By Tania Bhattacharya
On the 17 th of April this month, the Prankote massacre of Kashmir’s valley, touched its twentieth anniversary, and a few days from today, on the 30 th of April, witnesses of the Doda massacre will observe its twelfth commemoration.
Both Prankote and Doda are grim reminders of the self-destructive chamber of echoes, we recognize as Kashmir. During both incidents, Hindu Kashmiris had been targeted for annihilation. In both cases, the perpetrators had achieved their end. It was the year of 1989, when the valley of India’s most iconic northern state, had reverberated with the vicious cries of Islamic azadi.
Here is a sample of those communal slogans:
“La Sharqia la gharbia, Islamia! Islamia!”
(From East to West, there will be only Islam)
“Musalmano jago, Kafiro bhago”
(O! Muslims, Arise, O! Kafirs, scoot)
“Islam hamara maqsad hai, Quran hamara dastur hai, jehad hamara Rasta hai”
(Islam is our objective, Q’uran is our constitution, Jehad is our way of life)
“Pakistan se ik rishta, la ilaha illallah”
(Our connection with Pakistan is, La ilaha illallah)
“Kashmir mein rehna hoga, toh Allahu Akbar kehna hoga”
(If you wish to remain in Kashmir, then you have to say Allahu Akbar)
Insurgency with the tacit support of a large section of Muslims that were residents of
Indian Kashmir, had commenced its rampage in 1990, in that region. Ever since
then, the stock statements emanating from our political elite have been wishy washy,
blinkered and unpragmatic. An entire generation of Indians from the mainland have
grown up to learn, that Kashmir burns not because its majority Muslims are
disaffected due to identity, but because they have economic grievances that when
fixed, can effectively end the Kashmir conundrum. Time and again, we have been
proven wrong over our naïve assertions. For, it is when empty bellies start rumbling
with the flames of revolution and dissent, instead of pleas for jobs and homes, that
we need to sit up and take serious note.
It was the renowned Indian writer and critic, the late Khushwant Singh, who had
opined in the early 90s, that the fundamental difference between Punjab and
Kashmir, was the orientation of the two faiths that were responsible for giving us a
hard time. Sikhism, the religious notion over which the Khalistan secessionist
movement was based, he had pointed out, was integrated with the history of the
Indian sub-continent. Sikhism had been initially created as the military extension of
Hinduism and was an offshoot. Its holy places were divided between Pakistan’s
Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh, and India’s Golden Temple at Amritsar. The Khalistan movement was poised to fail when its adherents realized
that they were rooted in the very soil that they were out to destroy. Islam however,
was a different ball game. It was a religion with its foundations in the far away desert
landscape of the Middle East, which was inspired by a culture that could not be more
different from South Asia’s. Reigning in Kashmir, therefore, was a pipe dream, that
would require oodles of gumption, statesmanship, and patience.
Ever since we have mistaken the scoffing at Indian nationalism by the majority
Muslims of Kashmir, for a dissent against the lack of resources, we have made major
blunders with beefing up the security apparatus of that state, thinking that we were
trying to tame ‘our’ people. Wherever the origins of their discontent may lie, it is
foolish to presume that hundreds of thousands of people who identify with Islam
more than they do with the Indian nation-state, will magically transform into docile,
law-abiding citizens if we provide them with jobs. A cursory look at revolutions closer
to our times, beginning with the 20 th century, is ample proof, that their arteries have
always lain at their impoverished centres.
Before we allow a plebiscite to determine what the individual Kashmiri wants, we
must consider a hitherto unacknowledged demand; that of Panun Kashmir. Panun
Kashmir has been forwarded as a legitimate demand by the Hindus of Kashmir, for
the creation of a Pagan majority Kashmir, by slicing off a chunk of the place. Once
this has come about, resettlement of the internally displaced Hindus of the valley,
who were forced to evacuate their ancestral lands for the seventh time in the
January of 1990, can be carried out.
