This is an updated version of an old article of mine on the decline of Hindu Shahis from the Kashmiri POV. The primary source of this account is the rājataraṅgiṇī (lit. river of kings) by kalhaṇa the Sanskrit chronicle of Kashmir’s history written in the mid 12c CE, which also set the standard for all later Sanskrit and Muslim histories of the region.
The events described in this account occurred over a period of 50 years in the first half of the 11th century CE, as Turkic Ghazi hordes started their expansion into the Indian Subcontinent. The backdrop of Kashmiri politics paints a very vivid picture of the pre-Islamic society during this tumultuous time.
Our moon has blood clots is a gripping biographical tale by journalist Rahul Pandita – which recounts the horrors faced post-1986 Kashmir by the Kashmiri Pandit community at hands of Pakistan aided Islamists. The subtle changes in some Kashmiri attitudes towards the Pandits since the 1980s are brilliantly conveyed through small incidences from the author’s childhood. The book tells the other side of the Kashmir story which has rarely received attention in the global political and even local social circles. The terror emanating nightly from the local mosques jumps out of the pages very effectively. All the killings are from 1989 onwards are told separately and serially which is very impactful in recreating the reign of terror- the pandits must have felt in their ancestral homeland. The Islamist nature of killings is also highlighted (how some pandits were killed with nails hammered to their foreheads). The book also highlights how the silent observers of the valley, who may have not approved the brutalization of Pandits, rarely put up a fight supporting their neighbors. The continuing tragedy of the Pandits at the hands of Jammu residents and negligent central and state government is also narrated from personal and observed experience. The ethnic cleansing of Kashmir in 1947 at hands of Pakistan supported tribesman is also connected to the book narrative through another POV. The passage where the author narrated his personal journey back to his house leaves the reader in a sad and dazed state. The author’s Hindu culture and heritage are always present in the backstory and hence the pain at the potential loss of Kashmiri pandit culture in the refugees creates a particularly poignant moment in the book. The author’s sufferings, however, aren’t translated into bigotry against Muslims (Kashmiri or non-Kashmiri). The reference to Gujarat 2002 riots (author’s father’s recollections at the lynching of Ehsan Jafri) in the juxtaposition of Pandit anger at suffering is handled with consideration of human rights as the author explained once on television debate. (I have lost my home, not my humanity).
There are few things in the book which could have been handled slightly differently for a better effect IMO. The narrative structure of the book is not perfectly linear – which could’ve been handled differently – but that’s a personal preference and many might view it differently than me. The 1947 story could also be helped a bit by putting it into the larger Partition story of 1947, even though this occurred 2 months after the worst slaughter of 1947. However, these criticisms don’t blunt the impact this book will make on any reader. The book not only makes you feel the pain of the Pandits but also makes you want to work towards preserving the Kashmiri Pandit culture and heritage (especially in the valley). There really is no solution to the Kashmir valley question problem till the Pandits return to their ancestral homeland from where they were brutally driven out.
The only personal connection I have had to the Pandits is because of the Kashmiri Pandit Quota present in Maharashtra Education enacted by the Shivsena BJP government of 1995 on Balasaheb Thackeray’s insistence. Slapstik or anyone else with Kashmiri connections – Could you please add your comments on Pandita’s telling of the story – both in Book and other media. For me, he serves as a Northstar to navigate polarized debates on twitter and social media in general – for example, his coverage of Delhi Riots & 2019 election.
THIS ESSAY WAS WRITTEN IN 2016 in the immediate aftermath of the URI ATTACKS with the aim of bringing some nuance in the increasingly binary discussions of Pakistan. Looking back at it in 2020 there are a few points in the essay I mildly disagree with but on the whole, I stand by my arguments.
For anyone willing to read a shorter -TL-DR version find the link HERE:
Note: This is not a scholarly analysis of Indo-Pak question but an essay ((*mildly subjective)) on the question with references being presented for most of the essay.
Every well-read Indian who has thought enough about the India-Pakistan issue will have faced Hamlet’s dilemma — “To be or not to be”. It’s fair to assume that national patience, with everything related to Pakistan, is waning very fast nowadays aided by the explosion of social media. Simply put — most Indians have had enough of this shit for 69 + years (the Idea of Pakistan being older than Pakistan). The leftist solution to the Pakistan problem has always been the “Aman ki Asha” narrative. The reactionary position of some of the Right-wing is to totally boycott anything related to Pakistan every-time a terrorist attack takes place in India. This position though backed by popular opinion at times like this seems to be no closer to a permanent solution to the problem. To come up with potential solutions for this problem, we need to discuss both these approaches and we also need to dig deep into the Nation-state of Pakistan.
