Kashmir valley: From nowhere to nowhere
Kashmir has lived with Islam-driven mindset since the time of Sheikh Abdullah. Faces and slogans spewing hate and violence may have changed; the ideological core that fuels communal disquiet remains unchanged
The attack on Amarnath pilgrims last week was not unexpected. It was also not the first assault on the legendary yatra. None can even say that it will be the last one. Reactions to the attack were on predictable lines. Everyone, including those whose policies, conduct and statements are responsible for the creation of an eco-system that breeds terror, condemned the attack.
Kashmir, on the other hand, has lived with Islam-driven divisive mind set for long, almost for 90-odd years. Faces and slogans spewing hate and indulging in violence may have changed but the ideological core that fuels communal disquiet in the valley remains unchanged.
The current crisis in the valley can be traced to the 1930s, when young Sheikh Abdullah returned to his home land after getting infected with the virus of Muslim separatism during his stay at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). The university, a hot bed of Islamic communalism, is responsible for providing intellectual muscles to the movement for the creation of Pakistan.
The Sheikh, honed by the divisive AMU ideology, started on his agenda to unite Muslims in the name of shared faith against the ‘kafir’ maharaja in the right earnest. Every small incident was blown out of proportion and twisted to set the Muslim populace against their Hindu ruler, who in the Sheikh’s own words, “always appeared to be free from religious prejudices.”
The Sheikh, in his autobiography, Flames of the Chinar, recalls an incident which took place some time in 1931. The Sheikh writes, “A head constable, Labho Ram, took a copy of the Quran from the bag of a Muslim colleague and tore it up. Jammu’s Young Men’s Muslim Association issued protest posters. We decided to display them in every mohalla. A young volunteer, assigned to this job was arrested, but public pressure forced his release.”
To celebrate the peoples’ victory, a meeting was held at the Jama Masjid at which I said, “Unless those who have desecrated the Quran are punished, we shall not rest. We will continue fighting until every Muslim is assured of his rights.”
“After the Friday prayers, the Quran was recited and speeches were made. My style of recitation had become very popular. I also started reciting the deeply moving poetry of Allama Iqbal”. Iqbal, by that time had dropped his nationalistic pretensions and become a great votary for the creation of Pakistan.
As the Sheikh repeatedly revealed, Islam was at the core of his movement and mosques, centres of his public/political activities. Nothing has changed since. The Sheikh camouflaged his communal agenda and claimed his fight was against monarchy. Subsequent characters, who led the ‘struggle’ in the valley, used different ruses to mask their real intent.
The then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, happily fell for the Sheikh’s anti- feudal pretentions, banished the patriotic Maharaja Hari Singh to Mumbai. In all likelihood, Nehru, in his royal innocence, probably nursed dreams of turning the valley, under the leadership of his trusted friend, the Sheikh, into a modern and secular place, in tune with the changes taking place in rest of the freshly independent India.
Six years down the line, Nehru realised that under the leadership of the Sheikh, the valley was on the verge of being turned into an “independent Sheikhdom”. To undo his blunder, Nehru sacked the Sheikh; put him behind the bars and continued with his experiment with new characters who wore different labels and had new slogans. Since then, it has been a painful journey for India to nowhere, moving in circles. So, the attack on the yatra is no big surprise.
The ‘struggle’ against ‘feudalism’, changed into a fight for ‘autonomy’, then for ‘development’, and finally against police/Army atrocities. Masks have been dropped and the divisive agenda is in open. Now the war is for ‘azadi’. Leaders, their labels, slogans and declared objectives have changed from time to time, but the motivating force continues to be Islam.
In the 70-odd years since Jammu & Kashmir was merged with the Indian Union, we have seen forced exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits, the flag bearers of original culture of the valley, and the destruction of dozens of Hindu temples at the hands of Islamic zealots. Cinema houses have been forced to down shutters and most of the valley is out of bounds for rest of Indians who are treated as ‘foreigners’ by locals, with open hostility.
Pro-Pakistan slogans and flags of the Islamic State (IS) are common place. Azadi in the context of the valley means turning it into a cultural extension of IS/Pakistan where non-Muslims have no place, the Indian Penal Code is replaced by sharia’h and women treated as second class citizens.
We have come to such a disastrous pass after suffering an enormous cost in financial and human resources. The valley, under the much-abused Maharaja, was far more secular than today. Who is responsible for this expensive fiasco? And why do we continue to take the same beaten that which has brought the looming specter of IS at our door steps?
Can’t we learn from our experience? We refuse to see the reality and have come to believe our own propaganda and put faith in meaningless phrases. There is no connect between the remedies we offer and the problem that exists. Hence nothing to show for results.
On the side lines comes yet another case of ‘love jihad’, a phenomenon the ‘secularists’ deny. Sandeep Sharma, a resident of Muzzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh was a skilled labour who indulged in petty crime occasionally. He moved to the valley on promise of regular job work and got involved with a local girl. To marry her, he converted to Islam and took the name Adil. The conversion was arranged by a Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) activist.
He joined LeT; and was sent across the border for weapons training; initiated into religious courses for 45 days; and was given lessons to motivate and radicalise the youth for the ‘cause of Islam’.
This story is similar to that of Pranesh from Kerala, who had moved to Pune for a job and met a Muslim girl Sajeda. They ‘fell in love’ and she told him to convert to Islam. Thus, Pranesh Pillai became Javed Ghulam Sheikh. All on predictable lines. Subsequently, Javed was shot dead by the Gujarat Police in June 2004, along with Ishrat Jahan and two others.
Swami Vivekananda was prophetic. In April 1899, speaking to a journal Prabuddha Bharata, Vivekananda said, “And then every man going out of the Hindu pale is not only a man less, but an enemy more.” It’s time to heed Vivekananda’s words. And stop running in circles in Kashmir.
(The writer is a political commentator and a former BJP Rajya Sabha MP)
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