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On Kashmir, communalists merged with colonialists 

Kashmir has been bleeding. There is hardly a week when one does not read about the killings of Kashmiris. In the crossfire between the army and militants many common Kashmiris die.

While Pakistan claims that by the logic of two-nation theory Kashmir belongs to it, India asserts that by virtue of the treaty of accession Kashmir is its integral part. When one of these countries wants to talk peace, the other backs out. And in this game of hide and seek between the two nations, the real victims are Kashmiri people and their ethos, the distinctive and proud heritage of that land. Quite a few solutions to the problem have been offered. Barring the opinion of Kashmiris, all other solutions are being toyed with.

It is in this light that the recently announced prescription of Sangh Parivar is to be seen. The VHP has demanded that Jammu be made a separate state, Ladakh be made a Union territory and a separate Union territory be carved out from the valley for Kashmiri Pandits. The RSS has endorsed the first three. These are similar to what BJP had been demanding while it was out of power. One wants to know as to how this solution is close to the one being proffered by the US. 

Way back in 1953, RL Stevenson had advised Sheikh Abdullah on similar lines. In a way, the RSS-VHP plan is the best endorsement of Jinnah-Savarkar two-nation theory. As per this theory, religious community determines the nationality of a person or group, and religion is the basis of a nation state. As per this theory, since India is a "Hindu nation," the others have to accept the primacy of the Hindus and live accordingly, said Savarkar, while Jinnah claimed that once the British left, the Hindus, since they were in a majority, would dominate the Muslims. And as Muslims were a separate nation, they should have a separate state.

Even at that time, the British colonial powers had accepted Muslim League as the representative of Muslims and regarded Congress as a Hindu body (many Hindu communalists were part of Congress, but basically it represented all communities of India), and thus the representative of Hindus. The very understanding of the British was based on the concept that India was a conglomeration of religious communities, mainly Hindus and Muslims. 

The Indian national movement had to grow against the powers of British Empire and against the communal outfits of Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. The electoral arena proved without doubt that Muslim League was no representative of Muslims, nor was Hindu Mahasabha representative of Hindus. The British back home were seeing themselves primarily as British, but here they used exclusively religious categories to understand and describe India. 

Accordingly, when JS Mill wrote a history primer for the training of British officers, he described the periods of Indian history as Hindu, Muslim and British. The latter was not to be described and understood as Christian period of Indian history. The Indian nation, howsoever imperfect, was in the process of formation. Different communities were stressing their Indian identity as the foremost identity, while relegating the religious and regional identities to secondary position.

The communalists and British colonialists worked at the same wavelength. The British also had the interests of basing their empire on the divide and rule policy for which Jinnah's Muslim League on one side and Hindu Mahasabha-RSS on the other came in handy. The colonialists and the communalists had a cozy relationship at a deeper level. 

Communalists did not have to struggle against the British. The British did not have to restrain them except when they exceeded their limits in hating each other. Unfortunately, the ideological compatibility of communalists and colonialists resulted in Partition. Kashmir opted to remain independent. Jinnah could not tolerate an independent Muslim state (Kashmir) in the neighborhood. The argument he had been using over a period of time was that since Muslims constituted a majority in Kashmir, it had to merge with Pakistan. In due course, he was to send his army dressed as tribals to attack Kashmir. In a similar way, Pandit Prem Nath Dogra of Praja Parishad, the predecessor of Jana Sangh, (the previous edition of BJP), was to advise the Hindu king of Muslim majority area not to merge the Hindu state (Kashmir) with secular India. The logic here was that a state's nature was determined by the religion of the king. One wonders as to how a Pandit Dogra and his ilk would have characterised Hyderabad, where the ruler was Muslim.

Kashmiri people were made of a different mettle. In the face of Pakistani attack, when the Hindu maharaja fled for his security, Sheikh Abdullah had to handle the major responsibility. Had he been nurtured in Jinnah-Savarkar school of politics, the problem would have been "solved". He could have opted for merger with Pakistan in the face of marching Pakistani armies. He turned out to have absorbed the values of Indian freedom struggle and his National Conference rejected the principle of divine right of kings to rule, and he opted for democratic-secular politics. He turned out to be the one steeped in Kashmiriyat, the culture that is the mix of sufi, rishi and Buddhist traditions, in which primacy is given to syncretic culture and not this and or that religion. Accordingly, he wanted to preserve the native culture and bring in democracy.

The treaty of accession gave enough autonomy to Kashmir assembly. The treaty of accession accepted the principles of Do Vidhan-Do Pradhan (two constitutions, two prime ministers). But that was not to be. In due course, under pressure from the Jana Sangh and other Hindutva elements, the treaty of accession started getting eroded bit by bit. The humiliation of elected representatives of Kashmir (Sheikh Abdullah twice and Farouq Abdullah once were put behind the bars for a long time) was symbolic of dishonour of the treaty of accession. Once treaties are violated and democratic processes are muzzled terrorism cannot remain far behind. In due course, Pakistan-trained terrorists started their activities, duly joined in later by the other of their breed from the neighbouring Afghanistan, where the American establishment was fighting its battle through jehadis, the terrorists of the ilk of Osama. 

The biggest victims of the imperialist game, the designs of Pakistan's ruling junta and the violation of treaty of accession by Indian establishment, have been the people of Kashmir. Bereft of development and employment, lured by rewards in the "afterlife", many boys succumbed to the designs of Pakistan-trained militants.

Surely, the only solution of the problem lies in the democratisation of society and polity, development and employment to youth. Can religion-based division solve any problem whatsoever? Pakistan, formed on the basis of religion, broke into two under the weight of economic and cultural contradictions. India founded on secular principles has been able to hold its ground despite rising assertion and manipulations of communalists. 

A division of Kashmir on communal lines will be fraught with disaster. In yesteryears, communal vision manufactured by the British was the ideological base of Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha-RSS. Today again, the prescriptions of the present imperialist power, the US, and the RSS are working in tandem. It is time for patriotic Indians to rise and thwart communalists and neo-colonialists.

Ram Puniyani

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