Indian Muslims’ indifference to Kashmir

Up to the demolition of Babri Masjid and Mumbai killings, they could convince only four persons. Two of them escaped when the group reached Delhi, disclosed an intelligence source. But, gradually, after the Babri Masjid demolition, disturbing reports started pouring in. In 1993, around 80 Muslim youngsters were recruited for training in militant camps.

Surprisingly, the source added, the trend stopped soon after the Mumbai blasts. “Probably, these young men wanted to express their anger more intensely at the mosque demolition and the bloody Mumbai riots,” he claimed.

G Parthasarathy, former Indian high commissioner in Pakistan and a known hardliner in his views says that Gujarat carnage had been politically encouraged by certain forces in Pakistan. The violence in Gujarat had provided fodder to militant forces. He says that polarisation on communal lines and the undermining of democratic institutions, especially in the border states, can become a perfect recipe for disaster.

The former diplomat believes that the earlier crisis in Punjab could well be attributed to the communalisation of politics but in contrast many of those who desperately took to arms in J&K in the late 1980s were compelled to do so because of the intense feeling that the democratic processes in the state were terribly flawed and the elections were rigged.

Lt General Arjun Ray, who served as Brigadier General Staff (BGS) at the Srinagar-based 15 Corps and later as corps commander in Ladakh, in his book Kashmir Diary: Psychology of Militancy (1997), based on interrogations of captured militants, says: “Contrary to popular belief, religion is not the primary motivational factor for Kashmiri militants. Kashmiri militancy is not a religious movement (yet).” The military official, however, warned in 1997 that this may snowball into a religious movement if the fact that fundamentalism has arrived in the Valley and is spreading rapidly is ignored.

Scholar of Islamic studies, Yoginder Sikand, argues that it is not due to insensitivity but because of the fear of beingaccused as an ‘anti-national’ that has compelled Indian Muslims to keep aloof from the Kashmir crisis. He says that a large section of Indian Muslims do link resolution of the Kashmir dispute to their survival and progress. “The fear of continued conflict furthers the cause of Hindutva forces in their anti-Muslim campaign,” he says.

Surely, madrassas in India just can’t be cast in a negative stereotype, nor is there any evidence to prove baseless allegations against them by predictable Muslim-bashers. However, while there was a network of about 30,000 madrassas dotting India’s landscape until a decade ago, J&K, though a Muslim majority state, had no madrassa. Last year, it was disclosed in Parliament that there are 27,518 madrassas all over the country. Kerala and Madhya Pradesh top the list with 6,000 madrassas each, followed by Uttar Pradesh (4,292), Bihar (4,102), Rajasthan (1,985) and Gujarat (1,727). Even remote areas like Andaman and Nicobar Islands have 54 madrassas, and Sikkim has one registered seminary. Following government figures, there was no madrassa in J&K.

The fact is, over the years madrassas have started mushrooming in J&K and almost all of these are associated with larger madrassas in India, particularly of the Deobandi, Barelvi and Ahl-i-Hadith schools of thought. A large number of teachers in these madrassas are from north India, mostly from Bihar, Haryana and eastern UP.

Sikand argues that this connection could be used positively to provide a valuable lead to creatively involve Indian Muslims in the Kashmir peace process. The Jama’at-e-Islami Hind, the Markaz-i Ahl -i-Hadith-i-Hind and the Dar ‘ul-’Ulum madrassa at Deoband have peers on other side of the border. Organisations like the Jama’at-e-Islami Pakistan, the Jamaat-u-Dawa-wa-Rishad associated with the Ahl-i-Hadith, Pakistan, are key players in the Kashmir conflict.

Their Indian counterparts, like Jama’at-e-Islami Hind and Ahl-i-Hadith and the Deobandi ulama, who do not approve the actions of their Pakistani counterparts, can be imaginatively ‘used’ to spread the process of inter-communal harmony and a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute. “It should not be difficult to encourage them to take a more pro-active role in Kashmir and since they exercise influence on Muslims, their intervention can prove to be invaluable,” concludes Sikand.

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