Hindus, Muslims are separate nations: Geelani
Syed Ali Shah Geelani of the Jamaat-e Islami of Jammu and Kashmir is a veteran politician and has emerged as a key player in the Kashmir dispute.
Presently, he heads the Tehrik-e Hurriyat-e Jammu Kashmir. He talks about the Kashmir conflict and its possible solution in this 2 part interview with Yoginder Sikand.
In your writings, and in those of other similar Islamist ideologues, the Kashmir conflict is often described as a war between Islam and 'disbelief'. Do you really think it is so? Is it not a political struggle or a nationalist struggle, actually?
The Kashmir dispute is a fall-out of the Partition of India. The Muslim-majority parts of British India became Pakistan, and the Hindu-majority regions became the dominion of India.
There were, at that time, some 575 princely states in India under indirect British rule. Lord Mountbatten gave them the choice of joining either India or Pakistan, and instructed that their choice must be guided by the religious composition of their populace as well as by the borders they might share with either India or Pakistan, as the case might be.
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'There would have been no conflict over Kashmir if...'
On this basis, almost all the princely states opted for either India or Pakistan.
There were, however, three exceptions to this. Hyderabad, a Hindu-majority state with a Muslim ruler, opted for independence, but India argued against this on the grounds that the state had a Hindu majority, and so ordered police action to incorporate the state into the Indian Dominion.
Junagadh, another Hindu-majority state with a Muslim ruler, opted for Pakistan, but India over-ruled this decision, again on account of the state's Hindu majority, and annexed it.
If India had adopted the same principle in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority state with a Hindu ruler, there would have been no conflict over Kashmir.
After all, more than 85 per cent of the population of the state at that time were Muslims; the major rivers in the state flowed into Pakistan; the state shared a border of over 750 kilometres with Pakistan; the only motorable road connecting Kashmir with the outside world throughout the year passed from Srinagar to Rawalpindi; and the majority of the people of the state had cultural and historical ties with the people of Pakistan.
'All that the Kashmiris are saying is that India should live up to its promise'
However, over-ruling these factors, which would have made Jammu and Kashmir a natural part of Pakistan, in October 1947 the Indian Army entered the state in the guise of flushing out Pathan tribesmen, who had crossed into Kashmir in the wake of large-scale killings of Muslims in Rajouri and Poonch.
Using this incursion as an excuse, Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, engineered the intrusion of Indian forces. The British scholar Alistair Lamb says that the so-called Instrument of Accession that Hari Singh is said to have signed to join India temporarily was itself fraudulent. He claims that Hari Singh did not even sign it.
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Thereafter, India itself took the issue of Kashmir to the United Nations. The UN passed some 18 resolutions related to Kashmir, recognising the status of the state as disputed and calling for a resolution of the conflict based on the will of the people of the state, which the first Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, himself also publicly promised.
Now, all that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are saying is that India should live up to this promise that it made of holding a plebiscite in accordance with the UN resolutions. So, this is the basic issue.
Image: The so-called Instrument of Accession that Hari Singh is said to have signed
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons
'If a true Muslim participates in any struggle, it is for the sake of Islam'
So, aren't you here saying that the conflict is essentially political, and not specifically religious?
For a Muslim, no action that is against Islam is permissible. How can we say that the sacrifices that the Muslims of Kashmir make, the tortures that they suffer, and the martyrdom that they meet have nothing to do with Islam, and that they won't be rewarded by God for this? In this sense, it is a religious issue also.
If a true Muslim participates in any struggle, it is for the sake of Islam. So, how can you say that the Kashmir conflict has nothing to do with religion?
'One cannot say that all Kashmiri Muslims think alike'
This might be true in theory, but surely many Kashmiris who are involved in the movement for separation from India might be motivated by other factors, including for economic and political reasons, or also due to a commitment to Kashmiri nationalism, as distinct from Islam?
I agree that there may be various reasons why different people may participate in the movement. Yes, there can be many who do not adopt the guidance of Islam in this regard. They might champion secular democracy and irreligiousness. Their sacrifices might be motivated by nationalism or ethnicity, rather than Islam.
They might have no problem with the system of governance in India, their opposition to Indian rule being simply because of the brutalities of Indian occupation. Of course, one cannot say that all Kashmiri Muslims think alike.
But I am speaking from the point of view of a practicing Muslim, who accepts Islam as a complete way of life. For such self-conscious Kashmiri Muslims, it is undoubtedly a religious issue and their sacrifices are for the sake of the faith.
'Muslim League leaders were not serious about establishing an Islamic state in Pakistan'
Maulana Maududi, the founder of the Jamaat-e Islami, who is a major source of inspiration for you, opposed the creation of Pakistan. So, then, why is that that you have consistently been advocating Kashmir's union with Pakistan?
You are wrong here. Maulana Maududi was not opposed to the creation of Pakistan and to the 'two-nation' theory. What he was opposed to was the practice of the Muslim League leaders, who were leading the movement for Pakistan.
He told them that while they talked of the 'two-nation' theory and Islam, they were not serious about establishing an Islamic state in Pakistan.
They were not preparing the activists of the League for an Islamic state. Maulana Maududi wanted Pakistan to be an Islamic state, and this was the grounds for his opposition to the Muslim League.
But he, like the League, supported the 'two-nation' theory. In fact, the League did not have any theoretical justification for its 'two-nation' theory until Maulana Maududi provided this through his copious writings.
'Hindus, Muslims are separate nations'
But do you really see Indian Hindus and Muslims as two separate 'nations'? After all, they share so much in common.
They are totally separate nations. There is no doubt at all about this. Muslims believe in just one God, but Hindus believe in crores of Gods.
