Two recent reports have underscored once again the dangers that fundamentalist or radical Islam pose to the peace-loving Muslims and democratic India. One report described how some Kashmiri agitators recently cut the hair of a number of Sikh truckers while mercilessly beating Hindu truck drivers and cleaners carrying essential supplies to the Valley. As was pointed out once in this column, the ongoing problem is really not about the so-called azadi. It is essentially the offshoot of the growing Islamisation of the valley. The age-old Kashmiriyart and genuine secularism associated with it are losing charms because their proponents, who still constitute the silent majority, are being betrayed by inept governments both in Srinagar and in Delhi.
All the separatist leaders would love Kashmir to be run by Sharia, not by democratic tenets. They want mosques or mosque-approved leaders, not any elected representatives, to control their lives. Just see the roles the mosques are playing in aggravating the crisis in Kashmir today. It is the loudspeakers from mosques that instigate people to gather and agitate. It is in the mosques that the terrorists take shelter, knowing pretty well that the security forces will not dare enter there. Because, the Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1988 is applicable all over India except in Jammu and Kashmir, thanks to the Article 370.
In other words, the separatists want Kashmir not only to be the sole preserve of the Muslims, but be guided by a particular brand of Islam. They want non-Muslims, if at all they are allowed to live, to be second-class citizens. This is the precise reason why they want azadi from a democratic India, which, otherwise, houses 130 million proud Muslims. No wonder, why they have rejected the Prime Minister’s latest offer of granting Kasmiris more rights. Because the crux of the matter is no longer giving more rights or granting more autonomy. The issue is that separatists will not be satisfied until and unless Kashmir is declared an Islamic State.
It may not be politically correct to say so, but the fact remains that Article 370 is the root cause of the malaise that we see in Kashmir today. Its proponents say that it is this Article that has been responsible for connecting Kashmir with India. In my humble opinion, that Article is taking Kashmir away from us, indeed! It is said that once the pre-1953 status of Kashmir is restored (whereby, except foreign affairs, defence and communication, Delhi’s writs will not run in Srinagar), all problems will be over. In effect, it will mean that thousands and thousands of crores that we ordinary tax-payers pay every year for the people of Jammu and Kashmir will be spent without any accountability. It is not that it is accountable now, but at least the country has the formal power to scrutinise. That this formal power is not being used judiciously is a different story. Going back to pre-1953 days will also mean that ordinary Kashmiris will not have the opportunity to knock at Indian judiciary, one of our great institutions, some failings here and there notwithstanding. That will also mean that our Election Commission will not be able to ensure clean elections which the state has witnessed in recent years.
Whatever one may say, the truth is that Article 370 is an instrument of appeasement. And appeasement, by its very nature, is like a pain-killer tablet. It suppresses pain for the time being but does not eradicate the disease. On the other hand, it further encourages those appeased to demand more and more. And worst, it legitimises the “separateness” of those appeased. It gives them the feeling that they are different from the rest. And with the passage of time, the situation will reach a point when they will succeed in completely separating themselves from the appeasers. Unfortunately, Kashmir is undergoing this process, which we can neglect at our peril.
And this brings me to the other news item that I mentioned at the onset. On August 12, the Kerala High Court directed the police to provide protection to a young Muslim engineering graduate who said that she was facing threats “for failing to wear purdah and headscarf”. In her petition, the lady had named one Muhammad Kavugoli, an activist of Popular Front of India (PFI), a fundamentalist Muslim body which allegedly chopped off a Christian teacher’s hand last month.
There is no denying the fact that Kerala, one of our most educated and liberal states, is coming under the evil influence of Islamic fundamentalism, of late. Muslims, who constitute more than a quarter of the state’s population, are being instigated by some of their sectarian and fundamentalist leaders to adopt radical ways. The Gulf money, particularly from Wahabi-dominated Saudi Arabia, is doing the dirty tricks. Thousands and thousands of mosques have come up all over the state with the evil intention of taking the Muslims back to the Middle Ages. Women are being harassed. Inter-community interactions (with Christians and Hindus) are being discouraged. Motivated strategies are being adopted to woo non-Muslim girls to marry Muslim youth and change their religions (this has been pointed out by a Kerala court). In fact, none other than the state’s Marxist Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan has already accused the PFI of attempting to turn Kerala into a “Muslim country” in the next 20 years!
Unfortunately, the Chief Minister has been strongly criticised for his remarks by the Congress party in the state. Obviously, the Congress in Kerala is not bothered by the long-term consequences of the dangerous trend that the Chief Minister has pointed out. Its short-term goal is to appease the PFI so that it gets “Muslim votes”, so important to win the forthcoming elections. In other words, it is the age-old “vote-bank” politics, which, being another dimension of appeasement, is promoting separatism.
In fact, there are already some dangerous lessons that India should learn from the Netherlands, one of the most liberal countries in Europe. Its liberal immigration policies welcomed Muslims from Africa and elsewhere so much so that in next 15 years Muslims will be constituting majority in that country. But what is the result? Again thanks to the Arab money, the Muslims there have been radicalised to such an extent that they are now demanding the introduction of Sharia laws to the Dutch system. But this is not all; those opposed to their radicalism have become the targets of death- fatwas. When Ayaan Hirsi Alia refugee from Somalia who immigrated to the Netherlands and was elected to the Dutch Parliament spoke out against the growing menace of militant Islam in her new country, a fatwa was announced against her. Her colleague in the production of her movie Submission, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered. Theo van Gogh was shot twenty times by a jihadist, his body stabbed, and his throat slashed open.
The point is that the jihadist always exploit liberalism and the associated secularism to grow so that once powerful they will be able to deny the same principles to others. There are now over three million Muslims in Germany, nearly two million in Great Britain, and seven per cent of France are Muslim immigrants. At least twenty million Muslims live in Western Europe. Add another seven million in the Unites States. It cannot be anybody’s case that the constitutions of these liberal democracies really discriminate them. But some of the most horrendous terrorists incidents have taken place in these countries (9/11 in New York, London bombings and train-blasts in Madrid).
The moral of the story is clear. Appeasement can no more be the means for liberal democracies such as India to deal with the Islamic fundamentalism. It is time to take the evil head-on.
By Prakash Nanda