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Merry Christmas, Rev. Khanna: Thinking about Freedom and Intolerance in Kashmir

December 25, 2011

I want to begin writing this by wishing a very happy Christmas to Reverend C.M. Khanna, a Protestant presbyter in the All Saint’s Church, Srinagar, Indian held Jammu & Kashmir, who has been facing a situation that no free man should ever have to countenance. He has had to face an arrest (though, thankfully now he is out on bail) and social ostracism for doing nothing that can be construed as criminal or harmful to any individual or society at large. I write this in solidarity with him and his family, and with all those who have been harassed for their faith, or for their lack of faith, anywhere.

(Please follow this link for a comprehensive report on Rev. Khanna’s situation, in the form of a press note submitted by John Dayal)

I know that many people in Kashmir continue to be in prison for reasons of conscience, because they want to be free of the occupation. And this Christmas, my greetings are to them and to their families too. I know that Reverend Khanna is out on bail now, and that many others are not. And I hope that they too will see freedom soon. I am writing about Reverend Khanna not because I value his freedom more than that of others incarcerated in Kashmir, but because if we value freedom, we should not have to measure its value, or calculate its worth depending on who happens to get bail, and who happens to rot in jail.

It is incidental that Rev. Khanna happens to be a Christian pastor in Kashmir, he might just as well have been a Muslim Imam in a small town in one of the southern states of the United States of America, a certain kind of Buddhist monk in China, a Jewish Rabbi in Saudi Arabia, a practicing Hindu in Pakistan or an Atheist in Iran. No person, anywhere in the world, should be persecuted or harassed or socially boycotted for their beliefs, their faith or lack of them, or for trying to convince others  to join them in their faith or share in celebrating their doubt. States and societies that deny people this basic right, the freedom to articulate and communicate their convictions, cannot be considered to be ‘free’ in any way.

There is no denying that a part of Kashmir is in the grip of a brutal occupation by the armed forces of the Indian State. Kashmir is not free. There is no denying that a plebiscite under international auspices to determine what shape the people of Kashmir want to give to their sovereignty may well be the only way out of the violence and brutal force that reigns over Kashmir. My views on this matter are public knowledge, and have been freely expressed, both in this blog and in other fora.

Today, I want to ask a serious question about the nature of the ‘Azadi’ that the self-proclaimed leaders of the Kashmiri people are demanding. I do not mean to demean or cheapen this demand, which I consider to be just and morally correct. I only want to know whether or not, many of those who voice this demand in Kashmir do so after due consideration to what ‘freedom’ actually entails, or whether they are just automatically mouthing a demand whose depth they have no intention of plumbing. If the latter is the case, then the ‘Azadi’ they will bring to bear on Kashmir will not be substantially different from the ‘Barbadi’ (devastation) that is currently taking place there under the auspices of the Indian state.

If the ‘Azadi’ has to be ‘pyaari-pyaari, meethi-meethi (beloved and sweet)’ as the passionate voices of crowds in Kashmir so often declare, then, it has to mean the freedom to uphold the dictates of one’s faith and conscience, without fear, regardless of what name one gives to one’s faith or lack of it. Without the freedom to believe or disbelieve as one chooses to, according to one’s conscience, there cannot be a substantive or real ‘Azaadi’. It may be an ‘Azaadi-baraye-Islam’ (an Azaadi for Islam) but that is not Azaadi. Azaadi Baraye Islam in a Muslim Majority province means the same thing as freedom for Hindus in a Hindu majority territory. This is freedom with qualifiers, and freedom with qualifiers is really, not freedom at all.

I say this in relation to the recent troubles that have plagued Reverend Chander Mani Khanna, whom I referred to at the beginning of this post. The facts are common knowledge by now. Reverend Khanna, who has been living in Srinagar for quite some time, has been serving the small Christian community in Kashmir. Some time ago, some local people, who had been regularly attending his services, asked him to baptize them into the Christian religion. He was initially reluctant to do so, and only after satisfying himself that they were not asking to be baptized for any material benefit, he conducted the relevant ceremony, not in hiding, but in public, so that no ulterior motives may be attributed to him.

Subsequent to this, he was first summoned before a ‘Sharia Court’ by an individual – a Bashiruddin Ahmed – who is acknowledged to be the ‘Mufti-Azam’ of Jammu and Kashmir by the state government and thus cannot be regarded as anything but a well known (if occasionally double dealing) lackey of the Indian occupation of Kashmir. This individual reprimanded severely Rev. Khanna, though he had no legal authority to do so, (as the ‘Sharia Court’ has no legal or constitutional basis) and then legal notices were served on him by the official judicial system. Since Jammu and Kashmir, unlike some other states in the Indian Union does not (thankfully) have a draconian ‘anti conversion law’ on its statute books, Rev. Khanna  was arrested under sections of the Ranbir Penal Code to do with disrupting communal harmony and causing disaffection. Reportedly, no lawyer in Kashmir agreed to appear on his behalf. He was heckled in court, and threatened as he was finally released on bail in early December.

Let us remember that this was an action undertaken by the very regime that the ‘separatist’ leaders of Jammu and Kashmir oppose tooth and nail.Yet in this instance, they (the separatist leadership) seemed to have experienced no trouble at all in either remaining indifferent to the plight of Rev. Khanna, acting ambivalently at best, or in actually actively supporting the hated state’s draconian action. So a state that you say you hate is fine as long as it persecutes people who are inconvenient to you. This attitude should make it clear that several of the loudest voices in favor of ‘Azadi’ in Jammu & Kashmir have no real commitment to the idea of freedom and the ethical responsibility that it entails. A case like this is a test. And we should treat it as one. If someone responds to it with prevarication, ambivalence or in support of persecution, then they cannot be trusted to respect freedom. Today they have looked away, or cheered, as a Christian Pastor is pilloried, tomorrow, they will do it to Pandits, or Shias, or Buddhists, or Atheists, or people who have a different idea of how the state or society should be administered.

I am not a believer, and if I met Rev. Khanna, I would politely and respectfully offer him my fundamental disagreements with the tenets of his faith. But that does not mean that I do not respect his right to communicate what he perceives to be his faith to me. If I found his arguments and his passion persuasive, I may even agree to join his faith, as I would if I were convinced by the tenets of Islam, Advaita Vedanta, Mahayana Buddhism or any other religious world view. So far I have not had this good fortune. My doubts stay, and I remain, an unbeliever, keenly interested in all religions and beliefs, but content to hold my own ground in terms of doubt.

