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The battle for Kashmir

by Rafiq Kathwari | Published: 00:00, Aug 07,2020

 
 

THE erasure of Islam, its decimation in Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state, has accelerated since last August 5 when prime minister Modi drew down Kashmir’s limited autonomy, claiming that it was a hurdle towards Kashmir’s development.

Since then, Delhi’s functionaries have blocked 8.8 million mobile phones; they have arrested 7,000 Kashmiris, including politicians, activists, including 144 children; they have muzzled brave and robust journalists (three Kashmiri photojournalists won the 2019 Pulitzer prize), and they have jailed many scribes invoking British era sedition laws. The state is afraid, very afraid.

The functionaries have earmarked hundreds of acres of land in Kashmir for India’s army which is now authorised to build colonies anywhere. No permits necessary. Recently, an army high command reportedly said that he was seriously considering rounding up Kashmiri youth, bussing them to reeducation centres, their heads shaved bald.

Development? Mining rights were opened to all Indian bidders and the bulk went to non-Kashmiris. Urdu, the language in which the majority of legal petitions are composed, is being proscribed, and Hindi officially promoted. Schools have been closed since August 5 last. There is no remote learning during an exploding virus because the internet speed in Kashmir is 2G. Waiting for Godot, forever.

Thin bureaucrats from the plains have sealed Srinagar’s Sufi shrines where eight million Kashmiris once swayed with Allah — that’s how Modi and his ventriloquists plan to turn shrines into bars and each shrine, many say, will be rebranded, ‘Jai Shree Ram’ or Long Live Lord Rama.

It is religiously motivated. Kashmir strikes at the heart of Hindu nationalist idea of Akhand Bharat, united, undivided Hindu India from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Myanmar to Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

That’s the map draped in orange, the colour of choice of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, founded in 1924, a volunteer army of the young, world’s largest fascist organisation, based in Nagpur, the parent organisation of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the present xenophobic regime in Delhi.

Modi’s functionaries have encouraged their Hindu goons that since Kashmir is now fully integrated, the goons should at once apply for Domicile Certificates to buy property in Kashmir and marry fair-skinned Kashmiri girls. Since August 5 last year, Delhi’s functionaries in Kashmir have issued 250,000 domicile certificates to non-Kashmiris to change the demographics. It’s a textbook example of colonial settler project.

In fact, Kashmir was annexed in 1947 by Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minster, just months after India partitioned herself.

Then, Delhi flew in a regiment to Kashmir after the Maharajah signed an Instrument of Accession, ending the 100-year-old sexually transmitted Dogra Rajput Hindu dynasty. Even the great Mahatma Gandhi approved of Nehru’s action.

Nehru’s annexation was driven as much by his love of Kashmir as it was seizing the moment. Kashmir was Nehru’s ancestral home. His family were Kashmiri pandits. There are 250,000 pandits in Kashmir, three per cent of Kashmir’s eight million Muslims. Pandits are 0.1 per cent of India’s 1.2 billion, but Modi’s regime has weaponised the 0.1 per cent pandits to rouse India’s Hindus. Never were so few exploited to incite so many against Kashmiri Muslims.

Nehru hoisted Kashmir on the flagpole of secularism to flaunt India’s republican credentials to the West, and the West clapped. Nehru, a bon vivant, became a celebrity. On a state visit to Washington, Jacqueline Kennedy didn’t seem to mind him touching her bare arms, reportedly. ‘You have the right to bare arms,’ he reportedly told her. She gave him her famous sensual smile. President Kennedy didn’t like that. Ironic.

Never mind. Back home, Nehru was ruthless. He exiled one of the most important political figures in the modern history of Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah (1905–1982), a tall slim man who with one stroke of his fountain pen gave tillers the land they ploughed, freeing Kashmiri peasants from serfdom. It earned him the title, ‘Lion of Kashmir.’

That frightened Nehru and the pandits who thought of themselves as proprietors of paradise, its people, flora, fauna, pashmina goats — words enshrined by the British in the Treaty of Amritsar that in 1845 sold Kashmiris into slavery.

Back to Modi’s Neanderthals of Nagpur who follow the dictates of Mussolini’s black shirts. Every summer they spread the legs of a virgin glacier in Kashmir, encourage thousands of Hindu pilgrims shielded by the armed forces to worship Shiva’s icy lingam thawing in a cave — daring an ecological tragedy, or even a plague.

The Neanderthals in 1990 demolished an architecturally significant mosque built in 1528 by the first Mughal emperor, claiming the mosque was erected upon the birthplace of Lord Rama. India’s supreme court ruled for the Hindus but gave Muslim a few acres about 20 miles away to construct a new mosque. History was reprised.

Randomly, I’m sharing a blessed tweet from my Twitter feed via @lochdonheadswan who contextualises all deftly: ‘If England removed internet access in Scotland, locked them down saying you are now England, sent in 900,000 troops, raped women, blinded children and killed thousands, why should the world be so silent about Kashmir?’

I feel the rage swelling. Neanderthals marching to the drumbeat of Hindu supremythology have turned a Vale of Lotus Eaters into the world’s most militarised place.

Our battle is not merely for the soul of Kashmir, but for the compassion of India even though Nehru’s Congress party for years did to Kashmiris by night what the BJP is now doing by light.

Yet, we are not alone. There are concurrent historical battles being waged beyond Kashmir. Women are heroines in our battle, not reduced to weeping or objects of desire. History is on our side. Remember, the French colonised Algeria for 132 years, but the men and women of the Kasbah in Algiers, using all means necessary, kicked out the French who rolled up their Algerian Domicile Certificates under their armpits that smelled of fleas from a thousand camels.

 

CounterPunch.org, August 5.

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