Kashmir – Q&A

kashmir map

Islamic separatists led by Jinnah divided India in 1947. Thus, an Islamic nation Pakistan was born. The 561 princely states had the option of joining either side or stay sovereign. Like some other rulers, the ruler of Kashmir Raja Hari Singh, also harboured the ambition of sovereignty and did not make any move. But Pakistan expected it to come its way ‘naturally’ on religious lines (65% Muslim population), so in impatience it invaded Kashmir. The ruler fought back but soon realized his state is simply not strong enough to defend itself and sought military help from India. Delhi agreed but demanded accession to India first. Thus, he signed the treaty of accession and Indian army arrived in Kashmir. When the conflict ended, India held two-third of Kashmir and the rest was under Pakistan control. This became the line of control (LOC) that still holds today despite two wars since then. Leaving aside the nitti-gritty of Indo-Pak arguments and counter arguments, Pakistan’s love for Kashmir is pure “Islamic”.

This is the source of all problems Pakistan has created since its communal birth. Of course, its love for Islam was not strong enough to live peacefully with the Muslims of its Eastern territory beyond 1971. But as we all know very well, Islam is just a political tool whether it is Pakistan, Al Qaeda, Taliban, or any of their numerous clones.

Q1.  What is the Current Situation?

kashmir problem1The total area of the State of Jammu and Kashmir is about 2,22,236 Sq Km, of which 78,114 Sq Km. is under the illegal occupation of Pakistan and 37,555 Sq km. under China. In addition to this, 5,180 Sq. Km. of J&K was illegally ceded to China by Pakistan under the March 1963 Sino-Pak Boundary agreement. But in terms of population, India and Pakistan control Kashmir roughly in a 2:1 manner.

The population of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) (106,567 sq km) is around 10.1 million and Pak Occupied Kashmir (POK) (78,114 sq km) in the North is home to 4.5 million people. Then there are about 1.8 million people in the Gilgit -Baltistan territory – created by Pakistan from northern Kashmir and the two small princely states of Hunza and Nagar in 1970. China occupied eastern parts of the state in the 1950s.

Jammu and Kashmir is a multi-religious and multi-cultural state. Geographically, the Kashmir Valley is predominantly Muslim populated, Jammu is mainly Hindu dominated, and Laddakh is home to roughly even number of Buddhists and Shia Muslims. Kashmiri economy is mostly agrarian and tourism is the prime source of revenue.

The J&K has mostly seen governments led by the National Conference (NC) created and led by the Abdullah family. It was an almost pro-independence party to start with and it leader Sheikh Abdullah was in jail. But in 1960s, PM Indira Gandhi negotiated with him and released him. J&K was given extra autonomy within the Indian union of states; it has its own constitutions and flag and Central laws don’t automatically apply in J&K.  After him, his son Farookh and grandson Omar Abdullah have largely shaped the state politics. The Pakistan occupied Kashmir also enjoys extra autonomy and its politics has been largely controlled by the Muslim Conference for decades.

The J&K assembly election in late 2014 brought a drastic change in the political landscape of the state. The Valley voted strongly in favour of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); it emerged as the largest party. The Jammu region gave most of its seats to the BJP, making it the second largest party and a formidable political force in J&K, with just few seats behind the PDP. Both joined hands to form the government led by PDP chief Mufti Mohammad Syed. Both the NC and the opportunistic Congress party are in opposition.

The Pak sponsored Islamic extremism and Jehadi violence, that started in 1989 and burned the Valley during the whole 90s, is now significantly reduced but infiltration of Pak trained extremists is still a threat. Targeted destruction of a large number of Sufi-Rishi shrines in the Valley by the Pak mercenaries has badly alienated Kashmiris, including the Kashmir Muslims. Thus, the Pak gamble of promoting terror in the name of Islam appears to have backfired. Moreover, its closest friend, the US, doesn’t trust it any more as in the period before the 9/11 attack.

As a result, past few years have seen record number of tourists.

