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Deconstructing grand myth of Kashmiriyat: II

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By M J Aslam

Obscuring inherent contradictions:


It is “a product of the collusion of Kashmiri and Indian majoritarian nationalisms, both of which needed to obscure the inherent contradictions in their logic and rhetoric,” (XXX), and so naturally,Kashmir could not be become captive of the narrative of “Kashmiriyat” that originated elsewhere with extra-Kashmir agendas.(XXXI) It is owned by the Indian State. (XXXII) This newer term with Perso-Arabic roots, (XXXIII), and etymologically, not a Kashmiri word at all, nowhere existed during 1931-1933 of Kashmir, XXXIV  but, as Sheikh M Abdullah was gradually shifting towards nationalisation & secularisation of the J&K Muslims’ Movement under the banner of “Muslim Conference” till he formally converted it into “National Conference” in 1939, he was actually invoking the concept of “Kashmiriyat” that was prima facie in full consonance with its Indian cousin or the policy of Indian National Congress by using poetry of great Kashmiri poet, Late G A Mehjoor Sahab. (XXXV)  But in the political crisis of October 1947 stunned by where Sheikh M Abdullah had brought Kashmir, the disillusioned poet composed an exciting poem that began with the words: “Though I would like to sacrifice my life & body for India yet my heart is in Pakistan”. (XXXVI) It is ironic that the poem was taken as crime by the NC leadership, and so, the poet was put behind the bars for several days & released only after withdrawing his poem. (XXXVII)Obviously,Kashmiriyat which was usedby NC for its “secular mantra” had made Kashmiri Muslims ambivalent about Pakistan in 1947, (XXXVIII) and, as religious and communal touches were thrown away from the “Kashmir freedom movement”, Muslim Conference banner was easily replaced by National Conference banner. (XXXIX) It shows thatNC, as a political organisation, “dwindled as it moved away from its emphasis on forging a just society based on the Islamic ideals familiar to the population and began to focus instead on the undefined ideas of nationalism and secularism that specifically disparaged religious affiliations”. (XL)“Kashmiriyat”that represented these undefined ideas of nationalism and secularism was created as “dominant discourse” by the NC after it assumed administrative control of JK affairs on 30th October, 1947 & so, it became the accepted way of looking at the then socio-religious-political aspects of Kashmir, since it was repeatedly propagated by the NC, right from its birth in 1939, as a “new political awakening” with active support of the INC whom it suited most.  Any one opposing it was branded as communalist & anti-Kashmir. (XLI)


Among a line of politicians, academicians & columnists, who have failingly attempted to historicize the myth of “Kashmiriyat”, few have expressed that it was actually coined during Farooq Abdullah’s rule in 1980s, while others say it was floated by NC to perpetuate their rule after the Indira-Shaikh Accord in 1975. (XLII)On theweight of the authority, it can be safely said that Kashmiriyat was brainchild of NC which was surreptitiously invented and propagated by it during crucial times of Kashmir’s history from 1939 to 1953, albeit it may have been couched in express terminology not before 1975-Accord or 1987-NC rule, as mentioned above. But, all opinions merge on its NC-genesis.

However, the fact is that it has not caught the fire its “NC-launch” might have intended to among the common masses of Kashmir anytime, though Hindu-Muslim harmony, as ever before, continued to permeate the socio-cultural consciousness of Kashmir after 1947. The glaring example of that is the exemplary communal harmony of 1947 displayed by Kashmiri Muslims when lakhs of their coreligionists were being  hounded and mercilessly massacred in Jammu’s Hindu dominated areas by Hindu-Sikh fanatics under the patronage of the fleeing Dogra monarchs. The Kashmiri Muslims didn’t react, though they had, in the justifying-words of Sangh Pariwar about post-Godhra carnage of Muslims in Gujarat, (XLIII) every right to react against local Hindus—Kashmiri Pandits. No-reaction from their side was humanely correct, as per rich traditions of their religious & cultural collectiveness. It was truly something unknown kind of tolerance exhibited by Kashmir Muslims during those post-partition deadliest days of 1947 for which Kashmiri Pandits had every reason to be thankful to the former for generations to follow. Such an exceptional calm shown and care taken by Kashmiri Muslims of Kashmiri Pandits in the face of “extreme provocation” was sufficient cause for the latter to seal their fate permanently with Kashmir & its majority population. But their sectarian tendencies of plotting against Kashmiri Muslims right from 1931 onwards for their “covert vested interests”, and “overt communal outbursts” after 1990 have only split the whole idea of so-called “Kashmiriyat” asunder. Not all Kashmiri Pandits are so, to be mentioned. Those of them, though a tiny minority, (XLIV) who have stayed back from “State-managed-mass exodus” of 1990 are a part of composite culture of Kashmir. (XLV) There is aunited appeal & desire of Kashmiri Muslims, right from day that the migrant Kashmiri Pandits should return & live side by side with them in their homeland of Kashmir. (XLVI)

