J&K: Respect the Hindus
by Sandhya Jain on 02 Sep 2008 0 Comment

Ignited Hindu men, women and children, agitating for restoration of a land allotted to pilgrims to Sri Amarnath, and the very thought of a blockade-that-never-was had Kashmiri’s majority population in visible sweat. Fear showed in the eyes and voices of ‘ordinary’ traders fearing for the remuneration from their annual fruit harvest, and the hysterical pitch of politicians trying to consolidate votes in anticipation of an Assembly election unlikely to be held in the near future, hardly improved matters.


For Muslims that is. Hindus from neighbouring states rushed to support the cause of the pilgrims; three persons sacrificed their lives to the cause, even as so-called popular Kashmiri leaders agitated against the land transfer from the safety of Delhi television studios! The Centre should call their bluff by telling them to ask their own benign community to take care of their security needs; this will introduce a dose of realism into the public discourse.


The unexpected murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on Janmastami in Orissa brought Hindu rage to the fore in several districts of the state, and showed effete politicians everywhere that Hindus can no longer be expected to remain mute in the face of grim provocation. And if Jammu was no small irritant to the hitherto patient Hindu community, then Kandhmal was pure aggravation. The subsequent trade union style bandh by Christian organisations in Delhi, the unwarranted interference of the Vatican and the Italian Government, only underscored the organised nature of Christian offensive against Hindu dharma. For let there no be misunderstanding – a monotheistic religion can expand only by annihilating native faiths everywhere.


In these circumstances, the Centre would do well to quench the Jammu fire by honourably allotting the 100 acres of forest land at Baltal to Hindu pilgrims in perpetuity. The land must be given free, not leased at the exorbitant Rs. 2.5 crores initially mooted (this appears to have been done), not because Hindus are unwilling to pay, but because Kashmir is the abode of Rishi Kashyap, protector of gods and people, and Shiva the special god of the Himalayan range.


The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board can be asked to erect permanent pilgrim facilities at the site, to be used for three months when pilgrims come. For the rest of the year, the place is uninhabitable, but there is little sense in making huge investments every year. More pertinently, while the yatra may be seasonal, Hindus are not a nomadic (banjara) community whose tents and poles will be uprooted every season.


As for the Muslim-dominated Valley, it is time to call the bluff of Kashmiriyat and end the mindless appeasement. If a minimal demand for pilgrim facilities can trigger off “passions” in the Valley, this means Kashmiriyat was only the total banishment of Hindu culture from the public arena. There was never a composite culture – the so-called Sufi Nund Rishi was always backed by Muslim political power, and Hindus sought reconciliation at whatever price it could be achieved. That era of “apat-dharma” (dharma in times of distress) is now being brought to a close by self-motivated men and women in vast swathes of the nation.


Threats of a backlash in the Valley must be treated with the contempt they deserve. The shameless advocacy of separatism by some rootless writers has not cut any ice anywhere. If at all, the sight of Jinnah posters and Pakistani flags waving with impunity in the hands of azaadi­-walas, while suffering Hindus raised the Tiranga in Jammu, has inflamed Hindu sentiment nation-wide. Reports of the Indian Army refusing to confront tricolour-waving crowds in Jammu suggest deep unhappiness with the way politicians have conducted themselves on the issue.


 The mysterious murder of Sheikh Abdul Aziz of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, while leading a mob towards Muzaffarabad (PoK) suggests all is not well in the separatist camp and that it is time to stand firm. National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan has said the death was not caused by police firing (Aziz was shot in the back), and is possibly due to rivalries in the separatist camp.  


Muslim politicians from Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Omar Abdullah, Sajjad Lone and Mehbooba Mufti are all vying for the status of ‘most fundamentalist’ leader. Geelani openly advocated merger with Pakistan, while so-called moderates spoke of ‘independence.’ The moribund UN Military Observer Group was revived, and its attitude shows that India needs to urgently talk to Russia and China about curtailing the Western colonial agenda pursued through the United Nations.


The Congress party is clueless where to go. It’s fairly decent Chief Minister made mistakes after being betrayed by Mehbooba Mufti, one of the most venomous public figures in the country, and lost both his government and control over the issue. In the violence that followed, the party’s former deputy chief minister Mangat Ram Sharma nearly lost his life, though his vehicle and others were torched. The Congress’ Jammu leaders, as also Hindu workers of the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party in Jammu joined hands with the Sangharsh Samiti, a fact whose significance cannot have been lost on the parties concerned.


Finally, a word is in order about the role of women in the current agitation. In Jammu, young and old Hindu women came out in support – the Reuters photograph of an ethereal eight-year-old clasping a naked sword is certainly the movement’s most enduring image.


The presence of women on a battlefield is a very Hindu phenomenon. Centuries ago, Alexander’s historians noted with astonishment the presence of Hindu women grabbing the shields or feet Greek soldiers to frustrate their movements. Centuries later, the British were amazed to see tribal women standing beside Birsa Munda’s men and loading rifles for the men to fire.


This was not the case in traditional Islam. Hence the presence of Muslim women in Srinagar, covered head to toe, shouting “Raghda, Raghda” (crushed, crushed) and stamping the ground beneath their feet to indicate the trampling of Mother India cannot be condoned. Muslims who want to live as orthodox Muslims must keep their women out of the war zone. As for the Government of India, it cannot project pusillanimity as chivalry - the women should have been rounded up and released miles away – a good walk home would have sobered them all.


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