Why the Indian Muslim leadership is not standing with Kashmir

Links between Indian Muslims and their leadership has crumbled, writes Iftikhar Gilani

Why the Indian Muslim leadership is not standing with Kashmir
At a time when Maulana Fazalur Rehman is marching towards Islamabad to dislodge Prime Minister Imran Khan, his ideological peers in India have come to Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s rescue on the issue of Kashmir and his links with the fascist ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

More than the communication blockade, dissolution of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and revocation of its special status, the issue of fascism rearing its head in India under an official patronage has found many takers in the West.

The RSS had gotten a bit rattled, as much of the financial support for many of its projects come from non-resident Indians (NRIs) living in the West and in Gulf nations.

First, it was the faction led by Maulana Arshad Madni of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind that arranged a meeting with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat under full media glare. Indian envoys in western capitals, which had been under tremendous pressure to explain the alarming rise of incidents of mob lynching and violence against minorities, heaved a sigh of relief. Many Indian diplomats are now circulating pictures of this meeting to prove that the RSS is the country’s biggest NGO working for the welfare of the people and to link it with fascism was mere propaganda.

After elder Madni getting cosy with the RSS chief, his nephew and leader of another faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Maulana Mehmood Madni headed to Geneva and addressed a press conference with some members of the Indian caucus of European Parliament, supporting Modi government’s moves on Kashmir. He blamed Pakistan for muddying waters when Modi’s government was bent on progress and development.
Much of the Indian Muslim leadership links Kashmir with its own security. They are not ready to look through the lens of justice and human rights

“Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. We do not accept any interference by Pakistan and other nations in Kashmir. We cannot compromise with India’s integrity and we reject Pakistan’s narrative,” he said. He asked European nations not to pay heed to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s appeals, as repealing of Article 370 was an internal arrangement in India. He said Pakistan was making a mess in South Asia in the name of Islam.

Earlier, his faction of the Jamiat adopted a resolution ratifying the government’s decision on the abrogation of special status. “As such it [Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind] can never support any separatist movement, rather it considers such movements harmful, not only for India but for the people of Kashmir as well,” the resolution noted. Mahmood Madani said, “Pakistan is trying to project on the international forum that India’s Muslims are against India. We condemn this.”

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar used this document to blunt the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Contact Group resolution on Kashmir. Referring to the document, he told OIC member nations that India’s biggest and oldest Muslim body has endorsed the government’s decision.

This is not the first time that a Muslim organisation, or Indian Muslim leaders have lent support to New Delhi’s machinations instead of backing democratic rights of Kashmiri Muslims.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai had played a role in the dismissal and arrest of Jammu and Kashmir’s first prime minister, Sheikh Abdullah in August 1953. Sheikh was not demanding secession from India but was only reminding Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to seek ratification of the Delhi Agreement of 1950 from the Indian parliament; to give constitutional status to the promised limited sovereignty to Jammu and Kashmir.

In his autobiography Aatish-e-Chinnar, Abdullah has given words to his fears. He was concerned about any imminent demographic changes in Kashmir. Referring to what had happened to Jammu region, where the 69 percent Muslim population was reduced to 30 percent in just a few months. He also mentioned provinces like Kapurthala, Bharatpur and Alwar which were cleared of Muslims. They had substantial Muslim populations, he mentioned.

A fortnight before Abdullah was dislodged, Maulana Azad visited Srinagar. He met Abdullah and his cabinet colleagues and assured his help in removing misconceptions about them in New Delhi. But according to B.N Mulick, then Intelligence Bureau chief, upon returning to New Delhi, Maulana Azad advised Nehru to dismiss and detain Sheikh Abdullah as soon as possible. Rafi Ahmed Kidwai played a significant role in the whole operation. He dispatched Ajit Prasad Jain to Kashmir to take charge of operation, at the insistence of RSS leaders who were baying for Abdullah’s blood following the custodial death of their leader Shyama Prasad Mukherjee.

History repeated itself in the much-maligned and heavily rigged 1987 elections. It was after this election that Kashmiri youth’s trust in the democratic system evaporated and they took recourse to arms. Then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi used the services of Najma Heptullah and Mohsina Kidwai, besides his lieutenant Rajesh Pilot, to overturn the verdict in favour of Congress-National Conference alliance. The militancy that reared its head after trampling of democratic avenues has so far consumed nearly 100,000 lives. Who will account for this death and destruction?

In 1983, assembly elections were held a year after the death of Sheikh Abdullah and Congress had put up a fierce fight against National Conference led by Farooq Abdullah. Congress had drafted many ulema from Deoband and Jamiat-e-Ulema in its campaign.

Indian Muslims may be behind in social and economic progress but before Modi’s era set in, they used their votes to punish regimes. They made Congress non-existent in much of North India because of its involvement in Meerut, Bhagalpur riots in 1990 and then its culpability in the demolition of Babri Masjid. Earlier, they punished Indira Gandhi in 1977, for imposing the emergency and killing Muslims in Delhi’s Turkman Gate incident. In fact, two years, later, they became instrumental in her return to power after they got disillusioned with Janata Party’s regime. In 2004, Muslims helped dislodge Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government for its role in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat.

The question is: why doesn’t the Indian Muslim leadership empathise with their co-religionists in Kashmir? If they can punish regimes for the killing of 2,000 Muslims, be that in Gujarat or Bhagalpur, why do they remain mute spectators at the killing of 100,000 Muslims in Kashmir? The answer is that much of the Indian Muslim leadership links Kashmir with its own security. They are not ready to look through the lens of justice and human rights. They must realize that a marriage cannot remain intact when rights of one partner are constantly trampled. Recently, many Indian civil society organisations attempted to visit Kashmir and staged protests in New Delhi. Yet, not a single Muslim organisation participated in these protests. To top it all, Imam of Delhi’s Jamia Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari complained that Kashmiri Muslims had never supported them. He forgot that whether it was Babri Masjid in 1983 or Murababad riots, Kashmiris had always taken to the streets and were even killed for it. In 1980, the frequent recurrence of riots in Aligarh had created such an uproar in Kashmir that chief minister Sheikh Abdullah took flight and stayed in Aligarh for many days.

Over the years, links between Indian Muslims and their leadership has crumbled. While covering elections in far off areas, ordinary Muslims do question about Kashmir and seem genuinely concerned. When, a few years ago, a custodian of Ajmer Dargah Zainul Abideen a march to Srinagar to hoist the Indian tricolour, he was forced to abandon plans as he faced the wrath of his own disciples.

During the last elections in India’s largest state of Uttar Pradesh, Maulana Tauqeer Raza Khan Barelvi, grandson of Imam Raza Ahmed Khan, told this writer at his home in Bareli that he was feeling ashamed of not being able to do anything for Kashmir. He conceded that the Indian Muslims leadership was now coming under tremendous pressure from people to speak up for Kashmir.

The writer is a journalist