Friday, 7 November 2014

THE HYPOCRISY OF THE ISLAMIST-SYMPATHIZING ‘LIBERALS’: THE CASE OF A PILGRIMAGE BY KASHMIRI HINDUS


Undeniably, making sweeping negative generalizations about any collectivity of human beings based on race, religion or nationality is obviously not in the least acceptable and there indeed ought to be zero tolerance to discrimination or hate crimes of any nature. That being said, the lopsidedness of very many ‘intellectuals’ in standing up for Muslim victims of real or apparent wrongdoings by non-Muslims but being totally or relatively silent in case of wrongdoings by Muslims against non-Muslims or even other Muslims is a subject that has indeed already attracted much attention in the light of such people’s one-sided condemnations of Israel and almost glossing over the wrongs of the Hamas, which indeed shares the blame for the tragic deaths of innocent civilians in Gaza (though I am indeed not at all even vaguely suggesting that Israel doesn’t deserve criticism for its illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, among other things). Once when I tried explaining to one such left-liberal non-Muslim that the Hamas is evil and that while certain Israeli defence personnel engaging in indiscriminate attacks ought to be condemned, Israel has a right to defend itself, collateral damage in any armed conflict being inevitable, she retorted by saying that Israel is backed by the United States, and just that explains everything. I asked her whether the Kosovar Muslim civilians protected from the Milosevic regime in Serbia by the American forces, were also in the wrong!


These are the people who would protest against France banning the Islamic veil but shy away from expressing solidarity with women in Saudi Arabia asserting their right to drive. Here’s an excellent piece on such people by Meredith Tax. Fighting anti-Muslim bigotry is legitimate and even necessary, but it has unfortunately become intellectually fashionable to go to the other extreme.


Coming to South Asia, while there has been some coverage in the Western media about the gross human rights violations by rogue elements in the Indian military and paramilitary forces (such as rapes, fake encounters and forced disappearances) in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir, that indeed ought to be condemned (please refer to my article on this very topic, titled ‘We Want Cameron to Apologize, Will the Indian State Apologize for its Own Crimes?’), comparatively much less interest, if any at all, has been taken by these ‘liberals’ in the grievances of the also mostly Muslim people of Pakistan-administered Kashmir or even the rather pathetic human rights record of the Pakistani defence forces in the also Muslim-majority province of Balochistan (thanks to rogue elements engaging in rapes and forced disappearances, other than there even having been aerial bombings). Balochistan, going by international law, actually serves as an open-and-shut case of deserving the right to self-determination in the form of being allowed to separate from Pakistan, given that Balochistan was a sovereign nation-state (like Nepal or Bhutan) invaded by Pakistan. In the case of Kashmir, the ‘liberals’ cite the United Nations resolution in 1948 calling for a plebiscite without having read the resolution, for if they had, they would know that the plebiscite was to be conducted after Pakistan withdrew its troops from the part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir the Pakistani forces had illegally occupied back then (in the process, engaging in extensive plunder and even raping women, cutting across religious lines, including some European nuns they found in a convent and a hospital), and such ‘liberals’ echo the hypocrisy of the Pakistani state in asking India to conduct a plebiscite in the part of Kashmir it administers without asking the Pakistani state to withdraw its troops, though the latter is meant as a prerequisite for the former, going by the UN resolution they keep citing, or at least also ask the Pakistani state to conduct a plebiscite in the part of the erstwhile princely state it governs! In fact, when India was partitioned in 1947, leading to the creation of Pakistan for Indian Muslims who wished to live in a separate country (though millions of Indian Muslims chose to not migrate to Pakistan, opting to stay in secular India, and many of them were vocal against the partition), India’s policy with respect to autonomous princely states (states which had been governed by Indian monarchs) in erstwhile British-ruled India like Jammu and Kashmir, was to go by the will of the people, rather than by the will of the ruler, and India did conduct plebiscites in princely states like Hyderabad and Junagadh it annexed, where the Muslim rulers fancied ideas of independence or joining Pakistan, but the people (mostly Hindus), by and large, had sought integration with India, and indeed, India had to be and even was consistent by also offering such a plebiscite in the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. In contrast, Pakistan’s stand was always to go purely by the will of the ruler, by virtue of which it had sought to engage Hindu-majority princely states like Hyderabad and Junagadh as also even princely states where both the ruler and the majority of the populace were Hindu, like Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, to join it. It had never basically adopted the principle of a plebiscite, and indeed, as referred to in passing above, speaking of the then sovereign, Muslim-majority oil-rich kingdom of Balochistan, which, unlike the other princely states referred to, was technically not even a part of India under British rule to begin with, the way Nepal and Bhutan weren’t (the few regions of Balochistan that the British had occupied were returned to the monarch before Pakistan and India attained independence), Pakistan coercively annexed the same, making it its province, against the wishes of both the ruler and most of the people (in fact, those who allege the US military occupation of Iraq in 2003 to have been carried out to control oil reserves shouldn’t be so tight-lipped about Balochistan). And those pointing to the pro-Pakistan rebellion in the Poonch region of Jammu and Kashmir back in 1948 would do well to read this article of mine.


