Of Myths and Facts: Kashmir

Of Myths and Facts: Kashmir Blog, China, India, Kashmir, Mongolia
May 6, 2012

Source: Speaking Mind / By @IbneBattuta

There is a clamor for using the Kashmir label by many ‘studio extremists’ for propaganda and slander which often comes at the cost of truth. Most of the distortions and revilement these ‘studio crusaders’ indulge in, are aimed at self promotion, conveniently camouflaging the reality at ground. And when reality confronts them, they try to gag it by force and intimidation [1].

History of Kashmir

Kashmiris stemmed from primigenos tribes that gradually became Buddhists. Srinagar the capital city was founded by Buddhist King Asoka (296-232 BC) in the 3rd century BC, as ‘Shrinagari’.

Hun prince Mihira Kula invaded Kashmir and demolished most of the Buddhist places of worship and learning centers. Buddhism started to wane and the local population migrated to many ‘region specific’ cults like, Shaivism, (Agamas) Vaishnavite, Tantric and Shakta and then gradually to Hinduism.

It was only the early 15th century Sanskrit chronicler Jonaraja who first used the term ‘Hindukas’.

King Harisha 1089-1101 AD is known to have plundered Hindu temples and looted them of riches and wealth, prosecuting a large number of Brahmins.

End of Hindu Rule has nothing to do with Islam

The rule of Hindu Kings ended in Kashmir when in the beginning of 14th century Mongol, Dulucha invaded with an army of 60,000 men and destroyed towns and villages.

Buddhist prince of Kashgar Ladakh, Rinchan Shah took over as the King of Kashmir. King Rinchan converted to Islam under the spiritual influence of Muslim saint Bulbul Shah. Although from 10th century AD Persian, Arab, Turkish traders and travelers had started to bring Islamic influences to Kashmir, it was not until 14th century that mass conversions took place in Kashmir towards Islam

Mass conversions to Islam

We often hear these ‘studio crusaders’ claim to be the ‘only ethnic Kashmiri’s that existed in Kashmir’; so where did the Kashmiri Muslims come from, mars?

Amir-e-Kabir (also known as Shah Hamdan) came to Kashmir in 1384 AD and started propagation of Islam. Kashmiri society fragmented by extreme caste divides enforced by the elite Pandits (Brahmins), found acceptance in Shah Hamdan’s preaching of social equality. Most of mass conversions towards Islam in Kashmir came from the working classes of Kashmiri which is why in later years none of these working classes were to be found among the Kashmiri Pandit fold. Many Kashmiri Brahmins also converted under the influence of Shah Hamadan; to this day there exist common casts like Pandit, Bhat, Koul, Parimoo, Dhar, Raina between Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits.

Kashmiri Pandit Writer, Rattan Lal Hangloo writes in Glimpses of Hindu-Muslim Relations in Kashmir (March 2008):

“One interesting aspect that is often picked up by the Kashmiri Pandits as a strong proof of violence committed against them is the mass conversion during Sultan Sikandar’s reign (A.D. 1389-1413) which was both voluntary and forcible. Strangely, the force exercised during the conversion process was exercised by Suha Bhata, a Hindu who was loyal officer of the Sultan Sikandar. The consequence of force was the migration of a large number of Kashmiri Pandits to the neighbouring regions, some of whom returned when Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin (A.D.1420-1470) invited them back……….

Sultan Sikandar is branded as butshikan (idol breaker), though it was king Harsha, a Shavite who indulged in breaking the idols and perpetrated worst crimes against the Pandit community. But Sikandar’s reign was retained by the popular memory and passed on from generation to generation because it marginalized the one religious community and founded the other……..

In the post migration phase from 1990, the Pandit community irrespective of rural-urban divide have been forced to explore their past. The unconsciously communal ones among them pick up Sultan Sikandar’s reign to illustrate the Muslim attitude as anarchic, not knowing that empirically it has no basis.”

Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin (Budshah 1420-1470) knew Persian, Sanskrit and Tibetan, reconstructed Hindu temples in Kashmir, the Mahabharata was translated into Persian by his order and he re-introduced the grant of stipends to the learned Pandit Brahmans. Budshah who had married a Hindu princess from Jammu, invited Pandits who had fled during the reign of Sultan Sikander, to return to Kashmir and facilitated then with high posts in administration along with religious and civil liberties.

