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The late Major General Tajammal Hussain Malik had an illustrious military careere (and a very controversial retirement career). In 1965 his unit played an important role in the defense of Lahore (a battle that the Indian army could have won if led by someone like Sagat Singh, but luckily for Pakistan, their GOC was Niranjan Prasad and Lahore was saved) and in 1971 his brigade was the only major force that the Indian army could not break in its lightning campaign in East Pakistan. Gen Tajammal was also a true believer who dreamed of the standard “Pak army true believer” stuff (abolish provinces, impose shariah law, unite the ummah), but with the interesting twist that he hated the crook Zia ul Haq and actually planned to assasinate him on 23rd March 1980 (his second coup plan, more serious than his first, which had been little more than a vague thought that arose when he was denied a well-deserved promotion). By the way, when Islamophobes think of Pakistan they tend to imagine that the median army officer is as fanatical as Gen Tajammal (though they obviously assign a more negative valence to that fanaticism than Islamophiles do), but as the following interview makes clear, his level of belief is not exactly common in the senior ranks of the army.
Anyway, here is an interview that Major Amin conducted with Gen Tajammal in 2001 (a couple of years before Gen Tajammal passed away). I am posting it here both as an important historical document and as a window into the mind of someone who was NOT the median Pakistani army officer, but is probably representative of what we may call the “PMA ideal”: an officer who combined professional competence with a Nasim Hijazi level view of history, a PMA-level view of Pakistani politics and a naive but intensely sincere faith in what can only be described as the Chakwal version of Islam. Comments welcome. (I put Major Amin’s words in red, the rest is Gen Tajammal speaking)
Postscript: I have added the full text of an article Abdul Majeed Abid wrote about General Tajammal in the Pakistani newspaper “The Nation” at the end of this interview.. it add more detail to the picture of Gen Tajammal.
Major General Tajammul Hussain Malik
Agha H Amins Note:—
This is the man who was praised by Indians and they established a commission to study his masterpiece Battle of Hilli .He was praised by his Indian battle opponent in his book “Indian Sword penetrates East Pakistan” as a singularly brave man .
He was miles above pygmies like Zia , Ayub and Musharraf. When we joined the army, we were inspired by his battalion 3rd Baloch’s attempted coup of 23 March 1980 to wipe out despicable clown Zia and his dirty clique !
We had to wait till glorious 17th August 1988 when that plane finally crashed right into the Hindu Shamshan Ghat on Basti Lal Kamal !
One good thing that General Beg did immediately after that glorious crash in 1988 was to restore Tajammuls complete military honours and privileges. Tajammul was serving a sentence of 14 years RI for planning to liquidate all army generals and Zia on 23 March 1980, a brilliant scheme indeed !
Tajammul has thrown light on Zias shallow personality in this interview !
In October 1958, Ayub appointed General Mohammed Musa (who rose from the ranks) as the next C-in-C with Lt-Gen Muhammed Habibullah Khan as his Chief of Staff. In doing so, Ayub overlooked Lt-Gen Habibullah Khan, an officer technically and professionally more qualified than Gen Musa. It was an appointment that clearly sent a wave of resentment throughout the senior ranks in the GHQ.”I vividly remember my father who was a Lt-Col serving in GHQ at that time being acutely distressed at Ayub’s preference of Gen Musa over Ali’s (later Lt-Gen Ali Kuli Khan) father, Lt-Gen Habibullah Khan Khattak to command the Army. Till his death my father, who had a strong belief in merit over nepotism, maintained that was the precise moment from where necessity and nepotism started to matter far more than merit in the primary selections of the Armed Forces. Not to say that from time to time people with merit would not slip through.” (Ikram ul-Majeed Sehgal Defence Journal, December 2001, p.7).
In words of late Aslam Khattak, elder brother of late Lt-Gen Habibullah and a respected name and a political heavyweight of Pakistan, Ayub rang up Lt-Gen Habibullah Khan (CoS) and said: “Biboo (General Habibullah’s nickname in the family), I am fed up with Musa (the then C-in-C) and want to get rid of the stupid chap. You please rush to Rawalpindi immediately to take over command. A formal notification will be delivered to you at the GHQ tomorrow morning.” The next day he did receive the letter but only to be told that he stood relieved with immediate effect. (Murtaza Malik The Curtain Rises: Uncovered Conspiracies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Royal Book Company, 2002, p.16).
