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Mainstream, VOL LV No 31 New Delhi July 22, 2017

Against the Concept of Kashmiriyat

Saturday 22 July 2017, by Humra Quraishi


The attack on Amarnath yatra pilgrims, killing seven (the figure has since risen to eight) and injuring several, is not just extremely tragic and shocking, but totally against the very concept of Kashmiriyat. Its hard, if not impossible, to believe that any Kashmiri could have carried out such a horrifying attack on the pilgrims. In my near 30-year-long association with the Valley Kashmiris (right from 1990), I haven’t come across a single Kashmiri who had a word to say against the yatris or the very yatra. In fact, on the contrary, Kashmiris used to look forward for the yatra to take off and to be there as part of the support system. As several of my Kashmiri Pandit friends would say that the yatra wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Muslim Kashmiris who seemed all too happy to be there... to reach out to the yatris coming from the various parts of the country.

There is a definite historical backdrop to this: The cave-shrine was discovered by a Muslim shepherd in 1850 and his family together with Hindu priests were its custodians for decades till the State Government set up a Board to regulate the yatra in 2000...

Let me also recount what the late Dr Nitish Sengupta had told me during the course of an interview. Before that, this vital backgrounder to him—bureaucrat-turned-politician Dr Nitesh Sengupta had been the one-member committee set up in 1996 by the then Home Minister, Indrajit Gupta, to look into the Amarnath yatra and the existing yatra facilities, in the backdrop of natural disasters hitting the Amarnath yatra, causing deaths and destruction. Sengupta had come up with about twenty recommendations. Some of which were that the yatris should be registered, the yatra should be spread out in three stages so that even if natural disasters strike there’d be lesser chances of casualty. He had also suggested that the Baltal route be activated in order to ease the pressure on the traditional Pahalgam route and also because the new route would be shorter.

And when I asked Sengupta about the togetherness of the Kashmiris and the yatris, he had stressed: ”I haven’t ever noticed even the slightest trace of communal feelings amongst the local Kashmiris.” He had gone on to state: “Kashmiris are not at all communal ...on the contrary, local Muslims have stood by the pilgrims. Absolutely no case of looting and harassment by the locals even when pilgrims had fallen ill or were in distress. Let me also say that local Kashmiri Muslims were the first to bring in rescue and relief to the yatris, much before the government machinery could reach....” In fact, Sengupta had been very vocal even during the agitations that had come up soon after news had spread of land transfer to the Amarnath Shrine Board....He’d told me: “I want to say that politicians in general should stop the practice of taking political advantage of human problems. This present mess-up is because of mishandling of the situation by the government and there’s been failure of the intelligence agencies ...Now people have to be addressed, misconceptions removed, facts told— facts are that there is no formal transfer of land and there would be no demographic changes. Only temporary structures were to be built for the facilities of the yatris. I feel that these facts have not been projected and the government should not have cancelled that land allotment. If I was fluent in Urdu I would go and address the people of the Valley and tell them these facts.”

Let Politics not Take Over this Tragedy!

Today, when this massive tragedy has taken place, Kashmiris are sitting shaken. Condemning this horrifying violence, they are in deep sorrow. Mourning and wondering who could have attacked pilgrims...after all, an average Kashmiri is God-fearing and is too well aware of the relevance of the various shrines and religious places that the Kashmir region is blessed with. Yes, it’s a truly blessed region, where shrines and dargahs, mosques and mandirs and gurudwaras and cathedrals of the different faiths stand tall.

Many even refuse to believe that the yatris were targeted, rather could be targeted! They are going by the theory doing the rounds that the bus carrying the yatris was caught in cross-firing between the security forces and militants.

There are worries and apprehensions that politics will hold sway, paving way for further dents on the social fabric. Not just in the Kashmir Valley but in the entire country; fed that we are on a daily dose of communal poisoning unleashed by vested powers.

Today let’s collectively mourn of the death of the seven yatris. And pray for the recovery of the injured. And also do our bit to let sense prevail; let politicians and their politics not ruin us... dent our togetherness.

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