India’s Argumentative Battle in Kashmir

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People of Kashmir only want peace, Peace and PEACE.

by Zaboor Ahmad      15/2/2018

Ever since 1947, India and Pakistan have laid claim to Kashmir and scholars continue to search and dilate the reasons for this intractable conflict between them. Apart from the argument of accession signed by the last Dogra Hindu king, Hari Singh with India; India has sought to keep the Kashmir on two ideological bases. First is the argument of secularism. For India secularism is an ideological antithesis to the two-nation theory on which Pakistan was established. Such a view is being held by the Congress Party. The second argument is that Kashmir has been historically a Hindu land with Muslim rule after 14th century only an aberration.
To buttress the secular thesis, scholars like Ashutosh Varshney in an essay ‘Three Compromised Nationalism’ remarks that Kashmir conflict is the fallout of three forces; religious nationalism, represented by Pakistan, secular nationalism epitomized by India and ethnic nationalism embodied in what is called Kashmiriyat. Pakistan tried to capture Kashmir in 1947, 1965 and 1999 but failed; it is now providing support to the various militant groups to liberate Kashmir from the jaws of India. But such a situation is fraught with serious consequences as it runs the risk of endangering the lives of hundred and fifty million Muslim who choose to stay in India despite the partition of India. It would engender the communal riots against Muslims. Moreover, it has the potential to empower the Hinduvta forces represented by Bhartiya Janata Party and its various organizations collectively called Sangh Parivar(Ashutosh Varshney: 127-129). Over and above this, it would legitimize the main argument that Muslims are traitors. Therefore to keep religious nationalism at bay, Kashmir must stay in India even if force is required to keep it. Kashmiri nationalism, as the argument goes is a subset of Indian nationalism, as it has decided to hitch its knot with India. When a respected economist Jean Dreze asked Indian Muslims whether the ongoing Kashmir conflict was in part a Hindu-Muslim conflict, the respondents emphatically replied no. (Kashmir: Manufacturing Ethnic Conflict, the Hindu, 29 March 2000).

The narrative of secularism as deployed by India and upheld by Ashutosh Varshney raises an important question is an Indian nationalism a monolithic force? It has never been a monolithic force but had three parallel streams; Aurobindo Gosh and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, V.D.Savarkar employed Hindu religious symbols portraying Muslims and Christians as exotic breeds represented the first stream. Second Muslim nationalism drawing on pan-Islamic ideas, third a secular represented by Indian National Congress but no hard and fast line could be drawn as some leaders had a secular and communal streak of nationalism simultaneously. (Eqbal Ahmad: 404-408)

A secular project of India as deployed to keep Kashmir with India is structurally flawed. Does it signify India is secular polity only because of Muslims? Or more precisely is it only the presence of Kashmiri people within India that it needs to be secular. People in Kashmir are being killed, maimed with the deliberate intention as it is the surest way to rule- as the population would get minimized while rule will perpetuate on maximally.

Coupled with the above secular argument is the religious discourse of Kashmir as upheld by BJP that Kashmir is a Hindu land notwithstanding the present Muslim majority character of the state. V.D. Savarkar, wrote Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? A compendious ideological pamphlet that seeks to unravel the roots of Hindu identity he developed a strong case for cultural and ethnic nationalism for Hindus and ultimately makes a strong claim for the ushering of a Hindu state. At the outset, one might ask; what was the need to build such an exclusive case of a Hindu identity? With an ever influx of foreign invading powers, Savarkar answers, the pure Hindu ‘self’ had inevitable transactions with the ‘non-self,’ and therefore, to maintain the exclusivity of the ‘self,’ the need for an identity or an exclusive name becomes concomitant for the purpose.

