Kashmiri separatists are isolated from reality Colonel Dr Anil A Athale (retd)

2 09 2008

source: Rediff.com

Colonel Dr Anil A Athale (retd)
September 02, 2008

The second part of Colonel Athale’s analysis of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir [Images]

Part I: Why Kashmir is up in flames

In a television debate, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah mocked a Jammu Muslim who supported the agitation. Little does he or others realise that the Muslims of Jammu have also suffered from the stupid government policy of appeasing the separatists and kicking the nationalists. Just one example should suffice. School teachers’ jobs in even remote Jammu regions go to Kashmiris from the valley. The teachers so appointed (at a good salary) are absent most of the time except on the first every month to collect their salary. The education levels among Jammu’s Muslims are abysmal. In a tehsil of Mendhar in Poonch district, for example, there is not a single graduate!

In Rajouri division, when I led a team of scientists ten years ago (in an attempt at bringing in horticulture technology to J&K to better people’s life), we were aghast to see a soil testing laboratory that had a clean look about it — all the equipment for soil testing was never used! This is the legacy of valley appeasement that the Jammu people revolted against.

The Hurriyat and other separatists, marginalised by the peace process, jumped into the fray, cried wolf and went back to the bad old days of shutdowns and marches to the United Nations office in Srinagar [Images]. A new innovation this time round was a call to march to and a threat to take their fruits to Pakistan. In a reversal of fortune the slogan of ‘Azadi’ (freedom) was replaced by the cry for merger with Pakistan.

Root causes of current unrest in Kashmir

The root cause of the present trouble in the valley is the fact that beginning in the 1980s the Sufi tradition of Kashmir has been on the retreat and in its place the virulent Waahabi/Deobandi Islam has become the dominant creed. Saudi money, the influx of mullahs from UP have dealt a death blow to the Kashmiriyat that took pride in tolerant Islam. The burqa, totally alien to Kashmir, made its appearance. Sufi shrines like the one of Baba Rishi at Tannemarg (on the way to Gulmarg) and Charar-e-Sharif were burnt down by the militants. Girls schools were destroyed and Ayesha Andrabi of Dukhtaran e Millat was emboldened to throw acid on girls daring to wear jeans. The State, such as it was, abdicated its responsibility and watched helplessly. This is the underlying cause of the present unrest — neither the use of force by security forces nor the so-called economic blockade.

The idea of Kashmiriyat today exists only in the minds of a lunatic fringe of candle carrying peaceniks and in the studios of politically correct television channels.

But it will be wrong on the part of the Indian State and even more for the Kashmiris to think that they can repeat the shenanigans of the early 1990s.

Changed geopolitics

The world, specially the West, has changed radically since 1989-90. The sole superpower was then in support of the Kashmiri cause, such as it was. BBC, the paragon of Western objectivity, repeatedly showed a clip of a toothless old Kashmiri woman shouting ‘We want Sharia’ in Kashmir. The US was bent upon teaching a lesson to erstwhile Soviet allies like India. Osama bin Laden was the blue-eyed boy of the Americans and Mujahids (Muslim religious fighters) were still basking in the afterglow of the victory over the Soviets in Afghanistan. The West had still to learn the disaster that awaited it by patronising the Waahabi creed.

The attacks on the US on September 11, 2001, changed all that.

One wonders if the Kashmiri separatists have noticed the absence of any comment from the West on the current happenings in Kashmir. Even the Pakistanis appeared surprised, though delighted, by the present happenings. The Pakistan Senate promptly passed a resolution condemning ‘excessive’ use of force by the Indians. It was comic since at that very time Pakistan was using helicopter gunships and fighter aircraft against its own tribals in the frontier area. The day the march to Muzaffarabad took place, over 50 Shia Muslims were killed in an attack on a hospital in Pakistan. Pakistanis were delighted that while Baluchistan and the tribal areas were in open revolt against the federal authorities, Kashmiris were clamouring to join them. Pakistanis were indeed grateful that at least someone in world thought that they were not a failed State.

But despite some noises, even Pakistanis seemed aghast at the movement in Kashmir. Thanks to the peace process and people to people contacts, most Pakistanis now accept the secular credentials of India. The average Pakistani is keen to establish trade, cultural and educational contacts with India.

Is there a way forward?

The valley Kashmiris’ outburst was and is like a reaction of a spoilt child who revolts irrationally when denied his demands. The reaction in Jammu was the first time ever that the valley people received a jolt. It is noteworthy that the troubles in J&K, of the separatist variety, are confined to Srinagar valley. It is the valley that is out of sync with the region and the world. There is no hope of any support to the irrational demands of a fundamentalist minority.

Neither the US nor UK wants another safe heaven for the Al Qaeda [Images] to come up in the subcontinent. Even China, which faces Muslim separatism, is wary. The Russians know what it is like to create another Chechenya.

Kashmiri separatists are isolated from reality. India must sit tight and not succumb to pressure tactics. After relative peace that Kashmir has got used to, let there be a dose of unrest for the Kashmiri to come to his collective senses.

