KASHMIR, A FOREIGN COUNTRY? : Francois gautier

Today, if a Hindu wants to undertake a pilgrimage to one of the most ancient shrines in the history of Hinduism, Amarnath, he must do it under heavy police and army protection, and at the risk of his life. It is as if, not only is he going to a foreign country, but also to a hostile foreign country.

Today, as it is now known, there is a conscious, well-planned movement to provoke the police and the BSF by a widespread stone throwing movement in the Valley of Kashmir. Hundreds of BSF soldiers have been hurt in the last few months. Inevitably, when the crowd goes out of control, limited firing has to be resorted to and casualties do happen. Of course, the entire Valley, which every second day, goes on strike for the flimsiest reason, shuts down and the Media and Amnesty cry foul.

The frightening fact is that the writ of the Central Government is nearly gone in Kashmir; stringers, most of them hailing from the Valley, report a distorted picture from Srinagar and nobody finds anything to say. Every TV footage shows crowds waving Pakistani flags and nobody objects. Bollywwood has spawned a spoof on Bin Laden, whose Al Qaeda has killed hundreds of innocent Indians in markets or in Mumbai, and nobody in India seems to find anything wrong in it (no way this could happen in the US or even France).

Do you know that Kashmir is the most subsidized state in India? That every time the PM goes there, whether from the Congress, or the BJP, thousands of crores of subsidies are announced? Since 1989, all government officials in the Valley of Kashmir, while they hardly work in the year, because of strikes and curfews, get their pay check. It makes no difference to the fact that if a referendum was conducted, at least 85% of the Valley of Kashmir would opt to be attached to Pakistan.

The truth is that the ground is prepared for an agreement covertly brokered by the US and coated in clever words, which will give de facto independence to the Valley of Kashmir. There are good, intelligent people in the Congress. Surely some of them would agree that this would be a tragedy for India?

Unfortunately, in Delhi amongst journalists and intellectuals, you will find many, who will say: “So what? India is a big country, we can do without Kashmir”.

Why should India retain Kashmir, then?

The most obvious reason is that the valley of Kashmir is of extreme strategic importance to India. If Kashmir would fall out of India’s hands, New Delhi would be surrounded by three hostile nations who strategically could swoop down from a height: Tibet, which was once the peace buffer between India & China (remember how the Chinese easily overcome the Indian army in 1962?); Nepal, which is de facto fallen in hostile hands; and Kashmir, the strategic gateway between the Middle East and Asia.

Secondly, if India allows Kashmir to go, why not Manipur, why not Punjab, or even Tamil Nadu, which has Dravidian aspirations? Many countries in the world face separatist problems, whether France with Corsica, Spain with the Basques, or even Britain with the Falklands, which is thousand of miles away. Why should India let go of Kashmir, which has been culturally, and physically part of its body for at least 5000 years?

Finally, Kashmir is the cradle of Shivaism, thousands of yogis, gurus, sannyasins, have prayed meditated, performed tapasaya in this holy land; and for that reason only, it should be sacred to India.

Part of the blame for the present apathy of Indians towards the deteriorating situation in Kashmir, must fall on the Press, particularly the western media, which has always maintained that Kashmir was a “disputed” territory. Many of us journalists know that since the mid-eighties Pakistan encouraged, financed, trained and armed Kashmiri separatism. But Mark Tully, for instance, who is revered in India for his ‘fair’ reporting (and has most probably written “Hindutva, Sex & Adventures” – Roly Books), always made it a point to say: “India accuses Pakistan to foster separatism in Kashmir”; or:”elections are being held in “Indian- held Kashmir”; or “Kashmir militants (instead of ‘terrorists’) have killed Hindus”. All the other foreign journalists, yesterday and today, have followed the BBC’s benchmarks. Even President Obama’s foolish policy of making a frontline state the country which fosters nine tenth of terrorist attacks in the world, owes something to the BBC.

It is not only the few hundred Hindus (there were 500.000 in 1980) who have chosen to remain in the Valley of Kashmir, who are under threat. It is not only the pilgrims of Amarnath, visiting a shrine in their own country, today even Hindu gurus are targeted: they are defamed, made fun of them, imprisoned or accused of lying. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the latest to be targeted by the Media, whereas he has devoted his entire life to service to humanity.

It’s time for Hindus to unite. Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism, a non-political, non-partisan, Human Rights Organization, which I head, can provide the umbrella under which the twelve gurus who have a million plus disciples (Satya Sai Baba, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Amrita Anandmayi, the Shankacharya of Kancheepuram, Guruma of Ganeshpuri, Shri Ramdev, Satguru Jaggi, etc), can meet three times a year and issue a number of ‘adesh’, which will be binding to 800 million Hindus in India, a billion worldwide.

The safeguard of Kashmir and the Amarnath pilgrimage, could be on its first agenda. The preservation of the universal spirituality, which some call Hinduism, and which today is under grave threat, could be its permanent one.



Ramya Rajamani said…
I had a similar argument with my friend where she responded the same way that if we give up one state then slowly India will be done into bits and pieces. But coming back to Kashmir one has to admit that more than religion they have very strong cultural similarities with Pakistan which strengthens their affinity. And even though the land was peaceful when they believed in Sufism. But since the Arab influenced institutions have exported fundamentalism throughout Pakistan and extended there too, the situation has only become worse.

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