The dangers of communalising the issue of Kashmir

By Sajad Hassan Khan and  Ishrat Mushtaq Malik for

A new trend has begun in the politics of Kashmir-away from the hitherto practised stance-that of using religion for political and economic gains. The leaders governing the state are obsessed with a monomania to loot it and fill their own coffers like the snarling stray dogs on streets. Power by all means possible is their only motto and this power gained through the use of religion as a support base will prove to be fatal.

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Communalism, in any form, is dangerous and disastrous whether we denigrate one or eulogise the other. After the traumatic exodus and bloodshed during the 1990s, developments have given the political parties several inflammable issues for exploiting communal passions for their political gains. The former C.M of Jammu and Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah, when questioned about the recent unprecedented violence during the by elections of Srinagar Constituency which left 8 civilians dead, answered with a deep communal overtone: “communal elements in India are changing the situation, It is PDP and RSS-backed coalition which is responsible for the spates of violence in the valley”. But, in fact, he too was contesting the same elections! He too had campaigned like his opposition counterparts, and he too had aligned with the RSS-backed BJP in the past. Viewing such incidents as a product of communalism propagated by the opposition is simply a digression from the real cause of the problem- which is totally geopolitical, and eventually misleading the masses by using a religious card for gaining a vote bank. Also, it is this sentiment thrust from above which pushes much more into the vortex of following violent radicalism arguably as a Hobson’s choice.

The religious interpretation given to these conflicts may be uppermost in the minds of the men involved, arising from the fact that religion is the most obvious rallying factor or the most emotional distinction between them and the persons they are fighting (here PDP and BJP) or the interpretation may be implanted in their minds by propagandists intent on arousing communal antagonism. In the case of Kashmir, not highlighting the religion of the ruling party (which is Islam, hence no divisive implications over the Muslim majority state), but relating it to the religion of its coalition partner-BJP.

By posing himself as a “saviour of Islam”, Abdullah, in fact, is choosing to indulge in the cynical use of religion (the herd mentality of RSS majority phobia). To Abdullah, Muslims in Kashmir are supposedly single, cohesive community; to which they devote their loyalty-paying little attention to whether the individuals are religiously ardent, tepid, orthodox or liberal or atheistic, righteous or vicious etc. Kashmir is a multi-religious society, but not at all a multicultural one. In raising and making supreme the majority religion of Kashmir, he confuses, if not suppresses, every other issue-political, social, economic and even religious.

“Yes, I am fighting not only for Islam but for the entire community”. Such proclamations may fill the vote banks, polarise the Muslim majority of Kashmir, but it will certainly alienate one section: that of our Pandit brethren-physically, morally, psychologically. One is astonished, on what basis are the Muslims of whole India categorised as a homogeneous community? Also, the claims of fighting for them seems at odds with reason when, neither Muslims of India are a homogeneous community, nor have they anything in common with the Muslims of Kashmir, except religion. They differ in social, political, economic, environmental, cultural and psychological needs, wants and desires. Dubbing the distinct Muslim communities of India as one, though religion being the only binding factor of this heterogeneity, doesn’t it impede the rational classification of society? Doesn’t it ignore the real socio-economic and political grievances of the masses? Such religious based categorization of the society may prove fruitful in some other political sphere but not under the ”prevailing” democratic setup. The word “prevailing” to be understood in a nominal and more logical sense.

Making the fight against “tyranny and fascism” as its by-poll electoral manifesto, which, right now, for Abdullah is the pivot of RSS ideology, one wonders how had these two cardinal pillars (tyranny and fascism) of the Sangh ideology vanished all of a sudden and the NDA government(1999-2004)that of a different thinking, though following the same ideology.(The Hindu Interview). And that NDA-NC coalition, as events suggest, was not impressive either, neither free of communal rancour. Isn’t changing the interpretation for personal gains a clear-cut politics without ethics?

When the masses in Kashmir rose against the oppressive and absolutist rulers to get rid of their social, economic and political sufferings (1931-1932), the trouble was presented to the world as a communal disturbance, because the inhabitants of Kashmir are mostly Muslims and the Prince and the ruling class happen to be Hindu-thus undermining the real causes of conflict.

Mere politicking would do nothing, neither would communalization of politics. One needs to look at the Kashmir question without making it just the India-Pakistan question or a religious question, it is not just these two. It is like a jigsaw puzzle; the jumble of socio-economic, political and cultural underpinnings. It is about the atrocities perpetrated against the population of all the provinces alike , of the thousands of missing youth, of the widowed women, of the raped girls or the blinded children etc.

This calls for looking into the Kashmir question by transcending the “conventional ways” and adopting some new ways of looking into the bewilderingly complicated nature of the enduring tragedy. Is this problem as intractable as it has thus far been? Who are the global players behind this enduring tragedy? Can’t we expose the forces in order to lay bare the ground realities which are far away from what the rest of the world is being led to believe? Is this the fate of Kashmiri’s or the politicking of the political leaders

Various kinds of national and regional political formulations have been milking this tragedy in most rapacious manner. These political parties need to be exposed, and for all this to happen, civil societies within Kashmir as well as in rest of India and the world needs to be strengthened to serve all such purposes. Now that the religious card has triumphed in the by-elections of Srinagar constituency, let’s not once again become the scapegoat of this new trend.

The authors are currently pursuing Masters in History at the Aligarh Muslim University