Daring Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, has killed a sacred cow, called Article 370 of the Constitution, enshrining the autonomy of Kashmir. The consequences could be dire, including the fourth India-Pakistan war, but not necessarily so. It could also be a successful scheme. Apparently, Narendra Modi had been encouraged by his success in recent elections, by his decent relations with the three powerful men of our age, Trump, Putin and Netanyahu; and by the rearmament and modernisation of India’s armed forces. So he decided to go for the root of the age-long Kashmir problem, instead of treating its symptoms, and terminate the special status altogether, giving the people of Kashmir the same rights as all Indian citizens have, not more, neither less.
Kashmir, a chain of pleasant green mountain valleys, was the most cherished patrimony of the Great Mughals, who embellished it with palaces and gardens. Here the Muslims and Hindus have lived together in peace and harmony. A blessed country, if there ever was one, Kashmir could flourish if this peaceful coexistence had survived. Alas, it did not. Frequent riots, separatism and imported Islamic extremism have made life difficult for everybody.
The Hindus were forced to leave Kashmir; many Muslims had left too, rather than having to serve the firebrand insurgents. Their empty, ruined or burned down houses still stick out in Srinagar and elsewhere, though many of the properties were sold for a song during the insurgency.
Ceaseless meddling of Pakistan and political Islamists who refused to accept the results of the Partition is the main reason why Kashmir is in trouble. The majority of Kashmiris are Muslims and were Muslims in 1947, but they did not want to join the newly formed Pakistan. The Islamist textbooks claim that the Hindu Maharaja of Kashmir decided to accede to India against the wishes of the population; however this is propaganda, not a fact. The people of Kashmir were not very fervent Muslims; the idea of living separately in a purely Muslim state did not appeal to them. Ethnically and linguistically they are related to local Hindus, they share the same family names and the ancestry. They wanted to be independent, but facing Pakistani invasion, they preferred to join pluralist India.
There is a big difference between the Muslims who are native converts, and those who came to a foreign land as Muslim invaders. The first kind is flexible and absorbable; the second kind is hard and fervent.
The Muslims of Indian Kashmir are mainly of the first kind; the Muslims of the Western Kashmir are mainly of the second kind. They are descendants of the invaders who came from Afghanistan. They were enthusiastic about Pakistan, and joined it. Now they live in Azad Kashmir, the Pakistani part of the old princely state.
The Partition was bad, but bearable. It followed some logic. But Pakistan was not satisfied with the results of the war: their raison d’être was to gather all the Muslims of the subcontinent in one purely Muslim state.
That’s a common problem of states based on a principle instead of ad hoc tradition. They want to “liberate” other lands that fit their idea. Thus, the young US had tried to “liberate” Canada from the British colonial rule in 1812; independent Chechnya had tried to “liberate” neighbouring Dagestan in 1999; Russians had tried to “liberate” Slavs of the Balkans from the Ottoman rule. Eventually, they all had to adjust their sights or perish.
Pakistan should also get used to it and back off its claim for all the Muslims of former British India. They clearly and demonstrably failed: two hundred million Muslims live in India; one hundred sixty million live in Bangladesh, and only one hundred eighty million in Pakistan. But they still keep trying to get Kashmir, as this cause is used to mobilise unhappy dwellers of Pakistan. Their population grew five-fold since the Partition, and this fast growth smothered their chances to make a decent living. That’s why they need a cause to rally people around.
Cancellation of the special status makes a lot of sense. Since the Partition, the religious fanatics and ethno-nationalists of the hardest kind came to the top and stayed there. A few prominent local families treated the state as their fief. A lot of nepotism, no democracy, no social lifts. The autonomy miserably failed to satisfy the people. Opening the state up could improve the Kashmiris’ lot.
The main objection to Modi’s move had been demographic, something that the US whites, and the Europeans can understand and sympathise with. Article 370 forbade non-Kashmiris from buying houses or lands and settling in Kashmir. With the cancellation of 370, Indians might migrate into Kashmir, and they might replace the Muslims, said Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan. “The removal of special status would allow India to change the demographic make-up of the Muslim-majority state.”
That’s awful! Wait! Isn’t it the dreadful Great Replacement Theory, the one that had “inspired alt-right killers the world over”, in words of a nice Jewish girl, Rosa Schwartzburg, an MA in Gender Studies and an expert on white supremacist conspiracy theories? Or it is only American whites and Europeans who are not allowed to dread the change of the demographic make-up?
It seems, the Islamists object to the changes of the demographic make-up when the Muslims are in majority, and consider such changes desirable when they are in minority. Kashmir is the place where this asymmetric approach is most obvious.
It is almost forgotten that the Muslim predominance in Indian Kashmir had been achieved by expulsion of the native non-Muslims, the Kashmiri Pandits, an expulsion as violent and unjustifiable as Palestinian Nakba.
At first, there was a Hindu-Muslim conflagration that resulted in the Partition. Still, the Hindu refugees quickly came back to the Valley after the battles were over. Peace had returned, but not for long. The American meddling in Afghanistan in 1970s-80s had undermined Kashmir’s stability. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s own John Bolton, advised his well-meaning but inept president to encourage the Islamist insurgency in order to embroil the Russians in the fire of guerrilla war in neighbouring Afghanistan. Pakistan was the main springboard of the war: the mujahidin of Osama bin Laden’s ilk attacked the Russians and the then Kabul government from their safe bases in Pakistan. After slaughtering shameless female teachers and social workers, the Islamic jihadis would return to Pakistan, under protection of the ISI. Sparks of the insurgency ignited a fire in Kashmir, and soon the villages and towns were engulfed by fratricidal struggle.
As the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan, and the US Islamist allies took over and slaughtered those who behaved un-Islamic way. After the takeover, they took the torch of Jihad to Indian Kashmir.
