Kashmir has become the petri dish of the 21st century and thus it shall be viewed by political scientists of the future. What would challenge their concepts of a modern state is not where state and religion may cohabit neither detracting from the other, but to what extent a state may let religion its free exercise of its hold on their believers. Religion is self expression of belief and it must remain where it belongs as springboard for impulses and actions that which could be best expressed for the common good of the society. If prayer is a cornerstone of one’s belief- system praying to his god or Allah or whatever that he may be instrument of peace to all and conducting himself to live at peace makes him serve his private belief and the requirements of the state. Instead to use certain passages from here and there and sow discord and disaffection to all and sundry must be practicing a religion of hate. Looking at what goes on in Kashmir I wonder if a mixture of state and religion have not been applied wrongly. As a preface I only need to compare her early history and now.
Kashmiri culture,melting pot of many faiths
Historically The Muslims and Hindus of Kashmir lived in relative harmony, since the Sufi way had much in common with the Rishi tradition of Kashmiri Pandits. Hindus and Muslims revered the same local saints and prayed at the same shrines in the former times and this was but one example that their culture didn’t require man’s belief as a hurdle for acceptance. Their culture, I mean Kashmiri culture, had absorbed from various belief-systems Hinduism, Buddhism. Later in 1349 Shah Mir became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir. For the next five centuries, Muslim monarchs ruled Kashmir, including the Mughals, who ruled from 1526 until 1751, then the Afghan Durrani Empire that ruled from 1747 until 1820. That year, the Sikhs under Ranjit Singh, annexed Kashmir. In 1846, upon the purchase of the region from the British under the Treaty of Amritsar, the Dogras—under Gulab Singh—became the new rulers.
We can see fortunes of this state followed the turn of history as followed elsewhere- and the only pivot that history revolves upon in true sense of the word, is on changes.
If under the rulership of Hindu kings were grievances by any particular section the aggrieved parties had recourse to change what was evil. History shows Kashmir tolerated their rulers both good and bad and their culture, arts and literature were never in danger of annihilation. From all records set down by the historians, travelers and officials we do not see systematic extermination of the minorities and their way of life in the state as we have seen of the Jews and Gypsies under the Nazi Regime.
Law is paramount-The Act of 1947
It is true Jammu and Kashmir has a Muslim majority population. As with changes being the only course of history it is neither special if at present Islam is practiced by about 67% of the population of the state and by 97% of the population of the Kashmir valley,. Against this in order to put the demographical changes in perspective, we need to account for Buddhists and Sikhs as well. According to political scientist Alexander Evans, approximately 95% of the total population of 160,000–170,000 of Kashmiri Brahmins, also called Kashmiri Pandits, (i.e. approximately 150,000 to 160,000) left the Kashmir Valley in 1990 as militancy engulfed the state. According to an estimate by the Central Intelligence Agency, about 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits from the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir have been internally displaced due to the ongoing violence. The state of Kashmir under the union of India cannot be treated as altogether another entity since the Indian Independence Act 1947 gave rise to the creation of two new nations: the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. This Act had validated Pakistan and India as well as voided the British suzerainty over the 562 Indian princely states. According to the provisions of this Act these states were left to choose whether to join India or Pakistan or to remain independent. Jammu and Kashmir, the largest of the princely states chose India and the provisions laid in the Act have been met. Period. The fact that there is a predominantly Muslim population or it was determined by a Hindu ruler (Maharaja Hari Singh) do not invalidate the union. To sum if Pakistan is a nation so is India and the state’s choice also legally correct.
In October 1947, Muslim revolutionaries in western Kashmir and Pakistani tribals from Dir entered Kashmir intending to liberate it from Dogra rule. Unable to withstand the invasion, the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession that was accepted by the government of India on 27 October 1947.
Now in order to understand what ails Kashmir we need to separate those players who have no right to be there whether in the form of ideologues or as fighters. For example what is the interest of Al-Qaeda in a purely internal issue? If they want to organize a campaign of terror in Kashmir the only way that can be done is with the help of Pakistan. Apart from the majority of Jammu and Kashmir being Muslims there is nothing that legally binds India to entertain the interference of Pakistan. When Mujahiddins were being armed and trained in Afghanistan against Soviet Russia in the Eighties it was known that the Talibans were largely helped by Pakistan. We see its repercussions even now. Only that Pakistan is forced into a false position where they have to fight Al-Qaeda elements hiding in northwestern Pakistan. (Their collusion with Taliban in Afghanistan then has now created homegrown Taliban forces.) Therefore Al-Qaeda wants Pakistan to fight India on the issue of Kashmir. Thereby they reason it will force Pakistan to move its troops to the border with India and relieve pressure on them. (US Intelligence analysts say al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives in Pakistan-administered Kashmir are helping terrorists they had trained in Afghanistan to infiltrate Indian administered Kashmir. There is nothing that can verify reports from the media of Al Qaeda presence in the state. As it seems now it is a proxy war waged by Kashmir militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pakistan. It must be noted that Waziristan has now become the new battlefield for Kashmiri militants who were now fighting NATO in support of Al-Qaeda. Kashmir issue has now owing to run of events that originally had nothing to do with Kashmir state or India as a Republic have become free for all. It is not politics but religion as interpreted by some that hogging up the headlines.
After Islam what then?
From experience it has been brought home with regards to the Kashmir issue in a chilling manner, terrorism has completely kept away the focus so a new trail is impacted into the sub-continent where religion may if allowed would do away with geographical boundaries that was sacrosanct earlier. An Islamic crescent from Europe to Russia straddling Asia is what some extremist Islamic groups harbor in depths of their hearts. (Instead of tolerance and harmony that were natural impulses in the hearts of Kashmiris irrespective of their religion we see hardening into set opinions and ill will. Under such a mindset mischief of extremists is easier done than cured.) What happens to such nations wrenched out violently from their political history when Islam finally becomes a spent force as Christianity is now. ( It is my belief that religions may have two millennia to run their course). This is what would interest the political scientists in future.
I hope the present Indian government will take the lesson of the blunder of the Vajpayee government when on Dec 24th, 1999 Indian Airlines IC 814 from Kathmandu to Delhi was hijacked to Taliban-controlled Kandahar airport in Afghanistan. The drama lasted a week exposing the weak kneed approach of BJP led government and it has caused more serious damage in the years to come. Five high profile terrorists in Indian prisons were released to secure the lives of the Indian passengers on the flight.
One of the released terrorists, Masood Azhar, went on to start the terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed, that killed hundreds of Indians — security personnel and innocents — in later years. Also it gave another innocent victim, the American journalist Daniel Pearl. India need to know that appeasement of terrorists is not an intelligent option.
Finally much has been said about validity of Jihad as legitimate Islamic requirement to turn the world into Darul Islam. Al Koran do speak of Jihad but its interpretation as intended would mean different for different people. My essay is with special reference to the state of Kashmir enjoying special privileges under the Union of India as no other states enjoy. On what basis shall these know-all apply? Is Jihad to be waged against the past and for hospitality of the host nation? Those who are sure of their Koran may ask if hospitality of people,- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and their way of life that allowed Muslims to prosper and live in amity are to be paid back with ill-will and rancor?