Who is to decide?
Nationalism is a reality in the modern world because the concept of state has changed over time from a city-based political community to that of nation-state
In Kashmir there are two kinds of politics – the “resistance” and the “mainstream”. The “mainstream” politics is no more than an imperial agency, and, therefore, does not deserve any attention in so far as the title question is concerned. Now, so far as the “resistance” politics is concerned, it is a temporary affair and may last as long as Kashmir remains a disputed territory between its two adjoining neighbours. This dispute between India and Pakistan has been lingering since 1947 and has been the root cause of political uncertainty and unrest in Kashmir since then.
The Kashmir Dispute has its roots in the 1947 partition of erstwhile British India on communal lines. If British India had not been partitioned, there would have been no Kashmir Dispute. The history of the entire sub-continent would have been different.
Now, the question: What is Kashmir Dispute all about? Is it an exclusively religious dispute? Or, is it an exclusively political dispute? Or, is it a combination of both?
The answer is this: Kashmir Dispute is about whether the people of the former Princely State of Kashmir would like to be part of Muslim majority Pakistan or non-Muslim majority India. This dispute offers Kashmiris a limited number of options by way of self-determination.
Of course, chances are high that religious affiliation of a person will decide which side (India or Pakistan) he will vote for if a plebiscite is taken.
Even so, should the Kashmiris decide to vote in favour of India, it would be their self-determination. But if they vote in favour of Pakistan, they will not do so because Pakistan is a caliphate. Nor will they do so in the expectation that at some point of time in future, Pakistan has to become a caliphate. For that matter, Pakistan was never envisaged by its founding fathers, the Muslim League guided by Allama Iqbal and Qaidi-Azam Jinnah, to be a caliphate. Rather Kashmiris will vote for Pakistan because it is a Muslim country and a party to the Kashmir Dispute.
Now, in response the question, whether in Kashmir, religion should be separated from politics or allowed to exercise supremacy over it, my opinion is that this discourse should be postponed. For now Kashmiris should focus on how to nudge India (and also Pakistan) to resolve Kashmir Dispute in accord with the aspirations of Kashmiris.
In the meantime, Kashmiris would have to first learn to separate sectarianism from true religion. If they succeed in segregating the chaff from the grain, it would be comparatively easy to decide whether to separate religion from politics or not.
Now so far as the religion of Islam is concerned, it does not subscribe to any kind of dichotomy. For example: 1. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: “The whole earth is my mosque.” By this he meant that no part of earth was holier than any other part. He could (and so could we his followers) offer prayers on the Arabian soil as well as on the Indian soil. 2. Islam does not divide the private life of a person into a profane worldly life and a sacred monastic life. For this reason, there is no sanyas (asceticism) in Islam. 3. Islam does not bifurcate public life into a holy religious one and a dirty political one. Politics in itself, according to Islam, is not dirty. It is man who may wallow in dirt.
Back to Kashmir. True religion is a blessing not a problem. It will never be a problem. Sectarianism is the real problem. The sectarian hides his personal and group political ambition under the cloak of religion. He misuses religion by coining propaganda terms to befool and frighten the common Mussalman. Such terms include “the ‘kufr’ of secularism”; “the ‘shirk’ of nationalism”; “the establishment of caliphate”; “the establishment of Nizami-Mustafa”; “the infidelity of election participation”; etc.
Nationalism is a reality in the modern world because the concept of state has changed over time from a city-based political community to that of nation-state. What is Pakistan? A nation-state. What was Al-Madina? A city-based political community. Secularism is also a reality. Since it does not mean out and out atheism, it attracts the attention of many Muslims.
Now, before finally deciding on the title question (Should religion be separated from politics in Kashmir?), the civil society of Kashmir would have to know whether the establishment of caliphate or that of Nizami-Mustafa is really possible or not? What is the Islamic procedure of appointment of caliph? Getting carried away by emotive slogans (like “yehan kya chalega: Nizami-Mustafa”) is not enough. Slogans are raised to rally people, otherwise they mean little in essence.