Unique role awaits Deobandi ulema

By K.N. Pandita

Though belated, the recent resolution of the Deobandi ulema of Jam’iatu’l-ulema-e Hind sending a message to Kashmiri Muslims is a wise step likely to help de-escalation of tense situation in the valley.

Extremists may not be very happy with the resolution; some call it capitulation to government’s muscle power. In the valley as well some small sections have not taken it in right spirit. In a situation surcharged with emotions like alienation, apathy and hatred, eyesight gets blurred and vision obscured. 

The resolution in question is significant in the sense that this is the first time ulema have separated the accession of the state to the Indian Union from domestic issues ranging from alienation, discrepant governance to failure of administration in various fields including employment and development.

This is a right approach to Kashmir issue, and opens up a path that can be found for putting an end to very precarious situation in the valley. Nearly five months of unabated strikes, demonstrations, protest rallies and stone throwing and the resultant skirmishes with police and security forces have caused huge economic and financial loss to the state.

The resolution of the highest Muslim religious body in the country has come on the heels of the historical judgment of the Allahabad High Court in the Ramjanam Bhumi-Babri Masjid dispute that had been hanging fire for last six decades.

All sensible people on either side agree that there could be no better solution of the tangle. Some serious thinking on reconciliation process is now in the offing at Ayodhya. In the light of this development, the Muslim community, under right guidance and leadership, has taken correct decision to leave the past behind and work in unison with other communities for reviving age-old bonds of harmony and fraternity. This is what the country needs most at this juncture. This is the way of progress for all citizens of this country.

Kashmir Valley majority community would do well to take the cue from the wise and pragmatic approach of JUH leadership to the question of communal harmony. This has to be a loadstar in handling the course of action in Kashmir. Recommendations made by the ulema in regard to alleviating the suffering and deprivations of people in Kashmir have to be seriously pursued and fulfilled.

But one would like that by way of follow up action, the body of ulema makes best use of the opportunity to strengthen national integration by taking a worthwhile initiative. It has already broken the ice, but the entire gamut of thought process has to be vigorously activated and brought to its logical conclusion.

The need of the hour is to take a bold and visionary initiative for forging communal harmony and mutual understanding among the people in all the three regions of the State. Unfortunately, in last couple of decades, there grew trust deficit among the three major religious communities in the State leading to widening of the gulf of estrangement. This has to be bridged over and mutual trust has to be restored.

Though several initiatives were proposed in this context in the past, but these did not work just because matters of forging communal harmony are ill served if left to be handled by politically motivated leaders or straight jacketed bureaucrats. Only disinterested leadership from the echelons of civil society is competent to deliver the goods.

The ulema can constitute a reconciliation group for the State comprising moderate and resolute representatives from all communities of the State, perform the role of honest interlocutors, and try to alley groundless fears but boost genuine hopes for life in secular-democratic India. This is a complicated but not insurmountable mission. What is needed is dedication and vision on the part of interlocutors to break the jinx. The real task before the ulema is to open a vista on Kashmiri Muslims for performing crucially pragmatic and constructive role in the history of modern Islam.

The ulema, as can be deduced from the resolution in question, have conveyed a clear and solid message to the nation of their deep interest in consolidating national integration through dialogue, understanding, persuasion and goodwill. Read between the lines, this exactly is at the core of the court verdict on Ayodhya dispute. Taking the cue from here, the ulema can widen the scope of new thinking and make it applicable to the vexed Kashmir problems.

The Muslim majority of the State has many grievances and it is the duty of the state to address these as early as possible. The question of four hundred thousand extirpated Pandits from the valley has to be dealt with not just on humanitarian grounds but explicitly on political grounds. India’s secular credentials are under immense strain as long as Kashmir remains ethnically cleansed of indigenous Pandits. The Deobandi ulema form the precise resource back-up with the ability of understanding the ramifications of broken down secular structure in the valley. Restoring harmonious secular structure reinforces their own position as sturdy promoters of national integrity on national level. If they are able to do that, they will reserve for themselves an honourale place in the annals of history because they will achieve what politicians failed to do.

Likewise, the Ladakhis have long standing grievances and demands. These cannot be wished away. Vested interests of politicians have raised walls preventing people from meaningful interaction. They crave for justice and equity which the ruling apparatus has not been able to provide so far for reason known to all.

In short, since the Deobandi ulema have broken their six decades old silence on Kashmir, it is only logical that they take the next step of forging new understanding among all sections of people in the State. They need to own the Kashmir Muslims as inseparable part of the wider Indian Muslim community with the specialty of having opted for becoming shareholders of Indian secular democracy without endangering their local identity. The ulema have to identify areas of convergence for groups with specific perceptions and create a harmonious and balanced blend of regional and national vision.

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