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Kashmir: Kashmiriyat vs. Islamic Fanaticism


By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Text of a speech in Geneva at a seminar on self-determination issues in South Asia, in a side-event organized by Inter-Faith International during UN Human Rights Council’s June 2010 session.

14 June 2010

The people of Kashmir have suffered immensely since the Pakistani invasion of their land soon after Partition in 1947. India took the matter to the UN Security Council to persuade Pakistan to stop aggression and make arrangements for returning the territory it had occupied. Security Council asked Pakistan to withdraw its forces from Occupied Kashmir within 90 days. But Pakistan has failed to do so till date. The Security Council too failed to get Pakistani aggression vacated. It was India that gave the People of Kashmir the right to self-determination, though it did not need to do so under the provisions of the accession document that the ruler of that princely state had signed to be able to invite Indian forces and help the state fight Pakistani aggression.  The Maharaja of Kashmir was supposed to accede to either India or Pakistan following Independence from the British colonial rule and he chose to accede to India since Pakistani forces invaded his state despite having signed a standstill agreement, according to which Pakistan had agreed to respect the Maharaja’s rule and not do anything alter the situation. Pakistan having violated the standstill agreement, the Maharaja did not have much of a choice and acceded to India.

But since then a large part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir has remained occupied by Pakistan. Political leaders and other public figures from different parts of Pakistan occupied Kashmir have kept coming to the UN Human Rights Commission and now the Council over the years with their tales of woe, detailing how they have been deprived of practically every human right, political, economic, cultural,  in the areas under Pakistani occupation. But to no avail. Instead of listening to the voices of people under its occupation and mending its ways, Pakistan merely sought to extend its area of occupation in Kashmir by first fighting wars with India and then fomenting cross-border terrorism and secessionism in the last couple of decades, though it had agreed under the Simla agreement to resolve the issue bilaterally and peacefully. This has led to untold miseries and sufferings for the people of Kashmir.

But the greatest disservice Pakistan has sought o do to Kashmir in my view is damaging the distinguishing feature of Kashmir that made every Kashmiri proud, its Kashmiriyat. The state of Jammu and Kashmir had a deeply composite culture, shaped by its mystics, the Sufis and the Rishis. These Sufis had enormous influence on the minds of the people of all religions and were revered and followed by all. Take the mystical verses  of Hazrat Nuruddin Nurani, for instance, which have had great influence in shaping the Kashmiri literature as much as the general mindset of common Kashmiris.   He deals, with a range of subjects, from submission to God to championing the rights of the oppressed. He says:

On God's Omnipresence

            God is one, but has a hundred thousand names.

            Even a small blade of grass is drowned in His remembrance.


On Realising God

            Abandoning all else I sought You.

            Searching for You, the day turned to night.

            I searched within and then realized You,

            And from then on, I have understood myself and You.


            He is near me and I am near Him.

            I found solace in His nearness.

            In vain did I search for Him Elsewhere?

            Lo! I found the Beloved within my own consciousness.


            The universe is the objective manifestation of the essence of Shiva.

            If you realise this by annihilating your self, you will be merged into Him.

            What will you do after death if you do not realise Him in this world?

            Search for Him in your self and pay heed to what I say.

            If you realise what God's Unity is,

            Your self shall evaporate.

            The light of Unity shines everywhere,

            But the intellect cannot grasp it.

            Who is he who can drink up this ocean?


On Communal Harmony


            Children of the same parents,

            When will Hindus and Muslims cut down the tree of dualism?

            When will God be pleased with them and grant them His grace?


            We all came into this world as brethren.

            One lives in a palace, another in a hut.

            Still, as brothers we came here all,

            But now we are strangers and foes to each other.

            O God! When will this ever cease?


            We belong to the same parents,

            Then why this difference?

            Let Hindus and Muslims worship God alone.

            We came into this world like partners.

            We should have shared our joys and sorrows together.

Hailing from this background, as Jammu and Kashmiris do, it seems strange that Pakistan thinks it will succeed in foisting on them leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani of Jamaat-e-Islami through the terrorist instrument of Hizbul Mujaheden who says that all Muslims must strive for and live in an Islamic state alone. The octogenarian leader of Kashmir’s separatist movement says: Our goal is azadi baraa-e-Islam (freedom for Islam).  Indeed in Geelani's perverse mind, Muslims can only live in an Islamic state. "It's as difficult for a Muslim to live in a non-Muslim society as it is for a fish to live in a desert," he wrote some time ago in his prison memoir Rudad-e-Qaf, thus stirring up a debate on Islam’s compatibility with other faiths.

There are hundreds of millions of Muslims living in non-Muslim majority countries, in peace and prosperity. But Kashmiri leader’s words can only give solace to those in many of these countries who are seeking to foment Islamophobia.  Clearly if Muslims cannot co-exist with people of other faiths, then they would want to convert others to their faith or create trouble in some other way. This is clearly absurd and Muslims have no problem co-existing in multi-religious, plural societies. But Pakistan is prepared to go to any extent to extend its borders on either side. It is prepared to have and indeed succeeded for a time in having a Talibani state in its west to give itself what it called strategic depth. It also sees no harm in seeking to create another Talibani society on its east, and hope to control it in some way.

Of course, it doesn’t matter to the strategists in Rawalpindi’s military headquarters what the impact of its support to Talibanism will be on the Muslim world at large or on Kashmiris. It says it supports self-determination for Kashmir. But what about self determination for the Kashmiris under its own occupation ? Or the Baluchis or Pashtoons or Sindhis, for that matter, who all deserve self-determination?

Obviously Pakistan is hardly interested in self-determination for Kashmiris or any other people. This morally bankrupt state is playing another and a very dangerous game. It has come as no surprise, therefore, to the knowledgeable observers of the region that a report published only yesterday by a leading British institution, the London School of Economics, maintains that Pakistani military intelligence not only funds and trains Taliban fighters in Afghanistan but is officially represented on the movement's leadership council, giving it significant influence over operations. The report also said Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was reported to have visited senior Taliban prisoners in Pakistan earlier this year, where he is believed to have promised their release and help for militant operations, suggesting support for the Taliban "is approved at the highest level of Pakistan's civilian government." Earlier than this, In March 2009, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General David Petraeus, head of US Central Command, had said they had indications that elements in the ISI supported the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Let us hope that at least now the international community comes to realise that rather than helping it in the war on terror, Pakistan’s real agenda is to create Islamist radical states on both its eastern and western flanks. Let us beware that this policy of encouraging Islamic radicalism and exclusivism is also fuelling Islamophobia around the world.  As for Kashmiris, it wold be best for them to focus again on their Kashmiriyat, the gift of Sufis and Rishis, the mystics of the land. Kashmir is too diverse, too multicultural, a land, to imagine turning into a Talibanised state. Clearly Kashmiri people on the Indian side of the Line of control have by and large realised this already and turned away from Pakistan-inspired secessionism and Islamic fanaticism. In the last several elections at both state and central level, they participated enthusiastically and have had their own freely elected governments in the state ad representatives in the central cabinet as well. It is this trend that has probably unnerved Pakistani military strategists into restarting support for cross border terrorism after a brief lull. But hey are apparently finding it very difficult now that Kashmiris have had a taste of what lies on the other side of the border.