Q. Abhijeet Singh asked : For the past 70 years, Kashmir was considered as a political and development problem and the government was trying to provide funds for its development to bring them back to main stream. What would be the strategy if we consider Kashmir as a politico-religious issue to counter the Wahabism and Islamization of Kashmir which has been denied by all so far?
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Replied by Lt Gen Gautam Banerjee (retd):

Really speaking, Kashmiris themselves chose to be part of India, of course with certain trappings of autonomy. Development was never the problem there, corrupt politics was. That was till the 1980s, by which time the J&K was more or less well integrated into the Indian Union.

Pakistan’s and its instigated separatists’ claim over Kashmir is based on religious affiliation. But they had to clothe that crass and universally rejected argument in political shroud, while the subversion of Islamic Umma had to be kept alive. Our long years of overlook of external funded societal radicalisation allowed religious fundamentalism to come to the fore. From being happy Muslims, Kashmiris turned into committed ‘Islamists’.

Presently, at long last, the fundamentalist nature of the turmoil has been recognized. Being sensitive issue, the steps have to be measured and deliberate – the State cannot compete in matters of religion after all. Therefore, attending to the people’s political and developmental aspirations, within the ambit of the Constitution of course, must be the means by which gradual control over religious fundamentalism might be achieved.

Kashmir has been Muslim, by an Islam of benign kind. Further, it will remain ‘Islamised’ unless there is demographic alteration. With Pakistan next door, reinvention of ‘Kashmiriyat’ kind of Muslim society would need a couple of generation, if at all it happens. Handling the Kashmir issue therefore requires a paradigm change in the Union’s approach to the issue, administrative acumen with force back-up it being its two pillars.

Posted on July 09, 2019
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