The first prong of this policy was to break the region’s inter-faith harmony, which resulted in a concerted attempt to break up ‘Kashmiryat’. Kashmiriyat is an exceptional concept of Islam practiced only in Kashmir
Kashmir is a beautiful region, rich in natural resources and heir to an enlightened civilization based on a unique cultural diversity that readily accepts an amalgamation of ideas and thoughts. As with other secular and progressive civilizations around the world, it has caught the greedy eyes of an evil power (Pakistan) who wishes to wrest control of the region’s boundless assets by force.
By taking advantage of the Muslim character of the region, the Pakistani deep state sought to swallow it up. When the use of force in the form of the Indo-Pakistani wars of 1947-48 and 1965 failed, the evil Deep State (the Pakistani military) came up with the idea of ”death by a thousand cuts” and the proxy war.
The first prong of this policy was to break the region’s inter-faith harmony, which resulted in a concerted attempt to break up ‘Kashmiryat’. Kashmiriyat is an outstanding concept of Islam practiced only in Kashmir, it has a Sufi mooring and belief in ancient Shaiva influence, it has ensured that different faiths merge seamlessly into a seamless community with a common language, a common dress code, common eating habits and a shared culture.
The Kashmir valley is called the land of Sufis and saints due to the high number of mystics who have graced the region. The Kashmiriyat is an emanation of the visionary thinking of these saints who are venerated across the country by Kashmiri of all religions and denominations, be it Kashmiri Muslims (Shia and Sunni), Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs of Cashmere, among others. In Kashmir, people may pray to different gods, but they collectively believe in Sufis and saints.
The most important among the saints was Lal Ded. She combined Islamic and Saiva thoughts to create a bridge between all communities. Lal Ded’s vision was carried by a great Sufi mystic, Sheikh Noor-ud-Din, also called Nand Rishi, whose Charar-e-Sharif shrine is the most revered shrine of the entire Kashmiri community.
Pakistan, with the support of powerful Islamist forces, first orchestrated the exodus of the Pandit community from Kashmir and then attempted to replace, through terrorist violence and coercion, the Kashmiri and Sufi culture with the more radical concept of Wahhabi-Salafist Islam propagated by Saudi Arabia.
It is a credit to the very brave people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially the Muslim community, to have withstood the violent and terrorism infested onslaught and emerged victorious. To meet the challenge of violence and terrorism, the people got the full support of the security forces led by the Indian Army and comprising the JK Police and the central paramilitary forces. The role of the army remained by far the most important.
Today we have a situation where foreign sponsored terrorism has been contained to a level where normal activity has become possible in the region. Disruptive and divisive activities such as stone throwing, calls for Hartals (strikes) and Bandhs (lockouts) that were engineered by some elements of civil society for vested financial interests were also contained.
The Union government and the state government have put in place an ambitious plan to revive the economy. Education, which has always been the mainstay of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, is gaining international standards with top institutions across the union territory. Likewise, other key sectors such as infrastructure, health, tourism and youth employability are gaining ground.
It was abundantly clear that even after decades of indoctrination through the use of force, foreign-sponsored terrorists, their ideologues and masters failed to break the bond that existed between religious communities in Cashmere. In the recent past, whenever Kashmiri Pandits returned to the valley to perform religious functions like Kheer Bhiwani, they were warmly welcomed by their Muslim friends.
Even more poignant was the reaction of the younger generation; School-going Muslim boys and girls were seen making special efforts to deal with visiting Kashmiri pandits. Their actions proved that their parents and elders had told them about the Pandits who are so dear to them and that the children had developed an affection for the uprooted community.
It is clear from the above that the concept of Kashmiriyat can play a great role in peacemaking. It can help heal the deep wounds of a troubled past and set Kashmir on the path to resurrecting its centuries-old civilization. In this, the Indian military can play a big role given that the concept of Kashmiryat is so intrinsic to its own secular and apolitical philosophy and way of life. Since the people of Kashmir listen to the army, its call for friendship among all religions, duly supported by its own credentials, will certainly be widely accepted. A push in this direction can pay good social dividends.
The people of Kashmir must together find a path to peace and stability. Political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir must also be sensitive to the aspirations of the people and the problems they face. Top leaders from the politically active Abdullah and Mufti families must lead the charge to change the narrative. It is hoped that a collective effort based on the concept of Kashmiriyat will break the gun culture and bring about a new era in Jammu and Kashmir marked by peace and prosperity.
Democracy in India gives its people the right to follow their religious beliefs; the problem arises when these beliefs are misused by some to stir up passions and cause a fracture in the social fabric of society. Such attempts must be resisted by all possible means, especially in a sensitive region like Kashmir. A conscious effort must be made to change the negative perceptions that certain segments of Kashmiri society hold due to the relentless propaganda of evil forces. The leaders and elders of the region must take initiatives in this direction.