Today, Kashmiris clearly realize the dangers of living close to Pakistan seeing its love for violence and Jehadi hatred. In reality, Kashmiris culture is a mixture of Sufi Islam (which is entirely different from the Islamic fanaticism Pak and its Jehadi buddies stands for) and universal ‘dharma’ of Hindus and Buddhists. As a result, they are increasingly leaning towards even better assimilation with rest of India. They know that their life philosophy is nearer to Hindus and Buddhists who believe in peaceful coexistence than the hate-all-and-kill-all Wahhabi Islamic cult of Pakistan.

In the past decade, many Kashmiris who were misguided by Pak militants and their hate preachers have come back to support the democratic processes of the state and its development agenda.

With a progressive PM at the Center, the PDP-BJP government has an ideal opportunity to put Kashmir on the path of lasting peace through all round economic development.

Q2.  What is Pakistan’s Love for Kashmir?

pak interest in KashmirPakistan’s love for Kashmir is pure Islamic – in the “exclusionary” sense as people know Islam today. This is the source of all problems Pakistan has been creating in Kashmir. Since 1947, Pakistan has failed to understand that Kashmir’s identity is not Islam; it is their Kashmiriyat which is much larger than Islam and doesn’t come from 60% Muslims alone.

So, the question is  what makes Kashmiris, Kashmiri? What distinguishes them from other Muslim societies? Around 60% Kashmiris do call themselves Muslims, but that doesn’t make Kashmir Islamic. Kashmiri Muslims are Kashmiri first, then Muslim. Their identity is made up of many things, including elements of “spiritual” Islam. To make the point clear, let’s give a simile.

The majority of French or Dutch people follow Christianity, but it would be wrong to say that Christianity is what makes them French or Dutch. If we were to follow this logic, all European countries would have exactly one and the same identity – Christianity. But we know, it’s silly, wrong and deceptive to say so because being Christian is just a part of their identity. Exactly in the same way, there is much more to Kashmiri identity than Islam.

Kashmiris identify themselves with the Sufi-Rishi culture that evolved in the Valley in last 600 years. This is shared by all Kashmiris, not just the Muslims.  It unites Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists in Kashmir. It teaches people to love each other – something unthinkable from the Islamic extremists trained by Pakistan. It is absolutely different from the exclusionary hate-all Wahhabi culture that Pakistan promotes as Islam.

Q3.  What is the Sufi-Rishi Culture of Kashmir?

Sufi-Rishi Culture of Kashmir

Sufi-Rishi Culture of Kashmir

It is amalgamation of the “spiritual” Sufi Islam and the universal “Dharma” of Hindus and Buddhists. It is a well known fact that Sufis have been historically persecuted by traditional Muslim clergy who use Islam only to dominate others. Thus, in 14 century they started arriving from Central Asia looking for safe refuge. Since Sufis believe in practicing the “essence” of Prophet’s teachings they work hard on their conduct, they found an ideal environment in Kashmir which, being in Himalayas, has been an ancient abode of spiritual seekers – Hindu Sanyasis, ascetics, monks and Rishis of different traditions.

Since Sufis practiced “pure” spirituality which is the “spirit” of the prophet’s teachings, it couldn’t be different from the India’s “Dharma” – the universal laws of ethics and morality – lived and taught by countless Rishis and sages since ages. Their deep commitment to the Islamic philosophy of Divine Unity (wahdat-ul-wajud) mirrored the Hindu philosophy of non duality (Advaita). Thus, even if they used Arabic phrases their message of love, peace and ‘oneness of humanity’ easily transcended the divides of languages, faiths, beliefs and religions.

A noted scholar has described the Sufi-Rishi culture in this peculiar way: “a Kashmiri expression of Islam” and an “Islamic expression of the Kashmiri rishi tradition.”  It is only in Kashmir where Muslims use Hindu surnames such as ‘pandit’ and ‘bhat’.

What distinguished the Sufis from other Islamic preachers was their absolute focus on the “spiritual essence” of Islam. They did not preach mere words of Islam to establish its supremacy or dominate people, but their compassionate conduct attracted people. Keeping away from all worldly pleasures, their daily routine also involved long hours prayers or meditation, like ancient saints and rishis of the soil. Their extremely simple, humble and compassionate demeanours always reminded people of the ancient rishis.

