Nowadays, I often find young Kashmiri men posting their photos on Facebook with the caption, “Proud to be a Kashmiri”. What do these young men and women want to convey? We are all proud Indians, proud Biharis, proud Tamils or proud Bengalis. What is so special that it has to be announced boldly?
We are all proud of our mothers and motherland. If a Kashmiri is proud of his Kashmiri roots, it is a very natural feeling and everybody appreciates it. However, if there is any hint of a Kashmiri not being a proud Indian just because he is a Kashmiri, then it becomes controversial.
There are approximately 200,000 Kashmiri Pundits in Jammu, Delhi and other parts of India. They are proud Kashmiris as well as proud Indians. They do not feel that there is any conflict or contradiction between the two viewpoints. I am myself a very proud Bengali but that never stops me from being a very proud Indian also.
We had a large number of Bengalis earlier who could not become proud Indians, They formed their own independent Bangladesh. We respect their sentiments. Let them be happy as they want to be. We have no quarrel with them. I remember the lines of the great poet Rabindranath Tagore, “Whoever wants to leave you Mother India, let him go, I will never leave you. I will cling on to your feet, O Mother, and won’t care about what others say....”
It seems that the Kashmiri Muslims have a special problem in living happily in India, just like the Pakistani Muslims and Bengali Muslims, who eventually drifted out of India.
Kashmiris often say that they want to live in an entirely separate Kashmiri atmosphere where Kashmiriat would be the only culture. Who is stopping them from living an entirely Kashmiri life within the boundaries of India? India belongs to 29 nationalities having their own national prides and egos. They have their own language and literature, their own local customs and religious festivals, their own food habits, dress and beliefs.
There are many vegetarians in India but at the same time many are fond of meat. There are many cow worshippers in India and at the same time there are millions of beef eaters too. Half of India speaks Hindi, but the other half does not know the language well. Diversity is the mantra of India. If the present government of India is making some mistakes on this issue, they will soon realise these and retrace their steps. Uniformity cannot be pushed down the throats of Indians.
The Hindu religion, along with many of its beliefs, like sanctity of cows and benefits of cow urine, forcing Hindi on the non-Hindi speaking people, simply will not work in India in its present shape. If force is applied, India will be fragmented. What will remain of India will be the cow belt of ‘Hindia’.
So Kashmiri Muslims have nothing to fear in India. No body will stop them from offering namaz or observing ‘Roza’ or going on Haj. Nobody will stop them ever from enjoying ‘wazwan’, their traditional cuisine. If they want to have ‘tsochoru’( special Kashmiri bread) with tea, if they want to use Kashmiri ‘kangri’ in winter, nobody will stop them from that. If they want to use Kashmiri as the official language, nobody will object provided they allow the use of English and Hindi also so that people of Jammu and Ladakh are not inconvenienced.
Kashmiriat will be fully protected in India but is Kashmiriat the real cause for separatism? Had Kashmiriat been so important for the Kashmiris they would have taught Kashmiri as a compulsory language in the educational institutions of the Kashmir valley. Pundits would not have been driven out of the valley if the bonds of Kashmiriat were so strong. Kashmiri would have been the administrative language in the secretariat and district offices.
If the Kashmiris had really felt that India was doing injustice to them and the Indian armed forces were indeed killing them like flies, how is it that no Kashmiri MLA or Minister has ever resigned in protest? How is it that they are still glued to their chairs, enjoying the loaves and fishes of office? If the Kashmiris do not display a sense of conviction, courage and character, only Islamic slogans will not fetch them any ‘azaadi’.
One thing should be very clear to the Kashmiris. India will never accept ‘Sharia’ laws in any form because in India we consider them medieval and barbaric. But apart from that all other facilities will be available in plenty to everyone.
If Kashmiriat is not the real reason for Kashmiri separatism, then what is the bug that bites them and provokes them for ‘azaadi’? I have rarely heard a Kashmiri Muslim feeling proud about Kalhana’s ‘Rajtarangini’ or the scriptures written in ancient Kashmiri Sharda script. I know for sure that if Kashmir ever becomes independent, memorials will be constructed for Afzal Guru, Maqbool Bhat, Burhan Wani, Sabzar Ahmed and others, but I ask the Kashmiris whether they will construct memorials for Kalhana, Queen Lal Ded , King Lalitaditya and Avantivarman, who ruled Kashmir with glory?
If memorials are constructed for Islamic preachers in Kashmir, will similar memorials be constructed for Nand Rishi also? If the answer to all my questions is ‘no’ then it would be logical to conclude that Islamic isolationism and intolerance is at the root of Kashmiri separatism. Many rulers in Delhi do not give much importance to Kashmiri nationalism. They pooh pooh their patriotism by saying ,”it is nothing but narrow-minded Islamic fundamentalism which needs to be crushed by brute force”.
The Kashmiris now have to prove to the world that they are now not fighting Indian troops for any Islamic communalism and fundamentalism.
The writer is a retired IAS officer and was Financial Commissioner of Jammu and Kashmir. He can be reached at email@example.com