D S Sodhi
The politics of Kashmir has been a history of betrayals and unfulfilled promises. Kashmir has witnessed invasion by foreign rulers since centuries and people treated as slaves with their civic and other fundamental rights snatched, their social and economic activities restricted. October 14, 1586 could be considered as the worst day in the history of Kashmir when Mughal forces finally entered Srinagar in triumph through treachery. Afghans followed in 1753 and reduced Kashmir to lowest depths of poverty, degradation, and slavery. They charged heavy taxes in the form of “Nazarana” “Zari Ashkhas”, “Dag Shawl” “Zari Dood”. Sikhs under Maharaja Ranjit Singh ruled Kashmir from 1819 till 1846, when it was sold by the British to Dogras (Treaty of Amritsar signed on 16 March1846 that sold Kashmir, “their fields, crops, streams, even the peasants…” – as poet Iqbal lamented later. Were the Kashmiris a commodity?). In the year 1931, during a public gathering in Srinagar organised by the Reading Room Party (formed to raise issues related to Kashmir’s socio-political awakening), one participant pointed towards the Dogra-era Shergarhi Palace with a stone in his hand and urged others to “demolish this edifice of injustice, cruelty and subjugation.” He was arrested with accusation of sedltion. On 13 July 1931 people gathered outside the Srinagar Central Jail to demand his release. The angry and infuriated mob who was being lathi charged resorted to pelting stones on the Dogra soldiers. The forces finally opened fire and 22 Kashmiris were killed. This cold blooded massacre of 22 Muslim protestors gave birth to a new revolution. The discontent among the rank and file of the Muslims and the attack on the Jail was in no way directed against the Hindus and those who laid down their lives did so fighting against an unsympathetic rule. Since then, July 13, is being observed as ‘Kashmir Martyrs Day’ annually by the people of Kashmir including the State Government functionaries. This tragic day became the mile stone in the history of Kashmiri struggle against foreign occupation and an idea of freedom from subjugation, enslavement and tyranny.
Following the partition of British India, the Maharaja of Kashmir maintained a stand still position regarding accession to India or Pakistan. However, he faced an uprising by his Muslim subjects in Poonch, and lost control of the western districts of his kingdom. On 22 October 1947, Pakistan’s Pashtun tribal militia aided by Pakistani forces crossed the border of the state and took to plunder and destruction. During this aggression the men and women of Kashmir stood up and the women wing of Jammu & Kashmir Militia ironically took to arms. These volunteer forces of men and women played a gallant role during the turbulent times. One should not forget slogans like “Beware aggressors, we Kashmiri’s will fight back”. Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession acceding to the Dominion of India. In a letter sent to Maharaja Hari Singh on 27 October 1947, the then Governor-General of India, Lord Mountbatten accepted the accession. Well one could ponder about the nature and age of Kashmir problem. May be the present young generation would link it to the year 1990 when demonstrations, strikes and attacks on the Indian government led to Kashmir insurgency (Kashmir Intifada) and this escalated into internal security issue in India. To curb the situation AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) was imposed in September 1990.
The condition in the valley has since deteriorated and needs to be addressed immediately. There is destruction and bloodshed all around. It appears, as if, there is no concern at all for the loss of human lives. The violence in the valley that is indeed sponsored and supported from across the border is affecting the common man (particularly the young minds) adversely. Cease fire violations; cross border infiltrations have increased manifold. The Surgical Strikes carried out in retaliation to killing of our soldiers and civilians have not deterred Pakistan who continues to engage actively in Kashmir. Pakistan is cunning in that it has been playing with the sentiments of the people of Kashmir funding the Islamic radicals as well as the militant organizations for unrest in the valley. Pakistan has and is giving shelter to various terrorist organizations as also radicalizing the young minds by playing the “Islam Khateray Main Hai” card. The new generation of Kashmiris has taken the struggle to a whole new level. With their voices chocked and democratic space limited (as perceived by them) – if not abolished, the young and the educated have taken to social media in a big way (A child born in the year 1990 is 28 years old now and in these 28 years he has only seen bloodshed and destruction in the valley). We have to be alarmed since Pakistan has made some success in winning the hearts and minds of few Kashmiris by giving them false hope of Independence. Whereas, some people have got carried away with this nefarious design of Pakistan, the intelligent and rational people are able to see through the plot. The word Dialogue is being spoken very often but then the problem is, Dialogue with whom? (Particularly, when it appears that the situation is not even in the control of the present dispensation). Does the turmoil and killings in Kashmir in anyway affect anyone else outside Kashmir (except the families of innocents killed at the borders in Pakistan shelling, families of those killed during demonstrations and of those brave soldiers who have made huge sacrifices in protecting the integrity of the nation as also providing security to many a Kashmiri people who may not realize but may be are on the radar of the disruptive forces who do not want peace in Kashmir)? The present dispensation seems confused since conflicting statements are being made with political parties accepting the differences in ideologies.