After a few months, Gen Musa asked Ayub to relieve Habibullah from the army. One of the charges put up by Gen Musa against his CoS, Lt-Gen Habibullah, was that while in London on a trip, he had misbehaved with the maid of his host. Lt-Gen Altaf Qadir had the retirement order for Gen Habibullah with him. The order had to be served at the general’s home. He didn’t have the courage to deliver the letter. Gen Habibullah was capable of shooting the messenger. He asked Maj-Gen (later Lt-Gen) Abrar Hussein, the then military secretary to the GHQ to deliver the news. It would have been embarrassing for a junior officer to deliver the bad news to his senior. In spite of Maj-Gen Abrar’s protestations, he was forced to become the reluctant messenger. When Maj-Gen Abrar Hussein went to the residence of Lt-Gen Habibullah and handed the letter to him, the latter said: “So here it is.” It seemed Gen Habibullah knew what was coming. (Interview with Brig Noor Ahmed Hussein (younger brother of late Lt-Gen Abrar Hussein) on Aug5, 2002, in Rawalpindi). Gen Habibullah was then 46.
In a memo of the US State Department from the US Embassy, quotes its informant in Pakistan, saying that Musa (as C-in-C) neither controlled nor enjoyed any respect in the military (The American Papers 1965-1973 compiled by Roedad Khan OUP p. 120 Dispatch of 18 January, 1966, 12.05am). “Musa’s appointment to the top military job over the head of senior and perhaps better generals was Ayub’s idea of a strong army under a weak command ultimately responsible to him. He (Musa) was often scornfully (though uncharitably) referred to as the ‘mess waiter’.” (Brig A.R. Siddiqi The Military in Pakistan: Image and Reality, Vanguard Books Pvt Ltd, 1996, p. 55). “Musa ran the Army. The most important of Musa’s traits was one of loyalty — straight and simple. If Ayub had mentioned 10,000 yards of front, then the front had to be 10,000 yards, and so on. The framework of defence became more and more mathematical. The importance of imponderables of war was not catered for.” (M. Attiqur Rehman Back to the Pavilion, Ardeshir Cowasjee, Karachi, 1990 p. 133-134). Musa, though described as honourable and honest, “is hardly the stuff of which great generalship is made.” (Brian Cloughley A History of Pakistan Army, Wars and Insurrections, OUP, 2002, p.127).
MUSA’S VERSION: On Dec 30, 1985, when Ziaul Haq lifted martial law, General Musa was appointed Gov Balochistan. Brig Noor Ahmed Hussein (Golf buddy of Musa) visited Quetta during Musa’s governorship. Musa invited Brig Noor for a dinner. It turned out to be a dinner for two. On a full stomach, Brig Hussein asked Musa: “Sir, you were sixth in line. How did you become the C-in-C?”
Musa: “I will tell you the whole story and I have never told it to anyone before. I was a major posted at Quetta in August 1947 when I was transferred as Assistant Adjutant and Quarter Master General, (AA&QMG) Headquarters, 8th Division, Malir, Karachi. The train reached Rohri station at 2 O’ clock. Suddenly, I heard the Station Master shouting on the platform: ‘Maj Musa, telegram for you’. I waved at him from out of the window, and got hold of the telegram. According to the message, my previous Karachi assignment had been cancelled and I was promoted to the rank of Lt-Col and posted as General Staff Officer First Grade (G1) at Lahore 10 Division. I immediately shifted my baggage to the Lahore-bound train. I was to work under an English GOC, Gen Briggs, who said: “I know you lost your appointment at Karachi, but I am sure you will find this one as exciting.” Lo and behold, first day, the first pending file on my table, I open and the title reads: Court of enquiry in respect of temporary Brigadier, Substantive Colonel M. Ayub Khan, Punjab Regiment.
Musa chuckled: “The way I handled that file, the day I became the C-in-C.”
