Recent developments in the Middle East have been receiving a great deal of attention these days. The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine has practically monopolized mainstream media, it is one of the most popular topics on social media, and it is even sparking demonstrations, protests and riots across the globe. Though the Israel/Palestine conflict is an important issue, to many it would seem that this particular conflict is receiving a disproportionate amount of attention, especially when there are so many other problems in the world. The question of why the world centralizes on Israel/Palestine should be of particular interest to Hindus, because we could use some of that focus on Kashmir among other places like Bangladesh and Pakistan where Hindus are being murdered and displaced in the millions.
First let’s take a moment to briefly summarize the history of the conflict in Kashmir. Of course before 1200 AD, Kashmir like all other states in South Asia was populated primarily by Hindus who co-existed with Buddhists and Jains. All this of course changed when Islamic conquerors began invading South Asia between the 12th and 16th centuries. Hundreds of years of war with Islam eventually wiped out almost every Buddhist stronghold in the region and led to a constant atmosphere of war between the rising Islamic Caliphates and the Hindu Kingdoms of the region who were protecting their sovereignty. Centuries of battle for survival lead to the the deaths of nearly 80 Million Hindus and the enslavement and countless more.
In the 1850s, the British Empire colonized the entire Indian subcontinent and brought the now mixed population of native Hindus and newly arrived Muslims under their rule. While the British Empire had no love for Islam, they may have had even less affection for the native Hindus being that they were “pagans”. The British were forced to give up their colony after World War II, but they made sure to leave a fractured and weakened India behind, an India that would ensure the Hindus would be kept as low as possible for as long as possible. Working with many Islamic organizations like the All India Muslim League, British agents ensured that upon their departure that the Muslims would be given huge swaths of land in the northern regions now called Pakistan and Bangladesh. Because of the forces that crafted these states, Pakistan and Bangladesh eventually became official Islamic Republics and began expelling or murdering any remnants of the native Hindu population. Meanwhile, native Hindus were given no state of their own and were more or less forced to accept a socialist government which legitimized and empowered their Islamic and British oppressors.
During this time of partition, Kashmir was a Hindu Kingdom with some aspiration of self rule outside of Socialist India or Islamic Pakistan. However, due to violent attacks by Pakistani armed forces and Pashtun tribesmen, for its own safety, Kashmir eventually decided to legally accede to India in 1947. Pakistan, however, continues to occupy about 35% of the region, India governs approximately half, and China occupies the remainder. Islamic aggression and attacks on the part of Pakistan began to deplete the Hindu population of Kashmir as many Hindus were either killed or fled the region. Yet the largest exodus of Hindus from their native lands in Kashmir happened only some 25 years ago when Pakistani sponsored Islamic militants drove out some 300,000 Hindus from their homes and villages, cleansing the valley of more than 95% of its Hindu inhabitants. This massive displacement was accompanied by random killings, tortures and rapes on the part of the Islamic aggressors.
25 years later, Kashmiri Hindus have not yet been recognized as Internally Displaced Persons by the Indian government, or safely rehabilitated back to their homes in the Kashmir Valley. Thousands still live in camps in Jammu and New Delhi, suffer from ongoing mental and emotional trauma, and are economically and politically marginalized. Hindus who dared to remain in Kashmir face a deteriorating security situation as Pakistan-supported terrorist violence increases. Sectarian clashes between the native Hindus and
Imperialist Muslims has led to at least two deaths and the destruction of over 100 Hindu-owned businesses. The State Government of Kashmir has failed to enact long pending legislation in 2013 to protect and preserve Hindu temples and shrines in Kashmir, despite the ongoing encroachments and illegal sales of temple properties in the State. Over 100 temples have been illegally occupied since 1989.
So the question remains, why is the world so focused on Israel/Palestine and why do we never hear anything about Kashmir? Parts of the answer to this question are very complex, but parts of it are very simple. The Israel/Palestine conflict has a jump start over Kashmir in the West because it is a bible based conflict. Modern Europe and America were built on a more or less Judeo-Christian culture (but not legal system). We must admit that at the moment, the Judeo-Christian West is still the most powerful force on earth, and what they care about will be the main focus of the day. The restoration of biblical lands will legitimize Judeo-Christian prophecies and is being used to create a massive world war which many Jews and Christians believe will usher in a Jewish or Christian messiah respectively. Obviously Hindus cannot compete for attention with biblical prophecy and messianism in the West, but the bible is not the only or most apparent reason why the West is so interested in Israel/Palestine.
If you take a moment to notice, both sides of the conflict make it a point to be very vocal and visible, neither side is going to allow the world to pass them by, they both make sure we know they exist. Both sides of the conflict claim moral legitimacy, Judeo-Christians claim biblical ownership of the region and point to their moral and civilizational supremacy, while Muslims claim that they have been living on the land for generation after wars which took place between the three Monotheistic faiths centuries ago. Both sides are tireless in producing arguments, meme, documentaries, books and organizations which support their side. Both sides enter college campuses, form youth societies, give lectures and make a general effort to get young people to stand with one side or against the other. Both sides lobby in Washington and the capitals of Europe, both sides give speeches in congress or hold congressional delegations, both sides finance political campaigns as well as academic institutions. But most importantly, neither side really cares about how unpopular their opinions may be, they stand up and work for what they believe.
If Hindus want to shift the world’s mental focus to areas like Kashmir, we need to mimic the finer qualities of those who have created the most attention grabbing campaign on earth. To most Hindus, the egregious injustices currently being perpetrated upon the native Hindus of Kashmir would create their own PR campaign, we would think that when something so heinous as this takes place that the world would naturally take note and take sides with the victim. Unfortunately this is not true. If we want to win in Kashmir, we need to talk about Kashmir, we need to write about Kashmir, we need to create books and documentaries about Kashmir. But we can’t just leave the issue to medias, we need to personally take our message to college campuses, to street demonstrations and to the halls of congresses and parliaments around the world. We need to realize that if we want the world to side with the Hindus or Kashmir or even to care about them, we must produce and deliver convincing arguments that tug at the world’s attention. Concerns over the spread of Islamic Sharia, interest in minority and native rights and the desire to thwart neo-colonialism are just some of the topics of interest we Hindus have on our side. Imagine if we used these issues to open up discussion about Kashmir around the world, imagine what we could do. Look for JFH’s Kashmir projects in the near future.