The opposition to Rev. Khanna’s actions centre on the fact that a video of the conversion ceremony has the ‘baptized’ declaring that they enter a new life in the Christian faith, renouncing the works of the devil. This has been taken to mean that the baptized are saying that their previous faith (in this case, Islam) is the ‘work of the devil’. While I carry no brief for proselytizers of any sort, I do recognize that several religions, especially Christianity and Islam, do attribute deviation from their core beliefs to be inspired by the power which is not what they consider to be God. And there can be no ambiguity about the fact that this power, happens to be the devil. Thus, it is a bit specious for a believing Muslim to be offended by a Christian baptism ceremony invoking a renunciation of the devil, especially when the core beliefs and practices of non-Muslims (say in icon-worship, or the ‘divinity’ of Jesus Christ) would equally qualify as the ‘devil’s work’ for a Musllim proselytizer or ‘defender-of-the-faith’.

The other objection has been to the possibility of monetary or material incentives for conversion. Reverend Khanna flatly denies that he offered any material incentives to those who chose to convert. He in fact says that he repeatedly asked them to reconsider their desire, and took the step to baptize them only after he was convinced that the individuals concerned had no material motives.

I take Reverend Khanna at his word, but let us for argument’s sake, consider the circumstances of conversion for material gain.

I have no hesitation in saying that if a religiously committed individual were to offer material inducements to people to convert, I would see nothing wrong with that either. After all, many religions promise ‘their’ believers a ‘better life’ in heaven – their visions of paradise are all ‘milk and honey’.

What difference does it make if one gets a little ‘milk and honey’ in this life along with the next one ? Let us assume, hypothetically, that a person did offer material rewards. What wrong would that do? And why are we assuming that a little ‘milk and honey’ in this life, especially if one is poor and desperate, are things to be looked down upon? What gives anyone the right to look down upon an appreciation of material rewards in this life, it those rewards rob no one else of their rights, and are not wrested by violence? The only conditions under which conversion can be said to be ‘wrong’ in my view, is if it is obtained under duress and threat of violence. No one faith has monopoly over a history of coercion and violence. And in all instances, it is wrong.

It has been said, by some, that Rev. Khanna represents a ‘foreign funded’ initiative. Again, this is probably not true. But what if it were? Who is to say that the many well endowed Saudi petrodollar backed Salafi initiatives that are active in Kashmir, that are intent on turning people in Kashmir away from the kind of Islam that they have known for generations towards another kind of Islam, are not equally ‘foreign-funded’. Why cherry pick one’s ‘foreign funded’ agencies when it comes to proselytization ?

Finally, we come to the most substantive point of all. The vast majority of Muslims in Kashmir are descended from people who converted freely, and of their own volition to the Islamic faith at some point or the other in the past. If we can respect the agency and freedom of these ancestors of today’s Kashmiris to choose their own faith, why should we not extend the same respect to today’s Kashmiris when it comes to the choices that they want to make to remain within Islam or to choose another faith, or to choose no faith at all. Only if this basic respect is guaranteed will the slogan of ‘Azadi’ carry any meaning. Otherwise, it will be just as hollow as the claim that ‘Kashmiris are as free as they can be within the Indian Union’.

All those who stand for ‘Azadi’ in Kashmir, if their love for freedom is genuine, will, I hope, stand in solidarity with Reverend Khanna and his family this Christmas. I say all this because I hope that one day the occupation of Kashmir will end, and that all those who stay in Kashmir, including Reverend Khanna, or some one like him, will live as free men and women.

37 Comments leave one →
  1. December 25, 2011 5:37 AM

    As a Kashmiri, I thank you for this! Bravo!

  2. December 25, 2011 6:41 AM

    sorry to put it so bluntly, but you have provoked me to do so shuddhabrataji.
    the Kashmiri Pundits who have been criticizing the azadiwallas have been doing so based on some years of personal experience with the kashmiri muslims and your remarks about the azadiwallas though late but only substantiate their views and only prove the wrong those who have no personal experience but argue based on intellectual and political beliefs, do and even propogate, as is the case with arundhati roy. and you are wrong again in saying that “The vast majority of Muslims in Kashmir are descended from people who converted freely, and of their own volition to the Islamic faith at some point or the other in the past.” it was mostly forced conversion not on their own volition. ask or talk to some KP’s you will realise this. as a KP i feel you all so-called secularists and leftists have been very unfair to us, just because we are called Brahmins or Pundits.

  3. December 25, 2011 7:50 AM

    For Muslims, instead of making a hullabaloo these incidents should serve as an eye opener to make introspection as to what leads people to take these steps. And isolating this incident from the strings it is attached to (which becomes very difficult) pro-freedom people shouldn’t be bothered by this at all. But isolating it from the associated issues is not possible in current scenario of Kashmir.

    Now enter other issues. Kashmir is a place where its own population is under a constant and perennial threat and it extends to those who extend support to the genuine demand of Kashmiris. This threat can be in the form of a deportation of an activist like Mr.Navlakha. So this brings us to who from India is acceptable to India in Kashmir? Obviously, only those who don’t harm Indian interests or those who help in strengthening “Indian-ness”! And to me an important point that needs to be understood here is that in the current atmosphere of cynicism for an Indian and Indian activity in Kashmir, do Kashmiris differentiate between collaborators and non-collaborators (neutrals)? (Neutrality in such atmosphere in itself is questionable.) So when antennae of this cynicism start their reception and transmission we get questions like: why should we see church activists (who are not merely practizing Christians) in almost every village, town and city of Kashmir, why do they need such a big army of reverends and pastors to cater to the needs of 400 Christians living valley, are their activities Christian specific, are their non-Christian activities limited to selfless social service or it has selfish dimensions? At least at present anything that is seen to change the social or religious demography of the valley is considered to be representing Indian interests. Why shouldn’t one relate their extended activities to the suspicions of Kashmiris?

    The report of the organization that Mr.Khanna belongs to or is supported by, All India Christian Council” puts a sub-line on its report that says “Dealing with Islamic groups in Kashmir on Christian persecution”. Read the report and it is mostly dealing state government. What do I read from this? There is no direct mention of the struggle of Kashmiris or the state oppression that is existent in Kashmir but what it talks about is communalization in Kashmir. Why doesn’t it say that Tyandal Biscoe School and a Burn Hall School in Srinagar, a Saint Joseph School in Baramullah, a Missionary Hospital in Islamabad (Anantnag) have been running for last four or five decades and have never been targeted? Incidentally many of prominent pro-freedom leaders have been pass outs of these schools. That report only has accusations and interpretations based on the conversations with ‘many people’. Why should we believe these shady statements and biased organizations? Religious organizations can’t turn a blind eye to injustice and oppression. Their stand shouldn’t be ambiguous on that.

