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Debating Islam ( 15 Aug 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Kashmir: They forget their history

By Arif M. Khan


The Kashmir Valley people seems to have sacrified their unique culture at the altar of separatism


Kaabe mein budkade mein hai yeksan teri zia

Mein imtiaze dero haram mein phansa raha


(The divine light equally illuminates the Kaaba and the house of idols (temple), but woe to me that I remained obsessed with the differences and distinctions between the two)


(Allana Iqbal)


Jonaraja, the 15th century chronicler of Rajatarangini, has recorded an interesting dialogue between Sultan Shihabuddin (1354-73) of Kashmir and his Minister, Udaysri. The Minister had suggested to the King to melt a grand brass image of the Buddha and use the metal for minting coins. The infuriated Sultan remarked: "The past generations have set up images to obtain fame and even merit, and you propose to demolish them. Some have obtained renown by setting up images of Gods, others by worshipping them, some by duly maintaining them and some by demolishing them. How great is the enormity of such a deed."


The words were the Sultan's, but it was the soul of Kashmir speaking through him. It is a soul that is steeped in the ethos and morality of the Rishi Movement. Kashmiris, regardless of their religious affiliation, revere Lalleshwari (Lall Ded), the wandering Saivaite mystic woman, and Nund Rishi, (Sheikh Nuruddin) the Muslim saint. This Guru -- disciple duo of the 14th century have deeply impressed the collective Kashmiri psyche. Their sayings in simple Kashmiri language are short, sweet, inspiring and laden with moral and spiritual insights and are described as the 'pearls of Kashmiri literature'. Two small couplets could help us appreciate their life-long mission and the humanism they instilled in Kashmiris.


Lall Ded said:


Shiva abides in all that is, everywhere

Then discriminate not between a Hindu and Muslim.


Nund Rishi said:


We belong to the same parents

Then why this difference

Let Hindus and Muslims worship God alone

We came to this world like partners

We should share our joys and sorrows together.


This is the glorious heritage of Kashmir; a heritage rooted in the concept of fellowship of adherents of various religious traditions. It is true that the history of Kashmir mentions about the excesses of Suha Bhatt, an overzealous neo-Muslim minister of Sultan Sikandar, but same accounts show that Rishi Nuruddin boldly stood against 'forced conversions and orthodoxy'. Till date, the name of Rishi Nuruddin commands respect and inspires Kashmiris, whereas Suha Bhatt has been relegated to the dustbin of history.


The recent blooper by the J&K Government in the case of the Amarnath shrine, when viewed in historic perspective, clearly shows a stark contrast between the inanities of government and the sanity of public mind. The Muslim family of Buta Malik has been guarding the Shrine of Amarnath since 1850 and looking after the devout pilgrims. But the government of the state charged with the responsibility to look after the welfare of any visitor not just the pilgrims shamefully abdicated its duty in the face of threat from the divisive and separatist elements.


On behalf of the outgoing government it has been asserted that the order diverting land to the SASB was revoked "because of mischievous propaganda." Further, it has been asserted that "while revoking it, the Cabinet gave an equally good order which should have been hailed by the Hindu community. As per the Cabinet decision, the Government made full commitment to discharge all responsibilities of undertaking the creation of required infrastructure and facilitating the welfare, safety and security of pilgrims during the entire period of the Yatra."


The issue at stake is not about some facilities for the pilgrims or lack of it. In fact the mindset of pilgrims is such that they equate physical discomfort with religious merit. But the crucial question is whether the governments will take their decisions on merit or vacillate whenever faced with communal and separatist threats. To dub these threats as 'mischievous propaganda' is itself mischief and an attempt at diverting attention from the real aim and object of forces inimical to the unity and integrity of India. Secondly if those who were at the helm of affairs knew that the opposition to the 'land order' was nothing but 'mischievous propaganda', then they should have exposed the mischief by firmly enforcing their decision. It defies all logic that the government should revoke its decision under their pressure and thus vest them with enhanced credibility and respectability.


George Santayan has said that "progress far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." If there is one basic lesson that we can learn from our recent history is that you cannot ensure peace and harmony by accommodating the demands of communal and separatist forces. All through the first half of twentieth century we were given a choice between accommodation and separatism, we kept making accommodation and finally we had accept full blown separatism in the form of partition of the country.


Similarly, in 1986 when the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Shah Bano was opposed, the government succumbed to the pressure and decided to bring a new legislation to render the court judgment ineffective. On that occasion it was worth noting that every Minister of the Government who stood up to speak in Parliament defended not the new measure on merit, but talked about intelligence reports and apprehended threats to the security. The result is for everyone to see, the threats have increased multifold, the politics has become totally communalized and Congress that had more than 400 seats in Lok Sabha has never recovered since then. The present imbroglio created by the Jammu and Kashmir government is another Shah Bano in the making and can have very serious and unpredictable consequences for the country if corrective measures are not taken at the earliest.


Finally it must be said that the common man should not be made to suffer on account of the follies of politics and politicians. It cannot be accepted that the good commonsense of Indians has come to an end. India is gifted with the quality of producing right man at the darkest hour to retrieve the situation. The situation is grim but there is no reason to give up hope and confidence that we shall come out of this mess and shall emerge as a nation more united and integrated.


