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Working Ourselves Out of a Job

MuslimVoicesMatter

Muslim Voices Matter

My name is Ruth Nasrullah. I am a convert to Islam, a journalist, a blogger, a New Jersey native living in Houston, Texas. I have a masters degree in journalism and a master of fine arts in creative nonfiction. I was one of the first seven bloggers on MuslimMatters back when it was an itty-bitty blog and it is my honor to return to what is now an international, award-winning web magazine.

From 2013 to 2015 I served as the Communications Coordinator for the Houston office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). While with CAIR I heard from colleagues that our goal should be to “work ourselves out of a job” – in other words, to create a world so just that no one need fight for basic civil and human rights.

Is that possible?

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America is a paradox, a nation that has historically allowed injustices yet has also succeeded in correcting them. Ours is a country founded in slavery that now has a black president. Ours is a country where legal segregation was transformed by the Civil Rights Act.

America is also a nation built on a bedrock principle of fairness. When the majority of Americans see issues clearly they make fair judgments and decisions. The key to sustained freedom is to bring a message of truth to the public, loosening them from the grip of bigoted ideologies. It is only through a vapid rhetoric that a presidential contender can be hailed as a leader even after proudly declaring that he has bought influence with a prominent member of the opposing party. But I’m getting ahead of myself by talking about Donald Trump.

As we face increasing anti-Islam sentiment it is our obligation and privilege to share the message that will make a difference, as we are compelled as Muslims to do. Hence Muslim Voices Matter.

This column will insha Allah be a platform to explore issues around politics and government, civil rights and social justice, xenophobia and security.

It will not be a complaint column, nor will you hear my own opinion every other week. I hope to prompt an informed conversation about the state of American justice, especially in spheres where Muslims are impacted. I want to hear the voices of MuslimMatters readers of all religious, national and political backgrounds.

What kind of stories will you read here?

I wrote recently about an incident that’s typical of recent protests against planned Islamic centers. The outcry against a Muslim cemetery in a north Texas town demonstrates hallmarks of Islamophobia in action: blind bigotry; propaganda spread by community leaders; repetitive and uninformed anti-Islam rhetoric; and, importantly, the muting of citizens who support Muslims, whose voices are often not as loud as the detractors’.

The phenomenon of businesses – primarily gun shops and ranges – declaring themselves “Muslim-free” is spreading across the country, from Arkansas to New Hampshire. Make no mistake: refusing service based on religion is a violation of the Civil Rights Act. In a time when some of the Act’s provisions face erosion, the public must be reminded that “Muslim-free” is illegal and is as unacceptable as the “whites-only” and “no Irish need apply” policies of the past.

There is good news too, which we can celebrate and learn from. For instance, so-called “anti-shariah” bills (now known in many states as “anti-foreign-law bills”) have been successfully protested in several states, including Texas, where I was proud to personally see the grassroots efforts to fight these bills, two of which died in this year’s Legislature.

Here are some of the topics I plan to examine going forward:

  • Propaganda: what is it and how is it used against Muslims?
  • Use of planning and zoning regulations to prevent development of Islamic centers and cemeteries
  • What contemporary Muslims can learn from the historical civil rights struggle
  • Election coverage
  • Ways in which Muslims can successfully engage in politics
  • Positive and negative media engagement by Muslims

I look forward to having some robust conversations. Muslim voices do matter. Let’s hear them.

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Isahah Janette Grant

    August 28, 2015 at 9:22 AM

    Mashaa’Allah! Looking forward to reading future pieces, sister! Jazak’Allahu khair!

  2. Avatar

    Kariman

    August 29, 2015 at 11:18 AM

    Great, may Allah reward you

  3. Avatar

    Faisal Abbasi

    September 9, 2015 at 12:18 PM

    Salaam sister,
    I’m afraid that some of the statements that I’m about to make will be rather robust. Firstly, as a Muslim I find it quite offensive and intellectually insulting when American Muslims, born or otherwise hark on about how great America is. The fact that your country has a black president doesn’t mean that black Americans aren’t still suffering from blatant racism in many parts of the country. So please stop going om about that.

    Another aspect of constant praise is what a wonderful democracy America is. Rubbish! If America was such a great and fair democracy why is the power and wealth concentrated in the hands of 1% of the population and why are so many Americans on the poverty line? Why have so many American city become .ghettoised’ (a personal expression) where there is social depravation, crime and lawlessness. Why has the health system failed the millions of Americans who aren’t able to get health insurance, and so many have died due to serious diseases and accidents as a result?

    The fact is, America has a lot to answer for for the woes of its people and the rest of the world, especially the Muslim world. Ok you live there and were taught to wave the American flag at school, I get it. But the truth is that the American flag is drenched in blood and signifies pain and misery for millions!

    So please, in future when you want to talk about your country, have some perspective, especially as a Muslim. And please have some thought about the sensitivities of the people across the globe; the millions who are suffering because of Americas past and present misdeeds. The world is much bigger than North America!

    Finally, I’ll leave it to other people to comment about the growing xenophobia against Islam and Muslims in America. But this is nothing new. Americans have always had someone to revile and pour scorn over since its creation. This is not a legacy to be proud of sister.

    Faisal Abbasi

    • Avatar

      Faisal Abbasi

      September 9, 2015 at 12:23 PM

      Apologies about some of the spelling errors. Sometimes I type too fast for my own good.

    • Avatar

      Peter

      September 22, 2015 at 2:07 AM

      Hi Faisal,

      I was amused by your post greatly. I am not an American, however I have lived there. I am an Australian.

      However, I find your criticism somewhat shallow and self serving?

      If the USA is so bad, why do so many people want to live there?

      Can you name a country, or place with no blood on its hands? Compared to the vast majority of the Planet, the USA recognizes the rights of individuals, and grants greater freedoms to its citizens, than most of the world.

      Where do you live? How does where you live compare to the USA in religious freedom, racism and equality of the sexes? How does where you live compare to the USA on corruption, how free is its press?

      So in isolation, your comments has merit, but nothing existing in a vacuum, and the measure of how racism or fair a society is comparative.

      Do you want to compare the USA to Saudi Arabia, which was forced to make slavery illegal only in 1963!

      Do you think the USA should look to Malaysia when it comes to institutionalized racism? Or how Lebanon treats the Palestinians? Or maybe Iran, for what freedom of the press should look like? Maybe Afghanistan is your model for equality of the sexes?

      So tell us, what nation are you bench marking the USA against? Otherwise you are just a hater, with no factual basis to your hate, only hate.

      • Avatar

        Faisal

        September 24, 2015 at 1:50 AM

        Peter, I’m sorry but your reply shows a lot of ignorance and lack of understanding about recent history. And you have no right to put labels on people. I certainly am not a ‘hater.’ I have many friends that are American, who, incidentally have the same or even stronger views than mine about their country. It’s interesting that you have only cited Muslim countries in your reply. None of those countries have invaded other countries and killed millions of civilians. None of those countries have dropped a nuclear bomb on a civilian population. It looks to me like you are the only one with hate around here.

