Kashmir is back in news, for wrong reasons: A labourer from Bihar was killed and two others were injured in a grenade attack by terrorists in the Pulwama district on Thursday. Terrorists lobbed a grenade at a tent housing labourers in Pulwama’s Gadoora village, according to a police spokesman.
Rahul Bhat, a 35-year-old Pandit, was gunned down by Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists on 12 May in Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam district. Rajni Bala (36) of Jammu was killed by suspected terrorists on 31 May. Vijay Kumar, a bank manager hailing from Rajasthan, was killed two days later. Bala and Kumar were both gunned down in the Kulgam district.
The recent targeted killings of Hindus in the predominantly Muslim Kashmir Valley have instilled fear among the region’s Hindus — and outrage outside the Union Territory. Terrorists are accused of killing nine Hindus, both locals and outsiders, between 1 May and 2 June 2022. Pandits and other Hindus are fleeing the Valley. The Pandit community was generally hesitant to return to their homeland following their exodus from the Valley and decades of anti-India militancy in Kashmir. Given the changing dynamics of politics and terrorism in the region, their return has been relatively slow.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, famously remarked American philosopher George Santayana. One would be gravely mistaken if one considers the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus, one of India’s oldest living indigenous communities, in 1990 to be the first in line. This was the seventh exodus, they say. In terms of chronology, the first exodus occurred as early as the 14th century, around 1389-1413, followed by the second exodus around 1506-1584. The third exodus took place between 1585 and 1752, and the fourth in 1753. While the fifth exodus occurred between 1931 and 1965, and the sixth one took place in 1986. The seventh exodus of Kashmiri Hindus occurred on 19 January 1990. No one knows how long the Valley’s never-ending violence against minorities will last.
What sends shivers down our spines is the apathy when it comes to recognising the injustice simply because it does not fit the narrative of anti-India forces both within and outside the country. Instead, their murders are justified, and their perpetrators are shielded as “son of a schoolteacher”. Jihad is an ongoing conflict. While this bloodshed continues, Western media front pages continue to give Hinduphobic columnists access to sell false narratives about India committing anti-Muslim genocide. There are pockets in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and in states such as West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and Kerala that witness continuous Islamist violence, forced conversions, or misogyny, but they largely go unnoticed.
As former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee famously stated, terrorism and secession were never about “Kashmiriyat”, “insaniyat”, or “jamhooriyat”, as the secular commentariat stated. It was always about establishing Dar-ul-Islam, or Islamic rule, and separating from India’s secular, Hindu-majority democracy. It’s this insistence on being “different” that is the root cause of separatism, violence and terrorism in Kashmir and also pockets of West Bengal, Assam and Kerala, among others.
What else can explain the insistence of an erstwhile Muslim-majority state to get a special treatment in Articles 370 and 35A? Why would minorities be allowed to have their own religious personal laws, in an otherwise secular nation? Why would Muslims insist on wearing hijab in a secular space such as schools and colleges?
It is worth noting that “Raliv, Galiv, Chaliv” is not a one-time slogan used in Kashmir. There will be no solution to the Kashmir jihad until and unless the answers to the above questions are found. Kashmir is just one example of what will happen throughout India if these questions are not answered. The international community has also witnessed the threat of “jihadi terror”, as well as the “humanitarian crisis” it causes, with Afghanistan being the most recent example. The future of humanity is dependent on how well and quickly this situation is addressed. It only took a few days to devastate a trillion-dollar investment and a decade’s worth of humanitarian work in Afghanistan, wiping out all achievements.
Today as we observe the third anniversary of the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, we need to commend the Modi government for doing something which seemed impossible till it was done on 5 Augusts 2019. The government took a bold step in taking away the special rights of J&K, primarily because it was a Muslim-majority state. But then it must also be understood that this was only the first step: The bigger battle lies ahead, and it is the necessity to fight the jihadi mindset that has entrenched deep into the Valley. The battle, as we say, has just begun.