Saturday, Jun 03, 2023

Kashmir And Hindutva

Kashmir And Hindutva

Hindutva's agents are only part of the story. Hindutva did not create the crisis ... but its place in power now makes it harder to see the creation of a genuine path to peace.

There is a misunderstanding about what I said on Kashmir in my  last article. [Suburban Whites And Pogroms In India.]

Sukhbir Mahajan of Sacramento, CA. asks that I clarify my remarks on Hindutva and Kashmir. Ajay Krishnamurti of Chennai, India asks if it is necessary to blame Hindutva for the problems of Kashmir. "What about the years of Congress rule," he rightly asks.

Here is my original statement again: 

"The tragedy of Kashmir, for instance, is obviously about the intransigence of Hindutva, the dangerous game of the Pakistani military elite and of the right-wing Islamist fundamentalists. These act together to create mayhem."

Hindutva's agents are only part of the story. Hindutva did not create the crisis. I would not be so stupid as to say that, but its place in power now makes it harder to see the creation of a genuine path to peace.

The current crisis in Kashmir is not ageless, nor should its roots be taken back to 1948 or to the UN resolutions about it. The present problems stem from the economic and political devastation that followed the death of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah on 8 September 1982, an incident that put into disarray the mild form of stability constituted by the skill of the Sheikh and the relatively careful governance from New Delhi. 

Kashmir's present history, since then, is in four phases: 

1983-88, marked by the political venality both of Indira Gandhi's Congress and Farooq Abdullah's National Conference; 

1988-91, characterized by the upsurge of young Kashmiris for "azaadi" manifested in the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front; 

1991-93, distinguished by Pakistan's usurpation of the revolt through the offices of the Hizbul Mujahideen and other Pakistani-pasand organizations;

finally, the current phase, in which a proxy war continues between ISI-trained and supported mehmeen mujahidin (foreign, mainly Afghani Arab type mercenaries) and the Indian forces whose interlude was the Kargil war of 1999.

For details, please see Manoj Joshi's fine book from Penguin -- The Lost Rebellion (1998).

The Pakistani military did send a rag-tag bunch of fighters into Kashmir in 1948 and 1965, but by the late 1980s the ISI's deployments had a different cast.

"Steeled by the Afghan war," wrote journalist Manoj Joshi, the ISI systematically planned for action in Kashmir from 1984. It trained those opposed to India and allowed the insurgency "in Kashmir to ripen so that the fruit would fall of its own accord into Pakistani laps."

In February 1990, Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, the Afghan militant, told a crowd at Peshawar that India in Kashmir might face the same fate as the Soviets in his native land. The confidence of the Afghan campaign provided the ISI with personnel and prestige for their Kashmir intrigues.

Simultaneously, the rise of the Hindu Right in India alienated many Kashmiri Muslims from what some militants, following Jamaat founder Maulana Maudoodi, called the "theodemocracy" of India. The VHP's shilanyas campaign of 1989, L. K. Advani's Rath Yatra of 1991, Murli Mahohar Joshi's Ekta Yatra of late 1991, and the demolition of the Babri Masjid of 1992 all contributed to the growth of militancy in Kashmir.

Joshi's Ekta Yatra concluded in Srinagar and its great contribution was toward the unity (ekta) of the militants in the valley. The strengthened resolve of the militants provided the ISI with a vast opening for their infiltrators. The shenanigans of the Sangh (or Jang) Parivar and the ruthlessness of the ISI came together to foment Kashmir's current woes.

The relentless use of arms by the jehadis created a horrendous situation for the Kashmiri Pandits. The migration of Kashmiri Pandits began after December 1989 and by 1996, the Government of India estimated that about 250,000 Kashmiri Pandits had taken up refuge in Jammu and Delhi, in the main.

The National Conference ran for office in 1996 with the promise of the return of the refugees to the Valley, but they did not and perhaps could not deliver on this promise.

In April 2002, the current regime made the promise again, to allow about a lakh of refugees to return -- a small number of those who had to flee the valley. It is plain that the reason for the immediate reason for the flight was the ISI-backed jehadis' strategy of murder of the Pandits and the creation of a Muslim-only Valley.

But the solution to this particular problem could not be forthcoming from either the Jagmohan governorship nor from the organs of Hindutva -- because both wanted either an unwinnable fight to the finish with the jehadis (and Pakistan) and the partition of the state of Kashmir into a Hindu Jammu, a Muslim Valley and a Buddhist Ladakh.

The RSS has once again endorsed this view which does nothing, nothing, for the Kashmiri Pandits who want to live in a the secular Kashmiryat of their memory.

The Kashmiri people have a right to descry the onset of terrorism against them, both from the ISI backed organizations and from an Indian army now without a legitimate political rudder. New Delhi is correct to point to terror that is husbanded in Pakistan, which was trained in Afghanistan and then sent across the border to create mayhem in Kashmir.

ISI Chief General Akhtar Abdul Rehman was eager to export the ISI's Afghan-style guerrilla warfare into the valley in the late 1980s and the ISI did so by systematically sidelining the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and by promoting the Hizbul Mujahideen.

In 1987, near Lahore, the ISI and Saudi money founded the Markaz Dawa-ul-Irshad and its military wing, the Lashkar-e-Toiba. Founded by university teachers (again like the Taliban), the Markaz is linked to the Jama'at-ul-Ulema Islam (the pro-Taliban faction led by Maulana Fazlur Rahman, famous for wielding a gun at political rallies).

The Lashkar now dominates much of the militancy in the valley, in much the same was as the Pakistani-backed "Afghan Arabs" took their place beside the Taliban. But the nub of the matter is that such groups would not gain a foothold unless the practices of the Indian state had also failed them.

To blame an insurgency on "foreign" groups is to miss the depth of suffering engendered by the state through a lack of imaginative economic planning and social development. In the last decade, over twenty thousand people have died in Kashmir as a result of the conflict, and a vast number have been affected in myriad ways.

The gun has become the arbiter of political differences, and it was the guns of the Hizbul Mujahideen which made the Jama'at a political force. The Indian army responds with guns and with torture, as New Delhi washes its hands off a political solution.

In this scenario, those politicians eager for a solution without weapons fled. In all this, the sage words of Nehru are often forgotten: "People seem to forget that Kashmir is not a commodity for sale or to be bartered. It has an individual existence and its people must be the final arbiters of their future" (6 July 1951).


Two Small Asides:

(1) By the way, my work with Biju Mathew has been published: two articles in the Kathmandu-based magazine, Himal South Asia, and one issue of the UK-based academic journal Ethnic and Racial Studies.

(2) David Frawley's book Gods, Sages and Kings argues that everything that can be great in India today has always existed in India -- that 'outsiders,' such as the Aryans, are really those indigenous to the soil of India. The general anti-Muslim political lesson can be gleaned in his 1993 book, Awaken Bharat, but it is this: that the Muslim 'invaders' are not of a piece with those who came before, because no-one came before. There are vanvasis, not adivasis, and the Dalit claim to being the original inhabitant of India is false as well. There are only original Hindus and then everyone else is an outsider (perhaps even Frawley, by this estimation, although his work on the Irish links to Aryans is a back-door way to claim part of the racial stock).

Vijay Prashad is Associate Professor and Director, International Studies Program , Trinity College, Hartford, CT, USA and author of Karma of Brown Folk (Minnesota) and Untouchable Freedom (Oxford). His most recent books are The American Scheme (Three Essays Press) and Fat Cats and Running Dogs: The Enron Stage of Capitalism.