  4. Avatar

    Ruth Nasrullah

    September 9, 2015 at 2:10 PM

    Walaikum salaam. Thank you for your comment, which contains a lot of truth.

    First, I reiterate that my focus in this column is on domestic issues, and while we of course can’t strictly separate foreign policy from domestic, my commentary is on politics and civil justice here in the U.S. The final paragraph of your comment indicates that I didn’t make that point clearly enough. (By the way, I am well aware that there is a world outside North America.)

    My question to you is this: what country should I be proud to be a citizen of? All nations have blood on their hands and I don’t deny that. I didn’t intend this article to be a rah-rah promotion of America, but your comment seems to imply that I should hang my head in shame because I am an American.

    Is there a country on earth that suffers no violence, poverty, evil or injustice, and where Muslims and people of other faiths live peacefully together? Please name it.

    My point is that the American *people* have a fundamental belief in fairness, and I stand by that no matter what our foreign policy is. What the American people need is to step out of the echo chamber and hear some truth instead of rhetoric.

    American citizens who believe in justice have won in the past – not all of them, and not all victories have lasted. In my article, I mentioned the victory against anti-shariah laws in Texas as an example of a small victory. However, such laws have passed in multiple other states, so the battle continues. But the important thing is that we have the right to that battle.

    This country suffers from racism, poverty, economic injustice and a host of other ills and it always will. Name a country that doesn’t.

    To use the same example I did in this column, America is a country founded on the blood of slaves who after emancipation continued to suffer hardships, torture and murder. But with the advent of the civil rights movement, those evils became illegal. Blacks are still being lynched but at the same time Confederate flags are being pulled down from state capitol buildings. Jim Crow laws were made illegal but we now see proposals for different means of disenfranchisement. The battle continues. But because I am an American, I have hope for justice, imperfect as it may be.

    There are countries where speaking against a leader or a religion warrants execution. America is not one of those.

    I don’t know where you live, but I am insulted that you mock me for waving the American flag. I do feel proud to live in a country where our foundational document allows me to burn or spit on that flag. I am saddened by entrenched police brutality but proud to live in a country where people of all races carry the banner of #BlackLivesMatter.

    I will keep writing about American political, civil rights and social justice issues because I am free to and because it’s the only way to continue the battle for freedom and equality.

    • Avatar

      Faisal

      September 11, 2015 at 12:03 AM

      Salaam again sister and thank you for your response.

      I sense from your reply that I may have upset you a little by my first response to your article. Please forgive me as that wasn’t my intention.

      Sister, one thing that I forgot to say previously is that nationalism is something that goes against Islamic principles and is not something that Muslims should expound or celebrate. This whole world was created by Allah SWT, and all borders and national boundaries have been drawn up by mankind. Nationalism is devisive and breeds racism and scorn for other peoples. In Islam, Muslims are part of one Ummah, standing together in one faith, and that is how Muslims should identify themselves. It’s the flag of the Ummah and Islam that Muslims should be waving, not those of countries or political parties. Alas, if that had been the case, the Muslim world wouldn’t be in such chaos and disarray.

      So regarding myself, it really is unimportant which country I am from. The important thing is that I am a Muslim and your brother in Islam.

      Finally sister, you are blessed that Allah SWT has shown you the way to Islam. Now that you are a Muslim, I would suggest that you concentrate your efforts on spreading the message of our beautiful religion. This is a fundamental obligation for all Muslims. I think though, that under today’s climate of misrepresentation and propaganda against Islam and Muslims, sincere revert Muslims who are media savvy, like yourself, are well placed to counteract and mitigate the impact of this phenomenon on non-Muslim people around the world.

      Allah SWT will ask each and every Muslim about how he or she fulfilled the obligation of spreading the message of Islam. How well will we be able to answer that question? That’s what all Muslims must keep asking themselves everyday .

      So sister, in conclusion, I would love to read articles from you about your dawah efforts, in addition to the work that you are already doing. And please keep reading and studying the Qur’an and the life of our beloved prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him), and also his distinguished companions (may Allah be pleased with them all), to gain more understanding of how we should conduct ourselves and live our lives as Muslims. What is important and what isn’t important? What will elevate our status as Allah’s vicegerents on this earth? These are important questions that we must keep asking ourselves as well.

      May Allah SWT keep you guided and protected sister, and may HE have mercy on the Muslims around the world that are facing cruelty and oppression, aameen.

      Please remember this humble brother in your prayers. W’salaam.

      • Avatar

        Ruth Nasrullah

        September 11, 2015 at 11:22 AM

        Point taken, and thank you for the advice and clarification.

        There is a difference between nationalism and citizenship. It’s impossible for a Muslim to ignore the impact of the laws and culture of his or her country of residence and it would be disingenuous to say that being a Muslim living in America is no different than being a Muslim living in Egypt or Australia or Bosnia or France or India.

        This column is about American issues and how they impact Muslims – so it’s impossible to be honest about modern America without acknowledging both the good and the ill in our messy system of laws and cultures and the messy history it derives from. I’m not here to go on mindlessly about how great America is; I’m here to tell you how much better it could be, where our law and culture have strengths and where they are flawed.

        You asked me to “stop going on about” the fact that our president is black, but I won’t because it matters. It also matters that we have a former secretary of state and potential presidential nominee whose mother was born the year American women were given the right to vote. Racism and sexism exist nevertheless. Title II of the Civil Rights Act made “whites-only” business practices illegal, but now we see a trend of “Muslim-free” businesses. How those business policies are addressed requires the input of Muslim voices – so you see, Muslim voices do matter. I don’t intend to raise my voice as a cheerleader for America per se, but as a cheerleader for justice in a country where it is possible. I don’t see how that makes me less of a Muslim.

        • Avatar

          Faisal

          September 11, 2015 at 4:56 PM

          Salaam sister,
          I don’t advocate that Muslims should be passive members of society and stay away from issues that have an jnfluence on their lives. It is important that Muslims are proactive members of society and that they can be involved in positive change, especially minority Muslims living in Western countries.

          I have met Muslims that prefer to view themselves as activists.. They become so emeshed and focused on the task that they sometimes forget their priorities as Muslims.

          Allah SWT did not put us on this earth so that we spend all our time engaged in activism. As I explained, in my earlier response, our fundamental obligation as a Muslim is to spread the message of Islam. Unfortunately, I don’t see much motivation or commitment from you pertaining to this fundamental duty. Citizenship is not a more important consideration for a Muslim. Though the most important aspect for a Muslim with regards to citizenship is being the best possible example of a citizen. This can always be achieved by conducting ourselves in society as our religion teaches us, via the Qur’an and Sunnah.

          I am not saying that the work you are doing regarding the issues that Muslims are facing in America is unimportant. I just wanted to highlight that you can do this without singing praises a country that has caused so much death and destruction. At the societal level, most countries in the world are doing some good. The fact that this also the case in America really isn’t that significant.

          I still maintain that America isn’t a country that Muslims should be proud of. In fact there is much more to be ashamed of.