Thus, Islamic Sufis became Rishis in Kashmir! And what evolved over centuries is what Kashmiris proudly call their Sufi-Rishi culture. They also love to call Kashmir – the garden of Pirs, saints and sages.

Sheikh Nur ud-Din Noorani (1377-1440), more popular as Nund Rishi, is often seen as the pioneer of the Sufi Rishi tradition in Kashmir. People saw him as an ‘enlightened’ saint for whom Islam was a universal message of love, tolerance and service, and at the same time a crusaded against social injustice and useless rituals. Serving humanity was a cornerstone of this tradition and helping the poor and suffering people was seen superior to rituals of worshipping God.

It is only in Kashmir that sufi Islam dominated the society, thanks to the ancient dharma based culture of the land. Sufis and Rishis could even reprimand traditional Islamic preachers as well as ritualistic Brahmin class. People of all faiths and beliefs still visit their shrines with highest devotion. It is only in Kashmir that Muslims can pray and worship the Hazratbal shrine which houses a hair strand of the Prophet. Kashmir is dotted with numerous Sufi shrines which are revered by people of all religions.

Since 1989, Pak trained Islamic fanatics started targeting all such symbols of unity and divinity – they are brainwashed to think that respecting such shrines is un-Islamic and hence should be destroyed ! These hate killers did not spare even the Sufi shrines in Pakistan. They even attacked the Data Darbar in Lahore and the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi, the patron saint of Karachi.

Of course, of late Pakistan has started claiming to be the biggest victim of Islamic extremism. It certainly is a helpless nuclear state and perhaps loves permanent victimhood and decay.

Q4.  What is the relevance of 1948 UN resolution on Kashmir?

It has completely lost relevance due to several reasons. For instance

  • The UNSC Resolution 47 was passed under chapter VI of UN Charter, which are non-binding and have no mandatory enforceability. This fact was also stressed by the UN General Secretary Kofi Annan in March 2001 during his visit to Indian and Pakistan, when he said that the Kashmir resolution was only advisory and can’t be compared with those on East Timor and Iraq which were passed under chapter VII, which make them enforceable by UNSC. Doing so would be like comparing apples and oranges.
  • Even if one considers the 1948 UN resolution, its suggestion for a plebiscite was conditional upon Pak withdrawing its military presence, which obviously never took place. On the contrary, it has been fuelling further aggression by sending trained Islamic Jehadis to Kashmir Valley since 1989.
  • The 1948 UN resolution no longer applies because the original boundaries have been changed. China grabbed some parts of J&K in 1962 and took some more territory from Pakistan. Furthermore, demographic changes have taken place on both sides of Kashmir: in the Pak administered Kashmir non natives have been allowed to settle while in the J&K Pak sponsored militancy has forced around 250,000 Kashmiri Hindus to flee.
  • More recent Shimla Agreement of 1972 and Lahore Declaration of 1999 offer the bilateral framework for resolving all disputes between and India and Pakistan. In 2003, then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf announced that Pakistan was willing to back off from demand for UN resolutions for Kashmir.
  • In November 2010, the UN excluded J&K from its annual list of unresolved international disputes which are kept under UNSC’s watch.
  • The elected Constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, reaffirmed in 1952 its accession to India. Moreover, Kashmiris have been participating in successive national and state elections that make all talk of plebiscite groundless.

Q5.  What is Happening to the Militant Groups?

Dominant militant groups are 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 is their chief pattern. After noting that the local groups like the JKLF have their own independent agenda and don’t subscribe to its game plan, Pakistan decided to marginalize them and propped up the Hizbul Mujahideen in the 1990s, the armed wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami.

The Pak agenda in Kashmir is different from the political aim of some Kashmiri separatists. Its foreign policy agenda rests squarely on Islamic violence in Kashmir so that so that at the international platforms it can continue to play the drama of Hindu India oppressing Muslims of the Valley. They now fully realise that the name of Islam, the Jehadis fighters, and Kashmir Muslims are mere tools in its ‘proxy war’ against India. But its game is exposed by now and Kashmiris wants to stay away from its destructive designs.

