On 5 August, 2019, it was announced in the Rajya Sabha that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is to be abrogated under the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019 signed by President of India. The Gazette Notification states: “The Constitution Order shall come into force at once, and shall thereupon supersede Article 370 as amended from time to time.”
Political reactions on the revocation of the Article 370 are a separate part of the issue. What we must not overlook is the theological underpinnings on 5 August, 2019, that have unfolded over time. But little has been reflected on this part even though it has had a significant place in the valley’s history and in the militant theology and politics.
A glance at the primary sources, or at least a thorough reading of secondary sources, would help us in an analysis of how and why the Kashmir issue was Islamised. According to the noted researcher on the South Asian Islamic history, Yoginder Sikand, in the decades after Independence, the Jamaat-e-Islami leaders insisted “a carefully planned Indian conspiracy was at work to destroy the Islamic identity of the Kashmiris, through Hinduising the school syllabus and spreading immorality and vice among the youth”.
Thus, Jamaat-e-Islami leaders in Kashmir launched an ideological onslaught on the prevailing Sufi and Shavite traditions in the valley, which were castigated as ‘elements enabling an atmosphere of inter-religious coexistence’, something antithetical to the very idea of Jama’at-e-Islami.
Shahid Lone, a Kashmiri writer and research scholar explains in his piece in The Caravan that it is a “bizarre claim that the Jama’at advocates the creation of an autonomous state of Kashmir governed by Islamic law. This is a flawed assertion ascribed to the Jama’at because it considers Kashmir an unfinished agenda of partition.”
Since its inception, the Jama’at has seen to the disputed territory through the prism of ‘pan-Islamism’. Through its mouthpiece magazines like Azaan and Mo’min, and in multiple resolutions passed by its advisory council, Jama’at has voiced the same concerns that led to the separation of the Jama’at-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir from its parent organisation—Jama’at-e-Islami Hind, Lone argues. (1)
Yoginder Sikand writes in his research paper “For Islam and Kashmir: the prison diaries of Sayyed Ali Gilani of the Jama’At‐I‐Islami of Jammu and Kashmir”:
“Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, however, the JIJK [Jama’at-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir) began shifting towards a distinct radicalism, calling for an Iranian-style movement in Jammu and Kashmir to free the region from Indian control. Since then, the JIJK has been in the forefront of the political struggle for the independence of Jammu and Kashmir from India. Today it is actively involved in the armed Kashmiri uprising, which it considers to be a jihad. In this, it has received the support of, among others, the Jama’at-i-Islami of Pakistan, which has long characterized the struggle in Kashmir as a religious war between Islam and disbelief (kufr).” (2)
Indeed, Maulana Maududi, the Jama’at Islami founder-ideologue was very much inspired by Imam Khomeini, the ideologue and leader of the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution and he sought to achieve the same objectives in India. He was of the belief that Islam is essential for politics. In his understanding, secularism, nationalism and socialism, were influences of western imperialism, and it was incumbent and obligatory (farz-e-ain) to institute the Shariat to preserve the Islamic identity. He founded the Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI) in the British-occupied India in 1941 after the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan al-Muslimin) was established in Egypt in 1928, with an avowed inspiration from Maududi. At least in India, Sikand notes, JeI was the first of its kind organisation to develop “an ideology based on the modern revolutionary conception of Islam.”
Though the Indian government has recently banned the Jama’at-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir for being “in close touch with militant outfits” and for “supporting extremism and militancy in Jammu and Kahsmir, and elsewhere”, a lot more outfits will get involved in such subversive activities in the country intended to cause disaffection. More to the point, this is not the first time that Jama’at-e-Islami of J&K was banned. Earlier, it was banned in 1975, as it opposed the Indira-Abdullah accord by calling it as the “gross violation of UN resolution” and then again it was banned in 1990. However, the ban which was lifted in 1993 could not serve the purpose of curbing the religious extremism in the valley.
Now in the days after the Article 370 has been abrogated, the Islamisation of the Kashmir issue will turn into grimmer situation. More and more Islamo-supremacist, pan-Islamist political organisations and the self-styled social and welfare movements will join the ranks of JIJ&K. However, the chief lesson that Muslims in India particularly need to learn from all this is that they must not heed the ‘Islamisation’ of the conflict zones in the world including the Kashmir dispute.
We must stop the neo-clergy—mostly engineers, physicians and tech-savvy preachers with little idea of socio-cultural humanities and with nodding acquaintance of Islamic theology—from lecturing on how to maintain an ‘Islamic identity’ in India. We must closely look at our neighbour and the most Muslim-populated country—Indonesia—where Islam has been well contextualised, localised and even vernacularized, as an outcome of cultural interaction and re-interpretation of universal Islamic values according to socio-cultural realities and is popularly known as “Islam Nusantara”. An exclusivist Islamic identity which was never ever part of the syncretic valley of Kashmir has been deeply imbibed by the Jam’at-e-Islami and the ilk.
It would take both the Indian Muslims and the state to exert more rigorous efforts to restore the ‘lost’ Kashmirityat of Islam in the valley, by reclaiming cultural confluence of Islamic and Sanskiritc traditions, and not just by revoking the Article 370 in one stroke. The complete integration of Kashmir in India is indeed long-cherished goal, and the historic decision to grant the state of J&K as Union Territory does offer a ray of hope to the majority of Indians. It will certainly benefit them in terms of immigration, investment and a firm Central rule, but sorry to sound disappointing, it will not erase the three-decade old pan-Islamist ideology unless the lost Kashmiriyat is revived or a new kind of Kashmir founded on progressive values rather than the ethnic-religious identity, is evolved. The Indian government has to contemplate whether the Article 370 has been virtually abrogated to restore Kashmiriyat or merely in terms of investment and immigration. To this objective analysis, it’s not going to do much to help restore the Kashmiriyat—the idea that the radical Islamists have been fighting against in Kashmir for decades.
- “Rejoinder: The Jama’at and political Islam in Kashmir”, Shahid Lone, The Caravan, 17 July 2019
- “For Islam and Kashmir: The Prison Diaries of Sayyed All Gilani of the Jama’at-i-Islami of Jammu and Kashmir”, Yoginder S. Sikand, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 18, No. 2, 1998.