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Is Kashmir Choking on Radicalism?

Indians today are governed by two different ideologies. Their political ideal set in the preamble of the Constitution affirms a life of liberty, equality and fraternity. Their social ideal embodied in their religion denies them.

B. R. Ambedkar

Many analysts, Indian and foreign, had assumed until recently that Indian Muslims were immune to extremist propaganda because of both the syncretic and moderate nature of Indian Islam and the democratic and secular character of the country which made them feel they were equal participants in the political process. Both these assumptions are now problematic, as several factors have been at work in the past three decades that challenge this conventional wisdom.

As reported, the DIG Intelligence of BSF has asserted that radicalism is growing at an alarming rate in the valley. According to him, these actions will sound the death knell of Kashmiriyat. He also stated that Sufism has been eroded and Kashmir is being lost to Fanatic Islam.

Observation by DIG Intelligence:

  • Teachers prompt students to hate non-Muslims in school as well as colleges.
  • Salafism is backed by Pakistan to disrupt internal security of India.
  • Wahhabi preachers visit villages on Fridays and weekends to propagate the ideology among youth.

Factors responsible for the radicalization of Muslim youth

  • Increasing influence of Saudi Wahhabism and related forms of Salafism on Islam.
  • Migration to energy-rich West Asian countries which provides vast employment opportunities.
  • Religio-cultural impact on a section of Indian Muslim emigrants.
  • The impact of Wahhabi/Salafi Islam on the mindset of a segment of youth which returns to India.
  • Fascination by obscurantist ethos of those oil-rich countries i.e., ultraconservative dress code etc.
  • Hindu nationalism has had a major psychological impact on a section of Muslim youth.
  • Inter-religious riots in which Muslims suffered disproportionately has been common in India since Independence.
  • The demolition in 1992 of the Babri mosque by a Hindu mob under the direction of political party.
  • Lynching of several Muslims in northern and central India on the pretext that they were taking cows for slaughter or eating beef.
  • Acts of mob violence carried out by the so-called gau rakshak (cow protector) vigilantes.

Sufism in Kashmir

  • Kashmir had been the cradle of Sufism in South Asia.
  • At least two Sufi Silsilahs (Orders) namely Kubrawiyya and Naqshbandiya, first took their roots in Kashmir.
  • Sufi saints propagate nonviolence, respect for all faiths, and equality for women and encouraged vegetarianism.
  • In literal sense, it is the phenomena of mysticism within Islam. They are characterized by their asceticism, especially by their attachments with God.

What is Salafism?

A revivalist movement within Sunni Islam that developed in Egypt in the 19th century as a response to western European Imperialism.

Why it concerns us?

  1. Sufism preaches communal harmony while Salafism is a hardliner fundamentalist ideology.
  2. By misguiding the youth of Kashmir, Salafists are trying to subvert the population against government of India.
  3. Economic stability of the valley is jeopardized only because of Salafi separatism.
  4. India being a democratic state, Salafists disrupt the political institutions and procedures like elections etc.
  5. Increase in insurgency and terror acts to threaten the integrity of the nation is due to Salafism.
  6. Youth remains sidelined from growth, employment and research opportunities.

What can be done?

  • To connect Kashmiri people with the mainstream:
    • Cinema halls should be opened
    • Sports tournaments should be organized
    • De-legitimizing of the Madrasas
    • Stronger legislation for disrupting the communal harmony
    • Tourism sector should be given boost to revive the economy
    • Liquor shops in the valley as a symbol of opposition to conservatism.
  • Banning political parties like Hurriyat Conference, Ahl-e-Hadith, Jamaat-e-Islami which facilitate the spread of extremist thoughts.
  • Introduction of moral teachings of all religions in school syllabus.
  • Cut-off separatist leaders financially and restrict their overseas movements.
  • Meeting of stake holders, excluding Pakistan to reach a common concern.
  • Government needs to make stringent laws against mob violence against Muslims in the name of religion, cow or any other communal topic.
  • School curriculum across India needs to teach the non-interference part of the secular nature of Indian constitution.

Muslim community has the primary duty to confront and defeat the malign Wahhabi-Salafi influence on Indian Muslims in order to preserve the liberal and syncretic nature of Indian Islam. They should keep a check on the spread of extremist ideology among Muslim youth. In line with India being a secular country, government policies and actions should say so. The growing Hinduism shouldn’t affect the growth of other religions. Only when the Muslim community doesn’t feel the sense of alienation, they can grow and make India grow even faster.

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