Kashmir unrest is directed against a false enemy

Rhetoric with radicalism being romanticised has destroyed the state.

 |  17-minute read |   23-08-2016
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Last month, Hurriyat(M) chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, wrote a series of articles in leading newspapers of the subcontinent - "Wake up to the reality of Kashmir", in The Hindu, on July 10, 2016; "A new generation of struggle", in The Indian Express, on July 13, 2016 and a modified version of the same article for The Dawn, on July 14, 2016. The articles are similar and are full of political dust that makes the truth opaque.

When in the eighth century Lalitaditya Muktapida - the greatest Kashmiri warrior king - conquered Turkistan, the people on that side of the world came to know of Kashmir. Descendants of Genghis Khan - who had not converted to Islam then - burnt Baghdad in the 13th century and some privileged Muslim clergy families in Iran-Iraq fled to Kashmir.

The family of Mirwaiz aka head priest of Kashmir, was one such family to settle in Kashmir. Coincidentally, most of the pro-Pakistan leaders in Kashmir, be it Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Syeda Asiya Andrabi, or Maulvi Omar Farooq trace their roots to Iran-Iraq. These families, called Syeds, don’t usually marry the local indigenous Kashmiris. They have stayed segregated for around 600 years, with a sense of superiority over the native Kashmiris.

Also read: Kashmiri hip-hop artist MC Kash on how Bangalore Police threatened him with jail

In the 1940s, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, an indigenous Kashmiri and descendant of Pandit Ragho Ram Kaul, saw the then Mirwaiz, Yusuf Shah, as anti-Kashmir and someone serving Maharaja Hari Singh in the guise of religion. The Mirwaiz, in turn, saw Sheikh as anti-Muslim.

Little before the Pakistan-backed tribal attack on October 22, 1947, Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah, who was sure of the victory of the infiltrators, went to Pakistan to seek support from Mohammad Ali Jinnah; he wanted to be appointed the political head of Jammu and Kashmir.

jk-embed-1_082316085155.jpg If we don’t do course correction, stone-pelting will actually take Kashmir towards the stone age. 

In the meantime, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the accession treaty with India, which was accepted by the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru only after it was countersigned by the popular leader of Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.

The first Dakota aircraft with soldiers from the First Sikh Regiment reached Srinagar on October 27, 1947, within hours of the signing of the Instrument of Accession. By this time Baramulla had been captured by the infiltrators; and an orgy of rape, killing and loot had been unleashed on the Kashmiris in Baramulla.

The civilian volunteer resistance group of Kashmiris, known as Salamati Fauj, played an important role in defeating the infiltrators. Mohammad Maqbool Sherwani, a part of the Salamati Fauj, single-handedly frustrated the Pakistan-backed tribals' advance from Baramulla to Srinagar, thus giving valuable time to the Indian Army to land at Srinagar airport.

Also read: Here's why joining Pakistan is not an option for Kashmiris

The infiltrators put him on a wooden cross and nailed him. The martyr’s body was brought down on November 8, 1947, three days after his death, when the the infiltrators were driven out by the Indian Army from Baramulla. The Salamati Fauj guarded bridges so that they were not blown up by the Pakistan-backed tribals which would have delayed the movement of the India Army against them.

The first batch of the Indian Army was driven in local vehicles by Kashmiris from the airport to Baramulla and was ambushed by the infiltrators near Pattan. The Salamati Fauj helped the Indian Army escape the ambush. The commander of the Indian Army, Lieutenant Colonel Dewan Ranjit Rai lit a cigarette in the dead of the night after escaping the ambush; and the enemy bullet found him. This martyr became the first recipient of the Maha Vir Chakra in free India.

I have heard this story and many other events of that time from my grandfather, Pandit Shyam Lal Tikoo, who was one of the members of the Salamati Fauj that guided the Indian Army to safety from the ambush on October 27, 1947. It was the Indian Army that saved Kashmir in 1947, on the invitation of Kashmiris and with the support of local Kashmiris.

By end of September 1947, the non-Kashmiri-speaking areas of Kashmir like Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Poonch had revolted against the government of Jammu and Kashmir and driven out the Hindus and Sikhs permanently, as one lakh refugees.

Also read: Why Kashmir's stone-pelters mustn't be seen as terrorists

Despite being the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, they never got settled in Kashmir; since 1951, 25 seats have been reserved in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly for these areas which are now in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). It is time we make these seats active by having bonafide voters and bonafide candidates from thatv area presently living as refugees in India and other parts of the world.

In the Kashmiri-speaking areas, we had no communal rioting in 1947; else the tiny Pandit population would have been wiped out.

