Table of Contents
   About the Author
   The Abdullah Dynasty
   A Journey into History
   Kashmiri Pandits
   The Myth of Negligence
   Mortgaged Media
   Siege by Scandal
   The 'Inhuman' Rights
   The Valley of Oddity
   This Happened to KPs
   Exaggerated Reporting

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri




A Journey into History

Our ancestors remain the same though we have undergone the process of conversion to Islam," retorted a Muslim Gujjar leader from J & K State. He was reacting to a query from a Hindu Gujjar leader from Northern India about the retention of 'Gotra' (sub-caste) even after conversion to Islam. Such instances abound in Kashmir. Even Sheikh Abdullah, the tallest among the Kashmiri leaders in modern history, once said, "My ancestors were Hindus. In Kashmir we have the same blood, all are brothers and continue to have the same culture." No wonder then that one notices bearded Muslims bowing in reverence whenever they pass by any one of the numerous temples in the Valley.

However, there is a general tendency, which has intensified amazingly during the recent years - to identify Kashmir with Islamic culture, completely disregarding the fact that it has been the cradle of Hindu civilization for over 2000 years and has played a significant role in the political as well as cultural history of India. Such a misconception often leads to a growing susceptibility among uncritical minds to fall prey to the sustained campaign of falsification, unleashed by fundamentalist forces with the sinister design of creating a general amnesia about Kashmir's deep-rooted religious and cultural links with India. These forces are out to give credence to the assumption that the history of civilization in Kashmir actually started with its Islamisation in the 14th century and that the sylvan valley has always been a part of the West Asian-Semitic-Islamic world rather than that of India.

In the wake of such onslaught of propaganda, it is forgotten that since the dawn of history, Kashmir has been looked upon with awe and admiration for high-level intellectual attainments of its men and women. Even today, in most parts of India, Brahmins - in particular those from the Saraswat clan - make a symbolic gesture towards Kashmir as a seat of learning by chanting the hymn as a part of their morning oblation: 'Namaste Sharda Devi Kashmir-purvasini . . . (I bow before the Goddess Sharda who hails from Kashmir . . .).'

It also needs to be asserted here that the characteristic Kashmiri sense of values and ideals - or the Kashmiri ethos, to use a cliché - that found expression in the sayings of the great medieval saint-poets of Kashmir such as Lalleshwari (Lal Ded) and Sheikh Nuruddin Rishi has been shaped by the thought-process evolved over the centuries by the Hindu mind. In fact, the best that Kashmir has contributed in the realm of thought and culture bears an unmistakable and indelible stamp of the genius of its Hindu ancestors.

Culturally, Kashmir has been an inseparable part of the Indian subcontinent from the time of Vedas, perhaps even before it. The Rig Vedic Indians were fully acquainted with the Valley as a geographical entity and sang hymns to its rivers in the famous Nadi Sukta of the Rig Veda. The Kashmiri language itself has evolved from the Vedic dialect after passing through the Prakrit and Apabhransha stages like other modern Indo-Aryan languages. It retains, to even this day, the indelible traces of it in its phonetic and morphological structure, in spite of deliberate attempts at overwhelming it with words borrowed directly from Perso-Arabic sources.

Noteworthy references to Kashmir and its people are found in the Mahabharata, particularly in the Vana Parva, in which Pandavas have been shown to cross the Valley during their 12-year-long wandering. Panini, the father of Sanskrit grammar, has described Kashmir and its traditions in such vivid details that many scholars are inclined to believe that he belonged to this region.

Mahrishi Charak, the scholar-father of Ayurveda - indigenous system of medicine - too, was a Kashmiri. Kalidasa's description of the Himalayan region - a most lyrical narration in the world of poetry - is so intimate that it is believed he too may have been born in Kashmir. Some scholars have even sought to establish the poet-ruler Matrigupta, who got the throne of Kashmir as a gift from the King of Ujjain, as none else than Kalidasa himself. Mohan Rakesh, the renowned Hindi playwright, based his famous play Ashadh ka ek din on this very assumption, taking his inspiration from yet another great Hindi playwright, Jaya Shankar Prasad. Dr. Bhagwat Sharan Upadhaya, an authority on Asian culture, is emphatic about Kalidasa having been born in Kashmir.