        • Avatar

          Faisal

          September 11, 2015 at 5:10 PM

          Sister please pray for all the injured Muslims in Haram, that fell prey to the huge falling crane. Many are critically injured in hospital.

    • Avatar

      MuFu

      September 14, 2015 at 12:48 PM

      Hello Ruth,
      I want to pinpoint some of your arguments and question them with mine.
      Quote:
      ”Make no mistake: refusing service based on religion is a violation of the Civil Rights Act.”

      Totally true! But! Let me turn it around, since when the ”sharia law”, that you stand up for, is not by terms a violation of the Civil Rights Act? In Egypt 79% of the asked muslims spoke for the ”sharia law” even to put it upon non-believers ”infidels”, however you want to call them. If you use the Civil Rights Act as your source of violation of your rights then you should do so too when it comes for the law’s you stand up for, else that is pretty much a double standard.

      ”In a time when some of the Act’s provisions face erosion, the public must be reminded that “Muslim-free” is illegal and is as unacceptable as the “whites-only” and “no Irish need apply” policies of the past.”

      Irish is a nationality, white is a skincolor and muslim is a person who believes in the Islam and you know what they all have in common? They are all humans, hence no restrictions shall be made, because we are all the same.

      • Avatar

        Ruth Nasrullah

        September 14, 2015 at 2:10 PM

        You make some good points, “MuFu.”

        Your last paragraph is spot on and gets right to the heart of the issue. The Civil Rights Act and legislation that supports it are intended to insure that all humans are treated equally under the law.

        I discussed so-called “anti-shariah” bills, but to clarify my use of the term, that is the name used by people proposing the bills. “Anti-foreign-law” is the name more commonly used now. I would never use either.

        The idea that anyone is attempting to create an Islamic governmental system is a red herring intended to distract from the real intent of the proposed legislation, which is to violate Muslims’ rights and integrity in society.

        So I’m not standing up for “shariah” (whatever that means in common parlance) but standing against what Islamophobes are calling “anti-shariah.”

        Kim Davis is arguably attempting to impose Christian “shariah” on state and federal law (today she called on the government to “accommodate” her deeply-held religious convictions) – but that’s the topic of my next column, to be published today or tomorrow God willing.

  5. Avatar

    Peter

    September 22, 2015 at 2:24 AM

    Hi Ruth,

    I agree with so much of what you have said.

    The more it is pointed out the injustices of this world, the more those injustices are eroded. I feel that if everybody on this planet learns that with rights come obligations.

    I strongly believe the very basis of a free society, is that every citizen has the right to do whatever they want, as long as that in exercising those rights do not diminish the rights of others. If every action we take within our societies was judged according to these principles, the world would be a better place. Not a place of rights or wrong, but of mutual respect.

    Muslim prohibited businesses premises or the objection of construction of Muslim places of worship are examples of how Muslims have their rights diminished by the actions of others.

    However to demand rights, one has to judge ones own actions by the same yardstick too.

    The USA is far from perfect, so is every other country. If you are a citizen of a country that provides you shelter, and provides you freedom, you have an obligation to make that country a better place. If you do not want to do that, then you should leave it.

    So wanting to make the USA a better place, a fairer place is something to be proud of, and I feel your article is an example of someone who wants to make the country where you live a better place by holding it accountable.

    Well done.

    • Avatar

      Ruth Nasrullah

      September 22, 2015 at 8:54 AM

      Thank you, and please keep reading. :)

      • Avatar

        MuFu

        September 23, 2015 at 7:31 AM

        I got you, thank you for clarifying this missunderstanding :)
        My english is not the best, obviously ^^

        • Avatar

          Ruth Nasrullah

          September 23, 2015 at 9:24 AM

          No, I meant please keep visiting MuslimMatters :)

          • Avatar

            Faisal

            September 24, 2015 at 2:15 AM

            Salaam sister,
            I would be interested to know your views about the arrest of Ahmed, the school boy arrested in Texas for bringing a homemade clock to school.

            Eid ul Adha mubarak to you.

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#Current Affairs

In The Name of God: A Communal Rupture Sowed By Communal Legacy

At one point of time, there used to be a mosque in Ayodhya. It stood tall and lofty for 470 long years, until a mob of extremist Hindu fanatics came at it with axes and pickets and razed it to the ground. Stemming from the popular belief that it was the birthplace of the mythological figure of the warrior Hindu god called Ram, the act was carried out for the future construction of a temple devoted to him, and one that had to be erected at the same spot where the 16th century mosque had existed for so long. 

“All we need for the betterment of life is Lord Ram, and there is no survival without Lord Ram”.

The supporters of the Ram Janmabhoomi cause kept reiterating this loud and clear in Anand Patwardhan’s documentary film Ram ke Naam (In The Name of God), that still serves as the single-most myth busting source centred round the whole dispute. But this very claim itself is based on partial accounts that stem from loose historicity, as depicted in the footage.

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On December 22 1949, Lord Ram was said to have appeared in the dream of a priest in Ayodhya, who along with a few other men installed an idol of the god inside the mosque in the dead of night. The film tracked down one of the priests who had participated in the plan, and identified him as Mahant Ramsevak Das Shastri. He claimed that the erstwhile district magistrate K.K. Nayar was also an organiser of this act and had ensured that Shastri and the others accused were released on bail. Although generally identified as the first breach of communal trust that gradually gave rise to the whole dispute, in truth, this religious fundamentalism has its roots running deeper than most of us fully grasp or acknowledge. 

Even at present, about a dozen places in India and Nepal claim to be the potential birthplace of Ram and there is no consensus among Hindu scholars and historians regarding the same. Ayodhya has been housing many Ram temples since the 19th century, and incidentally, quite a lot of them had claimed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram at one point of time or the other. After the construction of the Babri Masjid in 1528 by the Mughal emperor Babur, historic records show that the first instance of communal riots in the area was not before 1855. Sunni Muslims clashed with Bairai Hindus in the area claiming that the temple of Hanumangarhi (for the Hindu mythological figure Lord Hanuman) was built where once stood an already demolished mosque. Nawab Wajid Ali, the then ruler of Ayodhya promptly intervened and made peace, but not before the incident caught the attention of the colonial overlords. This took place just two years prior to the Great Revolt of 1857. It was the first known pan-Indian unified struggle for independence, and one that was founded upon the Hindu-Muslim unity which had been turning into a growing threat for the ruling East India Company. And of all the temples claiming to be the holy birthplace of Lord Ram, the British chose a mosque having Mughal origins to be the designated one for spreading the rumour that Babur had constructed it after destroying what was once a temple housing Lord Ram’s original birthplace. 

As this notion started gaining momentum, the British installed a fence on the premise, which led to an arrangement that had the Muslims praying inside the inner court and the Hindus being allowed to use the outer courtyard. This communal understanding and secular practice went on and in peace till 1949, until the breach orchestrated by Nayar occurred. 

The 1949 breach then led to communal rifts, which was followed by the mosque being sealed. This marked the beginning of how those in power have been manipulating the masses for centuries, either for ensuring a vote bank, or being mostly fueled by a blind sense of religious fanaticism that made them feel empowered over other religions. 