It is imperative, that upon the formation of Panun Kashmir, which was created as
retributive justice for the hounding of the state’s Hindus by its Islamic elements, the
Azadi seekers will demand a plebiscite. In my opinion, it is high time that we take this
demand seriously, and eschew a fallacious policy of force, for a lasting solution,
which may very well require the ceding of a part of Indian Kashmir, for the sake of
lasting peace in the remaining areas. As long as Kashmir continues to simmer, the
repatriation and rehabilitation of our Hindu sisters and brothers of Kashmiri descent
in the land of their origin, is unlikely to see the light of day. However, if we find it in
ourselves to sacrifice some portion of the troubled region to those who place Islam
before nationhood, then in the same breath we can justify the renaming of the
remainder of Kashmir as Panun Kashmir, the land of the Hindus of Kashmir.
Carving up Kashmir along sectarian lines may sound reprehensible to our ears that
have been fine tuned to jingoist jargons, but eventually, nothing else will bring a
stable solution. Upon following the wise axiom of “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”,
India will be in a position to exercise a free hand in Panun Kashmir and do as it
pleases. As soon as the map of PK has been finalized, with the strategic military
locations remaining with India, and a section of the valley is handed out to the
Azaadi seekers and their very active mass base, India needs to put feelers out there,
that those Kashmiri Muslims, along with other residents who had never joined the
secessionist camp, are free to remain back in Indian controlled Panun Kashmir.
A monumental change of this sort, is bound to create millions of bleeding hearts,
who will have to acquiesce to the new borders, and will have to leave behind
businesses and ancestral homes. A time limit of up to three years must be awarded to those who have to shift their base from one area to the other. After the Kashmir
state assembly adopted the ‘Land to Tillers’ Act on the 13 th of July in 1950, the
remaining Hindu Kashmiris had been forced to part with much of their territories. The
final blow of 1990, was still far away then.
An international body of peacekeepers, along with units of our paramilitary forces,
are required to oversee the exchange of populations to and from PK. It is high time
that South Asia with the world’s oldest system of village republics – known as the
Panchayati Raj – conducted itself with grace and fortitude during the difficult time
following the plebiscite and the final partitioning of Indian administered Kashmir. If
Britain can grant Scotland, Ireland, and Wales the chance to break free, and if the
opposers and supporters of Catalonia’s secession can go about their activism with a
pacifist approach, then we too must deal with our Gordian Knot of Kashmir, using
civilized means, dialogue, and a plebiscite.
If India can accomplish to withdraw the draconian AFSPA from Kashmir (and our
North-East), end the bloodshed in the valley, realize that people who desire a
different identity cannot be forced to endorse the Indian one, stop diagnosing a
question of religious nationalism with economic packages, and give the Hindu
Kashmiris what their due is; then we will have set a golden example for many other
nations to emulate. For one, Pakistan will be under tremendous pressure to resolve
its dispute in Gilgit-Baltistan, which has for long demanded autonomy from the
federal state. There will be a handful of western regions like Russia and the Balkans,
which can be legitimately harangued to resolve their crises at the North Caucasus
and at Nicosia respectively, as swiftly, and as peacefully as India’s Kashmir
plebiscite. With the construction of a permanent border wall between Panun
Kashmir, and the newly created Islamic state of Kashmir culled out for the Azadi
seekers, India would be able to save millions of lives in its defence apparatus from
being lost in the valley. Our forces could then focus on one and one duty alone, that
being the supervision of the International borders at Panun Kashmir.
Few Indians are aware, that the act they defend as their own, the AFSPA, or Armed
Forces Special Powers Act, was a British creation. Much like the homophobic laws
that were imported from England in the nineteenth century to control India’s masses,
AFSPA too is not indigenous to India. In fact, this law was used against the anti-
colonial freedom activists that wished to end the British domination of India, by the
crown and polity of Britain. Today, the government of a post-colonial India, is
resorting to the same British law, to target the Muslim dissidents of the valley. This is
Over the past few decades, a new and vexing question has abruptly raised its head
among the Muslim Kashmiri community. It is that of the etymology of the name of
their state. Kashmir is incontrovertibly derived from ancient Sanskrit terms with the
name being mentioned by famed Greco-Roman scholars of yore, in their treatises.
