Kashmir: Exposing the Myth Behind the Narrative


Khalid Bashir Ahmad

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    For the people of Kashmir


    The transformation of Kashmir from a Hindu to a Muslim society during the 14th–15th century AD gave birth to a narrative according to which the Muslim rulers forcibly converted and evicted Hindus from Kashmir and destroyed their religious icons. A minuscule minority of Brahmans, who did not change their faith, based this narrative almost entirely on the observations of a chronicler, Jonaraja, who lived during the early years of Islam in Kashmir and was not at ease with it. The narrative became the hallmark of the Brahman discourse on medieval Kashmir which looks at the five centuries of Muslim rule only as a period of persecution.

    Through medieval Kashmir, the narrative made its way to the present times, and in the course, new elements were added to it. Following the eruption of armed insurgency in Kashmir and mass migration of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, this community narrative got spiced up with additional tales, acting as the foreword of the existing debate on Kashmir. Broadly, the narrative is about the Kashmiri Pandits being the inheritors of a 5,000-year-long history and the only aborigines of Kashmir who were repeatedly persecuted by Muslim rulers and compatriots, forcibly converted to Islam—their temples were destroyed too—and repeatedly chased away from Kashmir, for the latest time in 1990.

    Kashmir: Exposing the Myth behind the Narrative attempts to blow away the fog over the realities of Kashmir and questions the ‘facts’ that have traditionally populated the mythology of the existing narrative. It analyses the Kashmiri Pandit community narrative in the light of historical material and digs out many fallacies by cross-referencing, as is done in widely accepted practices of historiography. The research for the book pits opposite interpretations of same events which have been twisted out of context against what they actually were about. It dissects the stereotype created by historians and others, who have hammered in ahistorical perceptions over a long period of time, by providing suitable representations of some facts and myths through a dispassionate contextual reading of them. Due care has been taken to glean facts from authentic sources and sufficiently reference the arguments. This work is supported by over one thousand references. The objective is to tell fact from fiction and look at events as they occurred, rather than as they have been told. The historical facts discussed here have been overlooked or kept under wraps for a very long time to perpetuate a suitable community narrative.

    The scope of the book extends from prehistoric Kashmir right to the present times; this has been achieved by using available Palaeolithic evidence as well as ancient texts. For the contemporary period, this work also relies on interviews of witnesses and an extensive archive of journalistic writing and reportage. The main theme consistently running through the chapters of this book is an attempt to interrogate a historiography that has gone almost unchallenged, and to similarly interrogate the exiting Pandit community narrative, how it has been perpetuated, and to explore contradictions and their sources within that narrative.

    I am extremely thankful to my friends, colleagues and people with information and understanding who shared their views, gave suggestions or made relevant material available during my research.

    Professor Mohammad Ashraf Wani, former Head, Department of History, University of Kashmir, and his worthy predecessor Dr Abdul Qaiyum Rafiqi are specially thanked for giving valuable suggestions, thus enhancing the merit of this work. Professor Wani's scholarly labour Islam in Kashmir clears many a misconception implanted by motivated writers in the story of mass conversion of Hindus in medieval Kashmir.

    Peerzada Mohammad Ashraf deserves my sincere thanks for always being ready to help with whatever relevant material he could lay his hands on. He was very helpful in adding to the research element of this work.

    Zahoor Ahmad Shora, Editor, Daily Roshni, provided old files of his newspaper pertaining to the developments of 1967, and I warmly acknowledge his help.

    Muhammad Shafi Zahid, Director, State Department of Archives, Archaeology and Museums, allowed access to archival material important for my research, which is highly appreciated.

    I am especially thankful to Mufti Bashiruddin, Advocate Tassaduq Hussain, Mohammad Sayeed Malik, Jalaluddin Shah, Anwar Asahi, Professor Aijaz A. Bandey, Professor Shafi Shauq, Professor Gulshan Majeed and Dr Abdur Rashid Lone, interactions with whom were very helpful.

    I am also grateful to my brother Dr M. I. Bhat for going through the draft and suggesting improvements. His co-authored research paper, in contrast to what has been suggested through the centuries, explains the damages suffered by ancient temples in Kashmir.

    My special thanks to Parvaiz Bukhari for his valuable inputs and to Masood Hussain, Yusuf Jameel and Ajaz Hussain for some useful suggestions.

    Thanks are also due to Dr Naseema Akhtar for arranging scanned copies of some important reference books and newspapers, which were of great help; to Brij Krishan Dass and Khalid Hussain for sharing eyewitness accounts of the Pandit Agitation of 1967; and to Qurat ul Ain for sharing some write-ups by her late brother Shamim Ahmad Shamim.

    Shabir Mujahid, Ghulam Jeelani Khan, Bilal Khurshid, Muhammad Ashraf Tak, Mohiuddin Reshi and Haroon Rashid deserve my thanks for constantly nudging me for early completion of the book.

    I also acknowledge with thanks the assistance provided by the staff of SRS Library, Jammu; SPS Library, Srinagar; and the archives repositories of Kashmir and Jammu in accessing books and records relevant to the present subject.

    Last but not least, my sincere thanks go to SAGE team, especially Sharmila Abraham, Rajesh Dey, Alekha Chandra Jena and Megha Dabral for recognizing the merit of this work and seeing it through print.


    Situated between the Greater Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range in the north-western region of the Indian subcontinent, Kashmir is predominantly a Muslim-inhabited land. It is a lush valley and a part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir which, in international jargon, is still referred to as Kashmir to denote the entire territory. The seat of power of the Dogra rulers till 1947 was known as the Kashmir Darbar, giving an idea about the whole princely state. In this work, however, Kashmir has been used to refer to the Valley of Kashmir—a distinct cultural and geographical entity with its people speaking an ancient language. The land, whose beauty has found elaborate mention in many a work of prose and verse, is known today more for the dispute over it, arising out of the Partition in 1947 between India and Pakistan. India administers the Himalayan valley and claims the territory as its integral part, while Pakistan describes it as its jugular vein without which the country would be incomplete. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, the dispute was debated several times at the United Nations, and the world body asked for a plebiscite to decide the rival claims by the two countries. This, however, was not to happen. The two South Asian nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars for the ownership of Kashmir, besides coming close to a nuclear conflagration in the recent past, and have held series of unsuccessful bilateral negotiations to address the issue.

    Historically, Kashmir has seen three major religions gaining ascendancy in this tiny country. It is a tale of conflict and confluence among Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. According to a popular mythological account, the earliest people of the land are known as the Nagas or the snake worshippers. Buddhism achieved pre-eminence and remained the reigning religion of Kashmir for over a millennium until it was obliterated by militant Hinduism. Subsequently, Hinduism dominated the scene through its indigenous form Shaivism. However, by the 12th century AD, it was on decline due to rampant corrupt practices by its followers. By then, Islamic influence had made inroads into the otherwise landlocked country. Muslim adventurers had trickled in and were employed in their armies by local Hindu rulers. By the 14th century, Muslim preachers from Central Asia were also attracted to Kashmir. They gradually earned mass conversion of local people to Islam. Notably, one of the earliest converts was the ruler of the day himself—Rinchana.

    For its natural splendour, Kashmir has always remained an object of greed and desire for conquerors and, consequently, a target of external aggression and occupation. A few centuries before and after the birth of Jesus Christ, Ashoka and Kanishka, respectively, grabbed Kashmir. In the 6th century AD, Mihirakula, along with his marauding hordes from the plains of India, descended on and captured the land. The Mughal occupation of Kashmir in 1586 AD brought an end to its independent status and set in a long period of subjugation, the darkest phase of which began with the onset of the Afghan rule. The occupation assumed the most heinous form during the Sikh and Dogra tyrannies. There was hardly any cruelty in its extreme form that the people of Kashmir were not subjected to by successive rulers. Today, the civilized world upholding the principle of human dignity would find it difficult to digest that in the mid-19th century, when it was waking up to the idea of human equality and freedom, Kashmir, along with its inhabitants and resources, was sold by the ‘Mother of Democracy’—the Great Britain—to a warlord for a sum of 7.5 million Nanakshahi rupees. For a century, Gulab Singh and his dynasty skinned and threw in boiling oil their purchased subjects for as ordinary a ‘crime’ as catching a fish from a river or slaughtering a domestic animal to fight starvation. The Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras ruthlessly administered Kashmir and its people for four centuries before a freshly independent India arrived in October 1947.

