Kashmir, described as a paradise because of its glorious natural beauties, has long been unable to shake off terror, poverty and conflict.
Jammu and Kashmir is a state in India with a majority Muslim population and an autonomous administration. It is also the main cause of hostility and tensions between India and Pakistan dating back 70 years. Although the space it occupies is very small, it all too often attracts the attention of the world. The same thing applies today. There are a number of reasons for this.
The Flood Disaster
A disastrous flood in September 2014 brought fresh devastation on Kashmir. Around 1,000 people lost their lives, hundreds of thousands were deprived of basic needs and tens of thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged. The aid from India and the Islamic world was far from meeting those needs. As a result, the lives of the already impoverished people of Kashmir were made even more difficult.
Another problem threatening the people of Kashmir is the alarmingly rising levels of substance use. Some 400,000 people between 18 and 35 are addicts. This is such a huge percentage of the population that it can almost eliminate an entire generation. In addition, the revenues from drugs finance and support armed conflict in Kashmir. A society is thus literally destroying itself.
It is suggested that the problem stems from Kashmir’s chronic difficulties, such as conflict, ignorance, poverty and unemployment. Although there is some truth to that, the real cause is that despite being Muslims, the young generation of Kashmiris are raised far from the true Islam and the moral values of the Qur’an.
Radical Hindu Nationalism
Since he took office in May as the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi’s policies have been closely watched by the entire world. One of the most prominent reasons is his policy towards Kashmir and Muslims. There is a good reason why Modi and his party, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), are a cause for concern; fanatical Hindu nationalism.
A not inconsiderable number of BJP members come from radical and aggressive Hindu nationalist organizations. These organizations have a common aim; to impose Indian culture and Hinduism on Indian territory - using violence if necessary - and to eliminate or assimilate other ethnic minorities, cultures and faiths. Their acts of oppression, aggression and intimidation are particularly directed towards Muslims. Kashmiri Muslims have suffered much in the recent past for that reason.
Many extreme nationalist groups are still quite active in India. The RSS group - the epicenter of these groups - dates back 100 years; its supporters are highly aggressive towards minorities. Even more dangerously, the radical Hindu national group’s reach extends almost everywhere. Many people from the RSS are serving in politics, military and administrative units in India.
The RSS recently announced ‘purging’ projects and issued a statement saying, ‘We will purge Indian territory. There is no place in India for mosques and churches.’ That would be a disaster, not just for Kashmir, but for all of India.
The special status of Jammu and Kashmir is a very sensitive issue. This state has a different political structure than the other states of India. It enjoys special privileges enshrined and protected under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. It is the only state with an official flag and constitution. Citizens from other Indian states cannot buy land or property there. Its special status is of vital importance for Kashmir. The protection of the Kashmiri people’s national identity and their resistance to assimilation can therefore be possible. The Article in question is a barrier against the fascistic longings of radical Hindu nationalism.
The reports stating that the Indian government is considering revoking Article 370 are therefore very dangerous developments. That would mean revoking the basic rights and freedoms of the Kashmiri people. Anyone can imagine the consequences; a civil war or perhaps a destructive war between nations. Such a war would have no winners, only losers.
Increasing Armed Conflict and Modi’s Stance
There are frequent reports of armed clashes and deaths from Kashmir. Deaths of civilians, resistance fighters and soldiers being killed, bloody and frequent border clashes between Indian and Pakistani troops, attacks on Indian military bases: These represent dangerous warning bells for the region, which had been relatively calm in the last few years. Bloody acts of violence taking place in Kashmir are reflections of the lovelessness prevailing across the world, and could smother these lands in darkness for many years.
A new local government will be formed in Jammu and Kashmir after the elections in December. The election process is going ahead, even though some Muslim groups are boycotting it. However, it seems unlikely that the new administration will have the power to resolve these giant problems. Deep-rooted problems can only be solved through mutual love, respect, tolerance and understanding of the related parties. The first step can be taken by the Indian government or rather by the Prime Minister Modi.
Modi is an assertive and ambitious politician. Even though he came to power by winning 31% of the votes, he has historic responsibilities. The most important task awaiting him is without doubt Kashmir. In contrast to previous prime ministers, he makes frequent visits to Kashmir and he has promised to develop Kashmir within five years. Of course prosperity and development are important for this impoverished region but it is not the answer to the intractable problem. New roads and facilities would have no significant meaning if Kashmiris do not attain peace, security and justice.
If Modi really wishes to open up new horizons for Kashmir, as he says, he can call on the radical Hindus who support him to put aside hatred and embrace love. India, the world’s largest democracy, can create a synergy in Kashmir based on respect, harmony, human rights and liberty as the requisite of democracy. The right thing to do for Modi is to heed the voice of the moderate and tolerant Indian majority and to take steps of peace and love in the name of bringing a permanent solution in Kashmir. Otherwise, radical Hindu demands may inflict irreparable suffering and losses on Kashmir and all of South Asia.