J&K: the politics of religion
by PLAINSPEAK: Radha Rajan on 18 Aug 2008 0 Comment

In a move strikingly reminiscent of Gandhi in riot-torn Bengal in 1946-47, which he visited a full three months after Direct Action Day, by which time jihad had burnt itself out, to realize a peculiar and unrealistic Hindu-Muslim unity, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar announced his intention to travel to riot-torn Jammu & Kashmir to “bring back peace by mediating between communities.”


Some of us have not forgotten Sri Sri’s previous visit to the Valley and his most lasting achievement – hugging Yasin Malik, one of the arch jihadis who presided over the genocide of Kashmiri Hindus in the 1990s. A week ago, the ubiquitous Jesus-look-alike ‘de-religionised spiritualist,’ whose Dallas disciples recently declared that the Art of Living movement is not Hindu, who therefore by the definition of his own disciples is not a Hindu religious leader, expressed agreement with “hurt Hindu sentiments” but gratuitously advised the Hindus of Jammu to shun violence and fight for their rights through ahimsa (what else).


Sri Sri is stirring spittle in an issue which is nothing but politics of religion. Muslims look like past masters at this game only because self-appointed players on the Hindu side are not hard-headed kshatriyas with a thorough understanding of the one-sided rules, but Gandhian woolly-headed pacifists peddling ahimsa and sugary platitudes. The de-religionised spiritualist also advised Indian parliamentarians to support the Indo-American nuclear deal, from Seattle of all places! Who, we wonder, was his audience there, and who is going to listen to him in J&K? 


Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah brazenly unsheathed their Muslim sword in Parliament during the confidence vote [22 July] and the media with characteristic folly unanimously sang an ode to Abdullah Jr.’s compelling eloquence and enthralling demagoguery. Typical of its anti-Hindu slant, the media refused to concede that the eloquence of the two Sunni-Muslim MPs derived from naked anti-Hindu aggression. Both Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti made mandatory references to the demolition of Babri Masjid and the Gujarat riots of 2002 to justify why they could not vote with the BJP against the Congress-led UPA. Needless to say, both represented their religion and co-religionists exceptionally well.


When Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti delivered their made-for-TV speeches in Parliament, the rage of Hindus in Jammu was simmering. But with a sang-froid that came with decades of post-independence Hindu-repressive politics in the state, both chose to defend the Muslim right to deny land to Hindu pilgrims. They did not want to give ownership rights of 100-acres of land to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board, nor lease rights.


When Hindu anger exploded with a ferocity which took the entire nation by surprise, Omar Abdullah did the disappearing act while Mehbooba Mufti’s voice lost its shrill timbre. We must remember that Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah are creatures of Gandhi-Nehru ethos. Centuries of Islamic barbarism culminating in the open cry for jihad against the kafirs by Jinnah on 12 August 1946, did not end with the vivisection of the Hindu bhumi in 1947. Nehru, inheriting the political mantle of Gandhi, faithfully followed in his leader’s footsteps.


Gandhi’s biggest failure was his refusal to organize all sections of the Hindu community against the Muslim League which was marching resolutely towards the creation of Pakistan. Instead, Gandhi antagonized every section of the Hindu populace, with the result that neither he personally, nor the INC which he had unmanned and disempowered, could halt Jinnah or the Muslim League in their tracks. Gandhi had declared in 1940 that the Congress would not use force nor use arms to stop vivisection:


“The greatest coercion is British coercion. And the Congress is impatient to get out of that coercion. My hope in desiring a Constituent Assembly is that whether the Muslims are represented by the Muslim League mentality or any other, the representatives when they are face to face with the reality will not think of cutting up India according to religions but will regard India as an indivisible whole and discover a national, i.e. Indian solution of even specially Muslim questions. But if the hope is frustrated, the Congress cannot forcibly resist the express will of the Muslims of India. Needless to say the Congress can never seek the assistance of British forces to resist the vivisection. It is the Muslims who will impose their will by force singly or with British assistance on an unresisting India. If I can carry the Congress with me, I would not put the Muslims to the trouble of using force. I would be ruled by them for it would still be Indian rule. In other words, the Congress will have only a non-violent approach to every question and difficulty arising.” (March 17, 1940, CWMG Vol. 78, page 66) 