Brig Noor’s words were: “Ayub was accused of accepting cash and jewellery from fleeing Hindus during the days he was in the Boundary Force that lasted for five months in the later half of 1947. The charges were serious enough to warrant a court of enquiry against Ayub.” (Interview with Brig Noor Ahmed Hussein)
I don’t personally know Ammar Rashid, but I know many people like him and many people who either went to school with him or moved in the same circles. Unlike many (most?) Pakistani students who study abroad and develop a deep understanding of the mess that is Pakistan, Ammar Rashid chose to return to his country. He lives his life according to what he believes in (no matter how unpopular those beliefs and ideas may be), and not a lot of people in Pakistan can say that. I heard him singing Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s Intesaab (Acknowledgement) many years ago, and that is my favorite version of that verse ever sung. I do not agree with everything that Ammar believes in (Listen to him eloquently explain his positions here: soundcloud.com/howtopakistan/episode-14-awami-workers-party-the-pakistani-left), he is an officeholder for the Awami Workers Party (AWP), an artist, writer, and a teacher. He participated in the 2018 national elections for a National Assembly seat. He was one of the leaders of the movement to preserve katchi-bastis (slums) in the I-11 sector, Islamabad.
Why was he arrested?
He was protesting alongside his comrades against the arrest of PTM leader, Manzoor Pashteen. Pashteen galvanized the youth and adult population in former federally administered tribal areas (FATA) that border Afghanistan. The presence of PTM threatens the ‘national narrative’ put forth by Pakistani establishment that they ‘cleared’ FATA of all militants during the Zarb-e-Azab operation (2014-2017). PTM contends that during and after the operation, military demolished homes and business places of non-militants living there and killed (or facilitated the killing of) many tribesmen who were actually anti-militant (Pashteen wrote about this for the NYT, read here. )
Following Ammar’s arrest, there were more protests in different cities in Pakistan. In Faisalabad, many protestors were picked up by the police today for protesting against the arrest of Ammar, who was protesting the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen. This suppression of dissent is reminiscent of fascist regimes around the world. There are not a lot of people as well-read and politically conscious as Ammar and his fellow protestors and muzzling their voices by force merely exposes the fragility of the military’s narrative. The number of people who think like Ammar in Pakistan is probably less than five hundred. Compare that to the numerical strength of Army proper: half a million (and millions of admirers). Since January 2017, when bloggers were abducted by agencies (and later released), there has been an uptick in ‘disappearances’ of progressive activists and students. Due to the abovementioned numerical mismatch, these abductions don’t always get the media coverage they deserve, and mainstream political parties almost never defend these dissenters. In such dark times, just a safe release of these protestors would be a welcome step.
P.S A twitter thread of tributes to Ammar by creative comrades: https://twitter.com/tooba_sd/status/1224025720873275394?s=21
[Author’s note: With the celebrations of Guru Nanak’s 550th Anniversary and the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor being in the news, this is an opportunity for discussing the importance of the Sikh message, not just from a religious perspective – for Sikhs – but for Indian history. This article places the founding of Kartarpur, and Guru Nanak’s message, in a historical context – juxtaposing it with Babur’s founding of the Mughal Empire.]
I. Turning of the Wheel: Baba Nanak and Babur
In 1519, Babur invaded India – ‘ever since coming to Kabul we had been thinking of a Hindustan campaign, but for one reason or another it had not been possible,’ he writes in the Baburnama (translated by William Thackston, see pp 270-280). For some time his armies had been campaigning on the frontiers of the Hindu Kush, but these campaigns had yielded ‘nothing of consequence to the soldiers’. So, he turned to Hindustan. In the next few months, despite dogged resistance by the Afghans, Gujjars and Jats of the upper reaches of the Jhelum and Chenab, northern Punjab was subjugated, and plundered, by Babur’s armies. Babur himself spent most of his days inebriated, contemplating the legacy of Timur and setting poems to rhythmic metres. While his next great invasion of Punjab would come few years from then, in this interregnum, Punjab burned.
Among the towns and villages devastated was the settlement of Sayyidpur.
In the post 9/11 years, a multitude of “Pakistan experts” emerged and the bookshelves were flooded with books containing the words ‘Pakistan’, ‘crisis’, ‘storm’ or ‘battle’. In my opinion, very few writers from outside Pakistan (and even inside) have explored the country, its politics and its regional dynamics pre- and post-9/11. I consider Shuja Nawaz as one of the authors who, both as an insider and an outsider, written about Pakistan’s civil-military imbalance and foreign policy while maintaining balance and equanimity. I would like to disclose here that I have benefitted personally from Shuja Nawaz’s actions in the past. I was selected as one of the fifteen ‘Emerging Leaders of Pakistan’ (ELP) selected by Atlantic Council’s South Asia center (headed by Shuja) in 2012.
