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A brief history of Kashmir

by Kanhya L. Kaul

We begin our story of oppression and the destruction of our community, Kashmir Hindus, at the hands of Muslim fundamentalists and fanatics, sultans and kings, Amman Ullahs and other terrorists, with Sultan Sikander (1389- 1413). He perpetrated untold oppression on the Hindus of the valley; tortured them, killed them and destroyed without any mercy the idols of their worship. He earned the notoriety of having razed to the ground the famous temples, 'Vijeshwar' and 'Martand'. The fanatic despot and brutish iconoclast earned the sobriquet of 'But-Shikan'. He was the first fanatic to offer the infamous three choices, repeated later by others, to Kashmiri Hindus, conversion to Islam, exile, or death. Tragically enough, the choices were repeated by the terrorists of 1990 also. As a result, mass exodus of KPs from the valley took place then as it did in 1990. The savage Sultan destroyed Hindu scriptures, and, it is said that one time, he murdered so many Hindus at a stretch that the sacred thread (Younia) of the murdered, weighed about seven maunds ( about 900 lbs) which he set on fire in a huge pile! The historian Jonaraja laments thus - "Struck by the fear, the Brahmins killed themselves by poison, some by ropes and others by drowning themselves in the Dal Lake, others by jumping from a precipice and others burnt themselves to death." According to traditional sources, only eleven Brahmin families were left behind in the valley.

Sultan Zain-ul-Abedin (1420-1470), popularly known as BUDSHAH was no better than his predecessor in the initial period of his rule, but when successful treatment at the hands of a famous physician, Shri Bhatt saved him from some nearly fatal disease, a conversion of a sort took place in him and he became tolerant towards the Hindus. This paved the way for the return of a sizable section of the Brahmins to the valley. But alas! The succeeding Sultans and Kings of the Chak dynasty who ruled Kashmir till 1586, again actively engaged in annihilating the Hindus of the valley, and thus, reducing them to a negligible minority.

Then came the Mughals. There was respite for the Hindus during their rule till Aurangzeb usurped the throne after getting his three brothers killed and father placed in prison where he died. To divert the attention of his Muslim subjects from his heinous crimes, Aurangzeb turned to killing of Hindus and liberal Muslims, sufis, who were patronized by his murdered elder brother, Dara Shikoh. Again, the Hindus were subjected to killings and conversions as before. As a result, a group of 16 Kashmiri Hindus who had heard of Guru Teg Bahadur, left for Punjab to seek his advice and guidance for their survival. They met him on May 25, 1675 ( about 375 years ago). The Guru remarked that their tale of woe and suffering was of such a magnitude that it needed the sacrifice of a great man. Upon hearing this comment from his father, the Guru's young son who was with his father listening, Guru Gobind Singh remarked: " Can there be any other greater man for this sacrifice than your good self." The rest is a glorious chapter in the history of Hindus' vitality and inner strength for survival against the savages who committed crimes against them in the name of Islam, the holy Quran, and against the true message of the Prophet ( Peace be upon him). The Guru Teg Bahadur left for Delhi, was arrested at Sirhind, finally produced before Aurangzeb who gave him a choice between conversion to Islam or performance of some miracle; and upon his refusal to do either, the Guru and his three disciples were executed at Chandni Chowk in Delhi on 11th November, 1675. This supreme sacrifice of the Guru has enriched the struggle of Kashmiri Hindus' to survive in the face of the atrocities inflicted upon them. It has served as an immense source of inspiration to Kashmiris down the centuries. Though the Kashmiri Hindus survived the remaining years of Aurangzeb's rule, they did not know the worst was yet to follow.

The fall of the Mughals lead to Parhan rule with the conquest of Kashmir by Ahmad-Shah Abdali of Afghanistan in 1752. The Afghan rule was brutal and the cruelest. The tyranny which lasted till 1819 proved disastrous for the Brahmins. The Sunni Kashmiri Muslims were spared physically but devastated economically. But the Shias of the valley were victimized. Hence the popular saying in Kashmir: "Kafirun patte gaye Raifzan lar" - after the 'Kafirs' ( Hindus), the Shias are next (in line for torture). The excessive oppression, torture and killings of Kashmiri Hindus, and their forcible conversion to Islam through the centuries finally reduced them to a microscopic minority, hardly five to seven percent of the population in the Valley where they were the only religion at one time. The 'Killing Fields of Kashmir'- Batta Mazar-- where hundreds of murdered Hindus were buried en mass, is still in existence in Srinagar, a reminder to the Kashmiri Hindus of today of the atrocities they have survived. And talking about migrants, our forefathers too migrated from the valley, only to return. A town en rout to the plains in the south came to be known as "Batawath" which now is spelled as Batote, meaning Batta's Path! (Editor's note: 'Batta' is another word for Kashmiri Hindu or Pandit)