Furthermore, going by my experience, I know that some Kashmiri separatists would argue that the United Nations resolution, when proved to not be what they claim it to be, is irrelevant and that international law itself is a conspiracy of the Western powers. So, when they thought the UN resolution suited them, they were all for it, but when they realize it doesn’t suit their agenda, international law should be trashed, and do they visualize the independent country they wish to create not joining the United Nations, and can international law in itself be equated with its weak enforcement mechanisms? They would then assert that the right to self-determination ought to be absolute, which is to say that any part of any country should be allowed to just unilaterally secede at will (which overlooks that every part of any country belongs to the other countrymen as much as those residing in that specific part and no, that is not what the International Court of Justice said in the Kosovo advisory opinion; all it said was that to claim statehood, the criterion of recognition from other states should be satisfied, but it did not say that Serbia has to cease accepting Kosovo as its part), but their leadership does not want to give this right to the people of the Hindu-majority region of Jammu and Buddhist-majority region of Ladakh once the sovereign state they envisage comes into being!


Those who would tend to point to my Indian nationality and allege a nationalist bias on my part would do well to incisively refute what I have specifically stated, without resorting to whataboutery and dragging other matters, rather than allege prejudice without any basis. In fact, far from stereotyping the Pakistani Muslim populace in a negative fashion, I am always eager to point out to my Indian compatriots that there are very many liberal intellectuals among the Pakistani Muslims, that the condition of non-Muslims and women in Pakistan isn’t as pitiable as many imagine (though the international community should be more proactive about issues like the blasphemy law in that country, often misused against Christians, as also the stifling of the Ahmedias’ religious freedom by law, other than frequent rapes, abductions and forced conversions of Hindu girls in rural Sindh by Muslim extremists), and I also condemned the attack on a Pakistani student in India in unambiguous terms in an article I wrote for a leading Pakistani media house. And I may also clarify that my expression of solidarity with the Baloch right to self-determination is not the official stand of the Indian government, owing to considerations of realpolitik (though Manish Tiwari, a prominent Indian political leader in an opposition party, has advocated a more nuanced and assertive approach to the Baloch question on the part of the Indian state, though still falling short of saying that the Indian state ought to not recognize Balochistan as a part of Pakistan), but my concern in this article is primarily with independent ‘liberals’ globally who claim to speak for freedom and peace across the globe.


