Notion of ‘Azadi’ and ‘Kashmiriyat’

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Much is being written about the current state of affairs in Kashmir. The ‘Azadi’ of Kashmir and independence to ‘Kashmiriyat’, is being spoken of. But what Azadi are they dreaming about? And which Kashmiriyat are they talking of?

Have Hindus no share of that Kashmiriyat, on the basis of which separatists are demanding an ‘independent’ state for themselves? Which Kashmiriyat are they talking about—is it 500 or 5,000 years old? That was the time when everyone in Kashmir was a Hindu. The separatists in the valley today, tend to forget, and are even motivated to forget, the fact that they are descendants of Hindu ancestors.

In Kashmir, like in the rest of the country, Hindus and Muslims have the same ancestors, share the same history, the same culture, and the same land. Therefore, nationalism is also the same. If that be so, then, how can ancestors change with change in religion and mode of worship? Can it be construed that wherever Muslims are in majority they will have their separate nationalism and get delinked from India?  I assume it to be so. This is the bitter truth about history and it has to be accepted. The history of the world is replete with events illustrating that whenever Muslims are in majority, fundamentalism has raised its head—giving birth to separatist ideas.

According to political pundits and philosophers all over the world, national unity and separatism are two different and completely opposing elements. Paucity in the outlook of nationalism breeds regionalism which gives birth to separatism. A powerful feeling of nationalism is the right weapon for ending  separatism. The reason the poison of separatism has spread over many regions in India is due to the lack of a feeling of oneness—of being one nation.

In reality, when India achieved independence, the lawmakers should have framed the constitution on the basis of the nation and its culture. But the thought hardly crossed anyone’s mind.  The result was that  national outlook was eclipsed because educational and economic policies remained divided in many social and political groups. Blind imitation of the western pattern remained the base of our policies. Everything related to British imperialism was considered supreme and we even visualized and understood the nation and nationalism through the eyes of the west.

Deliberately, British historians presented, in a twisted form, our national history, national culture, and national outlook, for their selfish political interest and in becoming victims of their conspiracy we relinquished our ancient glory. The result was that community, region, sect, and language, pushed back nationalism. The problems of not just Kashmir, but also Assam, are its products.

Nationalism cannot be born without understanding national culture. Right from the beginning, India has remained as one nation, one people and one culture. According to Indian philosophy, nation is a cultural unit which can be only developed—not constructed. In the west, however, nation has been merged with the Government which has been considered a political unit. Culture unites people and politics disintegrates them. Therefore, so long as the nation remained linked with culture, this country stayed united; but when western political influence became dominant, it gave birth to the country’s disintegration. This is also a misfortune of Kashmir.

As long as the high ideals of nation and national culture remained dominant, religious activities remained linked with the Indian nation. But when religion was brought into politics and the concept of an ethnic state developed, it paved the way for separatism in Kashmir.

The modes of worship born and developed in Kashmir—which include snake worship, Shaivism, Buddhism, and Vaishnavism—never came into conflict with one another because they remained linked with Indian nationalism. Even foreign rulers like Kanishka and Mihir, who belonged to the Kushan and Hun sects respectively, had accepted Buddhism and Shaivism and while Indianising their sect had merged into the Indian national mainstream.
The advent of Islam in Kashmir, on the other hand, gave birth to inter-sectarian conflict, religious conversion, and separatism. The reason was clear—because fundamental Islam does not permit its follower to get linked with any country and its national culture. Whenever there is Muslim majority, there should be an Islamic state. Pakistan too, is the result of this opinion. The forcible religious conversion of Hindus in Kashmir and then their mass exodus are the offshoots of this anti-national trend thriving in the valley.

The Muslims in the valley should understand that by joining Pakistan or by remaining independent, they will neither remain safe nor can they protect their idea of Kashmiriyat. Their Islamic principles too will remain safe in the Kashmiriyat based on the culture of their ancestors. The amount of religious freedom that exists in Indian culture is found nowhere.

The dream of an independent Kashmir, too, is unrealistic and Pakistan would never tolerate this. It will not give any military or economic aid. What do they have to give? Hitherto, several thousand crores of rupees have been spent on development of Kashmir by India and all this will be stopped with de-accession. Kashmir’s tourism industry, economic development, and geographical security, are secure because of India, and not due to Pakistan. Let’s not forget that fact.

The only solution, I foresee, to the Kashmir problem is if our Kashmiri Muslim brothers link themselves, like other Indians, with the national mainstream. The Government of India needs to adopt solid steps for resolving the problem after accepting it as a national issue and realization of its earlier mistakes.

But the misfortune of this country is that the politics of vote come in the way of acceptance of mistakes. It is because of this that the history of mistakes and foolishness keeps on repeating itself in this land. There is a need for national consensus on protection of Kashmir which is possible only if all political parties give up their selfish goals. But national consensus is not possible because of paucity of national outlook. When instead of the nation, eyes are fixed on power and vote banks, how can national outlook grow?

Author is Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London (UK).

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