Salafism threat to Kashmiriyat. By Farooq Ganderbali


Kashmir is going through a phase of radicalisation, where traditions like Sufism have been eroded and there is a threat of Kashmir being lost to fanatic Islam with no space to other religious beliefs. Salafism’ backed by Pakistan has sounded the death knell of ‘Kashmiriyat’ and we are losing Kashmir to fanatic Islam where there is no place for other religions and religious sects.

The tentacles of radicalism have struck deep roots in Kashmir with teachers, especially in school run by Jamaat-e-Islami, Ahle-Hadith and other such organisations prompting students to hate non-Muslims and same is the case in colleges. Wahabi and Jamaat preachers systematically visit villages on Fridays and weekends to propagate exclusivist Salafi ideology among youth.

The Hurriyat, Jamaat-e-Islami, Ahle-Hadith and other such organisations have facilitated the spread of extremist thought and that Pakistan has been fully backed by China in its efforts to destabilise the Valley. The influence of Wahhabis has changed the nature of insurgency in Kashmir from calls for “freedom” to that of terrorists fighting in what they say is the cause of Islam. The signs of alienation and growing anti-India sentiments may look familiar, but a churn is taking place beneath the surface, which is threatening Kashmiri co-existence.

The mosques controlled by Wahhabis, including Ahle-Hadith and Jamaat have doubled in the last decade with most of the youth opting for them rather than the traditional Kashmiri Sufi shrines. The factors that have deepened radicalisation include free-flow of Wahhabi literature through print, electronic and social media as well as money from the Gulf and narco-terrorism.

Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), according to him, have managed to convince even educated Kashmiri youth that Sufism portrays an image of tolerance, meekness and pacifism. This has attracted a sizeable number of educated youths from well off families to terrorist ranks. If the youth in J&K become victims of new Salafised version of Islam, the consequences for entire India would be grave.

Stronger laws against radicalisation, de-ligitamising madrasas and introduction of textbooks that reflect moral points of all religions are some of the points government needs to work out to eradicate Salafism in Kashmir. Sufism is the mainstay of Kashmiriyat and Kashmiri Islam, a variant of Sufism, differs from the mainstream fanatical Islam in that the former is based on the teachings of its famous Rishis. The Rishis were Muslims and the spread of Islam was their prime motive yet they raised their voice against political oppression by the tyrant Kings.

Kashmir is also known as Rishi Waer or Pir Waer (the land of Rishis and Pirs). Kashmiriyat is the confluence of its land and people following different faiths; Sufism, Shaivism, Sikhism and Buddhism. The main cause of spread of Salafism, radicalised Islam, was the disenchantment of the younger generations with Sufism practised by their elders. The continued violence and finding no end to their political struggle, the cadre of jihadist terrorist organisations like LeT and JeM were able to convince the educated Kashmiri youth that Sufism portrays an image of tolerance, meekness and pacifism taking the Kashmiris for granted.


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