A little backstory: I was in a strange place in my life at the time. I had just finished medical school and had started my internship in internal medicine. My life was in flux. In the last year of medical school, I had drifted away from medicine and towards political science and history. Following Salmaan Taseer’s assassination in 2011, I had taken night classes at a makeshift school on political economy and history (more on ST’s assassination and my transformation here ). I had also started writing for my own blog and later for express tribune’s (ET) blogs and for Viewpointonline, a fledgling left-wing weekly. By the time I started my internship in May 2012, I had been published in ET, Pakistan Today and Dawn Blogs. During medical school, I had taken part in student politics and was aware of the brewing ‘Doctors Movement’ which was headquartered in the same dorms where I lived. In June-July 2012, there was a massive strike across Punjab and many of my classmates who were interns got arrested and were placed alongside death row inmates in Lahore. I wrote about this for ET and Dawn and engaged in twitter and Facebook wars with people who saw no benefit in our strike. A week after the strike was over, I received an email from Shuja that I had been selected for ELP and would be visiting the US in October-November 2012. I had earlier done an online interview and an in-person interview (after a typical 40-hour shift at the hospital) during the selection process. The other 14 people came from different backgrounds (Activists, NGO people, media people) and I was selected as a writer. We met General Mattis at Shuja’s house in Virginia, Lt Gen Douglas Lute (Obama’s special rep for Af-Pak) in the West Wing of White House and Chuck Hagel at the Atlantic Council. We also visited the Pentagon and Hoover Institute in San Francisco where we met George Shultz. Most of these meetings came about due to personal connections and efforts by Shuja and his staff. One of the dominant themes of our conversations was the status of Pakistan post-2014 ‘withdrawal’ of the US from Afghanistan. We also got a two-hour masterclass in US-Pakistan history from Shuja while we were stranded at our hotel in NYC due to Hurricane Sandy (and had to cancel our meeting with then-Mayor of Newark, Cory Booker). I wrote a few blogs for the now-defunct website for the fellowship that can be accessed here, courtesy of way back machine.
Personally, that first visit to the US in 2012 changed a lot of things for me in the short and long run. The fact that I’m writing this while sitting in the United States with a pretty stable life owes a lot to that selection. I have met Shuja over the years both in the States and in Pakistan and have learned a lot from him. I rate his earlier book ‘Crossed Swords’ (which I have a signed and amended-by-the-author copy of) as one of the best books on Pakistan’s military-industrial complex and its impact on Pakistan’s history.
Moving on to the next book. Shuja has been close to many of the protagonists in the book on both the US and Pakistani side. He grew up in a military family and his brother Asif was Chief of Army Staff in the early 90s, before his sudden death. He has been called the ‘Pakistan army’s man in DC’ by some people in Pakistan over the years. Having read books on Pakistan-US relations in the last decade (including but not limited to: Directorate S, The Dispensable Nation, War on Peace, India vs Pakistan, Sleepwalking to Surrender, The Wrong Enemy, The Way of the Knife), one gets a general outline of the ebb and flow of the relationship between the two countries. What Shuja’s book does is to add an insider’s narrative on the events and puts things in perspective. It starts off on the Pakistan side with the political reshuffling underway in 2006 when Musharraf wanted to sign an NRO with Benazir Bhutto (BB) and a few months before that Nawaz Sharif and BB had signed the Charter of Democracy. Musharraf wanted to share power with BB but on his own terms, as a dominant partner. BB was not interested in such a lopsided setup and was gathering allies in the US before her trip to Pakistan. Musharraf was fighting many fires in 2007, the chief one among them was ‘Lawyers Movement’, allegedly an internecine conflict involving different intelligence agencies. BB landed in Pakistan in October and faced a bomb blast in which she survived but more than 100 of her dedicated party workers perished. In December, BB was not so lucky and became the target of another assassination attempt. Musharraf had lost the plot. Fresh Elections were held and BB’s party took control of the Federal government. Musharraf tried to maneuver a role for himself in the democratic setup but had to resign in August 2008. It was a new era for Pakistan and the political class was in charge after 9 years of complete military rule. Shuja was a first-hand witness to BB’s deliberations in the US and provides an insight into her mindset and that of Zardari at the time.