    And if these church activists are there merely for the purpose of preaching and spreading Christianity why opposition to that should be seen as immoral or something unacceptable? Why should we defend means of material inducements? Are we defending someone’s right to faith or someone’s right to get corrupted and practize corruption throughout life, because once people get used to it they will need it for life? If we are defending second then we should why oppose any other means of corruption? Financial corruption for any reason always yields ‘better life’ and ‘milk and honey’! Why at the first place does one need to make material help subservient to practizing that specific faith that provides that material help? Can we call this communalism in addition to corruption?

    That the idea of “azaadi” should mean everyone should be “azaad” unconditionally is what we should be standing for or thinking about. But equally what we should be trying to understand is that unconditionality shouldn’t be construed as freedom to be irresponsible. A question that comes with freedom is that is it just about the freedom of an individual or is it about freedom of a community, a sect, a religion and so on? Similarly, if freedom of practizing a faith involves freedom to practize conversions (with any means) then that freedom should entail something to prevent conversions occurring through immoral/corrupt routes. An important distinction that needs to be made is between those who practize a religion and those who are purposefully involved in conversions that too through means that are otherwise abhorred in society. Opposition to conversions should not be automatically extended as opposition to that specific faith.

    P.S: Few sentences I think that need to be replied to specifically:
    1. “Reverend Khanna, who has been living in Srinagar for quite some time, has been serving the small Christian community in Kashmir. Some time ago, some local people, who had been regularly attending his services, asked him to baptize them into the Christian religion.”

    On one hand Mr.Khanna is serving Christian Community in Srinagar and on the other hand local people are regularly attending his services; these local people include two masons (from the AIHC report). Does it look as simple as it is being presented?

    2. “Azaadi Baraye Islam in a Muslim Majority province means the same thing as freedom for Hindus in a Hindu majority territory.”

    That will be a gross over-simplification and that makes it wrong even for the sake of making a point. I don’t know about the system of governance that is described in Hindu religion so can’t comment on that. But Islam has a well defined way of governance that takes into consideration rights of Muslims and non-Muslims both. As far I understand Islamic laws of governance if applied in principle and purpose provide the most just system of governance. Still I am not in favor (not against) of Islamic governance in Kashmir because of the diversity that we have in population there. Unless people don’t understand and accept a system of governance it is not prudent to apply that system. But yes Uniform Civil Code is a definite no no.

    3. “After all, many religions promise ‘their’ believers a ‘better life’ in heaven – their visions of paradise are all ‘milk and honey’.”

    Should I read this as bias towards Islam, an attempt at over-reaching the other side or sheer ignorance of the subject? Whatever, it is highly offending! The promise of “better life” and “milk and honey” is when we are involved in a constant state of struggle and striving in current life. A mere acceptance of the faith doesn’t ensure these things for us. It is the associated hardships, relinquishing the ‘milk and honey’ (not in literal sense essentially) that make us eligible for this ‘better life’ and ‘milk and honey’. These are wages in return for some hard work is as simple as I can make it. Even an attempt at equating this with some corrupt practice is completely unacceptable and objectionable. And I am not striving for an Azaadi that gives someone freedom to show disrespect to any faith even if it emanates from ignorance. I expect a co-existence, a mutual respect.

    • December 26, 2011 12:35 AM

      Thank you all for continuing the conversation.I am appending below a few responses (adapted) I have made to a debate on the same post by me in another forum

      Firstly, let me state that the question of ‘what is to be done’ with conversion is by no means unique to Islam. The arguments that i have offered would be equally applicable, should a Muslim preacher be persecuted for attempting to show people the way to Islam in an RSS stronghold. In that instance, too, I would have no hesitation in being in solidarity with the Muslim preacher. That is why,for instance, I explicitly mention a gallery of hypothetical figures, a Muslim Imam in the southern USA, a Rabbi in Saudi Arabia, an atheist in Iran etc.

      Lest it be understood that my response stems from some kind of abstract ‘secularist’ position, let me say this very clearly, while I am an atheist, I am not a ‘secularist’. A ‘secularist’ would be someone who has an interest in the maintenance of a ‘secular’ state, as an anarchist, I have no interest in the maintenance of any kind of state whatsoever, neither an ‘Islamist’ state, nor a ‘secularist’ one. That being said, I see no problem in trying to persuade others about the value of my unbelief, just as I see no problem in others trying to persuade me about the value of their belief. This is specifically addressed to Shivam, who has a problem with proselytization per se, which I don’t share. If I see good enough reason to believe, I will. But until, i do that, I will un-believe, and continue to invite others to my kind of un-belief.That too is a form of proselytization. I do not think that it invariably involves seeing others as inferior, just as I do not think that a Muslim who seeks to convert me to Islam sees me as ‘inferior’. In fact, it could be said that he/she does me great honor by inviting me to join what he/she holds dear. I respect the invitation, and I respect the spirit behind the invitation, but I do not have to accept it. Respect does not require acceptance, or assent.

      Since there have been a few gestures about the tolerance or otherwise, within the Islamic tradition, allow me to digress a little, I happen to know a little bit about Islamic traditions and the question of conversion, (because I am interested in how different traditions deal with the presence of difference). The ‘tradition’, as is well known, does not speak in one voice, and it does not speak in one voice specifically on the question of people converting away from Islam – or to call it by its technical name – Apostasy – or Riddah

      The Quran condemns apostasy, but does not specify a punishment. It is only when apostasy is coupled with treason, that punishment, including capital punishment is considered appropriate. In that case it is not different from other standard views of treason, including those upheld by many secular states. While I do not agree that treason is a capital crime, I do not think that the intolerance of treason is a specifically ‘muslim’ problem.

      Again, while there are ahadith that seem to indicate that the Prophet sanctioned the killing and punishment of apostates, a careful reading will show that these are all cases of people who had also acted as traitors in times of war.

      The matter of riddah, is an offense against god, and it is considered by many orthodox jurists, to be a matter outside the ambit of human jurisdiction, the punishment for it is left to Allah on the day of judgement, where he can either punish or forgive, for he is capable of infinite mercy. However, there is a specific matter on which the tradition does have a strong view, and that is human beings taking upon themselves the right to decide matters best left to God. Offences against God, are matters of this sort, and a human being taking it upon himself to
      punish apostasy would be viewed as arrogance, and is a serious crime, analogous to ‘shirk’ which can be also read as the claim that anyone, human or otherwise, can ‘participate’ in divine functions .This is the opinion of several respected and often cited jurists int the Islamic tradition – including

      There is incidentally, a prominent distinct ahadith (and their isnad is pretty impeccable) that directly tell us what the Prophet Muhammad (AS) did when confronted with apostasy. In one instance, a bedouin, in Medina asked for a cancellation of his pledge to Islam, he asked for this three times, on three distinct occasion, the prophet did not respond, and finally, he left Medina, unharmed. You can look this up, in Sahih Al Bukhari, it is Hadith no. 318.

