Kashmir: Paradise of hell
“Kashmiri Dosa?” I was startled by the very thought of a popular South Indian dish, Dosa, having a new reincarnation in a roadside food joint in the Northern-most point of India outside Shalimar Gardens in Srinagar, Kashmir last October. “Jannat” or paradise is how Kashmir is referred to in South Asia and nothing less than heaven it was in not just its beauty and cuisines but also in the immense hospitality and warmth of its people.
“How on earth could you think of naming a Dosa a Kashmiri Dosa?” I asked the old gentleman who was serving us the local delicious tea, Kawah, while preparing the Dosa for us.
“Eat it and you will see for yourself how the Kashmiri spices and recipe mix with the Kanyakumari (Southern-most point of India) and create magic. Just like the magic created by the bond between Kashmir and India”, the wise old man replied. He was true as not only the taste of Kashmiri Dosa was divine but also divine was this special bond between Kashmir and India. One which had stood the test of time despite facing tremendous breaking points and being the reason of contention between two ever disputing nations, India and Pakistan.
Alas, today that bond is broken. That trust bites the dust. That warmth may become as cold as the harsh winter of Sia-Chin or Kargil or other parts of Kashmir. Today I cry for thee, my beloved Kashmiri friend and am ashamed to have contributed to the rise of the Hindutava brigade in my own small way, decades back by voting for BJP, the ruling party in India without realizing the monster it would become and rule Hindu psyche.
But how did it all start and what is this dispute about? History is written and re-written and nations are just lines on the globe marked by the winners of the battles that mankind plays and Kashmir proves this point to the hilt.
In 1947, while leaving India, the British enabled a division of country on religious grounds with the Muslim dominated regions becoming a part of Pakistan while others stayed a part of India. The same was primarily carried out on the basis of the religion of the majority in that particular territory, at times against the wishes of the ruling King (like in Hyderabad province) to enable greater acceptance of common sentiment.
Jammu and Kashmir, the Northern most region of the Indian peninsula was a difficult proposition. It wanted to stay independent, was strategically located at the Northern tip of the peninsula making it a critical landmass for both India and Pakistan and was ruled by a Hindu, Dogra King while the majority of the population (80%) was predominantly Muslim. As per the partition formula, it could have gone to Pakistan as was expected by the Pakistani leadership but the Hindu King was not ready to make an immediate decision and signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan for the continuance of trade, communication and travel and to gain time. He used force to control revolt against his wishes that resulted in greater violence and a final declaration of Azadi or Independence in the Poonch area in October 1947. When the rebels started marching towards Srinagar and various other parts of Kashmir, allegedly aided by the Pakistan army, the King contacted the Indian government for help. The first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru being of Kashmiri origin wanted to ensure that Kashmir accede to India and accordingly his government signed an Instrument of Accession (IOA) with the King which enabled Kashmir to maintain its own identity, flag and constitution but become a part of a federal structure with defence, currency and certain other critical areas to be managed by India. India then stood with Kashmir and fought the guerrilla army aided by Pakistan for months before the issue went to United Nations and a ceasefire was declared with a resolution passed that a plebiscite to take the will of Kashmiri people be carried out after the forces are withdrawn in both the Indian part of Kashmir and Azad Kashmir and the will of the people be taken to decide whether Kashmir goes with either country or stays independent. That Plebiscite, for obvious reasons, has not been carried out till date in the last seven decades and as things stand will never see the light of the day.
However, the IOA signed in October 1947 became the guiding principle of integrating Kashmir into India and was later imbibed in the constitution of India as Article 370 after the approval of the constituent assembly of Kashmir (which was later dissolved as its purpose was served). Also as per the agreed terms, later the Kashmiri citizens did away with their dual citizenship and accepted Indian citizenship with formal induction of additional terms already agreed upon including the right of original Kashmiri residents to own land in Kashmir incorporated in Article 35 of the Indian constitution.
This is history and facts as they stand. This is a part of the legal guidelines of the birth of that nation and despite both Pakistan and India fighting wars over Kashmir as no plebiscite was carried out ever and both continuing to claim their stake over land on either sides, the Kashmiris in mainstream had accepted their fate to be a part of their respective nations.
Over the last three decades, when successive Indian governments tried to mute the voice of popular politicians in Kashmir there has been an uprising in favor of independence fuelled by the support of Pakistan. This has claimed thousands of lives and continues to make the territory a hot bed of militancy with no sight of resolution as neither side is willing to sit down and deliberate or accept the voice of the people.
However, the most important element in the whole story is the rise of right-wing Hindu forces led by a fringe element of the 1950s, Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh, RSS. Over decades, slowly and steadily inspired by its militant definition of Hinduism called Hindutava or Hindu identity, RSS grew in size and popularity till it captured the imagination of the vast Hindu majority in India. The major aim of RSS is to create a Hindu nation in lines with Islamic Pakistan as it denounces the very definition of secular India as framed by its forefathers.
Article 370 and 35 and why a Muslim dominated state like Kashmir can enjoy special status has always been an eyesore to RSS right from the 1950’s and propaganda against it has been used as a tool to spread their Hindu agenda in the name of pseudo nationalism.
