The peaceful Sufi culture of Kashmir has been under assault since 1989 by ultra-radical Wahhabi fundamentalists trained and supported by Pakistan. Pak wants Kashmiri Muslims to follow radical Islam so that it can Islamisize the Kashmir issue.
If Pakistan was created in the name of Islam, the faith could not keep the country intact beyond 1971 when it broke into two pieces. It was also a failure of its democracy because a recently held general election gave majority to East Pakistan based Awami League, but the leadership of the politically dominating West Pakistan did not honor people’s verdict. Democracy – which allows people of differing opinions to coexist in peace – always has hard time when people want a monolithic cult imposed by force. So it is not surprising that Pakistan repeatedly fell for military rule since its communal birth. Anyway, unrest spread throughout East Pakistan and the Pak army was deployed to crush the movement; it led to a full-fledged civil war. Indian intervention to stop refugee influx led to surrender of 93,000 Pak troops and East Pakistan became “Bangladesh.”
Pakistan turning Wahhabistan!
In the 1980s, Pak Dictator Zia ul Haq decided to change the “color” of Islam. Lured by the charm of petro-dollars and to get into the fold of Gulf Islamic powers, he fell for the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia. Wahhab was a 18th century philosopher and contemporary of the first Saudi monarch, Ibn Saud. His philosophy is also labelled “Literalist Islam” – for its literal and context-less interpretation of Islam. It is utterly authoritarian; any dissent can be called un-Islamic and dissenters doomed as an apostate, disbeliever or idolater. They are like: ONLY what I say or do is Islamic; you must agree with me to survive. Thus, along with non-Muslims it also considers Shias and Sufis worthy of decimation in the name of Jehad.
Saudi Arabia poured millions of dollars into Pakistani madrasas where this “hate all” philosophy was drilled into young tender minds, partly as its global plan to check its arch rival Shia Iran. These madarasas prepared “right human resource” for its Jehadi factories – the al Qaeda and the Taliban are two well known early Wahhabi products.
The first application of this Islamic extremism was demonstrated in Afghanistan against the Soviet army that came in 1979. Actively aided and funded by the Americans, Pakistan set up training camps to produce Jehadi fighters against the communist occupiers. After realizing that Afghanistan might turn into their “Vietnam” the Russians withdrew in early 1989 – and Jehadis won.
It was a novel US-Pak joint experiment of cold war to use religious fanaticism against the opponent in an organized fashion. And it worked! But once the Russians were gone, the Jehadi fighters became jobless. It gave Pakistan an idea: why not divert them into Kashmir and turn the Kashmiri into a Hindu-Muslim conflict – kind of Muslims wanting Azaadi from Hindu dominance. It is precisely the way Pakistan was born. And since 1947, Pak love for Kashmir has been only “Islamic”; it is blind to 40% non-Muslims in J&K and the distinct Kashmiri identity of people of Kashmir. That’s why Kashmiris never trusted Pakistan. Even in 1947, they fought along with Indian troops to drive away Pak invaders.
Islamization of Kashmir Issue
After noting that the local groups like Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) have their own independent agenda and don’t subscribe to Pakistani game plan, it decided to marginalize them and propped up the Hizbul Mujahideen, the armed wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami in early 1990s. Pakistan did not want Kashmiris to set their own political agenda. It wanted to Islamisize and globalize the issue and then unleash a proxy war against India using the jobless Afghan Jehadis as puppets.
Pakistan is also the chief patron of many other Kashmir centric militant groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Hizbul Muzahideen (HM), Harket-ul-Jehadi Islami (HUJI), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Al-Bader and so on apart from the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF).
Pakistan Distaste for Kashmiri Culture
But infiltrated foreigners alone wouldn’t succeed without local support and it was a problem because Kashmiris. Including Kashmiri Muslims think differently. They subscribe to their own local culture that defines their Kashmir identity – their Kashmiriyat. Their peaceful culture evolved in Kashmir over centuries, shaped largely by the Sufi Islamic saints who started arriving in the 14th century – many of them came to avoid persecution in their own “Muslim” societies.
