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EDITORIAL: 16-31 August 2002

Enough is Enough!

The murder of nine pilgrims on their way to Amarnath temple in Kashmir last fortnight is the latest outrage in an unending series of massacres of innocent people in the valley. Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani has said it is the handiwork of Lashkar-e-Toiba. With the services of a vast intelligence network at his command, he is supposed to know things ordinary mortals don’t.

In case what the Dy PM is saying is correct, these innocent pilgrims have been murdered in the name of political Islam, which at times looks just like the opposite of what we think Islam stands for — justice, fairplay, compassion.

But how can the murder of innocent people be "just" in Islam, which regards the murder of a single individual as the murder of all humanity (Qur’an 5:32). To compound the enormity of the crime, there is the globally accepted norm in all major cultures that pilgrims (like Red Cross workers in war) should not be attacked in any circumstances. Lashkar is guilty of two crimes — murder of human beings, and murder of pilgrims.

Even pre-Islamic Arabia, known for its penchant for barbarity, spared pilgrims. An attack on the Amarnath pilgrims is an attack on the freedom of belief and worship, a freedom guaranteed in our religion, in our Constitution, in UN Charter and in our social covenant. Without this freedom, life would not be worth living in India or anywhere on earth. The attack, thus, is a very serious issue, the ramifications of which are far-reaching.

The murder of pilgrims is as serious as the demolition of Babri Masjid and the conspiracy to subvert the state in Gujarat. This has to be taken up by civil society in the same spirit it approached the other two issues. The state, whose role in Ayodhya and Ahmedabad has been less than perfect, has to rise to this challenge at least.

Mercifully, Farooq’s government is not hand-in-glove with the attackers of Amarnath pilgrims as Modi government was with the marauding bands in Ahmedabad, Vadodra and elsewhere in Gujarat, or Kalyan Singh’s government was in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. Mercifully also, the Centre under Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani will not be looking approvingly at the Kashmir mayhem as it did in Gujarat, or Narasimha Rao’s government did in Ayodhya. The Centre would be quite firm in Kashmir.

Mr Vajpayee’s and Mr Advani’s knack for selective justice apart, every effort has to be made to ensure that such episodes do not recur in future. If it takes army deployment to ensure pilgrims’ safety, so be it.

Though Mr. Advani’s record (in Ayodhya and Gujarat, to name a few instances) does not inspire confidence in his effective handling of a situation involving conflict between Indian citizens, we are inclined to believe him when he says the Lashkar is involved in the attack on hapless pilgrims. Kashmiris themselves are so deeply steeped in syncretic ethos that it takes a foreign militant group to attack a shrine like Charar-e-Sharif or pilgrims to Amarnath.

If anything, Kashmiri Muslims are not only credited with discovering the cave of Amarnath, but with protecting it also. Even at the height of insurgency, local Kashmiri Muslims came out to help pilgrims with whatever these poor people had. For once, we tend to believe Mr Advani that it must be the handiwork of outsiders.

The question one would like to ask is, whom does an attack like this benefit. It certainly will not get the four million Kashmiris their azadi (freedom). It will only harden attitudes in New Delhi. And rightly so. 

It will not help the 140 million Indian Muslims, who without any fault of theirs, would be viewed more negatively.

It will not help Islam or the 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide. Islam will be seen as a blood-thirsty faith, and Muslims as a dangerous, immensely avoidable lot. Our plea to Farooq, Vajpayee and Advani: please ensure that innocent blood is not shed in future on way to the sacred cave. And to the foreign (and indigenous) militants: leave us alone. Give peace a chance. Enough is enough!

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