Indian-American Muslim and progressive reactions were in stark contrast to the euphoria being expressed by the Hindu-American community over the revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that afforded Kashmir a special status.
Dr. Kaleem Kawaja, president of the Association of Indian Muslims in America (AIMA), recalled that “for 70 plus years, the geographically beautiful Kashmir valley has been a flashpoint of extreme tension and violence between the Muslim majority Pakistan and the Hindu majority India, including three wars between them.”
However, he said, “Despite the overwhelming Muslim majority population of the Kashmir valley, when war broke out between the two countries in 1948 on the issue of possession of Kashmir, the majority of the people chose to stay with India, on the basis of solemn pledges by the Indian government, an article integral to India’s constitution, the United Nations Security Council and the top world powers. These measures pledged to the Kashmiri population that their very unique identity that is based on religious and cultural harmony shall be guaranteed.”
Kawaja said, “Across India most of the majority Hindus are friendly towards the minority Muslims, Christians and Dalits and want to live in peace, and it is they who gave India a secular constitution and instituted many measures to sustain peace, including guaranteeing Kashmir protection of its distinct identity.”
But, he bemoaned the “small segment of Hindus in the north and west of the country, who are rabid, violent and oppressive towards the minorities and the secular Hindus,” and said that “Prime Minister Modi and most of the BJP ministers and leaders belong to this small rabid segment of the Hindu community.”
Consequently, Kawaja said, “In the last five years, we have seen these rabid elements create mayhem and violence across the nation by exploiting religious differences and money corruption.
“Now without any discussion in the parliament and with the people of Kashmir, which is a constitutional requirement, the Modi government has taken an illegal step to change India’s constitution and to hit a blow to the equal rights of religious and ethnic minorities guaranteed in the Indian constitution, the preamble of United Nations, and the international order.”
Kawaja said, “With this illegal action Modi government has instigated violence and chaos among the very diverse people of India and there is much fear that God forbid Kashmir erupts into a civil strife situation like Syria or Bosnia or East Pakistan of 1971.”
He also warned that “Kashmir’s border with Pakistan and China is porous and that may lead to much infiltration of foreign militants. Terrorism may spread to India’s mainland, and the net result could be big long term damage to India’s already faltering economy and industry that is already suffering so much due to Prime Minister Modi’s erratic and unthinking planning and policies.”
Thus, Kawaja said, “As an Indian Muslim I pray to God to protect India and Indians from such a gory scenario and give the nation leaders who act sensibly and not erratic manipulation of people’s religious sentiments.”
Rohit Tripathi, who describes himself as “a progressive Indian in the diaspora,” who works as a business strategist and earlier used to run Young India, Inc., told India Abroad that “the BJPs mandate was undeniable in the last election and a shift in Kashmir policy was also expected.”
But he said, “The expectation was a deliberative approach that built confidence in whatever shift was being designed. Given the strong legislative position the BJP is in there would have been little opposition.”
On the substantive side of things, article 370 being debated and removed or modified was understandable,” Tripathi acknowledged.
“But the most concerning part is the demotion of the state to being a Union Territory. This is taking away of people’s right to elect their own representatives is a serious problem and an unwelcome precedent.”
“Tomorrow, the BJP’s adversaries when in power could do the same with BJP ruled states, wiping out mandates. In the end, those participating in the democratic process, leaders and voters, were perhaps the best advocates for Indian democracy in Kashmir. But as one commentator pointed out, who will now be the interlocutor?”
Thus, Tripathi said, “Like most in the diaspora we are in waiting game, but today my uneasiness is greater than it was yesterday. We pray to God to guide our leaders towards peace and sustaining the democracy our grandparents fought for.”