Kashmiri struggle: Is it religious or political?

By Shabir Choudhry
15 March 2001

Those who are trying to project the present struggle as religious one are deliberately trying to confuse the issue. Their aim is very clear - they don't want the issue to be resolved. It is clear to everyone that by projecting the Kashmiri struggle as religious (which is known as "Islamic fundamentalist struggle"), we are only trying to deprive it from desperately needed internal and external support.

Also by projecting it as a fundamentalist or extremist movement, an attempt is being made to frighten off the non Muslims of Kashmir. Already a lot of damage has been done to the social and community harmony, and such attempts are made to ensure that the minorities of Kashmir remain divided.

There are only two possible outcomes of this approach:

The Kashmir issue will never be resolved, and violence, bloodshed, killings of innocent people, rapes and imprisonment will continue. This, of course, is in the interest of some people, but it surely is not in the interest of the common person of Kashmir.

The other possible outcome of this approach is that enough venom of hatred and communalism is spilled that the State is forcibly divided on communal lines. This is again not in the interest of the common man of Kashmir, but I am sure it would suit personal interest of many. By making it religious issue we are not only complicating the Kashmir issue, but making it difficult for the Muslims of India as well; and one day a genie of religious hatred and communalism will eventually engulf the entire sub continent. If we do go down that road, this will lead us to other related problems. This route will surely lead us to a division on religious lines, but then another question will arise, or we going to further divide the State on Sunni, Wahabi, Shia and Ismaili beliefs? How many small units of Kashmir are we going to have, and what would be the end result of this?

Dangers of making Kashmir a religious issue are too obvious, and yet some people still want to follow that route. They are doing this because it is beneficial to them, but it may not help the Kashmiri struggle for independence. Rafiq Dar wrote down about his experience of meeting an American Congressman who supported the Kashmir cause:

'While briefing to a Congressmen who was our sympathizer, appeared slightly discourteous which was nevertheless shocking to me. After some time he stated that do not misunderstand me I still am your supporter in my country. But you need to know that you must not bring into your freedom struggle the religious politics because that is going to damage you and provide advantage to your adversary. His argument appeared more plausible and rational when he said that you have come to America to muster support to your just cause. As you must know that America is not a Muslim country. And if you ask me to help in the name of religion then my spontaneous reaction would be to say a big no because I am not a Muslim'. [Greater Kashmir 10th March 2001]

To start a debate at this critical juncture, whether the Kashmiri struggle is religious or political, is scandalous to say the least. The aim of this, as noted earlier, is to create hurdles for the resolution of Kashmiris dispute. Increasingly liberal and pragmatic people in Pakistan are voicing their opinion against the designs of these forces, which want to prolong the struggle in order to further their agenda. Abid Hassan Minto, President Supreme Court Bar Council of Pakistan, said in an interview: 'Outside Jehadi forces have done damage to the Kashmir cause and Pakistan. No one is going to help the Kashmiri struggle in the name of Jehad. Kashmir issue has to be projected as a right of self-determination to get international support'.['Daily Jang', 30 October 2000.]

For many years I have maintained that the Kashmir issue is not resolved because vested interest on both sides of the border likes the status quo to continue. There was a lot of criticism on me because of this, but good thing is that increasingly people are saying the same thing, and they are saying it by pointing fingers clearly in certain direction. A former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Nasim Hassan Shah, while addressing a gathering on Kashmir in London, said:

"The armies and other people making money out of this problem are against any solution [as it would] deprive them of all this money and advantages that they are securing by this war". He further said, " It is a problem of sentiments; a problem of getting these areas, a problem of a large number of people desiring that this conflict should continue and on the other side there are the poor Kashmiri people who want independence and a fair solution that they can live as free people".[Daily Jang/News 10 March 2001]

So one can see that people are pointing fingers to those who are benefiting from this struggle and would like it to continue, even if that means the Kashmiri people continue to suffer. Those who are trying to confuse the issue at this critical juncture, and are trying to deprive the genuine Kashmiri struggle of internal and external support by projecting it as religious and extremist, are not friends of the people. And if we want to improve the situation in Kashmir and build a society that believes in pluralism and have peace and harmony, then we have to stand together and fight these elements.