Vision of India and Kashmir's
place in that vision
WHAT is our vision
of India and what is Kashmir's place in that vision? This is the fundamental
question that every Indian, genuinely concerned about the future of the
country, should be asking himself or herself, but which practically no
one is asking. Therein lies the tragedy of India. The Republic that came
into being on January 26, 1950, has shown little aptitude or willingness
to define clearly, its true vision and its true destiny and to pledge itself
to the realization of that vision and that destiny.
The great question that should have been faced
by us was one our civilisational and cultural identity and its rejuvenation
and regeneration so as to enable us to provide an inspirational and ideological
base for building a strong and well-knit India with fundamental values
and a design and life-style of its own. But we ignored this great question
and acted like a blind man with a lantern in his hand, assuming that the
outer light was a substitute for the inner one. No wonder, we now find
ourselves in a snake-pit-a pit of frightening darkness and dimension, a
pit that has exposed us to grave dangers not only in Kashmir but also in
other parts of the country.
The fundamental challenge that confronts us today
is how to extricate ourselves from this snake-pit and come out of the atmosphere
of chaos and confusion and move into one of stability, and orderliness
with lights of true vision and motivation of true destiny guiding us.
What, we must ask ourselves in all earnestness,
is India?? Is it a mere collection of States. and territories or something
more than that? Is it a new political reality only or also an expression
of a common heritage and history, a common culture, a common set of values
that have nursed and nurtured the same way of life for ages in diverse
circumstances and in different regions.
The answer to these questions is clear. The new
Republic is a new constitutional entity. But it is not merely that. It
is also a historical and cultural continuity-a continuity that is unique,
a continuity that mocks at the ravages of time and has remained unperturbed
by the scars and stains left by the upheaval and uproars of history. And
all parts of the country, including Kashmir, are a part of continuity.
Few in our country-practically none amongst the
ruling elites who have dominated the political scene in the post-independence
period, realize that Kashmir's relationship with the rest of India is based
not merely on the Instrument of Accession and Articles 1 and 370 of the
Constitution of India; it is rooted is far more potent and enduring forces
whom neither the turbulence and tornadoes of the past nor the negativism
and nihilism of the present-day politics can really destroy. It is a relationship
of mind and soul that has existed from the time immemorial and found amble
expression in common avenues of intellect and emotions, poetry, and literature,
philosophy and outlook. Every green pasture that you walk around in Kashmir,
every silvery peak that you watch from pleasurable distance, every stream
that sings its song by your side, every enchanting lake that you come across
now and then and every little town and city that visit, has some signpost
or the other of this deep and abiding relationship. Kalhana was not off
the mark when he observed in Rajatarangani that there was hardly any place
in Kashmir that was not a tirtha. And Vincent Smith rightly pointed out
that ancient India had nothing more worthy of its early civilization than
the grand ruins of Kashmir.
To understand in depth Kashmir's relationship
with the rest of India, it is necessary to address ourselves to a few basic
What were the forces that brought into existence,
about 4,000 years ago, a quiet little temple on what is now known as the
Sankaracharya Hill? What made the great Kashmiri King Lalitaditya (721-761)
to build the glorious temple in honour of Surya, the Sun God, at Martanda,
and Avanti Verman (855-883) to construct equally splendid temples at Avantipura?
What inner urges did these constructions symbolize? What philosophy, what
temper of mind, did they represent? Were these inner urges, these tempers
of mind, not products of the same cultural forces that prevailed in other
pans of India?
How is it that for thousands of years, the learned
Brahmins of South India have been, on getting up from bed, folded their
hands, looked northward and prayed: Namaste; Saradadevi: Kashmira Mandala
Vasini (I salute the Goddess of Sarada who resides in Kashmir). Why is
it that even now parents tell their children to seek the blessings of this
Goddess of Learning who has her abode in North Kashmir in the valley of
What made Sankara, when he wanted to rejuvenate
the spirit of India, to travel from a small hut of Kaladi in Kerala all
the way to the distant hills in Kashmir? And what made him to stay there
for quite some time and compose his famous poem, Soundarya Lahari, propounding
his philosophy of Shakti and Shiva? Why is it that Abihava Gupta, the great
savant of Kashmir Sahivism, is also called 'Sankaracharya of Kashmir',
and how is it that he draws his philosophic thought from the same cultural
spring as that of Sankara?
