November  1999

The Kashmir cauldron

If proof were needed that majority and minority communalism are two sides of the same
coin, and that, in the context of the Indian sub-continent at least, they actively fuel and
feed each other, our cover story this month supplies it. An expose on the extremely worry
ing ground reality in the highly sensitive state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Senior civil libertarian, Balraj Puri, has been one of the unimpeachably fair and sane voices from that strife-torn state. His cry from the heart, made in the exclusive conversation with Communalism Combat, spells despair. Despair and disappointment with political parties and secular forces who have singularly failed to appreciate and empathise with the struggle for democratic rights within the state, thereby making space for extremist and exclusivist forces – of both the Muslim and the Hindu variety — to step in and fill the vacuum. The accompanying story on the Pakistani-supported project to ‘standardise’ Kashmiri Islam, shredding local culture bare of its unique characteristics, is indeed a tragic tale for any Kashmiri, or any true lover of that state and its people.

Unfortunately, few Indians from outside that state have shown any capacity for understanding the state and its problems, just as we have failed miserably to relate to the peoples of the North-East. In the July issue of CC, Puri had written about the surreptitious plans afoot, between an unscrupulous Farooq Abdullah and the communal BJP/RSS, to divide the people of a multi-religious and multi-cultural state into a Muslim Kashmir, a Hindu Jammu and a Buddhist Ladakh.

Post-Kargil, the NC-BJP nexus has resulted in further and utter disillusionment among the people of the state, a factor that was sharply visible during the recently-held elections. The Hindus of the state are fast abandoning the BJP, which has failed them, and the Valley has become silently supportive of the mujahids from across the border. A sorry reflection of the fast-worsening state of affairs in that state.

Barely a month back into the saddle, and two ministries of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance — the Union home ministry and the ministry for human resources development — have shown they mean business. The former apparently adamant on quashing voices of dissent is continuing with actions against women’s groups who had endorsed one of Communalism Combat’s election-time ads. (See Campaign in this issue and CC, October 1999).

The other ministry, headed by none less than professor Murli Manohar Joshi, has been busy appointing ideologically suited persons to key posts within the bureaucratic boards that control syllabi and the overall orientation of the Indian educational system.

One of these appointees to the NCERT selection committee is a self-confessed killer of a Muslim woman during the Partition rights. He has claimed in his autobiography that he killed her to save her from fellow Hindus all of whom were lusting for her.

Last month’s issue of CC had detailed for the reader how a selective and poisonous worldview, such as the one the RSS-driven Hindutva represents, can poison young minds, limit creativity, and quash free inquiry. This can be seen already in our existing texts of non-RSS schools, written while we had so-called secular governments at the helm. With an all-out effort such as the one now being orchestrated by Joshi, in power, positioning people at the right places and at the right time, the damage can be incalculable. And irreversible. This is something our academic community and civil liberties movement should be actively thinking about.

The recently concluded polls, among other things, reduced ‘secularism’ to a mere mantra. That national-level political parties contributed to this, with the Left being marginalised is probably predictable. But the extent to which the mainstream media fell in line is disturbing. Especially since the same media did a fair job of highlighting brutal attacks on Christians and Muslims throughout the country by fanatics belonging to Hindu extremist organisations in preceding months. They simply failed to relate the critical question of the threat to the life and property of citizens as gross violation of a ‘secular’ mandate.

The need for an active civil liberties forum that takes on the issue of violation of civil liberties and democratic rights seems more acute than ever before. An attempt in this direction is being made in Mumbai at the start of the year 2000. Accordingly, there will be a special human rights’ section in every issue of Communalism Combat from next month.

— Editors


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