Ever since Shaivaite Hindus speaking the Dardic (Central Asian) language of
Kashmiri have settled the valley, the flowering of the areas cultural motifs have
advanced themselves bearing a distinct Sanskrit flavour. The rub though, is that the
Central Asian genealogy of Kashmir, the very element that makes it unique among
the other Indian identities, is being threatened by it. This arises from a claim made by
a fringe segment of Muslims there, that the name Kashmir is actually a Hebrew
derivative and points at the Semitic roots of the region’s identity. Hebrew is the
language of the Jews.
It must be noted within the context, that Judaism’s faulty ‘Ten Lost Tribes of Israel’
theory is riddled with factual holes. To begin with, the said theory has been wheeled
out every time Judeo-Christianity has required to claim land in far flung areas of the
world, where these two faiths had never made an imprint in their nascent days. It has
served as a tool for the expansionist policies of Judeo-Christianity, by claiming
imaginary Semitic origins for any given community that was targeted for colonization
and slavery. What is surprising though, is that Islam, which traditionally opposes
Judeo-Christianity over political grounds, has found new faith in the Ten Lost Tribes
of Israel idea. It is not difficult to gauge, that the theory is now being used to claim a
fictitious association of Kashmir to the three Semitic faiths and ultimately conjure a
supposed Abrahamic cultural origin for the region. Such politically motivated,
mischievous misrepresentations must either be ignored, or dealt with, employing
sound historical myth busters that cannot be refuted.
There are many that erroneously find a correlation between Kashmir and Palestine.
The nature of Kashmiri separatism, like that of the almost defunct Khalistan
movement, is religious, no matter what the spin doctors of the Azadi doctrine are
propagating. If religion was not the motive, then the Hindus who bear the original and
aboriginal ethnic identity of Kashmir, along with members of the Kashmiri Sikh
community, would not have been targeted for annihilation by the JKLF (Jammu
Kashmir Liberation Front) which is looked upon as a legitimate outlet for representing
themselves by many Kashmiri Muslims.
Conversely, the liberation movement of Bangladesh, and the ethnic nationalism of
Balochistan, Sindhudesh, Pashtunistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Palestine are mirror
images of each-other. These movements are being carried forward by communities
who have integrated diverse religious elements within themselves, and are struggling
against imperialism and state sponsored terror, as a single unit.
It must be tempting to find Muslims rebelling against totalitarianism in Palestine and
Kashmir, and to conclude that the two movements are echoes of each-other, but one
needs to look deeper. The Palestinians have never tried to intimidate or harass the
Christians within their ranks. Prominent Palestinian Christians like the family of Suha
Tawil, widow of Arafat, and the celebrated late Palestinian author Edward Said, had
thrown their weight behind the self-determination of Palestine. The Christian
community of Palestine have always felt at one with the Muslims among them, over
a shared history and cultural identity. In the same vein, the nationalism of
Bangladesh, Balochistan, Sindhudesh, Pashtunistan, and Balawaristan of Gilgit-
Baltistan, are inclusive. They have support from disparate religious minorities within
their structures, which is a testimony of their compassionate, and all-encompassing
The plan to carve up Indian Kashmir one final time, to divide it along religious lines,
has just one flaw. Perpetrators of crimes against humanity that were inflicted on the
Hindu Kashmiris, and security force personnel that victimized the Muslims of the
valley, will never be brought to book. The Indian Army will wash its hands off by
stating that their record in the streets and villages of the disturbed region, had been
nothing but exemplary; while the JKLF and their supporters who had invented the
policy of terrorizing the Hindus among them through mass murders, rape, pilfering,
and arson, will sweep their shameful history below the carpet of their new state.
But sectioning up Indian Kashmir, ultimately, in inevitable. Its benefits far outweigh
the fallouts it is forecasted to incur.
It is about time that the political wisdom of India’s ruling elite, irrespective of ideology,
coaxes them to stop viewing India’s paradise, through Khaki-tinted glasses.
Tania is a freelance writer with a Masters in Defence and Strategic Studies who has a wide range of interests.