      In the second instance, there is the well known figure of Ubaydallah ibn Jahsh, who was amongst the first emissaries of the prophet from first Mecca to Abyssinia. Ubaydullah, who had accepted Islam, became a Christian, but remained an associate of Muslims. His wife divorced him for this reason, but he was neither killed, nor ostracized, and this happened in the prophet’s knowledge, in his lifetime.

      You can find out about him in a good ‘sirat’ (biography) of the prophet, a specific one that I can recommend, because i have the reference at hand is ‘Biography of the Prophet’ by Shaikh Abdullah bin Al Shaikh Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab, published by Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2006. The reference to Ubaydullah bin Jahsh’s ‘apostasy’ is on page 174. I have deliberately picked an ‘orthodox’ Sunni sirat, lest I be charged with purveying some esoteric new age source.

      A similar instance, can also be found in the accounts of the life of the Caliph Umar, one of the ‘righteous’ Caliphs, who, was also remarkably tolerant of apostasy while he functioned as the commander of the faithful,

      Further, there are a number of eminent traditionalist jurists in Islamic history, who explicitly deny punishment for apostasy – they include prominently – Ibn Hammam al Hanafi, the founder of the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence. Several other prominent Muslim traditional theorists, including Ibrahim Al Nakha, Sufyan Al-Thawri, and three eminent medieval jurists of the Maliki school – Abu Al Walid Al Baji, Abu ‘Abdullah Al-Qurtubi, and Abu Hayyan Al-Andalusi, all are of the view that an apostate should be persistently ‘invited’ back to Islam, but because, ‘there cannot be compulsion in matters of religion’, they should not be punished for their failure to abide by Islam.

      While there has for long been an intolerant streak in some kinds of Islam, these can by no means be considered the bulwark or the sole authorized representatives of the Islamic tradition. When people like Maulana Maududi (from whom many of today’s Islamic fundamentalists derive their inspiration) say that there is a uniform consensus amongst all Islamic schools of thought that capital punishment is the only response to apostasy, they are either displaying their ignorance of the diversity of positions within Islam, or being hypocritical. I think that if a careful comparative study were done of attitudes and responses to apostasy and the freedom of religion per se across faiths, the history of actual Islamic practice would lean towards a record of real tolerance and liberality. This is something to be proud of for all believing, doubting and non-believing people from a Muslim background. Nowhere, for instance, does the Christian faith (in its various denominations) exhibit the same degree of tolerance, which is why actually existing Muslim societies in pre-modern times, be it in Andalusia, the Ottoman empire, or in the early Caliphates, where actually far more tolerant spaces than their counterparts in Christendom. Seen in this light, latter day Muslim fundamentalists who exhibit intolerance towards apostasy and unbelief are actually the deviation, not the norm, from what prevailed in the majority of the Islamic tradition.

      best regards,


      • December 26, 2011 6:19 AM

        dear shuddhaji, i am happy reading so many different inputs and though i agree with most of what you have written, i want to point that i miss inputs from women and feminists here. as a KP woman i may just share why i have problems with the azadiwallas in kashmir and less, much lesser with the kashmiri Christians. first let me say that most of my relatives in the valley have studied in christian schools and are now able to live good lives all over the world. most of us benefit from the health and educational services provided by the Christians all over India. Muslims on the other hand have their own madrassas, their own function halls, their own orphan homes too and it becomes so vivid how they themselves keep them out from others.moreover with the azadiwallas, it is an all men affair and if there have been any women joining them, they have just been non-critical followers, no independent minded individuals. i have my own fears if they took over, e.g.if there will be islamic sharia rule when they have achieved their azadi, women will have to put on the burqa and the like. what will we do, who do not want the burqa and believe in the same fundamentral human rights as given to men. will we be treated as they do to their women today in Iran or in African Islamic countries? at times i am also surprised to observe that even the muslim men in kashmir i can get along well with, behave quite anti-woman to their own women. one example here: this october i went to the christian hospital in anantnaag (islamabad today) where i was born some sixty years ago and found many christian nurses and doctors from my present home state andhra pradesh serving there, treating even some punjabi and rajasthani migrants. it was a sunday and the mass was on and they were singing the satsang style songs in praise of the lord jesus, i joined in and had no problems accepting their ladoos and pakoras as prasad, whereby aadil, my muslim companion, did not accept the prasad and later even shared his anger at seeing the young muslim kashmiri girls taking part in that mass. he said he is going to file an RTI to the authorities to find out how the christians in the hospital got the girls converted etc. i was quite horrified at his strong reactions. i am an atheist too and have no problems if others perform whatever rituals they do to praise their gods. so such experiences give me reasons to be critical to the self-determination zeal of the kashmiri azadiwallas. whose azadi are they wanting and what for? they remind me of spoilt children, particularly like the ones in Western countries, hating their parents and always opposing what the elders say etc..on the whole i feel strongly that they are making matters worse for a peaceful living between all the different religious communities as we used to be till some fifty years ago. this makes me sad and angry too, as i want to spend time in kashmir, my
        homeland, as a free person. asha


        hese girls converted to their religion.

  4. December 25, 2011 7:57 AM

    Shuddha, no one should be denied freedom to believe/not believe any religion, or change others’ or one’s own. And of course it doesn’t matter if money is exchanged for such conversion, because then all believers, secular and non-secular, would have to prove that that they don’t believe in something because it helps them materially, boosts their career, gains them legitimacy in society, or in general is convenient for them.

    It is sad that Rev. Khanna was questioned, and ridiculous that he was sent to jail. What is interesting to me is that the Indian state plays more loyal than the king in Kashmir, pretending to act like an “Islamist” state. No one (civil society group) went to court against Rev. Khanna, like some Delhi or Jammu-based groups regularly do against those who challenge Indian rule in Kashmir. Why was he arrested?

    There is a history of Indian forces in Kashmir raising communal issues to exploit public sentiments, and then labeling Kashmiris as Islamist to deny them political rights. The entire construction of Muslim-Christian conflict started way back in 1947 when Indians, to rouse Western sympathies, cried ‘rape of Christians at the hands of Islamic hordes’, and then in 2010 when the National Conference activists led villagers to burn a Christian run school. The Indian state, to show the West that it defends Christians in Kashmir, barbarically mowed down more than a dozen people.

