Today, if a Hindu wants to undertake a pilgrimage to one of the most ancient shrines in the history of Hinduism, Amarnath, he must do it under heavy police and army protection, and at the risk of his life. It is as if, not only he is going to a foreign country, but also to a hostile foreign country.
Today, there is a conscious, well-planned movement to provoke the police and the BSF by a widespread stone throwing movement in the Valley of Kashmir. Hundreds of BSF soldiers have been hurt in the last few months. Inevitably, when the crowd goes out of control, limited firing has to be resorted to and casualties do happen. Of course, the entire Valley, which every second day, goes on strike for the flimsiest reason, shuts down and the Media and Amnesty cry foul.
The frightening thing is that the writ of the Central Government is gone in Kashmir; stringers who hail from the Valley, report a distorted picture from Srinagar and nobody finds anything to say. Every TV footage shows crowds waving Pakistani flags and nobody objects. Recently we saw on NDTV the nephew of a famous actor, doing a spoof by interviewing a look alike Bin Laden on Bollywood. The fact that Al Qaeda has killed hundreds of innocent Indians in markets or in Mumbai, does not seem to bother NDTV. In the West, the producers and directors of this programme would immediately have had to resign. But no such thing happens here.
Do you know that Kashmir is the most subsidized state in India? That every time the PM goes there, whether from the Congress, or the BJP, thousands of crores of subsidies are announced? Since 1989, all government officials in the Valley of Kashmir, while they hardly work in the year because of strikes and curfews, get their pay checks? It makes no difference to the fact that if a referendum was conducted, at least 85% of the Valley of Kashmir would opt to be attached to Pakistan.
The truth is that India is slowly losing its grip on Kashmir and that the ground is prepared for an agreement brokered by the US, which will give de facto independence to the Valley of Kashmir. There are good, intelligent people in the Congress. Surely some of them would agree that this would be a tragedy for India?
Unfortunately, in Delhi amongst journalists and intellectual, you will find many who will say: “so what? India is a big country, we can do without Kashmir”.
This is why we have to examine why is it important that India retains Kashmir? The most obvious reason is that Kashmir is of extreme strategic importance to India. If Kashmir would fall out of India’s hands, New Delhi would be surrounded by three hostile nations who strategically could swoop down from a height: Tibet, which was once the peace buffer between India & China; Nepal, which is de facto fallen in hostile hands: and Kashmir, the gateway between the Middle East and Asia. Secondly if India allow Kashmir to go, why not Manipur, why not Tripura, or even Tamil Nadu, which has Dravidian aspirations? Many countries in the world face separatism problems, whether France with Corsica, or even Britain with the Falklands, which is thousand of miles away. Why should India let go of Kashmir, which has been culturally, and physically part of its body for at least 5000 years?
Finally, Kashmir is the cradle of Shivaism, thousands of yogis, gurus, sannyasins, have prayed meditated, performed tapasaya in this holy land and for that reason only, it should be sacred to India.
Part of the blame for the present apathy of Indians for the deteriorating situation in Kashmir, must fall on the Press, particularly the western media, which has always maintained that Kashmir was a “disputed” territory. Many of us journalists know that since the mid-eighties Pakistan encouraged, financed, trained and armed Kashmiri separatism. But Mark Tully, for instance, who is revered in India for his ‘fair’ reporting (and may very well have written “Hindutva, Sex & Adventures” -Roly Books), always made it a point to say: “India accuses Pakistan to foster separatism in Kashmir”; or :”elections are being held in Indian- held Kashmir”; or “Kashmir militants ” have attacked an army post, instead of “terrorists”. All the other foreign journalists, yesterday and today,) have followed the BBC’s benchmarks.
It is not he only the 400.000 Hindus from Kashmir who had to flee their own homeland, who are under threat. It is not only the pilgrims of Amarnath, today even Hindu gurus are targeted, who defame them, make fun of them, and accuse them of lying. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the latest to be targeted by the Media, whereas he has devoted his life to service to humanity.
It’s time for Hindus to unite. FACT, which is a non-political, non-partisan, Human Rights Organization which I head, can provide the umbrella under which the twelve gurus who have a million disciples plus (Satya Sai Baba, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Amrita Anandmayi, the Shankacharya of Kancheepuram, Guruma of Ganeshpuri, Shri Ramdev, Satguru Jaggi etc), can meet three times a year and issue a number of ‘adesh’, which will be binding to 800 million Hindus in India, a billion worldwide.
The safeguard of Kashmir and the Amarnath pilgrimage, could be its first agenda.