Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Stop The Hate - Kashmir’s main political parties must act to prevent zealotry in the Valley
While media attention is riveted on the Salman Rushdie row, another controversy provoked by religious zealots in the Kashmir valley hasn't received its due share of critical scrutiny. For the past few weeks, a Christian priest and foreign NGOs have been targeted for seeking to persuade Muslim youth to give up their faith in return for liquor, women and money. One priest, Pastor Chander Mani Khanna, had to appear before a sharia court to defend himself against charges of proselytization. The evidence produced by the prosecutors to substantiate the charges was, to put it mildly, far-fetched.
But that did not deter the sharia court from asking for the pastor's expulsion from the state. Likewise, Juan Marcos Troia, an Argentine football coach widely hailed for his efforts to popularise the game in the Valley, has been hounded for allegedly promoting the cause of Christianity. Here again no evidence of such activity has come to light. The blunt fact is that the sharia court has no locus standi in the matter. Any aggrieved party should have turned to a proper court asking it to determine whether the pastor and the coach had infringed the law. No such case has been filed.
The vicious campaign conducted by the zealots does not come as a surprise. In the Valley, separatism and religious intolerance often work in tandem. The forced exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits is a case in point. What is galling, however, is the inaction of the National Conference-led government and the pointed discretion of the opposition PDP on the attacks against the Christian priests and foreign NGOs. The state government has remained on the sidelines when it should have ensured protection to the victims of the hate campaign. The PDP too should have thrown its weight behind them.
They did nothing of the sort and in the process acted against the letter and spirit of Article 25 of J&K's own Constitution. It says that it is the duty of the state to 'combat ignorance, superstition, fanaticism, racialism, cultural backwardness' and to 'foster brotherhood and equality among all communities under the aegis of a Secular State'. It is incumbent on the two major political formations in the Valley to stop the zealots and hate-mongers in their tracks.
Times of India