Much of the commentary about India in the international media has focused on the Hindu right, and far from exhibiting an anti-Muslim bias as the Western media often subtly does while covering news related to the West, speaking of India, it often even shied away from referring to those specific Pakistanis who made Mumbai bleed in November 2008 “terrorists”, and instead, just used terms like “attackers” and “gunmen”, and those advancing conspiracy theories about those terrorist attacks ought to read this piece. The international media often subtly exaggerates the importance of the Hindu right in India, using phrases like “Hindu nationalist” for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), one of India’s leading national parties and which is currently in power in India’s central government, in totally unrelated contexts such as telephone licenses or maritime disputes with China, though they do not keep prefixing such phrases while referring to, say, the Republican Party in the United States, and indeed, non-Hindus (if the word ‘Hindu’ is defined in its conventional religious context) in India, like Muslims and Christians, on the whole, do lead normal lives, going to schools, colleges, offices, restaurants and movie theatres alongside Hindus, even in the BJP-ruled Indian provinces. In fact, in some provinces of India like Madhya Pradesh and Goa, Muslims and Christians are actually even known to vote for the BJP in large numbers owing to its good track record at economic development in those particular provinces. Sporadic instances of riots that unfortunately do take place in India are not restricted only to BJP-ruled provinces, and indeed, many Hindus too lose their lives in riots and terrorist attacks in India. I am not stating these facts for the sake of defending the BJP, a political party I have no affinity to and which I have criticized for blocking legislative debates in parliament as also having financially corrupt elements (like all the other mainstream Indian political parties), and even resorting to religion-based divisive politics on some occasions, such as recently raising the bogey of ‘love jihad’ (though ‘secular’ Indian political parties have also played religion-based politics in their own way, as discussed subsequently in this article) and some of its members having played an active or passive role in riots (though many other political parties are not clean on that front, either, be it the Congress, Samajwadi Party or even the Trinamool Congress) among other things (including some that would be mentioned subsequently in this very article), but to clarify that Indian politics is not as oversimplified as the international media makes it out to be.


Speaking of the emergence of Narendra Modi as India’s prime minister, very many ‘liberals’ in the international media have only sought to highlight Modi’s alleged complicity in an undoubtedly horrendous carnage that erupted in the Indian province of Gujarat in 2002 (in which an overwhelming majority of the victims were indeed Muslims, but in which hundreds of Hindus also did lose their lives and were rendered homeless by Muslim rioters, as has been pointed out by Human Rights Watch and respectable media publications in India like The Hindu, which is a favourite of left-liberals, the Times of India and India Today; but of course, non-Muslim victims do not count for the ‘liberals’, though I am not, in the least, seeking to undermine the harsh reality of the pain of the Muslim victims, some of whom I had a chance to interact and even develop close personal relations with in my five-year-long stay in Gujarat as a university student), failing to highlight that Indians at large were peeved at the corruption, inflation and slowdown in economic growth under the regime led by the ‘secular’ Congress party, or that India’s Supreme Court has declared secularism to be a basic, inalienable feature of the constitution that cannot be abrogated by parliament or that the BJP had apparently actually lost the last two national elections in 2004 and 2009 in great measure because of its hard-line Hindu rightist image or even how Modi, by undertaking a fast for inter-religious harmony and emphasizing the need for the same in his many election rallies and interviews, signaled to the electorate that his plank for coming to power would be good and clean governance rather than the chauvinistic assertion of a Hindu identity (whether he has undergone a genuine transformation or not is not the point I am seeking to highlight here, but rather that many of those people who voted for him expected him to only engage in development work without religion-based politics, and felt assured by his repeated utterances to this effect during the election campaign), and much of the 38.5% of the Indian electorate that did vote for his party and its allies (the votes in very many constituencies got divided in favour of political parties in opposition to the BJP – to explain this in simplified terms, imagine a hypothetical scenario with only ten voters in which three votes go to one candidate and the seven others go to seven different candidates, leading the candidate with just three out of ten votes to win, which implies that while the majority of the Indian electorate did not vote for Modi, there was hardly any consensus on an alternative) voted for him on that basis, rather than based on religious fault-lines, and those voting for him even included a sizable number of Muslims.


While speaking of the carnage in Gujarat in 2002, the ‘liberals’ often gloss over the fact that hundreds of Hindu rioters, including Hindu politicians like Maya Kodnani (and Muslim rioters as well), have been convicted (and indeed, rightfully so) by the Indian judiciary and so have several police personnel for dereliction of duty.


