Ayan Ali thought he had found a toy. It was a bomb, an unexploded artillery shell in the remote village of Jabri, far from the flashpoints of volatile Kashmir. He took it home, where it exploded in his hands. Four-year-old Ayan Ali died last month (Reuters, August 11). This month, there is the celebration of sacrifice in the festival of Eid-al-adha.
More sacrifices in blood and life are in the offing, in this magical land plagued by conflict that is over wealth, power, religion, hegemony, and all those things that comprise the insoluble dilemmas of Kashmir and of man at war with himself. Repetitions of the ancestors of Abraham, Cain and Abel, the tiller and the herder, and the struggles of Esau and Jacob that, in many unforgettably hostile and tempestuous ways, have rushed down to this day. For what are India and Pakistan, if not of the same womb, but torn apart by the coming of ages and warriors and visions that bring clashing?
It is a nuclear-tipped, religiously powered, nightmare-infested cauldron, which The Huntingtonianon March 18, rightly called “the most dangerous place on earth.” Dangers require sacrifices; and sacrifices in Kashmir have become the norm not confined to the grand submission of Abraham memorialized and observed on a specific day. It is day around and yearlong; year after year, since that cataclysmic one of 1947.
The traumas that have led to wars and terror now promise further deteriorated, through a disturbing decision by Prime Minister Modi to revoke Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Article 370 provided for the autonomy of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In a decision with far-reaching consequences, Kashmir is now incorporated into India.
It should matter that outsiders (non-Kashmiris) must be approved by the autonomous state’s lawmakers to buy land and take up permanent residence. It should matter, also, that Article 370 itself stipulates that only the legislative body that drafted the state’s constitution can rescind it; that body dissolved itself in 1957. And it ought to matter most powerfully and relevantly that, in 2018, the Indian Supreme Court handed down a decision that this offending Article 370 is a permanent part of the constitution (New York Times, August 5). Now that age-old question about whether men or laws prevail stands in harsh, unambiguous spotlight. As PM Modi acted, and Guyanese politicians battle about constitution and courts, the question and associated issues weigh heavily.
In Kashmir and India (and Pakistan), those are the things that matter, as concerns flare as to envisioned demographic reengineering through land purchases and an influx of permanent residents. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, was blunt, “When a demographic change is made through force, it’s called genocide, and you are moving toward genocide.” Although, the foreign minister was quick to indicate that, “Pakistan is not planning to take military action” (Associated Press, August 11); there is belief that this could lead to war.
Nuclear war, however limited or so-called tactical, cannot be ruled out should matters get desperate for one side or the other. The willingness to sacrifice in this time of Eid Qurbani will last beyond a holy day, a special time commemorated for rising towards divine nobility and reaching to deliver the ultimate. It is the stuff of which many a martyr has been made.
It is of little comfort that the Indian government has eased some of the curbs put in place, in recognition of the Eid holiday. New York Times reporters peered inside the hell that is Kashmir today and found “a population that felt besieged, confused, frightened and furious” And a herdsman offered an unrehearsed, “we are ready to pick up guns” (New York Times, August 10).
Thousands of years ago, a revered ancient journeyed at dawn towards a fateful destiny. As celebrations of that storied travel occur in distant Kashmir today, men stand ready to sacrifice in another date with destiny.
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