Kashmir valley politicians have mastered the art of inciting in subtle ways the inflammable religious sentiments of the majority community. The era of Indian voters distinguishing between a selfless leader and unsparing nonsense is yet to arrive. The irony is that a party carrying on its shoulders a huge baggage of fake “secularism” for nearly a century should have the compulsion of talking the language of a fanatic. It is regrettable.
Dr Farooq Abdullah, the party scion, has recently made a statement that “they (BJP government) want to convert Kashmir into a Hindu majority.” Such off-the-cuff statements coming from the lower rungs of the National Conference spring no surprise to a Kashmir watcher. Because there is absolutely no substance in such insinuations, nobody takes it seriously. Not even the ordinary Kashmiri, to whatever faith or faction, he belongs, will he take it seriously.
But coming from the mouth of Dr Farooq Abdullah, the tallest leader in the valley, who was not only the chief minister of J&K for decades but also a cabinet minister at the centre and currently a parliamentarian, such statements are unfortunate.
Farooq often calls himself an Indian, lock, stock and barrel. Recently he asserted in the parliament “main ek Hindutstani hun, yahan hi jeena aur marna hai.” (I am an Indian and I live and die here). This is a bold statement uttered in parliament. Misinformed Indians take him for granted.
He often repeats the rhetoric. Though such statements are gall to pro-Pak and separatist elements in Kashmir, yet he says it from the depth of his heart. We all know the reason why he says so. Pakistani leadership never showed his father the respect he deserved as the tallest leader of Kashmir. They had hatred for him and the National Conference of which he was the founder.
Farooq has lived in London and he has had good contacts with the Pakistani and PoK diaspora in the UK. He has also been rubbing shoulders with them, particularly when his father was removed from power and kept under house arrest for more than a decade.
As a dutiful son, he carried out activities in UK and PoK to arouse public opinion in favour of his detained father. He even would take the center stage in rallies in different towns of PoK — Mirpur, Kotli, Bag etc. — and raise anti-India slogans. We cannot vilify him for such activities, (he is said to have even taken up a gun in his hand at one rally and said that if India does not understand us Kashmiris, we shall make use of this—lifting the gun!).
These are the bouts of sentimentality, and one should not make them a point to decide the role of Farooq.But saying that “they” want to convert the valley into a Hindu majority at a time when he is not in power and has crossed eight and half decades of his life, is unacceptable. Why so? Let me explain.
Sometimes early 1981 Sheikh Abdullah was in power for the second time. A booklet of about 35 pages titled in Urdu as Kashmir ki aksariyyat ko aqalliyat main badalne ki sazish (The conspiracy of converting Kashmir majority into minority) was written by Abdur Rahim Rather, then a legislator and later the finance minister in Farooq’s cabinets. It was printed at Nawai Subh printing press of the Urdu newspaper Khidmat, the official organ of NC. Perhaps only a limited number of its copies were published with a red cover, and hence called Red Book. The language of the booklet was not at all of Abdur Rahim Rather. Those in Kashmir conversant with the style of the biography of Sheikh Abdullah (Atash-e-Chinar) will have no difficulty in guessing who the real scriptwriter of this booklet could be.
The theme of the book proves the deep obsession of a Muslim mind with self-generated collective insecurity, and hence non-transparency and secrecy. Nothing could be called a wilder imagination than the contents of this booklet. Its anti-Hindu text is profusely interspersed with highly provocative and daunting verses from Allama Iqbal. The refrain is that a great conspiracy is hatched in the spheres of destroying the Muslims of Kashmir, and by implication, the unnamed destroyer is Hindu India. (The English version of this booklet has been appended to a publication titled Some Insights into Contemporary Kashmir History).
So obnoxious and loathsome was the impact of this piece of propaganda that the booklet had to be withdrawn within two hours of its distribution among the selected individuals in the bureaucracy and legislature. Despite all the grouse that Farooq Sahib may have against the Modi government, he will hang his head in shame reading this booklet.
No doubt the booklet was withdrawn forthwith but the point is that it reflects the mindset of individuals who claim to be the elected leaders from a “secular” political party. The decimation of the philosophy of “secularism” paid substantial dividends to the author who was taken into Farooq’s cabinet as finance minister. Was not Farooq subtly Islamizing Kashmir?
This event took place in 1981. I would ask Dr Farooq to go through the census data of 2011 and see for himself the ratio of the Muslim and Hindu population in Kashmir. According to official figures, the population of Srinagar city in 2011 showed an increase of 20.35 per cent in comparison to the census of 2001 and Anantnag showed an increase of 38.58 per cent for the same period. In both towns, the population of Muslims is 99.7 per cent and 99.9 per cent respectively. The population of Hindus in the valley in 1947 was around 7 per cent and today 2023, their population is just .07 per cent. Is that changing Kashmir into a Hindu majority?
Farooq Sahib will never answer the question of whether or not the ethnic cleansing of Kashmir in 1990 was a meticulously planned and closely guarded secret till the last minute.When that barbaric plan was launched on 19 January 1990, Farooq Sahib, apprehensive that the nuts and bolts of the conspiracy would become known sooner or later, resigned as chief minister and ran away to London to shy away from the people who had reposed trust in him and voted him to power. He betrayed and went on playing golf in London.
His defunct council of ministers hid in government bungalows in Jammu and arranged foolproof security guards for the entire group lest they faced reprisals from the local people in Jammu. At the same time, these defunct political gangsters quickly established liaisons with the commanders of the jihadists operating in the valley. The rest is history.
One would like to ask Dr Farooq Abdullah whether the ethnic cleansing of Kashmir of its entire Hindu population of nearly 3.5 lakhs will be called “changing the democratic complexion of Kashmir or whether providing 80 lakh crore rupees as a development plan for Jammu and Kashmir will be called changing the demography of Kashmir. Whether the clandestine, and illegal settlement of 89 thousand Rohingya migrants in Jammu (not Kashmir) and providing them all civic facilities including ration cards, free electric connection etc., will be called “demographic change of Kashmir or clandestinely allowing nearly one million Muslim labourers from UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh to settle down in the valley, marry Kashmiri Muslim girls and raise families will be called changing the demography of Kashmir.
This is food for thought for Dr Farooq Sahib to recollect how he has been instrumental in the Islamization of Kashmir. If there is any reaction to his communal and parochial policy narrative from nationalist quarters, why should he become upset? We have only unveiled the tip of the iceberg; the story is long and weird.