The Hindutva “reconquest” of Jammu and Kashmir has begun, and the subcontinent’s Muslims now face a powerful and fascist India, writes Jahangir Mohammed.
On the 5th of August, the Indian Parliament repealed Article’s 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution, which granted Jammu and Kashmir (JK) a special status. These laws have been in place since 1949, confirming JK as an accession state, giving hope to the people of the region that they would one day be given the right to self-determination. JK had the ability to have its own flag, own constitution and assembly, and determine its own laws. Article 35A also prohibited those outside of Kashmir from purchasing property and taking residency in JK so the Muslim majority demographic could not be altered by a huge Hindu population in India.
Article 370 provided some smokescreen of autonomy to JK and allowed its politicians to nurture relationships with India. The belief was that through this arrangement JK would become a permanent part of India. The “special status” was a myth. The region has never been free of Indian military control, but it allowed India to claim JK was “Indian administered” rather than Indian occupied – the latter being the reality. With the repeal of these articles and the arrest of Kashmiri leaders, the notion of an “Indian administered” Kashmir is dead. India has made JK part of India by force. JK is now officially occupied by India, in violation of the Indian constitution, the JK constitution and UN resolutions.
Why has India acted now?
At partition of India, JK leaders and some Muslim leaders in India, had pro Indian nationalist sentiments, and a deeply held belief that it was better for Muslims to be part of a united India. They believed that a secular democracy would grant Muslims their rights and protection. The view of the two-state Pakistan Movement was that Hindu majority rule would ultimately lead to Hindu dominance and oppression, and that Muslims could only be safe in a separate Muslim majority state. When it came to Kashmir, an autonomous Princely State, a Muslim majority population were prevented from choosing to become part of India or Pakistan, or remaining independent, by its Hindu ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, who was pro India and signed a treaty with India. After two wars between India and Pakistan, with Chinese involvement, Kashmir became partitioned. China took the Aksai Chin region and Pakistan controlled what became Azad (free) Kashmir whilst India maintained control of Jammu Kashmir including the Buddhist region of Ladakh.
India had always hoped that with economic success, the majority Kashmiri Muslims would become pro India at some point, a referendum could then be held (in accordance with United Nations resolutions) and India would be chosen. However, over time this has not happened and Kashmiri masses unlike many of its leaders have inclined towards Pakistan or increasingly independence.
Uprisings for freedom by Kashmiri’s in 1987 led to direct military occupation of the region by up to 500,000 Indian troops, now 32 years on. During this time, nearly 100,000 Kashmiri’s have been killed, thousands raped or tortured, and held without due process as political prisoners.
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The latest uprising among Kashmiri youth started three years ago with the death of resistance leader Burhan Wani in July 2016. It has led to thousands of Kashmiris being blinded by Indian troops firing pellets. This makes a mockery of the notion that JK is being “administered” and not militarily occupied by India.
The spirit unleashed by a young Kashmiri population demonstrating for freedom from India, has showed no signs of ending. With a Hindutva fascist movement and government in India (with Muslims in India also being a target of anti-Muslim hatred), there was no prospect that the Kashmiri people would ever become part of India by choice. So, the BJP rulers decided to make Kashmir part of Hindutva rule by force and change its demographics, so it will no longer be a majority Muslim region.
The rise of Hindutva fascist India – A global challenge
At the heart of the problem for Muslims in India, Kashmir, Pakistan and the rest of the world is the rise of a virulent Hindutva (‘Hinduness’) supremacist political and religious ideology that now rules India. Its political wing, the BJP has been democratically elected twice and is becoming stronger every day. Its paramilitary wing, the RSS (Rastriya Svayamsevaka Saṅgha), of which Modi was a member, has permeated all facets of Indian society. The RSS has done this as leader of a large body of organisations called the Sangh Parivar (the “family of the RSS”). This includes the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP, World Hindu Council) a militant organisation which promotes Hinduisation of India, the Hindu Sena (Army of Hindus) and Shiv Sena (Army of Shivaji). The BJP is now the largest political party in the world whilst the umbrella RSS is the largest social voluntary organisation in the world. The RSS was banned under British rule and by early independence Indian governments.
Hindutva supremacist ideology seeks to create a Hindu identity society by restore Hindu rule, by cleansing India of what it considers foreign alien elements; including Muslims and Christians, their culture, language, heritage, religious beliefs and places of worship. It seeks a return India to its pre-Muslim times, including the forced conversion of Muslims to their pre-Muslim Hindu beliefs. For the last decade at least, this propaganda has been pumped out at all levels of mainstream Indian society.
The problem for Muslims of Kashmir and Pakistan is that the re-conquest of land is also an integral part of the Hindutva vision. It views the historical Indus valley/river civilisation as part of Hindu India. The historical centres of this civilisation are claimed to be Mohen je daro and Harappa in Pakistan. Whilst in Kashmir, the priestly Kashmiri Hindu Pandit caste (or Kashmiri Brahmins) claim to have a pre-Muslim historical claim and pre-independence right as Hindu rulers with Muslim subjects.
In the context of the rise of this Hindu supremacist ideology, the forced integration of Kashmir into “Hindu rule” in India was inevitable. What happened a few days ago will be viewed by the Hindu supremacists through the lens of a ‘Hindu Reconquista’ of Kashmir.
Pakistan and Imran Khan’s miscalculations
Whilst the BJP government has made the current move for its own ideological reasons, the decision has been calculated at a time when Pakistan is politically and economically weak and dependent on debt finance. Not just from the IMF, but more importantly from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who Modi has successfully courted. Any reaction from Pakistan will be curtailed by pro-Modi Gulf rulers whose economies are being managed mainly by Hindu Indian businessmen and workers.
It also comes at a time when Pakistan’s political leader, Prime Minister Imran Khan, has made a major plank of his government’s policy, anti-war, pro-peace, and political settlement of conflicts and disputes. Peace is a noble human goal, but you have to understand the psychology of the enemy you’re dealing with.
His constant talk of peace, to try and shed the image of Pakistan as a “terrorist supporting” state, was bound to be seen as a weakness by the militant Hindutva ideologues in India who are prepared to achieve their political goals militarily. As such it was short-sighted. His constant appeals to international diplomacy and settlement are also a miscalculation about the realities of achieving peace through international agencies and the US – another sign of undeniable weakness.
Practically, Pakistan will be unable to act, and may have to accept as a reality that Jammu Kashmir is part of India, which would mean that de facto Azad Kashmir would become part of Pakistan, unless India decides to take that too. Temporary lines of control have a habit of becoming permanent. This would be the very betrayal that Kashmiris have long predicted.
The people of both sides of Kashmir will be unhappy with such an arrangement, and the Kashmiri quest for self-determination and resistance will continue, regardless of what India or Pakistan do or don’t do.
Of all the conflicts affecting the Muslim Ummah, the Kashmiri cause has been the most neglected by Muslim activists and masses. What is now required for the rest of the Muslim masses is to stand with the Kashmiri people and against the rise of Hindutva fascist rule, if only in their own interests. The rise of Hindutva fascism will affect many Muslims around the world, and silence is no longer an option.