This helped the Kashmiri-speaking areas fit in culturally with secular India. Kashmiris had got a glimpse of the dark side of Pakistan, when it occupied Baramulla for a brief period in October 1947. Kashmiri Pandits saw Sheikh Abdullah as their saviour.

kashmiri-pandit-embe_082316085259.jpg Kashmiri Pandits.  

This made prime minster Nehru, in consultation with Abdullah, stop the Indian Army from crossing into these non-Kashmiri-speaking areas, while driving the infiltrators out of Kashmir. The line of control (LoC) as we see today in Kashmir divides the Kashmiri-speaking areas with non-Kashmiri-speaking areas.

Mirwaiz Yousuf Shah was not allowed by Abdullah to return to the Valley and he stayed back in PoK. Yousuf Shah’s son, wife and daughter-in-law were deported to PoK by Abdullah after he became the interim prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Maulvi Farooq, nephew of Yousuf Shah, was appointed as the new Mirwaiz. He was assassinated by Pakistan backed terrorists in May 1990.

Muhammad Umar Farooq took over as Mirwaiz, at the age of 17 after his father Maulvi Farooq’s assassination.

Back to Mirwaiz’s said article. The unrest he is talking about is nothing but organising a crowd against a manufactured enemy. I have tried to make this ideology vivid, as we go along. For the past three months, this unrest was being built-up under the guise of agitation against the Pandit colonies, with rival separatist organisations coming together on one platform and out-of-power mainstream political parties also becoming a party to it.

Take this article in Rising Kashmir, one of the leading English dailies of Kashmir, on May 8, 2016 titled "Stop opposing Kashmiri Pandit settlement in satellite townships”.

The article says, “We are a group of Kashmiri Muslims on whose behalf any faction of Hurriyat — which portrays itself as the representative voice of all Kashmiris — does not speak. We are distressed that the minorities are being treated insensitively by self-styled leaders in the name of secularism. If the separatists really wish to remove their taint of communal intolerance, nothing could be more counter-productive than opposing the return of Pandits. In fact, this obstructionism only provides the definitive confirmation that the ‘Tehreek’ is indeed what it is alleged to be. Through this open letter, we wish to make an appeal to Kashmiris of all denominations, including separatists, to support the resettlement of Pandits and leave the modalities of return for the Pandits to decide.”

Mirwaiz, you didn’t listen to this Kashmiri voice. He kept on building the momentum by opposing the Pandit colonies, the Sainik Colony and the industrial policy that would have brought talent, investment and jobs to Jammu and Kashmir. Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing gave you an opportunity that you had been waiting for, and again, the politics over dead bodies of our children has unfolded.

You state in your article in the Kashmir Reader, “Burhan, a 22-year-old Kashmiri militant commander, represented the fifth generation of Kashmiris...”

The village that Burhan came from - Tral - gave the Indian Army its first Kashmiri Muslim general, born and brought up in Kashmir, Major General Mohammad Amin Naik, who also served at the Army headquarters as General Staff Officer.

Major General Naik was decorated with the Sena medal for exemplary service and has been awarded the Arjuna award. In 1982, while I was studying at Tyndale Biscoe at Srinagar, the whole school rejoiced that its alumnus, Major General Naik had won a bronze in rowing at the Asian Games. This inspired us to better our best in Regatta, on every Wednesday at Dal Lake, as part of our school curriculum. Around the same time, Mirwaiz, you went to Burn Hall School in Srinagar and might have missed this laurel that Major General Naik brought to Kashmir.

mirwaiz_082316085510.jpg The ideology propagated by Mirwaiz Umar Farroq is trying to bury the ancient identity of Kashmir.  

You further state in your article, “It is 85 years since July 13, 1931 when Kashmiris rose in rebellion against an oppressive occupation and 24 Kashmiris were killed in firing...”

It was 27 people who were killed that day. Police killed the civilians; a group of these civilians then started rioting against the Kashmiri Pandits, who had nothing to do with the killing of 24 Muslim civilians. Earlier, outsiders from the Swat Valley, Tatar, Afghanistan had brutalised the Kashmiris, but never before had the Kashmiris rioted against their own and killed their own.

Shops and houses belonging to Kashmiri Pandits were not only looted but also burnt. Three innocent Kashmiri Pandits lost their lives. Vicharnag, a Kashmiri Pandit village, on the outskirts of Srinagar was the worst hit. This was the day that Kashmiriyat started dying; and died with the ethnic cleansing and exodus of Pandits in the 1990s.

You further invoke Gandhiji in your article. Mahatma Gandhi never used violence as a political instrument.

