Friday 18 August 2017 News Updated at 10:08 AM IST
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Valley, look at Israel to count blessings - Deccan Herald
Valley, look at Israel to count blessings
Lalit Mohan,
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This may not be the best time to talk about 'blessings' in Kashmir, but oddly enough, the issue becomes relevant in the context of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's latest foreign visit. The situation in the Kashmir Valley has often been compared with that in Israel; stone-pelters here are supposed to have taken their cue from the Arab intifada. Several leaders, including Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, have now and then said that "India's presence" in the state has similarities with Israel's in what were Palestinian lands. Are the two really comparable?

Both regions started off as being predominantly Muslim and within the respective communities ,vocal elements rail against what they call their 'occupying power'. The genesis of both insurgencies lie in events in 1947 and 1948 when new dispensations took over governance in the territories now in turmoil.

Legally, the case for the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India is unexceptionable, but let that be put aside for the moment. There is a marked difference in the way the two regions have evolved.

In 1947-48, the Kashmir Valley was 94% Muslim, and it was Kashmiri in its ethos. Its religious and social character has remained unchanged in the 70 years that it has been a part of India. If anything, the ratio of Muslims would have increased marginally (with the exodus of the Pandits). Kashmiriyat is safe despite political upheavals in the state.

In the country that is Israel today, in 1946, non-Jews, who were primarily Arab Muslims, constituted 70% of the population. In 2017, the ratios are almost in reverse, with Jews at 75% and Arabs only 20%. In the last half a century, Israel has enlarged its territory, in no small measure due to the incompetence of Arab leaders of the region.

But that does not alter the fact that this was an area where, over centuries, the two communities lived and loved together, and fought and made up, even as they celebrated the common Abrahamic roots of their faiths.

Israel was a country created to expiate the sins of European nations. For no fault of theirs, Arabs were forced to leave their lands and homes, even as Jews from outside settled there in numbers large enough to change its demographics.

Over the last 70 years, contemporary events have crystallised into history that cannot be changed. Israel is here to stay. But the fact that the demography of the land has been changed is undeniable.

No such exodus (apart from the Pandits being driven out, and not by the Indian state) took place in Kashmir. If anything, restrictions were placed on non-Kashmiris coming in and settling there.

The option of a demographic solution to the problem was ruled out because India prides in its diversities and strives constantly to preserve and nurture them. Even BJP has gone quiet over the abrogation of Article 370 of India's Constitution.

In fact, in all recent instances where a larger political entity has taken in a smaller, culturally vulnerable region, India's is perhaps the only case where no attempt was made to fool around with the ethnic character of the merged areas.

Across the Line of Control, in areas under Pakistan's rule, Kashmiriyat is an endangered idea. There are seven prominent dialects in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), and Kashmiri is not one of them.

Pakistan's commitment to the integrity of the region under its control was also exposed when it ceded the Shaksgam tract in the far north to China, in 1963 and it now forms a part of the latter's Xinjiang province.

Local insurgencies are not uncommon all over the world. But rarely is air power used to crush them. Pakistan is one of the exceptions. Many years ago, it strafed its own people in Baluchistan, and later in the north-west of the country. Only an alien power in forcible occupation of any territory would do this.

China and Tibet
What China is doing to Tibet is no better. The ancient way of life of one of the world's most peaceful communities is set to be destroyed forever. The migration of Han Chinese is changing the character of the home of the Uighurs in Xinjiang province as well. But without a free press, their voice remains unheard.

In the Kashmir Valley, one can hear a call for 'aazadi', but there is no echo from across the LoC. No one dare raise it there. Do the separatists in the Valley realise that if they ever realise their dreams, they will be pretty much alone in their 16,000 sq km domain, surrounded by some powerful, predatory neighbours in the west and the north who will have no qualms about destroying the ethos and plundering the resources of their land?

Amidst the violence and the killings, the people of the Valley will still find something to be thankful for because they happen to be a part of India.

(The writer is a freelance journalist based in Gurgaon)