Treacherous rule and persecution

In 1753 Abdullah Khan Ishk Aqasi, by Ahmad Shah Durrani invaded Kashmir and thus started the treacherous and oppressive rule of Afghan Durrani’s in Kashmir; Durrani surnames exist in both Muslims and Pandits families of present day Kashmir. The 67 years of Afghan rule were the worst that Kashmir had yet seen. [2]

The Sikhs were invited to invade Kashmir in 1819 by Pandit Bribal Dhar, after he was found to have embezzled a lac by the Afghan Governor Azim Khan in Kashmir. Pandit Birbal Dhar was in charge revenue during the Afghan rule of Kashmir.

The Sikh invasion [3] in Kashmir bought with it economic, political and religious persecution for Kashmiri Muslims. Huge land holdings were conferred by the Maharaja upon Kashmiri Pandit’s who had helped him invade and conquer Kashmir; most of these lands had been snatched from poor Muslim peasants.

The central grand mosque of Srinagar ‘Jamia Masjid’ was closed to public for prayers and Muslims were forbidden to say Azan. A Sikh commander Phula Singh even had wanted to blow up the revered ‘Khankah’ Shah Hamadan mosque in Srinagar, but was later dissuaded from doing. It was during this rule that cow slaughter was declared a crime punishable by death and many Muslims were accused of killing cows and publicly hanged (without any trials).

The Dogra rule is considered as the darkest eras of Kashmir. Gulab Singh was very cruel and sought to convert all Muslims to Hinduism by force and persecution. He personally went to prison to witness for himself victims flayed alive, the bodies cut open and stuffed with straw. He ordered the bodies of Kashmiri’s to be left and displayed on the wayside so that people see it.

During the same reign a governor bragged to Jacque Mont a French traveler, “I hanged 200 Kashmiri Muslims in my first year of office, for no better reason than to frighten others off”.

During the rule of Maharaja Gulab Singh, forced labor or ‘Baegarr’ was enforced for Kashmiri Muslims only. [4]

After centuries of oppression, Kashmiri’s started to rebel against the torturous Monarchy that had been supported by feudal landlords. On 13th July 1931 scores of Kashmiri’s (reports 21 killed) were gunned in front of central jail, Srinagar while they were protesting against the desecration of Quran by Dogra soldiers.

Incidentally it was only the Kashmiri Muslims who majorly protested against the Dogra Raj, majority of the Kashmiri Pandits (all of the urban Pandits), who largely benefited from the Dogra Raj wanted it to perpetuate and continue [5].

The ‘Quit Kashmir’ movement started by Kashmiri’s (led by Sheikh Abdullah) against autocratic Dogra raj in 40’s in favor of an Independent Kashmir was also seen as the rebellion against the exploitative ‘Jagirdari’ system.

Pandit Ram Chander Kak (Prime Minister of Kashmir) a scholar and liberal driven by secular ideas, had concluded that Kashmir’s hope and prosperity lay in Independence. Kak was despised by many right winged Pandit’s and the ‘Jagirdaars’ who saw in him as a threat to their autocratic existence. Soon many of them like Kalash Haksar, his son in law Wattal and B.J Nehru plotted against Kak and Pandit R C Kak was dismissed by the Maharaja.

On October 26th 1947, one of the worst massacres of Jammu & Kashmir too place in Jammu where reportedly more than 250,000 Muslims were killed under a plan of ethnic cleansing by the Hindu Dogra King’s army (The editor of “Statesman” Ian Stephen, in his book “Horned Moon” writes that till the end of autumn 1947, more than 200,000 Muslims were murdered in one go).

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who was appointed “Chief Emergency Administrator” on 30th October 1947 could not prevent the carnage (reference his autobiography ‘Atishe Chinar’ page 312, 331). [6]

Kashmir policy in Delhi was shaped by Nehru along with his powerful Kashmir Pandit aides like Dwarka Nath Kachru and Kailash Nath Haksar. Democracy in Kashmir was given its big burial when in 1951 Sheikh Abdullah’s N.C was announced to have won 73 of the 75 seats unopposed. The nomination papers of all opponents had been rejected and Nehru (with his Kashmir lobby) was an alibi in this burial. [7]

Sheikh Abdullah stayed as the Prime Minister of Kashmir for six years and abolished the ‘Jaagirdari’ or the feudal land ownership. His ‘Land to tiller’ reforms antagonized the landlords in Kashmir (most of who were Pandits). This grudge along with the silent opposition to Sheikh by ‘Delhi’s Kashmir Lobby’ was to cost Sheikh dearly, 1953 was the start of that.