The moot point that underlines these assumptions and assertions is that Kashmir was considered to be a great seat of learning and a centre of intellectual activity throughout the ages and was treated with exceptional reverence because of this factor, till Islam overran it. Even Krishna showed awareness of the spiritual and intellectual merits of this land when out of reverence for it, he gave the throne of Kashmir to Yashomati, the widowed queen of Damodara. This is the note on which Kalhana, the great historian, begins his account of Kashmir, taking the cue from the Nilamata Purana, a fifth or sixth century work that throws significant light on the religious, cultural, social and political life in ancient Kashmir.

The Nilamata Purana describes the Valley's genesis from the waters, a fact corroborated by prominent geologists, and shows how the very name of the land was derived from the process of desiccation - Ka means water and Shimir means to desiccate. Hence, Kashmir stands for a land desiccated from water. There is also a theory which takes Kashmir to be a contraction of 'Kashyapmir' or 'Kashyapmeru', the sea or mountain of Kashyapa, the sage who is credited with having drained the waters of the primordial lake 'Satisar', that Kashmir was before it was reclaimed. The Nilamata Purana gives the name 'Kashmira' to the Valley considering it to be an embodiment of Uma and it is the Kashmir that the world knows today. The Kashmiris, however, call it Kashir, which has been derived phonetically from Kashmir, as pointed out by Aurel Stein in his introduction to the Rajatarangini.

Hailed by Buhler as a real mine of information regarding the legends and sacred places of Kashmir, the Nilamata Purana is a virtual encyclopaedia on life in ancient and early medieval Kashmir. It shows Kashmiris to be 'an ever sportive and joyful people, enjoying continuous festivities'. "Living amidst sylvanic surroundings they were in tune with nature and played, danced and sang to express their joys, to mitigate their pains, to please their gods and to appease their demons," as Dr. Ved Kumari Ghai puts it.

Coming from mytho-history to history, the great historian Kalhana has recorded how Kashmir became a part of the Mauryan empire under Ashoka who founded the old city of Srinagar (Shrinagri as he called it) and built 500 Buddhist monasteries, giving away entire Kashmir as a gift to the Buddhist Sangha. It was, however, Buddha himself who had deputed his celebrated apostle Majjhantika to spread the doctrine in Kashmir along with 500 other monks in the beginning of the Christian era. He chose to settle down in the land. According to the local belief, Buddha himself visited Kashmir.

Ashoka settled 5,000 Buddhist monks in the Valley and gifted it away to the Sangha to be used for pursuing higher studies and spiritual practices. Several races entered Kashmir later. The historical evidences point out the settlement of immigrants of Persian, Greek and Turkish descent, the latter coming before and during Kanishka's rule.

When Kashmir was under the influence of Buddhism, hundreds of 'Bhikshus' went to distant lands to preach the new religion. In return, a large number of Buddhist scholars came from Tibet, China and Central Asia, most of whom settled in the Valley permanently.

The ethnography of the region surrounding the Valley is clearly traced in the Rajatarangini. In the south and west the adjacent hill regions were occupied by the Khasas. Their settlement extended in a semi-circle from Kishtwar to the Jhelum Valley in the west. In the north of the Jhelum valley, as far as Muzaffarabad, the Bombas were the neighbours of the Khasas (later Khakhas). The upper Kishenganga Valley, above the famous shrine of Sharda Devi, was inhabited by the Dards. Megashenese already knew them to be in the Upper Indus region.

Ashoka died in about B.C. 232. His son, Jaluka, was less enthusiastic about Buddhism In fact, he was a devotee of Shiva. He cleared the land of Malechas (foreigners), who were probably Indo-Greek hordes and had made incursions into the Valley. After a reign of 60 years, he was succeeded by Damodara, who also supported Shaivism. Damodar Udar, a city founded on a plateau on the outskirts of Srinagar, is still known by the same name. The Srinagar aerodrome now lies there in its place.