There was a change of guard in the US as well. Obama was elected President on the promise of quitting the useless, forever wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the first Obama term, there was the morass known as ‘Af-Pak’ policy review with State Dept, CIA, Military on one side and Richard Holbrooke on the other. In the end, with all possible information, Obama chose to announce an exit timetable from Afghanistan alongside a surge of troops. That was a blunder, as has been acknowledged by people in the Obama Foreign Policy team. The details of this process have been documented by Steve Coll and Vali Nasr in their respective books but Shuja provides further insight gained from candid interviews with key stakeholders and policymakers including Bruce Reidel. One particular thing that caught my eye was the discussion on Haqqani Network. I have always wondered why Pakistan protected them with such rigor and passion. A ‘senior Pakistani army officer’ told Seymour Hirsch that Haqqanis had “facilitated the evacuation of ISI personnel and their friends from Kunduz” and that was why they were regarded highly. Shuja thinks its not the right answer and I tend to agree with that. I wrote about the infamous Kunduz airlift here (link) and wish more Pakistanis would know about that incident.
With the arrival of Obama, the Musharraf-Bush ‘bromance’ post-9/11 was also over. Pakistan had received generous US aid and support (Non-NATO ally status and more) as a result of that relationship. The year 2008 changed that. Things went from bad to worse in 2011 though. Shuja has reserved a major chunk of his book on what happened in that fateful year. It was the year of Raymond Davis, of the OBL operation (my first ever blog for Dawn was on the OBL raid and I remember writing about the incident in Urdu while sitting in a General surgery lecture during May 2011), Memogate and Salala. I remember being quite up to date with the news at the time but Shuja’s narrative on all of these events, particularly the Memogate and Salala has added to my understanding of how the events unfolded and divergent viewpoints of protagonists.
He devotes a chapter to the issue of Financial Aid from the United States to Pakistan. It is a complex topic that involved failures on both sides. I have talked to many friends in Pakistan about this who work in development/human rights organizations and they told me stories of how cumbersome the process of getting funds from USAID is and the need for publicity often has to be weighed against the image that the US has in Pakistan (which is overwhelmingly negative). That is the reason why some of the leading human rights organizations (e.g HRCP, Shirkat Gah) in Pakistan don’t even apply for grants and funds from US sources. There was (still probably is) a whole industry of ‘grifters’ who arose from the post 9/11 largesse by the United States. In the mid-2000s till recently, using the words ‘combating religious extremism’ was a very good way to get international aid in Pakistan, a fact that has been criticized by actual human rights activists. Many religious figures also used this opportunity to get US visas and money in the guise of fighting religious fundamentalism. Shuja writes about the much-maligned Kerry-Luger bill (in 2009) that was supposed to prioritize civilian aid to Pakistan and was disparaged from early on by the military. In the Tierney Repot in 2008, prepared by the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, it was admitted that “US brand in Pakistan had become ‘toxic’ over time”.
The New York Times wrote an editorial in 2015 titled ‘Is Pakistan worth America’s Investment?’ which Shuja quotes (and I find very true):
“Since 9/11, the United States has provided Pakistan with billions of dollars, mostly in military aid, to help fight extremists. There are many reasons to have doubts about the investment. Still, it is in America’s interest to maintain assistance—at a declining level—at least for the time being. But much depends on what the money will be used for. One condition for new aid should be that Pakistan do more for itself—by cutting back on spending for nuclear weapons and requiring its elites to pay taxes.
Doubts about the aid center on Pakistan’s army, which has long played a double game, accepting America’s money while enabling some militant groups, including members of the Afghan Taliban who have been battling American and Afghan troops in Afghanistan”.
Military Aid and what Pakistan did with that is no different. The details about how the Navy claimed $445 per sailor from Coalition Support Funds (CSF) in June 2005 but $800 per sailor in December 2005 would be comical if not tragic. In contrast, Air Force charged $800 per person in 2004 and $400 in later years. The Army charged steadily at $200. Similarly, Navy charged $5700 per vehicle per month as opposed to Army’s less than $100 per vehicle per month.