Across centuries irrespective of who ruled Kashmir; The Afghans, Dogras, Sikhs or local Muslim rulers; it was always the Kashmiri Pandits who manned powerful cabinet, governance and administrative posts. Kashmiri Pandits with their hugely disproportionate employment rates were always comfortably placed and this is also one reason that many powerful (if not all) Pandit’s were seen adverse to the progression and educational advancement or economic emancipation of other communities in Kashmir.

The political manipulations in Kashmir by the New Delhi have since ensured a remote controlled ‘Feudal Democracy’.

Eminent Kashmiri Pandit and Film maker Mr. Sanjay Kak describes the relation of Kashmiri Pandits to Kashmir:

‘Studio crusaders’ often claim to represent the Pandit community in totality, which they don’t. They often portray the Kashmir conflict to be a ‘Kashmiri Muslim v/s democracy conflict’ like the ‘Taliban in our courtyard’ which in fact is as an absurd proclamation as can be. Their opposition towards the resolution of Kashmir stems in their fear of letting Kashmir’s politically deprived majority be equal stakeholders in the political future of Kashmir; and this fear is not limited to ‘plebiscite’ but even to any democratic settlement within the confines of the Indian framework. They promote continuation of inhuman acts like AFSPA in Kashmir, not because of some ignorance but in full realization of what this antiquated act has been doing to human rights here. Though they are totally against any autonomy for Kashmir even within the Indian domain they forcefully promote creation of a ‘autonomous’ state within a state, ‘Panun Kashmir’ which shall compromise of the most fertile areas of the valley. In effect the ‘Panun Kashmir’ theory is their way of returning to the ‘Feudal control’ in Kashmir.

According to a recent survey conducted by MHA in Kashmir, a substantial majority, 67% of the Kashmir youth believed that Kashmiri Pandit’s should return to the Valley. However the exodus of Kashmiri Pandit’s to India and other countries has brought such a huge transformation in the demographic and economic status of the community that most of them may find no avenues good enough to return to Kashmir, except for in holidays. And even those who may have wanted to return, these ‘studio crusaders’ ensure are caught in a ‘fear dilemma’.

Such is the hate of these extremists that they even celebrate the deaths of innocents in Kashmir. Not long back in 2010 when kids of Kashmir were being mercilessly killed and maimed; protests were being held against these killings in many places. In New Delhi, at Jantar Mantar one such protest was held on 7th August 2010. Protestors from all walks of life, from various ethnicities (not just Kashmiri’s) were calling for an end to the killing of innocent kids. And it was here again that these extremists tried to force disruptions of the protests that were demanding an end to bloodshed in Kashmir.

“When a handful of familiar faces from ‘Roots in Kashmir’ (an organization which claims to represent the KP’s) appeared to protest against the protest – as they do in almost every Kashmir related event ……” (Page 69, Until My Freedom Has Come).

The migration of Kashmiri Pandit’s was led were many tragic instances and a fear psychosis. Both the communities suffered in this conflict immensely and no condemnation is enough for that. Neither can we quantifying agony here, nor do we have any right to indulge in comparisons of ‘their pain’ v/s ‘our pain’ as many studio rant’ers do. Sufferings cannot be compared by mere numbers [8] a single murder is a murder too many, singe agony is a pain too many.

These ‘studio extremists’ have always trumpeted the Kashmir issue as a ‘religious conflict’ but will fail to tell you, why almost all of the Sikh and Christian families and about 30,000 Kashmiri Pandit’s (19,865 by 1998) chose to stay in Kashmir even during the peak of conflict. [9]

Any democratic and peaceful settlement of Kashmir will rob these ‘studio crusaders’ of their ‘self assumed leadership seat’; most in Kashmir see them as fighting a covert war against the politically deprived majority in Kashmir and for continuity of this ‘remote controlled Feudal democracy’. Any fair democratic process in Kashmir shall definitely ruin their ‘studio careers’; any return of the migrated communities to be a part of this inclusive process will end their deceitful and hate propaganda.

