The subcontinent of South Asia has inexorably been developing into a cauldron of violence ever since the origins of Islam in Arabia and its steady expansion to the east. Here it clashed with Hinduism a religion that was an antithesis of Islam and over the centuries this unhappy mix has been smoldering and has now reached a point where there is likely to be a furious conflagration. During the course of the history of this subcontinent there have been many watersheds, ever since the advent of Islam into this region. The first serious clashes took place in the hot plains of North India when the Muslim armies clashed with the Hindu Rajput rulers. After some fierce battles, the Hindu peoples settled under the kings of the Muslim Sultanates of the earlier dynasties of the Slave kings, until the Mughals stabilized a Caliphate in North India. The Mughals after Aurangzeb declined and the dynasty petered out.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, thought that since the road to Jammu from Amritsar would have to pass through Gurudaspur district, Jammu and Kashmir would automatically fall into Pakistan’s hands.
When the British East India Company was ruling the country, there was a second watershed between Hindu and Muslim cultures. This was the Sepoy Mutiny, when the rigid Wahabi philosophy was brought to India by Muslims who went for the annual Haj pilgrimage. While Hindu and Muslim sepoys were involved in the Mutiny against the British, the Sikhs and the Gurkhas did not side with the mutineers. The revolt was crushed and the British Government then took over the reins of the Government. The medium of administration was Urdu during the reign of the Mughals. After the British Government took over the reins of government after the Sepoy Mutiny, they changed the medium of administration to English. This had a major impact on the domination of the Muslims in administration. It was the Hindus who took to English education and who also took advantage of the hundreds of Catholic Convents and Protestant Mission schools that were set up by the Proselytising Christian missionaries both Protestant and Catholic. In a couple of years, the Muslim community had declined in Government.
The third flashpoint in this story took place when the British had to divide India between a secular India and a Muslim Pakistan. In the run up to independence, many Muslim scholars objected to the division of India between a Muslim Pakistan and a secular India. For many a Muslim hardliner India was a Muslim Caliphate. One such was Maulana Maudoodi, a Muslim scholar, who stated bluntly that there were three Muslim Caliphates in the world, Sunni Iraq with Baghdad as the Capital, Shia Iran with Isfahan as the Capital and the Sunni Mughal Empire with Delhi as the Capital. He left, a bitter man for Pakistan after raising a strict fundamentalist religious group called the Jamaat-e-Islami in the then undivided Punjab.
When India was partitioned on 15 August 1947, there was a bloodbath as the Muslims attacked Hindus and Sikhs who were hastily migrating to India from the just created Pakistan in the west. In East Pakistan, there was an impromptu migration of Hindus to India, who were attacked by Bengali Muslims. The killings of Hindus and Sikhs coming from Pakistan to India and Muslims who were fleeing to Pakistan were photographed by news reporters.
The fourth flashpoint in this story took place when the Maharaja of Kashmir a majority Muslim state opted for India after vacillating for a time. In the division of India into West and East Pakistan, districts of undivided Punjab, Rajasthan and Bombay provinces in the west and districts of Bengal, Assam and Tripura that would go to West and East Pakistan was first delineated. The districts in Punjab on the route to Jammu of the state of Jammu and Kashmir were Amritsar and Gurudaspur. It was decided by Cyril Radcliffe that the district of Gurudaspur would be going to Pakistan as it was a majority Muslim district. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the would-be Prime Minister of Pakistan was very happy at this as he thought that since the road to Jammu from Amritsar would have to pass through Gurudaspur district, Jammu and Kashmir would automatically fall into Pakistan’s hands.
The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir suddenly acceding to India after procrastinating for some time also upset the plans that Jinnah was having for the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Meanwhile Cyril Radcliffe mentioned in a press conference that three tehsils on the eastern part of Gurudaspur district would have to be taken out from the main Gurudaspur district and given to India. This came as a most unexpected bombshell to Muhammad Ali Jinnah because this meant that India would have a road axis to Jammu from Amritsar. This was the main reason for Pakistan jumping the gun and sending raiders consisting of Waziri tribals from the Northwest Frontier Province along with some Army regulars into Kashmir. The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir suddenly acceding to India after procrastinating for some time also upset the plans that Jinnah was having for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Since then Kashmir has been a running sore between India and Pakistan, over which the two countries have fought three wars in 1947, 1965 and 1971. Kashmir is still a festering sore between India and Pakistan.
The fifth flashpoint had its impact on Islam on an international plane. This significant event was the revolution in Iran in 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini replaced the Monarchy in Iran with an Islamic Government. This brought about an evocative stir among Muslims from Morocco in Northwest Africa across the subcontinents of Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and South East Asia. The countries affected were Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Somalia, all the Middle East kingdoms and Emirates, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. It is this Islamic revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini that saw the first suicide bombing by the Hizbollah, an insurgent group of Lebanon. It also produced the word jihad into the everyday lexicon of the Islamic fundamentalist.
The Russian invasion of Afghanistan and Pakistan’s journey to fundamentalism
In 1979 a jihad was organised by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) when Russia invaded Afghanistan. This call for liberation of an Islamic Afghanistan from the clutches of a Godless Soviet Union went out to the Muslim world from Morocco in the west to Indonesia and the Philippines in the east. The response was immediate and overwhelming with a call that Islam was under threat.