Today people want a peaceful and violence free environment and speedy economic development.

Over the years, India has also taken effective steps to curb the infiltration of miscreants at the LOC and International border. Infiltrators always lurk around the line of control (LOC) to cross over under the fire cover of Pak border forces.

Q6.  Do Kashmiris want to join Pakistan?

Clear NO. Why? There are several reasons.

  1. Kashmir Muslims mostly practice Sufi Islam which has mutated into what is called the Sufi-Rishi tradition. It sees oneness in humanity. It is an amalgamation of Sufi and Hindu spiritualism. It promotes fraternal love among different faith and acceptance of all people. Thus, what Kashmiris believe is entirely different and in fact opposite of what Pak calls Islam. They are Kashmiri identity first, Muslim latter. They can’t ever allow their land which they call “Pir Vaer” (garden of Pirs, fakirs and saints) to become “Devil Vaer” (garden of devil and satan).
  2. Kashmiris have been a part of India’s democratic processes which are free and fair. Such freedom is impossible in Pakistan which loves military rule overtly or covertly.
  3. Pakistan was born in 1947 in the name of religion – Islam. But the “faith” could not keep the country united beyond 1971 when East Pakistan became sovereign Bangladesh. Why would Kashmiris fall for such a self-destructive country? They are already experiencing the impact of Pak’s violent meddling in the Valley on their life.
  4. Over one-third population of Kashmir is non-Muslim. Even in their wildest dream, they would never opt for Pakistan which is more like a Wahhabistan now.

Sovereignty is an impractical option in a turbulent region, sandwiched between two traditional enemies. Then there is communist China that has also grabbed a part of Kashmir. Moreover, Kashmiri youth don’t carry the baggage of India’s partition. All they want is development, jobs, prosperity and a violence-free society.

Q7.  Is There Hope for Peace in Kashmir soon?

Kashmir boats

Just as a weakened Britain (due to the impact of WW2) had to relinquish its colonial policies in the 40s and 50s, a weakened and isolated Pakistan would be forced to stop its meddling in Kashmir Valley. While the routine Indo-Pak talks would continue to see ups and downs, there are pointers suggesting a better future for Kashmiris. Most of them relate to Pakistan which is the “real problem” – not Kashmir or Kashmiris. Here are a few of them:

  • In 2010, India announced amnesty for militants giving up insurgency and offered them rehabilitation package.
  • Pakistan appears to be slowly cutting funds for militant operations in Kashmir. In 2012, it reduced by half the funds meant for groups that still maintained offices in the POK.
  • The US has shifted closer to India, particularly after charismatic Modi became PM.
  • The dastardly December 2014 terror attack in Peshawar on school children of army personnel, killing over 140 children, by Pak Taliban appears to have convinced the defence establishment, at least partially, to reduce its intimacy with extremists. The Pak government has already started hanging the convicted terrorists languishing in Pak jails.
  • Modi government’s tough and assertive approach about aggression at the borders will sure force Pakistani establishment to rethink its overall stance towards India.

India is changing.  Anna Hazare’s nationwide movement against corruption in 2012 highlighted people’s dissatisfaction towards how the country has been running. The current generation wants change from the usual manner of doing things.  Rise of BJP to power in 2014 reflects that aspiration very clearly.  It is a well known fact that Pak civil society takes inspirations from India. Thus, Pakistanis are also inspiring Pak people to throw away their corrupt politicians. Whenever it happens a new and more pragmatic leadership would emerge in Pakistan. It would also rethink the futility of wasting resources just to keep ‘Kashmir boiling’. It might appear wishful thinking but is fully possible because there are plenty of sensible people in Pakistan.

You may also like to read:

Kashmir: Where Religion is Killing Culture
Please Explain Pakistan to Me!
Wahhabism: The Ideological Force behind Islamic Extremism

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