Don’t alienate Kashmiris, unka abhinandan karein!

With due respect to Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) being very much of Indian territory, it is indeed paradoxical that little importance has been given to Kashmiris being citizens of this country. Why have they been targeted for terrorists’ strike in Pulwama? It is important to take note of the hard reality that for decades Kashmiri Muslims living in India-controlled J&K have been subject to violence from several quarters. The trend of their being targeted for no fault of theirs in other parts of India is showing no sign of decreasing. These include students pursuing education, traders engaged in business and other Kashmiri Muslims outside their home state.

A Kashmiri child shows identity card of his mother during restrictions in Srinagar to prove identity. Photo: Basit Zargar

In these cases, extra-efforts are needed to make Kashmiri Muslims feel part of the Indian mainstream. If they continue being discriminated against and are frequently subject to violence, how can they be expected to feel “at home” in other parts of India? Yes, each time, a Kashmiri Muslim is targeted, the criminals play the role of not simply engaging in violence but also tarnishing image of India and Indians across the world. When they do so, in addition to creating problems for Kashmiri Muslims, they provide an opportunity for India's enemies to substantiate their claim of their (Kashmiri Muslims) being ill-treated here. Kashmiri Muslims refer to Muslims residing in India.

Reports indicate that when attacking Kashmiri Muslims, certain right-wing, extremist elements also hurl abuses at them and “blame” them for their linkage with Pakistan. Humanitarian abuse apart, this is equivalent to their alienating Kashmiri Muslims from the Indian mainstream. If Kashmiri Muslims are visible in other parts of the country, whether to pursue education, professional interests, or for other similar aims, they need to be encouraged further. But when they are targeted and attacked violently, it is suggestive of the criminals questioning their national identity. Who has given these elements the right to target Kashmiri Muslims from this or any other angle?

Sadly, this can create a phobia among Kashmiri Muslims and restrain them from moving outside the Valley to other parts of the country. Yes, certain right-winged elements, linked with the saffron brigade, still bear a negative approach towards Muslims in general. This has been marked by lynching incidents, assassination of secular, out-spoken Indians and other such cases. However, these incidents have tended to be conducted rather quietly and secretively. The same cannot be said of the manner in which Kashmiri Muslims have been attacked. Also, whenever a terrorist incident takes place, there appears to be an immediate tendency to target Kashmiri Muslims, who may be miles away from the site and in essence have no role in terrorist incident.

Yes, the aftermath of Pulwama-case is a tragic indicator of this harsh reality. How can the Kashmiri traders, students and other Kashmiri Muslims be blamed for what happened in Pulwama? Considering statements issued by Indian government and that a terrorist organisation, based outside the country, has been blamed for the case, how can any other citizen, Indian Kashmiri or of any other state, be blamed for it? Rather, targeting any other individual and/or group amounts to questioning the official stand taken by the government. And this raises questions about nationalism as well as patriotism of elements who have not spared Kashmiri Muslims.

Also, these incidents are suggestive of extremist elements having no remorse about trying to take “law and order” in their own hands. What else is indicated by irresponsible manner in which Kashmiri Muslims have been attacked recently following the Pulwama-tragedy? Little attention has been paid to sufferings faced by Kashmiri Muslims residing in the Valley and elsewhere. Terrorism keeps surfacing now and then. But has any attention been paid to the harsh fact that they are victims to it as is anyone else staying there, including the security forces? Sadly, though Indian officers are doing their job, the risk of Kashmiri civilians in J&K being caught between former’s encounters with terrorists cannot be ignored.

It is possible that right-winged, communal elements are perpetually in look out for opportunities to display their aggressiveness against minorities. Pulwama-case provided them with this. This is being specifically referred as several parts of the country witnessed incidents of Kashmiri Muslims and their property being attacked. If from the beginning, a conscious effort had been made to prevent extremist, communal forces from indulging in violence of any kind, the situation may not have reached this stage.

The recent incident of a blast at a bus-stop in Jammu is just a mild indicator of the fact that civilians are not spared by terrorists. Nor do terrorists confirm religious identity of victims before they strike. Besides, some attention needs to be paid to Kashmiri Muslims making their mark in civil services, sports and other fields. Please note, just as each Muslim cannot be labelled as a terrorist, each Kashmiri Muslim must not be viewed as a militant. Some action is needed against communal mentality for wrongly blaming and attacking Kashmiri Muslims!

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