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Islam and Politics ( 19 Nov 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Peace in Kashmir (4)



By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

They Sat Together, Talked, and Then Departed

On 14th July 2001, the then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf arrived in Delhi. The reason for this visit was that the then Indian Prime Minister wanted that the geographical and political status quo in Jammu and Kashmir be maintained while establishing normal relations between India and Pakistan in all other matters. This was essential for the progress of both countries. But the Pakistani President’s demand was that, first of all, the status quo in Jammu and Kashmir should be changed, and, according to his claim, Pakistan’s right over the entire state should be accepted. Only after that would he agree to normal relations between the two countries. The Indian Prime Minister did not accept the Pakistani President’s demand. And then the talks between the two countries failed.

When General Pervez Musharraf arrived in India, he spoke; to begin with, in such a manner that it appeared that he had come to India with the intention of reconciliation. For instance, in a speech at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, he said that no military solution of the Kashmir conflict was possible. Similarly, at a press conference in Agra, he spoke about ‘acceptance of reality’. He also said that he had come to India with an open mind. Yet, later, without entering into any realistic reconciliation, he returned to Pakistan.

As far as I can gauge, General Musharraf apprehended fierce emotional reaction on the part of the Pakistani public, and that is why he could not enter into any reconciliation with India and returned home. According to one commentator, ‘General Pervez Musharraf knew that the emotionally-charged people of Pakistan, who cannot tolerate defeat by India even on the cricket pitch, would definitely not tolerate political defeat by India in Kashmir.’

This is no ordinary matter, however. The Pakistani President should have known that if he entered into a compromise with India on Kashmir, the Pakistani public would have considered it their political defeat and would have been very angry with him. But, on the other hand, not compromising and reconciling with India on Kashmir would only further worsen Pakistan’s woeful economic conditions, which would lead to the Pakistani public becoming even more disillusioned with General Musharraf.

In such a situation, the Pakistani President had to choose between two evils. Under no conditions could he save himself from ruining his political career. It was for him to decide which of the two was a lesser evil, and then choose it over the greater evil.

If I were to give my opinion in this matter, I would say that accepting the Indian position on Kashmir would have been opting for the ‘lesser evil’ for the Pakistani President, because it would have been tantamount simply to Pakistan acknowledging something that it had already lost. In return for this, Pakistan would have been rewarded with the opening of all doors of progress that have so far been closed to it. And if, on the contrary, the Government of Pakistan did not accept the Indian position on Kashmir and continued its undeclared war with India, the devastating consequence would be that not only would Pakistan continue to be deprived of what it has lost, but also, additionally, that Pakistan’s economic devastation, which is already intolerable, would only further worsen.

Auspicious Beginning, Ominous Result

Self-styled ‘Islamic’ groups in Pakistan and fundamentalists in India seem to be distinct from each other in terms of their beliefs. But at the practical level, both are almost identical. Both claim that they alone are the saviours of their respective countries. But the fact is that perhaps no one has caused more harm than they to their own countries.

The reason for this is that although both groups claim to be well-wishers of their respective countries, both are also extremists. And not even a single home, leave alone an entire country, can properly run on the basis of extremism.

Take the case of Islamist groups in Pakistan. These people have been active in Pakistan ever since 1947. They appear to have succeeded in getting many of their demands met. Yet, these successes of theirs have not brought about positive results, in the wider sense of the term, for their country.

One can cite several examples from Pakistani political history to substantiate this point. Here I will restrict myself only to the problem of Kashmir. In line with their particular mindset, Pakistani Islamist groups have labeled the Kashmiri movement not as a Kashmiri nationalist one, but, rather, as a jihad.

In a nationalist movement, practical realities are always the decisive factor. Because of this, nationalist movements always have a certain flexibility and allow for the possibility of adjustment. But jihad is a matter of religious belief. When something is termed as being connected to jihad, then people who are linked to it lose their flexibility and their willingness to accept adjustments. This is because with regard to jihad they believe that even if by following their present policy they obtain nothing, still their success lies in giving up their lives by doing whatever they are doing. In dying in the path of what they think is a jihad, they believe that they will directly reach heaven.

Developments show that secularist quarters in Pakistan are ready to adopt a policy of adjustment with India on the Kashmir question. But the Islamist camp in Pakistan is vociferously opposed to this. They have made this issue so emotionally-laden that many Pakistanis have now come to believe that whether or not they are able to reach and conquer Srinagar, they will certainly reach heaven by fighting in this path! In this way, the Pakistani Islamist groups have become a major obstacle in the way of Pakistan adopting a policy of adjustment on Kashmir, although history tells us that such a policy has always been the sole means for the success of any people or nation.

Now take the case of India. Fundamentalists in India are playing the same sort of negative role as Pakistani Islamists. Religious fundamentalism promotes among its advocates an extreme self-righteousness. A consequence of this mentality is that people who are infected by it develop tendencies towards extremism and fanaticism. Such people are concerned only about themselves, and care nothing at all about others. They think of themselves as right in all matters, and of others as always and inevitably wrong. They think that they alone, and no one else, deserves consideration.

