The Poplar and the
Chinar: Kashmir in a Historical Outline
by Subhash Kak
Louisiana State University Baton
Rouge, LA 70803-5901
Published in International Journal of Indian
Studies, vol 3, 1993, pp. 33-61
paper presents the recent militancy in Kashmir in a historical context.
The policies of the Government of India that have contributed to the
alienation of the different religious communities of the State are
analyzed. The militancy is seen as an attempt by the fundamentalists to
wean the Kashmiri Muslims away from their heritage of Rishi Islam that
includes elements of Shaivism.
: Kashmir, Indian politics, quotas, Islamic militancy, terrorism.
Insurgency and Terror
middle of 1989 saw the beginning of a campaign of terror
against the Kashmiri
minorities by Muslim fundamentalists and an insurgency against the Indian
government. Within a year hundreds of selective and random murders forced nearly
all the Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs, who comprise less than 10 percent of the
population of the Vale, to leave their homes for refuge in the Jammu province
and in Delhi.
The Jammu and Kashmir State is a union of different
ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. There are groups in the
Muslim-dominated Kashmir who have sought independence or a union with Pakistan.
The terror then represents a plan to eliminate minorities that may not wish to
break Kashmir's ties with India.
There are several Muslim groups at work now with their
own agendas. Not all of them espouse violence and neither are all focused on
political aims. It would be wrong, therefore, to call the events in Kashmir as a
struggle for freedom. As in a play of shadows across a silk curtain,
understanding the recent events of Kashmir requires a broad knowledge of the
plot and considerable imagination. The main actors in this drama are the
governments of India and Pakistan and the various Muslim factions in the valley
of Kashmir. The roles of the Indian and the Pakistani governments are relatively
clear. The Indian government claims the territory of the State under the control
of Pakistan, but Nehru and his successor governments have let it be known that
it would be willing to accept the actual line of control as the international
border. Pakistan covets the Vale of Kashmir since it has a Muslim majority, and
Pakistan was shaped out of India in 1947 from the Muslim majority regions. The
Muslim leadership of the Kashmir valley has in the past four decades insisted on
a certain isolation from the rest of the Indian Union. This policy has been made
a shibboleth by many Indian national, left-wing parties for a belief in
India and Pakistan have fought four wars for the
control of the valley. In the first war, during 1947-8, the fighting was
confined to the State. The second war in 1965 became a general conflict. The
third war in 1971 began over the revolt in the eastern wing of Pakistan but
eventually engulfed Kashmir. The most recent war has been fought by proxy
through agents by Pakistan in Kashmir. It started in 1989 and is still
No systematic studies of Kashmiri Islam have been
carried out. But its situation is very similar to that of Indonesian Islam, and
one might use the analysis of Clifford Geertz (1960) and successors (Hefner
1985, Kipp and Rodgers 1987) to understand its dynamics. We then have the
classification of orthodox , traditional , and karkun (urban, State employees)
to parallel the labels of santri, abangan, priyayi for Javanese Islam. The
interesting aspect of this classification is the fact that the karkun (or the
priyayi in Java) has an ethos outside the main religious framework. In Java the
priyayi are Muslims who hold on secretly to the Hindu-Buddhist values, whereas
in Kashmir the karkun have generally been the Hindus of the valley. In other
words, if the orthodox are the sayyids and the mullahs , the traditional the
peasants and the craftsmen, then the karkun are the administrators, or the
secular gentry. This classification is naturally a great simplification, but it
provides important insights.
Recent Kashmiri history can be examined in terms of the
dynamics between these three groups. So long as Kashmir was isolated, the three
groups lived in a certain harmony amongst themselves. But from time to time
forces from within and outside have threatened this equilibrium. The prosperity
of the past four decades and modernization have spread the karkun and secular
ideals within the Islamic community. The orthodox group has felt challenged by
this phenomenon. This has stoked the fires within Kashmiri Islam of the
long-standing struggle between the champions of the orthodox variety of
doctrinaire Islam and the vast majority of adherents who subscribe to a popular
religion that is heavily based on the native pre-Islamic traditions. The groups
spearheading the current movement in Kashmir seek to steer the population away
from its Hindu roots.
This struggle for the heart and soul of the Kashmiri
Muslim against the insidious and growing karkun culture explains the fury and
intensity of the militants. The orthodox have sought a revolution that has shown
no mercy. So if the insurgency has been against the Indian government and the
Kashmiri Hindus, it has also been directed against the dominant religious
tradition of the Kashmiri Muslims themselves.
The State of Jammu and Kashmir and the Enchanted Vale
Before the partition of the State at the end of the 1947-9
war between India and Pakistan, it consisted of the Vale of Kashmir, the
province of Jammu, the districts of Ladakh and Baltistan, and the Gilgit agency.
The inhabitants of the Gilgit region and the Kashmir valley speak languages that
are classed as belonging to the Dardic family of the Indo-Aryan language family;
in Jammu Dogri, of the Indo-Aryan family, predominates; and in Ladakh and
Baltistan the language is a variant of Tibetan. From the point of view of
religion also the State presents a mosaic. Gilgit, Kashmir, and Baltistan are
predominantly Muslim; Jammu is likewise Hindu, and Ladakh is Buddhist. A little
over half of the population of the State is concentrated in the Vale of Kashmir
which accounts for only 10 percent of the area, and Ladakh, Gilgit, and
Baltistan are very sparsely populated. The State has some of the most
breathtaking scenery in the world. The Vale itself is about 84 miles long with a
breadth of 20 to 25 miles and a mean altitude of 5,600 feet above sea level
(Drew 1875, Younghusband 1909). It is famed for its beauty of lakes and mountain
streams, chinars and poplars, irises and roses. The Vale is also famed for a
great tradition of scholarship, music and arts, shawls and carpets (Singh 1983).
