ucanews.com reporter, SrinagarUpdated: September 18, 2019 03:16 AM GMT
Pakistanis protest in Karachi on Sept. 15 about the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir, which has been on lockdown since India's government took away its autonomy on Aug. 5. (Photo by Rizwan Tabassum/AFP)
The crisis in India’s strife-torn northern Kashmir region has taken a religious turn after the country’s largest Muslim organization urged Muslims not to rebel against India.
In a detailed statement on Sept. 12, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH) said Jammu and Kashmir state is an integral part of India and urged its people, mostly Muslims, not to clamor for separating it from the rest of the country.
Public life in Kashmir has been crippled since Aug. 5 when the Indian government imposed a curfew after it amended laws to take away the region’s autonomy.
More than 4,000 people, including politicians of opposition groups, human rights activists and separatists, are under detention and schools, colleges and business establishments are shut.
The statement from the group of Islamic scholars is significant as Pakistan has been building a narrative at international level that Kashmir is a global Islamic issue that merits immediate attention.
JUH said it “can never support any separatist movement” and considers such movements harmful not only to India but also to the people of Kashmir.
"The welfare of the people of Kashmir lies in getting integrated with India," the statement said.
However, local people who oppose the government decision accused JUH of an unwanted move that will divide Muslims in the region.
“JUH seems to have adopted a very indifferent attitude toward Kashmir and it wants to score brownie points from the government,” said a religious cleric who did not want to be named for fear of being arrested.
Most young people in the region are also antagonistic toward the Muslim group.
“Instead of speaking up for the miseries people suffer under the curfew, JUH is trying to preach to already perturbed people that they should be comfortable with these gags,” said Riyaz Ahmad, a youth from the old city of Srinagar.
Imtiyaz Hussain, a businessman from central Kashmir’s Ganderbal area, said he respects the views of JUH but it should have also raised the hardships faced by people on the ground.
“They should have put humanity first and not politics. Instead of preaching political ideology, they should have asked the government to provide some sign of relief to the people irrespective of caste, creed and religion,” Hussain said.
Another Muslim cleric from Kashmir said JUH chief Mahmood Madani recently held a closed-doors meeting with Mohan Bhagwat, the head of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sanghad (RSS), the most powerful Hindu nationalist group in India and closely linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“It was widely speculated then that the RSS may seek the help of Muslim groups to justify what it has done to Kashmir,” the cleric said.
The conflict in Kashmir dates back to 1947 when India and Pakistan became separate states after British India was divided. Both countries claim Kashmir in full and have fought at least three wars and countless skirmishes over it.
India often accuses Pakistan of supporting a secessionist movement to free the region from India, an allegation Pakistan has consistently denied. At least 100,000 people have died in the past three decades after the insurgency intensified.
Calls to end violence and resume dialogue have come from leaders including church officials. Talks have failed to find a lasting solution and recent efforts have been a non-starter because of the preconditions of both nations.