Gandhi subordinated Hindu interests to his personal conception, bordering on the fetish, of nation and nationhood. Because he had already decided that the Congress would not resist vivisection by force, he did not see the need to organize Hindu society towards achieving a common objective. Gandhi antagonized important kingdoms and principalities by instigating people against their rulers either with demands for more civil liberties or on the issue of temple entry for the scheduled castes. Thus in 1938-39, Congress was stirring trouble in Mysore, Jaipur, Rajkot, Travancore and Cochin, but needless to say, neither Gandhi nor Congress dared meddle in Bhopal, Hyderabad or Junagadh. Their grandest moment would come thanks to Nehru, in 1946.


Gandhi’s penchant for entrusting Nehru with all major political responsibilities had less to do with Nehru’s political ability and more to do with Nehru’s sagacity in staying on the right side of Gandhi. It was Gandhi’s ‘moha’ for Nehru which drove a stake into the heart of the Hindu nation in 1946, when Gandhi subordinated the nation’s interest to Nehru’s personal whim in Jammu and Kashmir.


Even as the INC was in the midst of the make or break negotiations with the Cabinet Delegation, trouble erupted in Jammu and Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah, a commoner from the Valley saw a great opportunity in these troubled times to realize his own towering Muslim ambitions. Playing out the drama for civil liberties and ‘freedom’ that the INC had staged in Rajkot, Jaipur and other Hindu kingdoms, Sheikh Abdullah launched in May 1946, the ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign. He was promptly arrested and incarcerated. Nehru, playing the Great Democrat to the hilt, attempted to enter Kashmir and was also speedily detained by Ramachandra Kak, Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir.


Gandhi jumped into the fray and in a passionate letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, pleaded with him to return to Delhi with the promise that the Congress would make Nehru’s cause in Kashmir its own, and Nehru’s honour, its honour. The draft reply, drafted by Gandhi contained the ill-concealed threat to the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir that Nehru would return to retrieve his honour, a threat which does not find mention in the official Congress Resolution.


“I and all are of opinion that your presence here is essential above everything else. Remember that you are under an organization which you have adorned so long. Its needs must be paramount for you and me. Remember also that your honour is ours and your obedience to the Congress call automatically transfers to it the duty of guarding your honour. The Committee is also solicitous equally with you about Sheikh Abdullah’s case and the welfare of the Kashmir people. Therefore I expect you to return in answer to this. You will tell Maharaja Saheb that as soon as you are freed by the Congress you will return to Kashmir to retrieve your honour and fulfill your mission.” (Draft reply to Jawaharlal Nehru, June 21, 1946, Mahatma Gandhi—The Last Phase, Vol. II, p. 346, CWMG Vol. 91 pp 180-81)


Gandhi’s ‘moha’ for Nehru did not permit him to ask Abdullah or Nehru more about the ‘Quit Kashmir’ slogan - who was being asked to Quit Kashmir? Tragically for the Hindu nation, the INC unquestioningly accepted Gandhi’s diktat that the affairs of Jammu & Kashmir were Nehru’s personal cause and the events after August 1947 proved how misplaced was Gandhi’s confidence in Abdullah and Nehru.


