Dear Ravish Kumar,
These are dangerous times for centrists standing smack in the middle of a right-left slugfest. So let us start with a quick self-inoculation.
- We are for free speech. Both for Kanhaiya Kumar and for Urdu editor Shireen Dalvi.
- We think government seriously erred in its handling of the JNU issue, and the vigilante justice that followed inside court premises, supported by passions inflamed from some TV studios and apparently condoned by powers that be, is disgusting and dangerous for Indian democracy.
- We think some of the slogans that were raised in Jawaharlal Nehru University are beyond the pale and I know we all agree on that part.
- We think the good fight put up by some journalists against what is increasingly feeling like Emergency-on-steroids is commendable.
In fact, to emphasise the last point above, let us tip our hats in the direction of your "Conscience of an anchor" programme by paraphrasing Cavafy:
When Indians are in a mood to boast, they’ll say
“It is men (and women) like those our nation breeds.”
That’s how great their praise will be.
But please allow us to point out one significant detail that you got wrong: You said, “The Kashmir issue has got nothing to do with Islam”
We think the Indian media and the mainstream journalists in Delhi have been rather too squeamish and selective in seeing the Kashmir dispute as not driven by Islam being deployed for pure politics.
If we look at the struggles in North East, Balochistan, Tibet, Tamil Eelam and even Palestine we should be able to make out what makes Kashmir so different.
Any Indian journalist now – rightly – critical of Modi’s Rightist agenda could not have missed that, particularly if he's worked in Kashmir. Though Kashmir is undeniably a political issue, yet the use of Islam in seeking a resolution for it is a carefully articulated and practiced ideological strategy to mobilise the masses.
If this is not about political Islam, then how are the events going on in India about Hindutva?
The Kashmir Valley-centric, Muslim-majoritarian demand for secession of Kashmir from India is a communal demand rooted in belief in the two-nation theory.
SAS Geelani, one of the leading and unwavering advocates of Jammu and Kashmir’s secession is also a long-standing central pillar of Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir. To its credit, Jamaat-e-Islami has never made any bones about it being an Islamist organisation that advocates Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan on the basis of Islamic faith followed by majority of people in Kashmir.
The fig leaf of Azadi blows away every time “Narae-e-takbir, Allah hu Akbar” reverberates in a secessionist rally in Kashmir. Allow us to translate it for you – “Shout out the phrase, Allah-is-Great”. This phrase has its rightful place amongst the believers in a mosque, but when it is shouted in every secessionist rally, no amount of obfuscation can hide the truth that for secessionists, Azadi from secular India is in the name of Islamic faith of Kashmir’s Muslims.
The ‘secular’ JKLF
As for the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, or JKLF, the other heavy lifter of ‘azadi’, the less said the better. For a group purporting itself to be secular, they had an unusual way of showing it – by bumping off prominent Kashmiri Pandits selectively and with such barbarity that almost entire Kashmiri Pandit community left Kashmir over the first few months of 1990 to save their lives.
The Kashmiri Pandits did not support the Islamist demand of the secessionists and hence were not deemed worthy to be carried along to the new world of ‘Kashmir banega Pakistan’ (Kashmir will become Pakistan).
But 1990 was not the only time the tiny minority of non-Muslims were targeted for their religion. In fact, the process of cleansing out the non-believers had continued through massacres of Hindus and Sikhs who had stayed put in the valley for various reasons. The last such massacre happened as late as 2003, during the first term of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as Chief Minister.
It wouldn’t be out of place to mention here that of the 40,000 Pandits remaining in the valley after the mass exodus of 1990, only 3,000 odd remain in Kashmir today.
It is also no accident that the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, the amalgamation of political, social and religious organisations seeking Jammu and Kashmir’s secession from India is composed mainly of only Sunni Muslims of Kashmir valley. There is no participation of Dogra, Pandit, Sikh or Ladakhi (Buddhist or Shia Muslim) people of J&K in this organisation.
We are actually amazed that 26 years down a humanitarian, political and socio-economic crisis, the actual and true nature of the separatist movement still needs to be even explained to many prominent and secular people in India who though very prescient and vocal about the ebb and flow of political situation in Delhi and elsewhere, remain in denial about the same kind of majoritarian instinct in Kashmir. It is as if, the exodus of Pandits, the massacre of Hindu and Sikh minorities in the villages of Kashmir, Doda, Kishtwar, Jammu and elsewhere, the persistent communal tensions and communal provocations to engineer a divide between the communities and the desire to cleanse all minorities from Muslim majority regions does not add up to their definition of what makes this "azadi" movement blatantly communal.
Even today, the secessionists on the streets of Srinagar thumb their noses at government and security forces not by hoisting some flag of Secular Independent Kashmir but that of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the ISIS. It should be plainly obvious by now to all that the only one road that links Kashmir’s secessionist movement to Pakistan, is Islam.
Ravish, we apologise if this comes across as nitpicking in what is otherwise a seminal and tremendously significant telecast, but it is indeed central to understanding the secessionist sentiment in Kashmir and something that both the leftist and liberal discourse has either played down or just got wrong.
Hanooz, now that Dilli is no longer door ast for propagators of “azadi”, it is all the more important that it be understood that the desire for Islamist political dispensation is sine qua non of Kashmiri secessionist movement.
As Walter Cronkite would say, “And that’s the way it is.”
Rajesh Razdan is a software product management professional. Ajay Raina is a documentary film maker.