    Because Bashirudeen is a state mufti, wouldn’t one wonder why he was interested in “reprimanding” Khanna or even raising the issue in the first place? I don’t remember any hue and cry from ‘separatists’ on the issue. Even at the height of militancy when Islamic schools in Kashmir were hastily re-branded under threat from the occupying forces, the Christian schools ran well.

    So, I don’t see any point in blaming pro-freedom activists. They don’t run jails, nor do they have the police. To suggest that the state kept Khanna in jail because they worried about public wrath cannot be correct, because the state doesn’t care about that wrath, or it would have arrested and brought to justice thousands of its soldiers, bureaucrats, and politicians responsible for the brutalities in Kashmir. If the state really cared about public sentiments they would have released the political prisoners, lifted the occupation, and left Kashmir.

    I am sure most people didn’t care about Rev. Khanna or have even heard his name. Christian Kashmiris have been living among their compatriots for more than a century now, and they have not had any problems–of course, they share the problems that other Kashmiris generally face. There was no mob that was going to burn any church or assault anyone. After seeing how Christians in India have had to suffer at the hands of Indian nationalists, it is important that we don’t replicate such hatred in our society. The burnt bodies of Graham Stein and his two sons are emblazoned in our memory, and so are the Christians of Orrisa, Gujarat and Karnataka. It is the culture of Indian nationalism that is seeping through the channels of occupation in Kashmir.

    What I find seriously questionable is that even if there was, ‘God’-forbid, any violence from Muslim Kashmiris, how would that automatically disqualify their right to live in a free society, free of Indian control? Why should these incidents, deeply sad and unfortunate as they are, call into question Azadi? I would think this incident should instead further discredit Indian claims of secularism and become part of the reason why Indian state has no moral standing to continue to rule anyone.

    • Amit Raina permalink
      December 25, 2011 4:01 PM

      Standard old habit of blaming everything on India and Indian State. You remember one individual Graham Stein, but conveniently forget thousands of Hindus killed in Kashmir and lakhs forced to become refugees in a fortnight. You forget the burning of Christian school in Tangmarg, Kashmir but can refer to some incident in Karnataka. You blame Indian state for arresting Priest Khanna but forget that every single lawyer in Kashmir refused to represent him. It is to blame but difficult to self introspect. So would suggest, it is time to do some difficult work

      • December 25, 2011 4:33 PM

        Dear Amit, perhaps you need to read my post again, and with a little care, before you jump to so many conclusions. Thanks, Shuddha

    • December 25, 2011 4:13 PM

      Thank you all for the thoughtful comments and criticism of my post. First things first, anyone who has read the post carefully, will know that I am not a ‘neutral’ when it comes to Kashmir. I am in favour of ‘Azadi’ in Kashmir, and i have said this publicly. Anyone who has read the post carefully will also see that my primary accusation is against the agency that has persecuted Rev. Khanna, that is the Indian state, acting through the Jammu & Kashmir police, and through its state appointed lackeys – which includes ‘Mufti Azam’ Bashiruddin Ahmed. So MJ (above) is absolutely right – this is an effort by the Indian state to appear more ‘islamist’ than the islamsists.

      I also do not think issues like this are ‘minor’ or ‘less important’ than the general misfortunes of the population that has to live under the violence of occupation. I see it as part of that violence. Because one of the worst things that oppressors do to the oppressed is to make things so horrible that the oppressed become unable to empathize with the suffering of anyone other than themselves. That is why yesterday’s victims so often become today’s worst oppressors. The history of ‘national liberation’ movements across the world is full of evidence of what I mean when I say this. You only have to look at what happens in Palestine. I hope that the people of Kashmir can do better than this. In order to do better, they will have to defeat the occupation’s best efforts to dehumanize them. That is the ethical responsibility, towards oneself, and towards others, that comes hand in hand with resisting oppression.

      Now, for some clarifications about what I mean when i have invoked ‘milk and honey’. First of all, this is not a reflection of a bias against Islam. Christianity too offers ‘milk and honey’ in the Christian heaven if you become a good Christian. My point is, the ‘incentives’ offered by every proselytizing religion include a promise of prosperity. I see nothing wrong with this. Millions of people in the South Asian subcontinent converted to Islam because they felt that it would made an immediate difference to their status in ‘this’ world. They believed that they would became free of the humiliation, subjection and in some cases poverty that held them in shackles through the caste system. I see absolutely nothing wrong in a Muslim preacher converting people with the promise of a better material life. And it is for this reason that I see absolutely nothing wrong with a Christian pastor (if he does so) doing that. This is regardless of whether or not a better life actually comes to pass for those who convert. What matters is the promise, and I see nothing wrong with the promise. I totally agree with the ‘Quranic’ injunction prohibiting ‘compulsion’ in matters of faith. This injunction. if we are to take it seriously, would mean understanding that a choice of what to believe and not to believe is best left to the details of the relationship between an individual and whosoever they believe is a divine power. Of course you can try to persuade and argue with a person who leaves your religion. But persuasion and compulsion are actually the opposites of each other. And a Muslim who ‘compels’ rather than ‘attempts to persuade’ a convert to revert to Islam is actually going against the letter of the above injunction. Following this logic, it could be said that the actions of Mufti Bashiruddin and the J&K Police in relation to Reverend Khanna are actually un-Islamic, but I haven’t quite heard that being said. I hope I have made myself abundantly clear.

      My sentiments in this regard stem from my deeply felt solidarity with the people of Kashmir. I hope they will be taken in that spirit. regards, Shuddha.

    • December 27, 2011 3:36 PM

      “Christian Kashmiris have been living among their compatriots for more than a century now, and they have not had any problems–of course, they share the problems that other Kashmiris generally face. There was no mob that was going to burn any church or assault anyone.”
      Possibly the burning down of All Saints’ Church in the first Hazratbal agitation in the early 70s was an error, and the mob thought it was a police station?

  5. amita kanekar permalink
    December 25, 2011 10:47 AM

    Beautiful and very comprehensive argument. Couldn’t agree with you more,

  6. December 25, 2011 2:06 PM

    Brilliant post. Well written.

