Since its beginning, the resistance movement of Kashmir has remained a subject of many discussions among scholars, politicians, and social scientists as far as its origin, development and persistent source of inspiration is concerned. Some experts are of the opinion that by its very nature Kashmir problem is purely political and religion has least role to play, while as for many others Kashmir issue is nothing but religious.
However, while looking at the entire history of the Kashmir issue and examining the various phases it has come across, right from the days of Dogra rule, the disputed accession to India in 1947, 1985 elections, 1989-90 armed resistance, 2008-2010 mass uprisings, and now Burhan aftermath in 2016, a much balanced dimension of the issue comes forth that fills up the void between the given two extremes. It collects both perceptions and adopts a moderate and much scientific attitude while analyzing the complexity of the Kashmir problem. Consequently, it helps in formulating a relevant theory and developing a realistic understanding of the subject vis-à-vis the permanent settlement of the issue.
On one hand, it acknowledges the "religious factor" that has eventually got imbibed in the methodological construction of Kashmir's resistance movement and answers the question that how the contextual manipulation of religious teachings has strengthened and legitimized the Kashmir cause. But, on the other hand, it doesn't accept it of being religious in totality; rather, it identifies all those factors, whether be they historical, cultural, political or economical in nature, which have shaped and nurtured this cause at different levels.
From last 7-8 years, this sort of approach is gaining rapid public acceptance and is turning to become the overwhelming expression of the society. The Kashmiri youth, especially young college and university students, has emerged as a bloc that strongly advocates this moderate view. The reason, most probably, is their acquaintance to changing regional and global politics within and outside the Muslim world after 9/11 incident. That is why, apparently in contrast to their "elder" generation, they have been raising Kashmir issue as a genuine political and humanitarian problem – a concern for whole humanity – without wrapping the whole struggle into a particular religious box.
The scheme of thought in their writings vis-à-vis Kashmir issue reflects a balanced story about its religious background and much emphasis has been given to issues which are wider in appeal. For example, the violation of fundamental human rights like right to life, right to freedom of expression, right to belief and so on at the hands of military might is largely discussed on all forms of media. They even feel free to discuss the Kashmir issue within an open democratic framework in order to catch attention of all those individuals, institutions and states who claim to be the harbingers and guardians of democratic principles. It doesn't matter to them that how religious they are in personal capacity, because they have developed a belief in engaging inclusively and in giving space to others – the others can be secularists, atheists and even people of the other faiths.
They don't accept the nature of things as how they have come down to them; rather they have their own rationality and apprehensions. They define the resistance as a movement, not necessarily a purely religious movement, against forcible occupation which primarily needs two things; the first one is "legitimacy" and second one is "inspiration". For legitimacy, they don't need to wander around as they already have well defined and UNO sanctified resolutions which categorically mention Kashmir as a "disputed" territory and also clearly talk about the "right to self-determination" as legitimate right of Kashmiri people to decide their political future.
However, the "inspiration", a social and psychological phenomenon, which enthralls the hearts and minds of the people to uphold the legitimate sentiments of resistance against all odds, is open to variant possibilities. Among all possibilities, religion obliviously is the overwhelming and predominant option available with the people who, actually, believe in the religion as a source of higher peace and tranquility.
As a matter of fact, Kashmir is largely a practicing Muslim society. Hence, Islam, a religion that has a claim of justice and universal brotherhood, was and is continuously being observed as a cure to miseries and sufferings as happens in the other religious societies too. Therefore, this is not a characteristic feature of Kashmiri society only that if its people are finding religion as a source wherefrom they could generate a hope to fight against "enforced" and unwanted slavery. Islam unequivocally talks about protection and sanctity of human life, freedom, justice and outrightly condemns brutality and forcible occupation; therefore, Muslims of Kashmir naturally found it very close and relevant to their cause. The numerous examples discussed in the divine text mentioning ultimate victory of "oppressed" over "oppressor" became their collective "religious voice" and they started realizing "religion" as a powerful source of inspiration.
It is for this reason, to my understanding, that each and every protest in Kashmir is started with an Arabic slogan Takbeer; Allahu Akbar (Slogan of Takbeer; Allah is the Great) which basically acknowledges God alone as the absolute just authority and nullifies human claim of being perfectly a "just" ruler in the absence of divine guidance. Moreover, it determines the expression of anger and alienation against a brutal, corrupt and unjust ruler. The belief in such philosophy, holding God as ultimate sovereign, potentially empowers the chanter with a greater sense of liberty and freedom.
Nevertheless, the national media and authorities sitting in New Delhi are again reading the text out of context as they did it in previous times. Even being known to the fact that once called "marginal voice" has become a "popular" social movement and millions of people are joining it, they (media and authorities) are entirely targeting either some "local religious elements" like members of Jamati Islami or are engaged in "blame-game politics" with Pakistan. Thus, keeping themselves deliberately blind about the ground realities of Kashmir problem, they have been trying to defame the "religious identity" of the people by repeatedly saying that valley is being pushed into an ISIS type of Islamic terrorism which, of course, is a gross mistake and an insult to "collective conscience" of Kashmiri Muslims.
This is the worst thing that Indian media and authorities can do with their people by befooling them about "Kashmir reality" and this is the worst thing that guardians of so called "largest democracy" can do with their democratic constitution. It quite fascinating that the kind of "political lie" they make doesn't come as a surprise to Kashmiri people as they have strongly developed this belief that India has lost every moral right to rule Kashmir and authorities have nothing to sell now except for their lies. For every Kashmiri it is quite understandable that now current Indian leadership is trying to deviate the attention of world community from the atrocities against the people of Kashmir by relating their legitimate and UNO sanctified popular demand with ISIS or Al-Qaeda type of Islamic movements.
For example, in the ongoing cycle of violence following Burhan Wani's killing, which has now entered into 3rd month, more than 80 civilians got killed, about 200 people lost their eye sight, and more than 15 thousand people got badly injured so far. In order to justify this brutal and inhuman type of "state terrorism" against unarmed protesting civilians (mostly young students), Indian news channels and people at the helm of affairs have been trying to pass on a false notion to the world that as if they were a threat to "world peace" and killing of them was equal to killing of ISIS terrorists to ensure world peace.
To conclude, I would like to say that Indian authorities are actually themselves "Islamizing" the situation by frequently referring to emergence of ISIS type of Islamic groups in Kashmir. They openly blame religious organizations, particularly Jamati Islami, valley's largest cadre based socio-politico-religious organization, for instigating millions of the people all across the valley while they were expected to identify and accept their "policy failures" vis-à-vis the Kashmir issue.
It is right time for India to accept the ground political reality and should shun all old, exhausted and irrelevant narratives, which have proved nothing good so far, in order to initiate a fresh, inclusive and a meaningful dialogue process. Lastly, the national media should also play its role in solving the Kashmir problem by showing the real story to its people. It will be only possible if they leave communal bias and foolish nationalism aside and do what they are actually meant for.
(Bilal Ahmad Malik is research Scholar at CCAS, University of Kashmir. Feedback at email@example.com )