I have little value to add on the many comments around “Modi is bad to the bone” piece in The New Yorker, except that this passage jumped out at me:
Other coverage on Republic TV showed people dancing ecstatically, along with the words “Jubilant Indians celebrate Modi’s Kashmir masterstroke.” A week earlier, Modi’s government had announced that it was suspending Article 370 of the constitution, which grants autonomy to Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state. The provision, written to help preserve the state’s religious and ethnic identity, largely prohibits members of India’s Hindu majority from settling there. Modi, who rose to power trailed by allegations of encouraging anti-Muslim bigotry, said that the decision would help Kashmiris, by spurring development and discouraging a long-standing guerrilla insurgency. To insure a smooth reception, Modi had flooded Kashmir with troops and detained hundreds of prominent Muslims—a move that Republic TV described by saying that “the leaders who would have created trouble” had been placed in “government guesthouses.”
From the broadly Left/liberal internationalist perspective, Hindu nationalists express a majoritarian and ethnoreligious self-consciousness. They don’t want what in India is termed “secularism” to be ascendant. I believe that some Hindu nationalists do want for India what was the original vision of Pakistan, a nation-state that has at its core a particular ethnoreligious identity (I believe this is distinct from a “Islamic fundamentalist” vision properly understood in the modern context).
And yet this passage simply glosses over the fact that legal fiat was preserving a particular sub-national identity, that of Kashmiris, the vast majority of whom are Muslims.
Special thanks to Mayuresh Madhav Kelkar for sending this. I would start watching this excellent Dari Farsi documentary 1 minute 19 seconds in. There are many excellent ancient maps of central and south Asia.
I just want to watch this again and again, just to listen to the narrator’s voice. Majestic, wise, soft and sweet. For those so sure Afghanistan will fall; any nation with voices like this is perchance stronger than she appears. This may be where the homo sapien sapien modern civilization was born.
In my last piece about Kashmir, I briefly mentioned Shia factor in Kashmir in current context and Ahmadi factor in historical context. Many otherwise well informed individuals admitted that they had little idea about these. Others with more direct interaction with Kashmir issue asked questions and this is in response to these exchanges. Enjoy if you are bored of black and white narratives on the subject and interested in ‘fifty shades of grey’.
Shia of Kashmir
Shia of Kashmir has a unique history. There were two groups of Shias who migrated to Kashmir from present day Iran and Iraq in fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. One group escaped persecution and other were missionaries. Some artisan classes also joined these groups. Local conversion due to efforts of missionaries increased Shia numbers. In Gilgit-Baltistan area with geographic links to Badakhshan province of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Ismaili missionaries were successful in small pockets while mainstream Ath’na Asha’ari (followers of twelve Imams) missionaries were successful in areas that are now part of Indian Controlled Kashmir (ICK). Separation of Gilgit-Baltistan from Pakistan Controlled Kashmir (PCK) which is ethnically and linguistically different from Kashmiris left no significant Shia population in PCK.
In ICK, there are about one million Shia out of a total Muslim population of 8.5 million. Shia are geographically and politically separated in ICK. Sparsely populated Ladakh which is now separated from Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) as Union territory has equal numbers of Buddhists and Muslims. In Kargil area, ninety percent of Muslim population is Shia numbering about 125’000. There are small numbers of Sunnis in Drass area. Remainder Shia population is concentrated in the Valley. Continue reading “The Shias of Kashmir”
I was a teenager in North-Central India (Uttar Pradesh) when the Kashmir Valley exploded into the national consciousness as a full-blown armed insurgency and secessionist movement in 1989-90. India at that time had state-controlled TV media and most adverse news out of J&K was suppressed. However, we had all heard about Islamic terror groups targeting Hindus. Many of these Hindus trickled into refugee camps in and around New Delhi which was a city I often visited to see relatives, so people had begun to be familiar with the scale of the violence against Hindus despite the attempts of state-controlled media to conceal it.