  7. Rajesh Pillai permalink
    December 25, 2011 2:34 PM

    Is Kashmir is looking for Islamic Azadi? Islamic Azadi is different normal Azadi (Persian word) like Islamic Car, Islamic Bank, Islamic Bikini Islamic Azadi

  8. chetna kaul permalink
    December 25, 2011 6:09 PM

    any azadi without a conscience which will not overthrow the right of others will lead to the existing imperialist nation states of the world, thats why I have always been sceptical about the azadi and am also unapologetic about presenting my concerns . The cultural fabric of the kashmir has already been ruptured badly not only by the state but by the so called harbingers of azadi and many propounders of it blatantly as well as subtly in every possible way. So even though my heart goes out to the people who suffered from all sides, i fear azadi in kashmir will be another dictatorial nation state. But a very well written article

    • December 25, 2011 9:41 PM

      Chetna I could not agree more with you when you say, “any azadi without a conscience which will not overthrow the right of others will lead to the existing imperialist nation states of the world”. For example, India.

  9. December 25, 2011 6:10 PM

    Shuddha, defending a Rev. priest to freely convert could be defended in its own right. Why make such a massive case against *Indian Occupation* in the same post? A really *defensive article*, as if to keep the azadiwallas in good humour!

    Meanwhile, wherever Islam has dominated, all religions, even sects within Islam – those of the unorthodox types – Ahmeddiyas, Bahai’s Sufis – have all suffered, persecuted, and often eliminated or exterminated. This has happened in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran.

    Recently, a perfectly normal exhibition of various calligraphic Quran’s organised by Ahmadiyas in Delhi, was *forced* to close down by the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid in Delhi, because he felt the Ahmadiyas are *not Muslims*; see:

    Even *bridge-builders* like Mualana Wahiduddin Khan are classified as *heretics* and ostracised from mainstream Islam.

    Saudi Arabia does not allow anyone to practice any other religion; one has heard horrible stories of pictures of Indian gods and godesses being picked out of pockets of Indians and crushed by immigration officers – as a way of teaching a lesson about who not to argue with in that country.

    In 1951 22% of Bangladesh was Hindu; by 2001, it was down to 9.2%. Let’s look at Pakistan. Post partition (and the massive migrations) nearly 20% of the Pakistani population was Hindu, while it is now less than 2%. The reasons are primarily of direct/in-direct persecution and often even forced conversions and threats.

    That the same precedent would follow in Kashmir once it found *independence* from India is not only believable, but perhaps inevitable. No matter what the liberal, and well-meaning Kashmiri Muslims say or do, they do not have much in control.

    Sufi processions and even Dargahs are regularly targetted by militants and extremists, just as they are in Pakistan. No one has heard such incidents happening anywhere in India. The situation is becoming so bad that organisations such as the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting is asking *Is Kashmir headed the way of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the Islamic radicalism has fueled a nihilistic ideology of settling disagreements through violence?*. See

    This is a case for India to not only remain in Kashmir, but also cause influence of its culture, which includes Sufism, back into Kashmiri mainstream.

    • ShankarG permalink
      December 26, 2011 11:09 AM

      Perhaps you are not familiar with the fact that the world’s largest Muslim nation – Indonesia – is an effectively secular country whose Constitution – while it refers to God – specifically avoided the term Allah for that purpose? Or that its population is 88% Muslim, 9% Christian, and 2% Hindu? Or perhaps you have never heard of Turkey? It is remarkable how people ignore the vast majority of situations and talk of just a few that justify their prejudices.

      • dark lord permalink
        December 28, 2011 5:27 PM

        Turkey is an exception. Its secularism is based on Ataturk reforms and enforced by its army, not popular democracy.

        “It is remarkable how people ignore the vast majority of situations and talk of just a few that justify their prejudices.”
        You have just reinforced this by hand pinking Indonesia and ignoring most (if not all) of middle east, Iran, Pakistan, Libya, Egypt, Malaysia and Bangladesh

      • Ravi permalink
        June 19, 2012 1:53 PM

        You call *this* effectively secular?

        “About 100 Protestants were attacked by a Muslim mob at their church in Bekasi on the outskirts of the capital, Jakarta. The mob hurled stones, bags of urine and death threats at the congregation”

        “The most shocking incident occurred in February last year when a mob of 1,500, stoked up by local FPI leaders, attacked the house of a local Ahmadiyah leader in west Java, killing three people”

        The religious-affairs minister, Suryadharma Ali, has blamed the Ahmadiyah itself for inviting deadly attacks, saying it had strayed from mainstream Islam. In March he suggested banning women from wearing skirts that were above the knee, calling them “pornographic”

    • B. D. Gurung permalink
      December 28, 2011 8:21 AM

      I agree with you. People who argue in favour of Islamic Militants in Kashmir should note that the Indian Kashmiri Muslims drove out their fellow-Hindu Kashmiri Pundits out of their Jammu homes en masse.

  10. younis permalink
    December 25, 2011 6:32 PM

    gud one … I am a muslim and went today in srinagar church to see the christmas celebrations … It was very iritating and ridiculous when some journalists asked me why I am there? … I think they forgot that Jesus (Hazrat Isaah) is also our prophet and we can celebrate his birthday. Hope these so called journalists know what to talk and how to talk before going into this profession.

  11. December 25, 2011 6:46 PM

    I love this article, I really do, not because I’m a Christian or not because you’ve stood by a Reverend; I love it because I’ve never come across an explanation for the ‘milk & honey’ aspect of conversion before. People steer clear of it, like it’s the plague. I know that wasn’t the point the article was meant to focus on, but it stood out like a lighthouse.

    Everybody eyes conversion suspiciously. Within the Christian community itself, when someone decides to switch over to another “church”, like a Roman Catholic turning Protestant or vice versa, there’s a flood of disapproval. Oh yes, we have our share of double standards when it comes to conversions too, not all of us though, just the ‘extremely enthusiastic’ ones. A common line you’ll hear is “They did it for money”. Thanks to your article, I won’t have to shut up after “so what if they converted for money”. We do the same thing, only in our case, people get their ‘money’ in the afterlife.

    Keep up the good work.
    Have a nice day and wish you a very Merry Christmas.

  12. December 25, 2011 7:02 PM

    Attempts by ‘experts’ to link Azadi with conversion is sheer shortsightedness. How many people protested in Kashmir against the Pastor? Who registered the FIR? Did the state not take suo motto action.

    “in 2001, for the first time, they were seen scattered over the length and breadth of the state beyond the cities of Jammu and Srinagar. In Islamabad, for instance, their population surged from 36 to 290, in Pulwama from zero to 625, in Baramulla from 106 to 527, in Kupwara from 19 to 545, in Poonch from 48 to 238 and in Srinagar 209 to 1529. With the highest literacy rate of 74.8 percent, the community has exhibited a massive growth despite having mere 594 sex ratio amongst adults and 834 in children.

