Kashmiris grapple with discerning the future

The mysticism that flourished in the land of Kashmir through various periods is still part and parcel of the Kashmiri spirit.
Keywords: Kashmir, Valley, Peace, History, Culture, Disruption, Turmoil, Society, War, Pakistan, Conflict, Civilisation  
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The future will demand retribution for one’s actions in the past. There is a specific relationship between past generations with the present ones. In the present, it is undergoing turmoil. Disruption is the way of life for the present generation, both staying in Kashmir valley and outside as migrants. For the entire generation, it is challenging to comprehend what is normal. Kashmir had been under a periodical veneer of peace in the past. Kashmiris probably had some peace before 1339 AD and during Sikh and Dogra rules from 1839 to 1947. Kashmiris have been grappling with both past and present to define their future. Does the past hold the future?

Kashmir’s history is very old and deep-rooted. Orientations, characteristics, and inferences in society have their roots embedded in history. Seeds of these roots were planted in the past. When we plant trees, some fall out and wane away, some shed their leaves seasonally, and the harsh winds of history uproot some trees. On the other hand, some plants, like creepers, grow silently yet sway society’s social, cultural, and political environment. When we look at the landscape of the Kashmir valley, it appears that these mountains must have insensitivities hidden in them, and rivulets must have washed away many betrayals and treacheries. There is a long trail of intrigues and complicities, except for a few illuminating patches in the history of Kashmir. 

History not only strides the pathways preferred by the rulers but tramps over the routes through lanes and by-lanes, sneaking into the lives of the ordinary people in the society. Thus, history constructs biographies not of the Kings and Sultans but also of those who were ruled. The history of Kashmir reveals that the land was a magnificent framework of Indian Civilisation. According to the myths supported by geological shreds of evidence, the valley of Kashmir was a vast lake. The name of Kashmir is derived from the Sanskrit words: Ka, water and shimira, dried out. Also (kas, channel, mir, mountain), a deep trough with rocky walls. According to Nilamatpurana, this lake was the favourite place of Maa Parvati. Hari Parbat emerged after smothering the demon called Jalodbhava. After draining the water of this enormous lake at the depression at Baramulla, Kashmir settled by the people led by Rishi Kashyap. The remains of many temples, stupas and viharas and of various schools of thought attest that in ancient times Kashmir was a crucible of two great religions of India, i.e. Hinduism and Buddhism. These two religions mixed well and occupied the people’s mental space. Its contribution to Hindu thought, known as ‘Trika Sastra’-a unique evolution of the monistic philosophy of Saivism, has been momentous.

Kashmir was included in the Maurya empire by Ashoka, who founded the city of Srinagar around 250 BC. During this period, Buddhism spread and flourished under the Kushans. During the reign of Kanishka, the third Buddhist council took place in Kashmir, as recorded by the 7th-century Chinese traveler Hien Tsang. But Hinduism held its own in the region. The 7th Century AD witnessed the establishment of a dynasty called the Karkota, whose foundation stone was laid by Durlabhavarrdhana. The most famous ruler of this dynasty was Lalitaditya Muktapid, who built the world-famous sun temple (Martand) in Kashmir. The Karkotas were supplemented by the Utpalas in 855 AD. The most important ruler of this dynasty was Avanti-varman. He rescued Kashmir from the utter political and economic disorders into which the state had fallen during the rule of his predecessors. Didda, a Gupta widowed queen, ruled Kashmir until 1003 AD, when the Lohara dynasty took over. The last Hindu ruler of Kashmir was Udyan Dev. His Chief Queen Kota Rani was the Kingdom’s de-facto ruler. With her death in 1339, the Hindu rule in Kashmir ended and was succeeded by the Muslim Sultan Shams-ud-din-whose dynasty ruled the valley for 222 years.

To begin with, the Muslim rule started on favourable notes, but the Islamic zeal attained its fanatical zenith under Sultan Sikander, who ruled from 1389 AD to 1413 AD. He was a destroyer of idols, banned un-Islamic practices and Hindus were subjected to jizya and even forbidden to carry out the Hindu ritual, including wearing the tilak. He even instituted the office of Sheikh-ul-Islam to ensure the proper observation of religious practices. A relentless campaign was launched to convert non-Muslims to Islam. He unleashed a reign of terror. Religious books of non-Muslims were destroyed. From this period onward, the predominance of Muslims in the Kashmir Valley set in. However, in the period from AD 1420 to 1470 Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin was liberal, compassionate, and progressive. He tried to revive the lost glory of the Kashmir valley. But the next 120 years were full of chaos, confusion, conspiracies, etc, under the successive rules of the Sayyids,  Magreys, Chaks and Dars. The Kingdom was annexed to the Mughal Empire in 1586. In 1757 Kashmir came under the control of Ahmed Shah Durrani, the Afghan who invaded India many times.