Repeated petitions were filed to open the locks and allow namaz inside the mosque. While the inner court was kept out of bounds, puja was allowed to be carried out in the outer courtyard. As many as four suits were filed between 1950 and 1961 asking for the restoration of the Muslims’ right to pray, none of which were heeded. Twenty years later, the Sunni Waqf Board finally filed a suit for complete possession of the site, and the one which turned out to be the final blow. Hindu groups in turn formed a committee to protect their rights, and the plan to construct the Ram temple was spearheaded, causing the Ram Janmabhoomi movement gaining momentum like never before, with erstwhile Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) member L. K. Advani giving leadership to the same. 

It was no less than a “political game”, according to the court appointed priest Laldas, who was charged with tending to the Ram idol after the mosque was sealed. During his tenure from 1983 to 1992, he was known to have been critically vocal against the whole Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the premeditated conspiracy that was growing around Babri at that time. He was removed from service 9 months prior to the demolition act and was found to be shot dead a year later under mysterious circumstances. 

“BJP does not believe in Ram, only in hatred…the Hindu Parishad members have never made a single offering or prayed at the temple even once,” he had told Patwardhan during an interview clip in the documentary. 

Surprisingly, none of the subjects that Patwardhan approached in the film knew exactly when Lord Ram was born, or at least even in which century. Not the poor tanner squatting on the ground, not the first year law student brandishing a sword before the march to Ayodhya and not even the saffron clad priest inside the air conditioned Toyota van. But all of them were unwaveringly certain in their belief that Ram’s birthplace was none other than Babri, and how it has been a known fact for many years. 

It was December 6, 1992 that witnessed the right wing mobilisation movement carry out the act of political vandalism quite unparalleled in the modern world, leading to subsequent communal riots, and a massacre which the country has not completely recovered from since. Babri was destroyed. 

Twenty seven years, varying heartbeats, deadly communal violence acts and the loss of about 5,000 odd lives later, the landmark justice on the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute was delivered. 9th November 2019 was a date that meant too much to too many people. It was a day that either meant the end to so many years of rioting, divisibility and cut-throat communalism, or a further tint in the already widening secular fabric of the nation. 

2019 was also the year that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in for a second term and had implemented a number of administrative decisions that gave BJP’s Hindu supremacist ideology a new momentum and utmost urgency. One of the first things that he did after taking office was revoke the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on August 5, 2019, which had so far granted the internationally disputed Muslim dominated region of Kashmir a special status independent of Indian jurisdiction. The abrogation allowed Kashmir to be reinvaded by a strong Indian military, annexed to the Indian subcontinent and put under complete curfew with an internet blackout. And exactly one year later, Prime Minister Modi is about to lay the foundation stone for the newly constructed Ram temple in Ayodhya on the site of the demolished mosque on August 5, 2020, as thanks to the landmark verdict on the decades-spanning historic wound that has completely redefined the politics of the country, the forces responsible for the demolition had found themselves in complete legal possession of the land. 

For many blinded by irrational faith and hyper nationalism, the judgement reinstated the inherent vice of fanatic Hindutva ideology in the sense that their religion is all superior, and one that fuels the necessity to construct the Ram temple at the very spot of the Babri Masjid. But to others still believing in the idea of the independent India that awoke at the stroke of the midnight hour on 15th August 1947, the judgement could have very well been a bigger, and more dangerous rupture in the democratic and secular pillars of the country than the actual act of the demolition itself. 

The current chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, who was charged with overseeing the construction of the temple had gone on record as early as 2017 during a pre-election campaign to promise a Ram Mandir

Agar Samajwadi Party jeetegi to Karbala-kabristan banega, jabki Bhajapa ki Sarkar banegi toh Ayodhya mein Ram mandir banega.

30 years ago it was L.K. Advani who had promised that Mandir wahi Banega and today, it is Yogi Adityanath, the third face in line on the saffron political firmament, who is delivering on this promise.

Vikas Pathak, who is a professor at the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai, said that this is Hindutva’s true and unalloyed form, one that was supposedly hidden beneath layers of political exigencies for so many years leading up to this. This claim is further supported by an independent multimedia journalist in Kashmir, who said he feels the same due to the obvious choice of the date of inauguration. Requesting to be anonymous, he expressed his thoughts on how this is more of a planned move than a mere coincidence, and one which gives out a clear message.

The fact that it’s happening on the anniversary of the repeal of Kashmir’s autonomy, accentuates the importance that the Modi government places on its aggressive pursuit of a Hindu nationalist agenda”, also augmented Michael Kugelman in his comment on the matter. He is senior associate of the Wilson Center and the deputy director of its Asia Program. 

Just like Jai Shree Ram, this Mandir agenda too had been normalised into one which sounded like a clarion call for battle. In Patwardhan’s film, an unnamed Congress politician held a campaign where he asked the Vishwa Hindu Parishad that if indeed a Ram temple should be built, why could it not be anywhere else in the city, as Ayodhya is such a large place. 

“I am amazed at this stubbornness that they will build the temple at the very same spot! And that too, only after destroying the mosque… He (Advani) can easily build a temple anywhere in Ayodhya, but please do not insist that this can only be possible by demolishing an existing mosque. I want to promise that the temple will most definitely be built, but the mosque must also remain.”

As we went on to see in the film, and even twenty seven years down the line, it was firmly decided that Mandir wahi banega, and one existing holy site was destroyed to give rise to another. Come November 2019,  the temple plan gets sanctioned by the Supreme Court of India as well, ironically granting the Sunni Waqf board an alternate piece of land to construct their mosque instead.

While the 5-judge bench lay claim to the demolishing act accepting it as a crime, and while they also accepted that the installation of the idols inside the mosque was an act of desecration, it also gave the land over to those who desecrated it at the same time. A judge on the bench had called it “one of the most important cases in the world,” but when the perpetrators of what the Supreme Court has openly identified as a crime find themselves to be the main beneficiaries of the judgement, it brings to question how just the verdict actually is.

Quite bizarrely, the court had declared that while there was some evidence of Hindus worshipping on the disputed site, no such documentary evidence could be found in the case of Muslims until before 1857. 

“The mosque was built in 1528, and the area was under Mughal occupation till 1722. Then it was ruled by Nawabs, and finally annexed by the British in 1856. It must be self-evident that during this entire period of being under Muslim rule, Muslims were offering namaz inside the mosque and not the other way round”, said a Kashmiri student currently studying at Jadavpur University in Kolkata on the condition of anonymity, adding how such a reasoning based on “balance of probabilities” as one of the reasons to give it to the Hindu side is itself one of inequality. 

On the other hand, the judgement also referred to a 574 pages long report published by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) 15 years ago, which claimed that Babri Masjid was not built on vacant land. Reading the unanimous judgement and considering the report valid on the assurance of being scientifically tested, Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi who was leading the bench said: 

“There was a structure underlying the disputed structure. The underlying structure was not an Islamic structure.”

