Anothet unfolding tragedy in Kashmir
*Dr. K L Chowdhury
he wild protests in the valley, alike from different political parties, mainstream organizations, and separatists of all hues, to the temporary lease of forest land to Shri Amar Nath Shrine Board (SASB) makes a sad and painful portrayal of the exclusivist, and illogical mindset that rules the roost in Kashmir. It is clear evidence that, cutting across political ideologies, the people of the valley are being immunized against the culture and philosophy of compositeness and syncretism that should be the hallmark of the much touted 'Kashmiriyat'. If Kashmiriyat is securing Kashmir to one religious community to the exclusion of all others, if it is hurting the sentiments of minorities by denying their right to a dignified visit to their holiest of pilgrimages, it is not the Kashmiryat that the great Rishis and Sofis of Kashmir envisioned and lived for.
The instant and widespread paranoia that has gripped the worthy leaders and those who style themselves as the sole guardians of Kashmir's interests just because a few acres of forest land are being leased (in lieu of a huge amount from the religious body) for a Hindu pilgrimage speaks volumes about the fast vanishing ethos of tolerance, compassion and accommodation. To fish for 'conspiracy' theories out of Shrine Board's endeavors for proper, hygienic facilities to pilgrim tourists is imagination running wild, and the blatant insinuation that it is 'land grab' aimed at raising 'Israeli type settlements' and causing a 'demographic change' in the valley is insane. It seems the rabble rousers, not content with the mayhem of 2-decade militancy for which they were largely responsible, are now out to open another front by polluting the mind of average, peace-loving Kashmiri, and inciting and provoking him by weird allusions to the allegations against pilgrims, Shrine board and the Governor. In fact, they have already effected a ‘demographic change’ by ethnically cleansing the valley of Kashmir Pandits and now do not even like them to visit their homeland as pilgrims. They are so blinded by their extreme fanaticism that they have become totally insensitive to their own interests as not to understand the nuances of world-wide promotion to, and the significance of, Pilgrim Tourism and the benefits that accrue to the host country. If the Vatican, the Mecca, the Golden Temple, the Ajmer-i-Sharief etc. were denied to millions of pilgrims by depriving them of even the basic facilities of toilets, washing and retiring for rest and recuperation, what would happen to the religious preeminence of those places and to the economy of the people who eke their living from pilgrim tourism. It would invite worldwide condemnation and their own people would rise in revolt against them. If these holy places are not polluted by the millions of faithful who come all the way from far off countries, if they are not threatened by demographic change, what makes our worthies think that the devoted, many of them the 'migrant' Kashmiri Pandits, other Hindus from J&K and other States of India are going to damage the ecology and endanger the environment. Will defecating in the open, washing in public view, throwing litter all round pollute it or a proper hygienic disposal through amenities, which it is the responsibility of the host State, to provide?
Why are these proselytizers of a clean environment not threatened by lacs of regular visitors who throng the House Boats and hotels in the Dal Lake, and not even monitor how and where all the solid waste is disposed. Do they care to raise a voice against encroachment in the Dal and the mushroom growth of massive hotels and private mansions, on its banks and on the surrounding hills, and in the green pastures of Pahalgam and Gulnmarg. Are they not a big blot on the topography of Kashmir? Is it because the influential can get away with all transgressions of laws of the land, keeping the masses doped with religious slogans and the so called danger to Kashmir and Kashmiriyat?
Let us hope good sense prevails and the unnecessary rhetoric, that derives partly from a skewed sense of righteousness, partly from religious intolerance and partly with an eye on the elections, settles down. Let us appeal to our Kashmiri brothers and sisters not to be swayed again by the machinations of a few who are out to erode what is left of the cultural and religious diversity of Kashmir, and not allow it to be a laboratory for monotheism, excluvism, and medievalism. The whole world is watching Kashmir and it is for their own good to behave as a forward-looking people, ready to embrace the larger world view and not drown their burgeoning religious zeal in the swirling waters of fanaticism and radical isolationism but give it an edifying look by respecting other cultures and faiths.
*Dr. K L Chowdhury retired as a Professor of Medicine, Medical College, Srinagar. Presently he is the Director of a charitable institution, Shriya Bhatt Mission Hospital and Research Center, Durga Nagar, Jammu.
He is a physician and neurologist, a medical researcher, poet, social activist. He writes on diverse subjects – medical, literary, social and political and has numerous research papers to his credit, his pioneering work being “The Health Trauma in a Displaced Population” which was presented at national and international conferences.
He was declared Shehjar's 'Kashmiri Person of the year' for 2007.
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