Kashmir, Religion and Pakistan’s changing stand

Where The Acorn defends Kuldip Nayar!

Ijaz Hussain, a Pakistani newspaper columnist, argues that from the start, Kashmir was never really a religious issue, but one of self-determination; and that the current Pakistani policy on Kashmir reflects this reality. Having framed the issue in this manner, he goes on to refute Kuldip Nayar’s suggestion that Line of Control must be converted into an international border to avoid the repetition of the religious bloodbath that followed Partition. Nayar, he contends, favours portraying Kashmir as a religious issue to play to the Western audience, which ‘is utterly hostile to anything religious’.

According to Hussain, while Partition itself had a religious basis, this principle was not applied to the princely states, whose rulers were free to choose between India and Pakistan. What Hussain avoids is that Pakistan’s claims to Kashmir were blatantly religious — for how could a Hindu ruler cede his subjects, a majority of who were Muslims — to a secular India? Much more so when secular India coerced Muslim rulers of Hindu-majority states to accede to it. Surely, it was not the principle of self-determination that caused Pakistan to perceive Kashmir as the ‘unfinished business’ of Partition. Self-determination was the cloak of convenience that Pakistan used to disguise the religious basis of its territorial ambitions.

It is especially rich of Hussain to deny everything that Pakistan did in Kashmir in the name of religion. Didn’t the Pakistani press call the terrorists mujahideen (holy warriors) until that term got a bad name after 9/11? And what, if not religion, was the basis of the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits in the early 1990s? Apart from one major terrorist outfit, Yasin Malik’s Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front, none of the major terrorist groups that Pakistan sponsors has a name that suggests that it is waging a struggle for self-determination. The Army of Mohammed, the Movement of Holy Warriors or the Army of the Pure are not secular organisations.

Hussain’s denial of Pakistan’s use of religion to colour its territorial dispute with India would not have been as serious if he had not used it to argue for a new division of Kashmir. It cannot be a reasonable argument that an issue like Kashmir — in which an Islamic military dictatorship and Islamic fundamentalist terrorists are key players — will be spared religious violence just because of an academic assertion that the conflict is really about self-determination. And surely, to blame all the violence that followed Partition on Lord Mountbatten’s ‘criminal negligence’ is an overly simplistic, even naive, view of that great tragedy. Neither India, and certainly not Pakistan, have fully cleansed themselves of the capability for communal violence — the same evil that befell the subcontinent in 1947. How can the gory story of Partition be irrelevant today where hundreds of people are killed each year in incidents of communal violence in either country? The circumstances may be different, but our capability to engage in great evil in the name of religion remains undiminished.

Without offering any proof, Hussain dismisses Nayar’s argument that a secular India will simply not allow another division on religious lines as ‘a standard plea by the Indian government and its apologists’. Despite what he thinks of whether or not the Indian government is ‘entitled to wiggle out of a binding international commitment’, the fact remains is that no Indian government can deliver on an international commitment it has made unless it has popular support across the country. And there is no popular support for another Partition.

It is amusing to see Pakistani academics twist and turn events of the last half-century in support of the Kashmir ’cause’. But Kuldip Nayar should find it disappointing.

10 thoughts on “Kashmir, Religion and Pakistan’s changing stand”

  1. I believe there are several other ‘myths’. One of it is the issue of plebiscite. First, for plebiscite to happen, one condition is that the Pak. military most quit POK. Since they have no intention to do so this arguement does not have face value. Even if it happens, it will not reflect the “will” of Kashmiris since POK has been heavily populated by Pak Punjabis (This is evident from the massive earthquake casualities on POK with many victims of Punjabi speaking origin). Secondly, on the Indian side a debate and vote in fact was conducted by the duly elected J&K assembly (in ’48 I believe) and was voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the Union of India. The whole process was ratified by international observers (under UN supervision, I think) No such vote took place on the Pak side.


  2. To use a cricketing terminology (flavour of the day), Pakistan is playing with several coloured balls in a test match being played in Rawalpindi (soon in Islamabad after they build the stadium there, you know which stadium I’m talking about). They are just interested in taking the wicket (Kashmir, of course) while the Indians are trying to score and at the same time defending the wicket. When sometimes the umpire sees that the Pakistanis are using a different coloured ball (Only cherry coloured is the rule, in a test match), Pakistanis come back to trying to take the wicket with the cherry coloured ball, until the umpire goes looking the other way. The Indians know what’s going on, as they feel the difference when playing the ball. Pakistanis will not listen unless the umpires and the refree do something “solid” about it. In the mean time, Indians should keep bringing up the issue with the refrees but concentrate on taking a huge lead that Pakistan will not be able to surpass, as the refrees lose their focus in the humdum of the crowd and is not always reliable.

    The sole Pakistani game is to keep Pakistani people’s focus on ‘taking the wicket’ rather than getting on with their lives and worry about jobs. If people don’t come to watch ‘cricket being played’, they lose their revenue and power. Biased news article are another way to keep the Pakistani people’s interest in the ‘game’ alive. Its not like, there are no sensible people writing in Pakistan, just that the ‘Captain’ and the ‘manager’ don’t let them published in the middle of their ‘war heroics’.