    For an overwhelming part of its history, Kashmir remained colonized and its natives disempowered. The earliest historical accounts do not provide any clue about the origin of Kashmir's ancient rulers, save a few such as Kanishka, Ashoka and Mihirakula—the invaders who conquered and ruled the land. Likewise, the Lohars came from Poonch, Rinchana from Tibet, the Shah Mirs from Swat and the Chaks from Dardistan—all neighbouring lands. The Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras too were outsiders who subjugated Kashmir. Again, from the day Kashmir got its first Muslim ruler in the 14th century AD, not a single Muslim from the local stock of the mainland Kashmir ever became its ruler. When the Tatar warlord Zulchu and his horde descended on Kashmir, its ruler Sahadeva fled to Kishtwar and a Tibetan fugitive by the name of Rinchana appeared on the scene and helped Sahadeva's commander Ramachandra to ensure some semblance of normalcy. However, the two fell out, and Rinchana killed Ramachandra, ascended the throne and married his daughter, Kota Rani. Rinchana embraced Islam and thus became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir.

    Rinchana's reign lasted for a brief spell. Upon his death, Kashmir reverted to a Hindu rule for a short period before a foreign wazir of Queen Kota Rani, Shah Mir, deposed her and imposed himself on the throne in 1339 AD. He assumed the name of Shamsuddin Shah Mir and founded the Muslim Sultanate in Kashmir. The Shah Mir dynasty ruled for over two centuries. The prominent kings of this dynasty include Sultan Shahabuddin, Sultan Qutubuddin, Sultan Sikandar and Sultan Zainul Aabideen. The last years of the Shah Mir reign were a period of weak rulers who danced to the tunes of the nobility so much so that Ali Chak, one of the prominent nobles of the time, in an open court took off the crown from the head of Habib Shah and placed it on the head of his own brother Ghazi Chak, declaring him the king. This brought Kashmir under the rule of the Chak dynasty for the next 26 years until the Mughals came in 1586 AD. The Chaks came from Dardistan which comprises northern areas of Pakistan and northern Kashmir beyond the Rajdhan Pass. It includes Chitral, the upper reaches of the Panjkora River, Kohistan (highland) of Swat and the upper portions of the Gilgit Agency. The language of the Shah Mirs and Chaks, like the Mughals who succeeded them, was Persian, not Kashmiri. The Chak rule came to an end with the invasion of Akbar, the Mughal emperor, in 1586 AD. The arrival of the Mughals obliterated whatever pretence the Shah Mirs and Chaks might have had of attaining the status of naturalized Kashmiris by settling down in Kashmir over a period of time.

    For the next 166 years, the Mughals ruled Kashmir less with compassion and more with an iron fist. In 1752 AD, they were driven out by the Afghans whose misrule over Kashmir lasted for 67 years. The Afghans were replaced by the Sikhs in 1819 AD who misgoverned Kashmir for 27 years till the infamous Treaty of Amritsar was signed in 1846 AD between British India and the Dogra ruler of Jammu Gulab Singh, under which the British sold Kashmir to Gulab Singh. The Dogras enslaved Kashmir for 100 years until newly independent India appeared on the scene in 1947 AD. For the past seven decades, Kashmir has undergone interchanging periods of relative calm and an all-out conflict. In 1989, Kashmir erupted violently against the Indian rule. Today, Kashmir is the world's most militarized area. Violence has killed tens of thousands of civilians during the past 27 years.

    Kashmir is known to have a long recorded history. Its first widely known narrative, the Rajatarangini, was compiled by Kalhana, a 12th century AD local versifier. The fascinating narrative, spanning over four millennia, is sometimes strikingly precise but generally incredibly fictional. In it, there are characters in flesh and blood, and there are also supernatural beings with their paranormal actions. Kings take the form of gods, and gods come down from the heavens to deliver justice to wronged people. All this runs through the Rajatarangini as ink through the pen of the chronicler. An examination of the Rajatarangini reveals that it elevates mixing of fiction and history to an art form. Not surprisingly then, Kalhana's successors allowed sizeable room to myth and fiction in recording past events. Interpolation and contextual corruption further chipped at the recorded history of Kashmir. While the account of the earliest period was a free run of imagination, textual corruption in the account of the medieval period was not uncommon. Even religious texts like the Nilamata Purana could not escape interpolation. Aurel Stein observes that the text of the Nilamata is “in a very bad condition, owing to numerous lacunae and textual corruption of all kinds” and it appeared to him that “by no means improbable that the text has undergone changes and possibly additions at later periods.”1 Consequently, the Kashmir story, for long, has remained a blend of fact and fiction, with imaginary tales passed off as historical facts and events interpreted inversely. The Rajatarangini has attained the status of a scripture that has to be believed without question. The result is that writing about the origin, history and geography of Kashmir has turned out to be a copy–paste exercise. There has been no or very little attempt to judge or analyse the ‘celebrated’ work for its accuracy, with the result that even today when we talk about Kashmir, we have to read about its past through the lexicon of the Hindu mythology only.

    The earliest Brahman chroniclers do not provide us any view of Kashmir under Buddhism—a reigning religion in Kashmir for over a millennium—or its subsequent annihilation by militant Hinduism. Moreover, we do not know about the missing Buddhist relics that would have been aplenty in Kashmir during the heydays of the religion in a country where the ruler of the day organized the Universal Conference on Buddhism, which fixed and expounded the Sacred Canon.2 Kalhana's successors, such as Jonaraja and Srivara, were witnesses to the decline of Hinduism and the rise of Islam in Kashmir. Both were personally hurt by this phenomenal change that transformed the political and religious landscape of Kashmir. Sadly, this hurt appears to have taken the better of their narratives. Jonaraja saw three Muslim rulers on the throne of Kashmir but appears reluctant to mention the word ‘Muslim’, notwithstanding the fact that during his time the word musalmaan was in use in the local language, as is evidenced by a verse of the contemporary mystic poetess Lal Ded:

    Shiv chhui thali thali rozaan

    Mo zaan hyond te musalmaan

    [Do not differentiate between a Hindu and a Muslim. For, He, who created them all, is watching you everywhere.]

    The establishment of the Muslim rule in Kashmir brought to the fore a new breed of chroniclers who broke from the tradition of recording events in Sanskrit and instead chose Persian, the court language of new rulers. These Muslim chroniclers, writing essentially about their own times, lifted the narrative about prehistoric Kashmir, as it was, from their Brahman predecessors and carried it forward along with its overriding part of myth and fiction. Through them, however, we come to know about the changed social landscape of Kashmir following the advent of the Muslim rule which Jonaraja and Srivara had more or less not touched upon in their chronicles. The termination of the Muslim rule in 1819 AD again gave ascendency to the Brahman historiographers. By then, the recording of events had somewhat come of age and largely met the standard requirements of historiography. However, the personal biases and prejudices of scribes found way into their texts. Thus, we see writer and author Pandit Anand Koul trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat by alluding to a presumption, obviously his own, that the famous Pathar Masjid in Srinagar was built out of the stones of the stairs leading to the Shankaracharya Temple.3 The sole evidence the ‘historian’ relies on to make this sweeping conclusion was the three-letter assumption “it is said.” Obviously, he was only sowing seeds of suspicion in the minds of his readers while narrating history. Pertinently, no chronicle of Kashmir, ancient or medieval, records a set of stairs having been built up to the Shankaracharya Temple. It was only in the middle of the 19th century that Gulab Singh (1846–57) constructed a stone staircase up to the shrine.4 Koul, who has embellished his work with many imaginary tales, however, conveniently forgets to mention that the stone slabs in the courtyard of the same Pathar Masjid were uprooted during the Sikh period, when the mosque was converted into a grain store, and used to build a flight of steps on the river bank at Basant Bagh.

    Assumptions being the basis of conclusions drawn by most of our modern writers and historians, the practice neither began with Koul nor ended with him. Everybody who took upon him- or herself the responsibility of narrating the Kashmir story fully used his or her creative skills. Take, for instance, this retired horticulture officer who, writing about Kashmir's celebrated tree chinar in the year 2002, suddenly changes track to lambast Sultan Sikandar, the 14th century ruler of Kashmir, for destroying temples which either were demolished before him or existed even after him. The writer rests his argument on the premise that since Sikandar destroyed temples, the chinars there “too must have been dealt with in the same way as temple structures.”5 Although the kings of the medieval period, Sikandar in particular, became the main target of a twisted narrative, the accusations levelled against them—persecution and forced migration of Hindus and destruction of their temples—returned as the core of the storyline since 1990. If a Muslim ruler of yore was posthumously held guilty for these alleged crimes, his coreligionists face the same accusation six centuries after him. Kashmir, in short, continues to be a story largely based on hearsay rather than actual events.

