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The Many Faces of Kashmiri Nationalism: From the Cold War to the Present Day

By Nandita Haksar

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The Communists contributed to the resistance against the tribal raiders during [the] first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.They too believed that the raiders had been sent by the Pakistani army, encouraged by the British. Women—Hindu and Muslim—formed the women’s militia and learnt to fire .303 rifles and throw hand grenades. Children, too,were organized and were armed with sticks. Even though Srinagar waswithout power after the invaders blew up the hydro-electric plant at Mahura, and the winter was cold, the spirit of the Kashmiris never dampened. K.A. Abbas, the filmmaker, said that the atmosphere was like when the Communists joined the international brigade against fascism in Spain. He said: ‘Poets have come to die for their poetry.’

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The base of Ahl-e-Hadith followers was increasing significantly and the attack on Sufi shrines was just a small indication of its growing attraction. This increase has also been greatly facilitated by the funds which have been made available by the Pakistani intelligence agency and Saudi funders. It is estimated that 1,500,000 members, over 16 per cent of Jammu and Kashmir’s Muslims, now follow the Salafi school.

Sampat had also noticed that the Ahl-e-Hadith, whom he calls Allahwale, had been actively organizing meetings all over Kashmir. He had even attended some of their meetings and had found bureaucrats and government servants openly attending them. The speakers discussed various aspects of Islam but there was no mention of Kashmir or the movement for self-determination. At the end of each meeting, collections were made for the construction of mosques; these mosques were being built in the Saudi architectural style. Gone were the colourful Kashmiri mosques which resembled pagodas.

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Afzal could see that Kashmir was making a shift towards a more radical Islam and he knew the role of Pakistan and its intelligence agency in this development. But he thought India could not stem the tide by offering economic development alone. He wrote to me:

    Jesus the son of Marry (Maryam) (Peace be upon them) says Man does not live by bread alone. Economic packages cannot bring peace in Kashmir. The people who are constantly living in the flux of humiliation and fear does not need bread… which Allah has given every person for a single mouth. What people need is a political framework in which they don’t feel themselves vulnerable, humiliated or terrorized. The people of Kashmir want honourable space to live on this planet. They are not demanding stars.

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