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Posted Online on Thursday, 14 September 2006 02:00 IST

Against the circle of unreason; Gujarat, Mumbai, Kashmir affect us differently

Why is it that the Gujarat violence or Mumbai blasts affect us more intensely than the daily killings in Jammu and Kashmir? Is it insensitivity or fear?

By Iftikhar Gilani

The Milli Gazette Online

13 September 2006

Muslim Islamic NewsDelhi: It is an irony which begins in the beautiful landscape of ravaged Kashmir. While the 2002 Gujarat genocide pushed the Muslim electorate to help the larger secular consolidation to vote out the BJP-led NDA regime, the violence in Kashmir, which has devoured more than 10,000 Muslims (as per official figures), has hardly evoked any sense of empathy among Indian Muslims in rest of the country. 

Undoubtedly, the Kashmir crisis includes an inherent communal angle as its manifestation lies in Partition, but Indian Muslims have largely kept themselves aloof. Hence, despite provocations from communal outfits inside and outside the mainstream, including the Hindutva camp, the Indian political system has not been communalised. So much so, the exodus of a million Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 did not end in a cataclysm, despite BJP hardliner LK Advani unleashing the Ram Mandir frenzy in north India around the same time. 

The method, though uncanny, seems to be following an unhappy pattern. Omar Abdullah, president of the National Conference (NC), told Hardnews that various governments as well as the Indian civil society now seem willing to 'tolerate' a slightly heightened level of violence in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Though the India-Pakistan peace process was showing signs of fatigue even before the Mumbai blasts with a rise in militant activity and attacks on tourists in Kashmir, Omar Abdullah believes that the Mumbai blasts, coupled with last year's killing of innocents in Delhi, convinced India to put the brakes on the peace process. "Delhi can take some violence in Kashmir, but not on the mainland," he says stoically. 

Asked if the violence in Kashmir doesn't seem to concern people in India anymore, the NC chief feels that a certain level of dispassion has crept in. "The daily killings of five to six people don't make a big difference. But a strike that kills 200 people in Mumbai in a day creates a major impact, even though for a year the number here will be much higher," he says.

Besides, there are deceptive layers which remain unseen. While the killing of minorities dominates headlines in Kashmir, official figures reveal that violence has claimed more Muslims than Hindus. As many as 111,057 Muslims were killed between 1988 and 2003 as against 1,490 Hindus falling to the bullets of militants. 

Intelligence agencies claim that like certain small sections of the Sikhs during the Khalistani movement, some Indian Muslims were always on the radar of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Since the early 1980s, they had tried to motivate some Muslim youths to cross over for training. Till 1993, even soon after the demolition of Babri Masjid, and the Mumbai killings, they could convince just about four persons, and two of them also escaped when they reached Delhi, disclosed an intelligence source. But, gradually, after the Babri Masjid demolition, disturbing reports started pouring in. The year 1993 saw around 80 Muslim youngsters being recruited for training in the militant camp. 

Surprisingly, the source added, the trend stopped soon after the Mumbai blasts. "Probably, these young men wanted more intensely to express their anger at the mosque demolition and the bloody Mumbai riots," he claims. Indeed, very few Muslims found involved in militant activities have been arrested in Poonch and Kupwara over the last few years. 

G Parthasarathy, former Indian high commissioner in Pakistan, who was recently in Islamabad, says that Gujarat carnage has been politically encouraged by certain forces in Pakistan. The violence in Gujarat has provided fodder to militant forces. He says that polarisation on communal lines and the undermining of democratic institutions, especially in the border states, can become a perfect recipe for disaster. 

The former diplomat believes that the earlier crisis in Punjab could well be attributed to the communalisation of politics but in contrast many of those who desperately took to arms in J&K in the late 1980s were compelled to do so because of the intense feeling that the democratic processes in the state were terribly flawed and the elections were rigged. 

Lt General Arjun Ray, who served as Brigadier General Staff (BGS) at the Srinagar-based 15 Corps and who was later corps commander in Ladakh, in his book Kashmir Diary: Psychology of Militancy (1997), based on interrogations of captured militants, says: "Contrary to popular belief, religion is not the primary motivational factor for Kashmiri militants. Kashmiri militancy is not a religious movement (yet)." The military official, however, warned in 1997 that this may snowball into a religious movement if the fact that fundamentalism has arrived in the Valley and is spreading rapidly is ignored. 

Scholar of Islamic studies, Yoginder Sikand, argues that it is not due to insensitivity but because of the fear of being accused as an 'anti-national' that has compelled Indian Muslims to keep aloof from the Kashmir crisis. He says that a large section of Indian Muslims do link resolution of the Kashmir dispute to their survival and progress. "The fear of continued conflict furthers the cause of Hindutva forces in their anti-Muslim campaign," he says. 

Surely, madrassas in India just can't be cast in a negative stereotype, nor is there any evidence to prove baseless allegations against them by predictable Muslim-bashers. However, while there was a network of about 30,000 madrassas dotting India's landscape, till a decade ago, J&K, though a Muslim majority state, had no madrassa. Last year, it was disclosed in Parliament that there are 27,518 madrassas all over the country. Kerala and Madhya Pradesh top the list with 6,000 madrassas each, followed by Uttar Pradesh (4,292), Bihar (4,102), Rajasthan (1,985) and Gujarat (1,727). Even remote areas like Andaman and Nicobar Islands have 54 madrassas, and Sikkim has one registered seminary. Following government figures, there was no madrassa in J&K. 

The fact is, over the years madrassas have started mushrooming in J&K and almost all of these are associated with larger madrassas in India, particularly of the Deobandi, Barelvi and Ahl-i Hadith schools of thought. A large number of teachers in these madrassas are from north India, mostly from Bihar, Haryana and eastern UP. 

Sikand argues that this connection could be used positively to provide a valuable lead to creatively involve Indian Muslims in the Kashmir peace process. The Jama'at-e? Islami Hind, the Markaz-i Ahl-i Hadith-i Hind and the Dar 'ul-'Ulum madrassa at Deoband have peers on other side of the border. Organisations like the Jama'at-i Islami Pakistan, the Jamaat-u-Dawa-wa-Rishad associated with the Ahl-i Hadith, Pakistan, are key players in the Kashmir conflict. 

Their Indian counterparts, like Jama'at-e-Islami Hind and Ahl-i Hadith and the Deobandi ulama, who do not approve the actions of their Pakistani counterparts, can be imaginatively 'used' to spread the process of inter-communal harmony and a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute. "It should not be difficult to encourage them to take a more pro-active role in Kashmir and since they exercise influence on Muslims, their intervention can prove to be invaluable," concludes Sikand.

That is, a creative, cultural synthesis of secular unity, rational positions and shared values, as opposed to hatred and bigotry, could be the way to break the impasse. And why not, when it can defeat the forces of communal violence and xenophobia and send a message of hope in Kashmir, across the Indian spectrum, and even beyond the border?

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