Dear Razdan and Raina saheb,
I read your article (Dear Ravish, you brilliantly made visible the darkness on TV – but you got one detail wrong).
I have never been to Kashmir. Not as a tourist, nor for reporting. After reading Rahul Pandita’s book, I do want to go there with him. I keep reading various articles on Kashmir that are published in newspapers. Thanks to some Hindi films made on Kashmir, I have seen a little bit of Kashmir. The mountains of Kashmir, Chinars, Jhelum and snow. Exactly 10 days ago, I saw snow for the first time in my life. And that too in the United States, not in India. I have been to one public discussion on Kashmiri Pandits. That is about all I know of Kashmir in my life.
I do not have any special understanding on the Kashmir problem. Despite that, I have done television programmes on Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandits. Now I am left wondering if after seeing those programmes, they were left pulling their hair.
I got to learn a lot from your article on what I said about the Kashmir problem and Islam. I can’t recall if any minister, prime minister or commentator has called the Kashmir problem a problem of Islam. If it is indeed a problem of Islam, it should certainly be so characterised. I neither disagree with what you said nor am I offering any critique. It is possible there is another aspect to what you have stated, but I do not know. Therefore, I would like to thank you for what I got to learn from your article.
Let me provide the full context of what I said:
They chant anti-India slogans in India every day. In today’s Indian Express, a police officer is quoted as saying that if we start arresting people on a daily basis, how many will we arrest? Would you like to tell us whether the PDP-BJP (People’s Democratic Party and Bharatiya-Janata Party) arrested any one who chanted anti-India slogans? If yes, how many? Every day some one or the other there waves the Pakistan flag. Some even go to the extent of waving the terrorist organisation ISIS flag. The Kashmir problem has nothing to do with the Muslims living in other parts of India. The Kashmir problem is not the problem of Islam. The Kashmir problem has its own complexity. It is best left to the governments. Now I am left wondering if after seeing those programmes, they were left pulling their hair.
The above is not in response to your criticism but to provide the context for what I said, though the contexts too could be wrong. When I said what I did about Kashmir and Islam, I had the same doubts as I do about what I have written above: Am I right? I kept going back to that sentence and tried to erase it. But in the end, it remained. So I take responsibility for what I wrote and spoke.
But why did I write it if I was not sure? Whatever I said was simply to make the point that the Kashmir problem has often been used in a communal way in north India to target Muslims. This politics of communalism attempts to make Muslims in north India look suspect by labelling them as supporters of Kashmiri separatism. The same politics also exploits the question of Kashmiri Pandits by communalising it. I cannot claim this with full conviction. It is possible that these organisations have actually done something significant for Kashmiri Pandits. This should have crossed my mind that my show would be watched by Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmir Muslims.
The purpose of delinking the Kashmir problem from Islam was to say that its complexity should not be seen only through the prism of religion. If it were a problem of Islam, the Muslims from the rest of India would have made it an issue. Some organisations might have done it, but is it possible to equate the Muslims of India with the Muslims of Kashmir? The two are far removed from each other when it comes to ideology, behaviour and political issues, despite the fact that they are both Muslims. Yet the slogans that are shouted in their streets are:
Doodh maangoge to khir deNge/Kashmir maangoge to chiir deNge
If you ask for milk, we will give you kheer but if you ask for Kashmir we will cut you up.
It seems that the one sentence I wrote has been taken as a statement. This is not wrong. But do you still derive the same meaning that you have critiqued when you read it in context? It is possible indeed that I failed to provide context for it or it was circulated in social-media without any context. It seems to me, though, that this sentence does stand-out by itself and that’s why perhaps it rankled in your eyes. Along with you, many others wrote to register their protest, but no one explained it in detail. Your article has added to my understanding a great deal, and thank you very much for it.