Buddhism continued to flourish in Kashmir, notwithstanding the loss of royal patronage. There was a revival of the faith during the reigns of the three Kushan (Indo-Scythian) kihgs - Kanishka, Hushka and Jushka. Their identities have been confirmed by coins and manuscripts unearthed in excavations as well as continued existence of cities of Kanishkapur, Hushkapur and Jushkapur. These monarchs were also great builders of temples and viharas (monasteries). These monuments bear out the great attainments of Kashmiris in architecture and sculpture.

Kashmir figured prominently in the history of Buddhism during Kanishka's time: A historical council of Buddhist divines and theologians was held in a monastery near Srinagar. The council accorded a superior status to the Mahayana school which was thus born in Kashmir. Its message was taken from there by scholar-monks and missionaries. The commentaries were deposited by Kanishka in a special stupa.

The sway of Buddhism did not last long in Kashmir. The traditional Brahmanic learning, in the form of the Shaivite sect of Hinduism, was revived in the reign of Abhimanyu I. He founded a town named Abhimanyupur now known as Bamyun (near Srinagar). There he built a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Gonanda III, the founder of the Gonanda dynasty, and five of his successors, initiated an anti-Buddhist campaign, which reached its climax in the reign of Nara, the sixth in the lineage. Four more rulers followed but only their names are known.

The white Hun, Mihirkula, seized the throne of Kashmir in 515 A.D. He is still remembered for his acts of gross cruelty. He favoured Shaivism at the cost of Buddhism. He built a shrine of Shiva near Srinagar. The kings who followed him were virtuous. One of the descendants, Gopaditya, is said to have built the temple on the Gopa Hill, now called the Shankaracharya Hill, in Srinagar.

Another king worth mentioning - Parvasena II (who conquered Kashmir in A.D. 580, the date confirmed by Hieun Tsang), founded Pravarsen (shortened to Pravarapura), the site of the present city of Srinagar. He died after a rule of 60 years.

The reign of Durlabhavardhana (A.D. 625-661), who established the Karkota dynasty, is borne out by his coins. Hieun Tsang visited the country during his rule and found remarkable religious tolerance prevailing everywhere. Buddhism existed side by side with Hinduism. Pratapaditya II (A.D.661-711), the son of Durlabhavardhana, ascended the throne after his father's death. He founded a town, Pratapapura, now called Tapar. It is situated 25 km to the west of Srinagar. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Chandrapida (A.D. 711-719), who is mentioned in the Chinese annals. Renowned for acts of piety and justice, Chandrapida and his queen founded a number of temples. The rule of Tarapida, the second son of Pratapaditya, for four years (A.D. 719-724) was marked by his cruel and oppressive deeds.

The third son of Pratapaditya, namely, Muktapida, then ascended the throne. Better known as Lalitaditya, his reign (A.D. 724-761) was marked by conquests over a considerable portion of the Indian mainland and large tracts of the Central Asian regions. After subjugating the principalities around the kingdom of Kashmir, he is reputed to have conquered Punjab, Kannauj, Tibet, Badakshan and nearby territories. Kalhana records that during Lalitaditya's rule, his victories were annually celebrated. Al Beruni remarks: "The second of Chaitra is a great festival day in Kashmir in honour of victory of its king over the Turks." Historians have compared him with his contemporaries, Charlmagne the Great and Harun-al-Rashid. He ushered in an era of national glory and prosperity.

Buddhism and Hinduism, the two prominent religions of his time equally received Lalitaditya's patronage. He constructed temples dedicated to the Buddha as well as for Shiva, Vishnu and other Hindu gods. He liberally patronised men of letters. Many famous learned men of India and other countries adorned his court. They included great Sanskrit scholars like Vakpatiraja and Bhavabhuti. Lalitaditya was a great builder. He built the world famous temple at Martand (dedicated to the Sun), whose impressive ruins bear testimony to the splendour of those days. Similarly, his capital city (Parihaspura - now called Paraspur - near Shadipur), presents a testimony of the massive architectural works. He also built towns to commemorate his foreign expeditions. The Martand temple set the model for the Kashmiri Hindu architecture.

