Communal Politics Rears Its Ugly Head Yet Again in Kashmir Print
Written by Dr. Rahul Pandit   
Sunday, 31 August 2008 00:00
Response to Op-Ed by Pankaj Mishra entitled “A Jihad Grows in Kashmir”, published online August 26, 2008, in print on August 27, 2008, page A23 New York Edition.

The crisis over the Amarnath Yatra has finally come to a close. Unfortunately this is just the latest chapter in the nearly two decade-long attacks on religious freedom by Kashmiri separatists engaging in communal politics. From the beginning of the current crisis, Kashmiri separatists and those aligned with them (read PDP, or Progressive Democratic Party) have tried to communalize the Amarnath land transfer for political gains.

 From June 23, 2008, when Kashmiri separatists led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq met with both the Pakistani Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, and the supreme commander of the United Jihad Council (UJC), Syed Salahuddin, in Islamabad (Pakistan), the street demonstrations began in Srinagar against the land transfer order.

Quickly, the erstwhile chief minister, Mufti Mohammed Syeed, retracted on his party’s legal order to transfer land for the use of the famed Hindu pilgrimage. It must be remembered that his party was part of the coalition government that approved this transfer. How quickly mob politics plays its dirty hand in Kashmir is nothing new—Mufti knew that his chance at winning elections this coming fall would be hurt should he not be seen as being in alignment with his core constituency of Kashmiri separatists. The Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) state government, before stepping down and paving the way for Governor’s rule, exercised poor judgment in rescinding a lawful cabinet decision on the land transfer by giving in to mob violence and threats, even though the land transfer approval had taken nearly four years of due diligence, and survived numerous legal challenges and official departmental reviews.

These and many other facts were missing in Pankaj Mishra’s August 26, 2008 New York Times Op/Ed piece entitled “A Jihad Grows in Kashmir”. Mr. Mishra states that Kashmiri Muslims were afraid of “Israeli-style settlements by Hindus” on the land granted to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. What has been overlooked is that the 92 acres of land in question is at such a high elevation that it remains under snow for eight months in a year. For the bulk of the year the weather remains harsh and the terrain is no less treacherous. Living there on a permanent basis is unimaginable. Even the hardy bakarwals (shepherds) who are used to living in such difficult conditions vacate this area in the winter. Therefore, in no way can Hindus be settled there on a permanent basis with a long-term aim of changing the demography of Kashmir.

The claim of an economic blockade being imposed onto the Kashmir Valley by Jammu Hindu agitators was repeated by Mr. Mishra. Contrary to the propaganda launched by the separatists, Jammu residents never stopped the flow of trucks into the Kashmir valley even for a single day. Those who are familiar with the geography of the region know very well know that due to heavy snowfall in the winter months, many stretches of National Highway 1 remain isolated for days and yet no critical shortages of food, medicine and other essential commodities occur in the Valley. According to the Indian Army and the Corps Commander deployed on the highway, no blockade has occurred during this agitation. According to the Pioneer newspaper (August 21, 2008), 2000 trucks brought goods from the valley to Jammu in July 2007. In July 2008, the number was 2300. The whole issue of ‘economic blockade’, it would appear, was a ploy adopted by the separatists to try to gain international sympathy.

As far as trade with Pakistan is concerned, India has categorically stated that it is keen to carry out trade with Pakistan, not only through the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road but also through Jammu-Sialkot and Munnabao-Kokrapar rail link in Rajasthan. But it is Pakistan that is dragging its feet for the simple reason that Indian goods will flood its markets, thus ruining their local economy.

Contrary to Mr. Mishra’s claims, the security forces in Kashmir that have been present for the past 18 years persist due to the need to battle the regular annual influx of hundreds of Pakistani-backed terrorists over the Line-of-Control. The survey by Doctors Without Borders he quotes which “found that Muslim women in Kashmir, prey to the Indian troops and paramilitaries, suffered some of the most pervasive sexual violence in the world” failed to reveal that this was based on a survey in which most of the purported cases of sexual violence on these traditional Muslim women were actually just acts of frisking by the police forces to search for hidden guns by terrorists and their surrogates.

Mr. Mishra claims that the struggle for Kashmir by Kashmiris was an indigenous fight that began in 1989-1990 after Indian troops fired into crowds of innocent Kashmiris. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, disgruntled Kashmiri Muslims took arms and training from Pakistani terrorist outfits, supported by the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s covert agency), and raped, tortured, and murdered Kashmiri Hindus (known as Pandits) by the hundreds before driving out over 360,000 Pandits from their 5000-year old homeland in the Kashmir Valley. The persecution has persisted with direct support from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) terrorist groups including the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has even been tied to a U.S. terrorist cell in Virginia in 2003 as testified to by John Negroponte.

Unfortunately we have yet again born witness to a disinformation campaign in Kashmir. The transfer of land for permanent use by the Amarnath Shrine Board for Hindu pilgrims was blocked simply because it did not benefit the Muslim majority. With the proper facts, it becomes increasingly evident that the separatists’ agenda is truly unchanged from January 19, 1990, when the loudspeakers at the top of mosques in the Kashmir Valley blared slogans such as “Yahaan kya chalega? Nizam-e-Mustafa!”, or “We want the rule of Islam in Kashmir.” So much for the history of secular brotherhood known as Kashmiriyat.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 September 2010 04:06