When floods hit the largely Buddhist enclave of Leh in Kashmir recently, the chief minister Omar Abdullah, representatives of state government and the Indian army were out providing relief. Absent, however, was the presence of Kashmiris from the rest of the state, notably the normally vocal Valley Kashmiris, in expressing support for their fellow co-habitants. They seemed unconcerned about the tragedy.
This went by unnoticed by the national and international media. But it was not lost on the majority of Kashmiris, confirming their views that those in charge of the state see themselves as being responsible only to one of the six major groups that form Kashmir: the Valley Sunnis, the Shia, the Buddhists, the Sikhs, the Hindus and the Gujjars. That single-pointed attention has kept wider Kashmiri interests unattended, but kept the Valley of Kashmir in the global spotlight.
Today, Kashmir is very much part of the cauldron that is “Af-Pak”, the storm that is raging across the Pashtun belt in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As in Af-Pak, the base for the jihad that is being waged in Kashmir mainly comprises a small fringe of a single community – the Valley Wahabi Sunnis, who are 1 million of the total 6.7 million Kashmiri Muslim population.
In the case of Af-Pak, the indigenous Taliban fighters are almost entirely Pashtun, and from those human pools nurtured by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Saudi Secret Service during the 1980s to fight against the USSR. In the case of Kashmir, those involved in the current intifada are Sunnis – mostly Wahabis – from the Kashmir Valley who have financial and other links with the military in Pakistan and the numerous Wahabi religious trusts and foundations in Saudi Arabia that work at exporting their 300-year old faith across the world.
The difference between Afghanistan and Kashmir is that in the former, the bulk of the population fears and detests the NATO “occupiers” almost as much as – or more – than they do the only organized force standing up to this “army of occupation”, the Taliban. In Kashmir, only the Valley Sunnis (and in particular the growing Wahabi element within them) regard the Indian security forces as being an army of occupation.
The rest of the state’s population is fearful of a withdrawal by those same security forces or a “peace accord” that hands over to the Wahabis full control of the entire two-thirds of the state that was in Indian control at the time of Jawaharlal Nehru’s January 1, 1949 ceasefire. (Subsequently, around an eighth of even that truncated area was taken over by China by 1957.)
The media in the countries that comprise NATO are perceived as “free”. However, very few have pointed either to the extreme unpopularity of NATO forces within the general population of Afghanistan, or – in contrast – to the support for Indian troops among the Shia, the Gujjars, the Bakkerwals, the Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists of “Indian” Kashmir. Thanks in some part to the reluctance of successive governments in India to expose the true nature of the militancy in the state, but mainly due to the briefings and activism of the diplomatic corps of the NATO powers, the Kashmir jihad has come to be characterized even in the Indian media as comprising a loveable group of “freedom fighters” bravely battling the Goliath of the Indian security forces.
That the Valley Sunni-Wahabis in Kashmir have already succeeded in ethnically cleansing the Kashmir Valley and in monopolizing the state administration and 81% of central resources for the 18% of population that they represent, is testimony to the failure of Indian diplomacy. This has, thus far, focussed only on Pakistan’s role rather than on the character of the Kashmiris active in the separatist movement. As a consequence, there is near –zero international reportage of the human rights abuses carried out by the Valley Sunni-Wahabis, including the denial of the right to education and the right of women to have a career. There is hardly any coverage of the intimidation and expulsion of Sikhs and Hindus from the Valley.
Parsing the speeches of India’s Prime Ministers from I K Gujral to Manmohan Singh, one searches in vain for adequate – or in many instances, any -recognition that over 80% of the population of “Indian Kashmir” is opposed to separatism, and indeed, would themselves like to administratively free themselves of Valley Sunni-Wahabi dominance. The floods in Leh should give New Delhi pause.
The enthusiasm of media outlets like Al Jazeera is understandable; that channel makes no pretence of objectivity in reporting any issue that involves Wahabis matching wits (or fists) with others. But reading “liberal” English-language newspapers such as the New York Times, The Guardian and such, one can be forgiven for believing that India is a religious dictatorship intent on snuffing out the freedom of a persecuted secular minority that seeks to create a free society by attaining independence from a “dictatorial” entity like India.