As far as Kashmir is concerned, the eclectic and syncretic teachings of the Kashmiri Rishis had produced a tremendous social, moral and spiritual movement and fashioned a distinct Kashmiri way of life, that was almost totally free from any communal hatred or violence. It was not just the physical beauty but the peaceful Kashmiri way of life that Kashmir gained the reputation of being paradise on earth. The last two decades of violence and terrorism have caused a temporary setback to centuries old Kashmiri values of peace, harmony and goodwill, but again there is every reason to believe that the ever living influence of the Rishis shall reassert itself to claim the paradise back to its old way of life.


--The writer is a former Union Minister

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This is Kashmiri baiting at its worst

By  Sajjad Lone | Chairman, J&K Peoples Conference


If the outcry against land transfer revocation was 'anti-Hindu' then why aren't Hindus all over India protesting? The ongoing blockade is an act of war against the Kashmiri nation.


The Amarnath Yatra has been facilitated by the Muslims of Kashmir for nearly two centuries now. The Yatra had was going on in both the colonial and post-1947 periods. The relationship between the Yatris and the people of Kashmir came into existence before the current geographical concept of India came into existence. The people of Kashmir treat the Yatris as their revered guests and are honoured to host the yatra.


The Government passed an order in May 2008 transferring approximately 100 acres of land to the Amarnath Shrine board. The people of Kashmir resented the land transfer order as it amounted to gross interference between the guests (Yatris) and the hosts (Kashmiris). The people of Kashmir agitated and the government relented and revoked the order.


Now we have an agitation in Jammu where the demand is to cancel the revocation order. Where does Jammu come in? In the entire history of the Amanath Yatra have the people of Jammu ever conducted the yatra? Did they ever make a demand that land be transferred to the Amarnath shrine board? A dispute arose between government, the people of Kashmir and the Amarnath shrine board -- which was duly resolved. Jammu was never a party to that dispute.


Now, if it was not a party to the dispute why should it be bothered about its outcome and start agitating ? One of the arguments being put forward is that the agitators in Kashmir were Muslims protesting against transfer of land to a Hindu shrine. Assuming this is true -- why are only the Hindus in Jammu protesting. If people of Kashmir have shown disrespect for a Hindu shrine, Hindus all around India would have protested. It is not a matter of Hindu versus Muslim, neither is the agitation in Jammu pro-Hindu. It is plainly a reflection of anti-Kashmiri venom.


The current agitation was initially facilitated by the state administration and now it seems to have gone out of hand. It is a free for all. Fanatic versions of Hindu demagoguery are openly on the show across Jammu. Rhetoricians are being pooled in with the help of Hindu nationalist parties to vitiate the environment and ensure communal turbulence.


The anti-Kashmiri venom in Jammu has been allowed to foment by the state administration and only after active facilitation have the hooligans and vandals been able to impose an economic blockade on the people of Kashmir. The economic blockade by the hooligan sections of the Jammu society is an act of war against the Kashmiri nation.


If a nation is forced into starvation by imposing a blockade it is an act of war. There is an unofficial embargo against the Kashmiris. Economic blockade constitutes an instrument of economic warfare as per international law. This particular mode of war has been historically used by sovereign states and by the UN Security Council. The only difference in the current economic blockade is that it is perhaps for the first time that hooligans and not sovereign states are imposing and enforcing an economic blockade. Economic pressure is being exerted in order to gain supremacy in the conflict. Even the most fascist states have exempted medicines and essential items from an economic blockade.


The current economic blockade imposed on the Kashmiris nourishes no such pretensions. Even baby milk powder and medicines are not being allowed. The export of horticulture products like apples has been strategically stopped to demolish the horticulture industry by ensuring that the apples are stranded into rot. This reminds us of the demolition of the horticulture industry of Gazans including the famed strawberries when Israelis enforced an economic blockade and strawberries worth millions of dollars rotted away.


The roots of the current malaise can be traced to coercive demography. The current demographic set up in the state of J & K is a hangover of the colonial era and has not evolved naturally. While the demographic structure in the colonial era was tailored to suit the erstwhile Maharaja of Kashmir. Post-1947, the demography was left unchanged to suit the political interests of the Indian state. The majority of the inhabitants of Jammu district, Kathua district and Udhampur city do not ethnically identify themselves with the rest of the state of J & K. These three areas have been redefined as the Jammu region and areas with intense Kashmiri ethnic roots like Doda, Bhaderwah, Kishtwar, Poonch, Rajouri, Basholi, Bani, Gool, Arnas have clubbed along with the Jammu region. This serves the purpose of marketing the concept of mismatch in regional aspirations.


So, if Jammu and Kathua agitate, the marketing version is that the entire Jammu region is agitating. Even in the current agitation it is only the two districts of Jammu and Kathua and Udhampur city which is basically on the boil.


The solution to the current conflict does not lie in resolving the land deal issue. The land deal issue is a convenient excuse and typifies the symptom not the disease. Treating the disease would mean allowing the nurturance of demography, defined by history and ethnicity.


Source: The Pioneer, New Delhi