By Karmanye Thadani:
We may right at the outset acknowledge that Kashmiri Muslims who are patriotic Indians do exist but are a tiny minority that has decreased in number, owing to being targeted by the militants and also because of the excesses by Indian security personnel that has led to strong anti-India resentment (though on the other hand, some, but certainly not all, Kashmiris from the minority Shi’ite sect of Islam who were pro-azadi have turned pro-India because of the rise of more hardline versions of Sunni Islam in the valley, an example being a close family friend of ours); so, talking of the majority of Kashmiri Muslims who have harboured a secessionist sentiment, they can be classified into the liberals and the Islamists (Islamism is not to be equated with Islam per se but with the totalitarian ideology of imposing what are supposedly Islamic values and having a suspicious or hostile attitude towards people of other faiths, with its more extreme versions labelling them as enemies of Islam; it is to Islam what Hindutva is to Hinduism), though this classification is not very steep and there are also quite a few in the latter category pretending to be the former.
The liberal Kashmiri Muslim separatists present a narrative of taking pride in the long history of Kashmir predating its Islamicization and how Kashmiris have never liked to be ruled by others. They consider the invasion of Kashmir, which was by then predominantly Muslim, by the Mughals, also Muslim, to be the beginning of its political subordination, which continued under the Afghans, the Sikhs, and later, the British (even though it wasn’t directly under their control being one of the princely states), and which has continued till date with India and Pakistan ruling parts of it respectively. They condemn the killings of the Kashmiri Hindus and pro-India Kashmiri Muslims by separatist militants and envisage a Kashmir independent from both India and Pakistan, which would be a secular state and they exhibit a jingoistic fervour arguing that this secularism would undoubtedly sustain itself.
They pride themselves in the pluralistic character of Kashmiri Sufi culture which accommodates Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs, and some (not all) of them project Kashmiri Muslims as epitomizing religious tolerance as against Indian Hindus who, in their eyes, subjugate the Muslim, Sikh and Christian minorities, citing examples of riots against religious minorities in India, though such a narrative ignores that though any killing of innocent civilians is indeed wrong, many of these were backlashes against violence initiated by some people in the religious minorities themselves, such as the burning of the S-16 coach in Godhara by Muslim extremists, the murder of Swami Laxmidanada Saraswati by some people from the Christian community or the killing of innocent Punjabi Hindus by Khalistani terrorists culminating in the murder of Indira Gandhi, and these liberal Kashmiri separatists are, in this sense, indeed not very different from their Islamist counterparts. Interestingly, a recent article titled Sorry, Kashmir is Happy, on how Kashmiris are enjoying normalcy (this article annoyed separatists no end), was written by the noted Indian journalist Manu Joseph, who isn’t a Hindu but a Christian, and India has produced many prominent public figures in diverse fields from the minority communities.
Many (not all) of these liberal separatists also advertise the nonsensical conspiracy theory that Kashmiri Hindus were really not all that under threat (of course, since Kashmiri Muslims are the very epitome of religious tolerance!) and Governor Jagmohan had them displaced to malign the Kashmiri Muslims and so that he could suppress the Kashmiri Muslims more easily without the Kashmiri Hindus being caught in the cross-fire, though the fact is that while Governor Jagmohan was indeed at least morally responsible for several mass murders such as the CRPF firing on the peaceful demonstration on Gawakadal Bridge and such gross human rights violations must undoubtedly be condemned in the strongest terms, Kashmiri Hindus were indeed fearing for their lives with some of their co-religionists already having been killed and loudspeakers from mosques asking them to leave, and so, the threat to their lives was no exaggeration.
As regards their Islamist counterparts, they range across a wide spectrum, from those who would like Kashmir to join Pakistan (a minority now but the over-arching figure of the Kashmiri secessionist struggle, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, still advances this view not shared by most Kashmiri Muslims, including Islamists, though most separatists have great regard for Geelani for his commitment to the cause) to those who would like an independent Jammu and Kashmir to be an Islamic state with no pubs, discotheques or even coeducation. For many of these Islamist separatists, hatred for India, USA and Israel is an article of faith, and their narrative of the Kashmir issue is all about a Hindu India subjugating a Muslim Kashmir, rooted in the partition of India. The primary reason most of them would not like to join Pakistan is that Pakistan is in a very unstable condition; else, the creation of Pakistan amounted to the liberation of the Muslims of undivided India for them, unlike the liberal separatists whose narrative stresses on Kashmiris being a distinct nation from Indians, whether Hindu or Muslim, in a basic sense. The Islamists would usually overlook, condone or justify the killings of the Kashmiri Hindus by separatist militants or bring up the conspiracy theory discussed earlier, depending on the level of the extremism in their outlook.
The next article in this series shall engage with the contentions our government and civil society should put forth while engaging with the liberal Kashmiri separatists.[box bg="#fdf78c" color="#000"]About the author: The author is a freelance writer based in New Delhi. He has co-authored two short books, namely ‘Onslaughts on Free Speech in India by Means of Unwarranted Film Bans’ and ‘Women and Sport in India and the World’.To read his other posts, click here.[/box]