Kashmir—Indian Muslim Connection
BREAKING VIEWS By Ali Andrabi
THE TWO WAY EXPOSURE TO EACH OTHER’S SECLUDED WORLD COULD BE A HARBINGER OF NEW DEVELOPMENTS BOTH FOR KASHMIR AND MAINLAND MUSLIMS
ONE of the many ironies that hit Kashmir is the fact that it became victim of the partition politics only after the two major communities of South Asia decided to divide the region between them. Till 1947 Jammu and Kashmir was a sovereign country within the ambit of British suzerainty. Politically, however, the ethnic Kashmir remained insulated from divisive agenda of the region, pursuing its own brand of nationalism rooted in its distinct cultural identity. Same could not be said of other areas of the sprawling state like various components of Jammu that included present day PaK which got influenced by the politics of the contiguous Punjab. Whatever happened in the partitioned Punjab, as a result got replicated in Jammu, communal killings, abductions, rapes and exodus of population. Though there were strong economic and social ties between the Punjab and Kashmir valley dictated by history, geography and logistical constraints Kashmiri Muslims under Sheikh Abdullah resisted the temptation of being drawn into the Indian Muslim story of politics. This trend continued even after partition. There remained a political and social disconnect between Kashmiri Muslims and those living in rest of India.
That was evident from their clearly segregated responses to events, global, national or regional. For example throughout the last six decades no mainland Muslim leader ever got an entry or a foothold in Kashmir. They, including the titans like Maulana Azad were kept at arms distance by the colossal presence of Sheikh Abdullah in Kashmir. Even after Sheikh was incarcerated in 1953 by friend and co architect of accession Nehru, Maulana Azad could hardly have any impact on the course of events in the state.
During the twenty years of militancy, one section of Muslim population that remained completely away from the situation in Kashmir was the co religionists from the mainland. Though reportedly there appeared some outfits like the Indian Mujahideen after 2008 no Kashmir connection was even hinted at. Barring a few stray reports of some less than a dozen boys from Kerala having joined Kashmiri militant groups the 150 million strong community maintained a political quarantine of Kashmir. The Imam Bukharis and others of his ilk who take up Muslim causes anywhere be it Iraq or Afghanistan at the drop of hat remained steadfastly tight lipped on Kashmir. Kashmir connection to mainstream Muslims remained confined to boys from the valley being caught in cheap hotels of old Delhi on mostly unproven charges of militant activity.
Conversely Kashmir too maintained a freezing distance from whatever happened to Muslims in other states. Demolition of Babri Masjid or Gujarat riots became talking points in Kashmir’s internal discourse against those rooting for India but they never became reasons for open, focused protest. While Palestine is never deleted from Kashmir’s priorities similar expressions become conspicuous by their absence from the protest list over matters within the country. There has never been a backlash of communal riots elsewhere in Kashmir even when Pandits were here in full strength as a small minority. Strangely, while Babri demolition (Kashmir itself was getting destroyed that time though) hardly roused any publicly expressed anger, operation blue star resulted in widespread disturbances in Srinagar. Unlike anywhere outside the Punjab more than half a dozen Muslims were killed by police in clashes with mobs protesting the army action on Golden Temple. And June 1984 was one of the most peaceful and politically stable periods of Kashmir history with Farooq Abdullah following a massive mandate trying to bring national opposition into J&K.
Militancy resulted in a greater interaction between the home loving Kashmiris and the rest of the country. Students in thousands went out in pursuit of education and many of them are now professionals in the vast private sector. The fabled trading attributes of Kashmiris came in handy in taking them to different parts of the country to set up mainly craft based businesses. One can find hundreds of their kiosks all across the country. But still there has been hardly any worthwhile social integration between them and Muslims elsewhere. Many matrimonial alliances have taken place as a result of the young population out on a date. Though there needs to be a survey of this trend it seems most of them are taking place across religions. I think more people got married across LOC and Indo Pak border, post partition than among Kashmiri Muslims and rest of India.
But straws in the wind now suggest that a political interaction may be on its way. Three indicators come to mind. The least significant first: Assaduddin Owaisi, the youthful and articulate MP from Hyderabad is perhaps the first voice from Muslim community that has ever been raised in parliament, in political forums and on national media in support of Kashmir. Obviously he doesn’t support Azadi for the state but his voice has struck the right chord among a majority of people here which could lead to convergence of interests.
The second development is the call of Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind in protest against excesses in Kashmir. The venerable organisation that opposed partition and two nation theory called a conference of ulema in Deoband to be followed, according to their announcement by a rally at Ram Lila ground New Delhi in support of Kashmir. Again first time ever. This could add electoral value in due course to Kashmir sufferings in a positive manner if Indian Muslims start developing a political affinity with Kashmir. Till now Kashmir has been used only to display the ‘strength’ of Indian state in dealing with ‘delinquent Muslims’ that serves both Congress and Hindutva forces in their electoral calculus. There has been a more steady, durable and significant connector of Kashmir with the Muslims in other states. Ramoji Rao’s etv Urdu beamed from Hyderabad is now the staple of Kashmir viewers. Their hour long daily capsule on Kashmir news and current affairs is the most viewed programme in the valley. But its impact is wider than merely getting a detailed account of Kashmir to residents here from Hyderabad. It has opened up the whole Muslim universe of India to the ordinary Kashmiri. He is becoming connected with the larger Muslim culture, identity, problems be that in Bangluru, Kolkatta, Hyderabad or Ranchi. It certainly is going to have an impact. And consequently it also gets the Urdu loving Muslim population of the country a better knowledge, awareness and appreciation of the problems of Kashmir. The two way exposure to each other’s secluded world could be a harbinger of new developments both for Kashmir and mainland Muslims. Watch out!
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Lastupdate on : Thu, 21 Oct 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 21 Oct 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 22 Oct 2010 00:00:00 IST
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