Sunday, July 27, 2008

Kashmir Dispute, Islam and West

Today Geelani, dubbed as ‘hardliner Islamist’ seeks nothing but UN intervention in Kashmir. And if New Delhi continues to push its agenda in Kashmir and the West continues its indifference, tomorrow fault lines may be different. Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir would have no choice but to safeguard their Muslim identity. What at present is a simple resistance movement is fraught with the risk of getting morphed into a Muslim resurgence against Hindu rule comments Naseer A Ganai

Kashmir dispute is a political dispute though its roots are in partition of the British India, which took place in 1947 on religious lines with formation of two nation States India and Pakistan. India described Kashmir as face of its secularism and Pakistan called it an unfinished agenda of the partition. But now in India there is a section that doesn’t perceive loss of Kashmir or autonomy and self-rule to Jammu and Kashmir State as cull-de-sac for India’s secular fabric. And in Pakistan, president Pervez Mushraff changed discourse forever when he stated Pakistani State would give preference to Kashmiris wishes over the interests of Pakistan. Kashmiris have all along fought for their rights seeking right of self-determination as guaranteed by the United Nations in its resolutions, despite the partition on the religious lines being root cause of Kashmir problem. Thus, Kashmiris have all along reposed faith in institutions created by the Western powers and are hopeful that one day the West would “realize its obligation to resolve the dispute.” The faith on the UN is so strong when in early 90s lakhs thronged to the Unites Nations Militarily Observers Group (UNMOG) in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, seeking UN intervention in the dispute, they were shouting pro-Azadi (pro-freedom) and interestingly pro-Islam slogans. They were handing over memorandums to the UNMOG observers asking the world body (United Nations) to play its role in resolving Kashmir dispute by implementing resolutions passed by it in 1950’s. 60 years down the line, the UN resolutions continue to guide struggle of people of Jammu and Kashmir. Perhaps no other community among Muslims in the world might have such a faith on the institutions of the West as Kashmiris. And whenever human rights abuses took place in Kashmir, Kashmiris never looked towards New Delhi or Islamabad for redressal of their grievances. They sought intervention of the Amnesty International, Asia watch and ICRC. Syed Ali Shah Geelani is the popular resistance leader of Kashmir who is being dubbed as “hardliner, Islamist.” He has never gone beyond UN resolutions. His “hard-line” stance commences at seeking resolution of Kashmir dispute according to the UN resolutions on Kashmir and ends at urging the world body (UN) to implement those resolutions. Mirwaiz Umar Chairman Hurriyat Conference and Mirwaiz of Jammu and Kashmir believes in result-orientated dialogue for solution of Kashmir dispute. He is the leader who sees positive US role in ending the dispute. And another separatist leader who prefers to call himself realist, Sajjad Gani Lone, believes in achievable nationhood. He came up with comprehensive document for laying out details how achievable nationhood could be achieved. Thus, the leadership understands Kashmir as political dispute and hopes that the West would understand Kashmir dispute as Muslim political dispute. This is also true about people of Jammu Kashmir. But the hope of the Western intervention has always deluded them. Mirdu Rai in her classic book on Kashmir “Hindu Rulers Muslim Subjects” relates an account of traveler. She says the traveler in Kashmir in closing years of Gulab Singh’s reign (Gulab Singh was first Dogra ruler) records the grinding oppression of that ruler and the poverty of ‘labouring people of Kashmir’ who still harbored the hope that the British would take over and bring them relief. “He wrote of how ‘some men weeding in a field looked up as he passed and called out: “Oh! Sahib! when is the company’s (East India Company) reign to commence? When are we to eat a little of this we labour for,” writes Rai. But the Sahib (British) who had sold Kashmir along with its people in 1846 through a sale deed to Gulab Singh was reluctant to intervene. In fact Kashmiris at one time stopped complaining to the British Resident in Kashmir against oppression of Maharaja (Dogra ruler) when they realized the Resident has clipped his own powers and he has no interest to intervene. Presently the Western powers are behaving like British Resident of the past. People visit them with complaints but they have decided not take any cognizance of them. This would have serious repercussion as some shortsighted elements in New Delhi have decided to change Kashmir as into a religious dispute. The recent controversy over State government’s