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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Poor advice on Kashmir

Demographic changes in the Valley could expose New Delhi to international opprobrium

Written by Ravi Nair | Updated: August 27, 2020 8:29:21 pm
Jammu and Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir bifurcation, Article 370, Article 370 abrogation, Kashmir Valley, Express Opinion, Indian ExpressThe changes in the domicile law in Kashmir and the Citizens Amendment Act will ensure that India will walk, not skate on thin ice as it joins the Security Council early next year.

Reading Abhinav Kumar’s, “Kashmir’s future is tied to India’s, it is for all of us to decide what that will be” (IE, August 11) reminded me of the old proverb, “the way to hell is paved with good intentions”.

I am not talking about his simplistic suggestions on Article 370. I shall leave that to others who have done so competently in this newspaper and elsewhere. Suffice it to remind him of what a sagacious Chinese premier Zhou Enlai said in 1972. Being asked about the French Revolution which had happened 200 hundred years earlier, he said, “Too early to say”. Repercussions are analysed with a historical view. Ersatz prognostications are as tasteless as instant coffee.

What worried one most was the suggestion to convert madrassas into Kendriya Vidyalayas in the Valley. It is nobody’s case that madrassas or Saraswati shishu mandirs need major curriculum reform. If they have proliferated across India, it is testimony to the abject failure of the Indian state and its parts in the task of universalising free public primary education.

Kumar would have done well to read the Yusuf Committee Report of 1993, and the Report of A R Kidwai, one of Nurul Hasan’s successors as Governor, on the reform of madrasa education in West Bengal.

The reform in West Bengal was phenomenal. In early 2000, over18 per cent of over 70,000 students registered for the school-leaving examination of the West Bengal Madrasa Board were Hindu. The quality of education was much higher than other schools in many districts.

Contrary to received wisdom in North Block and Peer Bagh in Srinagar, the Jamaat and mosque leadership has been wary of the involvement in the Hurriyat led struggle. The present ban on the Jamaat stands testimony to New Delhi’s failure to distinguish between apples and oranges.

In 2005, Syed Ali Shah Geelani was expelled from the Jamaat Shoora. The Jamat chief Nazir Ahmed Kashani stated, “We are committed to the Kashmir cause and want its resolution according to wishes of people in a peaceful manner. But most important issue for us is to pursue our goal (profess and propagate Islamic teachings). Contrary to this, Geelani wants us to play a leading role in the separatist struggle and we are not ready for that. This is violation of our constitution,” Kashani said.

The Jamaat in Kashmir controls most of the mosques and madrasas. Kashmiris turn to them as their refuge under oppression. Kashmiris go to pray. They go for comfort. The mosque is perhaps the only place where you can meet others without overt state hindrance. Most just want to hear the news and gossip. I am sure, the writer is not unaware that much of the intelligence leads that the state gets is from the idle chatter that takes place in these congregations.

Apart from a miniscule minority, most imams who lead the prayers are conciliatory and reasonable in the face of regular highhandedness of the police and paramilitary forces on members of their congregation. They counsel patience to restive youth that the Indian state is too powerful. A majority of Imams counsel against violence.

In a seminal article on Madrasa education, the scholar, Yoginder Sikand referring to a work from an Indian Islamic scholar writes, “Reformists insist that knowledge in Islam is one whole, and that the division between dini (religious) and duniyavi (worldly) knowledge, with the two opposed to each other, which many contemporary ulema seem to have accepted, has no sanction in the Quran. The very first revelation to the Prophet, ‘Read, in the name of your Lord,’ and the numerous hadith stressing the superiority of the scholar over the worshipper and the martyr, are said to indicate the great emphasis Islam gives to the acquisition of knowledge.”

The second suggestion on the implantation of settlers through the artifice of changes in the domicile law is not as perfunctory as Kumar would like us to believe. One is painfully aware that received wisdom on the subject emanates from Jerusalem. New Delhi would do well to remember the opprobrium this will bring to it. The Chinese are just starting to feel the Kara Bran (Black wind) of world opinion in Xinjiang. The Turkic peoples of Central Asia and the Caucasus will be loath to forget this when the great new Belt and Road initiative nears completion.

The Council of Europe in a useful report from 2012 states,“Population transfer within the meaning of this report therefore entails a deliberate policy decision of a military-strategic or political nature. In other words, there is always an underlying “reason” for governments engaging in population transfers….Justifications such as “voluntariness”, “national security” and “temporariness” are often offered, but should be treated sceptically as they are often merely conceal a government’s wish to create demographic changes in order to consolidate control and, in some instances, even destroy in whole or in part a particular community.”

Today, much more in international Human Rights and Humanitarian law has evolved on the subject. Unlike Israel, we do not have an umbrella on this issue from Washington or complicit Arab neighbours. With the alchemist’s sleight of hand, New Delhi transformed a state into three union territories. Alchemy, as we all know, produces fool’s gold. The changes in the domicile law in Kashmir and the Citizens Amendment Act will ensure that India will walk, not skate on thin ice as it joins the Security Council early next year.

The writer is with the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre

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