The Writing Is On The Wall!

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Religious Fundamentalism Has Taken Root in Kashmir

This Talibanization Is A Grave Threat To Our Civilizational Ethos

By Jan Nissim

The frequent killings of Kashmiri civilians irrespective of religion continue to devastate the Valley. Policemen are being targeted in cold blood. Even their families are not being spared. Our people in general and our youth in particular need to realize big time that the poisonous wave of religious radicalization which has swept through our valley will only lead us towards more self-destruction and complete annihilation.

Collectively, as a society, we need to realize for our own good that we Kashmiris need to stop playing into the devious hands of Pakistan’s deep state. Otherwise only further doom, death and destruction await us.

Extremist religious ideologies lead to savagery under which human lives lose their precious value. Our youth cannot continue to become the fodder for it. This continued blindness is going to achieve nothing good except further devastation of Kashmiri life and society.

Stop The Drift Towards Extremist Interpretations of Islam

The surge in the radical sentiments among the Kashmiri youth with their drift towards the more extremist interpretations of Islam like Wahabism or Salafism has only brought us death and destruction in all spheres. If anything, this path of radical jihad has diluted the political and democratic essence of our state. We are far from political emancipation because we have allowed ourselves to become proxies of Pakistan’s deep state. By choosing religious extremism, we have chosen the path of doom, death and destruction.

There is something else we need to ponder upon critically. When some of state’s policies provide ground to violent practices, there occurs a counter-reaction. At times, this takes things to the other extreme. The state has to necessarily correct many of its policies and has to adopt a more humane approach in ameliorating the people’s suffering. There is no doubt about that.

Ask Questions Peacefully, Democratically

Right thinking people should continuously ask questions in a peaceful and democratic manner. People in Kashmir and also in the rest of India are continuously doing it. But for a moment, let’s pause and reflect by looking inwards to see what we Kashmiris have done to ourselves. Ultimately, it is we who are at loss – and a terrible loss at that. It is not bad to question oneself honestly when everything has gone wrong.

For many people, including those in the political and security establishment, the recent fundamentalist stir especially post Burhan Wani in the valley has been an unexpected development. We Kashmiris are aware of the underlying reality. We are aware that over the last many years, fertile ground has been prepared in the Kashmiri society for these extremist ideologies to take root.

We know that during the decade preceding Burhan Wani and the new breed of militants, there had been a steady decline in militancy in the Valley. But during those years when militancy was down, did we notice that Kashmiri society was being deeply radicalized? Did we acknowledge this truth?

During these years when militancy was down, why were our youth being taken towards extremist interpretations of Islam like Wahabism, Salafism, and Deobandism? Who was leading them there? Who was indoctrinating their vulnerable minds? Did we question it? Did we challenge this downslide of our society?

Our youth are being taught to hate pluralism, tolerance, democracy, and secularism

For centuries, the majority of Muslims in the valley followed a syncretic philosophy of Islam which laid down emphasis on the universal values of pluralism and tolerance. But today, our youth are taught to hate pluralism, tolerance, democracy, and secularism which have been hallmarks of Kashmiriyat. Instead, they are taught Shariat yaa Shahadat! Who is doing this to us? Why are we suffering this civilizational decline?

Our youth are being indoctrinated to develop hatred towards Hindus. We blame Kashmiri Pandits for everything. Even their suffering is denied.

Unfortunately, through these years, the Kashmiri social paradigm has undergone radical change. Religious fundamentalism has taken root in the Valley. Our children are being raised amidst these radical ideologies which promote intra-religious and intra-sectarian hatred. There has been a proliferation of extremist groups and ideologies like Wahabis, Salafis and Deobandis in Kashmir valley.

In the last two decades, there has also been a manifold increase in the Darasgahs (seminaries), Mosques and the human resource that these groups control.

During that period, extremist preachers freely held congregations and distributed literature. We stood by and watched quietly and in fear as these extremist preachers radicalized our society on the ‘Taliban’ lines. Hate preachers and their various organizations indulged in systematic indoctrination of youth using easily available religious platforms like congregations, gatherings, Friday sermons, literature, and even social media.

Make Room For Peaceful, Democratic Ways

There is, of course, a need for organizing a genuinely peaceful, democratic and political struggle in Jammu and Kashmir to meet people’s aspirations. It has to be dissociated from religious fanaticism. It is a known fact that whenever fascist forces emerge in any society, like they arose in Kashmir, dissent, pluralism and tolerance are its first casualties. It should matter more to us in Kashmir as we are the ones who are on the path of dissent as we struggle for our democratic rights. Having been bred and brought up under the constant shadows of gun, one will inevitably be perplexed at what peace and democracy means under such circumstances. Existing in the shadows of the gun, people in Kashmir have undoubtedly lost faith in such ideas. But if at all we are talking about any solution, its path only lies through a democratic way in the form of people’s will. Religious fascism is its stark antithesis. For a consensus on the fulfillment of legitimate Kashmiri aspirations, religious extremism has to be defeated. The people of India also need to be reminded about this essential concept.

Abyss of religious tyranny sponsored by Pakistani deep state

There is an urgency to retrieve the Kashmiri identity from falling into the abyss of religious tyranny sponsored by the Pakistani deep state. And if this is not tyranny, then what is? These bloody times in Kashmir demand that all people to go back to the methods of constitutionalism. This involves building solidarity, support and strength for the truly secular and progressive forces which are the real bulwark against the fascist forces. The other like minded political forces who believe in the constitutionalism and the essential secular, plural and tolerant values of republicanism, must also come together to help.

The idea of a modern secular society is not alien to Kashmiri civilizational ethos. It is something that is completely native and inherent in the idea of Kashmiriyat which is based on the universal ethos of secularism and pluralism. This is something that has been taught to us by the teachings of all the poets and saints of the past beginning from such figures as Lalla Ded and Sheikul Alam or Nund Rishi.

Kashmiriyat Is Our Identity, Also The Way Ahead

Kashmiriyat or the syncretic confluence of diverse faiths and cultures is the essential identity of Kashmir. This pluralist ethos has historically defined the idea of Kashmir and Kashmiriyat. And this is precisely the discourse that needs to be put back into the Kashmiri social mainstream. But unfortunately, we have had to pay a heavy price because of the conflict and rise of religious extremism. Both politically and socially, our rights and plural fabric have taken a terrible beating. Any emancipatory solution to the genuine aspirations of all the people of the state lies within the framework and spirit of democracy and secularism. It is vital that both in Kashmir and the rest of India, such humane concepts and ideals continue to survive.

(The writer is an alumnus of Kashmir University)

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