Though his military exploits made Lalitaditya a hero to Kashmiris, his works for public welfare were no less outstanding. The blocking passages of the Jhelum were cleared at Baramulla and reclaimed to abate the perennial threat of floods during his time. He also constructed a number of irrigation canals. Lalitaditya was equally fond of good things in life. Once, in an inebriated state, he ordered the beautiful city of Pravarsena to be burnt down. His wise ministers managed to save the town by putting haystacks on fire instead. Not satisfied with his conquests, Lalitaditya set out on new conquests and lost his life during one of them.

Lalitaditya was followed by a succession of weak kings. The power and prestige of the Karkota dynasty were on the wane, until his grandson, Jayapida, ascended the throne towards the end of the 8th century A.D. He ruled for 31 years. He, too, went on expeditions, defeating the king of Kannauj, among others. He built a city, Jayapura, near the present Sumbal. A patron of art and letters, Jayapida himself studied Sanskrit grammar. Among his ministers was Vamana, one of the two authors of Kashikavrtti - the famous commentary on Panini's well-known Sanskrit grammar.

The following half-century witnessed the installation and dethronement of puppet kings. The intrigues of rival factions at the court, which resulted in corruption in high places and oppression of the people, ceased with the coming to power of Avantivarman (A.D. 855-883), who founded the Utpala dynasty. His peaceful and just reign was a period of consolidation as Kashmir once again attained great heights in the realms of philosophy, literature, art and architecture.

Batta Kallata, the pupil of Vasagupta, the founder of the Spandasastra branch of Shaiva philosophy in Kashmir; Kavi Ratnakar, the author of the Haravijaya; and Anandavardhana, the author of Dhvanyaloka were among the great scholars and poets who enjoyed Avantivarman's liberal patronage. The town, Sopore (then Suyyapura) - which Suyya, the engineer in the court of Avantivarman, built on the banks of the Jhelum, commemorates his name. Suyya also changed the course of the Jhelum so that it flowed through the Wular Lake, thus further relieving the congestion that used to cause floods.

Avantivarman is still remembered for founding the city of Avantipura, 17 km from Srinagar on the banks of the Jhelum and called by the same name today Before he ascended the throne, he had built there the shrine of Vishnu Avantisvamin. During his rule, he constructed a temple dedicated to Shiva Avanteshwara. Their ruins, an the Jammu- Srinagar highway, are among the most imposing monuments of ancient Kashmir, ranking next only to the Martand Temple.

Avantivarman's son, Sankaravarman (A.D. 883-902), had to free himself from the claimants to the throne. He led foreign expeditions to Trisarta (the present Kangra) and Gurjara. These expeditions depleted the royal treasury and Sankaravarman resorted to fiscal exactions and plunder of temples. He is ingloriously remembered for introducing begar - forced and unpaid labour - for transport and other purposes, which continued, in one form or another, until the beginning of the 20th century.

From his reign onward, the record is one of a long succession of struggles between the rulers and usurping uncles, cousins, brothers, ministers, nobles and soldiers. During the tenth century, the kingship changed hands as many as 18 times. Tantrine, a military caste of uncertain origin, rose to become a power that made and unmade kings. Damaras, the landed aristocracy, also had a big say in the affairs of the State. The people of the Valley secured a temporary respite from civil wars during the short rule of Yasaksara (A.D.939-948), who was elected to kingship by an assembly of Brahmins.

The next monarch - after two kings - Kshemagupta (A.D. 950-958) was a debauch. His wife, Didda, the daughter of Simharaja, the chief of Lohara, became regent after his death, placing his infant son, Abhimanyu (A.D. 958-972), on the throne. The reins of the state remained in her hands during this and other regency periods, until she ascended the throne herself in A.D. 981. Altogether, she ruled for 50 years, until A.D. 1003, wielding power with strength and curbing rebellions with courage and intrepidity. Didda possessed a lust for power which was compounded only by her political sagacity, courage and administrative ability. The Kashmiris still use the term 'Didda' (or Ded) for mother or a lady who is highly regarded.

