Part II : The Transition
For the next ten years we managed to visit the valley on numerous occasions, but these visits were mainly for attending some wedding or some equally important function in the families of our numerous relatives. Although we had a house in Wazir Bagh, but one or another of our kin would be staying there just to ensure that the place was lived in and kept in good repair. We would be in the city for a few days, and take the opportunity of visiting Roop Bhawani’s shrine at Vaskur for a ritual obeisance to the family deity. The days would just fly by and soon we would be making our way back to the plains, back to our different occupations. The passing away of Nehru, and Shastri soon thereafter would have deep implications for the state. Indira Gandhi’s insecurities would transform her into a deeply suspicious and lonely individual, and she brought about a cataclysmic change within the Congress party that would have far-reaching consequences for the country. Encouraging a personality cult, she split the party vertically, and then used her Nehru-Gandhi image to discredit the old guard. The opposition parties too were thrown off guard by her maneuver, and it became difficult for them to engage with her. Intra-party alienation within the Congress was followed by inter-party alienation with allies and opponents.
Pakistan too had not forgotten its humiliation of 1947, and had never accepted Kashmir as a part of India. It continued to harp on the promise of plebiscite that Nehru had made in haste while ordering the cease fire and approaching the UN. However, even with blatant American support, Pakistan was unable to make any headway, and thus was launched “Operation Gibraltar” creating dissent and disaffection among the people of Kashmir. This operation was put into effect by the Martial Law President of Pakistan Gen. Ayub Khan in 1965. The operation involved heavy infiltration of Pakistani nationals among who would be disguised military personnel who would provide military training to Kashmiri youth. The recruitment of the youth was done through Jamaat-e-Islami of Kashmir which had deep connections with the Rabita-ul-Islam, the international headquarters of the Islamic fundamentalist movement based in Saudi Arabia. Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami was the organization through which the funding and operational guidance would be channelled. An elaborate infrastructure for propagating Wahabi style of Islam was organized in mosques, schools, and Islamic study groups throughout the valley. In the early seventies this movement gained strength due to the fact that Mrs. Indira Gandhi bent every rule in the book to consolidate her hold on the Congress party and through that on the nation. Encouraging personal loyalty to her at the expense of integrity, her politics led to the rise of a whole breed of politicians and bureaucrats who were ready to bend and crawl to fulfil her every whim. This was the time when governance suffered extremely and Pakistan was able to take advantage of this weakness and further its agenda in Kashmir.
The Jamaat in Kashmir imported Moulvis from Bihar, UP, and Assam, who were soon installed in new mosques built according to Arab tradition and architecture all over the valley. The earlier Kashmiri mosques were a synthesis of various architectural styles incorporating elements from Hindu and Buddhist temples. The imported clergy were instructed to preach the harsh version of Wahabi faith and to discourage the Kashmiris from Saint Worship. The centuries old Sufi tradition of Kashmiri Islam was publicly ridiculed. Kashmiri Muslims were exhorted to repudiate their tradition of tolerance and were taught to despise the liberal Hindus and Muslims among them. Women were also enrolled in this operation and an organization known as Dukhtaran-e-Millat was installed. The women of Kashmir had always been liberal in their outlook and the veil or burqa was never a part of their culture. The militant members of the Dukhtaran-e-Millat started threatening ordinary women with dire consequences if they appeared in public without a burqa. Some women had acid thrown on them, making an example of them. The members of this organization provided support to the militant groups by indulging in subversive acts like gathering information, distributing arms and ammunition, providing shelter for militants, keeping kidnapped persons in their custody, and above all, by raking up false stories of human rights abuse mainly to involve and discredit the security forces in the valley. The media, always ready to grab any bit of juicy gossip, was a willing victim of their manipulation.
The defeat in 1965 followed by the humiliation inflicted upon Pakistan in1971 when it lost the eastern wing that became the independent nation of Bangladesh had brought home to its rulers that they could never win a conventional war against India. The wily Bhutto, who had beguiled Indira Gandhi into surrendering all the gains India had made in the 1971 war without conceding anything on Kashmir, was soon overthrown by the Army and political control once again came into the hands of the Generals. Zia-ul-Haq, in order to retain and legitimise his control on the country, introduced Islamic law in accordance with the Wahabi school of thought and thus converted the country from a quasi-secular nation to a completely fundamentalist state. After hanging Bhutto on charges upheld by a Kangaroo court, he put the second phase of “Operation Gibraltar” into action. In the late seventies he launched a proxy war against India to wrest control of Kashmir. The battle for the minds and hearts of young Kashmiris was now joined in real earnest. The Jamaat had already established a fundamentalist structure in the valley’s schools, colleges, and had enlisted a large number of young recruits in the police and men in government offices. The objective was to launch an offensive against India by these home-grown elements that could euphemistically be called a struggle for Azadi. Pakistan would be able to deny its active involvement in arming and training these subversive elements while publicly clamouring in international forums about the repressive role of the Indian security forces that were seen to be suppressing a struggle for independence by the “oppressed” people of Kashmir.
