Letter: Islamification of Kashmir

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Sir: I share Professor Khurshid Ahmad's concern (letter, 14 June) about the rising level of violence in Kashmir, but not his accusation that the Kashmiri population is held hostage by the Indian security forces. The current cycle of violence started in December 1989 when the Kashmiri militants kidnapped the daughter of India's then home minister. Since then, the militants have carried out innumerable acts of kidnapping, random killings and political assassinations. But, worst of all, their unabated violence has forced thousands of Kashmiris to become refugees in their own land.

Political unrest in Kashmir has all the trappings of religious fundamentalism, which is affecting not only India but other countries in the Middle East. When the movement first manifested itself, its declared aim was the 'Islamicisation' of Kashmir. Hindus and Sikhs, who formed an important constituent of the Kashmiri population but opposed the very idea of Kashmir either becoming a part of Pakistan or an independent theocratic Islamic state, became the main targets of Muslim fundamentalists' wrath. By 1991, nearly 100,000 of them had been forced by the Muslims' violence to flee their homes. Many of them are now living in refugee camps in Delhi, Jammu and other Indian cities.

Having made the Kashmir Valley a de facto 'Islamic state', a similar strategy is now being repeated in the Doda district of the Jammu region. Many foreign Muslim mercenaries have been pushed into the district from across the Pakistani border, resulting in an unprecedented increase in acts of violence and intimidation. Once again, Hindus and Sikhs are being forced to leave their homes and migrate to the safer areas in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.

Professor Ahmad's attempt to christen the political crisis in Kashmir as a 'struggle for freedom' is, therefore, inconsistent with the facts. Encouraged by their success in Afghanistan, the fundamentalists are trying to create an Islamic state in Kashmir, which will never be acceptable to the Kashmiri Hindus, Christians and Sikhs. A movement based on sectarianism, religious fundamentalism and communal hatred can hardly be described as a 'struggle for freedom'.

Yours faithfully,

RANDHIR SINGH BAINS

Gants Hill, Essex

15 June

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