On the other hand, there is another set of victims these ‘liberals’ seldom have time for, and these are the Kashmiri Hindus (also known as the Kashmiri Pandits). When the secessionist Islamist militancy (the terms ‘Islamist’ and ‘Islamic’ are not the same, ‘Islamist’ referring to a totalitarian ideology of imposing supposedly Islamic values as also a sense of hostility to non-Muslims) erupted in Kashmir in 1989-90 as a reaction against an allegedly rigged election and suppression of peaceful protests against the same by the Indian state (no, I am not absolving the Indian state of wrongdoings, and it is indeed necessary for all sides in a conflict to accept the truth for there to be reconciliation), hundreds of innocent Kashmiri Hindu civilians were killed on account of their faith and pro-India political convictions, being seen as extensions of the Indian state (like innocent Tamil Muslims in Sri Lanka were targeted by Tamil Hindu secessionist insurgents, for not having shared the same secessionist aspirations), which was especially sad, given there had been near to complete Hindu-Muslim harmony in the Kashmir valley when the subcontinent was engulfed with riots during the partition of India (that led to the creation of Muslim-majority Pakistan) back in 1947, and a Kashmiri Hindu friend of mine once shared with me how his maternal grandfather, who was in Lahore in Pakistan at the time of the partition riots, traveled to his also Muslim-majority Kashmir, where it was safe. Many Muslim doctors in the Kashmir valley refused to cure the Kashmiri Hindus injured in attacks by militants in 1989-90, leading them to succumb to their injuries, and the refusal by those Muslim doctors had to do either with endorsement of the militants’ activities or out of fear of the militants, for the militants didn’t hesitate to shoot down even Muslims they perceived as enemies (and indeed, many Kashmiri Muslims seen as having a pro-India posturing, like ailing bed-ridden cleric Maulana Masoodi, were actually gunned down by the militants, similar to Professor Asali, a Middle Eastern Muslim, having to pay for his critique of the ISIS for its maltreatment of Middle Eastern Christians with his own life, or how many moderate Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus were killed by terrorists from their own community). The killings were often accompanied by rapes and other atrocities, other than many non-combatant Kashmiri Muslims shouting slogans from mosques asking the Kashmiri Hindus to leave, leading an overwhelming majority of the Kashmiri Hindus who had till then survived the militancy to make an exit from the valley (some tolerant Kashmiri Muslims gave their Hindu friends asylum in their homes in those troubled times and helped them escape safely, just like Kurdish Muslims in the Middle East have recently been trying to protect Yazidis from the ISIS), which had been their homeland for centuries. Some Hindus, on leaving the valley, died of sunstroke and stress, and on making the exit from the valley, they were made to live in shoddy tents in the midst of insects and scorpions, by the Indian government.


Strangely enough, there is a conspiracy theory circulating in Kashmir that there was no major threat to the Hindu minority and they left their homes only to malign the Muslims in the valley, and here’s a well-written piece by Kashmiri Hindu writer Rahul Pandita (who has, by the way, also taken a firm stand against wrongdoings by rogue elements in the Indian security forces against Kashmiri Muslims, saying that he has lost his home but not his humanity) exposing the hollowness of this theory. There are, however, several rational and intellectually honest Kashmiri Muslims (including some I know personally, such as pro-India Kashmiri Sunni writer Sualeh Keen, whose brilliantly articulated defence of Rahul Pandita’s book Our Moon Has Blood Clots against the allegations leveled by one Kashmiri separatist Gowhar Fazili is a must-read!), even among the separatists, who do not subscribe to this ludicrous conspiracy theory. Basharat Peer, a Kashmiri separatist writer, author of the acclaimed non-fiction novel Curfewed Night belongs to this category, and even a prominent former militant Yasin Malik has acknowledged that militants had targeted the Kashmiri Hindus in those “dark” days of 1989-90 (interestingly, there is as much rationale to hold Malik, a hero of very many Kashmiri Muslims, guilty, certainly at least by association, of the Kashmiri Hindus’ killings, as to hold Modi guilty of the anti-Muslim carnage in Gujarat in 2002, but there is a deafening silence against Yasin Malik in ‘liberal’ circles) and some of them have even taken up the Kashmiri Hindus’ cause in the United Nations human rights bodies. Unlike in the case of the carnage in Gujarat in 2002, none of the militants who targeted Kashmiri Hindus have been convicted. In fact, the local Kashmiri Muslim policemen didn’t even pursue the cases against the murderers of the Kashmiri Hindus seriously, leading the perpetrators of these crimes to not be convicted. In one such case involving militant Bitta Karate, who had confessed to his crimes in a recorded interview, the judge was led to remark–