According to RSS, Hinduism is the parent religion of India and all others have to accept the same as that and then only survive. There is no concept of equality there but subversion. India should be Hindu first and anything else later. And if a minority religion accepts that then it is a part of the family and will be accepted at their terms and else they are to be thrown out of the nation.
You are guided in all aspects of life to be a true Hindu, read Indian. You should not eat beef as Holy cow cannot be slaughtered and if you do that you would be lynched in public by the Hindu goons. You should build temples and statutes (one bigger than another) to hail Hindu Gods even at the cost of destroying religious places of other religions. Minorities are disliked for practicing their religion in open (as in Friday prayers of Muslims) with even the local administration creating obstacles while the Hindu religious frenzy can rule over streets and highways for hundreds of kilometres during Hindu festivals. If a Hindu leader is murdered in an act of terrorism by any minority member, then the Hindu mob with almost total support of the government in power is given full power to claim street justice killing thousands and thousands. After all Hinduism has to be the ever powerful religion of choice of Hindu India! And yet all this was done and is continued to be done by instilling this thought in the minds of the majority that secularism has brought danger to Hinduism and that Hinduism needs to be protected by taking weapons in your own hand and giving street justice.
For decades the fear of the minorities was inscribed in bits and pieces and a religious frenzy created to build a strong political majority. It succeeded in BJP getting a strong majority in the lower house in 2014 and repeated that with a complete domination of the Hindu mind and thereby resulting in a greater majority in May 2019. This time they also garnered a majority in the Upper House with their supporting parties.
The time was ripe to rebuild the Hindu nation and nothing could come in the way. The first step in that direction was to take over Kashmir by removing its special status in the constitution without even consulting any Kashmiri. Article 370 and 35 were scrapped, the state of Kashmir dissolved and made into two smaller Union territories which are federally controlled. This was done while keeping all the mainstream Kashmiri political parties in dark, by brute force after deploying tens of thousands of additional armed forces to the region, by completely blocking all communication in the region including internet , TV or telephone lines, by arresting any Kashmiri leader worth his salt or putting him under house arrest, by enabling a total curfew and shut down of all business activities and basically by cutting off the entire state and its millions of people from the entire world. Not in medieval age. Not in 1950’s 60’s or 90’s. Now! This very day! This very month in August 2019! And it is continuing!
Today Kashmiri voice has been totally muted. Kashmir has lost its special status and while this will be fought legally in the Supreme Court of India as it does not carry the stamp of approval of the Kashmiri public as prescribed in Article 370, yet considering the political and social environment in India, it seems a lost cause. Kashmir is being literally annexed and made a part of India in broad daylight and in almost covert support of the most powerful nations of the world including USA, Russia, Britain and the likes. The right wing supports the right wing everywhere and liberalism, secularism and the voice of minority is getting crushed worldwide. Modi has timed it well and knows that in today’s environment he can carry out any act of suppression in Kashmir and he will not face any substantial dissent.
Kashmiris are lost. Dejected, afraid, silenced, hurt and worst of all they cannot find anybody trustworthy anymore. When the government of the nation to whom you pledge your allegiance thrusts a dagger in your heart, what does one do? Mourn! Cry! Rebel! Or runaway!
I do not know what is going to happen there. Till date I am not even able to contact my friends in Kashmir or know of their safety. I have tried for the last few days but cannot reach anyone. I just hope that they are safe.
So how does it bother you? Oh no, it does not. As you are safe till such time you do not become a minority in your area of choice. Or you live in your comfort zones being a part of the majority that rules over the people and have no moral qualms about standing up for the fallen one.
But my friend, we all are in it together. The world has seen repeatedly that when majorities have made refugees out of their own vast sect of populations, the world has suffered. Unrest in one area cannot lead to peace in another. And as Kashmir becomes another West Bank or Tibet or Hong Kong or parts of Syria or….. , as people suffer from brute force, humanity dies. Trust dies. And pain lives forever.
Suppression cannot continue forever and one day the communication blockade will have to end. And that day the Kashmiri may accept his fate and live in perpetual pain. Or rebel against the aggression. Or perhaps runaway and leave the paradise for others to ruin. Already the right wing Indian politicians and supporters have started to talk about marrying Kashmiri “Beautiful, White” brides and buying Kashmiri land. That is the second phase of the Hindu agenda to enable its total integration of India. After all India has learnt its lesson from its neighbor China and will ensure it goes a step forward than Tibet.
What is Canada doing? Silently observing from the sides! There is no voice of dissent from the Liberal government or from any other Canadian political party. After all Kashmiri voice has no political value in Canada while angering the Indo-Canadian vote base in the upcoming election is bad strategy. So much for Canadian support for democratic values!
I just hope that if Kashmiris decide to leave Kashmir and head here, we welcome them with open hands and help them in earning a life of dignity there.
As for Kashmir, I do hope that somehow peace remains. Somehow the Indian Supreme court negates this colossal illegal misadventure of Indian government and returns back the rights of the Kashmiri people. Somehow the clock could be turned and the trust be won back.
I had seen a greater return to normalcy in my trip to Kashmir and was hoping that in years it would become a paradise for the whole world again. Alas I wished too much and too early!
However, let Kashmiris know that we stand with them and with every single minority anywhere in the world which is tried to be crushed by unilateral agenda of the majority. This is the least we own for being a part of a country which respects democracy, secularism and liberty.
Canadians show the way. Today!
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.