Social Scientist. v 13, no. 145 (June 1985) p. 35.


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PRAKASH CHANDRA*

The National Question in Kashmir

UNDERSTOOD as a social conflict between competing groups, strata, and leaders of various classes to establish their hegemony over a movement and the people, factionalism emerged as a significant phenomenon in the freedom movement of Jammu and Kashmir. During the various phases of the freedom struggle in the 1931-47 period, the nationalists faced serious threats from the forces of communalism having strong feudal ties. This period of the national liberation movement saw four distinct phases of factional polarization, as a result of which the national movement advanced from one crisis to the other, but carried with it the imprint of the past as its inherent legacy. There was a consequential change also in the orientation, content and structure of the movement. This continuity and change marks the progressive march of the national movement in Kashmir.

During the initial phase of the 1931-35 struggle the ideological character of factionalism was highly amorphous, largely due to the use of religion as the main instrument of ideological warfare by both the factions. Despite this, an attempt has been made to demarcate the basic differences in the content and form of the ideologies they represented. The conflict in this period was mainly between the forces of Islamic medievalism led by Mirwaiz Maulvi Mohammed Yusaf Shah and the religious forces of popular protest and modernism led by Sheikh Mohamad Abdullah. Although the movement led by Sheikh Abdullah itself used the populist mumbo-jumbo of Islam, it was, at the same time, an expression of real distress and of protest against this real distress. The canonized Islamic fundamentalism of Mirwaiz Maulvi Yusaf Shah received covert and overt support from all possible feudal quarters from the Maharaja, the Hindu communalists, the landlords, and the centres of Islamic orthodoxy. On the other hand. Sheikh Abdullah relied on the support of the educated and ordinary Muslim populace.

The use of religion as the ideological raw material in the politico-ideological warfare between the two camps, was necessitated not only by the overwhelmingly backward nature of the social formation of Kashmir but also by nature of the class leadership of both factions, the feudal class

^Department of Political Science, Kumaon Univiersity, U.P.



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