Lucius Annaeus Seneca once pointed out, ‘Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful’. ‘Religion’ is an emotion, a belief, a way of life that has paved the way for civilizations, built kingdoms, toppled kingdoms and turned men against one another morally and physically. Throughout the ages, religion has varied, multiplied and propagated reaching every nook and cranny of the World at the speed of light.
It is extremely difficult to extract the definition or any explanation of ‘religion’, since it is a socio-cultural system that is as old as humanity itself. It is also important to note that different religions may or may not contain various elements ranging from the divine, sacred relics, faith, supernatural being(s) or a sort of ultimacy or transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life . It is estimated that there are around 10,000 distinct religions Worldwide.
Where there is religion embroiled, there are always sentiments running haywire. And clashes in the name of religion is as old as religion itself. This article is aimed at identifying the nuances of religion in the Kashmir valley and bringing out the opposite identities of radicalisation and religion.
‘Religion’ is derived from the Latin word ‘religionem’/ ‘religio’ that means, ‘respect for what is sacred, reverence for the Gods, sense of right, moral obligation and sanctity’. In classic antiquity, ‘religio’ broadly meant conscientiousness, a sense of right, moral obligation, or duty to anything. It is important to note that the compartmentalised concept of religion where religious things were separated from worldly things was not used before 1500s.
Religion can be identified to be an abstract term. It takes shape in the mind of the perceiver, going through multitudes of changes. Through age, religion has taken various forms, various shades, various connotations and various meanings. A religion can be said to be a sense of spirituality where man seeks to communicate with his conscience, deal with ultimate concerns and about their lives and fate after death.
HISTORY OF RELIGION IN KASHMIR
Kashmir, with multitudes of richness and culture has had transitions and influxes of religions and cultures throughout the ages.
During the ancient and medieval periods, Kashmir was an important centre for Hindu-Buddhist syncretism with Kashmir being, for a long time, a stronghold of Buddhism. The medieval time saw an uprise in the Hindu empires, including the Karkota empire, Hindu Lohara dynasty and the like.
The year 1339 saw various revolts and upheavals and serves to be a year of betrayal. Raja Suhadeva of the Lohara dynasty had appointed Rinchan, (known popularly as Sultan Sadruddin) as a minister in his Court with Shah Mir as a minister in Kashmir and the latter two developed to be friends. With the Mongol invasion defeating Suhadeva, he fled to Tibet and his Prime Minister, Ramachandra took advantage of the Anarchy and occupied the throne with Rinchan as administrator who sent a force in the fort in the guise of merchants and killed Ramachandra, taking his family prisoners. Subsequently, Rinchan married Ramachandra’s daughter Kota and became the ruler of Kashmir which then led the way for the Shah Mir Dynasty with Shams-ud-Din Shah Mir as the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir.
Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani arrived from Central Asia to proselytize in Kashmir and thousands of Kashmiris accepted the faith and by 1400s Kashmir evolved to flourish with a majority professing the Muslim faith. Kashmir then saw the Mughal rule, followed by the Afghan rule and finally the Sikh rule. Kashmir, thus has seen and welcomed various faiths and religions, and has co-existed through years of shifts in the ruling class.
RELIGION AND RADICALISM – A STUDY
The backbone of a myriad of law codes and virtues have accrued from religious texts. What initiated as testaments of peace and virtue, have over the years been utilised by various parties for various nefarious and selfish purposes. All religions preach peace and harmony. However, when religious fundamentalism begins to intertwine with nationalism, one encounters religious radicalism . The most popular notion that drives radicalism with religion as a backing is the popular sentiment, ‘God said it and I believe it’. Religious extremism allows one to believe that any and all actions that he/she performs is on behalf of God(s) and thus the God(s) will be on their side, thus justifying all their actions since the belief is that the actions are carried out with God in mind.
To tackle religious radicalism at its roots, one has to understand how it manifests in the modern world. Religion is a belief system, that has been passed on for millennia. Initially originating as the worship of the elements of nature, religion has slowly evolved to this day. With interpretations galore to the holy scriptures and ancient history, man has developed different understandings of the word of God and thus radicalism exists in every religion. Lack of tolerance to the members professing different faiths and the belief that faiths other than his/her own is a lie is what paves the way for religious radicalism.
ISLAM AND RADICALISM
The faith of Islam is the World’s second-largest religion with its followers known as Muslims (Malays in Southeast Asia). Islam, as a religion, teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful and unique. From a historical view, Islam originated in early 7th century CE in the Arabian Peninsula. Islam etymologically puts forth a meaning of ‘submission’ or ‘total surrender’ to the will of God and returning to God. According to Islam, God is transcendent and thus Muslims do not attribute human forms to God. Islam also has the concept of Zakat (sharing of one’s welfare) deeply rooted in the religious books with its followers having initiated the concept of guaranteed minimum income.
The Quran, the holy, religious text of Islam is believed by Muslims to be a revelation from God and is organized in 114 chapters. Paras 190 and 191 of the Holy Quran puts forth of ‘Jihad’, which in its literal sense means striving or struggling, with a praiseworthy aim. This struggle or ‘jihad’ covers a plethora of actions including any small effort to make an individual’s personal and social life conform with God’s guidance. It has also been equated with fighting against an individual’s evil inclinations, proselytizing, efforts towards moral betterment.
In classic Islamic law, ‘Jihad’ refers to armed struggle against unbelievers and rising against the oppressors. In recent times, the term ‘Jihad’ has gained prominence through its use by terrorist groups to support their unleashing of violence.