  3. Mr. Hussain is wrong in his reading of both the history and the politics surrounding Kashmir-issue in Pakistan. The JI-led riots of the 50s should be enough evidence against his ‘religion’ argument and the statement that the struggle was nationalistic is disingenous since nationalism in the Pakistani context is religious.

  4. sepoy excellent point about nationalism in Pak being religious. The root of the argument – Pakistan as a homeland for the Muslims of Hindustan – strongly suggests that Kashmir should be part of it. That ideology and its supposed benefits now lie shattered. India has as many Muslims as it does, Bangladesh was prised away, Pakistan has sectarian (shias, ahmadis) and regional (Sindhi, Balochi, Pathan, Gilgit shia) strife, and immigration of Muslims from India was stopped in the 50’s. Much more than negating Pakistan’s claim on Kashmir, the failed ideology actually negates the logic for the existence of Pakistan in its present avatar. The current Pakistani entity makes more sense as separate sovereign states, or as a loose federation.

  5. great points gentlemen. hope you plan to write hussain.

    nitin, i would like to point out that jklf is a secular outfit in name only. indeed, yasin malik pioneered [in kashmir] the gory strategy of targetting the hindu minorities for selective assasinations – a fact to which he has alluded to and confessed numerous times.

    it is a different story that the [english speaking, barkha dutt, sardesai etc] indian media continues to portray him in a secular hue. nay a “gandhian” hue….ha!

  6. Nice try Mr. Ijaz Hussain. I guess we can look forward to more Pakistani apparent intellectuals trying to redefine J&K terror campaign else may be viewed as supporting Islamic terrorism and become pariah in western eyes.

  7. Sachin – your cricketing analogy is quite correct. It is disappointing to see that we are not on the offense. By offense, I do not mean attacking Pakistan or funding their rebels but simply policy offensive. This government has been a disappointment in this matter, particularly our home minister is a disappointment. Rumor has it that Chidambaram may be promoted to take that role. I would be interested in seeing how he deals with that.

    Vajpayee was not too harsh on Pakistan himself (appropriate) but let his hound dogs bark at them when needed to get them on the backfoot for policy reasons. Nice good cop, bad cop regimen. This government has no hound dogs, except the red ones who bark at their own coalition.

    Anyway – I digress. The key thing to recognize about Pakistani leaders or authors is that personal integrity is easily trumped by expediency and their interpretation of ‘national interest’. White lies are the norm – Mr Hussain is just continuing the glorious tradition.

  8. With regard to Nitin’s “There is no popular support for another partition.”

    Was there popular support for the first partition? No, if by popular is meant the majority of the people who were to constitute the undivided India. But if by popular support is meant the majority of that subgroup which wanted to separate from India, then yes, there was popular support for the first partition.

    So is there popular support for another partition? No, if you consider the entire people; yes, if you consider the subgroups that have achieved a certain numerical threshold. I believe that in some of the eastern states, Christians have crossed that divide and are going to agitate for separation from India. I don’t know how long it will be before at least in some states Muslims will be in sufficiently large numbers that they will take the next logical steps: a systematic purging of the non-Muslim population followed by a jihad to liberate itself from India.

    For the record, I should state that the demand for a separate homeland for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent was and is a very good idea, both on practical and religious grounds. Islam forbids Muslims from fraternizing with non-Muslims, especially with idol-worshippers who are to be slaughtered (but the people of the book may be allowed to live as dhimmis.) It is hypocritical and irreligious for a Muslim to voluntarily exist peacefully with idol-worshipping non-believers.

    The practical reason for the separate homeland for Muslims is that Muslims require the Sharia as their legal code while non-Muslims don’t. It is impractical to have to separate civil and criminal codes in a single state. Doing so leads to the creation of citizens of different classes and therefore divisions and rifts in civil society. This rift creates friction that leads to violence.

    So if the government is not absolutely blind to the religion of a citizen, it is planting and nurturing the seeds of a partition in the future. I am convinced that the Indian government is doing precisely that — sowing the seeds of partition. Why? For electoral gains. I should hasten to add that when the partition does come about, India will have its people to blame because it was they who elected the leaders that sowed the seeds of the partition. Karma, neh?

  9. Nitin,

    as usual right on the mark,

    Pakistan was indeed formed on the basis of religion (and not some fictiotous minority persecution), to reinterpret the historical event in the light of present political correctness and to come up with more and more bizarre theories (as one gentleman from ppp (bhutto’s party) came up with that indus and gangetic civilizations were different)

    united nation resolution is long past its expiry date and india should call the pakistan’s bluff.


    well what you say is pretty gloomy unfortunately it may be a distinct possibility.
    the reason people refuse to pay heed is , that for most of indians history is full of pain (and in some cases intellectual void)and hence something to be forgotten.


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