Jammu and Kashmir : needed an iron fist in velvet gloves

Posted on August 13, 2008. Filed under: India, Kashmir, Muslims, Politics, terrorism |

Untimely death is unacceptable. A leader of the Hurriyat conference had been shot dead among a score others. I don’t have any sympathy for the brand of Islam now being projected on the subcontinent, but my heart grieves for the ordinary Indian Muslim, whom I see only as Indians and not as Muslims. I see Kashmiri Muslims as most unfortunate since their ancestors were mostly peaceful Hindus and Buddhists, and who have been forced by the weakness of their Hindu rulers and elite to be divorced from their roots and culture. Kashmir resisted Islam for a long time, long after the Sun-worshippers of Multan, or the Hindu kings of Kabul and Zabul, or the sundry small princes who from time to time invited the likes of Islamic fortune seekers as Mahmud of Gazni into the Indian heartland for their own petty quarrels or jealousies. Even after being Islamized in the late 14th century, when the Delhi Sultanate was already beginning the the long decline to defeat at the hands of the Mughals in another hundred odd years, Kashmir’s Islam had a chequered history – and the brand of Islam that developed there had little in common with the various strands of orthodox Sunni fanaticism now being put up as the monolithic face of Islam. A curious Kashmiri version of Sufism developed, and even in the time of Mughals, ShahJehan – the fabulous prince now only represented as the grief-stricken husband and the doting father who built Taj Mahal (forget the dispute about its real constructor – but it was the countless artisans and skilled artists and architects, as well as the crores of Rupiah’s extracted from the peasantry – who were the real constructors of the Taj Mahal) – but in reality who has been chronicled to be a zealous Muslim bigot, had to formally decree that Kashmiri Hindu men who had been marrying Kashmiri Muslim women, had to convert to Islam or be beheaded. This sort of intermarrying must have been going on at a very significant rate to warrant the Mughal Badshah’s attention and personal intervention. It is quite likely, as at the entry of the Mughals under Akbar the “great” who tricked the ruling sultan of Kashmir under a false promise of safe passage using as his mouthpiece a Hindu Rajput courtier, Islam in Kashmir was a relatively new religious entry. Islam under Sufi garb perhaps had also pretended in its initial proselytizing phase as a “liberal” creed – revealing its fangs only later when sufficiently strong numerically. Thus the newly converted families and those who had not converted probably took their ancient lineal connections much more seriously than a new-fangled religion, one in a long chain of religious ideas and mini-ideological revolutions in Kashmir. Thus intermarriage was not such implausible after all. Not so in Islam, originally a desert based nomadic culture peculiarly obsessed with “perceptions of deprivation” – deprivation of the “yatin” or orphan, deprivation from “fertile land”, “water”, and “women” which others have possessed and which therefore its “God” promises to give them rights on. Islam is keen to hold on to its “women” as well as “women” of others – and therefore this insistence on only one-way traffic into Islam of women. ShahJehan was instrumental in using enslavement of Hindus, especially peasants to raise money, reduce the number of Hindus, and spread Islam. He is known to have expanded the slave trade in Hindu women and had a well recorded taste in stocking up his harem with an endless stream of “baandi”s acquired by all possible means, who regularly found themselves in his bed (all that for the “eternal love” for Mumtaj enshrined in the Taj Mahal). It is quite understandable that ShahJehan felt worried that Hindus in Kashmir were getting women from Muslims rather than the other way round.

If this was the picture even in the mid 17th century, we can pretty well understand, why the Sunni strands of Islam, most responsible for the current worldwide spate of sadistic violence in the garb or religious justification, would be so concerned about the “religious health” of Kashmir. I strongly feel, Indians should seriously think of the need for an iron fist in a pair of velvet gloves – a will strong enough to ignore religious machinations, and be ruthless in crushing militancy – the iron fist, and be immensely persistent in a no-holds-barred cultural and economic conquest of Kashmir and Jammu – the velvet gloves.

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