The Islamic terrorists of Kashmir have resumed their attack on fellow civilians, selectively targeting Hindus and Sikhs. It isn’t the first time that the minorities in Kashmir are facing such brutality. The infamous exodus of the minority community of Kashmiri Pandits in the early 1990s was one of the factors that led to the country’s Hindu-Muslim polarisation. While rightfully condemning the increasing shrillness and violence of militant Hindutva right-wing that target the minorities, the plight of the Pandits is conveniently forgotten by most of the media.
The recent attacks on Hindus and Sikhs in Kashmir are disturbingly similar to the early months of 1990. At that time, it started with the threatening slogans blaring from the loudspeakers of the mosques. Many public speeches were made supporting Pakistan, the supremacy of Islam and against infidels. Hitlists with the names of Pandits were circulated. However, most Kashmiri Muslims remained silent when their neighbours who had lived among them for centuries were driven away. The Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti estimates that of 75,343 Pandit families in 1990, more than 70,000 fled in the next two years. They had already lost 399 people to terrorist bullets for the crime of belonging to the ‘wrong’ religion.
There are only 800 Kashmiri Pandit families left in the valley now, and the terrorists can’t tolerate even this tiny number living among them. The way the Islamic terrorists have targeted Hindus and Sikhs from the late 1980s proves that the terrorism in Kashmir is a part of the global jihad than anything else. For the past three decades, most of the Pandit families that fled their homes lived in squalid conditions in refugee camps. After the Union Government made Article 370 irrelevant, there have been talks of rehabilitating the internal refugees to their homeland and has triggered the fanatics to resume their targeted killings of the minorities to sabotage the same. So much for the much talked about ‘Kashmiriyat’.
One of the first steps to resolve an issue is to define it in proper terms. There are many grievances of Kashmiris that are genuine and needs to be addressed with compassion. Due to historical reasons, the integration of Kashmir to the Union of India came with many pieces of baggage and would require both political and military solutions. But the present spate of terrorism in Kashmir that targets minorities has very little to do with any historical grievances and has more to do with the increasing radicalisation and the fierce hatred this stream of Islam has developed for other communities.
It is a part of the jihadi wave radiating from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan is only going to make matters worse. The militancy in Kashmir has turned purely fanatic and would understand no other language other than that of the force. It is a part of the cult aiming for global dominance and imposing Shariah on willing and unwilling people through violence. Unfortunately, anyone pointing out such inconvenient truths is branded Islamophobic, much like how the Hindutva right-wingers brand anyone condemning their violence against minorities as anti-national.
It is time to acknowledge that religions have become stale and putrefied, and spread more and more hatred day by day. In a race to the bottom, each is competing to be more intolerant and violent than the other. The recent murder of a Dalit by the Nihang Sikhs for the alleged desecration of a Sikh holy book is just another chapter in this gruesome story. However, the public reaction to such incidents has become highly selective. People react only if the victims belong to their community or, at best, respond with qualifiers, pointing out similar incidents in the past where victims and perpetrators were interchanged. Recently, we witnessed the gruesome footage of a photographer stomping a dead man in Assam. Simmering religious and sectarian violence has been our legacy for the past hundred years. Our history is a tale of never-ending religious violence, from the 1921 massacre of Hindus in Malabar to the gruesome Partition riots where millions died, and many others such as the 1984 Delhi anti-Sikh, 1989 Bhagalpur, 2002 Gujarat riots and the recent one in Delhi.
We are giving too much respect to religions and are scared to confront the violence and hatred many of the so-called scriptures, holy books and the people who fanatically follow them advocate. It is time to address the elephant in the room and call the bluff of the religions. Let us not address the faith-induced terrorism in Kashmir as ‘freedom struggle or even militancy’. People who lynch fellow citizens for their dietary choices are no ‘Gau Rakshaks’ but unadulterated terrorists.
Those who hack people for alleged desecration of holy books are no religious heroes but extremists. All the above and many more like them still believe they are living in the dark ages. Their sacred books may be holy for them but are anachronistic for the times we live in. Their insanity should not decide how we should lead our lives. If we aim to live in a modern society that respects the freedom and equality of all, irrespective of gender, race, caste, religion or ethnicity, we need to choose a government bold enough to take on such medieval loonies and crush them with an iron fist.
Author of Asura, Ajaya series, Vanara and Bahubali trilogy