    The growth, however, exhibited an interesting trend. In Kashmir’s now-10 districts, there are 3757 Christians but only 480 are females which indicate that most of the males are recent converts to the faith. Only 123 of their members fall under 0-6 age group. In Budgam where 178 Christians live only six are females. In Kupwara they have only 11 females for 534 males and in Srinagar where they have a sizable population of 1592 only 151 are females. In Kargil, the Muslim dominated district of Ladakh there are 71 Christians of them only one is female.The gender ratio among the Christians is revealing. ” (source Kashmir Life)

    My take

    “In a society where the new status symbol is ill-gotten wealth, where corruption has become a way of life, the politician and the preacher both cash in on this social anarchy, resulting is a gradual decline of moral ethics where faith can be sold for 5000 Rupees. The ‘conversion for money’ by these missionaries is deplorable but more condemnable is the self destruction mode that the society as a whole has been thrust towards. The onus for reform lies within the society itself. No amount of religious sermons will help when the claims of compassion for social change unless they are not translated into action.

    Till that time the deprived and the denied will be exposed to selling their faith.”

    Please dont force links between ‘Intolerance’ ‘Conversions’ ‘Islamism’ and ‘Azadi’. Using too many adjectives is bad for the health of your language.

  13. proud kashmiri muslim permalink
    December 25, 2011 9:34 PM

    From doubting d constitutional validity of shariah court and position of the ‘individual’ mufti basheer(thus giving constitution prime status) to questioning constitutional illegality of monetary inducement of conversion (thus doubting the constitution in itself) i find author shifting between stances to uphold what he is inclined to…

  14. December 25, 2011 10:03 PM

    Shuddha, Thanks for this post. I agree with some of the comments here that it is perhaps unfair to blame the Azadipasand for this controversy, but I did see some Facebook posts against Rev. Khanna and as for those who did not have anything to say, I might add, as Kashmiris say about Indians, silence is complicity.

    Especially in the light of some comments here and on Twitter, which are cheering this post for showing up the Azadipasand as Bad people, may I reiterate the point that communal people also deserve the right to self-determination. Just because there are Hindus killing Christians in Orissa or Gujarat, that does not mean India should be reverted to British colonial rule. And so it is that the Islamists in Kashmir also deserve, along with one’s contempt, the right to self-determination. That is not good enough reason to be silent about the hypocrisy of the Azadipasand, but as has been pointed out in some comments above, it is not as if the Christian minority in Kashmir (equal in number than the Kashmiri Pandits who are still there) are more secure than Christians in many parts of India and the world. One must demand of Kashmiri society as well as the state that rules there, no matter how illegitimately, the rights of all minorities to be respected and ensured, just as one must demand that of all societies, state and governments.

    While I am on the same page as Shuddha about the missionary’s right to persuade people to join his/her religion, that does not take away from me my right to say that I find proselytisation and conversion utterly disgusting. In a tolerant missionary school I went to, not different from Biscoe or Burn Hall in Srinagar, there was a neo-convert Hindi teacher who would teach us the Bible rather than the prescribed Hindi txtbook, distribute copies of the Bible and try to persuade us mostly Hindu students that her new religion was superior to the ones we once shared with her. She once even landed up at the hospiatl to read from the Bible for the ailing mother of a student. I have also had the opportunity to be suggested by some Muslims, Kashmiris and non-Kashmiris, about the superiority of their faith, especially after they learnt I was a Hindu-turned-atheist. “Just read the Qur’an,” one said, “read it like a story book, don’t think, just read it.”

    I recount these experiences with the faithful not only because they offended my sensibilities as an atheist, but I am mindful about how much more they would offend the faithful. The right to offend is part of the right to free speech, but one has to be naive to expect that there would be no religious strife in the world with people trying to convert others to their religion. Those who seek to convert no doubt consider other religions lesser than their own, and this for me is a matter of concern because it comes in the way of the world being a peaceful place of pluralism and diversity. And so, while I join Shuddha in demanding an end to the harassment of Rev. Khanna, I want to express my contempt for him at the same time. Even if he did not seek to convert, the very fact that he baptises people, from faiths he considers lesser than his own, is enough for me to call him, at the very least, a man of hatred. Because for me it amounts to hatred of other religions. I hold the same views for Muslims who seek to convert, and the RSS-aligned self-appointed guardians of the Hindu faith who are converting adivasis to Brahminical Hinduism across India.


    • ShankarG permalink
      December 26, 2011 11:17 AM

      “I recount these experiences with the faithful not only because they offended my sensibilities as an atheist, but I am mindful about how much more they would offend the faithful. The right to offend is part of the right to free speech, but one has to be naive to expect that there would be no religious strife in the world with people trying to convert others to their religion. Those who seek to convert no doubt consider other religions lesser than their own, and this for me is a matter of concern because it comes in the way of the world being a peaceful place of pluralism and diversity.”

      While I am no fan of conversion itself, I am confused on this point. To play the devil’s advocate: a religion is a community, an identity, and a political and moral philosophy. It happens to be a particularly intense and far-reaching one; but so too, for instance, is Communism, Marxism, leftism, and even liberalism, or for that matter almost any conscious political ideology. What exactly is the difference between the incidents you cited and the incdients that all of us engage in when we seek to persuade someone of the merits of our political ideology? A long time ago I learned, as an activist, to avoid being too “in your face” (as the Americans would say) about one’s ideology; there are better ways to convey the message. But I would hardly stop conveying the message at all because that would be, in a sense, to betray my ideology itself. If as Marxists and leftists or progressives we can seek to portray a certain view – and certainly I hold that some other views, such as those of the RSS, are indeed “inferior” to my own; if I didn’t I would not be a leftist – why should we hold differently about Christians or Muslims or Hindus who feel the same? Does our belief in our beliefs, so to speak, “come in the way of the world being a peaceful place of pluarism and diversity” and does it mark us as “men [or women] of hatred”?

      • ShankarG permalink
        December 26, 2011 11:22 AM

        Just to clarify: what I am trying to argue is that hatred is a form of political action (not always conscious political action, but action nonetheless). It cannot be reduced to a question of one’s personal view (that one’s beliefs are “superior”) or to a form of speech. Even hate speech becomes such because it is linked to some reality, conscious or otherwise, of a political conjuncture. Otherwise we are led into cul de sacs. The reality is that everyone chooses an ideology, if they make a “choice” at all, becuase they find that ideology superior to others. To deny that is to end up in circular logic.

  15. Victor Joseph permalink
    December 25, 2011 10:30 PM

    May be MJ may not be following Greater Kashmir or Kashmir dispatch where there were several staments issued by Mirwaiz and Geelani. Especialy from Geelani about the ‘attempts by vested interests to dilute Islam in kashmir’
    I believe all that government tried is to preempt the Amrnath land stir scenario of 2008

    Victor Joseph,

  16. Wajid permalink
    December 25, 2011 11:16 PM

    Dear Mr Sengupta and Mr Shivam Vij

    First of all, let me tell you if you favour the cause of common Kashmiris, you are not being partial, as you can see it all through a neutral eye. I respect you for that.