Of the different regions of the State, we know the
history of the Vale the best. This is due to the 12th century Ra jatarangini of
the historian Kalhana. Buddhism was introduced into the Vale by the missionaries
of the emperor Ashoka (269-232 B.C.). The Kushan emperor Kanishka (c. 100 A.D.)
convened a Buddhist council in Kashmir which led to the foundation of Mahayana
Buddhism. Kashmiri missionaries played a leading role in the spread of Buddhism
into Central Asia and China.
The Karkota dynasty of the seventh and eighth centuries
provides us with the first authentic accounts of the government in the Vale.
Lalitaditya (724-61) was the outstanding king of this dynasty. Lalitaditya built
the famed Sun temple of Martand. In the 9th century Avantivarman built a grand
capital south of Srinagar whose ruins can still be seen. These centuries also
saw a flowering of Sanskrit learning and philosophy in Kashmir.
The rise of the Turko-Mongols under Chingiz Khan and
his successors brought considerable turmoil to Central Asia after the 12th
century. This disorder spilled into the Vale. Powerful feudal lords vied for
power and many adventurers from outside invaded.
The end of the Hindu rule was part of a fascinating
drama of intrigue and treachery. In 1320 Rinchana, a Tibetan prince, usurped the
throne and sought to be converted to Hinduism. Upon the refusal of the Brahmins
to do so he embraced Islam. After his death in 1323, his Hindu queen Kota Rani
ruled until 1338 although the nominal king was her new husband Udayana, who was
the younger brother of Suhadeva, the king before Rinchana. On Udayana's death
Kota Rani ruled by herself for a few months until the power was seized by Shah
Mir, a native of Swat, who now established the first Muslim dynasty in the Vale.
Islam spread quickly in Kashmir. It appears that there
were periods of persecution of Hindus and their forcible conversion that
interspersed longer periods of living in harmony. The first such episode of
forcible conversion was during the reign of Sikandar (1389-1413) when, according
to tradition, the persecution was so severe that the Hindus either left the
valley or converted to Islam until only eleven Hindu families remained. But
Sikandar's son Zain-ul-Abidin (1420-1470), popularly known as Badshah or Great
King, was an enlightened ruler whose policy of religious tolerance persuaded
many Hindus to return to the Vale. But after Zain-ul-Abidin the pressure on
Hindus to convert to Islam continued. According to a tradition 24,000 Brahmin
families were forced to convert during the stay in the valley of Mir Shams-ud-din
Iraqi, who arrived in 1492 to proselytize on behalf of the Sufi order of
Naqshabandis (Sender 1988).
The Vale was made a part of the Mughal empire by Akbar
in 1587. It soon became a favourite summer resort for the Mughal rulers who
built many gardens here. The Mughal administration was fair and it brought much
prosperity. But as the Mughal empire weakened the governors assumed more power
and some of them reintroduced religious repression. In 1752, with the collapse
of the Mughal power, Kashmir came into the control of the Afghans. This rule was
perhaps the most tyrannical in the history of the land. The Sikhs, under Ranjit
Singh, wrested Kashmir from the Afghans in 1819. In 1846, following the defeat
of the Sikhs by the British, Gulab Singh, the Dogra ruler of Jammu purchased the
Vale from the British.
The Dogras appear to have maintained large degree of
autonomy during the period of Muslim rule in India. The Sikh kingdom of Lahore
recognized Jammu to be a protected state. In 1834, Gulab Singh conquered the
independent state of Ladakh. Baltistan, to the west of Ladakh, was defeated in
1840. In 1841 he attempted to expand into Western Tibet but this campaign ended
in disaster. The Gilgit region was also inherited by the Dogras from the earlier
Sikh kingdom. Thus by the mid-nineteenth century the state of Jammu and Kashmir
had assumed its pre-partition form with the Dogra king as its ruler.
In the 1845 war between the British and the Sikhs,
Gulab Singh, although a feudatory of the Sikhs, had not taken sides. The British
recognized him as the independent ruler of Jammu, Poonch, Ladakh, and Baltistan
in a treaty signed in 1846. But when Gulab Singh purchased the Vale of Kashmir,
he accepted British paramountcy which meant the British right to control his
The movement for independence in British India spilled
over to Kashmir as well. In the 1920's there were demands for redress of
grievances. There was further unrest in the 1930's which prompted the Maharaja
to take stern measures. However, the disturbances continued and eventually the
Maharaja accepted the establishment of a legislative assembly. Sheikh Abdullah
emerged as the most prominent leader of this movement that led to this major
The Maharaja appeared to hold out for independence in
August 1947 when India was partitioned. But in late October of that year
Pakistani tribesmen, led by military officers in civilian clothes, tried to take
the Vale by force. But instead of quickly seizing Srinagar, as they were in
position to do, they stopped to plunder, murder, and rape. The Maharaja's hand
was now forced and he acceded to the Indian Union and asked for help to expel
the invaders. Sheikh Abdullah, who had been released from prison, endorsed this
decision. Soldiers of the Indian Army were now flown into Srinagar and this
turned the tide of the invasion. Pakistani regulars were now sent in and the war
raged throughout 1948. Finally, under the supervision of the United Nations a
cease fire was declared on 1 January 1949. Pakistan occupied 33000 square miles
of the 86,500 square miles of Jammu and Kashmir State. India held the Vale of
Kashmir and most of Jammu province and Ladakh, whereas Pakistan controlled parts
of Jammu and Kashmir provinces, Baltistan, and the Gilgit region.