In 1819 Maharaja Ranjit Singh established Sikh rule in Kashmir but estrangement between Dogra Rajas and the Sikh court at Lahore rose immediately after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on 27 June 1839. After the crushing defeat of the Sikhs in the first Anglo-Sikh war on 9 March 1846. The British transferred Kashmir to Maharaja Gulab Singh under the Treaty of Amritsar signed on 16 Mar 1846. Gulab Singh died in 1857 and was replaced by Ranbir Singh (1857-1885). Two other Maharaja, Partap Singh (1885-1925) and Hari Singh ruled in succession. Maharaja Hari Singh ascended the throne in 1925. He continued to govern the state till 26 Oct 1947 and signed an Instrument of Accession with the Government of India.

In 1956, J&K was integrated into the Indian Union under a new State Constitution. However, PoJK part of J&K continued to be under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. Since 1947, Pakistan has been obsessed with Kashmir and continuously instigates the people of the Kashmir valley to rise against India but Pakistan repeatedly failed in its designs in the 1947, 1965 and 1971 wars with India. Pakistan’s eastern limb was cut off and gave birth to a new nation called Bangladesh in 1971. In reaction, Pakistan decided to bleed India by a thousand cuts. 

When it failed to instigate the Punjabi Sikhs against India in 1984, then Pakistan decided to foment the sentiments of Kashmiris against India initially in the 1990s but largely failed. Out of frustration in 1999, Pakistan forcibly occupied certain heights in Kargil areas but was defeated and evicted by the Indian Armed Forces. 

Hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their motherland due to terrorism carried out by terrorist organisations supported by our adversary. They now live, often in very poor conditions in their own country. These people are called migrants by the administration. The Kashmiri Pandits are refugees in their own nation. There was a lack of security and safety when they were ruthlessly persecuted, threatened, tortured, and murdered by the Islamic terrorists. Terrorism has taken the lives of many innocent men, women and children and has indulged wantonly in abduction, rape, murder, arson, extortion, and looting. Religious codes of conduct were imposed on ordinary people, and public and private property were considerably damaged, including over 400 state government schools. More than 350,000 people of the minority community have had to flee their homes in the Kashmir Valley.

Pakistan continues to occupy POJK illegally since 1947 and is exporting terrorism from its soil. India is a victim of cross-border terrorism. Kashmiris feel victimised as there are too many knots and threads entangled. The very soul of Kasmiriyat, which was the bedrock of pluralism and unity in diversity in Kashmir, has been wounded severely. Regional and religious affiliations have widened. The people’s beliefs have become their identities, further complicating the concept of Kashmiriyat. Trust deficit in the political leadership of Kashmir is prevalent.

Kashmiris need a healthy combination of reason and emotion, of policy and intuition. On 5 Aug 2019, when the Home Minister of India introduced two bills and two resolutions in the parliament regarding Jammu and Kashmir, it was a historic move to strengthen the democracy in the region and make it a genuine part of India in letter and spirit. The Prime Minister emphasised the need ‘to embrace the land by embracing its people.’ To counter terrorism in J&K and re-establish peace, the govt is strengthening and acting on a multidirectional approach. Tackling cross-border terrorism, checking infiltration, identifying, and dealing sternly with the Over Ground Workers (OGWs) and pro-actively countering anti-India propaganda.

In the health sector, the government is providing the residents of J&K with health insurance. Two AIIMS have been set up, one in Jammu and the other in Kashmir. The Government provides world-class higher learning through IITs, IIM, AIIMS, Central Universities, etc. Various skilling initiatives have been launched to equip them (the youth) to hone their skills and employability.

Connectivity through all-weather roads, rail, ropeways, and tunnels is helping to bridge the gaps existing in three regions: Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and bringing people together, improving tourists’ inflow in the region. 

Fortunately, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are blessed with eternal beauty and rich culture. Shikaras and houseboats navigate through the water of Dal Lake; the Bahu Forts tower above the waters in the river Tawi, and the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus is just enchanting. The convergence of different schools of thought, culture, and religious beliefs, the region, and the people have contributed immensely to India’s culture, literature, and philosophy. The mysticism that flourished in the land of Kashmir through various periods is still part and parcel of the Kashmiri spirit and gives enough reasons to them to discern their future. The government of India has opened avenues for economic development. If violence is within us, peace also resides with us. There is a need for an attitudinal shift in our thinking.

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Colonel B S Nagial

Col B S Nagial (Retd) is a third-generation Indian Army Officer who retired in 2019 after rendering three decades of service. He has spent about 15 years fighting terrorism mainly in J&K. He is also the Director of his own venture, Academy of Proficiency and Training, Tricity Chandigarh. Various articles and research papers have been published in his name in the Times of India, Times of Isreal, Daily Excelsior, CLAWS, SecurityLinkIndia, etc. His major areas of interest are National Security, Counter-terrorism and International Relations. Presently, He is pursuing MA-Political Science from IGNOU.

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