Condemnations across the political divide , both in Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi, of the ghastly terrorist attacks on the Amarnath Yatris on Monday, may give the impression that the age-old Kashmiryat is back in the state. But despite the empathy, there is a fear that it might be just another step towards the manifestation of the process of Islamisation in the Valley.
The inclination towards Islamisation that gathered momentum in the 1990s always saw active participation from the separatists who in turn had the backing from Pakistan and even Indians who were favourable of this trend. The support from the liberal and secular folks including many human rights organisations have emboldened the separatists so much that they had the audacity to view the Amarnath Yatra as an “ugly manifestation of the rising Hindutva”. The attempt was to create a sense of insecurity among Kashmiri Muslims.
Monday’s attack that took away seven precious lives was the second instance of the terrorists targeting the Hindu pilgrims, the first occurring on 1 August, 2000, when the suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists killed 25 people at Pahalgam, where one of the two base camps of the pilgrimage was situated. But the first threat to the Yatra had been issued in 1993 by the Pakistan-based Harkat-ul-Ansar; it had then “banned” the Yatra.
Though this ban could not be enforced because of the heavy security arrangements made by the government, systematically now onwards the separatists found faults with the way the Yatra was being organised – the creation of a shrine board, with the state governor as chairman and extra security to the pilgrims. In fact, when the state government in 2008 contemplated the transfer of forest land to the shrine board for providing better and durable facilities to the pilgrims, there was a “communal” reaction to it from the valley, saying that the move was to make Kashmir a “Hindu-state”. So much so that the very idea was dropped, creating deep resentments in the Hindu-majority Jammu.
Since then there have been calls by the separatists to restrict the yatra in some form or the other. In 2012, Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani called for a shutdown of the Valley (on 4 September) to protest against what he said the "politicisation of Yatra". Terming the Yatra as a "military project to strengthen the Indian occupation" of Kashmir, Geelani said at a press conference in Srinagar, "Amarnath Yatra is going on for the past 145 years. The people of Jammu and Kashmir are not against it. Instead they host these pilgrims and will continue to do so. But now India has given it (yatra) the shape of a military project to continue the Indian occupation of Kashmir."
Such views are not limited to those who openly pride themselves as separatists. Take the article of Fahad Shah, a Kashmir-based journalist who has been educated in London. He wrote a piece in the Foreign Affairs magazine from New York, saying how, “India has used the (Amarnath) pilgrimage to assert its political control over the area”. He has quoted professor Ian Reader at the University of Lancaster, who has visited the cave and written in his book Pilgrimage in the Marketplace, “Hindu nationalist organizations have encouraged Hindus to participate in the Amarnath pilgrimage as a statement of Hindu pride and in order to reinforce Indian claims to the region and to demonstrate their opposition to Pakistan’s counterclaims.”
Shah cannot simply accept why there has been an increase in the number of pilgrims from 12,000 in 1989 to 634,000 in 2011 (though in 2016, the official estimate of these pilgrims was 2,20,000 over 48 days). In fact, he edited the anthology Of Occupation and Resistance: Writings from Kashmir which many with liberal views surprisingly thought to be highly "thought-provoking” and “intellectually satisfying”.
Then we have a report of Amarnath Yatra: a Militarised Pilgrimage by a bunch of human rights activists, which further communalised the situation by its findings that what was traditionally a 15-day Yatra is now conducted for between 45-55 days drawing people from all over India. This study concludes that the Yatra and the way it is being organised make it evident that India is “a Hindu state”, privileging the rights of Hindu pilgrims over pressing local environmental and human rights concerns. This is all the more condemnable, the study said, when “Kashmir is a disputed territory and a Muslim majority region.”
While the need of the hour is to ensure communal harmony, it is equally important to crackdown on the support base within and outside the country so that the age-old Kashmiriyat survives in its true essence and not get sullied and bloodied by those who seek to invoke a dangerous Hindu-Muslim divide in the Kashmir Valley.
Updated Date: Jul 12, 2017 07:25 AM