at this point, I do actually want to bring up article 370 because this is where the BJP and the Hindu Nationalist groups … it’s critical. So article 370, which is what was revoked on August 5 was basically put into place by the Indian state and a client regime in Kashmir. It basically enshrined the autonomy that existed in the treaty of accession in the Indian constitution. So it basically said …
CHRIS HAYES: So article 370 is a part of a document that says … it’s actually in the Indian constitution that grants it sort of autonomy.
HAFSA KANJWAL: Yeah. Yes, exactly. So it says that Kashmiris have the right to have their own state flag, their own constitution even initially their own prime minister and India would still only have control over Kashmir’s foreign affairs, communications and defense. So it gives Kashmir this kind of special status. Within that there’s another provision that is increasingly more important today called article 35A which basically allowed the Kashmiri state to determine who the permanent residents of the state would be. Permanent residents in the state would be able to hold property, to buy and sell land. That the local state wanted to consolidate because they wanted to make sure that the Muslim majority demographic of Kashmir would be conserved, that that would remain case and that Indians couldn’t just kind of come into Kashmir by land and the demographics would change from a Muslim majority to Hindu majority.