While the court relied heavily on this ASI report, independent archaeologists who observed the site on behalf of the Sunni Waqf board differed entirely with the ASI findings. While the six month long court ordered investigation did reveal the existence of an underlying structure beneath the mosque, eminent archaeologists Supriya Varma and Jaya Menon believe that the evidence collected on their part do not support the claims made by ASI. 

Their report read: “underneath the Babri, there existed older mosques.” 

They further added that even if the underlying structures were not of Islamic origin, they closely resembled Buddhist stupas at the most, and in no way anything remotely close to a Hindu temple. This particular claim is in turn also supported by the archaeological surveyor Alexander Cunningham, who was the first individual to survey Ayodhya (around 1862-63), and was known for his interest in tracking down and identifying places associated with Buddhism.

Had India as a country boasted of a very robust and strong judicial institution, such an incident would not have been dragged all the way from 1949 to 2019, let alone pave the way to constructing a temple on the disputed land. December 6, 1992 should have been permanently brought an end to it with strict actions being taken against the perpetrators. While the B.J.P. indeed is directly linked to the whole incident, the Congress government led by Rajiv Gandhi allowed the locks to be opened in the 1980s. Following the demolition, the Congress Prime Minister Narsimha Rao allowed them to get away with the violence in 1992. And in 2019, the Supreme Court judges have done the same. 

Ayodhya, for more than a quarter of a century, had been turned into a place of cynical and political revanchism. And thrust between this politics of a loosely manufactured historicity aiming to upend the Republic of secularism by replacing it with a system running on Hindutva ideology, were those that represented what India truly stands for. Of the numerous subjects that Patwardhan interviewed, both Hindus and Muslims, most of them unanimously awaited, and wanted peace. Something that was so easy to understand for someone who lived a simple life of an ironmonger, belonging to the low Bishkarma caste, was at the same time completely unimaginable to those amassing trucks and weapons to demolish the mosque:

“Once it exists, it is wrong to break. If someone tried to break our temple, would we allow it? We’d say go build your mosque elsewhere.”

Zahir Adil, the lead on Save India From Fascism Project of the human rights organization Justice For All also expressed a similar sentiment, saying how he would have actually welcomed it if the temple was not built after illegally destroying a historic mosque. 

“Apart from being a day that RSS criminals are rewarded with a new temple after perpetuating systemic violence in India, 5th August 2020 also goes down in history as the day that the words Jai Shree Ram will be displayed in the iconic Times Square as the Prime Minister will lay the foundation stone for a Ram Temple on the site of the demolished mosque”, informed Masood Rab, spokesperson of Coalition of Americans for Pluralism in India (CAPI). It is one among the coalition of organizations that  have refused to carry forward the programming by the pro-Modi group in Times Square. 

The RSS, or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, being the parent organization of the current ruling party in India has its roots in pre-Independence times and were also known for openly supporting Hitler’s Nazi agenda. They were banned as many as four times when India was ruled by the national Congress, but it has now become the de-facto power under BJP rule, with Modi himself being a known RSS member. 

Indian American Muslim leaders, as well as human rights organizations, having categorically denounced this display of religious bigotry has called for a day long protest in the iconic Times Square from 8 AM, asking for this display of vehement arrogance to be stopped. Those like Adil and Dr. Shaik Ubaid (President of the Indian Minorities Advocacy Network) have also expressed concern on how the proponents of this fascist ideology have become so confident that they are celebrating an illegal and bloody act in the middle of Times Square, and for the entire world to see. But others like Kugelman expect, and have pointed out that while there will be messages in Times Square blaring out communal rhetoric, there may also be messages expressing solidarity for Kashmiris.

“It is perhaps fitting, in this globalized era, if the incredibly polarizing Kashmir issue plays out under the bright lights of Times Square”, said Kugelman over a brief electronic conversation, but added how this juxtaposition is also extremely divisive within the country on the whole.

The mandatory in this case seems more like a political campaign trick than anything to do with actual Hinduism, and essentially a symbiotic Displace perpetrated by a fascist government.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that this could be the rise of divisive Hindu supremacy as never seen before. In all its entirety, the day of August 5, 2020 marks the end of an era and the possible beginning of a new one. It detriments the idea that our founding forefathers had envisioned for the nation, and while we may not like it at the same time, this is essentially a new India that is emerging for everyone to see – one that is a land of strident Hindutva and religious dissonance at the forefront. 

LINK to the documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMT18TMNQbY

 

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The Perennial Siege: Kashmir’s Tense Lockdown Anniversary

A year after the revocation of Article 370—special status of the valley, Kashmir continues to be under security lockdown, intermittent internet restrictions, almost negligible functioning of education system, amid reports of continuous detentions and across-the-board human rights violations.

Two-day curfew has been imposed in Indian-administered Kashmir in anticipation of containing any form of dissent ahead of the 5 August anniversary—the day Indian government stripped Kashmir of its special status. Officials say the curfew is meant to prevent violence by groups planning to observe 5 August as “black day”.

On August 5 2019, the state was split into two federally administered regions and its semi-autonomous status was revoked. The decision to revoke article 370—part of Indian constitution that guaranteed Kashmir special status—an action with potentially devastating consequences for Kashmiri identity and community was met with anger and feeling of betrayal in the region although it was widely welcomed in the rest of the country. In preparation for this, it put Kashmir into a complete lockdown at midnight on Aug. 4, 2019. Eight million Kashmiris were restricted in their homes. In-an-effort to impose a complete communication blockade, internet connections were cut, and phone connections were terminated.

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Everything seems to have come to a halt, and the past experiences have begun to conjure the images of unprecedented violence. Since the revocation or illegal annexation of Kashmir on August 5, the betrayed and besieged population, including me, treated like a prisoner in a forsaken paradise on earth, continue to mourn India’s deceptively organized virulent manifestation of democracy. The fact-finding report, Women’s Voice, counters the state narrative of “return to normalcy,” indicating that 13,000 boys and young men were detained illegally after August 5, including some as young as 14, with some imprisoned for up to 45 days, and with families paying as much as 60,000 rupees ($850) for their release

Kashmiris, however, saw their integration as a threat to the state’s ethnic character, and a milestone on the road to the realization of the BJP’s dream of a fundamentally Hindu nation. Many legal commentators decried the Indian government’s unilateral abrogation as “illegal,” calling it an “unconstitutional deed,” which was “accomplished by deceitful means” (Noorani 2019). 

The Problem oF Kashmir

A brief context of the conflict offers a perspective to understand the problem of Kashmir. “The world is reaping the chaos the British Empire sowed,” Amy Hawkins wrote in Foreign Policy, and “local populace is still paying for the mess the British left behind in Hong Kong and Kashmir.” The anti-colonial uprisings in the Indian subcontinent, China, the Arab world and elsewhere did not result in freedom or democracy for the nations ruled by the British Empire”. In Kashmir, the British left a bleeding wound amid the partition of colonial India. Kashmir in post-partition and to be more succinct, post-1947 emerged as a boiling pot from the cultivation uterus of the two-nation theory.