As brought out, the interpretations and understanding of different men has made a stark difference in the choices made all while following the same religion. Islamic jurists of the classical era understood the obligation of Jihad in a purely military sense, with rules elaborated that included prohibitions on harming individuals who are not engaging in combat. Unfortunately, in the modern era, the expression is being utilised according to the whims and fancies to get ulterior motives fulfilled.
The evolution of ‘Jihad’ which is the primary instrument and weapon being used by various terrorist outfits across the Globe has evolved over the years, diluted by personal agenda. The very idea of extreme violence and self-sacrifice was unheard of and unthinkable before 1983 and it was only in the early 1990s that the justification of killing innocent Muslims and other commonfolk who were not on the battlefield was brought up.
Jihad as a term has being utilised by various outfits propagating terror. Within Islamic Jurisprudence, ‘Jihad’ is taken to mean military exertion against non-Muslim combatants . Jihad is also the only form of warfare permissible in Islamic law and may be declared against illegal works, terrorists, criminal groups, rebels, apostates and leaders or states who oppress Muslims . However, most individuals today interpret Jihad as only a defensive form of warfare. In the faith of Twelver Shias, offensive Jihad can only be declared by a divinely appointed leader of the Muslim community and, as such, has been suspended since Muhammad al Mahdi’s occultation in 868 AKASHMIR
TERRORISM IN KASHMIR
The Kashmir region has been painted red for a long part of its history and the main perpetrators of the same have been various terrorist groups that have been formed to satisfy various personal agendas for themselves as well as for those funding them. Kashmir, being sandwiched between different Countries has always been a hotpot of fights, confusions, and tears. The agenda of different Nations has always been to overpower the sentiments of the people and in turn incite violence from within to utilise the situation for personal needs.
Throughout the years, it has been understood that religion is one belief system that has kindled the deepest sentiments of man and has always shrouded his judgements and thoughts with the veil of belief and the fear of the unknown. This, in turn is being utilised to the whims and fancies of the neighbouring States, to drive havoc and confusion using the term ‘Jihad’ so as to reach even the most conservative individuals, to radicalise them with the promise that the War against their mother land is for the greater good and is but a holy war.
The outfits seeking to cause violence such as the Hizbul Mujahideen, Al Badr, LeT, JKLF and many more are funded by Nations wanting to cause Havoc in India by fuelling their minds with quotes on religion, twisting interpretations and making naïve individuals believe that their God has asked them to die for him, to kill for him, for the greater good and to reach heaven, though, the Holy scriptures have no place in them to start with.
These terrorist groups seek to utilise terms such as ‘minority’, ‘seeking to drive minorities out’, ‘ethnic cleansing’, and other colourful terminologies to sway the mindset of the common man. The fear of the unknown and the fear of the life after death has always served to be an extremely powerful psychological tool to bend man to perform the most unexpected and sometimes, the most heinous acts.
These terror outfits seem to target individuals who have no access to the outside world, those individuals who are suffering financially and in personal life, those individuals who lack proper education or have only received radicalised education in select madrasas and thus making them believe that their life of sins is the reason for their suffering and to cleanse themselves from it for a better future for themselves and their family. Misinformation is spread and psychological confrontation is done, especially with the young who are in their turbulent years and cannot take informed decisions. They are made to believe strongly that their land has been usurped and their people bent, making them rise as ‘saviours’ to correct the wrongs, without understanding that their religion has nothing to do with the violence that is propagated by the terrorist groups.
Pakistan and China, in the recent past, have especially sought to utilise the sacred religion of peace as a weapon, a shielded weapon to brainwash the masses and to turn the issue of land into a more sinister issue, the issue of religion and the issue of God since the common man connects better with the latter. The portrayal of intentions to help the Muslims from oppression is nothing but a picture painted by these Nations to usurp the people, the land for their malevolent needs. A better way to bring out this example, is the sorry state of the Uyghur Muslims, an ethnic group originally from and culturally affiliated with the general region of Central and East Asia, native to Northwest China. This ethnic group, professing the faith of Islam has been, in the recent years subjected to genocide in China, where countless numbers of adults and children were interned, imprisoned in concentration camps, forcibly sterilised, sent to coercive labour and sought to be eliminated. However, Pakistan, which seems to be extremely interested in the emancipation of the Muslim population in Kashmir (though the population is living in peace and professing their faith in freedom), has not voiced a word with respect to the torment the Uyghur brothers and sisters are facing in China and is instead, signing economic agreements with the Nation.
This, without a doubt, puts forth that the intentions of these countries, funding terrorism and turning the peace-loving people of the paradise that is Kashmir, are only nefarious, selfish and never respect for the religion or the people. Their notions have never been directed at the religion and its people.
Radicalisation is a term that is independent of any particular religion. Radicalisation is a psychological abstract; it is a term that stems from the pruning and watering of one’s existing ideas that grow to be one-sided thoughts paving the way for extreme ideologies.
No religion that has touched mankind’s heart, has ever preached violence on each other. No God has ever advocated futile bloodshed and warzones. No holy scripture has encouraged terror and fear. All that is happening in today’s era is that the beautiful lines of religious texts and the all-transcending power of Godliness is being used to water one’s own interests. Man has sought to bend the sacred text of God to appease his own hunger and greed while using other unaware individuals as props to inch towards his personal goals for personal gains.
We have to stop equating radicalism with religion, since they are opposite poles and the endeavour should be not to get swayed by individuals seeking to cause terror, wielding holy religion as a sword. People using religion to cause violence and terror in the innocent lives of men and women have no religion, no God. ‘Religion is as necessary to reason as reason is to religion. The one cannot exist without the other.’