Shaivistic and Bhakti Roots of Kashmiri Religion
To understand the religious divide in the Vale it is
necessary to go back to the Shaivite roots of the popular religion. It is
important to note that this tradition fits squarely within the greater Indian
tradition. The Rigveda presents a monistic view of the universe where an
understanding of the nature of consciousness holds the key to the understanding
of the world. This is further emphasized in the Upanishads, the six
philosophical schools, Buddhist and Jain philosophy, the Shaivite and the
Tantric systems. Of course this emphasis varies. And sometimes seemingly
different terms represent the same central idea. For example the s unyata (void)
of Madhyamika Buddhism and the brahman (universe) of the Upanishads are forms of
the monistic absolutes. Two opposite metaphors thus represent the same central
idea. Likewise the dualism of Sa m khya and of the Jains is correctly seen as
projection of a monistic system of universal consciousness that manifests itself
in the categories of the physical world and sentience. A grand exposition of the
system, that explains how different perspective fit in the framework, is
contained in the Bhagavad Gi ta . Even the Iranian religion of Zarathushtra may
be seen as reformulation of the earlier Vedic tradition (Boyce 1975) in the same
sense that Vaishnavism is.
Kashmir Shaivism, reached its culmination in the
philosophy of Abhinavagupta and Kshemaraja (tenth to eleventh century AD) (Chatterji
1914, Dyczkowski 1987, Gnoli 1968, Kaw 1969, Pandey 1963, Jaideva Singh 1977,
1979, & 1989). Their trika (three-fold) school argued that reality is
represented by three categories: transcendental ( para ), material ( apara ),
and a combination of these two ( para para ) (Lakshman Jee 1988). This
three-fold division is sometimes represented in terms of the principles s iva, s
akti, an u or pati, pa s a, pas u . S iva represents the principle behind
consciousness, s akti its energy, and an u the material world. At the level of
living beings pas u is the individual who acts according to his conditioning,
almost like an animal, pa s a are the bonds that tie him to his behaviour, and
pati or pas upati (Lord of the Flock) is s iva personified whose knowledge
liberates the pas u and makes it possible for him to reach his potential. The
mind is viewed as a hierarchical (krama) collection of agents ( kula ) that
perceives its true self spontaneously ( pratyabhijna ) with a creative power
that may be viewed as being pulsating (spanda) . This last attribute recalls the
spenta of the Zarathushtrian religion, where this word represents the power of
creation of Ahura Mazda . Thus Kashmir Shaivism appears to have attempted a
reconciliation of the Iranian religion with its Vedic parent.
The Pratyabhijn a (recognition) system is named after
the book Stanzas on the Recognition of Ishvara or Shiva which was written by
Utpala (c 900-950). It appears Utpala was developing the ideas introduced by his
teacher Somananda who had written the earlier Vision of Shiva . In Shaivism in
general, Shiva is the name for the absolute or transcendental consciousness.
Ordinary consciousness is bound by cognitive categories related to conditioned
behavior. By exploring the true springwells of ordinary consciousness one comes
to recognize its universal (Shiva). This brings the further recognition that one
is not a slave (pasu) of creation but its master (pati) . In other words, an
intuition of the true nature of one's consciousness provides a perspective that
For the spanda system the usual starting point is the
Aphorisms of Shiva due to Vasugupta (c 800). His disciple Kallata is generally
credited with the Stanzas on Pulsation . According to this school the universal
consciousness pulsates of vibrates and this ebb and flow can be experienced by
the person who has recognized his true self.
Abhinavagupta wrote a profound commentary on Utpala's
Stanzas on Recognition. Shaivite philosophy may be said to have reached its full
flowering with his philosophy. Abhinava also wrote more than sixty other works
on tantra, poetics, dramaturgy, and philosophy. His disciple Kshemaraja also
wrote influential works that dealt with the doctrines of both the schools of
Recognition and Pulsation. Abhinava emphasized the fact that all human
creativity reveals aspects of the seed consciousness. This explains his own
interest in drama, poetry, and aesthetics.
According to the ancient doctrine of Sa m khya physical
reality may be represented in terms of twenty-five categories. These categories
relate to an everyday classification of reality where prakrti may be likened to
matter, and purusa to mind. Kashmir Shaivism adds eleven new categories to this
list. These categories characterize different aspects of consciousness.
Any focus of consciousness must first be circumscribed
by coordinates of time and space. Next, it is essential to select a process (out
of the many defined) for attention. The aspect of consciousness that makes one
have a feeling of inclusiveness with this process followed later by a sense of
alienation is called maya . Thus maya permits one, by a process of
identification and detachment, to obtain limited knowledge and to be creative.
How does consciousness ebb and flow between an identity
of self an an identity with the processes of the universe? According to Shaivism,
a higher category permits comprehension of oneness and separation with equal
clarity. Another allows a visualization of the ideal universe. This permits one
to move beyond mere comprehension into a will to act. The final two categories
deal with pure consciousness by itself and the potential energy that leads to
continuing transformation. Pure awareness is not to be understood as similar to
everyday awareness of humans but rather as the underlying schema that the laws
of nature express.
Shaiva psychology is optimistic, scientific, secular,
and liberating. At the personal level it emphasizes reaching for the springwell
of creativity ( sakti ) and the schema underlying this creativity ( siva ). The
journey leading to this knowledge may be begun in a variety of ways: through
sciences, the arts, and creative social activities. But this exploration of the
outside world is to be taken as a means of uncovering the architecture of the
inner world. Shaiva psychology also reveals that the notion of bhakti, which has
played a central role in the shaping of the Indian mind during the past
millennium, may be given a focus related to a quest for knowledge.
The intellectual theories of Kashmir Shaivism were
given popular expression by the great mystic Lalleshvari or Lalla (1335-1376).
