Day of the ‘mujahid’

By K.N. Pandita, Published first on Communalism Combat, November 1999, Special Report:

Pakistan’s prime concern is not the annexation of the Valley but the converting of the liberal-minded Kashmiri Muslims into ‘pucca Mussalmans’.

Annexation of Kashmir through sponsored, armed insurgency is not the final goal of Pakistan. The final goal is the transfermation of Kashmiri Muslim society from its somewhat liberal outlook and life style to an absolutely conservative and orthodox Muslim society.

The model of this type of society is of the Taliban in Afghanistan. This model is being thrust on Kashmiri Muslims, and to an extent against their free will.

In the process, foreign Islamists — whom the Kashmiris call ‘guest mujahids’ — sponsored by Pakistan-based religious militia organisations, have two specific roles in the Valley. Firstly, as the soldiers of Allah, they fight a jihad against the Indian infidels, a duty, they say, is enjoined upon every pure Musalman. Secondly, they carry on a well-organised indoctrination programme aiming at converting local Muslim youth from a liberal to a conservative ideology, or from Kashmiriyat to pure faith.

Therefore, what is happening in Kashmir is its Talibanisation. It means reverting to the Islam of the days of Caliphs Omar and Usman. It aims at replacing coexistence by exclusivism, effacing all symbols of pre-Islamic culture, distorting history so as to sever established links between the ancient and the mediaeval and bringing about a sea-change in life style.

Madrassas (Islamic schools) are the cornerstone of propagation of orthodox Islamic ideology, and these have sprung in every town and village in Kashmir. Their curricula have changed from early crude anti-Hindu hatred to subtle distortion of the history of pre-Islamic times. From these institutions sprang a generation of closed-minded fanatics who are in the forefront of separatist struggle today. Though the National Conference governments in 1980s did visualise the consequences of the role of madrassas, yet it had neither will nor skill to restrain them. Finally the NC compromised its position following the execution of Z.A. Bhutto.

After the NC assumed power in 1996, more than 1,300 new madrassas have been opened in the Valley; many with boarding schools. These bastions of Sunni Wahhabi ideology are playing a crucial role in Talibanisation of Kashmir. After all, the Taliban had also sprung from the Pakistani madrassas, which are the model for their Kashmiri counterparts.

In order to legitimise the madrassas and their sectarian character, the state government has been deliberately criticising its own educational institutions as inefficient. Even the chief minister is on record having expressed adverse remarks on government schools. This was a ploy for indirectly conceding legitimacy of the parochial Jamaat-e-Islami institutions.

The support structure for Talibanisation is to be found in the mosques. The theory of separating religion from politics has never worked in Kashmir, or anywhere in the Islamic world. If the grapevine is to be trusted, the builder of a mosque gets 25 per cent of the total cost of building a new mosque.

The money reportedly comes from the Wahhabi-oriented Kashmiri Sunni Muslim Diaspora in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, or directly from Saudi intelligence agencies through their Kashmiri conduits. The phenomenon of raising mosques throughout Kashmir valley is strikingly similar to the raising of mosques in Central Asian states after they became independent in 1991.

In early 1980s, Allahwale, the all-India level missionaries of Sunni Wahhabi faith, surfaced in large numbers in the Valley and got scattered throughout its length and breadth. They had withdrawn to their shell when militancy broke out in Kashmir. Today, the Allahwale have re-emerged in the Valley and are carrying out their Islamisation agenda — of course, an exclusivist agenda running contrary to the secular Constitution of India.

Another dimension of Talibanisation of Kashmir is the onslaught on its composite culture often labelled as Kashmiriyat. There is a massive campaign of distortion of place names, legends, traditions and history which has something definitely to do with the pre-Islamic period of Kashmiri history. More than 3,000 place names have been changed and adorned with Islamic epithets.

Pseudo-historians are trying to rewrite the cultural and social history of Kashmir. A strong lobby has been created to sell the theory that the Kashmiri race is not of Aryan but Semitic origin and that its cultural manifestations are not its own and indigenous, but largely or even fully borrowed from Central Asia. The symbols of Kashmir’s spontaneous identity, like Nund Rishi and Makhdum Sahib are being discarded as non-exclusivist and therefore unacceptable. Kashmir Shaivism is being projected as the sequel to the rising Sufi philosophy in Iran and Central Asia with impact on early Hindu spiritualists of Kashmir.

Thus the Kashmiri Muslim is being taught to reject his past. The idea has been borrowed from the practice in Pakistan where history begins with the advent of Muhammad Bin Qasim in A.D. 712. Prior to that there is a big blank.

In life style, a drastic change has been effected. Young and old grow beard and falling tresses, the style said to have been of the elders of Islamic faith. Kashmiris, old and young, all have adopted the Afghan/Taliban dress — a baggy shalwar, longish shirt half coat, round outward turned headgear and a square piece of cloth folded triangularly and thrown round the neck. This again is in imitation of the Taliban who believe it to be style of the early Islamic conquerors and warriors from Arab lands.

Even in their address and public dealings, there are marked changes. The phraseology is that of the puritanical Muslims.

For example, instead of the traditional ‘Khuda Hafiz’ (meaning farewell) now ‘Allah Hafiz’ is said because the word Khuda is of non-Arab origin (Khotaay in Avestic means the Lord).

Any dispassionate observer will have no difficulty in confirming these ground realities. We need courage to speak honestly what we see on the ground. Kashmir has been thoroughly Talibanised. In doing so, Pakistan has realised its essential goal. The “liberation” of Kashmir, according to them, is a corollary to Talibanisation. It has to be remembered that General Pervez Musharraf, the chief executive of Pakistan said it clearly that Kashmir’s annexation could wait. What is of importance is making India weak internally. (K.N. Pandita. The writer is from the Central Asian Studies at Jammu & Kashmir University, Srinagar).

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