After Independence, the fundamentalist lobby in India became very active. Here I would like to cite an instance with regard to Kashmir.

On the invitation of the Government of India, in July 2011, the then Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf visited India. On this occasion, he met with Indian leaders in Delhi and Agra. In the beginning, this programme of meetings seemed to give cause for hope. But later, a certain bitterness crept in, so that the meeting between Indian and Pakistani leaders ended without issuing a joint declaration. The Pakistani President’s visit had been a failure.

What caused this failure? According to me, one major reason was the inflexible attitude of some Indian fundamentalist leaders. Because of their particular mindset, they were unable to deal with the Pakistani President, and that is one reason why the meeting failed.

For more than half a century now, I have been of the opinion that they only possible solution of the Kashmir problem is for both countries to accept the current Line of Actual Control in Jammu and Kashmir as the established border between India and Pakistan. Obviously, this is a very bitter tonic for Pakistan to swallow. This is why in order to make this proposal acceptable one needs to act with great wisdom. Without this, it is impossible to succeed. You cannot win by insulting your opponent. But you can certainly win by showing appropriate consideration and love.

When General Pervez Musharraf came to India, he gave several hints from which one could estimate that he was ready for dialogue and reconciliation. He said he had come to India with an open mind. Visiting his ancestral home in Delhi, he indicated that he was an Indian on the basis of his birth, and that this was why he naturally had a soft corner in his heart for India. In his speech at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, he commented that there could be no military solution to the Kashmir dispute. At a press conference in Agra, he spoke about the acceptance of reality and the need for a step-by-step approach. And so on.

These sorts of gestures from the Pakistani President suggested that he was ready for a reconciliatory approach. He wanted to end the Kashmir conflict. But our leaders, owing to their fundamentalist outlook, could not cash in on his gestures. And so, a great potential historical event failed to happen.

Our Indian fundamentalist leaders should have known that irrespective of whatever agreement General Musharraf might concede to, he had to return to his country. Hence, they should have been very careful and wise in their utterances, so that when General Musharraf returned to Islamabad, he would not be greeted with black flags. But because of the inflexible attitude of our leaders and their unrealistic utterances, all talk of reconciliation suddenly and very dramatically evaporated. How something that started off on a very positive note ended up on a disappointing note was widely discussed in the media, and I do not need to deal with it here.

Resolving a conflict requires great wisdom as well as full consideration for the other party. When it comes to one’s personal interests, everyone knows how important this is. But when it comes to the question of national interests, people quickly forget this, as if they never knew anything about it in the first place.

The Work to Be Done

The history of the last few hundred years in Kashmir can be divided into three major periods. In the first period, the people of Kashmir were influenced by Sufis. The arrival of Sufis in Kashmir benefitted the Kashmiris in that they received the gift of Islam through them. The vast majority of Kashmiris converted to Islam. But for many Kashmiris, Islam became synonymous with culture. Most Kashmiris were wedded to the graves and shrines (dargahs) of saints. They took to reciting particular types of litanies with great care, as if that itself was Islam in its totality. A negative fall-out of this dargahi or shrine-based understanding of Islam or ‘cultural Islam’ was that no true, deeper understanding of Islam developed that could have enabled the people to see things in a proper and far-sighted manner. This unawareness made the Kashmiris vulnerable to negative politics that had no relation with authentic Islam. Neither did such politics provide the Kashmiris with any worldly benefit.

Islam provides Man with a spiritual centre. It teaches Man the appropriate method of worship. It provides Man with a Divine culture. As far as I know, the people of Islam learned about these aspects of Islam, but there was another aspect of Islam whose benefit they remained cut off from to a great extent. And this aspect was that of building up of the intellect. The education and nurturing of the Kashmiris was not done in a manner that would enkindle in them the proper Islamic awareness. It is perhaps right to say that while the Kashmiris got Islam at the religious level, they did not succeed in going far in terms of the transformation of their awareness on Islamic lines.

Stirred up by the slogans raised by some leaders, way back in the early years of the 20th century the Kashmiris began mobilizing against the then Dogra Raj. If this is looked at from the Islamic point of view, it was an emotional outburst. And so, we see that despite appearing to be successful, this movement played no role in the building of the Kashmiris’ future. The movement against Dogra rule was more the expression of the boldness of some political leaders than the expression of Islamic awareness in the true sense of the term.

After 1947, a new period of movements emerged among the Kashmiris. In this period, the people of Kashmir were influenced by two major movements. One was in the name of Secularism, and the other in the name of Islam. Both these movements, once again, were the products of the political aims of some leaders. They were not born of Islamic awareness in the real sense of the term.

After 1947, secularist leaders carried on their movement in the name of Kashmiri independence as well as in the name of accession to Pakistan. Some leaders benefitted from these movements by becoming famous and gaining in material terms, but as far as the Kashmiri public was concerned, they were running towards a non-existent target. These movements were completely pointless and futile—they had a beginning, but had no end.