Ultimately the truth of Kashmir will have to triumph; Kashmir will surely outlive this hate, divide and oppression.

Footnotes

[1] Any voice or work that tries to portray the truth about Kashmir is efficiently gagged. ‘Insha’Allah Football’ by Ashvin Kumar had problems with Censor board. Asvin Kumar was forced to release his next work ‘Insha’Allah Kashmir’ online. ‘Harud’ by Aamir Bashir was denied certification; the screening of ‘Jashne Azadi’ by Sanjay Kak at Symbiosis Pune was disrupted and aborted by ABVP and RIK (Roots in Kashmir). Many political discussions that involved Kashmir separatist leaders (including Kashmir’s religious figure Mirwaiz) in Indian cities have been disrupted by ‘Panun Kashmir’ or’ Roots in Kashmir’ and in many cases these leaders were physically attacked by their goons.

[2] During the Afghan Durrani rule of Kashmir, it is said about an Afghan governor Kakkar Khan that when he was to take over Kashmir and reached Baramulla, a funeral was passing by. Kakkar khan asked the funeral to stop; the local Kashmiri’s thought that the governor was going to offer funeral prayers (jinazah) to the dead. Instead Kakkar Khan ordered the coffin to be opened and bent down to bite the ear of the corpse, crying “Tell the dead in the hereafter world that Kakkar Khan has arrived in Kashmir”.

[3] Maharaja Ranjit Singh according to Emily Eden, as quoted by Khushwant Singh was “exactly like a mouse with grave whiskers and one eye”, apart from having 22 married wives, also maintained a large “harem” of concubines.

[4] Baron Schonberg, who traveled to Kashmir during Dogra rule, observed “I have been in many lands but nowhere the conditions of human beings present a more saddening spectacle than in Kashmir. It vividly recalled the history of Israelites under the Egyptian rule, when they were flogged at their daily labour by their pitiless task masters.”

G.T Vigne (in ‘Travels in Kashmir, Ladakh, Iskrado ….’page 241 Vol 1, London 1842) writes “He (Gulab Singh) then ordered one or two of the (human) skins to be stuffed with straw; the hands were stiffened, and tied in an attitude of supplication; the corpse was then placed erect; and the head , which had been severed from the body, was reversed as it rested on the neck. The figure was planted by the way side that passersby might see it, and Gulab Singh called his son’s attention to it, and told him to take a lesson in the art of governing”

[5] The ethnic composition of the state of Kashmir & Jammu before 47; Jammu State Hindu majority (Jammu province had large number of Muslim and no Hindu majority), Leh, Ladakh (conquered by dogras in 1846) had Buddhist majority of Tibetan ethnicity, Baltistan (which included Kargil & Drass) had overwhelming Muslim majority, Valley of Kashmir was overwhelmingly Muslim majority, Gilgit was almost totally Muslim and Poonch was also Muslim majority.

[6] A greater number of Muslims were driven out of Jammu into exile. The Daily Telegraph of London reported on 12 January 1948: ‘Yet another element in the situation is provided by rioters who seized Muslim lands in Jammu… they originated the massacres there last October to clear for themselves new territory’.

[7] However tall a leader Sheikh might have been, an absolute no opposition to all nominations to the constituent assembly elections was hardly digestible. The scene of ‘buried democracy’ continued in all subsequent elections. In 1957 Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed ‘won’ 41 of the 43 seats in Kashmir, without a contest. CM Mir Qasim also admitted the rigging of 1962 elections in his memoirs ‘My Life and Times’.

[8] Govt figures of 219 Kashmiri Pandit’s since 1989, as per KP organization Kashmir Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS) 399 Pandits were killed. Civil society puts the figure of Kashmiri Muslims killed at 70,000 and about 10,000 disappeared.

[9] If this would have been a ‘religious war’ in Kashmir (as these ‘studio crusaders’ would make you believe) surely the Sikh and Christian families would not have found safe refuge in Kashmir. And before you bring in the Chattisinghpora incident, remember Sikh bodies have been demanding a fresh probe into the Chattisinghpora and the Pathribal cases (The Hindu, Jan 31st 2012).

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One Comment

  1. veer says:

    Here on I disagree with most of the halftruth presented by the author including the Jantar Mantar episode. He has concotted myths in such a manner through a paid agent direct Mr kak

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