Jun 25, 2008

In God's name - J&K

The Hindu Editorial
When Jammu and Kashmir Governor S. K. Sinha demits office on Wednesday morning and flies to New Delhi on a government jet, the ground beneath his feet will be ablaze with hate. Sharpening a communal divide, engendering street violence, uniting anti-India secessionists, and precipitating a showdown between the Congress and People’s Democratic Party: these will be remembered as this Governor’s abiding legacies. As is often the case, the hate that threatens to tea r Jammu and Kashmir apart has been engendered in god’s name. General Sinha and his supporters claim to be protecting the religious rights of Hindus. His opponents claim to be defending Islam. Just what is in fact at stake? In May, the State government assigned 39.88 hectares of degraded forest land to the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, a regulatory body chaired by the Governor. Islamists claimed this land transfer was part of a larger project to alter J&K’s demographic character — a fear that has stalked the State’s politics since Independence. The critics were, on point of fact, wrong, for no land was actually transferred to the SASB. Government Order 184 gave the SASB permission for “raising pre-fabricated structures only for camping purposes of pilgrims without going in for construction of permanent structures.” It clarified that the “proprietary status of [the] forest land shall remain unchanged.”
Instead of putting these facts on the table, the Governor and his principal secretary let loose a barrage of inflammatory polemic that incensed most ordinary Kashmir residents and strengthened the Islamists. Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Beig stoked the fires, claiming he had been blackmailed into assenting to the land transfer after the Congress blocked work on a road linking Muslim-majority Kashmir with Muslim-majority Rajouri and Poonch — an absurd charge, since work on what is called the ‘Mughal Route’ has been under way for years. The Congress dispensation failed to speak out against the Governor’s chauvinist stance. No little blame must go the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is threatening to cut food supplies to the Kashmir valley. While it rails against subsidies to Muslim religious institutions, it sees nothing wrong in committing public land — and over 40,000 police and paramilitary personnel diverted from counter-terrorism duties — to facilitate a Hindu pilgrimage. As things stand, all of these forces reckon they have profited from the politics of hate. Islamists have found a cause that can be used to sharpen hatred; so too have Hindutva forces. New Delhi must now work to strengthen voices of sanity in the beleaguered State before the October Assembly elections.

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