Awami Action Committee (AAC) is the political organisation of Mirwaiz and has pockets of influence in downtown Srinagar. In 1990, the AAC diversified and formed Al-Umar, a terrorist organisation led by Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar; who was captured and then released from jail on December 31, 1999, as part of the Indian Airlines Flight 814 hostage deal, at Kandhar.

You further state, “The state of Jammu and Kashmir, as it existed on August 14, 1947, is a disputed territory, recognised as such by the UN, India and Pakistan, who are the other two parties to the dispute.”

The UN resolution of August 13, 1948 clearly states that Pakistan was to vacate its troops from Jammu and Kashmir. It was India that wanted a plebiscite to allow Jammu and Kashmir to decide its future, that is to be with India or Pakistan; like India did in February 1948 for Junagadh in Gujarat.

Pakistan didn’t want the plebiscite, for it knew the people of Jammu and Kashmir, whom it had attacked in October 1947 and had been saved by the Indian Army, will vote for India. Thus Pakistan never withdrew its army from occupied Jamum and Kashmir for plebiscite.

To make matters worse, Pakistan began to break up the territory of Jammu and Kashmir that it had occupied. It extended its administration to the northern areas of the state and called the rest of the occupied area "Azad Kashmir".

In 1963, Pakistan handed over 5,480 sq Km of territory in Shaksgam area of the Karakoram region to China. Since 1988, Pakistan has settled Punjabi-speaking Sunni Muslims in the Gilgit area of PoK and reduced the indigenous Shia population there to a minority.

Pakistan sponsored the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley and the exodus of Hindu, Sikh, Gujjar Muslims and others in the Pir Panchal range of Jammu.

With these demographic changes by Pakistan, (and you, Mirwaiz, accuse India of demographic change in Kashmir? When? Where?) and the break-up of the PoK, plebiscite isn’t possible.

On August 2, 2016, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said, "I just wanted to clarify something, which is that UNMOGIP, the UN observer presence there, its mandate is to report on the ceasefire between India and Pakistan along the line of control. The UN mission there does not have a mandate there beyond the line of control." Since 1948, till date, political entrepreneurs in Kashmir have tried to build a constituency around the plebiscite, knowing well it can’t happen.

Further, since 1947, people of Kashmiri origin have held top political posts in India, Thus while Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had become prime ministers, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had become the Union home minister.

We have had defence service chiefs and other top military officers in India from Jammu and Kashmir in the form of General TN Raina, Air Chief Marshal SK Kaul, General NC Vij, Air Vice Marshall Kapil Kak and Major General Mohammad Amin Naik.

People from Jammu and Kashmir have headed top Indian institutions or have been part of sports teams, for example, the current Chief Justice of India (CJI) TS Thakur, cricketer Parvez Rasool who had played for the country, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) founder chief RN Kao, former foreign secretary TN Kaul, chief justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court Mansoor Ahmad Mir, former chief justice of Orisa High Court Bilal Nazki, chief justice of Madras High Court SK Kaul, former governor of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, Mohammad Shafi Qurashi and others. The citizens of Jammu and Kashmir are equal citizens of India.

Mirwaiz, you further state in your article in the 'Kashmir Reader', “What do you say about the sentiment that makes our youth so daring that they pelt stones...”

I worked with Santosh Sivan on the story of a movie called Tahaan, which was released in 2008. This is a story about an innocent Kashmiri boy, who is ready to throw a grenade on the Indian Army for money. This story reflects the reality. The poor man’s child is being used as a foot soldier; a kid who doesn’t even know the consequence of his action.

You mention that over one lakh people have been killed. This is very sad. Such an ideology has wasted precious lives over a futile cause. It has unfortunately labelled all Kashmiris on communal lines owing to the exodus of Pandits from the Valley; despite most of us believing in a pluralistic ethos.

Anyone back from Haj pilgrimage would bring Aab-i-Zumzum and dates to our home. The day the Pandits celebrate their main festival Shivratri is a day of rejoicing “Salaam”, because Muslim neighbours and friends would come to wish the Pandits on Shivratri.

Islam in Kashmir allows singing in the mosques. It is called Darudkhani, is similar to aarti of Pandits. No Kashmiri would eat fish from the spring attached to a temple, Kashmiri Muslims wouldn’t eat beef a few decades back, and Kashmiris didn’t eat meat on Tuesdays. The Reshi Pir shrines spread across the Valley are revered by both Muslims and Pandits; the list of the plural ways of life in Kashmir is long.

When Islam came to Kashmir, Pandits saw it as an extension of Nirakar - a formless branch of Hinduism and it was welcomed by Pandits, who got converted to the new faith by the preachers who came from Iran-Iraq. Islam enriched Kashmiri culture and had an indigenous flavour. Petroleum money has changed this to Wahhabism in the last three decades.

