We Will Not Falter From Our Ideal

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Member Parliament Farooq Abdullah’s sister, daughter and other senior women citizens of Kashmir hold placards during protest against the abrogration of Article 370 and bifurcation of State in Srinagar – KO File Pic

The relationship of the only Muslim majority region with India was contingent on the depth of Indian democracy

Nyla Ali Khan

FOR those who labour under the delusion that the curtailment of civil liberties in Kashmir and persecution of minorities in Delhi are “internal” matters of the country: India chose democracy, secularism, and socialism as its goals in 1947.

The first milestone on this road is democracy.

Democracy entails a lot more than merely conducting elections every five years. In substance, democracy is a way of life and a way of thinking.

In a democracy, the majority will prevail, but it is equally incumbent on the majority to respect and defend the legitimate interests and sentiments of minorities and to dispel their apprehensions.

The greatest test of the success of a democracy lies in the extent to which its minorities feel secure. In this perspective, democracy and secularism in India will remain failed experiments so long as minorities are marginalized and brutalized.

I am not saying this as a Kashmiri Muslim, but as a South Asian and, more so, because I have never reconciled with the communalization of politics.

Muslims are part and parcel of South Asia’s history — past and future –and I am of the firm conviction that every inhabitant of India must be given a sense of participation in the country’s affairs.

In light of the complex political history of India, it becomes all the more important to ensure that the minorities of the country are satisfied with their relationship with mainland India.

It is regrettable that this complex political history of the subcontinent is being deliberately ignored by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

This grave lapse is responsible for breeding extremist national chauvinism, thereby weakening the secular character of the Constitution and the country.

Amidst incidents of shootings, beatings, arsons and lootings in Delhi, several unsung heroes are fighting to protect our common humanity. From the Hindu man who sacrificed his life saving his six Muslim neighbours from the conflagration that engulfed them, to the Muslims who formed a human chain around a temple to prevent its desecration, such heart warming instances demonstrate that humanity hasn’t perished.

Despite the apathy of law enforcement in Delhi and incendiary speeches of head honchos of the BJP, several people have kept themselves away from the despicable influence of communalism.

Communalism and its propagation should be regarded as a sin against humanity. Even today, there are people who do not tolerate an outlook that makes a distinction between communities and people.

Many of us were taught not to discriminate between Hindus and Muslims. We were taught that the life of a Hindu was as sacred to us as that of a Muslim. We were taught that any harm to a Hindu should be prevented at the cost of our lives, for our religion teaches us that it is our duty to defend and help our neighbour. I am proud to see people like the Muslims of Chand Bagh, who chose to protect a Hindu religious site, amidst the inferno.

Stories of Muslims saving Hindus and protecting their religious sites; Hindus warding off frenzied mobs, and giving refuge to endangered Muslims; and Sikhs opening relief camps for the sick, wounded, and vulnerable are manifestations of the indivisibility of the human bond.

Hindutva politics effectively challenges secular ideas and forces of unity among two major communities of the country by preaching Islamophobia and demonising 200 million Muslims.

People who recognize the inherent human dignity of one another and are not swept away by the communal mob frenzy are the real heroes. They ensure that the State and its appendages cannot claim monopoly of every human relationship.

Those who have been in the political arena for a long time must recognize that there is no politics without negotiation. And the ultimate negotiating authority is always the citizens.

The ruling BJP has been brazenly muzzling political voices that are antithetical to its agenda of making India a Hindu Rashtra. But real democracies thrive on differences of opinions, not on gagging those who might not be on the same page. But what we are witnessing in India especially the BJP ruled states, is a systematic attempt at deterring the growth of democracy by depoliticising citizens.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) brings to the fore forces of fundamentalism with unabated vigor.

The CAB seeks to give citizenship to only non-Muslim religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, who are supposedly fleeing persecution. It does not accord the same privilege to Muslim minorities, who might be fleeing religious persecution as well.

In effect, the Citizenship Amendment Bill flouts the principle of secularism and rights relating to life, liberty, and freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution for non-Muslims and Muslims alike. The reaction of the bloodthirsty mob to those legitimately protesting the CAB has been culpable. The unabated violence inflicted on peaceful protestors, including women, by fringe elements that are being mainstreamed by the BJP makes one cringe at the unabashed erosion of democracy.

Nevertheless, the stories of sanity, human compassion and mutual trust that have shone in the wake of targeted violence against Muslims in Delhi, remind me that the BJP is not India, and every Indian is not a Modi-devotee.

The relationship of the only (up until now) Muslim majority region with India was contingent on the depth of Indian democracy. We, the people of Kashmir, maintained that the special position accorded to Jammu and Kashmir could alone be the source of a closer association between the former state and mainland India. The autonomous status guaranteed to us by the Constitution of India was not meant for Kashmiri Muslims alone, but for the Hindus of Jammu, the Buddhists of Ladakh, and the Sikhs and Christians of the region as well. We will not falter from our ideal even if we are left alone in this great battle for democracy and humanity.

  • The writer is a Kashmiri-American academic and granddaughter of Sheikh Abdullah 

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