But the Prophet Muhammad, in his treaty with the Jews and other non-Muslims of Medina, described the denizens of Medina as members of one nation. The leader of the Jamiat ul-Ulema-i Hind and a leading Deobandi scholar, Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani, even wrote a book to argue against the League's 'two-nation' theory, stressing a composite Indian nationalism that embraced all the people of India. So, how can the Muslims and Hindus of one country be considered separate 'nations', even by Islamic standards?
Islam lays down that in an Islamic system (nizam) all non-Muslims, including even atheists, will get equality, justice, security of life and property and freedom of faith. Maulana Maududi critiqued Maulana Madani's arguments.
Image: Kids chant pro-freedom slogans during the procession
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Reuters
'Muslims in Kashmir under Indian rule live in a system where alcohol and immorality are rife'
In your prison memoirs, Rudad-e Qafas, you write that 'It is as difficult for a Muslim to live in a non-Muslim society as it is for a fish to live in a desert'. But how can this be so? After all, the pioneers of Islam in India and in Kashmir itself, mainly Sufi saints, lived and preached in a society in which Muslims were a very small minority.
I meant to say this in a particular sense. Islam, as I said, is a complete way of life. No other path is acceptable to God. So, in the absence of an Islamic polity, it is difficult for Muslims to lead their lives entirely in accordance with the rules of Islam, which apply to social affairs as much as they do to personal affairs.
For instance, Muslims in Kashmir under Indian rule live in a system where alcohol, interest and immorality are rife, so how can we lead our lives completely in accordance with Islam?
Of course, Muslim minorities are Muslims, too, but their duty must be to work to establish an Islamic dispensation in the lands where they live so that they can lead their lives fully in accordance with Islam and its laws. Missionary work to spread Islam is as much of a duty as is praying and giving alms to the poor.
Now, as for your question about those Sufis who lived and worked in societies where Muslims were in a minority -- they may have been pious people, but we take as our only model the Prophet Muhammad.
'Troops themselves are disturbing the peace in Kashmir!'
But, surely, no one is forced to drink alcohol, deal in interest or act immorally in Kashmir?
True, but these things automatically spread since they are allowed by the present un-Islamic system. So that is why you see the degeneration of our culture and values happening on such a large scale.
You mentioned about preaching Islam being a principal duty of all Muslims. But, surely, for this you need a climate of peace, not of active hostility, as in Kashmir today?
Absolutely. I agree with you entirely. No one can deny this. We need to have good relations with people of other communities. Only then can we communicate the message of Islam to them. But if one side continues to oppress the other and heap injustices and says that this should be considered as 'peace', how can it be accepted?
If, for instance, Narendra Modi says that what happened with the Muslims in Gujarat represents peace, how can anyone accept it? If India stations lakhs of troops in Kashmir and says this is for establishing peace, how can it be, because these troops themselves are disturbing the peace?
'There is no Islamic state anywhere in the real sense'
You, following other Islamist ideologues, have consistently been advocating what you call an 'Islamic state', seeing this as an indispensable Islamic duty. To your mind, which is the best functioning 'Islamic state' in the world today?
The worldwide Muslim community ummah is today in such a sorry state that there is no Islamic state anywhere in the real sense.
Saudi Arabia is described as an Islamic state, but it is run by a monarchy, and monarchy has no sanction in Islam. If Muslim countries, including those that claim to be 'Islamic', were truly Islamic states they would never have been enslaved to America, as is the case today.
They all support America's policies and adopt its dictates. They are completely, on all accounts, dependent on America. They cannot even defend themselves. They have to rely on America and Europe to do this. They keep their money in American banks.
We say that they should use their wealth to empower themselves and get out of America's clutches and convert themselves into genuine Islamic states.
'America is trying to stoke Shia-Sunni rivalries'
In the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, how do you see the impact of American pressure on Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, to change their position on Islamist movements?
The events of September 2001 have caused most Muslim states to change their policies and to toe America's line even more closely. You can see this happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The only Muslim country that refuses to cave under American pressure is Iran.
And now America is seeking an excuse to attack Iran, is it not?
Yes. America is trying to stoke Shia-Sunni rivalries in order to undermine Iran. It is trying all other such weapons, dividing the Muslims on the basis of sect, nationality, race and ethnicity against each other so as to weaken them. And the leaders of most Muslim countries are now playing the role of agents of the USA, be it in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Palestine or as is the case with the Saudi monarchs.
See what's happening in Waziristan, the Frontier Province and Baluchistan, in Pakistan. A climate is being deliberately created in those parts of Pakistan to justify American attacks and bombings in the name of flushing out militants.
Image: The sun sets behind a minaret in the centre of Riyadh
Photographs: Ali Jarekji/Reuters
'Only a blind person would opt in favour of India'
If Pakistan is now so pro-American, acting against its own people, and if it is not an authentic 'Islamic state', then why have you been advocating Kashmir's union with it?
As I said earlier, the Muslim League claimed that Pakistan was won in the name of Islam, but it did not give its cadre the necessary training to establish an Islamic state there. Because of this, the influence of the army and the country's westernised leadership, Pakistan failed to become an Islamic state. But it was meant to become such a state, which is something that we want.
I admit that there are weaknesses in Pakistan, but these can be addressed. India has a secular system, which we can under no condition accept. Because of the oppression that we have been suffering under Indian rule for the last 60 years, how can we opt for India?
In just a few weeks, in late 1947, Dogra forces and Hindu chauvinists in Jammu killed some five lakh Muslims. In the last 17 years, over one lakh Kashmiri Muslims, mainly innocent civilians, have been killed. So many localities have been burned down, women raped and men rendered missing. After such brutal experiences, only a blind person would opt in favour of India.
Yoginder Sikand did this interview for NewAgeIslam.com. Reproduced with kind permission.