“The court is aware of the fact that the allegations leveled against the accused are of serious nature and carry a punishment of death sentence or life imprisonment but the fact is that the prosecution has shown total disinterest in arguing the case...”


Like the killings of Muslims by Hindu extremists in Gujarat, this too has been a sad Indian reality. Even the writer Arunadhati Roy, who has been a strong supporter of the Kashmiris’ right to secede from India (a conviction I do not share), has, to her credit (and I say so despite not in the least being her fan), unlike many of her somewhat like-minded comrades, been intellectually honest enough to state clearly that what she describes as the freedom struggle in Kashmir “cannot by any means call itself pristine, and will always be stigmatised by, and will some day”, she says she hopes, “have to account for, among other things, the brutal killings of Kashmiri Pandits in the early years of the uprising, culminating in the exodus of almost the entire Hindu community from the Kashmir valley.”


Even after most of the Kashmiri Hindus left the valley in 1989-90, there have been sporadic incidents of mass murders of those who chose to stay back, perhaps the most significant example being the Wandhama massacre of 1998. However, it is noteworthy that even prior to the eruption of the militancy in 1989, in spite of largely peaceful relations between the Hindus and Muslims of the valley, the minority Hindu community had seen its share of violence and vandalism, for example, in 1963, when what was believed to be a strand of Prophet Muhammad’s hair was stolen from a shrine in the valley or in 1986 in the town of Anantnag, and sporadically on other occasions too, like stones being thrown at their houses if India won a cricket match against Pakistan.


Now that Modi has become the prime minister of India, the ‘liberals’ are looking for every excuse to nitpick any minor incident, blow it out of proportion and try to suggest that India is just on the verge of becoming a Hindu fascist state, or that India’s Hindu majority can, in general, be stigmatized as being, or emerging soon enough as, oppressive. While they may not explicitly say so, the intended psychological projection is quite clear.


Take, for instance, the case of the force-feeding of a Muslim caterer during Ramadan by a certain Hindu politician, doing so expressing displeasure over the quality of food, which though reported by the Western media, with a leading British newspaper going to the extent of saying that “the incident is likely to fan concern among Muslims and other religious minorities over Modi's Hindu nationalist government”, was actually just a one-off incident that has been condemned by veteran BJP leader LK Advani, and indeed, it certainly did not become a cause of worry for rational Indian Muslims with respect to their freedom to practise their faith with Modi as prime minister (Modi himself had greeted Muslims at the outset of Ramadan). The politician in question has apologized and has also said that he did not know that the caterer was a Muslim (which is also indeed possible), though obviously, it is inappropriate to force-feed a caterer just because you don’t like the food, even if you don’t know his religion.


But that apart, while there has justifiably been some outcry over this matter from ‘liberal’ quarters, there had been an almost deafening silence on the part of such ‘intellectuals’ over the issue of the discontinuing of midday meals for even non-Muslim primary school students in certain regions in the province of Kerala back in August 2013 by the ‘secular’ government in that province led by the Congress party, with the obvious intention of appeasing Muslims! The BJP unit in Kerala rightly raised its voice against this move. Indeed, very many such instances of minority appeasement by India’s ‘secular’ parties can be cited, and have been mentioned in my article ‘Going Beyond the Discourse on Indian Secularism’.