“The events of 19 January 1990 were particularly vicious. On that day, mosques issued declarations that the Kashmiri Pandits were Kaffirs and that their males had to leave Kashmir, convert to Islam or be killed. Those who chose to depart were told to leave their women behind”, says Wikipedia, quoting an Indian source. That was just a conclusive strike for the long campaign of ethnic cleansing in Indian Kashmir, where non-Muslims were expelled by the Islamists. It happened under Congress rule, which probably explains why the party of Nehru and Gandhi had been voted out so definitely.
Since then, moderate or lapsed Muslims had been increasingly moving elsewhere, within India and abroad, while Kashmir, protected by 370, and heavily influenced by neighbouring Pakistan, had been ruled by their traditional established seven families and the Muslim priests (ulema). Autonomy didn’t led to democracy, other way around.
It is very annoying that some Kashmir partisans claim that Kashmir case is similar to that of Palestine. Here is occupation, they say, and there is occupation. There is absolutely no similarity between Kashmir and Palestine. Kashmir is a part of India; Indian Kashmiris have all rights of Indian citizens, they can move freely in all India; they have Indian passports. This is not the case of Palestine: Palestinians in Palestinian territories have no Israeli citizenship, have no right to move freely or to settle even on their own land. They may not dig a well or fly out of Israeli airport. A Kashmiri has it as good as any Indian, while nobody claims that a Palestinian has it as good as an Israeli Jew. The Indian army in Kashmir protects Kashmiris from jihadis; the Israeli army in Palestine fights Palestinians for the benefit of Jews.
Still, the cause of Kashmir has many supporters in our circles in the West. We became used to defending Muslims when they are attacked by the Empire; this habit is hard to kick. Even such good journalists as Pepe Escobar keep comparing the Modi’s move with Israeli actions in Palestine. Life is more complicated than a comic strip. Islamist insurgency is hell for ordinary Muslims first of all, as we learned in Syria. They are more likely to intimidate a Muslim who does not frequent a mosque than to upset a Jew. And the Muslims, being usually a nice lot, are easily manipulated by their fanatic coreligionists.
There is no simple formula suitable for all situations, but the elimination of Islamic Chechnya by Putin in 2000 has definitely been good for the Chechens. China fights to undo the Islamist scourge within their Uygur community, and that will be certainly good for the Uygur people. President Assad is trying to rid his country of the assorted jihadis, in the interests of Syria’s heterogenic population.
On the other hand, Islamic Taliban does a good job fighting NATO occupation and drug lords in Afghanistan; HAMAS valiantly defends Gaza in teeth of Jewish aggression; Hezbollah fighters keep Lebanese sovereignty and Syrian integrity; Islamic Republic of Iran is the sturdy pivot of the Axis of Resistance. I’ll repeat: there is no simple formula suitable for all situations.
However, if Modi’s act will work out, Russia and China could take it as a model for themselves. There are too many ethnic autonomy areas in these two giant states, and each of them is a petard waiting for the Western miner to explode. China had to suppress the Tibetan autonomy; perhaps the autonomy of Hong Kong and Xinjiang will be next in line. Russia is now in the process of cleaning its exceedingly corrupt autonomous Dagestan.
In Western Europe, too, ethnic autonomy is a way to trouble. Spanish Catalonia has autonomy and it’s dissatisfied, rebellious and separatist. French Catalonia has no autonomy and doing fine; no separatism at all. The reason is simple: ethnic autonomous areas produce native leadership that will forever play on nationalist feelings. This form of organisation is old-fashioned and out-dated, unsuitable in our age.
Some Western activists ingeniously argue that their support for Muslim Kashmir is not a case of Muslims vs. Hindu at all; rather, the case of natives vs. foreigners, and Indians are foreign to Kashmir. Let us disregard for a while that the same activists are usually strongly opinionated against what they call ‘nativism’ in Europe and the US. If they sincerely believe in what they preach, they should pay attention to the Pakistani Kashmir. Everything they are afraid of regarding Indian Kashmir, already had happened in Pakistani Kashmir, where the Muslim Kashmiris had lost their positions under Muslim rule.
After the Partition, the old princely state of Kashmir had been split into Pakistani and Indian parts, approximately of equal size. The fate Imran Khan fears will befell the Kashmiris under Indian rule had already become the fate of Pakistan’s Kashmiris. They became a minority in their land. The majority in Azad Kashmir are Punjabis who moved in from elsewhere in Pakistan. The second largest tribe migrated from Pashtun areas. The Kashmiris are now ninth or tenth community by size in the pecking order in their ancestral land.
In Indian Kashmir, there is large presence of the army fighting the Pakistan-supplied insurgency and protecting peaceful Kashmiris. In Pakistani Kashmir, there is no need for army, as the ethnic replacement had been completed. As for autonomy, the Pakistani Kashmir has none, but in name. From every point of view, India treated Kashmiris much better than Pakistan.
There is absolutely no reason to accept Pakistani claims. What they did to Kashmiris is worse than whatever could be done by India’s Modi. Saying all that, it is still premature to predict what will come out of Modi’s move. Meanwhile he plays safe. There are many troops; internet had been cut off; public gatherings forbidden. Pakistan is not rushing into war; they have no money for a new war. Probably they will apply to India their usual strategy of “death by thousand cuts”. Much depends on the people of Indian Kashmir. They can have a brilliant future on a par with their magnificent past, but they should reject Pakistani incitement and embrace their Indian brethren, as their grandparents did in the stormy 1947.
Read also http://www.israelshamir.net/English/Eng39.htm – a report of my travel to Kashmir a few years ago.
And to Ladakh: https://www.unz.com/ishamir/buddhas-nativity-in-ladakh/