    While you have every right to criticize the government or the pro-freedom leaders, you need to exhibit impartiality again. Impartiality in the sense that you should also make a mention of how these conversions have never become a topic of discussion in Kashmir. How not a single procession has been taken out against it in a heavily Muslim dominated Kashmir. How not a single church has been harmed or threatened to be harmed in any way? How the christian community in Kashmir has never needed security to guard them despite of many pro-freedom parties/groups being staunch Islamists? How hardly any reaction has been seen to such a volatile issue, which by all means would have flared up communal tensions in any city of India.

    While I believe religion is a personal matter, I do not approve of corruption in any matter, be it conversions or governance. While you should be allowed to preach your faith to others by civil means, that does not entitle you to the right to bribe or entice others through material means. If religion was subservient to material, you would have the whole world either converted to the West’s Christianity or the ARAB Islam.

    Kashmir has a long history of secular traditions. Some KPs, who as self styled representatives of their community always keep harping against such an argument are all MILK and HONEY with their Kashmiri Muslim neighbors, friends and colleagues. This tells us how their ideas are so much driven by politics and economics of the conflict and not by their own experiences in Kashmir.

    Hope Kashmir lives to its tradition of religious tolerance and secular ethos and also friends like you dont forget the art of comparative analysis while making a point.


  17. Rajarshi Roy permalink
    December 26, 2011 3:19 PM

    Hello Mr. Sengupta,

    Thanks for this balanced and incisive analysis.

    While I believe that religion is a private affair, I have serious issues with all sorts of proselytism – overt or covert, religious or political. Freedom to practice one’s religion automatically grants one the Freedom to Communicate their Conviction. But isn’t there a difference between communicating one’s conviction without any purpose and communicating one’s conviction with the intention of bringing a non-believer into one’s fold (e.g. professing that one’s belief system is superior to that of others – something which all religions do)? I am closer to Mr. Vij on this subject – ‘milk & honey’ or no ‘milk & honey’. :)

    I will restrict myself to religious belief systems and not venture into political belief systems (though the point made by ShankarG is equally thought-provoking) because religious faith (or lack of it), is something we all are born into unlike politics which we acquire, pick up along the way.

    Coming to the issue of Azadi and my response to the points made by Junaid and others, it is quite a well-known fact that the loudest proponents of Azadi in Kashmir today want to establish an Islamic Theocracy – not a version of tolerant Islam once known in Kashmir but an imported version, alien to the sub-continent itself. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that an Azad Kashmir (if and when it comes to shape) will most surely go the way post-Zia Pakistan went.

    While liberals argue that this fact doesn’t take away their Right to Self-Determination (and technically, I have nothing against this argument), it cannot be denied that the Kashmiriyat line dished out by many pro-Azadi voices is a farcical BS. In the eons of past, it may have been a shared bond cutting across religious boundaries, but can the people arguing about the fact that not a single missionary school or church being attacked during the height of militancy, bother to explain me the persecution of KPs and their forced exodus. It speaks volumes about the tolerance of the Sunni majority population of the valley when the Islamic regime of a neighbouring state can play hovoc with their centuries-old social and cultural fabric. Doesn’t it?


    p.s. Mr. Sengupta, I am impressed by your knowledge of Islamic Jurisprudence. :)

  18. Shubh Mathur permalink
    December 27, 2011 8:57 AM

    Time for a reality check, perhaps – an incidental photo in Greater Kashmir of Dec 26 speaks volumes about the deeply ingrained tolerance in Kashmiri society, which I am sure all indians travelling there for whatever reason have encountered –

    seems a bit unfair to hold profreedom folks accountable for the intolerant actions of Indian puppets

  19. Abu permalink
    December 31, 2011 10:21 PM

    Mr.Sengupta & Vij, its correct, everyone has the right to practice their ways and belief. But it has to be noted that most often, the human mind is unable to understand things which are out of purview of observation and rational enquiry. And the author it seems has studied some of the Islamic texts, but does it make him a “Maulana Shudda”? Since it reminds me of a certain Maulana Rizwan who was impeccable in his manners and behaviour to be a true follower of Islam but instead was a Shyam Purohit, a Brahmin disguised as a Muslim, in short R&AW agent. (Mission to Pakistan – Maloy Krishna Dhar)

  20. ashakachru permalink
    January 3, 2012 6:06 PM

    i would agree with Azadi of Kashmiri separatists and Muslims, but can anyone gaurantee me that the kashmiri muslims, after they have achieved Azadi, will not behave like their brothers in iran, afhganistan, sudan and even egypt now? Reading mary daly’s gyn/ecology, in which she describes in detail the horrors that religious men of all religions, christianity, hinduism, islam etc. committed on their “witches”, knowledgeable and independent type of women, widows and spinsters, i am very apprehensive. the sati or the widow burnings in hinduism and the female circumcision in African Islam is nothing when compared to the Catholic Christian atrocities on “witches” in fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. all religions are patriarchal, in varying degrees. i think therefore it is important that women of all religions get together, forget the religious differences and challenge the patriarchal system dominating the world today with their, in essence, life affirming, compassionate and peace loving world view.

  21. January 30, 2012 1:45 AM

    SAS Geelani speaks up for Kashmir’s Christians

  22. Varun Shekhar permalink
    March 27, 2012 7:28 PM

    Shubh Mathur: “an incidental photo in Greater Kashmir of Dec 26 speaks volumes about the deeply ingrained tolerance in Kashmiri society, which I am sure all indians travelling there for whatever reason have encountered –”

    There is a passage in Patrick French’s book about India, where he quotes a Ladhaki Buddhist to the effect that, as Buddhists, they would find it very difficult to get along with Moslems, and would not be able to speak their minds. Hence, they threw in their lot with India, not with Pakistan or Moslem separatists.

    There you go, something succinct, direct and forceful. From a Buddhist.Nothing to do with so called “right wing Hindu nationalist attitudes toward Moslems”, whatever those are.

    Nothing in the Kashmir separatist movement indicates that they are envisioning a country or place that is more democratic, secular, pluralistic and liberal than the entity against which they are struggling. One shudders to think of the country they will form, that would be right on India’s borders.


  1. Can Kashmir remain *free* if India moves out? « Dance of Shiva
  2. Conversions in Kashmir: But where are the liberals now? | Firstpost

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