Danger in the Valley
Secular fabric of Jammu and Kashmir is withering away fast, posing challenge to centuries-old tradition of communal harmony & brotherhood. The responsibility lies with the leadership to take the initiative for protecting diversified identity of the State, comments Zuhaib Yousuf Mir
|| ZUHAIB YOUSF MIR
On August 15, 1947 India savored the glory of independence and reins of power to steer the country were transferred in the hands of native, who fought laboriously against the British rule. The independence came at the cost of country getting divided into two nations which undermined the struggles of heroes who were martyred by the imperialists and thus sending a clear message that we as a society are vulnerable to division on the religious lines. The scenario was ironically deplorable because the phenomenon didn’t only lead to the partition, it resulted in subsequent riots in which thousands of people got killed across the country.
The first election of the independent India in 1951 witnessed two alternate ideologies taking shapes about the idea of India. While the leader of Hindu Mahasabha, Shyma Prasad Mukherjee, was of the view that India should be declared as a Hindu-Rashtra and since Hindustan emerged from partition for Hindus they must be given prime importance. He went ahead propagating the ideology. The other view was that of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who propagated and promulgated the idea of India as inextricably linked with ideas of secularism, freedom of speech and expression, democracy and development of a human society not just within the confines of the India but across the borders. This view came to be known as Nehruvian Pluralism, where everyone had equal rights irrespective of the religion they followed. The results of the first election handed over a thumping majority to the idea of India that Nehru had envisaged.
The outcome of that election was astonishing for two reasons – one the country that had recently underwent major riots pervasively understood that it is better to relinquish the animosity for everlasting peace and second that the people accepted the societal fabric is that of assimilative nature and the country must move forward. If one looks at this concept in the context of Kashmir keeping in mind the elections result of December 2014 one can easily draw the inference to Indian partition; we can be divided on the basis of religion. Both BJP and PDP belligerently pitched their election campaign around the Article 370 appeasing their electorate in their respective constituency, Jammu and Kashmir.
That the BJP is demanding minority status for Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir in a country where 80 percent of the population is Hindu is the grim reminder of the things going wrong.
The need of the hour is to foster the policies that will unite us and encourage people to stop politicking over issues that might create deep wedge. Our leadership has to take the initiative for protecting diversified identity of the State.
Former Chief Minister Mufti Mohamed Sayeed, who originally belonged to the clan of Nehruvian Pluralism, notwithstanding the ideology entered into the alliance with the right wing BJP. As a citizen I feel the alliance is besmirching the idea of secularism and each time there is a debate about the future of the State, the road ahead seems darker. That the BJP is demanding minority status for Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir in a country where 80 percent of the population is Hindu is the grim reminder of the things going wrong. The demand for setting up of the Sainik Colonies in the Valley is seen as an idea propagated by the right wing groups to colonize the Valley which in turn has led to apprehension among people in Kashmir. If you analyze this controversy meticulously there seems to be an analogy between the 2008 Amarnath land row, which ended in PDP breaking the alliance with Congress and Sainik colonies.
While the present Government has been arguing that the proposal for Sainik colonies has been mooted under the then Government of Omar Abdullah, a common man in the streets of Kashmir is made to believe that the incumbent government cannot rescind it? Why is Mehbooba Mufti-led Government notn taking it upon itself to reassure people of the Valley that it stands for the interests of its electorate and protection of special status of Jammu and Kashmir? The worries don’t end up here. The proposal for setting up separate townships for migrant Kashmir pandits is brewing into another controversy in the Valley which is in turmoil for the last 30 years. No doubt Pandits are indispensible to the idea of Kashmir but they must return to their ancestral places and rely on locals for their safety instead of relying on the fortified habitations the government wants to create for them. Pandits are our fellow citizens and have equal rights as locals enjoy in the Valley and hence it is the responsibility of Kashmiris also to create the atmosphere for welcoming the community. Societies are built on trust and mutual understanding and if there is slight mistrust the break-down is imminent.
The problem in Kashmir is also of the divided leadership and as a result there is no consensus as to how to pursue peace and tranquility in the society. The secular fabric is withering away at a fast rate, reinforcing the prejudices. The need of the hour is to foster the policies that will unite us and encourage people to stop politicking over issues that might create deep wedge. Our leadership has to take the initiative for protecting diversified identity of the State.
(Author is pursuing MSc Economics in University of Edinburgh)