However, a recent development that I would like to draw attention to is the incident of a pilgrimage undertaken by about forty Kashmiri Hindus to Kosur Nag, a lake in the Kashmir valley they regard as sacred. Kashmiri separatists staged protests against the move. One reason cited by them for the same was concern for the ecology of the region, even though their silence on ecological issues confronting the valley, such as filth in lakes meant to be tourist attractions or houses being constructed on what has been officially earmarked as forest land, for decades since the Hindus have left, has indeed been deafening, and as my Kashmiri Hindu acquaintance Aalok Aima, who, not letting his personal suffering adversely affect his sense of impartiality, has always very vociferously opposed anti-Muslim hate-mongering by Hindu extremists, objected to the demand of some fellow Kashmiri Hindus to have a separate centrally administered province called Panun Kashmir carved out of the Kashmir valley only for their Kashmiri Hindu community, which would involve the displacement of Kashmiri Muslims, and strongly condemned human rights violations in Kashmir by rogue elements in the Indian security forces, points out in connection with those Muslim separatists in Kashmir who opposed the pilgrimage (not Kashmiri Muslims in general) – “they tried to fig-leaf their naked hate-mongering with environmental concerns while they themselves have been raping the environment of Kashmir” (further adding that the incident “is especially disappointing” for Kashmiri Hindus like himself “who have repeatedly and resolutely spoken against the demand of Panun Kashmir”). My Kashmiri Hindu friend Raju Moza, who is also not in the least anti-Muslim and like Alok Aima, has vocally taken a firm stand for Muslim victims and is against the demand for Panun Kashmir, also points out in the light of the increasing environmental degradation in the valley since the 1990s and the apathy of the separatist leadership to the same that “(u)nder such circumstances, it is clear that 40-odd people on a pilgrimage would not have caused great harm to the environment.”


Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a popular Kashmiri Muslim leader who advocates the merger of India-administered Kashmir with Pakistan, and even offered prayers for Osama bin Laden calling him a martyr when the dreaded terrorist was killed, also suggested that this pilgrimage was actually an attempt to engage in land-grabs, the likes of which the Zionists had engaged in back in 1948! While the Zionists in 1948 claimed lands that could have belonged to them centuries ago, based on what may have indeed been mythical claims and violating the sovereignty of the then existing Palestinian state, here are a people who hail from the Kashmir valley and lived in it until a few decades ago, and visiting a lake for a pilgrimage is certainly no land-grab! As Raju Moza rightly points out, given that many Kashmiri Hindus had migrated for jobs and other such reasons elsewhere in India even before the insurgency erupted, “(i)f the Indian government had the will, vision and intention to change the demography of the region, it could have resettled the people who had left much earlier, long before the tensions that began in the early 1990s.” Stranger still, some Kashmiri Muslim separatists even argued that this pilgrimage was not really a part of Kashmiri Hindu culture and was just a mere fabrication, even though ancient texts like the Nilmat Puran and Kathasaritsagar refer to this pilgrimage, as do accounts of mediaeval Muslim chroniclers like Abul Fazl.


Baseless as the contentions of those protesting against the pilgrimage undoubtedly were, what was indeed even more disturbing was that the government of the Muslim-majority province of Jammu and Kashmir actually accepted the demand of the protesting Muslims, stopping the pilgrimage, and a set of victims displaced from their homeland were victimized yet again, in spite of Modi being India’s prime minister, without any murmur of protest from ‘liberals’ in the Western media who do not hesitate to bash the Indian state in connection with the problems of the Kashmiri Muslims and non-Kashmiri Indian Muslims.


