Homeland Security

Forebodings in J&K over spring
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Issue Vol 26.2 Apr-Jun 2011 | Date : 18 Jul , 2011

The advent of spring in Kashmir is creating apprehensions in some quarters in the State. Will there be a repeat of turmoil and tension, which marked the post spring period from 2008 to 2010?

In 2008 serious trouble had arisen over allotment of land for camps for pilgrims to Amarnath. Thereafter, the death of two women in Shopian and the stone-pelters in 2010 had created considerable mayhem and law and order problems.

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The past one year, however, has also seen a steep drop in terrorist violence and infiltration from across the border. Also in recent times peace and quiet has prevailed in the Valley. The moot question is will the trouble-makers from across the border allow this state of tranquility to continue? It becomes imperative to determine the nature of the internal environment in Kashmir, which proves responsive to overtures from across.

Kashmiriyat provided a new brand of Islam in the Valley, the result of amalgam of Islam with Sufi and Hindu traditions and folklore. But Kashmiriyat in recent times also got compromised by Wahabi propaganda and foreign funding”¦

Pakistan is now a jelly state hovering on the brink of collapse. The world, including people in J&K now understand the dynamics of inner contradictions in Pakistan. The quality of life lived by people of POK is not what their ethnic and religious cousins living on this side of the Line of Control desire. The magnetism for Pakistan has diminished a great deal except for miniscule sections who are the beneficiaries of direct patronage of the Pakistani authorities. Therefore, the relevance of Pakistan today for the people of J&K state is much less than what it used to be in the years gone by.

The key questions today are the issues of alienation and autonomy. These two issues pose the maximum political challenges in Kashmir. To deal with these challenges it is necessary to understand the realistic parameters within which they arise. Most other problems in J&K, which exercise the minds of the people, are the product of mis-governance or non-governance, such as education, health, unemployment, development and security. Issues such as demilitarization, return of displaced Valley Pandits, reduction in police powers of the Armed Forces, are intrinsically connected with the dimensions of security. Human rights issues also arise with security operations. As security and governance improves in J&K, more particularly the latter, the dissatisfaction that gets generated on account of them, is bound to grow lesser and lesser.

However, alienation is not going to disappear altogether. The causes of alienation are sentimental and emotive. A religious fervour, among other things, could act as a trigger. A small section of people in India still nostalgically hopes for the annulment of partition. Pakistan is no longer the direct cause of this alienation. Whether or not Pakistan collapses and disintegrates, the sense of alienation that grips a slice of society in J&K is not going to get eradicated. Such alienation also exists in the rest of India wherever streams of sub nationalisms are operative. Thus, the larger problem is not alienation. One that is, is the demand for greater autonomy. The point generally missed out is how this demand feeds into the moods of alienation.

“¦the J&K state indeed already enjoys a much more advantageous position when compared to the other Indian states. These privileges are many more than what the Indian Constitution gives to some territories”¦

In examining alienation, another factor, not to be conveniently ignored, is the role of Islamic religious doctrines. Some of them are very rigid, allowing no accommodation. Through centuries of Islam in the Indian Subcontinent, the Hindu and Muslim communities have preferred to live in social and mutual isolation. Deep prejudices have been harboured on both sides. Inter marriages were regarded as taboo at the common level. Such exceptions as are now seen in the upper social classes still encounter large magnitudes of family resistance. Kashmiriyat provided a new brand of Islam in the Valley, the result of amalgam of Islam with Sufi and Hindu traditions and folklore. But Kashmiriyat in recent times also got compromised by Wahabi propaganda and foreign funding, aimed at disturbing the shadow of tranquility it had cast in the Valley for generations. The loss of tranquility to an enhanced militant profile of Islam became the direct cause of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits out of the Valley. It is difficult to say whether the old balance can be retrieved, paving the way for the return of the Kashmiri Pandits. Elsewhere in the Islamic world, also it has been observed that the minorities who leave or are driven out as refugees on account of religious excesses seldom return to their abandoned homes. Alienation ensures that the fate of the Kashmiri Pandits can hardly be any different. Alienation exists despite the large doles of money from the Government of India every year to Kashmir.

Differences between different schools of Islamic thoughts and sects are unlikely to influence the general nature of alienation in the Valley. Shias and Sunnis everywhere fight a raging battle against each other but such confrontations have no effect on their attitudes towards common enemies and adversaries. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria among other regions are prime examples of where such scenarios are being currently played out. It is also to be remembered is that the patience with Islam in other parts of the world, notably Europe and the US, is running out. European sensibilities of generosity, pluralism, secularism and detachment from religious bigotry, shaped by the values of renaissance and enlightenment, seem to be crumbling where Islam is concerned and a general view is surfacing that multiculturalism has failed.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Anand K Verma

Former Chief of R&AW and author of Reassessing Pakistan.

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