Her sayings, vakya , form the basis of much of the Kashmiri world-view that
emerged later. But from Lalla onwards the emphasis did shift to the devotional
aspects of Kashmir Shaivism (Temple 1924, Odin 1994). The notion of recognition
of one's true self was exalted to the central role in the popular religion
including Kashmiri popular Islam that views her va kyas and the sayings of her
disciple Sheikh Nur-ud-din (1377-1438), Nanda Rishi , as sources of spiritual
wisdom. Two of Lalla's va kya that have been adapted from Bamzai (1962) are
I saw myself in all things
I saw God shining in everything.
You have heard, stop! see Shiva
The house is his, who am I Lalla.
Shiva pervades the world
Hindu and Muslim are the same.
If you are wise know yourself
Then you will know God.
"Lalla is as much a part of Kashmiri language,
literature, and culture as Shakespeare is of English" is the assessment
of Kachru (1981). Says her own pupil Nanda Rishi:
That Lalla of Padma npor-she drank
Her fill of divine nectar;
She was indeed an avata r of ours.
O God, grant me the self-same boon!
Nur-ud-din was followed by a large number of Rishis
from both the Hindu and the Muslim communities. The Islamic Rishis provided
the leadership to the popular religion of the Kashmiri Muslims.
By the end of the nineteenth century the Kashmiri
Hindus were about seven percent of the population of the Vale. Within the
community itself a two-fold division had taken place by this time. Those who
specialized in the secular sphere, studied Persian and undertook
administrative employment, became known as the karkuns ; others who did
priestly duties requiring knowledge of Sanskrit were termed bhasha bhatta
(Sender 1988, Madan 1989). In recent years this sub-division is disappearing
and karkun values have become the dominant ethos of the community.
Islam in Kashmir
The core of Islam rests on the Koran and narratives
about the Prophet's life contained in the Hadith. In the next layer is the
sharia ---Islamic law. The ulama , who are the theologians who are occupied
with the interpretation of the Koran and the Hadith, are the heart and soul
of Muslim orthodoxy. The multiple interpretations of the Koran and the
Hadith finally formalized into four orthodox schools by 10th century A.D.
when the gates of itjihad (individual interpretation of the Koran and the
Hadith) closed shut. No further extensions of the Law are now permitted. The
body of orthodox Islam is called Sunnite Islam after the Arabic sunna ,
The challenge to the orthodox Islamic law by the
pre-Islamic pantheistic traditions of Arabia and Iran crystallized within
the Islamic framework through the mystical tradition of Sufism. The Sufi
teachers from Central Asia and Iran had a hand in converting Kashmiris. The
Rishi tradition of Kashmir went hand in hand with the Sufi tradition.
Islam in the Indian sub-continent has incorporated
many impulses that hearken back to the original Hindu roots of the
inhabitants (Mujeeb 1967, Ahmad 1969). In the Vale of Kashmir the practice
of Islam centres around worship at the many shrines scattered across the
region. At many of these shrines relics of Pirs and Rishis are worshipped.
In the beginning Islam represented the separate
identity of the immigrant from Dardistan, Central Asia, or Iran. As it
gained converts the difference in the Hindu and Islamic religious identities
in the countryside was perhaps not marked. In the late 14th century many
Sayyid refugees arrived from the West and they started agitating for
enforcement of the Koranic law. But the popular religion took its
inspiration from the Sufis and the Rishis that followed Nur-ud-din.
Some of Nanda Rishi's sayings are given below:
The dog is barking in the compound
O brothers, give ear and listen:
As one sowed, so did he reap;
You, Nanda, sow, sow, sow.
Your face washed, you call believers to prayer
How can I know, O Rishi, what are your feelings,
what are your prostrations for
You have lived a life without seeing (God)
Tell me to whom you offer prayers.
If you listen to truth, you will master the five
If you make union with Shiva
Then only, O Rishi Mali, will prayer avail you.
[Adapted from Bamzai 1962]
Many Rishis followed Nanda Rishi and they helped
define the uniqueness of Kashmiri Islam. Not all Rishis used Sanskritic
concepts to describe their experience. With time Persian concepts and
stylistic devices were increasingly used. Eventually the Sufis of Kashmir
were also permeated greatly by the Rishi ideals. Writing in 1542 Mirza
Haider says in his Tarikh-i-Rashidi : "The Sufis have legitimized so
many heresies they know nothing of what is lawful... They are forever
interpreting dreams, displaying miracles and obtaining from the unseen
information regarding either the future or the past. Nowhere else is such a
band of heretics to be found... (they) consider the Holy Law ( shariat )
second in importance to the True Way ( tariqat , tradition) and that, in
consequence, the people of the Way have nothing to do with the Holy
Law." (quoted in Sufi 1947-8, pages 19-20)
Writing about a hundred years ago, Lawrence
ascribed the delightful tolerance between Hinduism and Islam to
"chiefly the fact that the Kashmiri Musalmans never really gave up the
Hindu religion." He added: "I do not base my ideas as to the
laxness of Kashmiris in religious duties merely on my own observations. Holy
men of Arabia have spoken to me with contempt of the feeble flame of Islam
which burns in Kashmir and the local mullas talk with indignation of the
apathy of the people." (Lawrence 1895)
The amity between the Muslims and the Hindus has
continued until this recent crisis. The vast majority of the Muslims
continue to follow the religion of the Islamic Rishis. According to the
Kashmiri Muslim historian G.M.D. Sufi:
A number of the practices of the Kashmiri Musalman
are (un-)Islamic... The Buddhist worship of relics has insidiously crept
into India's Islam. It is nowhere so prominent as in Kashmir. Hazratbal is
an outstanding example. On the occasion of the exhibition of the Prophet's
hair ... crowds of Kashmiris are seen weeping and wailing like the Jews
before the Wailing Wall... The Pirs have almost created a priesthood and
hereditary sacred caste. Necromancy and a belief in omens and magic has
gained ground in spite of the (Koranic prohibition against them)... Pure
monotheism and the moral fervour of a society based on social equality has
in practice nowhere receded more into the background. The ringing of a bell
precedes the call to prayer in several mosques in the Valley today... The
Kashmiri Muslim has transferred reverence from Hindu stones to Muslim
relics. (Sufi 1947-8, p. 688)
Many of the shrines of popular Islam are the
ancient Hindu-Buddhist shrines, the Jami' Masjid of Srinagar being an
important example (Sufi 1947-8, p. 512). According to M.A. Stein this is
perhaps true even of the most popular Islamic shrine at Hazratbal (Stein
Kashmiri Culture and Literature
To understand the Kashmiri mind it is best to consider
its poets. For the popular culture, which is permeated with the mystical
tradition, one must again begin with Lalla. Lalla describes her own
spiritual awakening thus:
I, Lalla, filled with love
Searched day and night
In my own house I found the wise one
Whom I beheld at the moment
Which was the most auspicious of my life.
