It is a common refrain among Indian politicians and intellectuals that pro freedom sentiment in Kashmir is restricted to a section of Sunni Muslims living in the valley. Some call it “Sunni” idea of Azadi.
A similar perception is shared by a large section of the political and intellectual class in India which one could easily understand from TV debates and newspaper columns. Journalist Praveen Swami, during 2010 uprising, crossed all borders by calling it a ‘problem of a five police stations’ in Srinagar.
No study has ever been done by any credible researcher or institution to substantiate this assessment. Yet one finds people reveling in the belief that separatist sentiment is not shared by all ethnic, religious and regional identities in Jammu and Kashmir.
In their drawing rooms, and now in TV studios, they fragment Kashmiri identity into sections and subsections—Sunnis, Shias, Gujars, Paharis, Bakerwals and other sub-regional identities Jammu, Ladakh, Rajouri, Poonch, Doda, Kishtwar and live with a belief that their political aspirations are varying.
Some years back, I and two other colleagues Ehsan fazili and Khursheed Wani, were invited to a function of ‘Gujjar and Shia representatives) called by Congress leader Avtar Singh Bhadana in a local hotel. The Congress leader told us that he had come to consolidate the Indian support base (Shias and Gujars) in Jammu and Kashmir. He introduced the wife and daughter of then senior Dooarshan official as representatives of valley Gujars. Another Sikh Doordarshan official was presented as a representative of Jammu Gujars. A Srinagar hotelier was introduced as Shia representative.
It would not be going overboard to say that most of the people in India including politicians, intellectuals, media persons and academicians are clueless about Kashmir. And those who know, more particularly in the establishment, tend to live in the world of self-denial rather self-deception. Swallowing the bitter pill (of facts) about Kashmir causes them constipation.
It is a public matter known to every organ of the state as also central government that Gujjars and Paharis were the first to take up the gun against Indian rule in Kashmir in 1987-88. The Kashmiri youth from the valley mainland just followed the Gujjars.
The story of Shias is no different.
The prominent Shia leader Molvi Abbas Ansari is known as one of the senior-most pro-freedom leaders in Kashmir who has been espousing the cause of “azadi” since the days of Shiekh Mohammad Abdullah. Beside Qari saifuddin (late) of Jamaat-e-Islami, he was the only leader to have challenged Shaikh Abdullah for changing his stand during Peoples’ Convention in 1967. Shaikh Abdullah, till then, was championing the cause of plebiscite. He indicated his change of mind and position vis-à-vis Kashmir, for the first time, in that convention, which provoked serious resentment from Qari Saifuddin and Molvi Abbas. Both, Molvi Abbas and Qari Saifuddin were forced to leave the convention for opposing Abdullah.
During 1965 India-Pakistan war Shias provided hideouts, shelter and food to hundreds of “Pakistani Mujahideen” in Budgam and Beerwah areas.
Hizbul Moomineen and Paasbaan-e-Islam were two exclusively Shia militant outfits fighting security forces in 1990s. Around 400 activists of the two outfits died while fighting security forces. Hizbul Moomineen, though inactive presently, still has its command system intact and Usman, currently based in Muzaffarabad, is its chief commander. The group is a constituent of militant platform United Jihad Council.
Tipo Sultan (Sonawari), Aarif Hussain (Higam Sopore), Ali Theka alias Abu Qasim (Gund Khwaja) and Hyder Ali (Newa) included among top Shia militant commanders. Qurban Ali, another prominent Shia guerilla, was district commander of Al-Jihad. JKLF too had a number of Shia militants in its cadres. Shamsher Khan, a Pakistani Shia, acted as divisional commander of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen’s Jammu regions for over two years. Shamsher Khan was a key figure in introducing militancy in Jammu region.
Nothing can be more a brute lie than saying that Gujjars, Paharis and Shias do not share political aspirations with the people of the valley.
Please read full article: Kashmir Reacts