Her nephew, Sangramaraja (A.D.1003-28) ascended the throne after Didda's death, thus establishing the rule of the Lohara dynasty. Three centuries of the reign of the two Lohara dynasties comprised of petty court intrigues, unrelieved by any notable achievements. It was only King Harsha (A.D.1089-1 l01), the last king of the first Lohara dynasty, who turned out to be a striking figure. A man of exceptional prowess, he was a curious combination of a poet and a Bohemian par excellence. His luxurious living and bouts of merry-making caused a great depletion of royal treasury. Kalhana, whose father had served at the court of Harsha, had observed the unseemly happenings for himself. Harsha was displaced by his brother, Uchala, with the help of the Damaras - the feudal landlords.

Uchala, who belonged to another line of the Loharas, thus founded the second Lohara dynasty. He was killed by traitors (December 8,1111), and succeeded by his brother Sussala (A.D. 1112-1120). The palace rot and intrigues continued even in the reign of Jayasimha (the son of Sussala). During his rule (A.D.1128-1155) Kalhana wrote the Rajatarangini.

The six rulers who followed Jayasimha, covering a period of about a-century-and-a-half, witnessed a period of further decline, marked by a succession of rebellious and internecine disturbances. According to Jonaraja's chronicle, Hindu rule maintained itself in Kashmir for nearly two centuries.

By the time Sahadeva (A.D.1301-20) ascended the throne, Islam had entered the Valley and many people had accepted the new faith. Sahadeva, a weak-minded king, fled to Kishtwar when Dulchu - a Tartar chief from Central Asia, said to be a descendant of Chenghiz Khan - invaded the Valley in A.D. 1319. His minister, Ramachandra, aided by his protégé, Shah Mir, a Muslim adventurer from Swat, consolidated the affairs of the state. He was also aided by Rinchin, a fugitive prince from Tibet. He was a Buddhist but later embraced Islam. He was assisted by Kota Rani, Ramachandra's daughter, who had married Sahadeva. Dulchu's hordes were routed.

Ramachandra assumed the title of king. Rinchin rose in revolt, defeated and killed Ramachandra. He thus became the first Muslim King of Kashmir. He courted and married Kota Rani. With her counsel, he justly conducted the affairs of the state. Shah Mir became his minister, serving him faithfully. Rinchin ruled for three years and died in A.D. 1320, after being injured in an uprising led by, the brother of Sahadeva, Udyanadeva. Kota Rani married Udyanadeva, who became the ruler of Kashmir.

Like Saha deva, Udyanadeva also fled Kashmir, when Achala invaded the Valley. Kota Rani stayed on and organised public resistance. Using a clever stratagem, she defeated Achala and killed him. Udyanadeva returned to the capital, but he was, henceforth, a king in name only. Kota Rani was the undisputed ruler of the kingdom. She resorted to force to curb warlords and rebellious ministers. When Udyanadeva died in A.D. 1338, she ascended the throne.

Shah Mir, who was bidding his time to seize the throne, staged a rebellion after five months of Kota's rule. Though she was assisted by the Lavanya tribe, Kota Rani lost after a long-drawn battle. She surrendered on the explicit condition that she would share the bed and throne with Shah Mir.

Clad in a rich costume, Kota Rani entered the boudoir of Shah Mir. Before he could draw her into his arms, she stabbed herself. Her death spelled the end of the Hindu rule in Kashmir.

With the advent of Islam in Kashmir there was an influx of a large number of Sufis and Syeds in the Valley. More than 700 of his followers were settled in Kashmir by the Sufi saint Shah Hamadan in the 14th century. This was followed by a large influx of Syeds from Central Asia and Persia during and after Timur's invasion of Northern India. Believed to be descendants of the Prophet, they were treated with great respect by the Muslim rulers and their subjects. They gained enormous influence and oppressed the people. Ultimately, when their oppression became unbearable, the people of Kashmir rose under General Malik Tazi Butt and most of them were thrown out. But still a large chunk of the Syed immigrants settled permanently in the Valley.