Slowly I stopped my breath
The lamp lit and I realized my true identity
In the dark recesses of my soul
I held fast to the inner light
And emitted it outwards.
[Lalla translated by Odin 1994]
The major poets who followed Lalla include Habba
Khatun (c 16th century), Rupa Bhavani (1621-1721), Arnimal (d. 1800), Mahmud
Gami (1765-1855), Rasul Mir (d. 1870), Parmanand (1791-1864), Ghulam Ahmad
Mahjur (1885-1952), Abdul Ahad Azad (1903-1948) and Zinda Kaul (1884-1965).
Habba Khatun is credited with originating the lol style of poetry where the
predominant mood is that of longing and romantic love. Arnimal also wrote in
the lol style. Rupa Bhavani, Mahmud Gami, Rasul Mir, Parmanand continued in
the mystical tradition of Lalla and Nanda Rishi. Mysticism and romantic love
are the two main strands in the tapestry of the Kashmiri psyche. Often the
two strands get intertwined since romantic love can be a metaphor for a
Which rival of mine has lured you away from me?
Why are you cross with me?
Forget the anger and the sulkiness,
You are my only love,
Why are you cross with me? [ Habba Khatun
translated by Kachru (1981)]
Do not grain
For I shall apply fragrant oil to your straw
And, you, Hyacinth!
Raise your head from under the earth for
Narcissus is waiting with cups of wine,
The jasmine will fade and will not bloom again.
Do not groan
Oh, my spinning-wheel! [ Arnimal translated by
Seeking to know man
I asked the bubble:
How live you on water?
I asked of the butcher about love
Said he: Steel your heart with love
This kababs taste better when overdone.
How live you on water?
The breath of the lover blew a bubble
Another breath and it joined water again.
Who died? what's alive is the riddle.
How live you on water? [ Mahmud Gami ]
Mahjur, Azad, and Zinda Kaul and their successors have
tried to forge a new sensibility in some of their poems but the mystical and
the lol continue to be the dominant ethos.
Sheikh Abdullah and the National Conference
Sheikh Abdullah (1905-1982), the towering Kashmiri
politician of the past half
century, was a powerful advocate of the Kashmiri
Muslims. His political career was launched when he galvanized his people to
agitate for reforms in 1931 during the rule of Hari Singh (Kaul 1985). Next
year a political party, Muslim Conference, was formed with Abdullah as its
first president. Under pressure from the British the Maharaja set up a
Commission to study constitutional reforms in the State. The recommendations
of this Commission led to the establishment of a legislative assembly of
seventy five members, thirty three of whom would be elected on a communal
basis, and an extremely limited franchise. When first convened in 1934, 19
of the 21 seats allotted to the Muslims were won by the Muslim Conference.
Sheikh Abdullah was much influenced by the leaders
of the Indian National Congress, in particular Jawaharlal Nehru, whom he
first met in 1937. He had already worked closely with the Kashmiri socialist
Prem Nath Bazaz. Having by now recognized that popular Islam represented his
natural constituency he decided to enlarge the scope of his political party.
He stated his goal of forming a wide-based political movement in a speech in
We must end communalism by ceasing to think in
terms of Muslims and non-Muslims when discussing our political problems...
We must open our doors to all such Hindus and Sikhs, who like ourselves
believe in the freedom of their country from the shackles of an
irresponsible rule. (Bamzai 1962, p. 664)
Sheikh Abdullah clearly repudiated the sectarian
policies of M.A. Jinnah and the Muslim League. In 1939 the name of Muslim
Conference was changed to National Conference to emphasize its secular
character. The orthodox Muslims did not forgive Abdullah for this and they
remained forever opposed to him.
Sheikh Abdullah walked a tightrope to satisfy the
many different groups. His speeches in mosques used religious imagery to
appeal to the orthodox Muslims and disarm the influence of their leaders who
challenged him. But his real hard-core support lay amongst the Kashmiris who
professed the popular variety of the Islamic religion. His closeness to the
leaders of the Congress Party and his emphasis on secularism led to the
revival of the Muslim Conference by Ghulam Abbas. This revival also
reflected the divide between the Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri Muslims of the
State. Ghulam Abbas came from the Jammu province where the language is
closely related to Punjabi. Muslims of Jammu saw a convergence of their
interests with those of the Muslims of Punjab. On the other hand, Sheikh
Abdullah was endeavouring to define a special position for the Kashmiri
Muslim League represented the aspirations of the
orthodox Islamic minority of the mullahs, the Islamic intellectuals, and the
descendents of the immigrants from Central Asia and Iran. These groups felt
that unless their apartness was given a legal basis they might not be able
to preserve their heritage as a minority in a democratic India with its
Hindu majority (Embree 1989, Gilmartin 1988, Jalal 1990, Kak 1991, Shaikh
1989). Since Kashmiri Islam is so radically different from orthodox Islam,
the philosophy of Muslim League could never have mass appeal in Kashmir.
