IAKF Condemns the Sectarian Politicking and Obstruction of Truth Behind the Amarnath Shrine Issue Print
Thursday, 03 July 2008 00:00

The Amarnath caves are one of the most revered shrines in Hinduism and are located in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The shrine is over 5,000 years old and forms an important part of Kashmiri Pandit heritage and ancient Hindu mythology. It has been the destination of Hindu pilgrimages for thousands of years.

Nearly a month ago, the government of India and the state government of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) reached an agreement to transfer forty hectares of forestland to the Amarnath board, the body that organizes the annual Amarnath pilgrimage. The land was to be utilized for temporary facilities and tents for the pilgrims. Kashmiri separatists, led by the hard-line faction of the Hurriyat conference and its partner in politics the People's Democratic Party (PDP) led by Mufti Sayeed, raised an outcry and started riots to demonstrate against this transfer. They claim that the Indian government is trying to surreptitiously settle non-Kashmiris into the state, and that the forest land should be ecologically protected.

Not only are both of these arguments outlandish, but IAKF wishes to highlight that this is a well-crafted exercise at a time when J&K elections are around the corner. Ironically, the land transfer would have benefited local Muslims as well as Hindu pilgrims. The fact that most of the spending by the pilgrims goes to the local people shows that this land transfer was not directed against the common Kashmiri. The separatists and the oligarchic clique in Kashmir are using this issue to perpetuate their hold on the masses through misdirection and whipping up of religious passion.

The PDP, which is a coalition partner in the current state government, approved the transfer of land. But they suddenly changed their mind once the hard-line Hurriyat and others decided to protest their decision. The PDP is not only fuelling the anti-Hindu campaign in the Valley, but it is being careful not to alienate its large voting block, the separatists, whom they have worked so hard to court in the past few years by such actions as releasing terrorists from jail and paying them large sums without even requiring a guarantee of their ending violence.

The premise that the demography of the Valley will be changed by a mere forty hectares of uninhabitable mountain land needs no rebuttal. It reveals the true sectarian nature of the separatist mentality. In fact, the demography of the state has been changed in the past 18 years due to the forced exodus or murder of nearly half a million Kashmiri Pandits, who are the original inhabitants of the Valley, resulting in a Muslim population of greater than 99% (from approximately 85% at India’s Independence).

The ecological argument is equally specious. Kashmir’s forests have been plundered over the years by the very politicians who are crying foul today. In the past few years, thousands of acres of forestland have been destroyed in the process of creating the ill-famed Mughal road, wherein 10,000 trees have been cut, wildlife sanctuaries disturbed, and the fragile ecosystem damaged by blasting and blacktopping the newly laid road. The once famous Anchar lake has been completely destroyed, and several others, including the world-famous Dal lake, have been polluted and shrunken by over 50% in size by greedy locals and their complicit political representatives. There were no protests by the current rioters during these and a multitude of other ecological disasters in Kashmir (visit www.iakf.org for more data). The very premise on which they are basing their opposition is only an alibi for their true sectarian and political reasons.

Current events have increased the sense of insecurity amongst the remaining Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley. IAKF condemns the recent firing on innocent, non-violent protesters where three persons, including a Kashmiri Pandit migrant, sustained bullet injuries after police opened fire at Muthi on Jammu-Akhnoor road.

More than six hundred Hindu temples and shrines have been desecrated and destroyed as part of a systematic cleansing of any traces of the Valley’s Hindu past. The names of religious sites that remain have been changed to Islamic names. Hundreds of acres of land attached to the remaining Hindu shrines and temples have been encroached upon and occupied, with a blind eye turned by successive state governments that are supposed to protect these millennia-old sites.

While on one hand these separatist parties purportedly issue messages and calls for return of the Pandits to the Valley, they deny them the ability to practice their religion with any level of dignity.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 September 2010 04:15