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Whitewashing Islamic terrorism, to warning of 1990s like violence: Srinagar MP Ruhullah Mehdi’s interview with The Wire displays a dangerous mindset

While it is shocking that a person elected to the Lok Sabha in a democratic election refuses to accept the Supreme Court verdict, the least shocking part is Arfa not confronting him for disregarding the Judiciary and democratic process.

A lot has changed in Jammu and Kashmir. The region mired in violence, stone pelting and anti-India protests is now witnessing an unprecedented wave of development, peace and prosperity after the abrogation of Article 370. However, the agony of those who ruled Jammu and Kashmir for many years after independence is yet to subside.

In an interview with leftist propaganda portal The Wire on 2nd July, Jammu Kashmir National Conference (JKNC) leader and Srinagar’s newly-elected MP Ruhullah Mehdi almost threatened the Indian government that “the anger of Kashmiris over Article 370 removal” can erupt anytime in the future just as it did 40 years after independence.

In a nearly 44-minute long interview with The Wire’s Arfa Khanum Sherwani, Ruhullah Mehdi made several remarks that sounded like furtherance of the Pakistani narrative and whitewashing of Islamic terrorism instead of ‘concerns’ of a common Kashmiri. Before delving into what all Ruhullah Mehdi said in the interview, it is interesting to mention that it is the same JKNC MP who in his maiden parliamentary speech last week claimed that Article 370 was abrogated by the Parliament within half an hour. He was, however, schooled by the Lok Sabha speaker that the bill to repeal Article 370 was discussed for nine and a half hours before its passage.

Ruhullah Mehdi cherrypicks incidents of violence to play the “Musalmaan Khatre Mein Hai” narrative

In the backdrop of the BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri’s offensive remarks against the then BSP MP Danish Ali in Lok Sabha last year wherein Bidhuri called the latter a “terrorist” and was later made to apologise, Ruhullah Mehdi asserted that common Muslims and other ‘oppressed’ minorities are being targeted. The JKNC MP talked about an incident wherein a Dalit boy was allegedly beaten for drinking water from a tap in a temple. He also asserted that Muslims are being “mob lynched”. Sikhs are called Khalistanis when they seek their rights and Christians when they step out to do ‘social work’ are called “missionaries” converting people to Christianity.

“Is this what we created this country for? Is this what we gave our blood for and continue to do so?” Mehdi said.

While violence against anyone for their caste or religious identity is condemnable, the Srinagar MP did not talk about the incident wherein a Brahmin youth was brutally thrashed by Dalits and made to drink urine. Will Ruhullah dare to raise his voice for Praveen Nettaru who was killed by PFI’s Islamic terrorists? Is it not true that during the farmer’s protest, some people raised pro-Khalistan slogans and wore T-shirts featuring slain Khalistani terrorist Bhindranwale? Is it not true that there are several Christian missionaries operating in different states in the barb of ‘Changai Sabha’ converting poor and vulnerable people by misleading them with false promises of cure and financial bribery?

Even the Allahabad High Court recently said if religious conversions at such congregations continue, the majority Hindu community would be reduced to a minority. Not a day goes by when a Love Jihad case is not reported but such incidents are not much discussed and often dismissed by the Islamist-sympathising ecosystem as “hoax”, “fiction” and “propaganda against Muslims”. But Ruhullah Mehdi will not demand justice for the victims of Love Jihad since it doesn’t suit his narrative.

It is notable that Pakistani political leaders also peddle the same narrative that the minorities particularly Muslims, who actually form the second largest religious majority are under threat from the ‘Hindu majoritarian’ government. Mehdi’s comments advertently or inadvertently give an apparent push to this sinister narrative aimed at furthering fissures in Indian society.

Ruhullah Mehdi downplays the 1990 Kashmiri Hindu Genocide as “Haadsa”

During the interview, when Arfa Khanum Sherwani asked about Ruhullah Mehdi’s ‘secular’ stand, the JKNC leader said that Kashmir is secular and that just one “Haadsa” [accident] and that even Muslims were killed during the militancy in those days.

“Kashmir is secular but the way attempts are being made to mould it in the last 10 years, Kashmir is not like that. An accident happened in the early 1990s when [Kashmiri] Pandits had to leave their homes due to the fear of guns. Situations were created and they had to leave their homes…their killings should not have happened but even Muslims were killed…” Mehdi said.

