It is specious of Geelani and his rage boys to claim Pandits visiting Kounsar Nag for annual religious rituals will cause damage to the environment. Their bluff should have been called but the state has capitulated, yet again
Srinagar was shut down on Saturday on the instructions of separatist leader and All Party Hurriyat Conference chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani. A day before there were violent protests after Friday prayers, again at the behest of the man who still dreams of Kashmir becoming one with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The latest reason for his ire is the plan, now scuttled, by a group of Kashmiri Pandits to visit Kounsar Nag, the Pir Panjal glacial lake in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district, for prayers and rituals that were a routine annual affair till the Valley’s ethnic cleansing by Islamists that resulted in the exodus of Hindus and their being rendered refugees in their own country.
Here are the facts as we know them from diverse sources. A group of Kashmiri Pandits sought permission to travel together for what they called ‘Kounsar Nag Yatra’. Frankly they need not have done so but I guess they were playing it safe and perhaps wanted adequate measures to protect them from separatists and their jihadi foot soldiers. The Pandits claim that the district administration of Kulgam issued permission for the yatra which would have been joined by a couple of scores of pilgrims.
Just before the yatra was to begin, the administration withdrew its permission. This followed protests by Geelani and groups associated with his separatist activities. Variously described as “local residents”, “environmentalists” and “civil society groups”, they claimed that the proposed yatra would cause “ecological damage”. This was followed by violent protests.
Rather than take on the separatists and send out a firm, unequivocal message that Hindu-hating Islamism has no place in secular India, the administration capitulated and began inventing stories to pander to Geelani’s rage boys. The National Conference Government went a step further and Tourism Minister GA Mir said, “We had not given any permission for any yatra in Kounsar Nag area so the question of suspending it under separatists’ pressure does not arise.” With Assembly election nearing, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has chosen to capitulate.
And true to its nature, the bureaucracy has provided the political class with an alibi. Home Secretary Suresh Kumar described the proposed yatra as a “mere rumour”. Just in case the point was lost, he went on to add, “It is not a traditional yatra but only a puja that used to take place near Kounsar Nag years ago… for the last few years some people of a particular community offer prayers at the place near the stream.”
The All Parties Migrant Co-ordination Committee, which was coordinating the yatra, has refuted this claim. The organisation insists that permission was given and then revoked. But theirs is a lonely voice lost in the cacophony of denials and protests. Not surprisingly, the national media has simply overlooked the issue. The Glossover School of Journalism does not waste time and resources on inconvenient stories, or stories that inconvenience Islamic fanatics lest Muslim religious sentiments be hurt.
Yet it would be wrong not to comment on the brute and unacceptable manner in which Geelani and his thugs have forced the administration to stop Hindus from exercising their rights in secular India. The plea that the yatra would hurt the ecology of the region is at best specious and at worst disingenuous.
This is not the first time that ‘environment issues’ are being used as a shield to hide the hideous face of Islamism. Just how genuine is the Islamists’ concern for ecology and environment can be gauged from the fact that ISIS banners and flags were used during the protests in Srinagar. It was a show of strength of the Islamic State which has begun rearing its ugly head in Kashmir, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
In the past, similar claims of ‘environment in danger’ were made to prevent the setting up of temporary, environment-friendly shelters for pilgrims who trek to Amarnath. This year, a manufactured dispute with Amarnath Yatra facilitators saw foot soldiers of the Islamists running amok and burning down tents and supplies.
There’s a pattern to this nay-saying by Muslim fanatics that is now beginning to emerge. In Hyderabad and Moradabad, the pealing of temple bells is now described as “hurting Muslim religious sentiments”. This would also hold true for many Muslim-dominated areas of West Bengal where titillated by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s sudden fascination for Urdu shairi Jamaati hooligans have begun attacking Hindu temples and households.
In Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, Muslims went on the rampage to protest the construction of a gurdwara on land whose ownership was never in dispute and which had been cleared by the courts. A week later, the rioting Muslims remain defiant. In Karnataka, Muslims took to the streets to protest the arrest of a rapist. Similar examples abound.
We could either wait for the Government to act or force the Government to step in before the breach gets any wider. Wringing our hands in despair or retreating in the face of Islamist belligerence are not options for those who wish to halt the total collapse of the secular state as envisaged in our Constitution.
This slide into anarchy must stop. This descent into mindless appeasement of thugs must be checked. Or else it will be too late and “our religious sentiments are hurt” will soon become the measure of how we, including Muslims, who do not subscribe to the twisted worldview of fanatics, conduct ourselves and live our daily lives.
Promising Kashmiri Pandits a secure place in Kashmir Valley and ensuring their return to the land of their ancestors is fine. But such promises become meaningless when they cannot even trek to Kounsar Nag to perform religious rituals that are woven into their cultural identity. Nor can Hindus be made to feel secure if they cannot ring temple bells. Or Sikhs cannot build a gurdwara after taking all necessary permissions.
If State Governments fail to act, and act decisively, the Union Government must intervene. The bogus ‘Idea of India’ peddled by Left-liberals is not important; what is important is India as it was meant to be — a secular republic where the law of the land is supreme and religion is a matter of personal faith. If such an India “hurts the religious sentiments” of Muslim fanatics, they are welcome to keep the hurt to themselves. It’s not for the rest of India to apply salve on their manufactured hurt.
by Kanchan Gupta
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