Sheikh Abdullah worked hard in the interests of the Kashmiri Islamic
community in the emerging political frameworks of Pakistan and India. He
appears to have calculated that Pakistan would eventually either imply
orthodox Islam or Punjabi cultural domination.
Partition and the War of 1947-8
At the time of the partition of India in 1947, only
the Muslim Conference, which was based mainly in Jammu, was in favour of the
State's accession to Pakistan. On the other hand Hindu Sabha in Jammu and
the Maharaja were hoping that the State could become independent. There were
other groups in Jammu who wanted accession to India, whereas Sheikh Abdullah
and his National Conference also appeared to be working for independence but
given a choice between accession to Pakistan or India they felt that they
could preserve autonomy for Kashmir within the secular Indian Union. The
attack by the Pakistani tribesmen forced the hand of the Maharaja. As the
tribesmen reached the outskirts of Srinagar, the Maharaja sought the aid of
the Indian army. He was advised that this could not be done unless the State
acceded to the Indian Union. Sheikh Abdullah accompanied the Maharaja's
Minister to Delhi to communicate to the Indian government acceptance by the
Maharaja of all Indian conditions. On 26 October 1947 the Maharaja signed
the Instrument of Accession.
Indian troops were flown in to protect Srinagar on
October 27. Soon the tribesmen and the Pakistani soldiers were in retreat.
By November 14 most of the Vale was in the control of the Indian army. By
winter the fighting had reached a stalemate and on 31 December 1947 Nehru
referred the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations.
In 1948 the war continued at other fronts. Pakistan
tried to cut off Ladakh from Kashmir but it was unable to do so. In the
autumn of 1948 the Indian army captured Poonch in the Jammu province. The
Indian army now threatened to cut the Pakistan controlled area in two by
reaching the international border beyond Poonch. Pakistan now wished to
enlarge the conflict by attacking Jammu so that the State would be cut off
from India. There was great pressure on both countries to stop fighting and
cease-fire took effect on 1 January 1949.
The New Constitution and Quotas
In March 1948 Sheikh Abdullah was appointed the prime
minister of an interim government of the State. A Constituent Assembly was
convened in October 1951. The members of this Assembly were elected and
Sheikh Abdullah's National Conference won all its seats. In 1952 Jawaharlal
Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah signed an agreement in Delhi which specified that
the State of Jammu and Kashmir, while part of the Indian Union, yet enjoyed
certain unique rights and privileges within the Union. Thus citizens of the
State had rights related to land ownership within the State which were
denied to Indians from outside the State. This fact was recognized in
Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which was entitled " Temporary
provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir" (Lamb 1966,
Curiously the restriction of land ownership to the
hereditary State subjects goes back to Hari Singh in 1927. This order also
reserved government posts to such residents. Hari Singh had become the
Maharaja two years earlier and he was trying to assert the autonomy of the
State from the British paramountcy. But he was also bowing to the interests
of the Hindus from Kashmir and Jammu who did not wish to have any
competition for the various administrative positions from people out of the
State. At that time the Kashmiri Hindus, with less than 2 per cent
population of the State, constituted 80 percent of all those who had
received higher education. This policy of reservation of jobs and
restriction of land ownership was opposed by the Muslims of the State and
outside. (Puri 1981)
Sheikh Abdullah was now trying to implement a
programme that had been outlined by the National Conference in 1944 in a
manifesto entitled New Kashmir . This amounted to a one-party government
dedicated to social reform in the style of the Soviet Union. Sweeping land
reforms were implemented in 1953. But there was also a suppression of
dissent and increasing bureaucratization with its attendent corruption.
Sheikh Abdullah's goal still appeared to be autonomy for the Kashmiris, but
he was unwilling to allow real democracy to the other regions of Jammu and
Ladakh. Growing tensions in the State led to his dismissal and detention in
August 1953. He was succeeded as prime minister of the State by Bakshi
Ghulam Mohammed who remained in power for 10 years.
The Constituent Assembly decided upon a
constitution which came into operation in January 1957. But this
constitution formalized inequities in the political structure that had seeds
in it for trouble down the road. The constituencies were delimited in a
fashion that perpetuated control by the Kashmiris of the Vale (Jagmohan
1991). The typical constituency in the Vale had a population of 50,000
whereas it was 85,000 in the Jammu region. For elections to the Lok Sabha,
Kashmir sent one representative for each one million people, while Jammu was
allocated one representative for each 1.4 million people. Furthermore, the
constituencies were so delimited that the Kashmiri Hindus, in spite of their
population of about 7% in the Vale, could not get a single member elected on
The fundamental rights of the Indian Constitution
were made applicable to the State in 1954; these forbade recruitment to
government jobs on communal and regional considerations. The government of
the State circumvented the law by declaring all the residents of the State
but the less than 3 percent Kashmiri Hindus to be backward. Quotas were now
fixed for recruitment based on ethnic origin and religion both for
recruitment and promotion (Puri 1983).
These policies split up the people of the State in
three main worlds: one Kashmiri Muslim, the other Hindu from Jammu, and the
third was that of the Kashmiri Pandit who was now discriminated against. A
system of quotas in schools, colleges, and jobs was instituted. These quotas
did not apply only at the entrance levels of the government departments but
also for promotion to higher ranks. This system was so perverted that the
candidates from the Muslim community were not chosen according to their
merit either. The bureaucratic system that emerged in Kashmir must have been
one of the most corrupt in India and the whole world.
