By LALIT KOUL
10,000 forest trees are chopped down to build Mughal road in
Kashmir; no one makes a noise.
Acres of land in the
Kashmirvalley are given to Reliance telecom to install mobile phone towers; no one screams.
Acres and acres of land in the
Kashmirvalley are allotted to works departments to lay sewage and drinking water pipes; no one objects.
But when 40 hectares of uninhabitable land is handed over to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) for providing better facilities to Holy Amarnath pilgrims, all hell breaks loose.
Why? Because Shri Amarnath Shrine Board caters to Hindu pilgrims who want to visit the Holy shrine of Amarnath in the
. It is as simple as that. valleyof Kashmir
Politically-correct politicians, policy-makers, and administrators might try to tell you that it is not about religion, but the fact of the matter is that it is all about religion. It is a sinister design by communal forces within the valley to completely Islamisize the valley by removing every symbol of Hinduism and other faiths from the valley. Today, these communal forces are preventing the setting up of facilities for the yatra, tomorrow they will even go to the extent of banning the yatra altogether. And the government of the day at that time will not lose a second to legitimize that ban. None of this is new. In past yatras, many pilgrims have been killed by the Islamic terrorist forces and the objective has always been the same - complete ethnic cleansing of the faiths other than Islam, in the valley.
The land transfer fiasco has already consumed the Azad-led Congress government and is on its way to now adversely damage the state’s economy. The fear psychosis created by the terrorist forces has already resulted in a sharp decline of tourists to the valley. The counter-strikes and bandhs announced by the pro-land-transfer parties within the
province have paralyzed the life in that part of the state as well. So far it has been a win-lose situation in favor of terrorist and communal forces in the valley. Jammu
Let us first take a hard look at the frivolous arguments presented by the local valley Muslims, who have opposed the transfer of land:
First argument is that the allotment would have adversely affected the environment around the area. One wonders where these tree-hugging environmentalists were when the same government allowed the felling of 10,000 forest trees to build the 89 Kms long Mughal road. 40 Hectares of land that was going to be used to provide temporary shelters and night-time facilities to pilgrims was in fact going to help in proper maintenance of the current-day waste that actually pollutes the environment. But who can argue with the senseless politicians, who instigate the common folks to come out on the streets?
Second argument is that the allotment is the government’s ploy to settle Hindus from outside of the state to change the demographics of the valley. Look who is talking! One has to only go back 18 years in the history and check who changed the demographics of the valley. It was the Islamic terrorists who changed the demographics of the valley by ethnically cleansing the Kashmiri Hindus from the valley. I wonder where these we-do-not-want-to-change-demographics-folks were when Kashmiri Hindus were getting slaughtered by Islamic terrorists and valley’s demographics were being altered. Or should I assume that it was OK as long as Kashmiri Hindus were getting killed which in turn would make the valley 100% Muslim? Isn’t that what Sheikh Abdullah’s concept of ‘Naya Kashmir’ was? Isn’t that what Islamists in the valley wanted when they were screaming “Nizam-e-Mustafa” from the rooftops of the mosques? One would like to ask few simple questions: (a) Is 40 hectares of land enough to settle so many Hindus that it would change the demographics of the valley? (b) By putting this argument of demographic change, are valley’s Muslims implying that Hindus are not welcome in the valley anymore? And I do not mean the Hindus from outside of
Kashmir. I mean the Hindus from the state of Jammu & Kashmir itself. What if the Hindus, who hold the state subject certificate of J&K state and are legally, allowed to purchase land in any part of the state, want to purchase land in the area around the Holy Amarnath? Are these valley Muslims saying that those Hindus cannot buy the land there and cannot settle there? Is that what they are implying? Are they trying to protect the environment by preventing the Hindus from settling in the valley?
Another argument Kashmiri Muslims present is that the land cannot be allotted to Shrine Board because Article 370 does not allow anyone outside of J&K state to own the land. Their argument is that since J&K Governor is the Chairman of the board and he is an outsider, this transfer of land is illegal. How dumb one has to be to understand that the land is transferred to the Shrine Board which is an institution based in the state of J&K and created by the J&K government. The land is not transferred to the Chairman or the CEO of the board per se. Only a dumb person would make that argument and only a dumber person would even buy that argument.