Since then, Kashmir is known to be the most heavily militarized zones in the world. More than 7 million soldiers have been deployed, as per the reports, to counter what the Indian army itself claims as “cross-border terrorism”. This myth has been busted time and again because of the actions of the Indian government in the last three decades. If there were any doubts earlier, they should have cleared by now. Their real enemy is the Kashmiri people, especially “Kashmiri Muslims”, the hindrance in the way of turning India into a “Hindutva nation” claims Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2019 U.N. general assembly speech.

India’s decision to abolish the state’s nominal autonomy last year is the most far-reaching move in the region in the last 70 years and has been pushed by the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) as a development-focused action to “mainstream” the only Muslim-majority state in the subcontinent. While the government —which justified the shutdown as “preventive” — and the leading Indian media outlets are propagating an image of the region as slowly returning to “normalcy”, the reality on the ground, as documented by the New York Times, is very different. 

Kashmir continues to simmer under the siege.

Post 5—August SiegeAnd  Defiance

This season’s siege is more crushing than ever, possibly the worst since the first one nearly 30 years ago, a stratagem designed carefully to humiliate an entire population. There is also an unwavering manifestation of defiance, as by now the Kashmir street is sufficiently educated politically to not pin its hopes on an infusion of benevolence in the government’s Kashmir policy or any practical outcome from the partial solidarity from the international community. The mass arrests, in thousands, including minors and pellet victims [including a cancer patient] holding 7 million populations under eight hundred thousand jackboots has unveiled the façade of Indian democracy. 

“No government in the world has blocked Internet access as frequently as India. An incredible 213 times in just three years”, reports Time Magazine, “which is far more than Syria, Iran, Turkey, and Egypt together”. And more than half of those shutdowns have been enforced on Kashmir—is that because, questions Abid (PhD scholar, Dept. of political science department, Kashmir University) “of the special (autonomous) status Kashmir “enjoyed” in the larger Indian union? Will they also ban clean air, now that the special status has been erased?” 

Picking out promising adolescents; sometimes old men and even women, they branded them, as with batons and red-hot irons, to forcefully teach them how to behave. Abid Khan, 28, and Idrees, 29 from Shopian district in South Kashmir were raided in the middle of the night, tortured for hours by dozens of army men. Khan says he was dragged out and blindfolded along with his brother, who has learning difficulties, on August 14. “They gave electric shocks to my brother on the road outside our home. I heard him scream painfully,” quoted in AFP story, showing marks on his arms, legs and buttocks. Khan said. “Then they gave me electric shocks again on my genitals and wounds. One of them said ‘I will make you impotent’.” On September 13, Irshad Ahmed, a 12-year-old boy from neighboring Buchpora, Srinagar, suffered a serious head injury. His hospital registration card noted that it was a ‘fire-arm injury’, adding the word “alleged”. Those accompanying him said he had been hit by a cluster of pellets in his head. The bar has been raised so high for all forms of political dissent, and the detentions, numbering in thousands have choked any form of political activity on the ground. What remains still is an unwavering manifestation of the overarching defiance against the government-enforced execution of oppression. 

Pandemic Lockdown- In and Out of Kashmir

Since the world has now entered the sixth month of Covid-19 restrictions. With self-isolation, physical-distancing and e-learning online education, for most populations the robust internet and phone service has still provided a lifeline to let them work and be engaged and entertained. But in the Himalayan territory of Kashmir, the repression and militaristic method in the latest indignity in a 73-year cycle of oppression, militarization and scarcity especially since last year August in Kashmir has intensified: communications were completely cut in August 2019 and were only beginning, even after weeks pandemic broke out. Since March, only 2G is available, and only sporadically. As Waheed Mirza, novelist and political commentator on Kashmir asserts “A military siege is like a chokehold on an entire people”.  

For the world, asserts Arundhati Roy:

“Kashmir and Kashmiris signify as a prototype to learn the craft of surviving under a lockdown. For the former, it is a self-imposed precautionary measure experienced for the first time in the recent history by the world to fight against an unseen disease; as for the latter, it is the endless fight against the continuation of a seven month long enforced siege against their will.”

 This reality soon turned into a buzzword “the world is turning into Kashmir”. Azad Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan asserted India has been using the “cover of the coronavirus” to “mow down” Kashmiri youth and change the Muslim-majority character of the disputed region.  

According to news reports on Kashmir, anyone who violates curfew–even those with valid passes allowing them to leave their homes–risks being detained by soldiers or police and possibly beaten. Even doctors, who’ve been celebrated as heroes elsewhere in the world, report being harassed on their way to work in Kashmir, which already suffers an acute lack of medical resources and staff. Limited access to information has also obstructed Kashmir’s coronavirus fight. The region uses 2G internet, an online connection so slow that it is nonexistent elsewhere in the world. Indian authorities have cut online access in Kashmir 55 times since it was restored in March 2020. According to the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies, a local group that documents and litigates human rights abuses “this has delayed doctors’ ability to read emerging treatment guidelines and new research on the disease”.

For some, the repressive methods allude to the fact that the Indian government’s priorities in Kashmir have not been changed by the pandemic. “Any administration that is willing to impose the longest Internet shutdown in history only believes in the right of censorship and surveillance,” says Mishi Choudhary, the legal director at the Software Freedom Law Center, a group that campaigns for Internet freedoms. The period post 5 August 2019 has changed the whole political landscape of the region. This season’s siege is more crushing than ever, possibly the worst since that first one nearly 30 years ago, a stratagem designed carefully to humiliate an entire people. 

Mental health workers say “Kashmir is witnessing an alarming increase in instances of depression, anxiety and psychotic events”.  Doctors Without Borders estimated after surveying 5,600 households in 2015. Nine of 10 have experienced conflict-related traumas. The figures are much higher than in India, according to other surveys.

Education: The Perennial Casualty

Ten months after India unilaterally revoked Kashmir’s autonomy, reports New York Times, “education stands as one of the crisis’s most glaring casualties”. Previously, Kashmiri Valley in particular suffered huge education losses as the students were forcibly kept away from schools and colleges by frequent official curfews and restrictions, shutdowns, incidents of violence and prolonged political unrest stretching for months, the worst of these witnessed in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2016. “The long school closures in the valley cause major disruptions in young people’s educational and professional development, producing feelings of insecurity, helplessness, and demoralization,” said Haley Duschinski, an anthropologist at Ohio University specializing in Kashmir.

Around 1.5 million Kashmiri students remain out of school. All educational institutions are closed, and most government and private schools are shut—except for few intermittent opening of educational institutions for some weeks, one of the clearest signs of the fear that has gripped Kashmir since the Indian government locked down the disputed territory. Parents in the Kashmir Valley also show this fear that “they are terrified of sending their children out with any exception reaction from the public amid troops deployed everywhere and on the prowl for trouble”. 

“What if the school or a bus carrying children is attacked?” asked Saqib Mushtaq Bhat, a father worried about violence by Indian troops or militants. “What if there are protests and their faces get shot by pellets?’’ Amid only 2G internet services working in the valley, G.N. Var, chairman of Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir (PSAJK) which has 2,200 schools associated with it, termed it ‘denial of right to education’. The research scholars across the valley have equally suffered due to low speed internet and hugely affected the mental stability of people across the spectrum of the society. 