    The celebrated specimens of the recorded history of Kashmir are texts in verse which, in most part, suffer from serious shortcomings. Broadly, these can be identified as myth, prejudice, fiction and exaggeration. The earliest period, with the Rajatarangini as its record keeper, is weird owing to a heavy dose of myth. It is a free run of imagination wrapped in beliefs and perceptions of the versifier. The period, comprising a long era of about 3,000 years of the Gonandiya dynasty, is a description of persons and events that, in the words of Stein, can rarely be traced in other sources. Scholars have expressed serious doubts about the credibility of an overwhelming part of the work. Between Kalhana and the second crop of historians, there is a gap of three centuries (1150–1459 AD) during which no chronicle is known to have been written. The absence of a parallel narrative for such a long interlude saw the Rajatarangini attaining a reverential status. Moreover, it set a precedence of recording events in a manner in which the chronicler let his imagination run free.

    The medieval period is distinguished by profound prejudice entering the works on Kashmir's history. This specifically pertains to the 14th–15th century period when Kashmir underwent a religious and social transformation, and the chroniclers of the period—Jonaraja and Srivara—were finding it hard to reconcile with the developing situation. An acute sense of loss of power and influence by their community adversely affected their works. Following the footsteps of Kalhana, medieval Sanskrit chroniclers also indulged in myth and fiction, which they cocktailed with prejudice. The followers of a new religion—different from the one practised by these scribes—that had taken root in Kashmir and was fast branching out became the object of bias. The prejudice manifested itself, on the one hand, in demonizing rulers like Sikandar and, on the other hand, in blacking out what represented the positive side of the Muslim rule or significant events related with it. Complete silence over construction of the Jama Masjid, the Khanqah-i-Mualla and a structurally small but historically very important mosque on the Takht-e-Sulaiman, and the presence of iconic personalities such as Sheikh Nooruddin or Mir Saiyid Ali Hamdani on the social and religious landscape of Kashmir are some of the cases in point.

    The establishment of the Sultanate saw the arrival of Muslim chroniclers who spared the Muslim rulers of unwarranted criticism. Generally, they recorded events and personalities fairly but, importantly, did not question or attempt to correct the overriding content of fiction and mythology in the earliest narratives. They carried forward their predecessors’ observations about the previous Muslim rulers, especially Sikandar, almost with zest, perhaps in the misplaced belief of the kings having performed a religious duty. Saiyid Ali, a 16th century AD Persian chronicler, for instance, “is simply repeating the statement of Jonaraja”6 when he writes that “in every village and town, where a temple existed it was demolished.”7 The anonymous author of the 17th century AD Persian text Baharistan-i-Shahi is another instance.8 However, we find that the chronicles of this period recorded events and lives and accomplishments of Muslim rulers and hundreds of Muslim missionaries who changed the social and religious landscape of Kashmir. Their work was contemptuously ignored by Brahman chroniclers.

    The return of the Hindu rule in the 19th century was followed by the reappearance of Brahman chroniclers. A series of historians and non-historians in persons of Anand Koul, P. N. K. Bamzai, Jia Lal Kilam, R. K. Parimu and others sanctified the mythological and imaginary content in ancient history and added exaggeration to the narrative. In their works, the Muslim rule spanning about five centuries, barring a brief spell under Zainul Aabideen, is the darkest phase in the life of a Kashmiri Brahman. In building their story, they ignored historical or circumstantial evidence that presents itself as a counterargument. Significantly, they also put under wraps severe and prolonged oppression of Muslims at the hands of their non-Muslim rulers. If it was not for the European travellers arriving in Kashmir in the 19th and early 20th centuries and their travelogues and books on what they observed, the most heinous cruelties ever suffered by mankind would have remained unknown to the outside world.

    For several centuries, the history of Kashmir has remained under the occupation of Brahman writers who converted it into a story of the so-called aboriginal Hindus—‘the inheritors of five millennia of uninterrupted history’—their forcible conversion, periodic uprooting and destruction of temples. For them, the 500 years of Muslim rule exists only as a grim reminder of the long-drawn-out persecution. Even about the period following its replacement by the non-Muslim (Sikh and Dogra) rule in 1819 AD, they allege discrimination and oppression. Somewhere in the middle of the 20th century, journalists from the community, which held monopoly on the profession, chipped in to help create an image of Kashmir that was far from reality. The bias they brought into the narrative also found way into the official publications printed after the termination of the Hindu rule in 1947 and formation of a ‘popular government’. A specimen of this misrepresentation is Keys to Kashmir published in 1955 by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir.9 The book perpetuates the Hindu mythology and narrates factually incorrect historical events.10 Significantly, it mentions festivals of the minority community in greater number and detail, with dates and occasions, while only a couple of those of the majority community are dealt with in single sentences.

    Notes and References

    1. Stein, Kalhana's Rajatarangini, vol. II, 377.

    2. Ibid., 355.

    3. “It [Pather Masjid] was constructed by Queen Nur Jahan, and it is said the stones of the stairs, which led up to the top of the Shankaracharya hill, were used in building it” (Koul, Geography of the Jammu and Kashmir State, 150).

    Although Anand Koul is a Kashmiri Pandit who lived in a Muslim locality close to the Pathar Masjid. He must have seen the Pathar Masjid umpteen times during his long life. Till date, nobody has observed a sculptured stone used in its construction. Not to speak of stones, I say not a single stone. Noor Jahan used the same chiselled and sparkling stones in its construction which were used by the Mughal rulers in the construction of royal fortes, baladaris and mosques. (Ahmad, Tarikh-i-Hassan [Kashmiri], Annotation, vol. I, Part II, 799–800)

    4. Koshur Encyclopaedia, vol. I, 304.

    5. Wanchoo, Chinar Tree, “Bouin” of Kashmir.

    6. Ali, Tarikh-i-Kashmir, Trans. Rafiqi, e.n. 70, 182.

    7. Ibid., 121.

    8. The Baharistan-i-Shahi was written in 1614 AD, exactly two centuries after Sikandar had died. The ‘loud manner’ in which the author extols the propagation of the Shia sect of Islam in Kashmir by Shamsuddin Iraqi, Musa Raina and Kaji Chak, all staunch Shias, points to his being a follower of the same faith. What adds to this assumption is his strong dislike for Mirza Haider Doghlat, an alleged persecutor of the Shias. The author's extolling of Sikandar as doing some kind of virtuous deed by his alleged persecution of Hindus reflects his own bias when each time he takes the name of the king as an iconoclast, he invokes God's blessings (God bless his soul) for him. Simultaneously, he is unforgiving for Sikandar's son and successor, Zainul Aabideen, for reviving “idolatry and heresy” which, he recalls, had been stamped out during the reign of Sikandar. “The customs and practices of the polytheists and the heretics received fresh impetus and were given renewed currency,” he writes about Zainul Aabideen whom Kashmiri Hindus remember as a benevolent king. “The community of infidels and heretics called him the Great King because they flourished under his rule and he was known by the name throughout his kingdom,” he adds.

    9. The book was published by the Lala Rukh Publications of the State's then Information & Broadcasting Department headed by Janki Nath Zutshi.

    10. The book gives a detailed account of Hindu mythology on the emergence of the Valley of Kashmir out of mythical Satisar and credits its drainage to the folk hero Kashyapa but altogether ignores a parallel mythical account subscribed to by the Muslim majority community that the water of the lake was drained by Prophet Solomon who visited Kashmir during the reign of Narendra. Ratnagar, a historian prior to Kalhana, credits Sandiman or Solomon with draining the water of the huge lake that Kashmir was. Half of Kashmir had been inundated for a thousand years causing huge damages to life and crops. The hapless people on seeing the miracles of Solomon beseeched him to deliver them of this curse. Sandiman ordered his jins (Jinns or djinns or genies) to remove the blockade, which they did, and the submerged land became again available for agriculture (Shahpuria, Kalhana's Rajatarangini, I: 107). Bernier has also alluded to this as an old legend among the people of Kashmir. The book ignores the scientific explanation given by geologists for the drainage of water and coming into existence of the Valley of Kashmir. Again, the book wrongly describes ascendency of Zainul Aabideen to the throne as a consequence of the flight of Sinhadeo or Sahadeva in the wake of Tartar invasion which happened in 1319 AD, 100 years before Zainul Aabideen assumed power in 1420 AD after defeating his brother Ali Shah. Also, Chaks did not over-run Haider Shah, the son of Zainul Aabideen, as claimed by the book; he died after a brief rule of a year and few months.