No Ruhullah! It was not a “Haadsa”, it was a well-planned killing and exodus of Kashmiri Hindus. It did not happen all of a sudden but the hatred against non-Muslims (Kafirs) was being instilled in the local Kashmiri youth since the 1960s by JeI. Notably, during the exodus, lakhs of Kashmiri Hindus were forced to flee their valley literally overnight, abandoning all of their belongings. Mosques made declarations urging Kashmiri Hindu men to flee the valley, leaving their women behind. The chants ‘convert (to Islam), leave or die’ (Raliv, Galiv, Chaliv) echoed across the valley. Mosques also played inflammatory slogans like Kashmir mei agar rehna hai, Allah-O-Akbar kehna hai’ (If you want to stay in Kashmir, you have to say Allah-O-Akbar); ‘Yahan kya chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa’ (What do we want here? Rule of Shariah); ‘Asi gachchi Pakistan, Batao roas te Batanev san’ (We want Pakistan along with Hindu women but without their men).

It was not a “Haadsa”, (mishap). Calling the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from their motherland a “Haadsa”, is sinister and ridicules their pain, especially coming from someone claiming to be a victim of terrorism. Apparently, such people want to discuss terrorism but not the root cause of it, by selectively highlighting the killings of some local Muslims during the 1990s, they want the people not to know that the Islamists orchestrated terrorism in the valley to establish what they call “Nizam-e-Mustafa.”

Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF)’s Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bitta Karate, a notorious Pakistan-sponsored Islamic terrorist who waged war against the Indian state for decades was a local Kashmiri born in Srinagar.

Notably, Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) has played a significant role in shaping the political and militant landscape of Kashmir. Founded in 1941, JeI is an Islamist terrorist organisation that aims for the establishment of “Nizam-e-Mustafa”, an Islamic state governed by Sharia law. This was the vision of JeI’s founder Maulana Abul A’la Maududi, a hardcore Islamist who advocated for a theocratic state where Islamic laws and principles would govern all aspects of life. JeI’s establishment in Kashmir can be traced back to the socio-political upheavals in the region during the mid-20th century.

The local chapter, Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir (JeI-JK) became a significant vehicle for spreading Maududi’s venomous ideology. JeI-JK set up numerous educational institutions, including schools and madrasas, aimed at instilling Maududi’s ideological principles among the youth. These institutions provided religious education that emphasized the need for an Islamic state and governance. The organisation’s political wing engaged in local elections and used its platform to advocate for an Islamic Sharia rule. The Jamaat contested the 1987 elections as a part of the Muslim United Front (MUF), however, it failed to do well. There were allegations of rigging. Jamaat’s political failure gave rise to terrorism in Kashmir and during the 1990s, its Pakistan-backed armed wing Hizbul Mujahidin headed by Syed Salahuddin became active in the valley. Notably, following the heinous terror assault in Pulwama, the union government banned Jamaat-e-Islami on 28th February 2019.

While hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits were killed by Islamic terrorists during the 1990s, Ruhullah Mehdi has the audacity to dub their killings as mere “Haadsa”. Mehdi kept emphasising as to how concerned he is for the Kashmiri Pandits, however, not once did he talk about Pakistan’s role in the terrorism in Kashmir especially during the 1990s.

Ruhullah Mehdi says incidents shown in film The Kashmir Files never happened

The JKNC leader claimed that in the last ten years, a large section of the majority community has been prepared to become thirsty for the blood of Muslims. He went on to claim that whatever is shown in the film The Kashmir Files is not true. Mehdi should answer, that what exactly is not true. Was a Government Girls High School lab assistant Girja Tikoo not gangraped for many days by five Islamists? Was she not sliced to pieces by those terrorists at a sawmill? Was there no Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bitta Karate? Were no Raliv Galiv Chaliv announcements were made?

The Kashmir Files

Ironically, Ruhullah Mehdi belongs to the same political party that ruled Jammu and Kashmir just before Islamic terror was unleashed on Kashmiri Pandits. Farooq Abdullah was re-sworn in as Chief Minister in an NC-Congress coalition government in November 1986, following the infamous Rajiv-Farooq Accord. In mid-June 1988, spontaneous protests took place demanding a commitment to Islamise Kashmir through the enforcement of Shariah law.

Between July and December 1989, Farooq Abdullah’s government freed 70 hardline Pakistan-trained terrorists. Is Ruhullah Mehdi downplaying the massacre of Kashmiri Pandits to whitewash the role of Farooq Abdullah? 

Mehdi also lamented how ‘journalists’ and several political ‘activists’ were arrested after the abrogation of Article 370, however, he did not talk about why they were arrested. OpIndia earlier reported that such ‘journalists’ like Fahad Shah, Aasif Sultan, Majid Hyderi, and Sajad Gul among others were arrested over allegations of glorifying terrorism and terrorists like Burhan Wani and involvement in other anti-India activities. A detailed report on these ‘journalists’ and their alleged anti-India activities can be read here.