End word:

If at all, one has to look for the genesis of this unique socio-cultural togetherness, harmony & peace of Kashmiris, one has to go to the time of 14th centurycorresponding to 8th Hijra century when chaos & power tussle pervaded the country, and it during those turbulent times that Sufi mystics & preachers like Sharaf ud Din Abdul Rahman eka Bulbul Shah (during the reign of Raja Sehdeva 1301-1320), Mir Syed Ali Hamdani (13140 1384) & Mir Syed Mohammad Hamdani (1372- 1450) were highly influential in spreading Islam in Kashmir & areas surrounding it. At that time, there were two religions prevalent in Kashmir: Buddhism & Hinduism. Hinduism was divided between Brahmans & other low caste Hindus (Shudras), while Buddhism was divided into Mahayana and Hinayana sects. The Buddhist sects were fighting each other & against Brahmans about validity of worshipping idols including that of Buddha. Brahmans were staunch “supremacists & sectarians” who would never allow influence or interference from outside or inside. So, Mleech was name given by them to the outsiders including Buddhists, Muslims & even Shudras (XLVII) who are today’s Dalits who before Partition were called “Untouchables”.  Any kind of influence from Mleech, shudras & Buddhists was completely disallowed by “Brahman supremacists”. There was complete hatred, disharmony & persecution from their side which had made the society totally chaotic & divided. It was precisely in that scenario of mistrust & skepticism that message of Islam alleviated ages-old suffering of Mleech, shudras & Buddhists at the hands of “Brahmans”. Islam offered equality, justice & brotherhood in that caste & hate ridden society that worked as a long felt desideratum for the sufferers influencing & persuading them to accept Islam as their new faith. Thus, within a short span of time, entire Buddhist & low caste Hindu communities became Muslims. In that sense, the foundation of Islam in JK factually & historically lies in extinction of its Buddhism & Shudraism. While a minority community of “Brahmans” which was a small leftover of socio-economic & spiritual transformation of mass Kashmiri society to Islam, continued & continue to live in Kashmir according to their sectarian & “supremacist” ideology till date.

Inborn Brahman perfectionism harboured extreme hatred for Mleech in their minds and so, it did not allow them to mix up or integrate with the majority Muslim community. A huge population of Hindus & Buddhists before embracing Islam was living on chiseling idols on stones but after Islam, obviously, they could not continue with that practice of idol making & worshipping. When some 15 thousand people complained to Hazrat Mir Syed Ali Shah Hamdani & his son Mir Syed Mohammad Hamdani about their “joblessness”, they & their disciples who had accompanied them offered & taught them the Art & Craft of woodcarving, paper mashie, embroidery, chiseling & stippling on copper & bronze, etc, as alternate jobs. But “Kashmiri Brahmans” for their inner hatred did not accept the offer of “menial jobs” as they strictly believed in their “caste supremacy” that encompassed only “non-secular jobs” of teaching scriptures & performing religious rituals.

The first Muslim king of Kashmir was Renchan Shah (ruled from 1320-1323) who was a Buddhist who had come from Tibet. He embraced Islam through first Muslim saint of Kashmir, Bul Bul Shah. Before converting to Islam, he wanted to become a Hindu but insular Brahman Community did not admit him to their religion. (XLVIII) Thus, he en mass with all Buddhists of that time embraced Islam as his religion. He was never obeyed & respected as a ruler by the Brahmans. (XLIX) As already said, the Brahman supremacists did not allow any one enter their Brahman Community as they believed themselves to be the best & purest on the earth. On the other hand, Islam provided space to all those who had no equality, no respect, no rights, in society & who suffered persecution at the hands of Brahmans & their rulers. So, it is exactly in that scenario of disharmony, hatred & inequality, that Islam laid the foundation of true socio-cultural-religious cohesiveness & harmony connecting people of different ideologies through a common thread of spirituality, called Islam. Till date, it connects all people of JK in peace & harmony.

(Author is an academician, story teller, essayist & freelance columnist. Presently AVP, J&K Bank. Opinions expressed by him personal & not of the organisation he works for.)