Colonel Dr Anil Athale (retd) is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Fellow at the United Services Institution, Delhi [Images], and coordinator of the Pune-based Institute for Peace and Disarmament

Advertisements




Exiles in ghettos keep fire blazing SANKARSHAN THAKUR Agnishekhar Muthi (Jammu), Aug. 24: They live eight, often ten or twelve, to a room. To call th

25 08 2008
Exiles in ghettos keep fire blazing

Muthi (Jammu), Aug. 24: They live eight, often ten or twelve, to a room. To call them rooms is a stretch; hovels is more appropriate — barely six by eight, the asbestos ceilings knocked low over them, a vast and suffocating narrow-laned warren. They do with temporary power pulled on illicit lines, they have little access to water, they share unsanitary community bathrooms. They live marooned in the putrid discharge oozing from them, amid foraging pigs and pie-dogs.

These are Kashmiri Pandits uprooted from their Valley moorings two decades ago, and Muthi, on the forsaken outskirts of Jammu, is their home — a blistered tinderbox of frustration and rage, spewing communal pus. In Muthi, and other similar “migrant camps” littered around Jammu, could lie some of the clues to why this crisis has caught fires that refuse to die.

It’s so angry, it doesn’t even want to talk. “Go away, just go away,” protests P.N. Dhar, a former government employee and community leader. “What have you come here now for? To use us to douse the fires those (expletive deleted) Kashmiri Muslims are lighting up? Too late, now it’s our turn to light the fires, to get some notice from this country.”

Men from the ghetto have gathered around Dhar and it is instantly evident they have unspent payloads of fury and hatred accumulated over the years; they are now letting it off.

“This country has only been bothered about (expletive deleted) who carry Pakistani flags and spit on patriots,” says Sahabji Chrungoo, originally from Baramulla. “Nobody came when we were thrown out, nobody bothered when we were killed, nobody listened when we warned secession had gripped Kashmir. But how long could you have ignored it? This had to happen. If we have to light fires now to get attention, so be it. But this time, we will have it our way.”

As an unprecedented regional-communal conflict consumes the state, the Valley’s ousted Kashmiri Pandits have become Jammu’s sword-arm in battle. It’s a sword smelted in decades of unassuaged grievance and of rancour and prejudice. It’s a sword that has verily stabbed the celebrated and inclusive notion of “Kashmiriyat” to death and invoked in its place a ghoulish spectre of intolerance that threatens to extend the current rift.

Agnishekhar, convener of Panun Kashmir, the umbrella body of ousted Pandits, isn’t even remorseful or apologetic about pronouncing “Kashmiriyat” dead.

“What about it?” he asks combatively. “Where is composite culture when all Hindus have been driven out of the Valley, out of their homes and farmlands? They killed Kashmiriyat, not us. Don’t expect secularism of us when you are pandering to all shades of Islam and anti-nationalism in the Valley. Who is secular in the Valley that Jammu is being called communal in contrast? Those who are unleashing cries of Nizam-e-Mustafa (Islamic rule)?”

The Panun Kashmir leader won’t openly admit it, but the strident “Bam-Bam Bole” movement across Jammu is an hour of vindication that he is loath to let go of.

“We have been waiting for this for long,” he says. “Jammu didn’t exactly welcome us when we were driven out of the Valley in 1989-90, we haven’t had it easy here. But now Jammu seems to have understood what the problem with Kashmiri Muslims is, it has risen and we are with Jammu. This is not about land in Amarnath, this is about a deeper malaise of which Amarnath is only a symptom. Kashmir has held India to ransom for too long, now it is our turn. Half the Kashmiri leadership deserves to be put behind bars for sedition, we deserve to be reinstated to our homes.”

Does he realistically believe, though, that he and his fellow Pandits can make their way back to the Valley laden with such loathing? That they can even, in this surcharge, visualise the “yatra” to Amarnath proceeding next year?

“That is for the government to ensure,” Agnishekhar says. “Why does the law of the land not run in Kashmir, can Indians not go there? The government and secularists of this country have nothing to say of the anti-national Islamists of Kashmir, all they can do is blame us. What for? For agitating with the national flag?”

As his Muthi compatriots gather, a little clutch that has mushroomed in minutes, Agnishekhar, also a Hindi writer of fair renown, crossly throws off the burden of bigotry from his doorstep.

“I was once known as a progressive writer, until they threw me out for protesting the ouster of Pandits and began calling me a religious zealot. But should I not even protest my circumstances? Won’t you if you were thrown out of home? Hum aah bhi karen to ho jaate hain badnaam, woh katl bhi karen to charcha nahin hota (I get defamed if I so much as complain, they commit murder and yet get no blame).”

Agnishekhar claims no allegiance to the BJP or the Hindu rightwing, he’s been a Congressman all his life, paid obeisance to Nehru. He does concede, though, that today his worldview is closer to the Hindu rightwing.

“Where are Nehru’s children, where is the Congress, feeding the Muslim communalists of the Valley?” he asks. “It’s the BJP that helped us in crisis, if anybody did, we have to be grateful. And now we have to fight its battle to the very end.”

The assemblage behind him, virulently anti-Muslim and sporting saffron bandannas, is ominously nodding approval.