What was even more shocking was that the BJP did not take a strong stand on this issue, and the present home minister of India, Rajnath Singh, who is in the BJP, in a speech in parliament, trivialized the forced displacement of the Hindus of the valley, calling it a migration, tried to suggest that while the Kosur Nag pilgrimage, though a real pilgrimage, had not been a very regular one (how is that relevant?) and that the incident of them being barred access for the pilgrimage had no bearing on the Kashmiri Hindus being rehabilitated in their homeland, as if the Kashmiri Hindus, on seeing this incident of being denied pilgrimage access, would feel encouraged to return to Kashmir and settle down there for good! Interestingly, following that, Kalvakuntla Kavitha, a member of parliament from the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), a party which otherwise has an image of appeasing Muslims, delivered a speech taking a firm stand for the Kashmiri Hindus.


Very many Hindu temples in the valley have unfortunately already been demolished or damaged (though some have interestingly been protected and maintained by tolerant Muslims, this being one of many examples) and the Western media would do well to also highlight issues like these, aside from continuing to emphatically condemn hate crimes by Hindu extremists against Muslims and Christians. Indeed, I do not buy the bizarre implicit line of reasoning advanced by some Hindu rightists to the effect that the crimes of some people of their ilk drawing more attention than the mass murders of the Kashmiri Hindus or the appeasement of Muslims by ‘secular’ Indian political parties somehow implies that the crimes by Hindu rightists can be condoned or justified, as though a more highlighted wrongdoing is a less of a wrongdoing than a less highlighted one only by virtue of it being supposedly disproportionately highlighted comparatively! I have written an e-book available for free download, titled ‘Anti-Muslim Prejudices in the Indian Context: Addressing and Dispelling Them’, in which I have sought to burst the balloon of the Hindu rightist discourse in India, and I have also written a short story titled  ‘The All-Pervasive Politics of Rhetoric’, demonstrating how, in many ways, Muslim extremism in Kashmir and Hindu extremism in the rest of India are two sides of the same coin, in terms of the rhetoric they employ. However, it must be noted that Muslim extremism in Kashmir has been strong enough to uproot Kashmiri Hindus from their homeland and recently put a stop to their pilgrimage, and even lead Muslim girls who had formed a rock band to dissolve the same owing to pressure from orthodox clergy. On the other hand, Hindu rightist groups have not been as successful at moral policing, as can be seen from the fact that they haven’t been able to stop the celebration of Valentine’s Day as they would desire, the way the Muslim extremists in Kashmir were able to have the rock band dissolved. And yes, Muslims living in other, Hindu-majority provinces of India do indeed largely enjoy complete religious freedom, the Haj for them, and even Kashmiri Muslims, even having being subsidized by the Indian government for many decades, other than having made a mark in all walks of life, be it cinema, other fine arts, sports, politics, business or serving in the Indian security forces and intelligence agencies. This spirit of religious pluralism in India (in spite of occasional friction) is not, by any means, easily fragile, and the change in faces of those in power primarily have to do with economic aspirations. Those criticizing Hindu rightist political forces in India (which is certainly legitimate) ought to also acknowledge that the supposedly secular political parties in India have actually reduced the noble and sacrosanct principle of secularism into appeasement of the Muslim and Christian minorities to garner votes, other than taking into account that voting patterns are not determined only by considerations of religious identity but also, as mentioned earlier, economic aspirations.


At the time of writing this article (20th August 2014), less than three weeks have passed since the permission being denied for the pilgrimage, and the Kashmiri Hindus have now sought permission for the pilgrimage yet again. If the ‘liberals’ believe that their liberalism applies in the context of non-Muslim victims of wrongdoings by Muslims too, they ought to express their solidarity.


Strangely, some elements among the Kashmiri Muslims seem to believe that they ought to have a veto over who is allowed to visit the valley, as is evident from this article in a Kashmiri newspaper (that article has even resorted to misrepresentation, as you can see here).