It must be realized that the Muslims in Kashmir are
not a monolithic community. Caste in India is a phenomenon that transcends
religion (Leach 1960). Muslims in Kashmir, as Muslims elsewhere in India and
Pakistan, are socially divided into castes that have traditionally worked in
different occupations. Furthermore, the converts from the Brahmins,
Kshatriyas, as well as the descendents of the Turks, Afghans, and the
Iranians have generally maintained their identities and their status. Since
performance and skills were not determinants for hiring, the urban Muslim
elites, who were from a few select groups, were able to carve out a lions
share of government openings. The nature of the quota system makes it out as
an entitlement, so there was a great deal of resentment in the weaker Muslim
classes about this matter.
In the corrupt bureaucratic world of the two
Kashmirs, many of the small minority of the Hindus, who were traditionally
professionals, played the game according to the new rules. Others simply
left the State. And when the Central government expanded its bureaucracy in
the early seventies the Hindus joined in large numbers. Having been
systematically excluded from the State government jobs, the Hindus used
whatever access to power they had to obtain these jobs. No wonder,
therefore, that the Central government offices were perceived as being Hindu
as against the Muslim State government offices.
The division between the Hindus and the Muslims of
Kashmir was made worse by the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which
gives a special status to the Jammu and Kashmir State. According to this
Article, apart from defence, foreign affairs, and communications the laws
enacted by the Indian parliament apply to the State only with the
concurrence of the State government. It is important to remember that this
Article was supposed to be of a transitional nature. But it came in handy to
the karkun elite who justified it by the rhetoric of socialism and
kashmiriyat (Kashmiriness). This law preserved the dominance of the Muslim
elite classes in Kashmir and they fought hard to preserve it. Politicians of
the ruling party made embrace of this Article to be axiomatic for a belief
in secularism. Anyone who questioned the wisdom of retention of Article 370
was dubbed a communalist, an obscurantist, and worse.
The psychology related to Article 370 made the
Muslims feel that their State was not quite a part of India. But this sense
of fostered apartness was the basis of the political alliances made
throughout India by the Congress Party to maintain political power. The
government controlled media harped on the themes of social justice and the
remedy of quotas and set-asides. Although this approach was useful for the
short-term political ends of the Congress Party and the National Conference,
it increased social discord and it kept out capital needed for economic
development in the State.
The forces unleashed by these policies led to a
progressively greater alienation of the Muslims in the State.
Fundamentalists seized upon this disaffection and they targeted the Kashmiri
Hindus as being representatives of the unjust order. They argued that Indian
polity had sunk into great divisions based on caste or regional origin and
that the Indian system is not blind to caste, ethnic background, or
religion. The fundamentalist in Kashmir said that if India is really not a
secular state, as evidenced by all the quotas and reservations based on
different criteria, the why should they not seek an Islamic, independent
nation, or accession to Pakistan.
The Accord of 1974 and After
After spending almost 14 years since 1953 in jail,
Sheikh Abdullah was finally set free in 1968. The defeat of Pakistan in the
1971 War and the consequent independence of Bangladesh seemed to ring the
death knell of the two-nation theory on which India had been partitioned.
This weakened the pro-Pakistan forces in the Valley considerably. Meanwhile
in 1972 India and Pakistan signed the Simla Agreement which effectively
superseded the U.N. role in Kashmir. Pakistan agreed to the Indian demand
that both countries will not resort to force or threaten to use force in
Kashmir and settle the issue bilaterally. In other words, foreign
interference, mediation or arbitration was to be precluded. The 1949
cease-fire line in Jammu and Kashmir was redrawn into a new Line of Control
which meant that the U.N. observers posted along the previous line became
In March 1972, Sheikh Abdullah reiterated the
finality of the State's accession to India. In November 1974 he signed an
accord with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi which basically signaled his
acceptance of the existing political realities. When he resumed power as
Chief Minister in February 1975 he was welcomed tumultuously back in the
State. He now revived the National Conference Party and won a massive
mandate in the elections held in 1977.
Sheikh Abdullah now faced challenges from the
leaders of Jammu and Ladakh who pressed for autonomy for their regions.
Furthermore he was harried by the party of orthodox Islam as represented by
Jamait-e-Islami. The growing strength of the Jamait was no doubt due to the
growing fundamentalism in Islamic societies around the world after the
Iranian revolution. Sheikh Abdullah fought the Jamait for not respecting the
traditions of Kashmiri Islam.
Sheikh Abdullah died in 1982. He was succeeded as
Chief Minister by his son Farooq, who called Assembly elections in 1983 and
won a majority. In July 1984 Indira Gandhi dismissed Farooq's government for
mis-administration and installed G.M. Shah as the Chief Minister of a
minority government. Shah, who was Farooq's brother-in-law and a rival for
the leadership of the National Conference on Sheikh Abdullah's death, was
widely believed to represent the pro-Pakistan group in the party. The
administration became even more corrupt during his tenure. Now followed an
episode of Central rule to be succeeded by a return of Farooq.
The new administration of Farooq Abdullah was as
inept as the first one. The intrigues of the Congress Party increased the
distance between the ruling clique and the people. Meanwhile, the
pro-Pakistani elements subverted most government institutions. Then between
July and December 1989 the Farooq Abdullah government released seventy
hardcore terrorists. Soon civil administration literally collapsed.
Pakistani Direction of the Insurgency
With the Soviet Union taking sides in the Afghanistan
civil war that began in December 1979, Pakistan became strategically very
important to the U.S. President Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan decided to aid the
anti-communist Afghans who were fighting the Soviet troops. In 1981 Pakistan
received a six year aid package from the United States worth several billion
dollars. In addition the U.S. opened a pipeline through which sophisticated
weaponry flowed to the Afghan mujahiddin operating from their headquarters
in Peshawar. More arms and ammunition came from China, Egypt, and Saudi
Arabia. The field losses as well as a deteriorating home economy eventually
forced the Soviet Union to sign an agreement in April 1988 to withdraw from
Afghanistan by mid-February 1989.