  • Epilogue

    A Kashmiri Pandit's story of Kashmir is unfinished without an emphatic reference to himself as an aborigine of the Valley. The term finds returning mention in the community's narrative on ‘persecution and exodus’. It is invoked to bring home the point that the Pandits, ‘the only original inhabitants of Kashmir’, were subjected to forced conversion and driven out of their homeland by Muslims—by implication the outsiders—who usurped their properties. If one goes by the storyline, the aboriginal status of a Kashmiri Pandit “can be traced through the annals of history in the Valley.”1 The community's claim of being aborigines is rooted in the mythological account of Kashmir forwarded by the Nilamata Purana. Kashmiri Pandits assert that they are the descendants of Kashyapa who had the lake Satisar drained and caused human settlements on the thus emerged land. Being the progeny of Kashyapa, they argue, means being “the original residents of Kashyapmar, the modern Kashmir.”2 According to the Nilamata Purana the Nagas were the children of Kashyapa. Kashmiri Pandits emphasize that they are the descendants of Kashyapa or, in other words, of the Nagas.

    The claimants of the only aborigine status in Kashmir practise Shaivism which, in its earliest form, is a post mid-9th century AD development. It took some more time to actually turn into a practicing religion. Its first theologian, Somananda was born in 875 AD and died in 925 AD. While it is difficult, not impossible, to conclusively identify the religion of the earliest man in Kashmir, there is no confusion about the fact that Shaivism in Kashmir is a later day introduction, preceded, as it was, by Buddhism and Islam. As is corroborated by history, Buddhism was introduced in Kashmir as early as the 3rd century BC and, from Kalhana's account, we observe prominent Muslim footprints in Kashmir from the 8th century AD. It is interesting to note that in the oldest extant narrative of Kashmir, the Rajatarangini, we do not come across words like Pandits and Brahmans. Abraham Eraly elaborates this premise further when he observes that “Brahmin as a varna hardly had any presence in historical records before the Gupta Empire era [3rd century to 6th century CE],” and “no Brahmin, no sacrifice, no ritualistic act of any kind ever, even once, is referred to in any Indian text” dated to be from the first century CE or before.3 Their role as priests and repository of sacred knowledge, as well as their importance in the practice of Vedic Shrauta rituals, grew during the Gupta Empire era and thereafter.4

    Leaving aside, for a moment, what the annals of history have to offer on the subject, the aboriginal theorists, on the one hand, claim that mass conversion of Hindus of Kashmir was brought about by force and, on the other, describe the minority Hindus, who did not convert, as the ‘only natives of Kashmir’. By this logic, the Muslim kings—the so-called villains in the story—have actually converted (the non-existent) non-Kashmiri Hindus to Islam. The other scenario is that the converted masses automatically lost the aboriginal status for deserting their faith! The neo-converts and their generations after assuming Muslim names retained their surnames which they continue to share with their ex-coreligionists and compatriots. That raises an important question: Is a Kashmiri Wanchoo or a Bazaz or a Raina an aborigine if he is a Hindu and not if a Muslim? One would come across among Muslims of Kashmir any number of surnames that are equally common among the Pandits. Among these are Bhat, Raina, Nath, Langoo, Malla, Bazaz, Saraf, Munshi, Watal, Wali, Khar, Shangloo, Nehru, Gagar, Kharoo, Aga, Jalali, Peer, Pandit, Parimoo and Mattoo.5 The ‘only original inhabitants’ premise seeks to dislodge from the aborigine status the millions of Kashmiri Muslims sharing these and many more surnames with the Pandits. The Kashmiri race, it may be pointed out, “comes from one stock, inherit one culture and speak one common language.”6

    For going through the annals of history to find out if Kashmiri Pandits are the only original inhabitants of Kashmir, one would naturally refer to the Rajatarangini, ‘the oldest recorded account’ of the land and its people and the one that a Kashmiri Pandit would, in reverence, hold as the Bible on Kashmir's ancient history. There, however, is one problem. The tome was composed in the 12th century, when neither mass conversion of Hindus had taken place nor were there Muslim kings with naked swords running after their Hindu subjects. Much as Kalhana through his ‘mind's eye and divine intuition'7 could see the events preceding him by 3,000 years, he did not utilize these faculties to foresee developments taking place two centuries after him. So, he is not in a position to enlighten us on whether Kashmiri Pandits, who stuck to their faith in the face of mass conversion, were the only original inhabitants of Kashmir or their converted blood too had a claim over this honour. What, however, the record keeper of the ‘Hindu Kashmir’ shares with us is a significant development taking place in Kashmir during the 6th century AD that the ‘original inhabitants’ would, most likely, want to be kept under the wraps.

    Before coming to that development, it would be interesting to recall that the land of Kashmir itself does not produce any material evidence in support of the aborigine theory. The Hindu religious literature, such as Nilamata Purana and the mahatmyas, written after the 5th century AD and the archaeological evidence unearthed do not match in so far as the presence of the Nagas, the claimed ancestors of Kashmiri Pandits is concerned. As we have already observed (in Chapter 1), while archaeological evidence has testified to human presence in Kashmir as early as 780,000 years, no such confirmation is forthcoming with respect to the presence of the Nagas. The Burzahom, Gufkral and Simthan, the first revealed human settlements in Kashmir, do not go with the Nagas theory and, naturally, any premise built over it. The terracotta figurine, the Harwan tiles or the numismatics finds, none subscribes to the Nagas hypothesis. The earliest religious images discovered so far relate either to Buddhism (2nd–3rd centuries AD) or post-5th century Hinduism. While the Burzahom Neolithic settlement does not give any clue about the faith of its people, it clearly shows that they buried their dead, which is not in line with the Vedic instructions that Kashmiri Pandits subscribe to. That leaves the Nilamata Purana as the only ‘evidence’ to claim the existence of the Nagas in Kashmir. Unfortunately, however, it is undecided about their form. In the absence of any corroborative evidence coming from the literature anterior to the Nilamata or any historian of the past seconding this possibility, the Nagas in Kashmir are mythological rather than historical characters. Any claim to be their progeny is only theoretical.

    Coming back to the development during the 6th century AD, the momentous occurrence changed the religious landscape of Kashmir. As we already know, in 530 AD, a monster of a man in the person of Mihirakula, thrown out of North India for his vicious conduct, entered Kashmir and occupied its throne after killing the king who had extended hospitality to him and given him refuge. Mihirakula, a White Hun, had arrived with his horde whose religious practices were different from that of the local people. Buddhism was then deep rooted in Kashmir. The popularity of the religion is borne out by the fact that Kushan ruler, Kanishka, held the 4th World Buddhist Conference here, marking the birth of a new and progressive Buddhism known as the Mahayana.

    Arrival of Buddhist scholars like Hieun Tsiang in Kashmir too points to this fact. Kashmiri Buddhist scholars and monks spread the message of the Buddha to Central Asia, China and Korea on the one side and, on the other, to Sri Lanka, Java and Sumatra.8

    The religion travelled to Ladakh, a Buddhist populated area even today.

    What we learn from the Rajatarangini, and Aurel Stein's notes is that Mihirakula's religious propensity was markedly leaned towards Shaivism.9 Recalling at the risk of repetition, his preference for Shaivism was evidenced “by his coins which, in the emblems of bull and trident and in the legends jayatu trsa, jayatu vrsadhvaja, display a distinct fancy towards S'aivism.10 He founded at S'rinagri (Srinagar) Mihiresvara, the shrine of Shiva, and in Holada (Vular Pargana) the large town called Mihirapura.11 He oppressed the Buddhist population and demolished their religious places and symbols. In Hiuen Tsiang's account, he is a persecutor of Buddhist institutions.12 On the other hand, he emerges as a liberal patron of Shaivism who extended courtesies to and distributed agraharas among the Brahmans. In a significant development of far-reaching consequences, he brought Brahmans from Gandhara and settled them in Kashmir, chiefly at Vijeshwara (Bijbehara) and bestowed on them a thousand agraharas. Kalhana describes these Brahmans “as resembling himself [Mihirakula] in their habits and verily themselves the lowest of the twice-born.”13 An agrahara to each Brahman would mean that at least 1,000 of them were settled in Bijbehara alone. If more than one Brahman were accommodated in one agrahara then their number would be as large. Mihirakula's generous patronage gave these Brahmans immense influence and a conducive atmosphere to flourish in. The open war that the ruler waged against Buddhism further increased their clout and within a short period they started wielding power over the lives of the people.