Actually, impartiality is necessary for its own sake, but even other than that, those seeking to stand up for the rights of Muslims also need to understand that their narratives, if biased (and silence also does suggest bias), when exposed as such, only end up strengthening their ideological opponents, the anti-Muslim right-wingers. I believe that non-Muslim ‘liberals’ wrongly misconstrue all those people with the mildest anti-Muslim prejudice (it is worth noting that the degree of anti-Muslim prejudice among those who do bear such prejudice varies in degree, and it is also true that very many Muslims, to varying degrees, harbour prejudice against Jews, Hindus and/or Westerners, as many Muslims themselves concede) to be the likes who actually maltreat Muslims, and hence, presume that Muslims in general are an oppressed lot, though as a matter of fact, most non-Muslims, even those with some degree of Islamophobia, usually don’t translate their prejudices, if any, in their actual interactions with individual Muslims, and often do even have close friendships with some. Most Muslims are not subjected to slurs to their faces or other kinds of maltreatment on a daily basis (indeed, one wouldn’t have witnessed such things frequently), and many of them have, in the West, Israel (within its borders, not speaking of the occupied Palestinian territories) and India, made it big in all walks of life, even hailing from humble backgrounds, and in fact, they actually enjoy better security and civil liberties in these places than even Muslims, leave alone non-Muslim minorities, in many Muslim-majority countries do. Also, while non-Muslims in the West, India and Israel are free to embrace Islam as their faith, as Malcolm X and Michael Jackson did (and in India, AR Rehman, a celebrity music composer, is a convert to Islam from Hinduism), many Islamic states prohibit apostasy from Islam, and yes, while other religious groupings with a history predating Muslims have undergone their churning to conform to a modern understanding of human rights, which is an ongoing process and is still not complete (Catholic fanatics in the United States bombing abortion clinics and heinous caste-based hate crimes among certain sections of Hindus, among other things, bear testimony to that), for Muslims, it does still have a long way to go, as is evident from the legal systems of very many Muslim-majority countries, including supposedly forward-looking ones like Malaysia (where there were severe restrictions on Shi’ites’ religious freedom) and the UAE (where a woman needs four male witnesses to prove rape, failing which she is booked for adultery!).


Trying to tell Hindus, Jews and Westerners in general that they are all, by and large, oppressors of Muslims or to even subtly rationalize (even if not justify) Muslim extremism by pointing to the wrongdoings of non-Muslims against Muslims but never applying the same logic the other way round to rationalize anti-Muslim rightist movements by pointing to the wrongdoings of Muslims (and indeed, intra-Muslim sectarian clashes, which do erupt even in India where Muslims are themselves a minority, in places like Lucknow, or the kind of intolerance that has been exhibited to the tiny, harmless Yazidi minority in Iraq cannot be explained as a retaliation against oppression by any non-Muslim entity, but simply borne out of religious intolerance, as was indeed historically also the case with Hindu rulers like Pushyamitra Shunga and Mihirakula who targeted Buddhists or even the Portuguese Christian invaders in Goa who forcibly converted many Hindus to Christianity) is certainly not the solution to the problem of anti-Muslim bigotry, nor is glossing over the wrongdoings of Muslim extremists, as was the case even with many ‘liberals’ with respect to this recent pilgrimage by Kashmiri Hindus to their holy place in their homeland. If the concern is that condemning Muslim rightists would strengthen anti-Muslim rightists (though going by this logic, the same concern should also apply vice versa), then all one needs to do is to talk about both and condemn both in the same vein, as also keep emphasizing that there are Muslims who don’t support the extremists in their religious grouping, as I have in this very article!


I can sense a reader’s possible discomfort at this piece opening a Pandora’s box of questions related to tackling the issue of political Islam (also given my strong opposition to anti-Muslim bigotry), but not offering any clear answers. What the solution to the problem can be in my humble opinion is something I have discussed at considerable length in this other piece of mine.

The author would like to thank Aalok Aima and Raju Moza. Other than the points on which they have been quoted, the views expressed in the article are to only be attributed to the author. The author would like to thank Snehashish Laik for his help and support for this article, as also Rahul Pandita for having posted on his Facebook profile about the speeches of Rajnath Singh and Kalvakuntla Kavitha, but the views expressed in the piece, but for the quotations, are to be attributed only to the author.
Karmanye Thadani

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