Ankita Shaw addresses the Kashmir issue by explaining the two prominent ideologies – religious nationalism and secular nationalism. She also explains the other questions of significance raised by the two nations of India and Pakistan.
Two Nations and Three Wars over a disputed territory where competing ideologies persists – Kashmir is a symbol and battleground for many individuals has a very complex union of religious, nationalist, political factors which are firmly implanted in the history.
The history of Kashmir can be rooted back to Colonialism when the British exerted the policy of ‘Divide and Rule’ to get control over the country. Artificial boundaries came up, specially between Hindus and Muslims. What led to the birth of Pakistan was actually the argument put forward by the mainstream Muslims that Hindus and Muslims are two different nations with different opinions.
In August 1947 Kashmir being a Muslim majority state ruled by a Hindu leader refused to join Pakistan which actually led to the Hindu Muslim violence in the State. Facing this Military defeat Hari Singh, ruler of Kashmir asked for support from India to protect his princely state from the invaders. India agreed to help Hari Singh with a condition that he would sign the Instrument of Accession to India. It was a provisional Accession with India adding a proviso that a plebiscite would take place when peace is reigned,since only people and not the Maharaja could decide where they wanted to live. However, till date plebiscite has never taken place. This provisional Accession of Kashmir to India has actually increased the complexities which has led to the maximum suffering of the Kashmiris.
The complexities that persists in Kashmir brings forward the three core complex ideologies that are conflicting in itself.
The three major forces or ideologies that prevail in Kashmir are as follows :
• Religious Nationalism represented by Pakistan,
• Secular Nationalism represented by Indian and,
• Ethnic Nationalism epitomized by the Kashmiris known as Kashmiriyat.
Pakistan evolved because of the only argument that Hindus and Muslims are not just two different religious communities but also two separate nations.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, in 1940, provided a rationale behind this :
“It is extremely difficult to appreciate why our friends fail to understand the real nature of Islam and Hinduism. They are not religion in the strict sense of the word but are infact different and distinct social orders, and it is a dream that the Hindus and the Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality.. They neither intermarry , nor interdine together and indeed they belong to two different civilizations which are based mainly on the conflicting ideas and conceptions… They have different epics (and) their heroes are different… Very often , the hero of the one is the foe of the other and likewise the victories and defeats overlap. To yoke together two such nations under a single state must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built up for the Government of such a state.”
Pakistan believes and argues that Kashmir being a Muslim majority State should have come to it at the time of partition in 1947. However it runs into two objections – one is Conjunctural, and the other is structural.
In the First place, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, argued that only the rulers of the princely states would decide as to which of the two nation States – India or Pakistan – they would join. In this particular case, neither the ruler of the Kashmir nor the masses chose to go with Pakistan.
In the Second place, in 1947, 65 million Muslims joined Pakistan and 35 millions were left behind. This 35 million has now increased to 110 million, whereas in Jammu and Kashmir, the population of Muslims is a mere 4 million. The contradiction based on this argument of Pakistan’s search for Kashmir is – if Kashmir breaks away even with the help, it would endanger the lives of 105 million Muslims in India.
Indians never accepted the two nation theory. According to the Indians, Hindu and Muslims were just two separate religions and not two different Nations.
India believing in secularism and maintaining its Ideology, claims Jammu and Kashmir on three grounds :
• Firstly, on the basis of territorial integrity, sovereignty and secularism, India as a nation is defined by sub – cultures which leads to the nation’s identity as a whole. It may even be argued that though Muslim identity within a predominantly Hindu nation does not confer them the tag of being different, not more than Tamils, Sikhs, Bengalis. They also constitute a very important role in the concept of India being a secular country.
• Secondly, another important ground is that, historically, the leaders of the Kashmiri Independence movement including Sheikh Abdullah never wanted to merge with Pakistan. Kashmir inspite of being a Muslim majority state, did not join Pakistan at the time of partition which has been a remarkable tribute to the India’s secular claims. At this juncture we may also note down the argument put forward by Sheikh Abdullah :
“I and my organization never believed in the formula that Muslims and Hindus form separate nations. We did not believe in the two nation theory not in Communalism or Communalism itself… We believed that religion has no place in politics.”
India is a secular country and claims Kashmir based on this particular ideology. However, this claim has various contradictions in itself.
India’s secular nationalism functions in a liberal democratic framework. It was because of this commitment to liberal democratic framework that Nehru added a proviso in the Instrument of Accession Act. The proviso was that it would be submitted to popular referendum since only the people and not the Maharaja had the right to decide where Kashmiris wanted to live. The Government of India instead of adding the proviso could have easily accepted the accession. This proviso has actually led to even more complexities. The question which rises here is – if liberalism means freedom to organize and speak, does it also means freedom to secede?
Going by the definition of Kashmiriyat provided in Wikipedia, Kashmir is the ethno national and social consciousness and cultural values of the Kashmiri people. It is charecterised by cultural harmony, patriotism, and pride for their mountainous homeland of Kashmir.The complexities of emotions faced by Kashmiris because of its relation with India and Pakistan is immense, which has led to all together a different ideology that is Kashmiriyat or self – rule of Kashmir based on their ethnicity.Those who believe in Kashmiriyat do not believe that Kashmir ever became a permanent part of India through the Instrument of Accession. They demand self – rule on the basis of their ethnicity and identity.
However, Kashmiri Nationalism has objections :
• Firstly, the leaders of Kashmir did not choose Kashmir despite religious affinity, and therefore, it chose to stay with India. So can it not be said Kashmiri Nationalism is a subset of Indian Nationalism and not any separate Nationalism?
• Secondly, if the argument is that the Kashmiri Nationalism is not incompatible with Indian Natioanlism, then the question that arises here is how can the three ethnically different parts of Kashmir go with Kashmir? Kashmiri has three ethnically separate regions : a Dogra Hindu Muslim majority region ; a Muslim majority Kashmir and a Tibetan Buddhist majority Ladakh.
The very thing that comes to one’s mind after going through the complexities of Kashmir is that, it is the peope who are suffering there because of illicit deeds ofanother. And the fact that we as humans are incapacitated in giving a requisite aid to them, is a matter of disappointment.
There is, therefore, a need to evoke the humanity in us and generate compassion.