Alienation and Violence in Kashmir

Acquiring weapons for the defense of Muslims is a religious duty. If I have indeed acquired these weapons, then I thank God for enabling me to do so. And if I seek to acquire these weapons, I am carrying out a duty. It would be a sin for Muslims not to try to possess the weapons that would prevent the infidels from inflicting harm on Muslims.
                              –Osama bin Laden, Time magazine, Dec 1998

We have learned that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness. And the surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and plans. We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today so that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities.
                              –George W. Bush, September 7, 2003

If I can have nothing to do with the organized violence of the Government, I can have less to do with the unorganized violence of the people. I would prefer to be crushed between the two.
                               –Mahatma Gandhi

Alienation breeds terrorism: so say the experts. Poverty, deprivation, subjugation, discrimination, illiteracy provoke alienation and violence. But, is alienation by itself enough prerequisite? From the example below it seems some other factors are at play. Two communities from the same gene pool and same culture have emerged differently after six hundred years of treading different paths in history.

Kashmir acquired its name after a sage Kashyap who reclaimed the water logged land and settled there with his people about 5000 years ago. Over succeeding centuries it evolved into a seat of Buddhist and Hindu learning and by 1300AD it was a place for scholars and not soldiers. The ethos was of compassion, acceptance and spirituality. Intellectual disputes were settles by debates. The sage was revered more than the king. Wise word was more persuasive that the sword.

And then Kashmir confronted its ‘nine-eleven’ in the persona of a brutal king in 1389AD. Sikander, a fundamentalist zealot, adopted the last name of ‘Butshikan’ because he hated idol worship of the Hindus and proceeded to destroy the culture, religion, music, literature and temples with impunity. Two choices on the table were: convert to Islam or die. Many chose death, some escaped and emigrated but the majority converted to Islam. By the time his reign ended in 1413AD — legend has it– only eleven Hindu Pundit families had managed to survive in the valley of Kashmir. Trained in the thoughts of Upanishads that, “Truth is one, the wise call it by different names” and hence “The world is one family” they were at a loss to come to terms with the notion that Islam and only Islam provided all the answers.

Over next six hundred years with sporadic exodus and attrition their population declined. Kashmir, which had a hundred percent Hindu and Buddhist population, became predominantly an Islamic state.

The Muslim majority of Kashmir has been ill at ease with the secular Indian constitution and has felt alienated for many genuine and perceived reasons. The corrupt politicians and the Indian security forces have added fuel to the fire. The simmer came to boil and culminated in the second ‘nine-eleven’ in 1989, six hundred years after the first: the start of current Islamic militancy. The choice for the Hindus was the repeat of 1389AD: leave or die. 350,000 Pundits were thrown out in a matter of months. Some, who were naïve enough to ignore history stayed back only to face plunder, brutality and murder. Exiled Hindu Pundits – 350.000 of them – struggled and suffered in refugee camps outside Kashmir.

This was the tragic end of an intellectual culture of 5000 years – but not the value system. Without money, food, housing, medicines, do you think they were alienated enough to become terrorists? Here is the answer: in the last seventeen years, from 1989 to 2006, Kashmiri Pundit community, having lost everything, living in subhuman deprivation has not produced a single terrorist. Not one. In fact, in the last 600 years they have not cultivated a single militant.

Here is the question: how is it, two communities from the same gene pool, same cultural background of 5000 years, both alienated for one reason or the other in the recent past, choose different paths to solve similar problems?

Therein may lay some answer to solve prevailing violent mindset of nations and communities.

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