Another section of Kashmiri leaders launched a movement for what they called ‘Islamic Kashmir’ and the establishment of the ‘Prophetic System’ or Nizam-e Mustafa. These people took the name of Islam, but they really had no assets, as it were, other than mere wishful thinking and emotionalism. They were driven by romantic emotions, and drove others, too, all the while imagining that they were moving in the direction of Islam. But the fact is that, leave alone benefitting Islam, their movement did not benefit even the Kashmiris in worldly terms. This world is a world of practical realities. Here it is not possible to gain positive results from emotional politics.

It is because of the failure of these movements that after 1989, the Kashmiri movement took to the path of violence. The violent and destructive movement that emerged among the Kashmiris was a result of their frustration. To begin with, they followed their foolish leaders on a completely pointless course. And then, when in accordance with the Law of Nature these movements proved useless, they became frustrated and agitated, and began an armed struggle.

The proper way now for the Kashmiris is to reassess their entire history. Admitting their past mistakes, they should make new plans for their future. It is a fact that the Kashmiris have lost their ‘first chance’. And so, now the only possible way out for them is to understand, in a very conscious way, what their ‘second chance’ is, and to willingly use it, and in the right way.

For the Kashmiris to embark on building their lives once again, they need to focus, in particular, on three things: education, economic development and Dawah.

The Kashmiris should abstain completely from politics and the gun. They must focus particularly on education, setting up educational institutions across the state. For at least 25 years, they should abstain from everything but the education of their children.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir has great potential for trade and industry. Till now, the Kashmiri Muslims have taken very little advantage of this potential. They must now focus on trade and industry.

The third field which the Kashmiri Muslims should focus on is Dawah. By Dawah I mean communicating the message of Islam to non-Muslims. In this regard, the Kashmiris have before them two very large fields of action—one being the non-Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir, and the other being the tourists who flock in large numbers to Kashmir.

If peace is established in Kashmir, the tourism industry will greatly expand. From the Dawah point of view, this would be of immense benefit, with people of different faiths coming in contact with the Kashmiri Muslims. If the Kashmiris avail of this opportunity in the right way, it would in itself suffice for their success in this world and in the Hereafter.

Kashmir, Replica of Paradise

Once upon a time, Kashmir used to be called Jannat-e Nazeer, which means ‘replica of paradise’. Many centuries ago, when a Persian poet saw Kashmir, he cried out:

If there is heaven on earth, it is here! It is here! It is here!

When in the past Kashmir was referred to a ‘replica of paradise’, it was not ruled by the ‘Kashmiri people’. It was ruled by the Mughals, and, later, by others, and then by the Dogras. In this entire period, Kashmir remained a ‘replica of paradise’. People would come to see it from all over the world. If in the Indian Subcontinent the Taj Mahal was the epitome of architectural beauty, Kashmir was the epitome of natural beauty.

From this history of Kashmir we learn that for Kashmir to be considered a ‘replica of paradise’ on earth, it was not at all necessary that it be ruled by a so-called government of the ‘Kashmiri people’. Governing power is actually a sort of political headache. Irrespective of whoever’s fate it is to suffer this political headache, Kashmir will remain Kashmir. The people of Kashmir need nothing for their progress other than their own constructive activities.

The Quran refers to everything that is related to what is good for human beings. But there is no mention of freedom (Azadi) or freedom (Hurriyat) in the Quran. This shows that ‘freedom’ is simply a deceptive term. It does not have any real meaningfulness. A clear practical proof of this is that today there are some 60 Muslim countries that, after immense sacrifices, won freedom. But, in reality, these countries are not free. What happened in these Muslim countries was that the fight against an external foe later transformed into civil war. This might well happen with the Kashmiris, too. Either they keep up their so-called war of independence, which is bound to degenerate from being an externally-directed war into a devastating civil war. Or else they end their present political conflict and focus all their energies on construction and progress.

In July 2001, I was in Switzerland for a week. This was for an international conference. The organisers of the conference took us to various places in Switzerland. There was an 80 year-old Kashmiri woman in our team. She was so overwhelmed by the beauty of Switzerland that she exclaimed, ‘Our Kashmir was once as beautiful as this, but today it is devastated!’

Who destroyed Kashmir? No Government was responsible for this. The sole responsibility for this is that of those foolish leaders who, with their emotionally-driven rhetoric, inflamed the Kashmiri youth and pushed them onto the destructive path of militancy. If these leaders had set these youth on the path of education and constructive work instead, perhaps Kashmir would have been even better than Switzerland today. But the incapable guidance of these incapable leaders so terribly damaged Kashmir that even an entire century will not suffice to make amends for it.

It is indispensable now for the Kashmiri people to completely abandon militancy and forever. They must adopt the way of peaceful construction. If the people of Kashmir do this wholeheartedly and sincerely, it would open a new and glorious chapter in Kashmir’s history

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