Kashmir’s Unpalatable Truth
Politics and the unpalatable truth rarely go together. The latest instance of this bitter reality is the sacking of Haseeb Drabu as the finance minister by Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who also happens to the head of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to which Drabu belongs. What was the truth that Drabu spoke? “Jammu and Kashmir shouldn’t be seen as a conflict state or a political problem, but as a society with social issues,” Drabu had said while addressing the “Ambassadors’ Meet” hosted by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi on March 9.
“Jammu and Kashmir is (also) a society which has social issues right now. We are trying to find out our own space. And we are going through a process which many other countries are going through. It is not like we are the only ones. It is not a political issue as far as I can see. I think we have been barking up the wrong tree talking for the last 50, 70 years about the politics of it, the political situation, how it has never been improved. I think we also seriously need to correct in terms of how it is a society in search for itself,” the sacked minister had emphasised.
One also remembers in this context how Mehbooba Mufti has also sidelined another senior party leader and former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig. Like Drabu, Baig at the all-party meeting in Delhi in August 2016 had also spoken the unpalatable truth how in Kashmir “a narrative of religious extremism” is witnessing “the revival of Khilafat which has taken the form of Islamic State. Let me quote Baig. “I told (the all party meet) that there is a narrative of religious extremism. This narrative is created in madrasas. Our teachers and schools don’t have such commitment or reach. These kids are trained in the religious texts without context. Now there is a revival of Khilafat, which has taken the form of ISIS. It is bound to influence the youth of Kashmir. I told them (All Party meeting) that what is taught in Madrasas is not real Islam. They teach them politicised Islam. They (the students) get two sets of kameez pajamas from their families and these vulnerable minds are told that if you die in Jihad, you will go to paradise and if you survive you will be a hero. We should have had a counter-narrative (in Kashmir)”.
“I reminded Prime Minister (Modi) of his speech during election campaign at Kishtwar (in J&K). I said Vajpayee had used Insaniyat and Jhumhuriyat only. In Kishtwar you introduced and added Kashmiriyat. I was happy to see you introducing Kashmiriyat. For us, it means a centrist between Shaivite Hinduism where unity of God, fraternity and equality of human being are its foundations, which was later supplemented and enriched by Sufism. That is Kashmiriyat. It has two facets– one is civilisation value and other is the political status. The unique status of Kashmir in Indian Union was necessary to preserve and foster its civilisational values and tradition. It isn’t a Muslim identity but a mixed identity. We need to build a counter-narrative centered around this Kashmiriyat.”
As I had argued once on this platform, the current unrest in Kashmir is not necessarily due to the so-called alienation of the people because of poor governance, lack of development, and violation of human rights. The unpalatable truth, which our bleeding-heart-liberals in the intelligentsia and political parties ignore, is that in Kashmir, the youth is fast becoming radicalised, seeking total Islamisation of Kashmir. Aided and abetted by outside powers, the current phase of militancy is aimed at turning Kashmir into an Islamic state. They provoke security forces by throwing stones and burning police stations. They destroy schools, courts and bridges. And they fly defiantly the flags of Pakistan and Islamic State. No amount of concessions to these separatists and their leaders will ever appease them, their real goal being secession. They will never reconcile with a secular India. And that, in turn, makes any negotiated settlement of the Kashmir issue almost impossible.
The Saudi-funded and Pakistani-supported Wahabism has been on a forward march in Kashmir ever since the Iranian revolution in 1979. Its primary purpose in the beginning was to stem the Shia uprising, but over a period of time, Wahabism with generous Saudi petrodollars gathered its own momentum. Their main aim is to establish their type of Islamic rule, with no scope for co-existence with those having different belief-systems. It is in this context that one agrees fully with Bangladeshi scholar Abu Taher Salahuddin Ahmed that over the years, Kashmir has been witnessing three principal trends – Indianness, Kashmiriness and Muslimness. The Indianness has been propagated by the federal forces, be it the Central Government or national parties such as the Congress and the BJP. However, the problem in the State is due to the tussle between those believing in Kashmiriness and those loyal to Muslimness.
Kashmiriness is an offshoot of the much-talked about Kashmiriyat, which, while co-existing with Indianness, talks of inclusive or composite identity, binding all groups together and not offending any section. No wonder why despite being a Muslim-majority area, beef-eating, until recently, was virtually non-existent in the Valley. Majority of the Kashmiri Muslims had no problems with the Hindus or for that matter with the Buddhists. And, the key factor to the success of Kashmiriyat was the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Kashmiri Muslims believed in Sufism or what is said the “Rishi tradition” that believed in saint and shrine worships. Of course, it was greatly facilitated by the fact that, as was the case in other parts of the subcontinent, Muslims were essentially converts from the fold of Hinduism.
In contrast, the Muslimness always advocated the exclusive concepts in the Valley. Promoted by the Wahhabi and Ahl-i-Hadith sects, this school relies more on the authority of the Quran and Hadith and is totally opposed to the concept saints and shrine worships. This tradition or school has always been in minority in Kashmir, but has been there always. It was behind organisations such as the Muslim Conference and the Kashmir Jamaat (KJ). Needless to say that almost all the separatists and terrorists, including the so-called moderate elements like the Hurriyat Conference, belong to the school of Islamness. They have nothing to do with India. No amount of appeasement will ever impress them to stay with India. They believe in the theory of “Kashmir for Muslims” and their essential argument is they cannot co-exist in a Hindu-dominated India.
How to deal with this real or rather the core issue marking the Kashmir problem, something which the likes of Drabu and Baig have rightly voiced? And that too in a democracy such as ours that is marked by open, pluralist, and responsive systems? Here, any attempt at controlling radicalisation of Kashmiris will not be allowed by the so-called secularists and liberals. For instance, it is well known how mosques in Kashmir valley are being misused to radicalise and mobilise the youth through their loudspeakers day after day. But can any authority dare to stop electricity to these mosques?
Secondly, it is well-established these days that the cyberspace serves as a bottom-up recruitment tool for radicals and assists in the proliferation of their networks. Online recruitment and mobilisation play a vital role in this regard. But whenever the authorities suspend the internet and mobile services in the valley, the bleeding heart liberals in Delhi, not to talk of those in Srinagar, make a hue and cry in the name of the freedom of thoughts and expression.
Thirdly, in the name of democracy, these so-called liberals argue that these radicalised youth may kill hundreds of security personnel, but the latter cannot use even pellets, let alone bullets, against them. For them, the blood of our security personnel from the rest of the country does not carry any meaning. They do not seem to consider that if the Kashmir valley is still a part of India, it is by and large because of the sacrifices made by our security forces over the years. Instead, they would like the security forces to be withdrawn from the valley as far as possible.
All this is not to belittle the argument that more than economic empowerment, long-term social integration of the Kashmiri youth is crucial to thwart their collective radicalisation. But then, in doing that, it must be borne in mind that the process will take a long time and require tremendous resources. And during this process, the Indian democracy will be forced to sacrifice some freedoms for the security, unity and integrity of the country. We cannot afford to make Kashmir another Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. We cannot let Kashmir turn into another hotbed for religious extremism of the Islamic State variety. All told, these misguided radicals may be targeting the security forces and the Hindus today, but time is not far off when they will start attacking the Shias, Buddhists and liberal women as well.
In a nutshell, the need of the hour is effective counter measures not only against the Kashmiri radicals’ friends and mentors like Pakistan and Islamic State internationally but also against their sympathisers in Delhi. In fact, these sympathisers in Delhi are the bigger threats than Pakistan and IS to Kashmir’s integration with India.
By Prakash Nanda