"....The difficulty has been in regard to conditions governing the plebiscite. If Pakistan had its way, it would convert Kashmir into a field for bitter, violent and most bigoted propaganda on the basis of religion, leading to riots and disorder on a large scale. That is not the kind of plebiscite we have envisaged, and that is why we have laid great stress on the conditions. The UN mediator, Dixon, made a proposal which appeared to us astonishing. That proposal amounted to converting the valley of Kashmir and other parts into a kind of half Pakistan even before the plebiscite."
Jawaharlal Nehru said this barely three years after Jammu and Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession into India. As part of his continuous conversation with chief ministers, Nehru wrote to them regularly between 1947 and 1963. Some of these letters were gathered into a book titled Letters for a Nation: From Jawaharlal Nehru to his Chief Ministers (1947-1963), edited by Madhav Khosla. The above passage, extracted from the book, is part of a letter Nehru wrote on 1 November, 1950.
Sixty-nine years later, this is what Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan has been telling the world ever since India's Parliament read down Article 370 to extend its writ to Jammu and Kashmir like every other province of the nation. Khan tweeted on 15 August: "Will the world silently witness another Srebrenica-type massacre and ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Indian-occupied Kashmir? I want to warn the international community if it allows this to happen, it will have severe repercussions and reactions in the Muslim world setting off radicalisation and cycles of violence."
Earlier, he had tweeted, "I am afraid this RSS ideology of Hindu Supremacy, like the Nazi Aryan Supremacy, will not stop in IOK; instead it will lead to suppression of Muslims in India & eventually lead to targeting of Pakistan. The Hindu Supremacists version of Hitler's Lebensraum."
More recently, on 31 August, in a video address to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), he spent the better part of his 25-minute-long speech on India and Kashmir: "Islamophobia, this is the most serious thing facing Muslims now — I'm talking about 200 million Muslims of India. What has happened in India right now needs to be told to the western world. I am trying my best, but from Islam's platform you have to make concerted efforts to make people understand this phenomenon which has taken over India. You have to make the western society understand the RSS... The RSS believes in the racial supremacy of Hindus, it believes in the ethnic cleansing of Muslims. We are talking about a country of 1.3 billion people with nuclear weapons being taken over by an extreme philosophy, an extreme ideology. They do not consider the minorities, especially Muslims, as equal. Worse, it is this ideology that has put nine million Muslims under curfew for 26 days in Kashmir. This ideology is not going to stop here. They have let the genie out of the bottle. It is not going back into the bottle. The genie of hatred, of Hindu supremacy. (There are) 200 million Muslims in India, what is going to happen to their future? It's also going to go after the Christians. The Dalits are not going to be spared. Even the Sikh minorities will suffer after a while. The secular India concept, the plural India concept, everything is at threat." (edited excerpts).
Two thoughts immediately come to mind while juxtaposing Khan's rants with Nehru's observations. The first is how prescient Nehru was in that letter of 1950. The second, and the more striking thought, is how Pakistan cannot, even after 69 years, see Kashmir as anything but a religious battleground.
The tone of Nehru's letter suggests that he seemed to have realised the folly of taking the issue to the United Nations, but he was acutely conscious of the fact that Pakistan was hell-bent on turning this issue into a Hindu-Muslim conflict. Time and again, Nehru cautioned against looking at the Jammu and Kashmir from this binary approach. Nehru had never entertained an iota of doubt that Pakistan would fail as a State. But he was also conscious of the reality that its failure would entail a cost for India as Pakistan would unleash a "bitter, violent and most bigoted propaganda" against India.
Bleating about Kashmir like a sacrificial lamb at every public platform since 5 August, Khan has done one better. It is not about the Kashmiri Muslim anymore. Khan is now worried for the future of 200 million Muslims across India, its Christians, Sikhs and even Dalits. This is a very thinly-veiled attempt to widen the social and religious fault lines in India, just as Nehru had envisaged. Khan cannot be blamed for living in a time warp in entertaining an idea of India — propagated by the western world in the 1950s — which was socially fractious and incompatible.
Thus it is that a prime minister who is starkly ignorant of international geography and describes Germany and Japan as proximate neighbours, has been waxing eloquent on the "Hindu hegemony" being perpetuated by a "fascist Hindutva" regime. Glaring is the irony of the prime minister of a theocratic State, who answers to his military bosses, holding forth on secularism and pluralism. Given the nature of the Pakistani State, Khan's antics do not appear surprising and form a pattern.
What is surprising, however, is the deathly silence of the Indian Muslim leadership in the face of Pakistan's irrational rants and its naked attempts to rouse the sentiments of Muslims, not just in Kashmir, but all of India. Khan and his ministers have been talking about an imaginary situation where Muslims are being persecuted in India in general, and Jammu and Kashmir in particular. Rather than take this distorted formulation head on, India's Muslim leadership, such as it is, has been walking into the trap set by Pakistan. Its silence when it comes to countering Pakistan's open nudging of Muslims across the world — and in India — to take up arms against the State is telling.
On the contrary, the reaction of the Congress' Ghulam Nabi Azad and All India Muslim Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi to Article 370 appears to lend credence to Pakistan's scare-mongering. Most of these leaders have taken a position that is more consistent with Pakistan's position that the Kashmir issue pertains only to Muslims. History bears out that this patently flawed approach persistently debilitated the growth of an organic political leadership in Jammu and Kashmir. And the deafening silence of the Muslim leadership that amounts to its acquiescence to this calumny of persecution of Muslims, Christians and Dalits sets a disturbing trend.
A section of India's progressive Muslim intelligentsia is indeed quite contemptuous of Pakistan’s professed love for "democracy and secularism". Yet its voice has been feeble, guided as it is by an impulse of hatred towards Narendra Modi.
After partition in 1947, Nehru visualised Kashmir as an example of India's commitment to secularism and Sheikh Abdullah as his knight in shining armour. His hope was belied sooner than later. He was consistently bitter about the manner in which Abdullah took recourse to religion to establish his dominance. Nehru's worst fear of communalising the problem came true even in his life time. In the latter part of his life, Nehru not only realised his folly but was also worried about the fact that communalisation of the Kashmir issue would entail heavy social costs.
History has a unique way of repeating itself more often as farce than tragedy. In the backdrop of a vicious communal campaign by pork-eating Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Muslim league, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a trusted lieutenant of Mahatma Gandhi and a moderate voice among Muslims, was relegated to the fringes. Jinnah undermined him by often describing him the Muslim "show boy" of the Congress. Arif Mohammad Khan, recently appointed as Governor of Kerala and arguably a forceful progressive voice among Muslims since his stance against triple talaq, often recounts an interesting anecdote about the Maulana.
After Partition, a group of Muslims called on the Maulana and spoke to him for over 90 minutes on the possibility of the rise of Hindu communalism. Much against his wont, the Maulana gave a patient hearing and then said in chaste Urdu which Arif summarises thus: "Muslim separatism under the leadership of the Muslim League showed its obnoxious face and divided the country on the basis of religion. After that we have lost the right to complain about Hindu communalism."
Alas, there is no Muslim moderate leader in India now of the stature of the Maulana. At a time when Pakistan is turning up the religious war rhetoric against India, we need whatever progressive Muslim leadership there is to speak up to say that the India that Imran Khan is describing exists only in his bigoted mind. Silence is not an option. It only helps stoke the fires that Pakistan wants to set in India.
Updated Date: Sep 05, 2019 12:10:38 IST