No short-cuts like Central rule or changes in the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act will win people’s minds in Kashmir. A firm demonstration to defeat jihadi ideology alone will turn the tide back
With the violence-wrapped low poll in the Srinagar constituency in Jammu & Kashmir, prophets of doom are back to their wretched business. Former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah called for the dismissal of the State Government and imposition of Governor’s rule.
More surprising is the reaction of P Chidambaram, Home and Finance Minister by turn in the Congress-led UPA regime. In his column in a multi-edition English daily, he said that the game was almost over for the country in the State. Short of asking the Centre to hand over J&K on a platter to the Pakistan-aided, financed and inspired Hurriyat clerics and Pakistan-trained militant separatists, the Congress leader has said everything else that should be music to Nawaz Sharif and his Army chief.
To begin with, low poll turnout, violence during poll, stone-throwing mobs etc, are not unusual for Kashmir. The Government in New Delhi has faced these repeatedly through the past decades. In November 1989, the turnout was five per cent in the elections held to the Baramulla and the Anantnag Lok Sabha seats. Mohammad Shafi Bhat, then of the National Conference, won Srinagar uncontested.
In fact, the present mess in the valley can be traced way back to 1930s when a young Sheikh Abdullah appeared on the Kashmir public scene after having been baptised into communal politics during his stint at Aligarh Muslim University. His fight against the so-called feudal order was a euphemism for jihad against a ‘kafir’ Maharaja. Today it’s against the ‘kafir’ regime of New Delhi.
The divisive Sheikh was in luck. His got support from both the British and one of the tallest men agitating against them, Jawaharlal Nehru. The British had a bone to pick with the Maharaja since he had extended tacit support to Indian nationalists at the Round Table Conference in London. Nehru was carried away by the anti feudal and ‘secular’ pretensions of the Sheikh and his personal dislike for the belligerent Maharaja.
In his autobiography, Flames of the Chinar, the Sheikh reluctantly admits, “The Maharaja had always appeared to be free from religious prejudices. He was close to his Muslim courtiers…” The Sheikh also recalls that after he had completed his FSc, his name was not in the list of the 22 candidates which was presented to the Maharaja who had recently a ascended the throne. The Maharaja “refused to put his seal of approval on the list, because it did not include a single Muslim name”.
Pakistan attacked the valley in October 1947. Since the ‘Maharaja’ was ‘secular’, his Army included a large number of Muslim troops. In the words of the Sheikh, “The Maharaja’s 13,000 men were deployed at the border near Muzaffarabad. This was a mixed contingent of Hindu Dogras and Muslims from Poonch and Mirpur. The latter were agitated because they constantly received news of the atrocities committed in Muzaffarabad by the Dogra army. Therefore, they revolted and joined the tribal invaders.”
The Sheikh mentions about “the atrocities” by Dogra troops to justify the betrayal by the Muslim soldiers. It’s a matter of record that the Pakistan Army in mufti and the Muslim tribals had indulged in loot, rapes and mass murders of local Kashmiries (both Hindu and Muslim) while advancing to Srinagar, against the Maharaja.
After a large chunk of his Army (mainly Muslim troops) had deserted the State, the beleaguered Maharaja signed the instrument of accession, merging J&K with India. A vindictive Nehru used the occasion to settle his personal score with the Maharaja, banished him to Mumbai and handed over the State to Sheikh Abdullah. While Pakistan wanted the Muslim-majority valley of Islamic Pakistan, the Sheikh was nursing an ambition to turn Kashmir into an ‘Islamic Sheikhdom’, ruled by his dynasty.
It took Nehru nearly five years to realise his blunder. In a secret operation monitored from Delhi, the Sheikh was arrested and his Government dismissed in August 1953. Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad was installed as a Chief Minister. Since then, the State has witnessed many ups and downs, including destruction of scores of temples during 1989-95 and forced exodus of Pandits in 1988-90. Now fast forward, to the present times.
The stone-pelting brigade is from the young and restless. One asks as to why even from prosperous Europe, young converts to Islam are moving into the Gulf Asian territory held by the Islamistjihadi forces and enter barbarism. The lure of jannat (paradise), full of all luscious temptations promised in the scriptures, motivates them to kill the ‘kafirs’ and also get killed in the process.
J&K is the most pampered State in the country. It has received 10 per cent of all Central grant given to States over the 2000-2016 period, despite having only one per cent of the country’s population. In contrast, Uttar Pradesh’s share in country’s population is 13 per cent and but received only 8.2 per cent of Central grant in the same period. It means that J&K, with a population of 12.55 million (2011 Census) received Rs91,300 per person over the last 16 years while Uttar Pradesh only got Rs4,300 per person over the same period.
The latent jihadi Islam got a further boost in 1989 in the valley after the former jihadi soldiers in the Afghan event of the anti-Russian movement were diverted to J&K by their Pakistani handlers. It was in that fatal year that Pakistan-sponsored anti-Indian forces in the State got a shot in the arm from this diversion and the entry of former Afghan jihadis into Kashmir .
Islamist jihad has emerged as a major factor across the Muslim-majority countries. Pakistan itself is governed by a constantly shifting three-party confrontation between civilian, military and cleric power systems. The religion element is quite strong and it is used to infiltrate India — not just in J&K but pan-India.
The hope is to gnaw into India’s political power structure through appeals to an Islam-dominated India in the making. The stakes are high. The capacity to draw in the youth to stone-pelting to achieve what direct armed confrontation cannot, is part of this greater plan.
The security forces have stood firm to defeat such adventures. No short-cuts like Governor’s rule or changes in the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act will win people’s minds. The firm demonstration of Indians to defeat jihadi ideology in Kashmir, as elsewhere in the country, alone will turn the tide back.
By Balbir Punj
(The writer is a former Rajya Sabha MP from the BJP and Delhi-based social and political commentator)