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In Kashmir, no land for Hindus

In Kashmir, no land for Hindus

Author: A Surya Prakash
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: July 15, 2008

Giving in to Muslim communalists and protesters who indulged in violence across the Kashmir Valley, the Congress-led Government in Jammu & Kashmir hastily withdrew the allotment of 100 acres of land made to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board to provide basic amenities to Hindu pilgrims along the Amarnath Yatra route. The attitude of the Muslim majority to the Hindu minority in the Valley and the response of the Government in India's only Muslim-majority State to the issue of minority rights is in sharp contrast to the manner in which the Hindu majority and the Union and State Governments treat the religious minorities in the rest of India, specially in regard to pilgrimages. The contrast is so striking that these developments have suddenly rekindled the debate on the pseudo-secularism and minorityism that is practiced by the Congress and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance.

Apart from constructing exclusive Haj terminals in airports and offering Haj pilgrims 16 embarkation points in the country, the Union Government has been providing Haj subsidy that has been rising every year. The Haj subsidy, which was a mere Rs 25.59 crore in 1993, crossed Rs 348 crore in 2006. The cost of the subsidy has ballooned because the price the pilgrims pay for the return ticket to Jeddah has remained constant at Rs 12,000 since 1994 while the actual cost of the ticket has risen from Rs 33,000 to Rs 46,000.

The number of pilgrims has also shot up. Apart from this subsidy, the Indian government has a Haj Office in the Indian Consulate in Jeddah, runs a hospital in Mecca and dispensaries in Mecca and Madinah, and sends doctors, nurses and para-medical staff to run these medical establishments during the pilgrimage. In addition, the Government has sanctioned eight ambulances and medicines for pilgrims who fall ill.

The number of Haj pilgrims has gone up from 25,205 in 1993 to 1.08 lakh in 2006. Though Jammu & Kashmir is one of the less-populated States in the country, it sent the fifth biggest contingent of pilgrims (6,630) for Haj in 2006. The Congress Government in Andhra Pradesh has taken this policy of minorityism a step further and announced subsidy for Christians who wish to visit Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. However, in the only Muslim-majority State in the Indian Union, Hindu pilgrims to the Amarnath Shrine do not qualify for grant of a few acres of land along the yatra route for provision of basic amenities. BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu put it succinctly at a public meeting in New Delhi the other day when he said the population of the Hindus may be 100 crore. But in India, Hindu pilgrims are not entitled to even 100 acres.

Apart from the double standards practiced by a national party, the Hindu majority in India has also to cope with the blatant dishonesty of Muslim politicians of Jammu & Kashmir. They claim that by allocating land to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board, the State Government has harmed the cause of 'Kashmiriyat'. Pray, what is 'Kashmiriyat'? If it supposedly means the peaceful and harmonious co-existence of Hindus and Muslims, we need to ask ourselves if that was ever there.

Any history book will tell us that the onslaught on Hindus in Kashmir began in the 14th Century during the reign of Sultan Sikander. Apart from destroying Hindu temples and breaking idols, he began a systematic drive to proselytise Hindus, thus forcing large number of them to convert or migrate. His successors like Sultan Ali Shah carried on the 'good work'. In more recent times, Islamic terrorists raped and killed Hindus, burnt their homes and forced them to flee the Valley in 1989-90, leading to the most comprehensive and cold-blooded instance of ethnic cleansing in this region. An estimated three lakh Hindus have fled their homes and taken refuge in Jammu and New Delhi. Yet, Kashmiri Muslim politicians have the temerity to talk of 'Kashmiriyat' and communal amity in the State!

Even more preposterous is the argument relating to demographic change. The whole world is aware of how Hindus were driven out of the Valley. Yet, we have this disgusting spectacle of politicians like Mr Omar Abdullah from the Valley stating publicly on television channels that they oppose the transfer of 100 acres to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board because they fear that through the transfer of these few acres of land "the demographic character of Kashmir is being altered".

Mr Omar Abdullah is packaged by some media houses as a 'liberal, secular' politician and is almost a permanent fixture in some television studios during debates on minority rights. But the minority rights he is concerned about are not the rights of the Hindu minority in his home State but the rights of Muslims in the rest of India. The Amarnath land allotment affair has completely exposed him.

Given his objections to the allotment of land, we need to remind him that 'secularism', like charity, ought to begin at home. He must first display some passion and commitment to defend the rights of Hindus in the Kashmir Valley, just as there are many Hindu politicians in the rest of India who stand up for the rights of the Muslim minority in their States. Otherwise, his utterances will sound hypocritical and people from other Indian States will be urging media houses to please shut out this man's humbug.

Incidentally, Mr Omar Abdullah is not the only Kashmiri politician who is given to double-speak. Take Mr Yasin Malik for example. He claimed on television last week that Kashmiris "are the most hospitable people in the world" and that the religious harmony that prevails in the Kashmir Valley "is unique in the world". Yet another gem from this man is that Kashmiri Muslims have been "taking care" of Hindu pilgrims all these years.

Is amnesia a standard condition among Kashmiri politicians or is it that they are completely disconnected from truth? Is not Mr Malik aware of what his people have done to the Hindu minority in 1989-90? Is he not aware of the number of Hindu pilgrims who have been killed by terrorists during the Amarnath Yatra in previous years? Equally preposterous is his claim that since Muslims "take care" of Hindu pilgrims, there is no need for a Hindu Board to manage the Sri Amarnath Shrine! We should now ask Mr Malik to please apply this logic to all Muslim shrines across India. Since Hindus take such good care of Muslims (they even subsidise their pilgrimage, build Haj terminals in airports and hospitals in Jeddah), why have Waqf Boards and other Muslim religious bodies to manage mosques and dargahs?

All Indians who value democracy and a secular order must challenge these purveyors of untruth and remind them that secularism is not a one-way street.

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