He said, “The restrictions on high speed internet are making it difficult for our students to avail online courses and access information which is vital in their career-building. We see it as a denial of the right to education.”  Reports suggest “no government in the world has blocked Internet access as frequently as India with 55 Internet blackouts in 2019 alone, including the longest in recorded history, 213 days, when Delhi put the valley on lockdown last year August.

Settler Colonialism

So far, anti-insurgency operations have proved equally devastating for Kashmiris amid the pandemic. As of June 30, 229 killings, 107 CASO’s (cordon and search operation), 55 internet shutdowns, 48 properties destroyed in the first half of 2020. Children and women continued to be victims of violence in J&K as 3 children and 2 women were killed in the first half of 2020. India continues to take possession of Kashmir despite being hit ever harder by the pandemic.

With all the constitutional amendments and new laws India has instituted in Kashmir especially since 5 August last year, the Palestinian case is often invoked to find the parallelism of how this sounds like the beginning of settler colonialism. The recent developments that highlight this process are, on the contrary, a further deepening and expansion of a matrix of control characteristic of such a project, duly aided through laws, to ensure the eventual elimination of the native.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration’s order to withdraw a 1971 circular that made it mandatory for the Indian Army, the Border Security Force and the Central Reserve Police Force to obtain a “no objection certificate” to acquire land in the region is also seen as part of a settler colonial project. Not only has the decrees evoked a sharp reaction among locals, which have long feared Delhi’s forceful integration of the restive region with the Indian union, but observers are also accusing Modi’s right-wing dispensation of using the Covid-19 pandemic to advance its Hindu settler colonial enterprise in the region, saying it is a page right out of the Israeli playbook to transform the region’s demographics. United Kingdom-based Kashmiri lawyer Mirza Saaib Bég argues that “J&K’s demography is bound to be altered beyond belief. And at a speed so astonishing that the procedure for issuing a domicile certificate will seem, unfortunately, a quasi-colonial project”.

Around 400 thousand people have been granted domicile certificates in Indian-administered Kashmir till July, 2020 proving right the fears of the beginning of demographic changes in the Muslim-majority Himalayan region. The certificate, a sort of citizenship right, entitles a person to residency and government jobs in the region, which till last year was reserved only for the local population. “The whole purpose of revoking Article 370 was to settle outsiders here and change the demography of the state. Now this provides the modalities and entitles so many categories of Indians whose settlement will be legalised over here.” – Kashmiri law professor and legal scholar Sheikh Showkat Hussain (Al Jazeera, April 1, 2020).

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden said, “India should take all necessary steps to restore the rights of all the people of Kashmir.” He also asserts “Restrictions on dissent, such as peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the internet weakens democracy,” in a policy paper posted on his website. Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement that India’s latest step was a vindication of the country’s “consistent stance that the major intention behind the Indian Government’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019 was to change the demographic structure of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and turn Kashmiris into a minority in their own land”.

“This has long been part of the RSS-BJP’s ‘Hindutva’ agenda,” the statement added.

An  Indian Consul General in New York, Sandeep Chakraborty’s recent call for the ‘Israel model’ in Kashmir should ring alarm bells for the Muslim world. He flagrantly asserted “I don’t know why we don’t follow it. It has happened in the Middle East. If the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it,” Chakravorty said.

Kashmiris on Twitter were quick to call out Al-Jazeera, accusing them of “promoting settler colonialism”. The social media users were mainly drawing a parallel with expansionist or colonial settlements of Israeli Jews in Palestine or of Han Chinese in Xinjiag to forcibly settle and diffuse indigenous identity.

Tailpiece:

Kashmir is transformed into an open prison where the state works with a self-proscribed impunity to confiscate or mitigate basic universal rights, while the Indian state is trying to entice assimilatory participation of the common people. That territory-wide control by the state and its various institutions is countered through years of survival, persistence and resistance against the state’s operations over Kashmiri lives.

One inevitable fact that successive union governments since India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru have arrogantly with military highhandedness ignored is the political question of Kashmir. The recent political expedition of the Indian government in Kashmir paradigmatically problematized the political destiny of Kashmir and future of Kashmiris. Even in the 21st century globalized world, in the middle of a global pandemic, 8 million people are denied access to education, livelihood, entertainment, and health respite via a medium that has become an essential service for the rest of the world.

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Indian Myths Channel Genocide in Kashmir

India is a land and society of myths. More so now than ever before, under the Hindutva-inspired Bharatiya Janata Party government led by the claim of the myth manufacturer Modi: “India is a democracy; it is in our DNA.”

A much talked about myth has been that India is a secular state, and in the light of the post August 5 2019 developments in Kashmir and the Indian mainland, much sighing is being aired that Indian secularism is endangered.

However, the question arises, when was India secular? Was India “secular,” when it invaded Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) on October 26, 1947 on the pretext that a non-Muslim should rule a Muslim-majority state, or was it “secular” when Hyderabad Deccan was invaded and annexed on September 23, 1948 on the pretext that a Muslim could not rule over a Hindu majority?

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Based on a myth about the birthplace of the mythical “Lord Rama,” the 600-year old Babri Mosque was attacked and demolished on December 6, 1992. India’s Supreme Court validated the goon squad’s action on November 9, 2019. Today, the mosque’s attackers rule India.

Even the national anthem ‘Vande Matram’ is not secular, where Muslims object to its idolatrous aspects. For instance, the fourth stanza, addresses motherland India as, “Thou art Durga, Lady and Queen, with her hands that strike and her swords of sheen, Thou art Lakshmi lotus-throned…”

When a Muslim sings these words, he is forced to equate his country with the Hindu goddesses Durga and Lakshmi, thereby deifying the land of India. This goes against the concept of tawheed (the Absolute Oneness of God), according to which a Muslim cannot supplicate to anyone except God.

The other long-standing myth, which India validated through a presidential fiat last year, is that J&K are its “integral” part – a territory it has occupied since September 1947 with a million-man force. In doing so, it served up another myth: the constitutional relationship between J&K and India.

Subodh Varma (“Some Myths About Article 370, 35A and Kashmir”, Sabrang India August 8, 2019) explains that in the process of effectively scrapping Article 370 of the Constitution through a presidential order supported by a Lok Sabha (lower house) resolution, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its supporters regurgitated a slew of myths, half-truths and sleights of hand that have been part of its parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) propaganda for decades. Ironically, many parties and opinion leaders who do not subscribe to the RSS ideology also repeated them, which show how far these myths have traveled. Meanwhile, social media went ballistic with RSS/BJP supporters posting bizarre claims while others started offering land for sale in Kashmir.

Arun Jaitley (d. August 24, 2019), who served as finance minister from 2014 to 2019, had tweeted on August 4, “J&K integration with India took place in October 1947. Article 370 came into force in 1952, Article 35A came in 1954, four and seven years later respectively. How can Articles 370 and 35A be a condition precedent to merger?”

