NEW DELHI: Communities in Kashmir are concerned about alleged attempts to ‘undermine Muslim identity’ in the valley after a clip showing Muslim students in public schools reciting a Hindu hymn sparked controversy among religious leaders and regional policies.
New Delhi revoked the constitutional semi-autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, its part of the region disputed by India and Pakistan, into two federally-ruled territories in 2019.
The abrogation of its autonomy, which was followed by a total blackout of communications, severe restrictions on freedom of movement, the detention of hundreds of local political leaders and the deployment of thousands of additional soldiers, has since heightened fears that the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party is trying to change the Muslim-majority region.
Earlier this month, when Muslim students were instructed to recite a Hindu hymn as part of preparations for the celebration of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth on October 2, a clip of the activity sparked fresh concern among communities. valley, such as the Muttahida Majlis-e -Ulema Jammu and Kashmir, a collective of 30 religious and educational organizations in the region.
“MMU calls on the government and relevant authorities to immediately withdraw its orders and end these practices in schools and educational institutions, which deeply hurt the religious feelings of Muslims and cause them grief,” they said. in a press release.
The collective issued the statement after a meeting was held over the weekend “following unfortunate attempts to undermine Kashmiri Muslim identity”.
Mohd Ashraf Rather, director of education for Kulgam Regional District, told Arab News on Sunday that the anthem was practiced at school “because it is a prayer of all religions” and had been part of a “one-day activity” before that of Gandhi. birthday parties.
“It is the same hymn that Mahatma Gandhi used to sing and the prayer invokes both Ishwar (Hindu address to God) and Allah,” Rather said.
The Hindu anthem controversy appears to be part of a “deliberate” plan, said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, head of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, who has been under house arrest since August 2019.
“It becomes clear that there appears to be a deliberate plan to push our young generation through public educational institutions into apostasy, to wean them from Islamic beliefs and identity, to accelerate their so-called” integration “with the majority Hindu idea of India,” Farooq told Arab News.
Although the recitation of Hindu hymns is not something new in Kashmir, the issues raised in the valley have been sparked by concerns over the intention of the ruling BJP party, the political leader told Arab News. of the region, Ghulam Mir of the Apni party.
“Prayers can be performed in any language, but the important thing is to look at the intention. If the intention is an ulterior motive, then anyone can raise an objection,” Mir said.
“Previously people used to recite Hindu hymns, but at this time (the intention) was different, but the BJP’s majority policy looks like (being) against Muslims – their profile is anti-Muslim, so whatever they do, Muslims think it’s against them.”
Imran Nabi Dar, spokesman for Kashmir’s oldest political party, the National Conference, urged the government to provide an explanation.
“The government must provide clarification. What is the intention behind this? Dar told Arab News.
“There is a serious attempt to hurt the feelings of the majority community in Kashmir. There is an attempt to provoke the people,” he added.
Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, senior leader and organizer of the People’s Alliance for the Gupkar Declaration – a political alliance between several regional parties in Jammu and Kashmir campaigning to restore its special autonomous status – stressed the importance of education secular in Kashmir.
“Any encroachment that undermines the secular spirit of the constitution is dangerous,” Tarigami said. “Everything that is happening in Kashmir is part of the ‘Hindunization’ agenda of education, which will provoke and foster other forms of extremism.”
Dr. Hina Bhat, a Srinagar-based local leader and BJP spokesperson, told Arab News that the anthem was not controversial.
“What’s Controversial in Anthems?” Bhat asked. “They should stop politicizing the issue where children are not allowed to grow up in an open space.”
Kapil Kak, a former Indian air marshal and member of the Forum for Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir, said ‘there should be no change’ in patterns of school prayers and songs in Kashmir.
“The problem can turn into a potential trouble spot. The Kashmiris have been very patient; they have suffered several types of attacks on their identity over the past three years, but they have put up with it.