We Must Forget Bitterness Of The Past
By Dr Shabir Choudhry
04 June, 2011
Call me what suits you, but I have to say what I strongly feel is true and which has soured relations between non Muslims and Muslims of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
Non Muslims (and Muslims to some extent) were butchered, raped and kidnapped by Tribal invaders in October 1947. This Tribal invasion was managed by Pakistani rulers to capture Kashmir. Horrible memories of the past were still there when Pakistani backed militants drove out non Muslims from the Valley of Kashmir in 1990. These people are living away from their homes and from their natural habitat for more than two decades.
Both events were tragic and unwarranted; and what hurts me more is that these shameful acts were committed in name of religion and freedom struggle. No religion and civilised society can allow acts like that. To me and many other liberal and democratic citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, these acts were shameful to our history of toleration and coexistence; and they must be condemned.
These thoughts came to my mind once again because of inconsiderate attitude of one Pandit brother who with his family was uprooted by militants in 1990. During my recent visit to Vienna, where I went to address a Seminar on Cross border Terrorism and Human Rights in Kashmir, I met this Pandit.
My hosts, Naeem Khan and Abdul Rashid Choudhry suggested having an evening meal at a restaurant owned by this Pandit; and also inviting him to this seminar. They said he is a good person to have a chat on matters related to Kashmir.
Naeem Khan introduced me to him and also extended invitation for the seminar. He shook hand with a smile but soon after hearing about the seminar he retorted: You have come for a meal, enjoy it. Leave Kashmir and its politics on one side.
Realising his anger I immediately intervened and said: ‘You are our Kashmiri brother and tomorrow’s seminar is on terrorism and human rights in Kashmir, and we need to oppose…’
He abruptly interrupted me and said: ‘When we were victims of this terrorism you people were no where to be seen. We were terrorised, killed and expelled from our homes. After 20 years now you want to oppose terrorism and express sympathy….It is best to leave Kashmir and its politics aside and enjoy your meal.’
He said this and walked away. I was taken aback by his attitude. My hosts were also embarrassed with his attitude. I told my hosts that I did not expect this kind of response from him but we need to understand their bitterness as well. These people lived there for centuries. They are part of Kashmiri history and culture and some fanatics infatuated with power and new and alien interpretation of Islam drove them out of their homes.
I can understand his bitterness and anger of other Kashmiri brothers who have become victims of extremism and violence. However, it must be remembered that it is in the interest of some groups in India and Pakistan to ensure that people of the region continue to remain divided on religious and sectarian lines, as it serves their personal and political agenda.
These groups can only flourish if people of the Sub Continent are divided on religious, ethnic and regional lines. They know apart from other issues the Kashmir dispute is the main unresolved dispute and to which people of the governments have emotional attachment.
Leaders of these extremist groups know that social and political culture of Jammu and Kashmir is different, and there is more tolerance and harmony. These extremists could only succeed if they can divide people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir on religious and ethnic lines and destroy peace and harmony in the State.
Since 1947 all ethnic groups of the State of Jammu and Kashmir have suffered; and there is bitterness and anger. Those who want to keep us divided they keep on pouring fuel on fire, and devise new strategies to promote hatred among different ethnic communities that we hold each other responsible for our miseries.
Success of those who occupy us is that in each divided region of the State of Jammu and Kashmir we wrongly think that our problems are either because of Muslims, Hindus, Sunnis, Shias or Buddhists; and further division is on ethnic and regional lines. Fact, however, is that forces of occupation spread these rumours and use vulnerable people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds to advance their agenda of promoting hatred and entrenching their rule.
Those who became victims of communal hatred need to think why all of sudden their homeland became inhospitable to them. Those who did not like culture of peace and tolerance prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir, they by use of money and extremist ideology transformed it in to a ‘jihadi camp’ where non Muslims were the prime target; but those Muslims who challenged this alien thinking and ideology were also butchered.
It was not a fight of one religion against the other; rather it was a mindset which wanted to change the political and social scene by use of force to advance its extremist ideology. I am as against this mindset as any non Muslim can be. Our struggle, therefore, should be against this mindset rather than against any religion or against ordinary citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.
During this trip I asked one Kashmiri activist what was his struggle for. He said, ‘at one time he wanted to join Pakistan, but after visiting Pakistan his views have changed; and now his struggle is for an independent, democratic and secular Jammu and Kashmir.’
I said but, ‘that option, despite so much bloodshed, violence and destruction is not on the table and we Kashmiris are urged to become either part of Pakistan or India. In view of that what is best for us.’
He paused for a moment and looked around, and after realising that there was no one else listening he said: ‘I have seen both India and Pakistan. Our first choice must be an independent Jammu and Kashmir and if that is not possible then we should come to some kind of terms with India rather than Pakistan. India, despite all the faults and what has happened over the years can offer us better deal than Pakistan could ever give us. Pakistan has no future of its own and we will end up having very serious social, political and economic problems; even if Pakistan survives as a nation state, we will lose our identity and culture in Pakistan.’
We people of Jammu and Kashmir need to understand that, despite different religions, different cultures and different languages our State was one political entity until it was forcibly divided; and whatever its future might be the State must remain one political entity. If we diverge from this crucial point, then we are all doomed; and we will become history.
Those who want to annex our homeland and usurp our fundamental rights will promote extremism, hatred and divisions, as that will help them to weaken us and rule us. We need to be conscious of their designs and counter them. It is, therefore, imperative that we put bitterness of the past behind us, and think as citizens of Jammu and Kashmir to protect our history, culture, identity and future of next generation.
Writer is Head Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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