For Pakistan-watchers and students of civ-mil imbalance in Pakistan, there are frequent nuggets of interesting information. For example, about the 2014 PTI Dharna, US Ambassador Olson told Shuja that “We received information that Zahir-ul-Islam [DG-ISI] was mobilizing for a coup in September of 2014. General Raheel Sharif blocked it by, in effect, removing Zaheer, by announcing his successor. Zahir was talking to the corps commanders and was talking to life-minded army officers. He was prepared to do it and had the chief been willing, even tacitly, it would have happened”. We also learn about the inroads made into military by Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) and the ‘Pir-Bhai’ system which distorts the discipline of army.
In my opinion, the book is recommended reading for people interested in Pakistan, its civil-military relations and how the US treats its relation with Pakistan.
Special thanks to Mayuresh Madhav Kelkar for sending this. I would start watching this excellent Dari Farsi documentary 1 minute 19 seconds in. There are many excellent ancient maps of central and south Asia.
I just want to watch this again and again, just to listen to the narrator’s voice. Majestic, wise, soft and sweet. For those so sure Afghanistan will fall; any nation with voices like this is perchance stronger than she appears. This may be where the homo sapien sapien modern civilization was born.
This is an interesting book and what the author wants to say is something I have always believed and said. However it is essential to examine in detail what Mr Aqil Shah has to say and offer some humble analysis . On page- ix , would like to offer some comments on Mr Ahmad Mukhtar :–
Mr Mukhtar has been an industrialist who belongs to a town close to the military garrison town known as Kharian cantonment.He has always maintained good relations with the army like any good business man and ,frankly like most politicians in this world has no substance. Just like most generals worldwide are men without substance !
Firstly I do not agree with Aqil Shahs argument about Mr Jinnah on page-3 , nor with Aqil Shahs view that military coups and adventurism were not inevitable in Pakistan:–
We hold the view that Mr Jinnah the so called founder of Pakistan apart from British Raj , had inflicted the unkindest cut on Indian Muslims of Bengal and Punjab in 1916 and thereby by doing this had destabilized future politics of Indian Muslims for all times to come,Pakistan being the worst affected.
I was a teenager in North-Central India (Uttar Pradesh) when the Kashmir Valley exploded into the national consciousness as a full-blown armed insurgency and secessionist movement in 1989-90. India at that time had state-controlled TV media and most adverse news out of J&K was suppressed. However, we had all heard about Islamic terror groups targeting Hindus. Many of these Hindus trickled into refugee camps in and around New Delhi which was a city I often visited to see relatives, so people had begun to be familiar with the scale of the violence against Hindus despite the attempts of state-controlled media to conceal it.
India’s Rationale for Preventing Kashmir’s Secession
In general, the attitude of most Indians since the late 1980s and early 1990s when the conflict became radicalized has been to hold on to the Kashmir Valley by any means necessary. There is a simple rationale for that position. Around 20% of the population of India is not Hindu (with religious minorities being broken up roughly in 70%/10%/10%/10% proportions of Muslim/Christian/Sikh/Other) and there are close to 200 million Muslims in India in a country of 1,400 million people. Indians have always been proud of having a secular Constitution and State, uniquely so in South Asia. India is the most ethnically and religiously diverse nation in the world bar none. Each and every resident of J&K has always been a full-fledged citizen of India.So, it is a hard pill for any Indian to swallow that 7 million Muslims in the Kashmir Valley feel that they cannot be equal citizens of India and must secede to Pakistan. It would raise questions about the unity of India and its tradition of religious and ethnic diversity. It would also put a question mark against the nearly 200 million Muslims in the rest of India. Consequently, almost all Indians feel an emotional and visceral reaction against allowing even just the overwhelmingly Muslim majority Kashmir Valley region of J&K to secede. India has Muslims in positions of power and influence in every field, ranging from Government to Sports and Entertainment. Some of the biggest Indian movie stars are Muslim minorities. Every Muslim of J&K had more than equal citizenship in secular India. There was simply no reason for a secession movement other than religious fascism.