Having touched upon the outlandish arguments of those who oppose the allotment of land, now let us take a look at some facts and the real story behind the story:
It was during the first three years of the Mufti-Azad PDP-Congress coalition government that the original proposal of land transfer was initiated and cleared. It was under Mufti Sayeed’s leadership that his forest minister Qazi Mohd. Afzal and law minister Muzzafar Hussain Baig originally cleared the proposal. It just so happened that due to the red-tape the proposal was finally approved by the cabinet when Azad had taken over as the Chief Minister during the second three-year part of the six-year term. The same PDP led by same Mufti Sayeed was originally OK with this whole proposal. But as soon as PDP (a) smelt that the terrorist outfits like Hizb-ul-Mujahideen were not in favor of allotment of land and (b) realized that it could become a polarizing issue to whip up the sentiments and thus garner votes in the upcoming elections, it backtracked, joined hands with terrorist outfits and other separatists (Hurriyat factions) to communalize the issue and brought common Kashmiri Muslims on the road to protest against the government’s (government that PDP was part of) order of allotment of land to SASB. Since it is an election year, National Conference and other smaller political parties would not let PDP and Mufti cash this opportunity alone and thus jumped into the fray as well and whipped up the communal sentiments by fooling the local Kashmiri Muslims. And that leaves Congress. How could Congress not try to cash in on this polarizing issue in an election year? So CM Azad did not waste any time and revoked his own cabinet decision to appease the local Kashmiri Muslim vote bank. He did not just stop there. In addition to revoking his own order, he also effectively disbanded the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. Now that is some level of appeasement! That is the real story behind the story. It is an issue created by Mufti Sayeed to polarize the vote banks during an election year. It is his dangerous design of playing politics with religious sentiments of lakhs of Hindus from all over the country. It is the continuation of his ethnic cleansing tactics that he initiated and promoted way back on Feruary 21, 1986 when 100s of Kashmiri Hindu houses were torched and about 40 Hindu temples were desecrated in the town of
. It is the same Mufti Sayeed who while being the Home Minister in the V.P. Singh’s union government allegedly engineered the abduction of his daughter Rubiya Sayeed and eventually freed dreaded terrorists in exchange for his daughter’s release. Such is the political game in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Anantnag
Now that we know the real story behind the story, how about the Hindu pilgrims who want to visit the Holy Shrine and what about their fundamental rights to practice their religion with complete security, dignity and honor? Isn’t it a shame that Hindus living in
, where 80% of population is Hindu, cannot freely visit the Holy shrine of Amarnath and expect better facilities? It is only in India that the majority community has to make all the sacrifices in favor of minorities because our politicians believe in appeasing minority Muslims at the cost of majority Hindus. Indian politicians have always taken Hindus for granted and thus created an environment wherein the minority Muslims have become so emboldened that they now have the audacity to dictate terms to majority population. What happened to the concept of equality and fairness for one and all? India
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah in a TV debate on this issue asked why is there a need for land and new facilities when the pilgrimage has been going on for many years. Does Omar Abdullah mean to say that there is no need to improve the facilities provided during the treacherous pilgrimage? Is he implying that if yatris were OK for last so many hundred years, then why change and improve the facilities? I have never heard him say such things with regards to Haj pilgrimage. Every year Muslims from
Kashmiras well as rest of the country want better and better facilities and subsidies for Haj pilgrims. But when it comes to providing better facilities to Shri Amarnath pilgrims, it becomes a sore point for Kashmiri Muslims and their leaders. Heavy rains, snowstorms, landslides and hostile environment took away 256 lives during the yatra in 1996. And Omar Abdullah has the audacity to promote status quo!
Some of you might argue that it was not the valley Muslims but the political parties and terrorists who opposed the land transfer order and forced the valley folks to come out on the streets. I can buy that argument but that does not absolve the valley’s common folks from their responsibility. They cannot always support these fundamentalist forces and then at the same time claim innocence. They did the same back in 1989 and early 90s when they either stood as mute spectators or as vocal supporters while Kashmiri Hindus were getting ethnically cleansed. As a good citizen, it is incumbent upon them to raise their voice against these dreaded forces and stop this madness. If they sincerely believe in peace, then they need to stand up and reject these terrorist outfits and their masters. Conversely, if they don’t then they are as much party to the madness as the principals and thus need to be held accountable. They cannot have it both ways.
This ugly episode in the history of Jammu & Kashmir has clearly exposed the nexus between all the terrorist outfits, separatists’ outfits and three major parties operating in the valley namely National Conference (NC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Congress. One has to simply pause and think what really bound them all together. Since their political ideology is apparently different, it was only the religion that brought them together. It was the Nizam-e-Mustafa that brought them under one umbrella and motivated them to threaten the government. And the saddest part is that the government caved in. It not only caved in to appease Muslim vote bank but set a dangerous precedent in which now onwards every policy decision within the state will have to be ratified by Islamic terrorists, separatists and anti-India forces. What could be worse than that for a sovereign country?
When Indians carrying Indian Tiranga protest against the revocation of the land transfer order, they get beaten up and arrested by the Indian police. But when the valley Muslims carrying Pakistani flags come on the roads shouting anti-India, pro-Pakistan slogans, they get police protection. This is all the result of appeasement policies adopted by all the successive governments in
. Appeasement policies are never good for a nation, particularly for a nation like India that is so diverse in ethnicity and culture. Whether it is the appeasement of amending the constitution during Shah Bano case, or appeasement of releasing dreaded terrorists during Rubiya Sayeed kidnapping case, or appeasement of letting go of three key Islamic terrorists during IC-814 airline hijacking, or appeasement of allowing separate Muslim Personal law, or appeasement of continuing the temporary constitutional provision of Article 370, all such appeasement policies are one day going to result in nation’s doom. It is incumbent upon the leaders of the nation as well as the citizenry to be on guard and not allow such appeasement policies to take effect in a nation that is based on the concept of secularism, democracy and fairness to one and all. India
The writer is the President of Indo-American Kashmir Forum (www.iakf.org), a
based advocacy group. US