This great success emboldened Zia now to try force
to pry Kashmir out of Indian control. The arms and equipment that had flowed
to the Afghan mujahiddin had been channeled by the Inter-Services
Intelligence (ISI). The ISI was now asked to plan and coordinate an
insurgency in Kashmir. This was to complement the training of the Sikh
militants which had been managed by the ISI for several years.
Although Zia died in a plane crash in August 1988,
his successors pressed on with management of the insurgency under the
control of the ISI. This involved running training camps for the militants,
supply of arms and intelligence. This operation was launched with full
intensity as the weak administration of Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap
Singh took office in Delhi in late 1989. Kidnappings, bombings, and
assassinations and a literal abdication of governance by the Farooq Abdullah
ministry soon virtually achieved the administrative and psychological
severance of the valley from India.
Central rule was imposed on the State in January
1990. But with the money provided by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and the arms
flowing in from the ISI warehouses the terror unleashed on the minority
communities of the Vale continued. Very soon the Hindus and the Sikhs had to
flee to Jammu and Delhi for the safety of refugee camps. The terrorist
groups were now hoping for a quick conclusion to their campaign. Banks, post
offices, schools, colleges, cinema halls were all forced to be shut down.
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto talked of a thousand year war to liberate
Refugees from the Vale
The terror has forced about 250,000 Kashmiris to seek
refuge out of the Vale. The Indian government is waiting for the law and
order situation to return to what it was in before the mass exodus began in
late 1989. A carrot and stick policy has been used to control the
insurgency. But the government does not appear to have done any rethinking
of its basic Kashmir policy.
In refugee camps the living conditions are very
poor. And now the exiles seek jobs wherever they can find them, howsoever
far from their homes that they have been compelled to abandon. Can that
unique tradition and culture that the Kashmiris have preserved and
reinvented with each generation be saved once they are scattered in
permanent exile out of the valley?
The government of India has tried to play down the
refugee problem since it smacks of religious strife. Many Muslims have also
been killed, and others have had to flee the valley. Recently the government
of India has raised this question of continuing murder of innocent civilians
by terrorists with sanctuaries in Pakistan in international forums. The U.S.
government has placed Pakistan on watch as one of the countries that sponsor
The crisis in Kashmir should not be viewed as
arising just from the alleged rigging of the last elections, the mis-administration
of the Farooq Abdullah years, and the Islamic fundamentalism that is
sweeping the world. This is the analysis that has been embraced by the
officials of the government of India. While this analysis has a ring of
truth to it, it is misleading. Events of the eighties have undoubtedly
contributed to the disaffection in the valley, but the seeds of separation
were laid by much older policies that are still in force.
The question of the alienation of the Kashmiri
Muslims has not been properly analyzed. Part of this alienation has a
linguistic basis. Although the Kashmiri language is different from the other
north Indian languages, all educated Kashmiris are bilingual. The second
language of choice for the Kashmiri Muslims is Persianized Urdu. This sets
them apart from the residents of Jammu or Kashmiri Hindus who have generally
adopted Sanskritized Hindi as the second language. Another contributing
factor is Islamic fundamentalism. But this alienation has been made worse by
the increasing bureaucratization of Indian life which causes untold
frustrations. A long-term solution to the Kashmir problem would require more
decentralization that proceeds down to the city and the village level. But
this restructuring must also sweep aside anachronistic statutes such as
Article 370 as well as other laws that discriminate based on religion and
Conditions for economic development and local
business initiatives will have to be improved. This will require clipping
the wings of the corrupt bureaucracy and elimination of the system of quotas
and licenses. Affirmative action should be based solely on economic
considerations. That is the only way traditionally disadvantaged Muslim
groups will be able to benefit from new development.
The bureaucratic style of administration that has
evolved in India is based on a reactive approach to problems. Many of the
frustrations that the citizen, be he Hindu or Muslim, feels are due to
excessive centralization. In the style of government that has been followed
in Delhi and in Srinagar, people have considered all problems in political
terms alone; this is natural given that the government runs the schools, the
banks, the colleges, and considerable part of business and industry.
A Democratic Kashmir
The international situation which emboldened Pakistan
to exploit the disaffection in Kashmir to organize an insurgency has passed.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union the strategic importance of Pakistan
to the West is much reduced. Pakistan's own internal problems will require
increasing attention from its leaders. It is, therefore, possible to look
beyond the current situation and visualize a return to near normalcy in the
Vale where most of the refugees will be able to return to their homes.
In the current geopolitical situation India cannot
let go of the Kashmir valley because of its strategic importance. Culturally
there are no reasons that the Kashmiris should feel more bound to Pakistan
than India, when India has about as many Muslims as Pakistan and India's
multicultural and secular society promises more freedom. But Kashmir's
relationship to India will become strong only if real democracy comes into
the Vale. This will require that schools, colleges, banks, and industry be
increasingly privatized. Such a privatization will weave a thousand
different links between organizations in Kashmir and the rest of India. But
this also means that Kashmir should get rid of restrictive laws of land
ownership and citizenship which have discouraged outside investment. A
modern State should treat all its citizens equally, irrespective of caste,
religion, and ethnic origin. The Jammu and Kashmir government, with the
tacit approval of the Centre, has not done this in the past. The policies of
quotas have served to divide the citizenry based on ethnic and religious
basis. Economic links forged between Kashmiris and Indians outside the Vale
would eventually determine the nature of their union.
According to the 1971 census the Kashmir valley had a
non-Muslim population of 6 percent. However, about 250,000 refugees, which
is more than 7 percent of the Vale's current estimated population, have
registered with government agencies. According to Facts Speak , Panun
Kashmir, Jammu the number of migrants was 242,758 in 53,750 families at the
end of November 1990. India Today , January 15, 1991 speaks of more than
55,000 migrant families. It appears, therefore, that the 1971 census might
have undercounted the population of the minorities in the Vale.
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