The intimidation, harassment and rank violence against members of the minority (Muslim) community of Kathua is déjà vu. The reference here is to the orgy of violence that descended upon Jammu on the eve of Partition, a large scale massacre of Muslims of Jammu. This is not to depart from a sense of proportion in the implied parallel between that carnage and the Kathua incident. No: the scale of the violence, suffering and the victims exacted in the 1947 violence were of an entirely different magnitude than the Kathua incident of intimidation. But there are echoes of that incident in Kathua. These pertain to the imprints of the pre-partition violence in the historical memory of the minority community in Jammu. This memory is scarred, and indentation of the epic 1947 violence remains in the collective consciousness of Jammu Muslims.
This much is obvious, but what is less manifest are the implied divisions; social, political and communal, and polarization in Jammu in the larger society that results in the tearing apart of the communal fabric. Jammu Muslims are a ghettoized community whose psycho-social and even economic existence lies in the margins of the varied spaces of the region. Given this multilayered existence and nature of the Muslim community in Jammu, the Kathua incident can only bring fore to their consciousness the gory past and their vulnerable condition.
What may also be pertinent to note is that one of PDP’s ostensible premise to enter into a coalition with the far right party, the BJP, was to overcome the fault lines that define Jammu and Kashmir. However, as the Kathua incident and some other events like the open, weapons brandishing processions by the RSS and the VHP in Jammu indicate, these fault lines instead of being overcome are sharpening with this display of belligerence. While this bodes ill for the ‘communal’ harmony of Jammu and Kashmir, it also raises a larger, even though, awkward point or question. If the Kathua incident, whose catalytic premise appears to have been cow slaughter by a Gujjar family and therefore meting out vigilante (or even patronizing) action against a section of the Muslim community, in a classic instance of ‘guilt by association’ in the minds of perpetrators, what does it tell us about the nature of the state, broadly speaking?
A tentative answer might be that both the state and the Idea underpinning it, the so-called Idea of India is being redefined drastically. This redefinition appears to bear the ingress of a majority-minority syndrome where minorities (especially Muslims) could well be at the receiving end. Hopefully, the Kathua incident turns out to be an aberration rather than be indicative of this.