India’s Rationale for Preventing Kashmir’s Secession
In general, the attitude of most Indians since the late 1980s and early 1990s when the conflict became radicalized has been to hold on to the Kashmir Valley by any means necessary. There is a simple rationale for that position. Around 20% of the population of India is not Hindu (with religious minorities being broken up roughly in 70%/10%/10%/10% proportions of Muslim/Christian/Sikh/Other) and there are close to 200 million Muslims in India in a country of 1,400 million people. Indians have always been proud of having a secular Constitution and State, uniquely so in South Asia. India is the most ethnically and religiously diverse nation in the world bar none. Each and every resident of J&K has always been a full-fledged citizen of India.So, it is a hard pill for any Indian to swallow that 7 million Muslims in the Kashmir Valley feel that they cannot be equal citizens of India and must secede to Pakistan. It would raise questions about the unity of India and its tradition of religious and ethnic diversity. It would also put a question mark against the nearly 200 million Muslims in the rest of India. Consequently, almost all Indians feel an emotional and visceral reaction against allowing even just the overwhelmingly Muslim majority Kashmir Valley region of J&K to secede. India has Muslims in positions of power and influence in every field, ranging from Government to Sports and Entertainment. Some of the biggest Indian movie stars are Muslim minorities. Every Muslim of J&K had more than equal citizenship in secular India. There was simply no reason for a secession movement other than religious fascism.
On August 5, 2019 the Modi-led BJP government in India surprised most political observers by announcing its decision to revoke Article 370, a section of the Indian Constitution that had granted a special status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) which allowed it significant autonomy from the federal government in India. This bold move sought to put an end to a lingering uncertainty and stalemate over the status of Indian-held J&K for nearly 72 years. Certain basic facts about the origins of this conflict are poorly understood by Western journalists and I dare say many Indians and Pakistanis themselves and bear repeating.
Laying My Cards On the Table
As an Indian-American who has now been living in the US for 25 years, I have gone through a cycle familiar to many a first-generation immigrant. I spent the first few years in America reacting to feelings of cultural disorientation in my new home by seeking to consciously renew my Indian identity and intensifying the emotional connection with the idealized homeland. Then in the middle act there was a period of beginning to feel more and more at ease in America, being able to view events in India with a greater sense of objectivity and less defensiveness, and then finally in the third and final act, a legal and emotional break with India by applying for US citizenship, an act which culminates in surrender of one’s Indian passport and renunciation of Indian citizenship.
During the first act of the three Act play above, it was a period marked by hyper-sensitivity to US and Western media coverage of India. I found the coverage offensive and lacking in any nuance. Overwhelmingly the coverage was critical and unflattering and coming across such examples was guaranteed to quicken the pulse, set the temple throbbing and unleash feelings of anger and rage. As one entered the second act, these symptoms declined in their intensity and usually I would decide to skim or even ignore reporting on India, which would inevitably be lacking in insight and empathy. Now well into the third and final act of the cycle above, it saddens me that the reporting on India continues to be low quality and lacking in insight and rigor. A quarter century later, nothing has really changed, even as India is undoubtedly transformed as a nation in the 25 years since I left the Matrabhumi (motherland).
When discussing controversial topics, I believe an author must be honest about their intellectual beliefs, predispositions and biases. I intentionally used the evocative term “Matrabhumi” to indicate that although I now see myself as an American first, and am legally not an Indian citizen anymore, the country of my birth continues to have an emotional resonance for me. As I have lived in America, I have come to appreciate how unique India is. There is simply no country that can compare when it comes to the extraordinary ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity of India. The only comparable global peer is America. Both of these countries serve as an example to the world and indeed an inspiration of how to weave a national identity out of more than the raw soil of tangible markers such as ethnicity, but from the intangibles of shared values, feelings and aspirations. I was born a Hindu and see myself as a Hindu today despite my complete lack of religious observance of any kind, and in fact my agnosticism. All of the above is to say in a somewhat long-winded fashion that I come to my views on the Kashmir conflict with a certain backdrop and world view, and readers are free to discount my views on that basis if they so wish. Continue reading “Article 370 Revocation Through the Eyes of an Indian-American Immigrant – Part I”
There’s clearly a principle at work here that could find application in many fields, contexts, silos — and the concatenation of such instances is itself a demonstration of the value of silo-breaking thinking.
FWIW, I wouldn’t have so much as heard of the Goddess Kubjikaa were it not for my half-century friendship with Mark Dyczkowski, to whom I owe so much, and into the waters of whose scholarship so deep I have dipped no more than a toe.