Part of the action plan involved sudden and violent attacks on Army and other security establishments, thereby keeping them fully engaged. On the other hand the militants began to attack soft targets among the Hindu minority, beginning with the murder of a number of Kashmiri Pandit intellectuals that included teachers, lawyers, poets and bureaucrats. The mosques were used to spread panic among the minorities when their loudspeakers spewed propaganda and exhorted the Kashmiri Pandits to leave the valley or face the bullets. Mosques became training grounds and hiding places for these terrorists, and the young unemployed youth of the valley fell easy prey to this propaganda. Wahabi Islamic code was being enforced; cinema halls and video parlours were shut down, beauty parlours were closed, and consumption of alcohol was strictly forbidden. There were attempts to ban Indian currency and to introduce Pakistani currency as the legal tender. By 1989, the valley of Kashmir had virtually begun to look like a part of Pakistan. The Pandits were intimidated, terrorized and urged to leave the valley. On January 4, 1990 Aftab an Urdu daily of Srinagar published a press release from Hizbul Mujahdeen asking Kashmiri Hindus to leave Kashmir or face annihilation. Pandits were told in no uncertain terms that if they wished to live in Kashmir they would have to convert to Islam. Nearly 4 lakh Kashmiri Pandits fled the valley, leaving behind hardly a few thousands, who probably had nowhere to go, to their fate. Kashmir had been completely Islamized without an open war with India.
The deliberate policy of intimidating and murdering the minorities was part of the strategy to cleanse the valley of non-Muslims and force the Indian government to bring the security forces out from their barracks and spread them in the towns and cities. This made them easy targets and almost every day there were attacks on their posts. Retaliatory action was condemned as brutality against civilians, and if one or two of the protesters were killed in the operation, their funerals were conducted with the pomp and ceremony deserved by heroes. Lakhs of mourners would march in the streets chanting anti-India slogans, burning the Indian flag while openly asking for merger with Pakistan. The Indian and international media had already been co-opted by the propaganda machinery of Pakistan, and these so-called liberals began berating the Indian Armed Forces as part of a planned strategy for their demoralization. The deaths of hundreds of officers and jawans in militant actions were never mourned by the media, as if they were not human beings. Terrorists caught by the security forces were soon released by the administrators calling them “misguided youth”, thereby signalling to them that they were safe and could continue with their activities.
The damage that this policy of deliberate neglect by the Indian authorities compounded with the inoculation of a virulent form of a militant Islam to the secular traditions of Kashmir is incalculable. Disowning their unique heritage, the Muslims of the valley have wholeheartedly adopted the Arabian Wahabi system of their faith. While beating their breasts at the destruction of the 550 years old holy shrine of the great Sufi saint Shaikh Nur-ud-din (1337-1442 A.D) at Chrar-e-sharif (revered also by the Hindus as Nund Reshi), they had no qualms in letting dreaded terrorists occupy it and who eventually set it on fire.
The people have forgotten the message of the saint about how Islam should be followed in the following verses from his great body of work:
Does wrath behoove a Muslim?
Should you display anger, you’ll
Jeopardize your purpose.
Wrath’ll prove to be a robber
Of your treasures!
Does wrath become a Muslim?
The Lord’ll Himself accompany
Give something in His love and,
Remember, what you give to others
Will remain in store for you:
Does anger become a Muslim?
And with divine foresight he had seen how events would unfold if his advice was not followed,
“Why are you bent upon to create hatred amongst them?
They are the descendants of one and the same mother,
Serve to the best of your capacity Mussalmans and Hindus.
If you follow this path God will bestow his grace on thee.”
“They will cut the throat of that very cock.
Who calls them to prayers?
They will simply weigh him for their own ends.
I beseech I may not be born among such people Oh! God.”
“You have crammed the books only for worldly ends.
Your learning never prevents you from your bad deeds.
You always think in terms of trapping each-other
Your contention is wrong, for you consider.
Yourselves to be amongst the chosen.
I foretell with authority that you will not reach the goal.”
It was in such circumstances that I happened to visit the valley for exactly 24 hours in the month of August 1996.