To end the tyranny of Pathans, again an illustrious son of the community, played his part by inviting Maharaja Ranjit Singh to end their misery. The Sikh rule ensued from 1819 to 1846. Though economically fully exploited, the life of Hindus was safe. The Dogra rule from 1846 to 1947 considering what the community had gone through before, will stand as 'golden era' in the history of the community. After Maharaja Gulab Singh, the founder of the Dogra dynasty, his son Ranbir Singh proved to be an able administrator and a benevolent ruler. He introduced the rule of law in the state. He gave the state the present penal code, Ranbir Dandh Vidhi. His era was an era of peace and progress in the state. Much more important developments took place under his nephew, Maharaja Hari Singh. An era of modernity was introduced in the valley. The community not withstanding set backs here and there made tremendous progress, under the Dogra rule, taking full advantage of the opportunities available to the people in the valley though getting politically exploited from time to time by various powers in the state. Then, came the Freedom of India in 1947, the partition of India, and with all that the Congress misrule of Kashmir!

In the wake of the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 when two independent dominions of India and Pakistan came into being, thousands of tribesmen (Qabaelis) assisted by the regular Armed Forces of Pakistan invaded Kashmir. They devastated almost whole of northern division of Kashmir valley, and also from the Jammu area, Mirpur, Poonch, Rajouri, Bhunder, Kotli by loot, plunder and killings. Again, thousands of Kashmiri Hindus, including the Sikhs were the worst victims. Consequent upon the accession of the J & K State to India on October 27, 1947, a full fledged war ensued between India and Pakistan and subsequent events are well within the knowledge of every Indian.

During the National Conference rule form 1947 to August 1953 when Sheik Mohd. Abdullah was the Prime Minister of the State, the Kashmiri Pandits, no doubt, felt secure so far as their lives were concerned but economically they were so hard pressed that thousands of them had to bid good-bye to their homeland and seek employment in other parts of the country. From 1953 to 1963 when Bakshi Ghulam Mohd was the Premier of the State, the same policy of administering slow poison to the young and educated Kashmiri Pandit youths by denying them their due was meticulously followed, thus, forcing them to leave the State. Again, the successive state governments continued the policy of discrimination in jobs and admissions in educational institutions against Kashmiri Pandits.

Late Sheik Mohd. Abdullah (1905-1982) acknowledged in his biography, The 'Atash-i-Chinar', published four years after his death in 1986, that hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits have rendered yeomen's services to their homeland and the rest of the country. However, irritated with their loyalty to India, has advised the Kashmiri Pandits to shun being "spies of Delhi" and fifth columnist among Kashmiris. Little does he know that he is allowed to rest in peace in his grave only because he is lying under strong protection of the Delhi's security forces.

In early 1986, a petty incident in Jammu snowballed into a clash between the members of two major communities, Hindus and Muslims. A backlash was immediately 'engineered' in Anantnag district of Kashmir by some local political leaders and Pakistani agents including the then Pradesh Congress Chief, Mufti Mohd. Sayeed, and later Union Home Minister. Acting under the guidance of Mufti, the paid agents mobilized all goondas, notorious criminals and bad characters of the area. They attacked temples, and houses of hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits, in scores of villages, razing them to the ground.

Post September 1989 events which have shaken the very foundation of the secular edifice of India, resulting in the genocide of Kashmiri Hindus culminating in their mass exodus from the Valley since January 20,1990, hardly need narration here. Hundreds of columns in dailies, weeklies and fortnightly have been written to cover them. For us, Kashmiri Pandits, the process of persecution, suppression and killings which started against us with the advent of Islam in the valley in the second quarter of the fourteenth century with the help of the sword has reached the climax; with the difference that the sword has been replaced now with the Kalashnikovs, AK-47's, grenades, light machine guns, rocket launchers and so on, and that Kashmir is a part of democratic and secular India. Kashmiri Hindus have become refugees in their own country!

It is time that we pool our resources, and resort to some bold, imaginative and coordinated action. We are survivors, and by the Grace of the Lord, We shall overcome!

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The above article is based on Stark Realities in Historical Perspective published in Kashur Samachar by K.L. Swaroop, former Vice President of the Kashmiri Samiti, Delhi. Courage! Courage, Brother! Donot stumble Though thy path be dark as night, There is a star to guide the humble~ Trust in God and do the right. .... A. Pope

Source: Miltsar, May 1992, Kashmiri Overseas Association

Kashmir History and Politics

 

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