Home > History, India, India-Pakistan Relations, Pax Americana, Politics > Pakistan and Kashmir – Regaining the narrative!

Pakistan and Kashmir – Regaining the narrative!


Having got their way, Jinnah and Co., Pakistan should have been a happy lot. So, goes Indian thinking.

Instinct for self-putrefaction (Cartoonist -  Chip Bok).

Instinct for self-putrefaction (Cartoonist – Chip Bok).

The puzzle of Pakistan

Over the last 63 years, Indians have had to face upto either a Kashmir ‘problem’ or a Pakistani ‘threat’.

Having got their way, Jinnah and Co., Pakistan should have been a happy lot. So, goes Indian thinking. The last 25 years of ISI-Khalistan-Peshwar-Afghan-Taliban-Kashmir axis leaves an average Indian (like me) quite puzzled. What do these guys want from us? In another context, Arvind Subramanian pointed out

Narratives matter. Not just for creating and sustaining nationhood as Isaiah Berlin famously argued. They also matter critically in international negotiations. At the moment, India is not winning the battle of the narrative on climate change. And that’s a worry.

Are we losing the narrative in the case of Pakistan and Kashmir too?

A short cursory look says no. After all, America had a civil war within a 100 years after the declaration of independence. Britain had its Cromwell at the start of its imperial innings. Russia, Italy, Germany, France, China, Japan went through various upheavals when limiting monarchy or changing over from monarchy to republican governments.

But then, India is ‘different’ …

The Kashmiri conundrum

We know what Hurriyat Conference wants: azadi, freedom. But freedom from what? Freedom from Indian rule. Doesn’t an elected Kashmiri, Omar Abdullah, rule from Srinagar?

Yes, but Hurriyat rejects elections. Why? Because ballots have no azadi option. But why can’t the azadi demand be made by democratically elected leaders? Because elections are rigged through the Indian Army. Why is the Indian Army out in Srinagar and not in Surat? Because Kashmiris want azadi.

Let’s try that again.

What do Kashmiris want freedom from? India’s Constitution.

What is offensive about India’s Constitution? It is not Islamic. This is the issue, let us be clear.

The violence in Srinagar isn’t for democratic self-rule because Kashmiris have that. The discomfort Kashmiris feel is about which laws self-rule must be under, and Hurriyat rejects a secular constitution.

Hurriyat deceives the world by using a universal word, azadi, to push a narrow, religious demand. Kashmiris have no confusion about what azadi means: It means Shariah. Friday holidays, amputating thieves’ hands, abolishing interest, prohibiting alcohol (and kite-flying), stoning adulterers, lynching apostates and all the rest of it that comprises the ideal Sunni state.

Not one Shia gang terrorizes India; terrorism on the subcontinent is a Sunni monopoly.

There is a token Shia among the Hurriyat’s bearded warriors, but it is essentially a Sunni group pursuing Sunni Shariah. Its most important figure is Umar Farooq. He’s called mirwaiz, meaning head of preachers (waiz), but he inherited his title at 17 and actually is no Islamic scholar. He is English-educated, but his base is Srinagar’s sullen neighbourhood of Maisuma, at the front of the stone-pelting. His following is conservative and, since he has little scholarship, he is unable to bend his constituents to his view.

Hurriyat’s modernists are led by Sopore’s 80-year-old Ali Geelani of Jamaat-e-Islami. Jamaat was founded in 1941 by a brilliant man from Maharashtra called Maududi, who invented the structure of the modern Islamic state along the lines of a Communist one.

The Kashmiri separatist movement is actually inseparable from Sunni fundamentalism. Those on the Hurriyat’s fringes who say they are Gandhians, like Yasin Malik, are carried along by the others in the group so long as the immediate task of resisting India is in common. But the Hurriyat and its aims are ultimately poisonous, even for Muslims.

The Hurriyat Conference’s idea of freedom unfolds from a religious instinct, not a secular sentiment. This instinct is sectarian, and all the pro-azadi groups are Shia-killers. In promoting their hatred, the groups plead for the support of other Muslims …

We think Indian Muslims are different from Pakistanis and less susceptible to fanaticism. It is interesting that within Pakistan, the only group openly and violently opposed to Taliban and terrorism are UP and Bihar migrants …So what do the separatist groups want? It is wrong to see them as being only terrorist groups. They operate in an intellectual framework, and there is a higher idea that drives the violence. This is a perfect state with an executive who is pious, male and Sunni. Such a state, where all is done according to the book, will get God to shower his blessings on the citizens, who will all be Sunnis.

The current violence is a result of this. Given their boycott of politics, the Hurriyat must rally its base by urging them to violence and most of it happens in Maisuma and Sopore. The violence should also clarify the problem in the minds of neutrals: If Kashmiri rule does not solve the azadi problem, what will? (What ails Kashmir? The Sunni idea of ‘azadi’ By Aakar Patel).

Loot kill, plunder and power - No Islamic caliphate, democracy or capitalism (Cartoonist -  Matt Wuerker).

Loot kill, plunder and power – No Islamic caliphate, democracy or capitalism (Cartoonist – Matt Wuerker).

Regressive numbers

A writer with a ‘helpful’ background, Aatish Taseer brings another interesting perspective.

