Kashmiriyat Offers A Beacon Of Hope For Peace

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Kashmir can never be resolved by force, but by love.      Beacon 

 — Kalhana in Rajtarangini

AS Dulat

During the Partition of the country, when riots were raging everywhere, Kashmir was an island of peace, prompting Mahatma Gandhi to say that if he saw a ray of hope anywhere, it was in Kashmir. And this, despite a large-scale massacre of Muslims in Jammu, a large number of whom fled to Pakistan.

Now, Kashmir finds itself badly shaken, stunned and angrier then anytime in the recent past. There is also acute disappointment. The Kashmiri will tell you that he has had many problems with Delhi over the years, but never with the people of India. Why had the people forsaken him this time?

We like to say and some even believe that the Kashmiri wants Azadi, or worse still, Pakistan. But this is not quite true. Whatever prompted militancy or terrorism, the Kashmiri has had enough and craves peace. All he seeks is accommodation and peace with honour. He realised long ago that India would never let go of Kashmir and that he had to live with India. Even the so-called hawks like SAS Geelani are in denial when it comes to the ISIS. That green and black flags are raised from time to time is owing to frustration, helplessness and hopelessness.

Kashmir is not a military or law and order problem but a political, emotive and psychological issue. Time and again, our Generals, including former Army Chiefs, have said that their job was done and it was now up to the politicians. Unfortunately, at this juncture, top politicians in Kashmir are under detention. By silencing and pulverising the mainstream, we had almost totally demolished it.

In June 2016, a month or so before the killing of Burhan Wani, which gave a fillip to militancy, DS Hooda, Northern Army Commander, had admitted that there was little the Army could do when whole villages came out in support of the militants. He acknowledged that we were losing the battle for a narrative.

Terrorism has been a scourge all over the world, though we have borne the brunt, because of the factory of terror next door. Our security forces, notably the Army, have dealt with the problem admirably. But very rarely has terrorism been policed out or fully defeated by physical force. In 1950, the British, who had armed and trained the communists to fight the Japanese, found themselves fighting the same communists. It was then that Field Marshal Gerald Templar and General Harry Briggs realised that the answer lay not in pouring more troops in the jungle, but in the hearts and minds of the people. This formed the core of their counter-insurgency strategy handbook, still drawn on by the British military. Not surprisingly, Elizabeth Manningham Buller, head of MI5, advocated talking to the Al Qaeda. And Efraim Halevy, head of Mossad, said there was no other way to deal with Hamas, but talks. The ‘one last heave’ approach is a delusion.

What kind of normalcy can we claim when the tallest and most secular leader in Kashmir, Dr Farooq Abdullah, has been detained without trial under the Public Safety Act (PSA), used mainly against the terrorists. As was reported in these columns on November 20, 2019, the continued incarceration of the three-time chief minister, former Union minister and India’s mascot against Pakistani propaganda at the UN convention in Geneva in 1994, is an embarrassment of huge proportions for the Indian democracy and its diplomats all over the world. No wonder, most countries now insist that there is a “Kashmir issue”.

Those who criticise the Government of India for caving into terrorists should remember that on two crucial occasions — the kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed in December 1989, and the hijacking of IC814 in December 1999 — Dr Farooq Abdullah vehemently opposed compromising with terrorists. No one has stood by India as solidly as Doctor Saheb.

In the mess that is Kashmir today, Kashmiriyat remains a beacon of hope. When the Mughals first came to the Valley, Emperor Akbar was astounded at the harmony between the Hindus and Muslims. Zain-ul-Abideen, Bud Shah, the great king who ruled in the 15th century for fifty years, never differentiated between the Hindus and Muslims and often visited the Hindu places of worship. Kashmiri people agree that the killing of Kashmiri Pandits in 1989-90 was a blunder. Geelani is on record having said that Kashmiri society was incomplete without the Pandits. In the ‘Country without a post office’, renowned Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali laments the Pandits leaving the Valley: “If only you could have been mine; what would have not been possible in the world.”

Despite the provocation, since August 5, not a single non-Muslim in the Valley has been harmed or even anti-minority slogans raised. When the Jama Masjid reopened on December 19, after more than four months, the Kashmiri quietly offered prayers in an area of downtown Srinagar, the hotbed of separatism and Pakistan’s main constituency, where stone pelting has been the norm at the slightest provocation. The message clearly is that the Kashmiris still committed to Kashmiriyat are ready for a dialogue.

Yet, the narrative may just be slipping. Fear, frustration, humiliation and anger are leading to radicalism and sprouts of ISIS. There is nothing in life that does not have a reaction. Kashmir needs a softer approach. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ‘Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat, Kashmiriyat’ touched something in the Kashmiri spirit. That is the spirit that Kashmir needs today. Tolerance, compassion and empathy are the very essence of Kashmiriyat.

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