    Mihirakula's munificence proved conducive for the propagation of Shaivism in Kashmir and, not long after he was gone, it had gained foothold in the land, so much so that religious texts like the Nilamata Purana (6th–8th century AD) and the mahatmyas were written after literally wiping out Buddhism from Kashmir. The literature was aimed at sanctifying religious places, majority of which were built on the Buddhist sites, and rituals and ceremonials of Shaivism. It gave birth to a new narrative on Kashmir's physical and cultural history that is now fervently guarded by the followers of Shaivism in Kashmir. However, it was only during the 8th or the beginning of the 9th century AD that Shaivism had its profound appearance in Kashmir14 and became “the dominant cult of Kashmir from the tenth century.”15 The first teacher of Shaivism, Tryambakaditya, settled in Kashmir Valley around 800 AD.16 Through Kalhana's and Khemendra's account and other sources (in Chapter 4), we get a broad view of how cleverly and craftily the Shaivite Brahmans exploited the common people and manoeuvred their intrusion in the corridors of power and stayed there irrespective of change in political dispensations.

    Mihirakula was not the only ruler who brought to Kashmir the Brahmans from outside. There were others also who did the same. Prior to him, Jaluka brought and “settled from that region [Aryavarta] people of all four castes in his own land and particularly righteous men acquainted with legal procedure.”17 Gopaditya, sixth in line after Mihirakula, expelled from the country those Brahmans who had taken to irreligious and immoral practices and in their stead brought and settled other Brahmans from “pure countries.”18 Besides, Didda, the 10th century AD ruler, and Jayasimha (1128–49 AD) also “encouraged lots of Brahmans from outside to settle in Kashmir.”19 It calls for a serious study to find out who were the descendants of these Brahmans and Shaivite teachers who were brought from Gandhara by Mihirakula or settled by Gopaditya, Didda and Jayasimha in Kashmir or who, like Tryambakaditya, came as late as up to the 8th century to take permanent residence in Kashmir. This might as well help approach the ‘original inhabitants’ issue in an academic way.

    The claim of being the only aborigine community is as imperfect as the other one about the Pandits being the sole inheritors of a 5,000-year old history of Kashmir. Like in the case of the former, its claimants ignore the fact that inheritance to this unique treasure would flow to both the communities through a common fountain—the land that they had been living in together from times immemorial, irrespective of their present faith. However, the majority community is all but overzealous to invoke the 5,000-year old history, the first 3,000 years of which are the work of a versifier's ‘mind's eye’ and ‘divine intuition.’ Historians and scholars are unanimous that the ‘recorded history’ of Kashmir touches the realm of authenticity only post-7th–8th century AD. Before that, it is only a make-believe account of the supposed rulers and events associated with them.

    Like the terms holocaust, genocide and mass rape, the aborigine angle given to the sad story of migration of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 is a political spin. It has an emotional appeal among the Hindu majority of India, especially its fast-expanding extreme right wing, which the community leadership looks towards for support. The claim provides a foundation to the victimhood narrative while simultaneously demonizing and, theoretically at least, dislodging the ‘usurper’ community from its rightful ownership of the land. The whole premise is based on ‘We’ and ‘They’—‘We’, the Kashmiri Pandits, who as the erstwhile majority were persecuted and converted into a minority, and ‘They’, the Kashmiri Muslims, who converted a Hindu land into an Islamic territory, which is of utmost importance for the Hindus to reclaim.

    For a very long time now—in fact, several centuries—Kashmiri Muslims have been weighed down by the blame of forcibly converting their Hindu brethren, a sin which they never committed. Logically, if over 90 per cent people in a country decide to convert to another religion, the remainder members of the community, who did not go with them, cannot accuse the converts of reducing them to a minority. Historically, it is proven that long before the establishment of the Muslim rule, Muslim footprints were already visible on Kashmir's soil. The voluntary mass conversion came about later through preaching by spiritual guides over three centuries. Had the sword of a king converted people, at least some of the converts, if not all, would have returned to their original faith soon after the threat was gone. But no such thing happened even after the much maligned Sikandar died and his ‘benevolent’ successor and son reportedly issued a decree “allowing all those who had embraced Islam under pressure to return to their faith if they so wished.”20 Ever since that mass conversion, Kashmir did not see any case of, what the Hindutva groups now call, ghar waapsi. Had any such development taken place, the Brahman chroniclers would have pointed out that to buttress their claim of forced conversions earlier. The long oppression suffered by the Muslims of Kashmir under the Sikh and the Hindu rule was enough for these forced converts or their children to revert to the religion of their ancestors and save themselves from state persecution. If conversion came about by the state force, who converted at sword point the ruler of the time, Rinchana, or his prime minister and other nobles? Did they also convert under duress? For the sake of argument, if the forced conversion of Kashmiri Hindus is a fact of history, the victims were the converts who were ‘forced’ to change faith, not the Pandits who retained theirs. The Muslim converts had to undergo a double persecution. First, as Hindus at the hands of the ‘bigoted Muslim rulers’ and, second, as Muslims at the hands of equally ‘bigoted Hindu rulers’.

    Balraj Madhok came up with a fantastic story, according to which the Muslims of Kashmir made a collective approach to the 19th century Hindu ruler, Maharaja Ranbir Singh, for being taken back into the Hindu fold, pleading with him that “they had been forcibly converted to Islam against their will and were longing to re-embrace their ancestral faith.”21 Madhok, the right wing Hindu politician, expressed the regret of his life that the ‘short-sighted Kashmiri Pandits’ sabotaged a major event “which could have changed the whole course of history of Kashmir.”22 He writes:

    Ranbir Singh sought the guidance of Swamy Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj, in the matter. Swami Dayand advised him that he could take them back in Hinduism after performing certain rites. The proposed return of Kashmiri Muslims to their original faith was not to the liking of short sighted Kashmiri Pundits who were having hey day since the return of Dogra Hindu rule. They tried to dissuade the Maharaja. When they found him adamant they took to a subterfuge. They filled some boats with stones and brought them midstream before Maharaja's palace on the Jhelum. They threatened him that they would commit suicide by drowning along with the sinking boats as a protest against his decision to take back Muslims into Hindu fold and that he would be then guilty of “Brahm Hatya” i.e. murder of Brahmins. Ranbir Singh was a brave soldier. But he could not muster courage to face the crafty Brahmins, who were out to misinterpret the Vedic “dharma” for their selfish ends. The plan of return of Kashmiri Muslims to Hinduism thus fell through.23

    As in case of the larger narrative on Kashmir, which abounds in make-believe account, the story weaved by Madhok is only a flight of his imagination. Ranbir Singh ruled Kashmir from 1857 AD to 1885 AD, which in terms of history would mean ‘yesterday’ only. This is the time when any such incident would have attracted wide attention and transferred it into the pages of history. Around this time, Kashmir was frequented by European travellers and writers who extensively wrote about it and its people. None of them has mentioned the Muslims of Kashmir individually or collectively approaching their Hindu ruler for their readmission to Hinduism. Significantly, men like Walter Lawrence and M. A. Stein, who have voluminous works on Kashmir to their credit, were in the Valley around this time. We find no mention of this ‘incident’ in their writings either. Again, why would Muslims of Kashmir need a go-ahead from their Hindu ruler if they were so desperate to ‘return to Hinduism’? They could simply renounce Islam and declare their homecoming. What is actually known to have happened is that Ranbir Singh toyed with the idea of ‘reconverting’ Muslims to reclaim Kashmir as a Hindu majority land, but Kashmiri Pandits, feeling the prospect of losing their privileges, “outright rejected the suggestion of Maharaja Ranbir Singh.”24

    The allegation of forced mass conversion is fragile also because of those who make it fail to conclusively identify the so-called culprit. Sometimes it is the Muslim kings, especially Sikandar and his neo-convert Prime Minister Suhabhatta, who took the Muslim name of Saif-ud-Din after conversion, who are blamed for turning a Hindu Kashmir into a ‘Muslim State’ and, at other times, Muslims as a community are blamed for the sin. If, for the sake of argument, the blood-thirsty Muslim kings, one after the other, killed and persecuted Hindus to forcibly convert them to Islam, how did a handful of them escape this all out slaughter and cruelty? Did they resist the forced conversion and succeed? Unfortunately, the pages of history do not reflect any resistance unless invented by some zealot Brahman writer in the 19th century. Again, if the ‘forced conversion’ resorted to by Muslim kings is a fact of history, why should converted masses or their progeny shoulder the blame? None of these kings, as we have observed earlier (in the Prologue), were of Kashmiri origin. They all came from outside the Kashmir mainland and occupied its throne. Significantly, for administering the affairs of the state, they depended on Pandits rather than Muslims. The Pandit Narrative presents the converts as persecuted and the persecutor in the same breath. On the one hand, it holds Muslim kings responsible for persecuting and forcing the Kashmiri Hindus to convert to Islam and, on the other, accuses the thus converted people of hunting for their erstwhile brethren.