The ideology propagated by Mirwaiz is trying to bury the ancient identity of Kashmir. Adi Shankaracharya converted us from Buddhism to Sanatan Dharma around 800 AD. Buddhism built a casteless society in Kashmir and Adi Shankaracharya converted them to Brahmins, converting them from nastika to astika according to the ancient philosophy of Kashmir.

This made all Hindus in Kashmir of the Brahmin caste. With affection and reverence, a hill where Adi Shankaracharya meditated, was named after him by the Kashmiris. This hill in recent times is being called Takht-a-Sulaiman. The irony is that Solomon never visited Kashmir. Srinagar city, founded by Ashoka, is now called Shahar-a-Khaas.

Similarly Hari Parbat is now called Koh-a-Maran. Anantnag is now called Islamabad. There are many such instances. This makes most of the Kashmiris sad. The ideology is systematically making the link of Kashmir with its glorious past opaque; future generations will be unaware of who they are.

Leaders of the ideology propagated by Mirwaiz have prospered, getting the best medical treatment in Mumbai, Delhi and overseas; living in huge mansions with large support staff and winter holiday homes outside Kashmir. This explains the peace in Kashmir during winter. Their children go to the best schools, best global universities and have the best professional opportunities. These leaders have never held a job nor have they managed any business. How is that they lead such lavish lives? The foot soldiers have found the grave and wailing parents, their families are stuck in an abyss of poverty.

Rhetoric with radicalism being romanticised has destroyed Kashmir. This serves those who don’t love Kashmiris. If we don’t do course correction, Sangbazi (the local term for stone-pelting), will actually take Kashmir towards the stone age.

This ideology consumed one of the most secular and respected leaders of Kashmir, Maulvi Farooq, Mirwaiz's father. In 2004, this ideology was behind the burning of the 110-year-old school, Islamia Higher Secondary School, managed by Mirwaiz. In 2004, this ideology was behind the killing of Mirwaiz's uncle Maulvi Mushtaq while he was praying in a mosque.

The same ideology was behind the burning of the shrine of Kashmir’s patron saint Sheikh-ul-Alam, whom the Pandits call Nund Rishi, at Charar-e-Sharif. The same ideology was behind the burning of the shrine of Dastgeer Sahib at Kahnayar, Srinagar. The list is huge. It is time we stopped this ideology from destroying everything that Kashmir stood for.

Children are the only asset any society actually has; this asset needs nurturing to reach its true potential. It pains to know that the injured and the dead children are the poorest amongst us. The future of our children in Jammu and Kashmir can’t be mortgaged to the past. In no way should they be used as fodder to sustain the ideology. Nor should our prejudices be passed to our children. Immediately, everyone who loves Kashmiris, needs to work towards bringing calm to Kashmir. The following needs to be done immediately:

a. We need to get the best medical treatment for our injured children, followed by education, skills and employment.

b. The Kashmiris need not suffer during curfew and essential commodities should reach them.

c. For those who have lost family members, nothing can bridge the void in their lives but a member from such a family should be provided government employment or interest-free loan, without any collateral, to start a business. State-owned Jammu and Kashmir Bank can be given the mandate to implement it.

d. Similarly, the government employed Pandits living in the Valley, who have fled in July 2016, may be absorbed in Jammu, till he/she feels safe to be back in Kashmir.

e. Unless some serious crime has been committed, nobody from Kashmir should be harassed in the cities of India in the guise of nationalism. A helpline and a special cell should be formed under a superintendent of police in Jammu and Kashmir, with legal assistants, to help Kashmiris in such eventuality.

f. Education institutions and universities in Kashmir have to be start working as early as possible.

We have lost another tourist season. We, all those who love Kashmir, have to work towards the economic revival of Kashmir and a peaceful Kashmir is the only way to attract tourists and film crews, wanting to shoot in our land.

The government can’t provide employment to all; in fact the Jammu and Kashmir government should reduce its budget on itself in the form of salaries and cost of the government. The global economy today is about solving human problems. Jammu and Kashmir has to build the high technology knowledge ecosystem; attract investment, skills, education, investors and talent in setting up such enterprises, and integrate itself with the global economy.

Jammu and Kashmir is fatigued. It needs a leadership that can make individuals, communities, religions, regions live together in peace; otherwise conflict will consume us. Jammu and Kashmir aspires for a leadership that can make our state a bridge between India and Pakistan, rather than a bone of contention between the two countries. Could Mirwaiz lead our Jammu and Kashmir there?


Reapan Tikoo Reapan Tikoo

The writer is a high technology entrepreneur and a citizen of Jammu and Kashmir.

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