Ruhullah Mehdi refuses to accept Supreme Court verdict on Article 370

When The Wire’s Arfa Khanum Sherwani asked Mehdi about what is left in the Article 370 abrogation issue since the Supreme Court has “settled” it, Mehdi said that one Supreme Court judgement is not acceptable to him. He said that before the final verdict, the Supreme Court had said that Article 370 which conferred the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and limited the Centre’s powers to make laws for J&K, had become a “permanent feature”. “If three judgements are not sufficient for the BJP and its like-minded parties, one judgment is not enough for us…,” Mehdi said.

It is worth recalling that on 11th December 2023, a five-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud upheld the Modi government’s decision to abrogate Article 370. CJI Chandrachud held that Jammu and Kashmir does not hold any internal sovereignty after accession to the Union of India. CJI said that Article 370 was a temporary provision, and it was introduced to serve a transitional purpose to serve an interim process.

While it is shocking that a person elected to the Lok Sabha in a democratic election refuses to accept the Supreme Court verdict, the least shocking part is Arfa not confronting him for disregarding the Judiciary.

Ruhullah Mehdi’s refusal to accept the Supreme Court’s verdict on the abrogation of Article 370 is not just a political statement but a challenge to the rule of law and judicial authority in India. His stand also aligns with the Pakistani narrative that the abrogation of Article 370 is ‘illegitimate’, politicises judicial decisions, and risks destabilising the already fragile social fabric of Jammu and Kashmir.

By rejecting the Supreme Court’s verdict, Mehdi lends credence to Pakistan’s claims, which can be exploited by Pakistan to further its agenda on the international stage. While Kashmir may have not become a “Utopia” after the removal of Article 370, it is gradually moving towards peace and all-round development, however, raking up the Article 370 issue again seems like an attempt to incite public unrest, fuel separatist sentiments, and deepen existing divisions within society.  This can be detrimental to the broader interests of India and its efforts to foster peace and development in the region.

Ruhullah Mehdi calls for fight against ‘Hindutva extremism’

The newly-elected MP from Srinagar said that if the opposition parties have to fight the ‘Hindutva extremism’ they need to talk about and stand with Muslims. Amusingly, Mehdi conveniently labelled Hindutva as an ‘extremist’ ideology but he did not dare to call the terrorists who perpetrated violence against Kashmiri Pandits out of their hatred for non-Muslims as “Islamic extremists”.

Kashmir’s anger came out 40 years after independence, it will happen again: JKNC MP Ruhullah Mehdi threatens Indian government of 1980s-90s-like violence again

Typically, Arfa Khanum Sherwani’s interviews for The Wire appear to be two clowns sitting together and vying to see who can be funnier; however, the interview with Ruhullah Mehdi is unsettling.

In the backdrop of the recent incidents of terror attacks including the attack on Hindu pilgrims in Reasi, Mehdi asserted that ‘militancy’ has not ended in the region. He said that much like the removal of Article 370, back in 1953, a similar thing was done by Congress when Kashmir’s autonomy was snatched. “For the next 40 years, nothing happened and everyone was of the opinion that Kashmiri was settled and there was no anger, no protests but later their anger burst,” Mehdi said.

Mehdi’s comments imply that the anti-India protests, calls for the Islamisation of Jammu and Kashmir, the radicalisation of Kashmiri youth as well as the anti-Hindu atrocities were the outburst of the ‘anger’ of Kashmiris over their ‘autonomy’ being snatched 40 years ago. By saying so Mehdi blatantly whitewashed the horrific crimes of Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups like Jamaat-e-Islami, Hizbul Mujahideen and all the Islamists that burnt the valley for their own extremist agenda.  

At one point Ruhullah said that he is not an advocate of Pakistan, however, Pakistan does not essentially need to send its advocates here when it has its stooges peddling its sinister narrative just for narrow political gains.

Ruhullah Mehdi went on to warn the Indian government saying that a similar situation is prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir and in the coming decades there will be violence in the valley again. “…So do not get fooled, what we did in 2019 and the [peaceful] situation in Kashmir is permanent. I am afraid of the way that anger burst after 40 years now I don’t know when will it happen now…We have made a wound which can burst anytime and when it happens it will not be good for you…I am warning… the people of Jammu and Kashmir have a sense of defeat and this silence is not good…” Mehdi said.

On one hand Ruhullah Mehdi says he wants peace in Jammu and Kashmir on the other he does not want people to move on from Article 370 and join the Indian mainstream. Similarly, Mehdi wants to be the voice of ‘oppressed minorities’ but downplays the targeted killings of Kashmiri Pandits in the 1990s and dismisses Islamic terrorism as “anger of people”. Apparently, this time the strategy may have changed, however, the ‘Maqsad’ remains the same.

By suggesting that the current alleged “anger” is akin to the terrorism unleashed in the 1980s-90s, Mehdi implicitly legitimises violence as a response to supposed political grievances. This will also embolden Islamists and separatist groups who thrive on unrest and conflict. It is an attempt to fuel passions and could lead to an escalation in tensions, ultimately resulting in violence.

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