    The alleged persecution of Hindu subjects by Muslim rulers and the animosity of the Muslim majority towards the Hindu minority in Kashmir reside more in writings of some Brahman scribes than in history. These ‘non-historians’ engaged themselves in building a community narrative rather than narrating the past. Being the only literate community in Kashmir at a time when the Muslim majority was piecing their lives together under a malevolent dispensation, these writers painted the Muslim rule, as well as the majority community, in black. The literature produced and influenced by these worthies is a story of their victimhood. “The past recalled by the Pandits thus differed substantially from the past which had actually occurred.”25 A look at the ‘community sources’ unveils, what Henny Sender observes, “the same bees in their bonnets as one finds in the bonnet of Anand Koul and listens to the same buzzing as one listens to from [Koul's] The Kashmiri Pandit.” This history remembered and recorded by Kashmiri Brahmans is a “mirage of reality, distorted by the defence of private interests and influenced by changed cultural values.”26 It exists because it serves the narrative. Sender observes:

    Instances of royal persecution and Brahmanical flight during the pre-Sultanate period have not imposed themselves on the collective memory of the Kashmiri Pandit community. The pre-Muslim period of Kashmir's history is remembered, instead as a golden age, contrasting sharply with the subsequent centuries of Muslim rule.27

    Sender goes further to describe the community history built by the Pandit writers as a mirage of reality and not a tale of relentless oppression. She writes:

    The actual history of the Pandit community of Kashmir is neither a tale of paradise lost, nor of relentless oppression. Its beginnings are shrouded more in legendary claims than of reality. The early history of the Kashmiri Brahmans as they themselves have remembered and recorded it illustrates Jan Vasina's description of testimony as a mirage of reality, distorted by the defence of private interests and influenced by changing cultural values.28

    Following the Pandit migration in 1990, the persecution narrative was reinvented and circulated through quicker and more potent medium than was available to the previous narrators. The reworking of history to claim victimhood and assert a separate and distinctive identity was used as a crucial tool. To establish that attacks on temples were a continuous process since the establishment of the Muslim sultanate, the gap between the termination of the Hindu Dogra rule and the onset of militancy is plugged by the discovery that “[the] encroachment of temple land by majority community with active help of fundamentalist elements started after 1947 when Maharaja Hari Singh abdicated his throne.”29 Amazingly, the idiom used by the previous narrator has travelled unchanged to the present. Hence, if Sikandar was breaking temples “day and night”30 during the 14th century, “more than 200 temples in the Kashmir Valley were damaged after the eruption of armed insurgency.”31 On the other hand, after persecution, only ‘eleven Brahman [Kashmiri Pandit] families'32 survived in medieval Kashmir, in the post-1989 situation “Panditun ke senkdun, hazarun gharun aur mandirun ko jaladiya geya ya zameen mai dha diya geya…. Pandit[un] ke pooray pooray gaon ko saaf kiya geya” [Hundreds and thousands of houses and temples of the Pandits were torched or razed to the ground…. Entire Pandit villages were cleared [of their population].33 In 1931, “the trouble is led by such people who want to see the establishment of an Islamic State in north India”34 and post-1990, when Kashmir was either directly ruled by India or its handpicked men, the Pandits would not return to the “servitude of a Muslim State.”35 Sikandar, we were told, offered the Brahmans the choices of “death, conversion or exile”36 and the Pandits in 1990 were asked to “reliv tcheliv ya geliv [convert, run away or die].”37

    A dominant section of the Indian media is playing the main role in disseminating these stories and perceptions. A seven-minute duration film with a Kashmiri Pandit actor as protagonist screened by an English language TV channel as its prime time presentation on 19 January 2016 is the latest piece with the least regard for facts and potential to promote communal hatred. Historically, an influential section of the media, known as the Hindu Press before 1947 or the Indian Mainstream Press of today, has exhibited prejudice against the majority community of Kashmir. The questionable role of the media in the wake of the 13 July 1931 developments, the Pandit agitation of 1967 and the communal situation in 1986 aptly demonstrate the unfair role of the fourth pillar of democracy (in Chapters 5 and 6). Saner elements within the communities have often questioned reporting and commentaries on Kashmir by this section of the media, arguing that it promote communal tension. With readily available forums of mass media, some self-appointed leaders of the Pandit community, almost on daily basis, give vent to their bitterness against Kashmiri Muslims.

    The unpleasantness in relations existing between the two communities has its origin in the socio-economic and educational development of Muslims, especially after 1947, that unseated the Pandits from over-lordship of the masses literally subservient to them for centuries. The opposition to Muslims getting even meagre share in government jobs could be seen in this background. Since logic and facts were not with the supposed victim community to counter this, a bogey of persecution and discrimination was raised, as repetitively observed in 1931, 1967 and 1986. On each of these occasions, the allegations of religious persecution were made only to camouflage the claim to more employment opportunities and the perceived threat to the Pandit monopoly on government services. Each time, the much hue and cry raised over ‘discrimination and religious persecution’ manifested itself ultimately in the demand for more employment avenues. Notwithstanding this, the community is observed enjoying the spoils of power throughout history, whether under Muslim or non-Muslim rule.

    In any discourse on the current relationship between Kashmir's two main communities, the advocates of the Muslim–Pandit amity often invoke, what they call, their historical mutual bond to flag the need for undoing the prevailing bitterness. The past bonhomie is illustrated through ‘centuries’ co-existence’ under the shade of Kashmiriyat, a term that mysteriously surfaced and got currency after the Pandit migration. Analysts and writers are not off the mark when they allude to this ‘historical cordiality.’ However, what is not emphasized in such discourses is that the cordiality between the two communities, representing 95 per cent population on the one side and 4 per cent on the other, has more to do more with the moral fibre of the former than with the “spirit of accommodation and amity of a peace-loving and non-violent” minuscule minority.38 The majority community nurtured and sustained this cordiality, irrespective of returns. A calm and minority-friendly Kashmir amidst communal frenzy on its borders in 1947, perhaps, explains the point best.

    The displacement of nearly an entire community is an unfortunate spin-off of the developments unfolding in Kashmir in 1989. Ever since, the return of migrant Pandits has remained a focal point in any talk on the Kashmir situation. At one point in time, it looked just round the corner but, over a period of time, has now become a complex issue. There are many reasons, one of which is that a large number of migrants have sold their properties and settled outside Kashmir. Second, the postmigration generation, born and brought up outside its borders, feel no emotional attachment with the Valley. They are successfully pursuing their careers in different cities of India and abroad and would at best like to visit the land of their forefathers as tourists once in a while. Still, there is a large majority of migrant elders who would like to return at any cost. For them, even a quarter of a century's separation from their motherland has not been able to kill the desire to go to eternal sleep in its lap. They are the worst sufferers of this tragedy. Unfortunately for them, some self-professed leaders, few among whom had moved out of Kashmir in search of greener pastures years and decades before the mass migration in 1990, are making their return difficult, if not impossible. These activists write, debate and speak on their behalf in a language and manner that further complicates the issues. They leave nobody in doubt about their objective being perpetual estrangement between the two communities of Kashmir. The vilification campaign launched by these self-serving people has left even the diehard optimists disillusioned about the early return of Pandit migrants. Television studios and social networking sites, on which these debates are conducted, are causing more damage to the cause of mutual amity than serving it. Instead of minimizing the prevailing trust deficit between the two communities and building an atmosphere where the migrants could return to the warmth of their erstwhile neighbours, the atmosphere is poisoned by raising controversial and contentious issues and quoting fake statistics. The demand for a separate Hindu homeland and exclusive Hindu settlements in Kashmir and holding every single member of the majority community responsible for the plight of migrant Pandits all but assist in creating a helpful environment for early homecoming of the displaced community.