Gandhi died soon thereafter, but Nehru had to swallow the poison he had stirred and brought to the surface in Jammu & Kashmir when he was forced to arrest Abdullah and incarcerate him in Kodaikanal on charges of sedition. Nehru and the country were forced to face the truth that there was a lot more to the National Conference’s ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign than mere sloganeering and more than had been evident in 1946. Gandhi’s insistence that the territory of this bhumi belonged in equal measure (in diminishing order of equality) to Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Jews and Hindus, in that order, was taken seriously by post-independence Nehruvian secular India. Secular India stood by and watched Sheikh Abdullah’s son Farooq Abdullah implement his father’s Quit Kashmir slogan faithfully in letter and spirit from 1989 onwards. His son Omar Abdullah signalled in Parliament his intention to keep it that way.


Hindus of Jammu retrieved the lost kshatriya and brought Kashmiri Muslims to their knees by unleashing a brief economic blockade against the Valley. The blockade was united and spontaneous. For the first time in a long time, the fear on the faces of Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, and the fear on the faces of Valley Muslims, was palpable. They had never imagined a Hindu backlash to their continued oppression of Hindus in the state since 1947, a backlash that was united and growing in strength, and threatened to spread across the country. Mehbooba Mufti explained her opposition to the land transfer on grounds of fears of change in religious demography. Farooq Abdullah, to a pointed question if the situation in the state was as bad as it was in the early 1990s, replied that it was worse because there was no communal divide then.


Both statements deserve clinical analysis. Mehbooba Mufti actually meant that she and the PDP would resist any attempt to alter the religious demography, not only of the Valley, but of any part of the state. In short, she was saying that she intended to keep J&K a Muslim-majority state. It speaks volumes for the character of Indian polity that the question has never been raised in public about when and how a Hindu kingdom became a Muslim-majority state.


Hindus failed to heed Kautilya’s warning that the primary duty of the ‘rajya’ (state) is to protect the ‘rashtra’. In the Hindu tradition of the science of statecraft (arthasastra), rashtra is territory with well-defined borders and the people inhabiting that territory. Kautilya saw the connection between people and territory more than 2000 years ago and that is why he stated that a King who knew his job would constantly monitor and keep watch over the people inhabiting the land, particularly people inhabiting sensitive areas of the territory under his rule.


J&K is an excellent example of the cost that the Hindu ruler and the Hindu nation had to pay when the character of the people changed with conversion to an alien faith which was the very antithesis to Hinduism. Mehbooba Mufti and the Abdullah clan, like the pampered Muslims of the Valley, must now be told in no uncertain terms that they, as Muslims, are the usurpers of and settlers on Hindu bhumi. A livid Farooq Abdullah stated that if Jammu Hindus did not call off their protests, “there will be no India;” then he caught himself and amended it to: “there will be no secular India.” For good measure he added that we must all be prepared to face the consequences if the communal divide was not ended forthwith.


“Communal divide” in Farooq Abdullah’s jargon is synonymous with Hindu revenge. So when he said there was no communal divide in the 1990s, he meant that when he and his co-religionists presided over the genocide and exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from the Valley, there was no Hindu revenge or backlash.


In post-independence India, three instances of Hindu revenge have shaken Muslim faith in their capacity to strike at Hindus with impunity under the protection of secular Indian polity – 6 December 1992, February 2002, and August 2008. In all three cases, Hindus spontaneously showed that when pushed too far, they could summon the will to protect the dignity of their dharma.


Nehru and Nehru alone is responsible for the continuing Muslim separatism in the State, which is perpetuated by the current trend in religious demography and by Article 370. What is less well-known is that Article 370 came into being only because the Constituent Assembly, dominated by Congress whose members were hand-picked by Gandhi and Nehru, conceded to the Muslims of J&K the right to have their own separatist state constitution.


Article 370 legalized and constitutionalized Muslim separatism. If Article 370 has to go, then the separatist state constitution has to go. The state constitution will go when Hindu kshatriyas seize control of the State Assembly in Srinagar and the Central Parliament in Delhi. When that happens, several problems afflicting the Hindu Rashtra will naturally be resolved.


Radha Rajan is a public opinions activist in Chennai, and author of the forthcoming book, “The Lost Kshatriya: Critique of Gandhi and the Freedom Movement"       












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