What is “Special”?
It is an undisputed fact that the Modi government has been undoing many a blunders of the Congress government, one by one, and the move to fully integrate Jammu & Kashmir is the one which deserves the maximum praise. In our daily life, we come across so many issues which are characterized by a particular term and we tend to accept that without questioning. This is essentially the crux of the problem for the people not realizing the intricacies of the issue and getting carried hoodwinked by vested interest. The so called “Special Status” for J&K is one such issue.
What is the Special Status? There is a separate Constitution, Flag, Criminal Procedure Code, Prime Minister, President (the last two items not in vogue anymore) and so on. Why this special status was conferred to J&K in the first place? This is the question we failed to ask and find answers to.
It is said that Kashmiris feared that their identity and culture would be overrun by “Indians” and in order to protect their identity and culture, they do not want Indians into J&K except as tourists. This seems a genuine concern, to some extent, until the real reasons are brought into light. Tweeting about the reorganization of J&K re-organization bill, Mehbooba Mufti, one of the few families that were exploiting the people of Kashmir over generations, lamented “GOIs intention is clear & sinister. They want to change demography of the only Muslim majority state in India, disempower Muslims to the extent where they become second class citizens in their own state”. It is clear that nobody is talking about “Kashmiri Culture” for quite a long time and everyone is worried about religious identity only. Mehbooba is worried about Muslims being reduced to a Minority in the so called only Muslim majority state in India. Does it occur to anyone that how could there be a classification based on religion in a “Secular Country” like India?
In a secular setup, there cannot be any identity based on religion, as far as a province is concerned but this is what keeps the families ticking in J&K. Except for J&K, Muslims are in a minority in every State and UTs of India but far from being second class citizens, as Mehbooba would want us to believe, they are the most powerful group religiously what with every other party vying with each other to pamper them.
If J&K is to be accepted as the only Muslim majority State in India and this has to be protected, why cannot this be applied to India as a whole and India classified as the only Hindu majority nation in the world and take all steps to protect the Hindu majority from diminishing?
While we, from states or UTs other than J&K cannot work or settle there, Kashmiris are settled all over the country and doing business, since opportunities are very limited in J&K. In Spencer Plaza in Chennai, one of the famous malls here, there are some Kashmiri shopkeepers and one of them was telling a reporter that he was sad that the status they enjoyed for decades had been taken away in a jiffy. The shopkeeper also added that he was married and owned a house in Chennai.
The motive behind the “Special Status” is not culture or identity but only religion is there for everyone to see but we failed miserably in identifying it. While Kashmiris are settled all over the country, unless they reveal their identity, we will not be able to identify them as Kashmiris. Anyone can easily identify a Tamil or a Malayalee or a Telugu or a Bihari neighbor from their language, rituals, festivals, food habits etc but you cannot identify a Kashmiry by any of these. Then, where is the Kashmiri identity then? It is only the religious identity, masquerading as Cultural identity.
If people from other states, who have much in common with the Kashmiris, migrating to J&K will destroy the cultural identity of Kashmir, what about Rohingyas, who have nothing in common with the Kashmiris, except for being Muslims? Why should the Kashmiris, read the exploiting families calling themselves mainline political leaders, welcome the Rohingyas and accommodate them? Will it not affect their culture or identity? Thus, it is obvious now that the only identity is religion and the Kashmiri politicians are against secularism and rabid religious fundamentalists.
If J&K wants to remain a Muslim majority state in a Secular country, it is like an oxymoron. Either J&K has to forget its religious identity or else India has to become a Hindu Rashtra. There is no place for a State or UT based on a religious identity in a secular nation and this is sought to be corrected by the historic J&K re-organization bill passed in the Rajya Sabha on the 05th of August 2019.
The bogey of terrorism or uprising of people will not be of any use anymore. The cowards who had been exploiting the people for their self-interests will be thrown into the dustbins of history by the Kashmiris and like everyone else, the ordinary Kashmiri wants Roti, Kapda aur Makaan, like any other human anywhere in the world.
A Political Science graduate, Writer, Playwright, Actor, Director & Columnist