Sufis are, in fact, the true torch bearers of “spiritual” Islam – they had absorbed the “essence” of Prophet’s teachings in their conduct to lead a life of simplicity, purity and piety. [Of course, you need any label to practice personal growth and spirituality.] But that also made them suspect for those using Prophet’s teachings as mere “Political” tool for power and dominance. They saw the Sufis as threats and frequently labelled them as non-Muslims and harrassed.
But the Himalayan Kashmir – an ancient abode of ascetics, monks, Rishis and Munis – offered them a conducive environment to thrive. Of course, Sufi saints could travel safely in the whole Bharat of that time – people respected them naturally for their simple unassuming lifestyle and profound spiritual knowledge. Like ancient indigenous philosophies, Sufis also preached unity of human race disregarding social and religious divides.
Thus, for centuries Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir lived in peace practicing their distinct religious ideologies for personal growth and sought solace at Sufi shrines. For hundreds of years, both Hindus and Muslims have been seeking solace at numerous shrines, not just in Kashmir but across whole India and Pakistan. In fact, Sufi saints have graced the whole sub continent. The Mughal emperors also saw them as benefactors of humanity, and never a threat for people or society.
Sufi saints undertake years of disciplined efforts to absorb the “essence” of Islam and only then they tell others what to do in simple language. Their only agenda is spiritual growth of all people in an atmosphere of love, peace and harmony. In stark contrast, the stereotype Islamic “preachers” use their eloquence and merely quote Quran to impress people only to “convert” them. Their tools are coercion and threat. And for radicals, like the Wahhabis, anyone in disagreement with their views is a potential threat – which must be forced to comply or eliminated. Clearly, they couldn’t tolerate Sufis or their messages of love and harmony.
Thus, Pakistan needed to destroy the Hindu-Muslim harmony. The success of Pakistan’s “Islamic” agenda in Kashmir crucially depends upon giving the issue a Hindu-against-Islam color. Thus, it started destroying Sufism and Sufi Shrines and promoting Wahhabism in order to win favors from its role models in the Middle East.
Jehadis Attacked Sufi Shrines
Thus, Pak aimed its well trained Jehadis at all symbols of peace, harmony and humanity in Kashmir that had evolved in the past 6 centuries. They targeted the annual Urs celebrations at various Sufi shrines – for example, in Batmol and Aishmuqam – which attract people of all faith, and tried to destroy the Shrines – for example, at Baba Rishi near Tangmarg..
In October 1993, a group of insurgents seized the Hazratbal shrine which houses a hair of the Prophet. But the issue was resolved through negotiations. Two years later, in March 1995 Hizbul Muzahideen commander Mast Gul (of Afghan origin) along with dozens of militants seized the famous Chrar-e-Sharif shrine. The security forces cordoned off the town and the standoff continued for about 2 months. But the shrine got burned down by the militants in an effort to escape. Later, there were failed attempts by the jihadists to burn down the 700 year old shrine of Baba Naqashband Sahib in Srinagar.
In 2012, several shrines were burnt in “mysterious fires”; the most dominant was the Dastageer Sahib in Srinagar. The Wahhabis proudly declared on facebook these acts as the “divine acts of God.”
The hate-filled Wahhabis discovered targets in Pakistan also. The Pak Taliban, which has been busy targeting the Shias and other minorities, turned its attention on Sufi shrines in Pakistan. They did not spare even the Data Darbar in Lahore and the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi, the patron saint of Karachi. Both attacks invited widespread condemnation.
While such acts against humanity routinely invite widespread criticism, the thousands of madrassas continue to drill Wahhabism in young tender minds. That ominously points both to the future society of Pakistan and the sub continent turning into a dangerous place to live.