KASHMIRIYAT AND TALIBAN
Recent “objective” articles on the stone-pelting ‘intifada’ in Kashmir have mentioned the scene at a large Srinagar hospital, without once mentioning the fact that the injured among the security forces is thrice as large as that among those active in the intifada. Of course, as Valley Sunni-Wahabis have monopolized employment in the Valley since Sheikh Abdullah was re-installed by Indira Gandhi in 1974 (This was soon after the creation of Bangladesh by the Mukti Bahini, assisted by the Indian army, in 1971), all the non-uniformed sources quoted by the media are Valley Sunni-Wahabis. If those reporters are aware that this group has converted the gentle Sufi school of Kashmiriyat into a Talibanesque entity starting from the 1980s, or that there exist Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Shias across the state of Kashmir besides the Valley Sunni-Wahabis, the same is not evident from the tearful prose of the reports.
The New York Times is just one example. Magazines and newspapers from Finland to France, UK, Canada to Australia, to those from the so-called Muslim world have glossed over the fact that the intifada in the Valley seeks the legitimisation of a system of exclusion in Kashmir, that would give permanency and further impetus to the already-existing discrimination in favour of Valley Sunni-Wahabis.
Richard Holbrooke and those US officials eager to dip into “conflict resolution” would be delighted at such reportage, which is reminiscent of that seen during the 1990s. Whether it was CNN or the BBC, the Daily Telegraph or the Washington Post, the on-going jihad in Kashmir was portrayed as a “peoples’ movement” that deserved the same sympathetic coverage as did the operations of the mujahideen against the Soviets.
It was during that period that more than four hundred temples were destroyed in Kashmir by Wahabis, and when almost the entire indigenous Hindu Pandit population was driven out. It was during that period that women not wearing a burkha were subjected to abuse and worse, and when any form of worship other than those sanctioned by the Wahabis was subject to intimidation and assault.
However, one looks in vain in the columns of the quality newspapers of the West for any except glancing reportage of this sombre reality. Almost all the negative coverage is reserved for the Indian security forces. That trend was diluted only after 9/11, but has since re-emerged, assisted by a slew of NGOs whose interest in human rights stops with the Valley’s Sunni-Wahabi population. Ditto with the focus of the press corps in Srinagar – the local element of which is made up almost entirely of Valley Sunni-Wahabis – even those reporting for Indian newspapers and television channels.
Apart from the propensity of newspaper proprietors in Delhi to turn to the diplomatic enclave for validation, there is another reason why this is so. Those who are not Valley Sunni-Wahabis, o
r those not backing the intifada in their reportage, are likely to have a very brief lifespan in Kashmir.
The state has seen severe intimidation of the media, on a scale that brings to mind the depredations of the Khalistanis in Punjab during the 1980s. None of this is of any interest to the western media or sections of the Indian media, resulting in giving a cosmetic gloss to those engaged in creating yet another Wahabi enclave in South Asia.
TAPESTRY OF TERRIBLE INSURGENCY
Why does the failure of the Government of India to better explain the truth about the intifada in Kashmir, matter? Because the warp and weft fashioning events in Kashmir are the same as those weaving the tapestry of the terrible insurgency in Af-Pak. The ideology of both struggles is the same as is the funding and the sources of inspiration.
If the Manmohan Singh government – despite the fact that the Indian Prime Minister sees the US in the same way as Bengal’s Communist Party Chief Prakash Karat regards China – has kept Washington away from overt involvement in Kashmir, it’s because of the recognition that the US military has reached a stage of controlled hysteria that drives it to seek salvation from a Pakistan army.
Years ago, during the Kargil conflict, an Indian airman was butchered and mutilated by his Pakistani captors. Rather than show to the world what India was fighting against, this incident was covered up much the way the present hospitalisation of more than 1,000 security personnel operating in Kashmir has been. Concealed also is the opulence of the lifestyles of those making a handsome living by traveling around the Middle East groaning about “Indian tyranny” and asking for financial help to fight the Hitlerites Indian state.
They needn’t bother going that far. For each time there is violence in Kashmir, the Indian treasury opens its doors even wider to enable yet more largesse to flow into the very pockets responsible for the troubles.
Kashmir is the international blind spot in the international jihad of the Wahabi International Agency. It is the insurgency that North America and Europe have cosied up to, together with several elements of the Indian media. What has been left by the wayside is the majority of Kashmir that seeks an end to the intifada and a beginning to productive, secure life.
M. D. Nalapat is vice-chair of Manipal Advanced Research Group and UNESCO peace chair, and professor of geopolitics at Manipal University, India.
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