Fifth Column: A time to speak out

The violence we have seen in Kashmir in the past three months was never about Burhan Wani’s death, it was always about something uglier and more insidious, but we ignored it.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Published:November 6, 2016 12:00 am
kashmir, kashmir schools fire, j&k school fire, j&k schools, jammu and kashmir schools, j&k schools burnt, bandipore school burnt, amnesty on j&k school burning, indian express news At least 25 schools have been torched in the past three months in Kashmir, amid widespread unrest. (Source: AP Photo)

IF as much attention was paid to schools being burned in the Kashmir Valley as to pellet injuries, we might understand better what is happening. We might discover that what is going on is linked to what happened 20 years ago when Wahabbi Islam first appeared in Kashmir. This was when secular leaders who started the movement for ‘azadi’ were suddenly replaced by bearded new leaders who in the name of Islam threw acid on the faces of unveiled women, wrecked liquor shops, cinemas and video libraries, and burned down shrines like Charar-e-Sharief because they had about them the scent of Indic religions.

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This time we should have been forewarned, but like last time were taken by surprise. Not even journalists who consider themselves old Kashmir hands seem prepared. Intrepid reporters have gone to Kashmir in times of violence and brought us tales of police brutality and wounded children. But appear not to have noticed that since the death of Burhan Wani, more than 25 schools have been razed. Last week saw the first news reports appear, and when we began counting, discovered that three schools were attacked in a single day. This deliberate destruction of schools is of a piece with the jihad being fought across the world to take Islam back to what it was in the Prophet’s time. Only we in India have failed to notice.

It could be because the Indian media has ignored the horror stories that come from the Caliphate. Of women killed for revealing a hand or a foot, of Yazidi children tortured to death for failing to learn to say Arabic prayers. Personally I am haunted by the story of the little girl who was put in a box in the sun without food and water for a week because she could not learn her prayers. She was two years old. When she was taken out half dead from her awful prison, her mother was made to watch her being smashed to the ground by her slave master who said ‘kafir’ children could be killed. Survivors tell other tales as horrific, but in India we ignore them because we do not want to offend Muslims.

In Kashmir when they send small children into the streets to attack armed security personnel, we blame the policemen, not the children. When they end up in hospital beds blinded or seriously injured, we listen to them speak of their destroyed dreams and lost future. What future will there be for Kashmir’s children if there are no schools left? We have seen what happened to women in Afghanistan when the Taliban ruled, but again we have pretended not to notice because we believe it is somehow offensive to our own Muslims if we tell them what Islamism really means.

What it means in the Kashmir Valley is for it to be turned into a homegrown version of the Caliphate currently making its last stand in Mosul. One of the principles of Wahabbi Islam is that education except of the Koranic kind is bad and that, in any case, women are better off illiterate. Already early signs of Islamism are becoming obvious. Kashmiri women who never bothered to veil themselves now rarely wander unveiled in public and some shroud themselves so totally that only their eyes show. Is it not time to speak out about these changes?

As a country that was broken up in the name of Islam, surely we should be alarmed, but we are not. Our public square is dominated by those who think it is ‘secular’ and ‘liberal’ to accept the rules of Wahabbi Islam even if they make women second-class humans. These same people object to Muslim women demanding modern rules of divorce. We are so ‘liberal’ that we have sat back and watched Kashmir being turned into a new arena for the worldwide jihad. The Prime Minister once said that he would like to see Kashmiri children with laptops in their hands and not stones, but since then, he has chosen to remain silent about what is happening in the Valley.

The violence we have seen in the past three months was never about Burhan Wani’s death, it was always about something uglier and more insidious, but we ignored it. The destruction of schools points more violently than almost anything to what is really happening. If this does not wake our leaders up to the desperate need for a new policy for Kashmir, nothing will. What we are seeing is the systematic obliteration in the Kashmir Valley of the values that India represents so that Kashmir can begin to resemble more closely the Islamist republic next door. If this plan to erase all Indian influences from the soil of the Valley succeeds, how long will it be before other parts of India become fertile territory for Islamism?

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh