August 2017

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Why Peace Eludes India’s Only Muslim-Majority State

by Wesley Kawato

There are states in India with a Christian majority, but only one has a Muslim majority: Jammu and Kashmir. Over 75 percent of the population is Muslim in Kashmir, the eastern half of this complex state. There is a large Hindu and Buddhist minority in the Jammu region of the state, and we will pray for those peoples next month. Some strange twists of history caused Kashmir to become part of Hindu India and not Muslim Pakistan. More on this later. But first, let’s take a look at how history made Kashmir what it is today.

Islam Moves into Kashmir Through Persuasion and Conquest
Prior to 1300 A.D. Kashmir was totally Hindu and Buddhist. During the early 1300s the ruler, Babul Shah, a Muslim missionary, brought Islam to Kashmir. One of his first converts was Rajah Rincan, the ruler of Kashmir. Rincan was impressed by the simplicity of Babul Shah’s message. When a leader changes religion, often his followers do the same; more conversions soon followed. Many early converts were low caste Hindus trying to break free of caste restrictions. They hoped Islam would free them from their caste.
In 1349 Shah Mir, an Iranian prince, conquered Kashmir. Forced conversions became the rule. Kashmir’s new ruler was a zealot who dreamed of turning his realm into an all Muslim state. He ruled with an iron fist.
In 1540 the Mughal Dynasty drove out the descendants of Shah Mir from Kashmir. The Mughals proved to be just as intolerant as the previous dynasty. Some Mughal rulers engaged in the systematic destruction of Hindu temples. Often Hindus had to choose between conversion or death. Some converted and others died. Many more fled to other regions. Over time Kashmir developed a Muslim majority. The regions to the south had a Hindu majority, and they still do today.
By 1820 the British had destroyed the Mughal Empire and took control of much of what is now India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Before that time Kashmir didn’t have a unified government, so they were vulnerable to political chaos. In 1820, after the British took control, they sold part of Kashmir to the wealthy Hindu Dogra family. In 1858 that family bought control of the rest of Kashmir. That’s how a Hindu royal family came to rule a state with a majority Muslim population.
The Dogra family turned out to be bad news for Kashmir’s Muslims. These Hindu rulers of Kashmir were zealots who persecuted Muslims. This persecution lasted for about 100 years, from about 1820 to 1920. Many Muslims fled from Kashmir during that time. Shortly after 1920 the next ruler of Kashmir turned out to be a moderate Hindu, who ended the persecution. But the seeds of bitterness and communal conflict remained.


Independence Brings New Challenges to Kashmir
By the time India gained independence in 1947, Kashmir was 77 percent Muslim and 20 percent Hindu. Hari Singh, a Hindu, ruled Kashmir at that time. He wanted to declare allegiance to India but realized most of his subjects wanted to be part of Pakistan. Singh agreed to a temporary union with India with an understanding that a referendum would be held at a future date.
The referendum was never held. The government of India saw to it that only one party could run candidates for Kashmir’s parliament. That party was pro-India and killed all attempts to hold a referendum. India wasn’t going to let Kashmir vote to join Pakistan.
Pakistan resented the political tricks India had used to retain control of Kashmir. These political tensions led to war in 1965. Pakistan allied with China, and both countries invaded Kashmir. India lost a large part of Kashmir to Pakistan and China. After a few weeks, a cease fire ended the war. But no peace treaty was ever signed. Consequently, there is still a low-level war in Kashmir. India had sent 500,000 troops to Kashmir to stop the Pakistani invasion. Indian forces are still in Kashmir today. For many years these troops kept an uneasy peace, but in 1987 a new round of trouble began. That year Indian secret agents rigged an election to insure Kashmir’s next governor would be pro-India. The resulting protests were crushed with military force.
The rigged election caused many Islamic rebel groups to form. These groups resorted to terrorism. Since 1987 thousands of people have been killed in terrorist attacks. Schools are a favorite target of the rebels; many of the dead are teachers and students.


There Are No Easy Answers in Kashmir
There are no easy solutions in Kashmir. Removing Indian troops from the state won’t bring peace because some rebel groups want independence and others want a union with Pakistan. They would fight one another. Independence also won’t bring peace because the pro-independence rebel groups are divided. Some want to create a secular republic and others want an Islamic republic. A union with Pakistan won’t work because some rebel groups want nothing to do with Pakistan. All options would probably lead to more fighting.
The only hope for peace in Kashmir is the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. The cycle of bitterness has to end. Muslims persecuted Hindus when they were in power and Hindus have persecuted Muslims when they gained power. Only the transforming love of Jesus Christ can create peace between people groups that need to learn how to forgive each other.
Followers of Jesus Christ are few and far between in Kashmir. Only the power of prayer will break the wall of unbelief that Satan has placed around this region.

Let’s Pray for Kashmiri Muslims!
• Pray for hearts to be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit in Kashmir.
• Pray for fellowships of believers among the Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists that will demonstrate that peace and forgiveness are available to those who submit to Jesus Christ.
• Pray for disciple making movements to become common throughout Jammu and Kashmir.

From the Editor

by Keith Carey

Dear Praying Friends,
We haven’t focused an entire month of prayer for Jammu and Kashmir since June, 1998. I have meant to have us pray for Jammu and Kashmir for years, but there are many needs in South Asia, so we have overlooked this relatively sparsely populated state. We will make up for that lapse by praying for the Muslims this month and the Buddhists and Hindus next month. Kashmir is predominantly Muslim, and Jammu is predominantly Hindu and Buddhist. Together they form the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Often we just call it Kashmir.
Much is the same as it was in 1998. India, Pakistan, and China have claimed portions of this land. There is a constant conflict between Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India over this Muslim-majority Indian state, and no solution will be acceptable to both sides. So the skirmishes go on and on. Therefore, our Bible verses will focus on peace. Each Bible verse will lead us into prayer for the peace that has eluded Jammu and Kashmir.