It is one of the vanities of a war, like the war on terror, to believe that your enemy’s reasons for fighting are the same as yours. We are bringers of freedom, democracy and Western-style capitalism; they hate freedom, democracy and Western-style capitalism. It is an irresistible symmetry; and if not a way to win a war, it is certainly a way to convince yourself that you’re fighting the good war. But there is another possibility, one that the Americans, and other defenders of post-colonial thinking, are loath to admit: that a place’s problem might truly be its own; that your reasons for fighting are not your enemy’s reasons; and that you might only be a side-show in an internal war with historical implications deeper than your decade-long presence in the country.

In the case of Pakistan, the imposition of this easy West versus Islam symmetry has helped conceal what is the great theme of history in that country: the grinding down of its local syncretic culture in favour of a triumphant, global Islam full of new rigidities and intolerances. It is this war, which feels in Pakistan like a second Arab conquest, that earlier last month saw, as its latest target, the Data Sahib shrine in Lahore—among the most important of thousands of such shrines that dot the cities and countryside of Punjab and Sindh.

But there is also something else, and this has been going on in Pakistan since its inception: the wish to cleanse the Islam of that country of its cultural contact with the Indian subcontinent, a contact that is, for many in Pakistan, a contamination. For me, with my Indian upbringing, and Pakistani father, this desire to remove all trace of India was visible everywhere. It was there in the dress of a woman in Karachi, under the hem of whose black Arab abaya an inch of Indian pink was visible; it was there in the state’s desire to impose restrictions on weddings so that they would be stripped of their Indian rituals and become only Islamic; it was there in the hysteria surrounding the kite-flying festival of Basant, where public safety concerns—and this in Pakistan!—were invented so that the Indian spring festival could be put out of business once and for all.

But one cannot be too hopeful. Pakistanis have stood by and watched the decay of their society for over six decades now. It seems that once the original outrage dies down, no significant majority will be found to defend the old religion of Pakistan. They will see it go as they have seen so many things go. The reason for this is that original idea on which Pakistan was founded, the idea of the secular state for Indian Muslims, has perished and nothing has taken its place. The men who say “Pakistan was founded for Islam, more Islam is the solution”, have the force of an ugly logic on their side. Their opponents, few as they are, have nothing, no regenerative idea to combat this violent nihilistic one.

A declining West and supportive China can be an explosive Pakistan. (Cartoonist -  Nick Anderson.).

Pakistan, Nuclear Weapons, India-Pakistan Islamic fundamentalism | A declining West and supportive China can be an explosive Pakistan. (Cartoonist – Nick Anderson.).

Frozen takeout

These following ‘vatis‘ or ‘katoris‘ can safely be put in the Kashmir ‘thali‘: –

  1. Currently, most of the Pakistani-Kashmiri-azadi syndrome is driven by a Sunni agenda.
  2. Next, the significant level of disturbance is limited to Maisuma and Sopore.
  3. Clearly, the rest of the Jammu, Ladakh, Leh regions are peaceful.

What is on the menu

Based on the agenda, actions, sounds and direction indicated by the azadi faction, Jammu and Kashmir will treat non-Muslims (non-Sunnis also as per the above two writers) as candidates fit for ethnic cleansing, fodder for religious conversions, and landless, jobless, clueless labourers – like in Pakistan. More than most, Big Industry and politics in Pakistan remain in the hands of 22 Pakistani land-owning families.

How can this be resolved?

A simple fact in history that everyone seems to forget is Sheikh Abdullah. The ‘secret’ of Sheikh Abdullah’s popularity was his agenda for land reform.

Maybe Omar Abdullah should take inspiration from his grandfather.


  1. August 8, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Good read.

  2. Jindal
    October 3, 2010 at 2:49 am

    Kashmir was decided long ago when Maharaja Harisingh signed the letter or accession with India. Pakistan has done nothing more than take a page from China’s land grabbing adventures. That’s why there’s a long Kashmir dispute with Pakistan when there shouldn’t have been one in the first place.

    Take for instance, China’s new dispute with Japan over Senkaku islands. There is nothing new about China bullying all its neighbors for even more territory. This has been going on for a long time. It is an outcome of wrongly fostering extreme irredentist nationalistic fervor which is so backward a notion within the current context of globalization. A couple of trillion dollars in reserves does not mean that China is going to become a mature leader in Asia, let aside being a wise world leader.

    Six decades of ruthless repression has failed to win China acceptance even in Tibet and Xinjiang. The world knows that China has been a bad boy but it allowed China to double up on its territory with an implicit assumption that quelling its land grabbing thirst would help stabilize it inside out. But uncontrollable greed does no good to China or others. After all, genuine leadership can’t come from raw power or expansionism, but from consent — which depends on keeping others happy. A good strategy for the times would have been to amicably accept claims of smaller neighboring players instead of mindlessly fighting over territorial disputes. This dispute over volcanic rocks with a stone age mindset proves that China is far from being a credible power. If leadership could be built on brute force, schoolyard bullies would be class presidents.

    There is a lot of global unease with China rising as a dangerous unipolar power in Asia. It is in China’s best interests to let the Yuan appreciate and invest its mammoth foreign exchange reserves in the economic development of all of China’s neighbors in order to stabilize Asia. That way China can assure the rest of the world that it is not trying to disturb the balance of power leading up to an inevitable war (which would be catastrophic for China and its neighbors), and would also help China diversify itself. The calculus of geopolitics is much more complex than childlike disputes over territory!

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