Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Secularism -- A Hindu CM for J&K: Any Takers?

from Naresh Khanna
date Fri, Jan 2, 2009 at 1:03 PM
subject A Hindu CM for J&K: Any Takers?

There was no widespread outrage or even a murmur of protest when a Muslim has been elected as the chief minister of predominantly Hindu majority states. Abdul Gafoor was the chief minister of Bihar which has a Muslim population of 16.5%. Maharashtra, a supposed bastion of Hindutva with a Muslim population of around 10% had no qualms about accepting Abdul Rehman Antulay as its chief minister. Other Hindu-majority states like Kerala, Assam and Pondicherry have also had Muslim chief ministers.

Despite being touted as the only Muslim majority state in a predominantly Hindu India, J&K is not a homogenous entity, either in its geographic distribution or religious composition. The Kashmir valley, the most vociferous of its components comprises barely 16% of its land mass compared to Jammu that accounts for 26% and Ladkah that makes up 58%. Even in terms of human population, the predominance of the valley is more a matter of hype than a fact based realty: Jammu has 45%, Ladakh 3% and Kashmir 52%. Nevertheless, all the chief ministers of J&K since independence have come from the valley. In keeping with the tenets of our democracy it is time that someone else (other than from the valley) dons the premier mantle.

All the chief ministers of J&k have been Muslims as though conforming to an unwritten law that dictates this. Hindus constitute 33% of the combined population of J&K with Muslims making up 64% and the remaining 3% being accounted for by Buddhists, Sikhs and Christians. When Hindu- majority Maharashtra with a Muslim population of 10% can have a Muslim chief minister, can anyone have an objection to J&K with a Hindu population of 33% having a Hindu chief minister?

Better still if a Kashmiri Pandit can be made the chief minister. Would it not atone for the harsh treatments they have suffered and for the marginalization of Hindus as a whole? Will it not encourage the Pandits to return?

Post election, the Congress and NC have charged the BJP with polarizing the state along religious lines. But has the Congress or for that matter the NC or PDP done anything to redress the grievances of the Hindu Jammu. Will they support a Hindu Chief Minister? Or is their secular credential merely a show piece that bats for the Muslim majority but crumbles when challenged by the Hindu minority?

The true validity of an ideology is tested in trying times and the ability to apply the principles of democracy and secularism, impartially and in a just fashion is what defines a truly civilized society. Would it not be a shining example of Indian democracy and Indian secularism, if a predominantly Muslim state accepts a Hindu chief minister? This is a true test of Indian secularism and the composite culture of Kashmiriyaat that the Kashmiris boast of. I will be waiting for the answer.

Vivek Gumaste

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