ByÂ Karmanye Thadani:
While this series has so far examined how the Kashmiri Muslims can be engaged with to identify with the idea of India on a very basic theoretical note, the biggest practical obstacle would be the pain of the Kashmiris who have suffered at the hands of the Indian state. These gross human rights violations have, in fact, have acted as a major catalyst and in some cases, even the basic cause of an anti-India sentiment in the valley. Human rights violations by our military and paramilitary personnel in the valley, in the form of indiscriminate killings, fake encounters, rapes and forced disappearances, with almost all the perpetrators having gone unpunished is indeed a serious issue (the recently discovered mass graves are a matter of national shame for us, Indians) and if we want Kashmiri Muslims to completely identify themselves as Indians, then the Indian state would have to be just in this respect. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the statute misused by these men in uniform, must be made to undergo several amendments (to help ensure that the military and paramilitary personnel responsible for human rights violations are punished), if not repealed altogether, and the process of demilitarizing the valley must be gradually started to win their trust.
A transitional justice mechanism must be put in place with the guilty brought to book and even if that doesn’t reap much of a result, the Indian state must certainly sincerely apologize to the people of the valley for the gross human rights violations that have taken place and by amending or repealing the AFSPA, it shall at least try to ensure that the same shall never recur.
However, the process of imparting justice should not be one-sided. If possible, the families of those Kashmiris, Hindu and Muslim, who refused to join the separatist movement identifying themselves as Indians, and had to pay for it with their lives, should also be imparted justice by punishing the militants responsible for these inhuman killings, for if it was self-determination they (the militants) believed in, then they should have respected the plurality of political opinions in the valley, and even if they did not identify themselves as Indians or adhere to Indian law, they still ought to have adhered to international human rights law and international humanitarian law, or even the ten rules of warfare laid down by Abu Bakr, Prophet Muhammad’s companion. The Indian state has a moral obligation towards those who gave up their lives for identifying with it. Besides, the militants inflicted atrocities not only on those Kashmiris who identified themselves as Indians but even with the average Kashmiri to extort money or other such purposes, and such crimes too should not go unpunished if possible. If punishments cannot be awarded owing to practical reasons, the Indian state owes these people a sincere apology.
Kashmiri Hindus should not be forgotten in any resolution of the Kashmir issue, nor should the Muslims and Sikhs outspoken in favour of India, some of whom also left the valley owing to the threat to their lives, and Kashmiri Sikhs have demanded that the displaced from their community (though most Kashmiri Sikhs are still in the valley and they were not targeted for their faith when the Kashmiri Hindus were) too be accorded the same benefits as the displaced Kashmiri Hindus, a very fair demand indeed. I happen to know a Kashmiri Sikh doctor who was working in the valley. Even at a time when the ISI-backed Khalistan Movement was in full swing in Punjab, he very publicly expressed disgust at his Muslim colleagues celebrating Pakistan’s Independence Day (that was the time quite a few Kashmiri Muslims wanted Kashmir to join Pakistan, unlike now when an overwhelming majority favour a Kashmir independent from India as well as Pakistan) and marking India’s as a day of sorrow, physically removing a black badge his Muslim colleague was wearing on the 15th of August, leading to a threatening phone call that made him leave the valley the very same day, leaving all his valuables behind.
The authentic representatives of the Kashmiri Hindus displaced from the valley are neither those virulent, ultra-aggressive elements like Ashok Pandit, nor supporters of the separatist movement like Sanjay Kak (and there have been Kashmiri Hindus supporting the cause of the secession of Kashmir from India right from when the movement surfaced, a prominent historical example being Prem Nath Bazaz), though to be fair, those of the latter category have never claimed to represent the Kashmiri Hindu community and concede that they are a minority within it. Most of the educated Kashmiri Hindus that I have interacted with mostly lie somewhere in between, being pro-India themselves but not demonizing Kashmiri Muslims collectively (but definitely the militants who killed innocents from their community) and respecting, though disagreeing with, their demand for azadi.
Recently, owing to my writings on Kashmir (which, even like this series, are not heavily oriented only towards sympathizing with the Kashmiri Hindus and which never demonize Kashmiri Muslims), I was invited by a Kashmiri Hindu cultural centre in Delhi for a screening of a documentary by Ajay Raina, a Kashmiri Hindu, and to my surprise, the film dealt with the subject of how the Kashmiri Muslims living in the villages just near the LoC on both its sides were suffering, with their contact with their friends and even close relatives on the other side severely hindered, and the film only had a few oblique references to Kashmiri Hindus! I was the only non-Kashmiri present and all others were Kashmiri Hindus, except one Kashmiri Muslim (who is of the azadi-seeking variety and is the journalist I mentioned in the previous article in this series), and him being invited is indeed a big deal.
The Kashmiri Hindus present there were objective enough to praise Sheikh Abdullah for his statesmanship and they, without mincing words, condemned the human rights violations in Kashmir by rogue elements in the Indian Army, besides criticizing some people from their own community who now go about demonizing Islam as a faith and Muslims as a community out of a sense of resentment! I guess that if at least some of the militants who drove them away from their homeland would have heard this, they would have perhaps inconsolably cried, realizing they (these Kashmiri Hindus retaining their objectivity in spite of what they went through) were not the ‘enemies of Islam‘ or ‘RAW agents‘ they (the militants) had thought of them to be.
Several generations of the Kashmiri Hindu community have grown up outside the valley and have taken up jobs or started their businesses outside it, and most of them now would not be interested to go to the homeland of their ancestors to start life afresh. But those of them willing to do so have every right, and in spite of Geelani opposing their resettlement in the valley in clusters idiotically calling it a devious ploy suggested to India by the Mossad, the intelligence agency of Israel (not surprising coming from a man who offered prayers for Osama bin Laden calling that terrorist a martyr), many Kashmiri Muslims would like their fellow Kashmiri brethren of a faith prevalent in the valley even prior to the advent of Islam, to return. In fact, many have and some Muslims in the valley have welcomed them by erecting temples for them, and recently, a Kashmiri Hindu woman was elected Sarpanch of a village in the valley, which needless to say has a Muslim majority. This religious tolerance lying at the very heart of Kashmiri culture also lies at the heart of the broader Indian culture with both Hindu and Muslim elements; if culturally, Kashmir is a part of India, why should it not avail of this booming Indian economy by asserting its association with this civilization in the political context as well?
[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author:Â The author is a freelance writer based in New Delhi and 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.Â To read his other posts, click here.[/box]