    The migration of population from Kashmir under the fear of gun is not a one-community-alone development. If Pandits moved out in tens of thousands, hundreds of Muslim families associated with pro-India political parties also migrated under similar circumstances. Only they do not figure in the migration narrative. Their trials and tribulations did not find any mention in the reports of human rights groups, official dossiers or TV panel discussions. Journalist Rashid Ahmad observes:

    The grim reality, however, is that while Pandits found support from all corners, including government and civilians, everywhere outside the Valley, the Muslim families were left in lurch in streets. Rehabilitation camps were set up and free ration and other facilities were given to Pandit migrants (which they genuinely deserved) besides making special arrangements for the education of their children. Different state governments reserved seats in medical and [other] professional colleges for Pandit students. Muslim migrants, on the other hand, were ignored equally by the government and the commoners. They had to piece together their lives by themselves… Pandits are not the sole custodian of Indian-ness in Jammu and Kashmir. If India is still in Kashmir, it is just because of Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Saifuddin Soz and their companies. They are holding Indian flag here. While Pandits chose to run away to save their lives, the NC, PDP and Congress cadres took bullets on their chests but did not change. Their funerals were boycotted, and their families had to face social isolation.39

    Nobody would dispute the fact that in a situation as sensitive as Kashmir, selective mention of tragedies will all but bridge the trust gap. Understanding and recognizing each other's pain and suffering is crucial for achieving this. Alongside a reference to Nadimarg, Wandhama and Sangrampora, a mention of Gawkadal, Sopore, Handwara and Islamia College is imperative to complete the picture of Kashmir's tragedy. Talking about Girija Tikoo, victim of a heinous crime, without a mention of Kunan Poshpora makes an incomplete landscape of horror in Kashmir. What befell on the uprooted Pandits in torn out tarpaulin tents in Jammu can be better understood by an equal measure of appreciation, if not more, of the torment associated with crackdowns, indiscriminate firing, summary killings, custodial disappearances and rapes in Kashmir. Opposition to the withdrawal of AFSPA, denigrating the martyrs of 1931, demanding separate Hindu homeland or settlements and harping on unsubstantiated cases of massive destruction of temples would impede rather than bring about reconciliation. For constructing bridges, it is important to view in the same context the uprooting of over 100,000 of Hindus in 1990 and as many or more Muslims forced to flee to Punjab before 1947 or about 500,000 hounded out of Jammu that year. Honouring the memory of over 200 Pandits killed since 1989 finds meaning with honouring the memory of tens of thousands of Muslims felled during the same period in Kashmir or 237,000 of them massacred in different parts of Jammu province on the eve of the Partition. Holding Sikandar culpable for the destruction of temples is an incomplete narration of Kashmir's history without recounting the locking of mosques and turning those into stables and granary stores by Sikh and Hindu rulers. The violence against and annihilation of Buddhism and its religious places in the ancient Kashmir is also important to be brought into the context in any deliberation on religious intolerance existing ‘since centuries.’

    Nobody holds the Pandit community responsible for all the tragedies befalling the Muslims in Kashmir. In the same manner, Kashmiri Muslims as a community did not manufacture the torment of their Hindu brethren. The slogan shouting from mosque loudspeakers during 1990 finds a new context when viewed as spontaneous response to State repression instead of a conspiracy to chase the Pandits away. It continued even after the Pandits had left Kashmir. In fact, during the massive public demonstrations in 2008, 2010 and 2016, mosques across the Valley reverberated with azadi and Islamic slogans for weeks and months to generate widespread protests. There were literally no Pandits to be chased away by these slogans. In fact, the Muslim protesters were not the only ones to use mosque loudspeakers. During 1990s, even army and paramilitary troops frequently used these to announce crackdown of an area and directing people to come out for identification parade and house searches. Whatever be the level of mistrust, there is no denying the fact that Kashmiri Muslims want the Pandits back amongst them, not as protected souls in barbed-wired settlements but as next door neighbours sharing each other's joy and sorrow. Nobody expects them to side with the Muslim separatist movement in Kashmir as historically they have never associated themselves with the majority community's politics. The only experiment made in 1939 in the dissolution of the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference and establishment of a secular Jammu and Kashmir National Conference failed soon after as its Pandit members deserted the party one by one.

    In the last 26 years, lot of water has flown through the Jhelum. The two communities not living as neighbours any longer have emotionally drifted from each other, leaving the vacant space to be filled by bitterness. Notwithstanding this, the Muslims of Kashmir want and look forward to the Pandits living with them as before. There are hopeful signs to build on the prospect of their return. No Kashmiri Muslim leader—whether from separatist, pro-India or militant camp—has spoken against the Pandits as a community or objected to their homecoming. Neither is anybody in Kashmir waiting with daggers and guns for the returning migrants. For the past many years, thousands of them annually visit the shrine of Ragini Devi at Kheer Bhawani where Muslims extend them warm hospitality. Many Pandits visit the Valley to attend marriage ceremonies or other functions or simply as tourists. None of them was harmed or waylaid by ‘Islamist fundamentalists’.

    Makhan Lal Bhat's homecoming is an inspirational story. A reluctant migrant, Bhat, returned to his home in Kashmir after moving from Srinagar to Jammu, Delhi and Mumbai to find a foothold. Today, his family, the only from the minority community at Shankarpora in a South Srinagar suburb, is happily living among their erstwhile Muslims neighbours, some of whom share with him a common family-root. In June 1990, at the peak of militancy when all other Pandits in the neighbourhood had already left, Bhat felt scared when one evening some unidentified men tried to scale his boundary wall. The family migrated to Jammu, leaving behind their house and an established business in silk weaving. After reaching Jammu, they realized that they had nowhere to go. Most of the migrant Pandits had already arrived in the city and occupied whatever little spaces they could get. The family found itself landed in a wasteland where even a drop of water was hard to find, not to speak of a shelter. For the fear of being bitten by snakes on the ground, they spent umpteen nights on the roof tops of kothas of Muslim Gujjars. It was under such harsh conditions that a Kashmiri Muslim friend came searching for them and offered his house at Talab Tiloo to live in.

    Back home, Bhat's vacant house and that of his brother was occupied by security forces. One day, an erstwhile neighbour from Shankarpora telephoned him to convey how the presence of a paramilitary camp in the midst of residential houses had caused inconvenience to them. Bhat rushed back to Kashmir, ran from pillar to the post, used his influence with whoever mattered in the government and got the buildings vacated. A couple of years later, he decided to end his ‘exile’. The homecoming was celebrated by hosting a wazwan to which he invited his neighbours and friends. In his sixties now, Bhat has turned to spirituality. He is a believer in fate and God's control over it. He recalls hardship of living in wilderness of Janipora under an open sky where poisonous reptiles were frequent visitors, and God's mercy in the person of his Kashmiri Muslim friend who gave him keys to his house with a telephone facility in Jammu. He believes that the two communities in Kashmir have suffered alike and identifies some of his very rich Muslim acquaintances who too had to run away from Srinagar and live a broke life outside Kashmir. “If you are kind to people God will be kind to you,” sums up his philosophy of life. Situated opposite to the temple in his compound, the local mosque's signpost Jama Masjid Ahl-i-Hadith Salfia, Shankarpora trashes allegations of Islamization of names of places in Kashmir. Incidentally, the Ahl-i-Hadith or the Salafist are branded as hardcore Muslims, and Shankarpora was once considered a stronghold of militants.

    Sita Ram Sokhal is another from umpteen positive stories that people outside Kashmir rarely get to know. Before leaving Srinagar at the height of militancy, Sokhals, the owners of famous Shakti Sweets at the Regal Chowk, handed over control of the shop to their employees who managed it for 25 years until 2015 when the family returned. The erstwhile employees were reluctant to part with the shop doing an annual business of about ₹25 crore. The local traders’ association quickly swung into action and had the shop returned to Sokhals.40 Sita Ram, whose ancestors had been brought to Kashmir by Pratap Singh, gratefully acknowledges the efforts by his “Muslim brothers” in getting back his family business. He believes that there never existed in Kashmir any bad blood between Muslims and non-Muslims, not even during the peak of militancy, and that attempts to “malign Kashmiri Muslims” for the exodus of non-Muslims from the Valley were unfortunate.

    Notes and References

    1. Panun Kashmir, Homeland for Kashmiri Pandits. www.panunkashmir.org/homeland/index_prt.html

    2. Betab, “Kashmir and Minority Rights.” http://kashmirforumorg.blogspot.in/2012/01/kashmir-and-minority-rights-2.html

    3. Eraly, The First Spring: The Golden Age of India, 283. Eraly (1934–2015) was a Professor of History at the Madras Christian College, Chennai, who wrote a series of books on Indian history. He was also the founder of the Aside, a Chennai-based magazine.

    4. Ibid.

    5. Other common surnames include Shah, Kaw, Kantroo, Chonchu, Katju, Phoktu, Wangnoo, Naqeeb, Langoo, Thusoo, Malik, Masaldan, Mullah, Mushraan, Adeeb, Tankhah, Hazari, Khan, Mian, Razdan, Wazir, Bakaya, Rana, Want, Safaya, Mirza, Rafiq, Sultan, Miskeen, Munshi, Bakhshi, Batkoo, Mugloo, Badami, Mantoo, Moza, Dulloo, Cheeru, Hangloo, Wanchoo, Turkey, Aima, Gigoo, Kuchhay, Turray, Hurra, Doba, Doka, Koka, Kochak, Thoku, Mir, Zaroo, Kak, Kachroo, Tapiloo, Naqati, Durani, Gagroo and Braroo.

