Kashmir's chance

Kashmir never had a chance. Just when progress through the British missionaries was making an impact on the awareness of the people as to what it meant to have human rights, and the right to dignity, the Indian independence struggle started generating political awareness against the British imperial power; a paradox considering that most of Kashmir owes the initiation of its literacy and development programs to the British; the Resident Commissioners in succession admonishing the Maharajas of not keeping the interests of their subjects at heart. The Indian independence struggle did many things for our youth and their mobilisation into political theory, its criticism and general political concepts of modern nation states.

Fortunately the initial political parties working towards the eradication of social evils, poverty, ignorance, illiteracy and mass superstitions in Kashmir kept in mind all the right constitutions of the world and in tandem with India devised the "Naya Kashmir" (New Kashmir) document - a modestly progressive effort to keep Kashmir on par with other progressive cultures. But Kashmir never had a chance. The rising discontent amidst the Muslim subjects and the malcontent being distributed by the Muslim league was to give rise to the “Two-Nation Theory” and Pakistan would be created leading to the largest migration of a people in history and one of the bloodiest too.

Kashmir never had a chance. Before the incumbent Maharaja could make a choice over which country to accede to after the independence and creation of India and Pakistan, respectively, he dilly-dallied for months - hence creating conditions that the usual Islamists suspects occupy with the usual battle cry of, "Islam khatre mei hai!" - "Islam is in danger!", or "Hamare Kashmiri Musalmaan bhai aur behnein" - "Our Kashmiri Muslim brothers and sisters" need rescuing. Never mind that the raider parties of could not capture Srinagar because they got busy raping and pillaging the border villages just short of Baramulla, hence enabling the Indian troops to land, a hand of the Maharaja forced by circumstances, asking for help from a neighbouring country at a time of distress, with the screams of the people actually reaching the city.

We could write reams and reams about the dispute - dispute of the rumour which prompted the Poonchis to rise in rebellion and invited the raiders over, dispute about the Instrument of Accession, dispute about the Maharaja's right to accede with an entire people, dispute over the legality of it and the elusive referendum, dispute this, dispute that and so on, but the fact of the matter for our generation was that lots of water had flown in the Jhelum by the 1970s. Kashmir had been integrated into India and contrary to the intifada factory's narratives being distributed to the present generation, there was no genocide going on, there was no repression in practicing the Muslim faith, there was no extra troop deployment other than was required in a border region where the said countries had already gone to war after '47 - in 1965, and in 1971 later.

Kashmir didn't have a chance because now in the 1970s, Pakistan's existential crisis was just beginning. Zia was launching his Islamisation programme (July 1979); the Islamic Revolution in Iran already a reality in February of 1979, with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan just on the horizon in December. Touqir Hussain, a former senior diplomat from Pakistan, in his article Post-1979 Pakistan: What Went Wrong? In a Special Edition of Viewpoints, titled, “The Islamisation of Pakistan 1979- 2000,” writes:

"No single year has reflected and affected more significant changes in the Islamic world than 1979. Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran were epicentres as well as tributaries, and confluences of the history-making events of that year. The year began with the Iranian Revolution, which immediately changed the strategic landscape not only of the Persian Gulf but also of the entire Middle East. In April 1979 in Pakistan, an elected Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was executed by a military dictator, Zia-ul-Haq, laying the foundation for an 11-year army rule that, on the one hand, unleashed the army’s overwhelming political and strategic ambitions and, on the other, set in motion the process of the Islamisation of the country. The two merged as part of a religiously denominated national security doctrine that turned Pakistan’s regional policy into a jihad."

How could Kashmir have evaded this Islamisation? Jihad no longer became defensive. Zia'-ul-Haq, whose ghost still looms over Kashmir changed the concepts of war, conflict and jihad and eventually the aftermath of the Soviet fiasco in Afghanistan spilled over into Kashmir. An army which sought a country and inflated security threats to its existence from India provided the impetus for the few, discontented, privileged families of Kashmir to tie up with them and create a discontent vis a vis India. It was not an army of a nation, it began to see itself an army of Islam, much like the 1947 raiders coming to the perceived rescue of the beleaguered Muslim Kashmiris under the overbearing Hindu Maharaja.

When you have an entire machinery outdoing each other - to uphold the "commitment to Islam" - there is not much of a chance that a puny former Kingdom in the East has, especially if it is seen as a symbol of secularism in a Hindu majority democracy. In Kashmiri, we say – “gaemuch katha” - it was a foregone conclusion. Islamisation of Kashmir was just another step. Of course, New Delhi hasn't exactly been kind and considerate of the political corruption and dynasty politics of the Valley, with its step-motherly treatment towards Jammu and Ladakh (a fact that all Kashmir experts seem to forget - that J&K comprises of the territories of Jammu and Ladakh as well).

But as is the characteristics of nation states, democracy is a process. Throwing away the yoke of colonialism was not enough, the country had to be unified under a common constitution, and secular laws with a progressive national goal - Nehruvian India proved it in the 1950s, 60s, through the 70s with its Space programmes and focusing on the development index - was already a Herculean task. It simply mishandled Kashmir much in the same way the Maharajas had in the 1800s through the 1900s. This is what the military-mullah-industrial complex of Zia's legacy cashed in on and Kashmir was doomed.

Do we have any chance at all?

It helps to look at the neighbouring country's fate and the course it is taking in an age of technology, when social media and the Internet can provide a people-to-people interaction and confirmation of the Pak (pure) sar zameen's (boundaries of region) reality - a reality hidden from our parents' generation, and very smartly glossed over by the intifada factory of the Kashmiri media post 1990s. We still have a chance to reverse the social fabric of Kashmir, which we tore with our own hands, pushed by the terror pogroms of the tanzeems (terrorist organisations) when our Kashmiri Pandits, and secular agnostic atheist/Communist Muslims were put on hit lists and targeted and the silent majority did what it does best - remained silent under the shadow of the gun.

We still stand a chance as the Valley's suppressed progressives push back at the meta-narratives developed in Mirpur, Pakistan and distributed to various left bastion Indian universities through various Western-postmodernist scholars and "Kashmir experts". The progressive youth claw their way back to normalcy amidst all the Intifada disinformation and India's high-handedness used in suppressing testosterone induced toxic-masculinity, its justification getting sanction from holy texts, the interpretations coming from stealth Wahabbi scholars and imams on the pay roll of the petrodollars.

We still stand a chance, if everyone just steps back and listens to rational, secular, objective voices from Pakistan itself who face risks every day of their lives to just tell the truth of their nation - a nation brought to a self-inflicted existential crisis because of its Islamisation policies.

Arshia Malik is a Srinagar-based writer and social commentator with focus on women issues and conflict in Kashmir. She makes her living as a school teacher and is an avid collector of literature. She is currently writing a book about her life as a female in Kashmiri Muslim society

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