Military attributes in the sphere of operations emphasizes and especially pivots on the vital aspect of terrain and its corresponding intricacies. However, an important facet of operating whether it be at the Line of Control or in the hinterland is the social dynamics which play a prodigious role in understanding the local populace and its dynamics in a comprehensive manner.

Moving North along the erstwhile National Highway 1A (now renumbered as National Highway 1) there is a significant and visible change in the demography especially with reference to and highlighting the nuances of religion.

Why do we need to shed light on religion in this part of the country as a separate heading altogether is not discernible from anyone and is palpable? Webster, defines religion as, “Commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance’’ apart from harping about “a personal set of institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices.” It is not just an unequivocal philosophical terminology but also lends credence to a sociological system as well.

South of the Shaksgam ranges and East of Pir Panjal is not just a mere ardor but is engrained deeply in the region as an archaic institution. Incipiently, the inception of the crescent and the star in the folds of the verdure of the Kashmir Valley has it genesis and stems from the early period of Islamic contact in the form of unflinching and relentless assails and pummels first under the reigns of the Caliph followed by the Ghaznavids and finally by the Turks who not only succeeded in making fissure into the area but also made perforations into the folds of the society with the steady diminution of Shaivism (the existing religion in the region at that time) and evolution of Islam under the aegis of Rinchana, the Ladakhi chieftain who on assumption, for the sheer aggrandizement of his political pedestal and clout embraced Islam. Much of the onus of the embracement of Islam and diversion from Shaivism in the region falls on the sheer bigotry of the affluent upper class Brahmins of the society who notably had a say in the helm of affairs in the society.

With the royal patronage embracing Islam, the populace also circumvented and moved into the folds of Islam as a succor in a desperate measure and assuage from the ill treatment meted to them.

Eventually it was the Shahmiri dynasty which is largely credited with the prolific spread of Islam in the valley through Sufi saints. However, notably it was Sikandar who was largely acknowledged with bringing about an end to the syncretic culture in Kashmir with the bringing of the rigorous abidance of the Sharia, with a firm hand.

Cut to the modern day, the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, consists of a whopping 97.16% of Muslims in the 10 districts of the Kashmir division and also figures up to a considerable 30.69% in the division of Jammu.

For a more comprehensive understanding of the on-ground situation, it is of paramount importance to dissect the regional religious beliefs encompassing the Muslim populace of the region which is a not a situation of katzenjammer.

Corresponding to the situation which is coherent across the globe, this region too has the Muslim sect divided predominantly into two major factions. It is conspicuous that the preponderance in the Kashmir Valley is of the Koshur’s or the Sunnis, who form a considerable chunk of the masses. The Shia’s account for a diminutive percentage in this gargantuan tract.

Notably, it is Shias who form the affluent class despite their meager count in the population. However, the off late deportment of the Shias towards the government agencies despite the fact that they encompass the opulent strata of the society in the epoch, is noticeable even to the naked eye and is a worrying sign.

A conspicuous incident which stands out, was the picture of Burhan Wani (the erstwhile slain Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist) being hailed in a Shia pre dominant and traditional Ashoura (Muharram) procession in the suburbs of Srinagar in the year 2018. A fact worth mentioning, Burhan Wani was a Sunni Muslim. It was more than just a mere escapade. Two irreconcilable sects, poles apart, at logger heads and affrays with each all these centuries across the globe, seen sympathizing all of a sudden? Was it a deliberate attempt to showcase the unity for the lost cause/ a political gimmick or is it more than what meets the eye? It certainly requires microscopic scrutiny and delineation to identify the circumstances surrounding this sea of change of commiseration and solidarity.

The Sunnis predominantly, as highlighted in the figures above enjoy a better share of the population as has been the case in the country and across the globe as well. So, this is strikingly nothing new. However, it is from this percentage of population that trouble mongers have generally emerged.

A fact well bestowed to everyone is that across the LC similar ideology (on the reigns of Sunni) exist which is easily interpreted and shaped into a propaganda to give a malicious and mala fide intent.

Cohesively they have dwelled on these religious sentiments and lent a hand on the pretext of sympathizing. Sadly this yarn of tale has seemingly worked its charm over the ignorant population not realizing that they were destroying their very own backyard and in a moment of senseless brainwashing and madness, dug their own graveyard. This has over a period of time been subjugated and dwindled by the security forces with a robust and heavy hand to bring some relief to this lawless situation. Even across the LC in the upper reaches of Gilgit and Baltistan, a paradigm shift has been seen with the government slowly and steadily settling Sunnis in an otherwise area where the Shias have dominated over the decades. The same strafing and decree is being passed onto our side of the LC.

Another dimension to ponder over is a phenomenal rise in the affluence of Wahabism amongst the sectarian folk, which is an austere form of Islam insisting on a literal interpretation of the Quran. Those not in acquiescence of this belief and practice are considered antagonist. The growing clout of this form presents a grim picture as the scenario of co-existence being preached to date, could see a vehement digress.

The scenario of Ahles Hadith or followers of Wahabism has been imploding with considerable surge. The influx of money from Wahabi dominated countries is a trail in front of everyone to see – Approximately 2000 Wahabi mosques have come up in the last three decades.

It is a directly proportional relation. Voids of the last three decades left by the upheaval and the infamy of militancy, eventually led to the easy radicalization of the population with the filling of coffers. The future bemoans a frightening look. Some naysayers might overlook this fact pointing out to the diminishing figure of incidents by the day and a seemingly stable law and order situation however peace and sanity in this region as seen time and again has always been on a thin line and fringe. The watershed moment might just be round the corner as we see the tepid scenario unfolding in front of us but not doing enough to negate it. This situation will implode fittingly as Dunkirk and become a headache for security forces in times to come. It requires to be dealt with a firm political will in corroboration with ground commanders before we run out of time.

At the cessation, all I would say is that it is vehemently of crude importance to understand the religious ideologies of the populace in the midst of the hostile environment in which security forces operate, if we want to set a stage where the situation and environment is stable and conducive for all stakeholders to make a headway in the best of interests for the smooth functioning of the state. It may categorically seem as a miniscule tine in hic et nunc, but with changing time and scenario, it is of prima – facie importance, requiring considerable attention to the subject and intervention at the higher techelons of decision and policy makers as to what eventualities and quandary a significant change in the religious strata has to offer in the future operational environment and demography.

Courtesy: Ali Fayyaz

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