Hindutva is the movement for space and territory. These central coordinates are used to increase the catchment areas of god and goddesses exponentially. The recent anecdotes of cultural and religious usurpation of majority community have surfaced in Kashmir. So has been the move of Vishu Hindu Parishad, the organically linked militia of BJP to start the pilgrimage to Kowsarnag, mesmerizing lake and the fount of various rivers in kulgam, a south district of Kashmir. The Hindutva forces are hell bent to shrink the space for the performance of religious freedoms of minorities more particularly of Muslims and Christians while simultaneously it is lying claiming to new areas. Although limited in scope these projects and demands reveal that Hindu nationalist conception of power. They use state apparatus to fulfill their partisan demands. The state is called upon to intervene to make minorities respect Hindu culture and assimilate into it by swearing allegiance to its symbols of identity. What it entails for Muslims including Christians is confining their religious practices to the private sphere and engaging in the genuine process of acculturation.

How fairly are minorities treated in a secular state in India? This question has often discussed the treatment of non-Muslims in Pakistan. Comparison with Pakistan would be misleading as the question involves the citizens of India and not Pakistan.

Hindutva forces are still nostalgic that indigenous Kashmiri Islam, with its roots in the Sufi traditions, has been systematically supplanted by a rigid faith whose political goal is an Islamic state. Here Sufism for such forces is not a part of Islam, and it is considered to more tolerant. This transformation of Kashmiri Islam nullifies the possibility of a permanent Muslim rapprochement with the Indian republic. To offset the damage, a ‘programme for the demographic Indianisation of the state is inescapable.’ (Swapan Dasgupta:60-64)

India is demographically a Hindu majority state, and for all its talk of unity in diversity, it is intolerant towards its minorities. It has not desisted itself from orchestrating programs against the Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians in India. Kashmiris did not see themselves regarding Hindus and Muslims until they were classified for political purposes. Jagmohan, the former Governor of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, adopted pro-Hindu policies in Muslim majority Kashmir. He prohibited the slaughter of cow, renovated Hindu temples, brought down the number of Muslims in civil service replacing them with outsiders. In the context of the growth of radical Islam, the figure of Jagmohan cannot be overlooked. He planned to isolate the Kashmiri Muslims from the Hindu then violently deal with them. The Indian state has failed both Kashmiri Hindus and Kashmiri Muslims failing to account for the aspiration of both communities; it has however succeeded in driving them in a fundamental though hopefully not the irreversible way. (Natasha Koul:189)

Indian state raises the specter of an Islamic state that Muslims in Kashmir is in the making. It is essentially a political project. The interesting puzzle is how and who can accomplish it. On one front there are forces that use violence for the project. Terrorism is globally linked with Muslims. On another front whole Muslim community is involved albeit peacefully through the exponentially increasing population, love Jihad, etc. But it is not without reason.

Pathologies of violent Muslims legitimize the physical violence of the Indian security forces which is presented as necessary protection for the maintenance of the Hindu majoritarian Indian union. If India succeeds in both provoking local armed resistance and linking Kashmir resistance to foreign terror, it will acquire international sanction to continue its governing of Kashmir on the ground of national security. To assume that a Muslim majority state in Kashmir will be ruled by Islamist extremists in support of global terror reflects Indian racism and the depiction of Muslims as other and barbaric reveals the xenophobic of the Indian state. (Angana Chatterjee: 137-143)

If for the sake of argument Kashmir becomes free from India and Pakistan, the argument of endangering the lives of Muslims living in other parts of India reveals the communal nature of India towards Muslims. Kashmiriyat- the peaceful co-existence of Hindu and Muslims, in Kashmir valley, is often provided as the solution to Kashmir conflict as has been the policy prescription of all parties across the board in India. But such a policy is provided only for Kashmir not outside it, where communal conflicts between these two communities abound. It conveys Kashmiri’s must live harmoniously with Hindus in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and must not bother about the plight of Muslims living outside the state. Kashmiriyat and the talk of risking the lives of Muslims living outside the state are contradictory and make manifest the communal prejudice and xenophobia against Muslims.