Squeezed between Hindu India and Jihadi Pakistan, the only sensible choice for a Kashmiri may be the third option!
Kashmir was an independent sovereign state till 1586 when the Mughals annexed it to their empire. Loss of Kashmir’s sovereignty is a tragic story of betrayal and internecine troubles caused by sectarian squabbles. After having lost its independence, Kashmir’s ownership changed hands from Mughals to Afghans, then to Sikhs and ultimately landed as a purchased commodity in the lap of Dogras.
The last change was the most humiliating as the state was sold as a piece of land along with its inhabitants by the British to Dogras for a paltry sum of rupees seventy five lakh! The worst tragedy occurred in 1947 when Kashmiris were dreaming of riddance from the centuries of slavery. Our own people landed us in such a logjam from which there seems no chance of escape! Two newly created antagonistic countries are using us as a football. Kashmir’s main problem with both India and Pakistan is a dichotomy between the projected and the actual character of these two nations and Kashmir’s past and present! The valley of Kashmir is the only place in the subcontinent which has a written record of its history from the earliest times.
Kalhan, the most illustrious son of Kashmir wrote Rajatarangani, the River of Kings, in 12th century AD. It is considered to be the earliest written book of history in the subcontinent. Kalhan relates the happenings in Kashmir from ancient times. Kashmir was a glorious Hindu Kingdom. However, the Hinduism followed here was the Trika School of Saivite Philosophy. Belief in monism. The Hindu God Shiva manifests in three forms: Brahma, Mahesh, and Vishnu. This form of Hindu religion is totally different from the one followed in North India which is based on Vedantic philosophy. The Saivite philosophy is also prevalent in South India. Kashmiri Brahmins consider themselves to be the elite of Brahmanism. There were many famous Hindu Kings of Kashmir right from Gonanda-I to Laltaditya, Avantivarman, Harsha, Queen Dida and so many others. Kashmir also had a glorious Buddhist period during the time of Kanishka. The famous Buddhist Council which changed the basic philosophy of Buddhism from the Hinayan to Mahayan School was also held in Kashmir. The valley also boasted of one of the best institutions of leaning, the Sharda University. This was visited by scholars from all over the world and had a very large collection of books and manuscripts. Historically, Kashmir has seen the glorious Hindu past. We cannot divest ourselves from this past.
However, in the twelfth century the religion of Islam was introduced in Kashmir by preachers coming from Iran. Bulbul Shah was the first to come followed by Mir Sayed Ali Hamadani popularly known as Shah-i-Hamadan who came with over 700 Sayeds. They preached the religion of peace-Islam which the local Kashmiris voluntarily accepted. There was mass conversion through preaching and not by force. The Hindus were left in a minority, mostly Brahmins! Kashmir’s conversion to Islam was totally peaceful. With the conversion of Rin Cin Shah, the last non-Muslim ruler of Kashmir, Islam became the state religion. The Hindus who had been reduced to a miniscule minority reconciled to their fate and got along well with the Muslim majority. There was trouble only during the time of Sikander, the father of famous King Zain-ul-Abdin popularly known as Budshah. It is alleged that there were forced conversions during his reign and a large number of Kashmiri Hindus migrated from Kashmir.
However, Budshah brought these back as soon as he ascended the throne. In fact, he enacted special legislation for the return and rehabilitation of Pandits. He also put them in prominent positions in the state administration. Kashmir stayed as an independent sovereign state with a Muslim majority till Mughals annexed it to their empire in 1586. Mughals were followed by Afghans and Sikhs ultimately Kashmir was purchased by Dogras from the British and became a part of their Kingdom. During all these years of outside occupation, the Muslim character of the State remained unchanged. It continued to be a Muslim majority state. However, due to peaceful spread of Islam by the preachers from Iran and the growth of a cult of Sufis known as Rishis, the Kashmir society developed more tolerant than in other parts of the sub-continent. One more reason given is the presence of only a miniscule Hindu minority. In most other parts of the sub-continent especially in the northern part, there was almost equal strength of two religions. In Kashmir, the Hindu minority of Pandits virtually absorbed itself into the society because of the very tolerant nature of local Muslims. Moreover, even after conversion, Muslims retained quite a number of ancient traditions basically of a Hindu character. Kashmir developed a special type of mystic Islam around various saints and preachers. During their colonization the Kashmiris suffered equally at the hands of outside Muslim and non-Muslim rulers.
The partition of the subcontinent created a confusing situation. Pandit Nehru fully knowing the history of the land of his ancestors wanted to make Kashmir a part of the newly created Hindu republic. He was very much enamoured of the glory of Hindu Kashmir of the past and totally disregarded its Muslim present. This obsession of keeping Kashmir as part of the Hindu majority Indian republic continues even today. Most of the Indians want Kashmir to remain with India because of its Hindu past and not because of its Muslim present. The phenomenal increase in Amarnath Yatra, a Hindu pilgrimage not very much known even in ancient Hindu Kashmir is a stark proof of a massive attempt at connecting it to Hindu India! Thus Kashmiris though at present followers of Islam are haunted by their Hindu past. Similar is the case with Pakistan. In 1947, majority of Kashmiri Muslims felt that their emancipation was in becoming a part of Muslim Pakistan even though their leaders thought otherwise.
The dithering by the local leaders was the shabby treatment Kashmiri Muslims had been receiving at the hands of Punjabi Muslims as also the utopian visions of secularism, socialism, and tolerance projected by the Indian leaders like Pandit Nehru. The past suffering at the hands of Afghans erroneously considered Pathans, also played a part in the psyche of Kashmiris. On their part Pakistanis were more interested in Kashmir than Kashmiris which was evident from the scorn exhibited by the Pakistani leaders towards Kashmir’s popular leaders. In addition, the hatred the Pakistani Muslims had towards Indian Hindus due to bloody riots all over the sub-continent was missing in Kashmir which had remained free from these horrendous happenings. The sympathy expressed by Kashmiris towards Pakistan was more because of their suppression by Hindu India. It was more a tool to beat Indians at their game of secularism than Kashmiris’ love for the Jihadi type of Islam prevalent in Pakistan! Over the years, the extremist nature of religion in Pakistan has been driving Kashmiris slowly away from their earlier love for it. Pakistan appears now like a nation bent upon committing suicide! More and more Kashmiris are now for an Independent Kashmir with less extremist variety of the majority religion of Islam. In spite of the Jihadi extremism of last two decades, Kashmiris continue to profess their own brand of Sufi Islam. Thus, the present situation has put Kashmiris in a dichotomy. On the one hand is India obsessive with its Hindu past and on the other hand is extremist Pakistan considering Kashmir’s liberation and annexation as a victory for Islam. Neither is concerned with the basic problem of emancipation of the Kashmiri people suffering for last four centuries or so. The only real emancipation for the common people is to say good bye to both! Possibly, an independent sovereign state of the Kashmiri speaking people, progressive and secular in character, with the return of Pandits and guaranteed by its three neighbouring powers of China, India and Pakistan could be a viable solution out of the present logjam! A million dollar question is how to find the peaceful road that will lead to that goal?
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