The momentous event in 1979—the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in1979—marked the rise of a new wave of Islamist movements which toppled the Shah of Iran and eventually drove the Soviet Union from Afghanistan and it was the enduring impact of the Iranian revolution and the defeat of Communism which precipitated the creation of over a hundred contemporary Islamist movements in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, the Caucasus, the Balkans and also in western Europe. Its founders had painstakingly built Al Qaeda al-Sulbah (the solid base) for the sole purpose of creating societies founded on the strictest Islamic principles. The Palestinian ideologue Abdullah Azzam conceptualized Al Qaeda in 1987. Defining its composition aims and purpose he wrote in Al Jihad, the principal journal of the Afghan Arabs: every principle needs a vanguard to carry it forward…It carries the flag along the sheer endless and difficult path until it reaches its destination in the reality of life since Allah has destined that it should make it and manifest itself. This manifest constitutes Al Qaida al-Sulbah for the expected society.
At the time of the invasion of Afghanistan by the Russians, Pakistan’s Afghan policy was conducted with the help of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami.
Azzam the ideological father of Al Qaeda was the mentor of Osama bin Laden. After co-founding the Maktab al Kidmat-il-mujahideen-al Arab or Afghan Service Bureau in Peshawar in Pakistan in 1984 Azzam and Osama ran it together for several years.
The Maktab-al-Kidmat-il-mujahideen-al-Arab received all the volunteers from Morocco to the Philippines who had responded to the call that Islam was in danger, housed them, armed them and organised their training to fight the Godless Soviet Army that had invaded Afghanistan. The project was financed by the United States and its chief architect was Zbigniew Brezizinski, the United States’ National Security Advisor. The fallout was the wave of Islamic fundamentalism in the form of the Taliban, one of the most virulent Islamic fundamentalist groups, the gift of the Deobandi version of Islam and the Al Qaeda, a product of the extremist Wahabi sect of Islam that sprouted from Saudi Arabia. Both the Taliban and the Al Qaeda have changed the character of Pakistan forever making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world. The Al Qaeda and the Taliban have destroyed the culture of Pakistan and rendered it into a state of turmoil and despair where no one can say when a suicide bomber will appear and blow himself up, where there are everyday shoot-outs between Islamic factions and where the gentle Sufi sect of Islam that was the grace of Pakistan is in danger of being wiped out.
It was the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Army that brought about a cataclysmic change in that country. Terrified of the godless Russian soldiers, the people of Afghanistan thought that under the Russians their very character would be changed. More than a million Pashtuns with their families fled to Pakistan. This sudden wave of refugees had to be settled in makeshift camps.
At the time of the invasion of Afghanistan by the Russians, Pakistan’s Afghan policy was conducted with the help of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami. At this juncture, the Jamaat-e-Ulema- Islam (JUI) set up hundreds of Madrassas along the Pashtun belt on the borders of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Baluchistan. The children of the Afghan refugees were all admitted to these Madrassas where they imbibed the JUI Deobandi philosophy. Among hundreds of JUI Madrassas opened, there were two that stood out. The first was a breakaway faction of the JUI led by Maulana Samiul Huq, whose Madrassa the Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania was in Akhora Khattak in the NWFP which became a major training ground for the Taliban leadership. Another sinister Madrassa was the Jamiat-ul-uloomi-Islamiyah located in Binori in Karachi with a capacity of 6000 talibs.
…the Pakistan Army and its Intelligence unit, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) tried its best to rouse the people to rebel against India by identifying dissatisfied elements.
Thus while the Islamic volunteers from Morocco to the Indonesia were fighting the Russian army in Afghanistan, the next generation of Islamic fighters was being trained in the JUI madrassas in Pakistan. These were the talibs, the children of the Pashtun Afghan refugees who had fled to Pakistan because of the Russian invasion of their country. They were to become the Taliban.
India’s blunders in Kashmir and the diversion of Islamic fundamentalists to Kashmir
It was when all this was happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan that certain events happened in Kashmir that gave Pakistan what they had tried so hard to do from 1947 onwards—to start a rebellion against India. In 1983, Mrs Gandhi, India’s Prime Minister was campaigning for her party, the Congress in Kashmir. She was not happy with Farooq Abdullah, who had been given the mantle of leading the National Conference the political party of Jammu and Kashmir by his father, Sheikh Abdullah.
Between 1947 and 1971 India and Pakistan fought three wars. Between 1947 and 1965, the Pakistan Army and its Intelligence unit, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) tried its best to rouse the people to rebel against India by identifying dissatisfied elements. All these have been chronicled in an excellent book by Praveen Swami one of India’s most brilliant and perceptive journalists on Kashmir. All these attempts failed. They failed because the groups were amateurish and the Kashmir Police succeeded in each case in detecting the mischief makers, arresting them and neutralising each attempt.
Considering the revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and its unleashing a wave of Islamic fundamentalism from Morocco to South East Asia and revival of Islamism among Muslims in all these countries, we should have handled Kashmir with kid gloves. The invasion of the Godless Soviet into Afghanistan and the reaction in the Islamic countries to this and the creation of the Maktab-alKidmat-il-Mujahideen-al-Arab should have alerted India to the consequences of this development Instead of that we blundered in Kashmir as will be seen by the underlying narrative.