The manner in which Kashmir is being debated in the studios appears to be a dangerous trend. Political parties, various NGOs, prominent citizens, journalists cannot bring peace in Kashmir sitting in studios and passing comments and unsolicited judgments. In fact the way in which the debates are being held on the electronic media using uncouth language like Dallals, Gaddars etc is not only annoying but would instigate and antagonize the people of Kashmir as also hurt their sentiments and self esteem. Interlocutors and other imminent personalities who live outside Kashmir can go on debating history but the fact is that any solution to this problem can only be achieved with the participation of the people of Kashmir (who at the moment seem to be baffled living under the fear of Gun). One can go on and talk about radicalization, giving religious angle to the problem and further instigate the people. Why don’t we accept that this generation has been effected by the insurgent atmosphere and the fear of Gun? Today the technology and the social media have revolutionized the young minds since the information flow is so fast and so voluminous. We have to understand that the young unemployed generation of Kashmir has been influenced by the propaganda from across the border and Pakistan continues to bleed India. The people of Kashmir have been agitating for their so called right to freedom and invariably have made reference to UN resolution for a plebiscite as the platform, least understanding that, it is Pakistan who has and is actually creating the hurdles by not acting as per UN resolution.
Kashmir has always boasted of Composite Culture, Kashmiriyat, Shivaism, Hindu Mysticism, Sufisim, and Rishism, as also Sufi Mystical Music of Kashmir (SAMA). The Composite Culture of Kashmir was and is a reality that came into existence through interactions between people belonging to different faiths. People affiliated to different faiths have lived together in Kashmir since centuries and their religious affiliations never affected their sense of belongingness to each other as a Kashmiri. We have a very rich legacy of Kashmiriyat, where humanity as a religion subjugated every other faith (a secular concept which believed in universal brotherhood). Immense contribution was made by the noble Sufi saints, Peers and other blessed souls in enriching, elevating and refining the lives of the people. They left a deep moral as well as spiritual influence on the Kashmiri people giving them message of unconditional love for God, humanity, and peace. Sufi-saints always taught the lesson of tolerance, interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence amongst the various cultures and religions. Kashmir enjoys a global recognition as “Peer Waer”, that is, “The garden of spiritual personage(s)”. However, whether we like it or not, we shall have to believe that with the exodus of Kashmiri pundits from the valley, the concept of Composite Culture and Kashmiriyat has taken a big hit and is actually threatened.
Presently Kashmir is in distress with bloodshed all around. Though various initiatives are being taken to restore peace in Kashmir, the turmoil continues with rising discontent and desperation amongst the people. Kashmiri people have always been filled by thoughts of divinity, and with no other mechanism working, seeking Divine Intervention by rejecting the path of violence seems the need of the hour. People of all faiths need to sincerely rise and revisit Kashmir’s rich Sufi culture, heritage of tolerance, communal harmony and most importantly understand the betrayal and nefarious designs of Pakistan. Let all of us submit ourselves to the Almighty and seek his mercy and intervention for peace in our Kashmir.
(The author is former Commodore, NM)
(The views of the author are personal)
Peace in Kashmir- Divine Intervention
D S Sodhi