    6. Koul, Kashmir Then and Now, 225.

    7. Stein, Kalhana's Rajatarangini, Book I, Verse 5.

    8. Moti Lal Saqi, The Himalayan Mail, 4 October 1997.

    9. Stein, Kalhana's Rajatarangini, Book I, 43.

    10. Ibid.

    11. Ibid., Verse 306.

    12. Ibid., Chapter V, 79.

    13. Ibid., Verse 307.

    14. Chatterji, Kashmir Shaivism, 3; Sufi, Kashir, 71.

    15. Wani, Islam in Kashmir, 87.

    16. Kashmiri Pandit Network, “Hinduism in Kashmir,” Religious Practices of Kashmiri Pandits. http://ikashmir.net/religion/index.html

    17. Stein, Kalhana's Rajatarangini, Verse 117.

    18. Ibid., Verse 342–43; Kilam, A History of Kashmiri Pandits, 7.

    19. Hussain, The Wounded Paradise, 222.

    20. Ahmad, Tabaqat-i-Akbari, 655.

    21. Madhok, “Chapter 3: Hundred Years of Dogra Rule.”

    22. Ibid.

    23. Ibid.

    24. Koul, “Chapter 8: Dogra Rule.”

    25. Sender, “Introduction,” xvii.

    26. Ibid., 2.

    27. Ibid., 1–46.

    28. Ibid., 2.

    29. The Akali as reproduced in the Inqilab, Lahore, 12 August 1931.

    30. Jonaraja, Rajatarangini, 18

    31. Sumit Hakhoo, “Pandits Try to Restore Damaged Valley Temples,” The Tribune, 23 July 2015.

    32. Koul, The Kashmiri Pandit, 49.

    33. 26 Years of Exile for Kashmiri Pandits, a short film screened on the Times Now TV channel on 19 January 2016 with actor Anupam Kher as the presenter.

    34. Hakhoo, “Pandits Try to Restore Damaged Valley Temples,” The Tribune, 23 July 2015.

    35. OneIndia, 29 April 2015. http://newsr.in/n/India/754zwv293/Kashmiri-Pandits-rehabilitation-only-possible-if-homeland-is.html

    36. Lawrence, The Valley of Kashmir, 191.

    37. 26 Years of Exile for Kashmiri Pandits, a short film screened on the Times Now TV channel on 19 January 2016 with actor Anupam Kher as the presenter.

    38. Panun Kashmir, Homeland for Kashmiri Pandits. www.panunkashmir.org/homeland/index_prt.html

    39. Rashid Ahmad, The Kashmir Monitor, 21 March 2016.

    40. Greater Kashmir, 3 February 2016.



    Hindu worship in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities; aarti also refers to the songs sung in praise of a deity


    a quarter of a village inhabited by Brahmans




    honorary title given to highest scholar


    great leader


    a coin, sixteen of which made a rupee


    gold coin formerly used in Persia and India






    call for prayers




    a tribe of nomadic goatherds and shepherds


    corvee or unpaid forced labour


    local name of Kashmiri Hindus



    Brahman or Brahmin

    upper caste Hindu

    chakdari system

    a government scheme prevalent during the Dogra rule under which uncultivated or waste land was allotted on easy terms


    a traditional cot used in the Indian subcontinent


    Platanus orientalis, grown abundantly in Kashmir


    seat, a police chowki is a police post


    a watchman or a gatekeeper


    office of the Diwan or minister


    royal court


    divine language; Kalhana described Sanskrit as such




    something established or firm, path of righteousness


    a Hindu religious rest-house


    religious hospice


    Hindu endowment


    festival celebrated to commemorate Hindu god, Ram's return from 14-years of exile


    incharge of border areas


    Muslim festival



    ghar waapsi

    literally, meaning return to one's home; RSS is using the term to describe its programme of reconversion of non-Hindus who it alleges were forced to convert to Islam and Christianity in the past


    clan, descendants in an unbroken male line from a common male ancestor


    a nomadic community of shepherds


    spiritual guide


    ruler or officer


    Islamic way of slaughtering animal for food by invoking Allah's name


    government agent for revenue collection




    a term used for the right-wing Hinduism


    large ground where Eid prayers are offered


    leader of Muslim congregational prayer


    the evening meal eaten by Muslims at the sunset to break the daylong fast during the month of Ramadhan


    land grant bestowed by a ruler


    feudatory grantee


    birthday of Hindu god, Sri Krishna


    tax levied by Islamic State on adult, free and sane non-Muslim subjects in return of taking responsibility of their security; women, children, insane, elders, monks, hermits and slaves were exempted


    Hindu way of slaughtering animal for food


    oral declaration of entering into the fold of Islam


    a term used to signify the age-old composite culture of Kashmir; the term gained currency after the mass migration of Kashmiri Pandit from Kashmir




    a Muslim who cremates bodies of Kashmiri Pandits


    official class




    a donkey load




    mandatory sermon delivered by Imam on Friday or Eid prayers


    humble dwellings of nomadic Gujjars


    community kitchen




    baton charge


    phallus or stalagmite


    Kashmiri calendar in olden days


    a high ranking administrator equivalent to prime minister




    the chief priest of a temple

    Mahaparinirvana of Tathagata

    Great nirvana of the Buddha


    king or ruler


    a guide book of a Hindu shrine


    short form of maharaja








    chief cleric


    foreigners or impure, as Muslims were called by early Brahman chroniclers

    Mufti Azam

    Grand Mufti


    a Muslim warrior


    poetic symposium


    an Islamic slogan in response to which the crowd shouts Allahu Akbar (Allah is Great)


    the ruling currency of the Sikh Empire




    revenue official-in-charge of an administrative unit called niabat

    naqqar khana

    drum house or orchestra pit during ceremonies


    Hindu god


    Muslim ruler of a princely state


    solemnization of Muslim marriage


    Brahman priest who maintains genealogy of Hindu families


    an administrative unit in old times


    village revenue official


    a loose gown worn by Kashmiris during winter




    food offering made at a temple and later distributed among the devotees


    hunger strike





    pundit or pandit

    scholar of Hindu scriptures



    Raj Bhawan

    Governor's House




    ornamental wristband a Hindu girl or women on the festival of Raksha Bandhan ties on the wrist of her brother or a person that she regards as a brother


    custom, practice


    a kind of bribe charged by a Patwari




    the 10-headed ruler of Lanka (present Sri Lanka) whom the Hindu epic Ramayana describes as the king of the rakshasa or demons






    under the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, the Head of the State was known as Sadr-i-Riyasat; in 1964, through an amendment, the nomenclature was changed to Governor


    a senior administrator


    memorial built upon a cremation site


    confluence of rivers


    a government agent for revenue collection


    non-violent resistance


    persons who practise satyagraha or non-violent/civil resistance

    shahr ashob

    lament of a city; it is an Urdu phrase to describe the grief felt for a city's fall or change in its ethos


    follower of Shiva


    an agent employed by the government to keep vigil on crops lest tillers take away few grains for their use



    Sharda or Sarda

    local script used in old days in Kashmir


    Islamic code


    Shiva's abode, a religious structure

    Shiva lingam

    Shiva's stalagmite


    religious festival celebrated by Kashmiri Hindus with fervour


    reconversion to Hinduism


    chief of provincial administration


    a Hindu funeral custom, now banned, where a widow immolated herself on her husband's pyre




    Solomon's throne


    a government agent for revenue collection


    literally meaning wave; book in the contest of the Rajatarangini


    revenue official-in-charge of an administrative unit called tehsil




    horse-driven cart


    horse-driven cart driver


    Turks or Muslims


    vegetarian Hindus




    a Buddhist monastery


    brave person

    Vishnu or Visnu

    Hindu god




    chief administrator of a division


    a multi-course traditional Kashmiri cuisine served at weddings and special occasions


    nature spirit who is considered to be the custodians of treasures that are hidden in the earth and in the roots of trees






    feudal title of revenue collector of an administrative unit called zail extending between two and forty villages


    owner of large tracts of land


    midday Muslim prayer


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    About the Author

    Khalid Bashir Ahmad is an author, poet and a former Kashmir Administrative Services (KAS) officer. He has served the State Administration as Director Information and Public Relations and Secretary, J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, besides heading the departments of Libraries and Research, and Archives, Archaeology and Museums. His book Jhelum: The River Through My Backyard has added the Jhelum Factor to the history of Kashmir. His two works in Urdu poetry and prose have won the highest State literary award in 1984 and 2010.

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