decision of transferring nearly 40 hectares of forest land to the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, a Hindu religious body looking after Amarnathji Cave in Kashmir, has taken a serious turn. The Cave was earlier managed by the Muslim family and it was one of greatest symbol of communal harmony. Later the State government established the Shrine Board to manage pilgrims who visit the Holy Cave in a particular time for 15 days. But first thing the Board did was to oust the Muslim family from the affairs of the Holy Cave. Gradually, the former Governor S.K Sinha (Governor by virtue of his position is chairman of the Shrine Board) extended duration of pilgrims to two months and demanded land for the Shrine Board ostensibly to raise pre-fabricated structures for the pilgrims. He didn’t stop there. S.K Sinha sought his legitimacy to rule, and with active support from New Delhi, in his Hinduness. He not only confronted Kashmiris by re-inventing history but also showed disregard to his own government and legislators when they asked questions about the functioning of the Shrine board. He rebuffed them by simply by saying the Shrine Board couldn’t be questioned. People of Jammu and Kashmir particularly of Kashmir valley and Muslim dominated districts Jammu are seriously concerned about the land and demography of the State. The government decision to transfer land to the Board provided argument to their concerns. Thus, they came out in lakhs from June 25, 2008 upto July 1, 2008 shouting pro-freedom slogans and revocation of land transfer order. The government finally revoked the order on July 1, 2008, which was described by the protesters as first win by Kashmiris since 1947. But now it is not the question of 40 hectares. It is the question making whole environment as religious and communal. The chief minister of the State Ghulam Nabi Azad understood the situation more than anyone else when on June 25, 2008 he said “once the disputes are turned into religious disputes it becomes difficult to solve them.” The Governor Sinha has left. But he and his religious zeal to portray Kashmir as most sacred religious place for Hindus as set streets of Kashmir on fire. There were protests. Five persons were killed and nearly 1000 injured. Again the blood has been shed by people of Kashmir and this time for cautioning the government of India that Kashmir is a political dispute and it should not be turned into religious dispute. Ironically the protests of Kashmiris are being presented in different form. This time by Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), the largest opposition party in India. The British historians did same thing in past. Being guilty of selling Kashmir and its people to Gulab Singh, British didn’t try to rectify the wrongs. Instead, Rai writes, British historians did everything to dehumanize Kashmiris to justify their wrongs. They in one breath tried their best to legitimize the rule of Gulab Singh by portraying him as Rajput. Hence born to rule. On the other hand they tried to dehumanize Kashmiris by describing them cunning, week, coward and undeserving of beauty of Kashmir. Thus justifying every tyranny against them. In Today’s India if BJP describe concerns of Kashmir as off-shoot of Islamic fundamentalism and Parveen Swami (Parveen Swami writes for popular fortnightly left wing magazine, Front Line) explains recent protests on CNBC TV as “God’s problem” then it could lead to serious consequences. Everyone knows once disputed piece of land is turned into a religious place, it becomes hard for even an enlightened politician to go for its solutions. Religious disputes are civilization wars. They end up with concentrations camps, holocausts and annihilation of one civilization. If India claims Kashmiris have rejected Muslim league theory of partition and aligned with the secular India, does it mean Indian State and its shortsighted bureaucracy want culmination of “accession to India” by ending Muslim majority character of the State? Time has come that New Delhi should re-look at its Kashmir policy. It has to accept Kashmir as political dispute and then pave a way for its solution. The West has to understand Kashmir as Muslim political dispute rather than Islamic dispute and then play its role to solve it. Today the senior most resistance leader Geelani seeks nothing but UN intervention. Tomorrow the fault lines would be different. If New Delhi continues to push its’ what some analysts describe, Hindu agenda in Kashmir and the Western Institutions continue their indifference towards Kashmir, Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir would have no choice but safeguard their Muslim identity. The state must understand these hard facts. There would Muslim resurgence against Hindu rule. Presently it is simple resistance for solving Kashmir dispute.
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