If there is a hotbed of religious politics in the world today, it is the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Disputed between India and Pakistan, it contains a large majority of Muslims who are subject to the laws of a predominantly Hindu and increasingly "Hinduised" India. How did religion become so inextricably enmeshed in defining and expressing the protest of Kashmir's Muslims against Hindu rule? Mridu Rai argues that the origins of the present conflict lie in the 100-year period preceding the creation of India and Pakistan, when Kashmir was ruled by Hindu Dogra kinds under the aegis of the British, a collusion which shaped a decisively Hindu sovereignty over a subject Muslim populace. This sovereignty was characterized by an unprecedented degree of control by rulers intent on establishing and legitimizing their authority. The region's Muslims, unlike its Hindus, were left out of the power-sharing arrangements not simply because of their religion but because, as Muslims, they became irrelevant to the legitimizing devices installed by the Hindu Dogras and the British. Hence the protest of Kashmiri Muslims represents a defence not so much of Islam as of their rights by a community defined specifically as Muslims by a Hindu ruling hierarchy. This explains both the development of a Kashmiri Muslim consciousness and the emergence of a political movement which remains in thrall to a religiosity thrust upon it for the past 150 years. Focusing on authority, sovereignty, legitimacy and community rights, the author explains how Kashmir's modern Muslim identity came into being.
History, Asia, India,