What were the forces that attracted Swami Vivekananda
from Calcutta to Kanyakumari and then to Kashmir? What made him standing
before the holy cave of Amarnath, experience one of the highest stages
of spiritual ecstasy Why was he so captivated by the sight in the cave
that for days, to use the words of Sister Nivedita, he could speak of nothing
else but the image of Shiva and proclaim that he had never been so greatly
inspired as then?
What do the various landmarks on the route from
Pahalgam to the cave of Amarnath-Chandanwani,Pishu Ghati, Seshnag, Panchtarni-
stand for? Are they not some of the most important symbols of Indian culture
How is it that Kashmir had always an innate attraction
for Indian saints and sages, poets and philosophers, and provided them
with perennial, inspiration? What, in moments. of poetic intensity, made
Kalidasa see the 'laughter of Shiva' in the Himalayas and Subramania Bharati
think of Kashmir as the Crown of Mother India?
The answer to all these questions is one and only
one: Kashmir, for thousands of years, has been a part of the Indian vision-a
silent and serene, yet solid and strong part; an integral and inseparable
Even when Islam came to Kashmir, it did not alter
the ethos of the common folk. Most of the Islamic teachings were just grafted
on Vedantic beliefs and thoughts. The central message of Kashmir's patron
saint and founder of the Rishi order, Sheikh Nooruddin Noorani was: There
is one God, But with a hundred names. There is not a single blade of grass,
which doe not worship Him.
Sheikh Nooruddin himself was deeply influenced
by Lal Ded who "saw Shiva and Shakti sealed in one" and whose outlook was
permeated with some of the finest components of Indian thought and tradition.
Both Sheikh Nooruddin and Lal Ded were endowed
"with vision which increases the power of speech and with inspired speech
that makes vision penetrating". It was their inspired speech and their
penetrating vision coupled with earthy sense and rub of life, that kept
the Kashmiri ethos within the over-all cultural mainstream of India even
after a very large part of the Valley's population had been brought under
the fold of Islam. The followers of the Rishi Order abhorred killings.
Like the Jains, they were careful not to cause harm even to insects. Sheikh
Nooruddin went to the extent of refusing to walk on grass lest it should
be damaged. Poet Mohammad lqbal, who was a Kashmiri by descent, also noted
in one of his Persian couplets, the habit of Kashmiri Muslims to carve
out moortiseven from the stones of graves.
The list of the living symbols and signposts of
Kashmir's relationship with the rest of India is long and virtually unending.
But for our policy-makers,. whether they sit in North Block or South Block
or Shastri Bhavan it does not exist. No mention of its is ever made either
inside or outside the country. No child is taught a word about it. No pressman
writes a line on the subject. All that is spoken of or written about, almost
ad nauseam, is the special relationship, the need to continue and strengthen
Article 370, and of giving more and more autonomy-'anything short of azadi'-promoting
thereby separatist psyche and according to tacit approval to the 'two-nations'
or 'three-nations' theory.
It is strange that Jawaharlal Nehru, who had a
strong sense of history, spoke or wrote, after August 1947, very little
about Kashmir's underlying bonds with the rest of India and hardly took
them into consideration while framing his Kashmir policy instead, he showed
a marked disposition to rely on personally-oriented relations and that
too, with very few individuals like Sheikh Abdullah and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed.
Though himself a Kashmiri by descent, he took practically no step to fertilize
the commonality of the mindscape and to bring home to all concerned Kashmir's
inerasable place in the Indian vision. The partition of the country badly
stabbed this vision. In extenuation of Nehru's and other Indian leaders'
inability to prevent this partition, it could, perhaps, be said they had
to reckon with British manipulations. But in free India not to reinvigorate
centuries-old vision with its deep roots in culture, tradition and other
gambits of life, was nothing short of committing a lapse of a vast historic
The Indian decision-makers went astray at every
turning point of Kashmir's contemporary history as they had neither any
clear idea about the true vision of India nor of Kashmir's place in that
vision. They had no fundamental ideological or inspirational base from
which a coherent consistent and constructive pattern of thoughts and deeds
could emerge. Their approach was spurious, superficial and personally-oriented,
giving no attention to the forces that shaped the mindscape. Consequently,
they have brought Kashmir and the rest of India to the brink of spiritual
and cultural divorce. They have created an atmosphere in which we have
virtually "nothing to look backward with pride and nothing to look forward
There is only one way to salvage the position.
And that lies in the emergence of new political, social and cultural forces
that could discover the true vision of India and outline its true destiny
and assign Kashmir its rightful place in that vision and that destiny.