He had sought to prove that Articles 370 and 35A were somehow unrelated to J&K’s “joining” [albeit perforce] the Indian Union implying that they are unnecessary and also that they were the result of some [past] Congress governments’ stupidity.

This is a lie.

On October 26, 1947, India invaded J&K, obliging its ruler, Raja Hari Singh, to sign the Instrument of Accession (IOA); the Dogra ruler’s ancestor having purchased the territory and its citizen from the British. However, this document states that the Indian parliament could only legislate on the state’s defense, external affairs, communications and some ancillary subjects. The agreement’s Clause 5 reads: “The terms of this my Instrument of Accession cannot be varied by any amendment of the Act or of Indian Independence Act unless such amendment is accepted by me by an Instrument supplementary to this Instrument.” Clause 7 says: “Nothing in this Instrument shall be deemed to commit me in any way to acceptance of any future constitution of India or to fetter my discretion to enter into arrangements with the Government of India under any such future constitution.”

Simply stated, it says that many things left pending in the IOA were to be settled later through negotiations. After its invasion, India, which faced the Kashmiri resistance till 1949, finally seeking a UN-negotiated armistice, has yet to lay out the laws and governance mechanism. Accordingly, the UN Security Council adopted successive resolutions call for a plebiscite where the Kashmiris would vote freely to decide their future.

The UN continues to recognize Kashmir as a disputed territory.

The 1947 partition agreed upon by Muslim and Hindu leaders with Britain, the departing colonial ruler, reads that Muslim majority states would merge with Pakistan. Kashmir is a clear case.

To preserve the IOA’s spirit and to reassure the Raja, Article 370 was moved in India’s Constituent Assembly in May 1949, which was voted to be part of the Indian Constitution in October 1949. Consequently, Presidential Orders were issued in 1950, 1952 and 1954 to settle various issues. Jawaharlal Nehru  -India’s first prime minister- and his interior minister Vallabhbhai Patel (d. 1950) were part of these negotiations, which negates the RSS myth that Patel opposed Article 370.

The RSS propped up the full integration bogey to stir up agitation against the land reforms initiated by the Raja-appointed Sheikh Abdullah government. The RSS gave it a communal hue as the landowners were mostly Dogras and Pandits and most peasants were Muslims.

The RSS/BJP propaganda about Article 35A hides the fact that Raja Hari Singh had proclaimed the Hereditary State Subject Order in 1927, which allowed only the state’s residents to own land and to government jobs. The state’s assembly voted to include this order in the J&K Constitution. In keeping with the IOA terms regarding the preservation of rights of state’s residents, Article 35A was added to the Constitution through the Presidential Order of 1954.

Kashmir’s annexation falls under RSS ambition of a pure Hindu India.

The RSS states that J&K, with its “oppressive Muslim-majority character, has been a headache for our country ever since Independence.”

RSS alleges that forces “inimical to Bharat never wanted Kashmir to integrate itself with Bharat …  and in October 1947, these elements conspired with the enemy to defeat every move to save the situation from our [Indian] side.” While, India continues to loudly claim that it was Pakistani tribal fighters and not Kashmiri freedom-fighters who confronted the Indian invading army, RSS claims that it was its fighters who fought alongside Indian troops, adding that if a ceasefire had not been agreed upon, its fighters would have helped completely conquer J&K.

RSS blames the large Muslim presence for J&K being conferred a special status under Article 370, even after its total “accession.”

On December 11, 1991, BJP president Dr. Murli Manohar and Narendra Modi, and also, the now interior minister Amit Shah, led the 15,000 mile “Ekta Yatra” (Unity March) from Kanyakumari -a Tamil Nadu coastal town, the southernmost town in mainland India- which culminated in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk on January 26, 1992 to hoist the Indian flag, signaling that they had “arrived to settle the account.”

RSS claims: “The endless appeasement of the Muslim population, especially in Kashmir, practiced by the successive governments at Delhi, has been the bane of our government’s Kashmir policy. Just as too much mollycoddling and lack of discipline spoil the child, so has been Kashmir, a problem created out of our own folly.” RSS alleges that Pakistan arms militants for armed revolt from within India.

Amit Shah has harped the long-repeated party line that Article 370 is the root cause of spread of terrorism. As a corollary, it is also said that the article was the source of sentimental belief in a separate Kashmir, providing ground to cross-border terrorists to exploit.

However, it is the erosion of Article 370 that has led to increasing disenchantment of Kashmiris and their search for a way out. For instance, Article 370 provided for extending provisions of law to J&K through Presidential Orders, issued after concurrence of the state assembly. However, the 1954 Order has extended almost the entire Constitution to J&K. Out of the 97 entries in the Union List, 94 have been made applicable to the state and out of the 47 entries in the Concurrent List, 26 have been extended to the state. This has largely reduced the state’s powers. Overall, Article 370’s provisions were used at least 45 times to extend Constitution’s provisions to J&K.

Not only have the J&K rights been increasingly restricted, but also the spirit of the section has been violated by simply getting the state government to rubber stamp such extensions.

Also, the J&K Constitution was amended several times using Article 370. For instance, Article 356 was extended removing a similar provision in the J&K Constitution (Article 92), which called for President’s concurrence for imposing President’s rule. Article 370 was used for the extension of President’s rule. Even Article 249 (parliament’s power to make laws on State List entries) was extended to J&K through a recommendation of the governor, bypassing the state legislature.

In the past, Congress governments and later BJP, used these measures to manipulate the politics of the state to install ministries or impose President’s Rule.

Another myth, really a blatant lie, proffered by BJP, is that development was not possible because Article 370 didn’t allow it. Post-August 5, Indian politicians and opinion leaders continue to harp that with the removal of special status, including J&K will now become part of global India. Seriously, how Article 370 stopped any government from providing or encouraging more investment and industry in the state when most provisions of the Constitution, including Union list entries were extended to the state. The Union governments could have undertaken any economic measures or programs they wanted in J&K. In fact, there was nothing except unkempt promises of colossal special packages. No Indian government undertook any economic or political measures that would provide sustainable and long-term benefits to J&K.

Simply, the removal of Article 35A will now free real estate sharks to gobble up properties and use it for setting up private businesses including private schools. It is difficult to believe that private investment will flow into J&K, when an occupied people there are discontented and uncertain.

Indian propagandists in and out of government harp on the myth Articles 370 and 35A, and the arrangements they enshrine, were unique to J&K. In fact, Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, and Goa enjoy similar provisions. In other states too, there are laws preventing non-domiciliary persons from owning land.

The Narendra Modi-led central government had, after the revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, recently announced that people will now be able to buy land in Kashmir. As a result, the 1971 circular, which restricted land acquisition and requisition without a ‘No Objection Certificate (NOC)” from the Home Department, has now been replaced by the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. And, the displacement of Kashmiris with the replacement of Indians has begun the process of ethnic cleansing, leading to a genocide of the Kashmiri people.

Citizens of India ought not to live by the myth of living in the largest democracy and in greatness but instead should heed to Gandhi, “as human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”

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