I.              Greater Kashmir dated 14-10-2009, Unmaking of Kashmir’s Composite Culture: they were speaking in a symposium titled “Composite Culture of J&K” that was conducted as part of 35th of All India Sociological Conference , in October, 2009 at Gandhi Bhawan , University of Kashmir, Hazratbal Srinagar;

II.            Read paper titled “Evolution of my Identity vis-a-vis Islam & Kashmir” by Late Prof M I Khan, published in Parchment of Kashmir, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) pages 13-36: But these kinds of views have not only overlooked colossal death & destruction of Kashmiri Muslims since decades, far higher than that of Pandits, they have also, writes Prof Hameeda Naeem, “negated indigenous nature & character” of Kashmiris ‘Movement, ibid, page 217;

III.           Supra Greater Kashmir dated 14-10-2009, Unmaking of Kashmir’s Composite Culture;

IV.           Indian Express, 27-08-2016: [What is Kashmiriyat?];

V.             Kashmir Life dated 29-08-2016: Kashmiriyat;

VI.           Cited in Livemint, Times of India, dated 07-09-2016 ;

VII.         Greater Kashmir dated 03-08-2006: Kashmiriyat: Bandipather: Any links;

VIII.        Supra Daily Excelsior dated 28-09-2018[Kashmiriyat & Composite Culture; there was shared response to this notion of Kashmiriyat from Pandits & Dogras see Op CitChitralekha Zutshi page 318 with under-notes; however, it has no takers in PAK, Gilgit, Baltistan & Chenab-Peer Panchal areas for several reasons;

IX.           Kashmir Life dated 29-08-2016: Kashmiriyat;

X.            New Age Islam, dated 21-08-2008: Read also Sayed Naqvi, Being the other: Muslim in India (2016) pages 4-5 about the impact of Hindustaniyat on Muslim lives;

XI.           Op CitChitralekha Zutshi page 258; Indian majoritarian nationalism is nothing but Hindu nationalism or Hindutva or Hindueness;

XII.         Mridu Rai , Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects: Islam, Rights, and the History of Kashmir(Permanent Black, 2004) page 44;

XIII.        Greater Kashmir dated 24-06-2008 : Politics of Kashmiriyat;

XIV.        Christopher Sneden, Kashmir: Unwritten History (C. Hurst & Co, UK, 2012) page 18;

XV.         Op CitChitralekha Zutshi, pages 211, 233;

XVI.        Ibid, 2, 245, 257;

XVII.      Op citP N Bazaz, page 298 ;

XVIII.     Ibid:[the poet never thereafter uttered a word about “dispute of accession”, though he could not suppress himself against high handedness of NC] ;

XIX.        Op cit, Christopher Sneden;

XX.         Dr. Gh Hassan Khan, Freedom Movement in Kashmir, 1931-1940 (Gulshan Books, Srinagar, second edition, 2009) page 413: Book bears Foreword by Sheikh M Abdullah);

XXI.        Op cit Chitralekha Zutshi, page 260; Greater Kashmir dated 24-06-2008: Politics of Kashmiriyat [the term was introduced by Sheikh M Abdullah as an antidote against Islamic sentiments of the valley];

XXII.      Op cit Rayees Ahmad Bhat, page 5;

XXIII.     Greater Kashmir dated 21-12-2011: Kashmiriyat through Ages;

XXIV.      XLIIIIndia Today dated 30-11-1999 : Gujarat Riots; Tehelka Magazine dated 03-11-2007;

XXV.      Aljazeera News dated 08-11-2011: (Kashmiri Pandits: Why we never fled Kashmir);

XXVI.     Greater Kashmir dated 16-08-2016 (Kashmiri Pandits: an incendiary, venomous narrative);

XXVII.   DNA India dated 01-03-2006 (Kashmiri Pandits are welcome); Mumbai Mirror dated 19-01-2018 ( Mirwaiz appeals Kashmiri Pandits); Kashmir Observer dated 30-06-2016 (How does Kashmir feel );

XXVIII.  In Hind-Sanskrit-English Dictionaries, the word “Mleech” means unclean, polluted, barbarian, foreigner; under the influence of this doctrine, all the Buddhists & low caste Hindus (Shudras) who had embraced Islam en masse —–following Rinchan Shah, originally a Buddhist fugitive prince from Tibet, who had taken refuge in the court of Kashmir’s last Brahman Raja Sahadeva ( 1301-1320), , who later became first Muslim ruler of Kashmir under the new name of Sultan Sadr-ud-din Shah (1320-1323) , who embraced Islam at the hands of Bulbul Shah, a devout spartan Muslim saint who lived in Kashmir during the time of Raja Sahadeva ( 1301-1320),—- were forced after their conversion to Islam to live within the confines of a specified area of old Srinagar called Mleech-Mar (abode of Mleeches) which name exists till date;

XXIX.     Jia Lal Kilm , History  of Kashmiri Pandit (Gandhi Memorial College , Publication Committee, Srinagar, 1955) pages 6, 32-33;

XXX.      Ibid.