The Muslim rule in Kashmir commenced on a favourable note. Shah Mir's regime (A.D. 1339-42), though brief, was a soothing balm on an aching body. He was succeeded by his grandson Shihab-ud-Din (A.D. 1354-73) who was also benevolent. Hindal, the younger brother of Sultan Shihab-ud-Din, succeeded him under the title of Qutab-ud-Din (A.D. 1373-89) It was during his time that Syed Ali Hamadani came to Kashmir and strict Islamic practices began to be adopted. Islamic zeal climbed fanatical heights under the next ruler, Sultan Sikandar (A.D. 1389-1413), who acquired notoriety and the title of But-Shikan (destroyer of idols).

A relentless campaign for conversion to Islam was launched under the charge of the Sultan's Chief Minister, Malik Saif-ud-Din. He was a first generation convert. His name was Suha Bhatta, before his conversion to Islam. His zeal knew no bounds. During this period, a large number of sufi saints and Islamic scholars visited Kashmir from Persia and Central Asia. They contributed their might in spreading the influence of Islam in the Valley. His successor Sultan Ali Shah, who was his son, pursued his father's policies. It is said that in the two decades of repression only eleven Hindu families somehow managed to retain their identities and survive in the Valley.

However, the next Sultan, Zain-ul-Abidin (A.D.1420-70), turned out to be the most benevolent ruler that Kashmir has known. His reign, following that of Sikandar and Ali Shah, was, in the words of historian Srivara: "like the cooling sandal paste after the heat of summer in a desert had departed." He used to be referred, out of affection, as Bud Shah (the great King). But his sons proved unworthy of their illustrious father. The fortunes of the Sultanate in Kashmir began to decline rapidly. The next 120 years saw only intrigues and conspiracies.

It was under these unsettled conditions that Mirza Haider Dughlat, a Mughal General, entered the Valley. He was in the service of Humayun. He had moved in November 1540 with only 400 soldiers, but met practically with no resistance. He ruled the Valley for the next eleven years (A.D.1541-51). He provided a welcome respite to the inhabitants. The local factions, however, returned to the scene following his death. A section of the Kashmiri nobility approached Akbar with the request that he should annex Kashmir.

Akbar himself visited Kashmir in A.D. 1589 and established complete control over it. The last two Chak rulers, Yusuf Shah and his son Yaqub Shah, who were defeated by Akbar, deserve mention. The romance of Yusuf Shah with Habba Khatoon, known also as Zooni the moon, has become the saga of Kashmir's literary and cultural history. She had a humble background. Her husband maltreated her. Her beauty and her melodious songs both, drove Yusuf Shah to such an extent that he manipulated her divorce to marry her. She was also a gifted poetess.

The Mughal Army had little difficulty in entering Srinagar in A.D. 1586. Abul Fazal, the court historian of Akbar, recorded in the Ain-i-Akbari: "On all the sides, mountains, which raise their heads to heaven, act as sentinels. Though there are six or seven roads, yet in all of them there are places where, if some old women rolled down stones, the bravest of the men could not pass. On this account, former princes did not think of conquering it and prudence turned them away from such a wish." But this natural fortress fell to Akbar without much resistance. The defenders themselves joined the invaders.

In A.D. 1589, Kashmir became a province of the Mughal empire. It was ruled through a Governor, known as the Subedar. Peace prevailed. It became a hub of Central Asian trade. Akbar again visited the Valley in A.D. 1598 and A.D. 1601. The Mughals built two roads over the Pir Panchal and Jhelum Valley passes.

However, it was during the reigns of Jahangir and Shah Jahan - successors of Akbar - when Kashmir flourished. Besides order and stability, they brought elements of leisure and festivity in the depressing ambience of the last days of the Sultanate. Thomas Moore writes in Lalla Rukh: "All love and light/Visions by day and feast by night".

Aurangzeb (A.D. 1658-1707), who succeeded his father Shahjahan, too administered Kashmir efficiently. During his long reign of 49 years, Kashmir saw as many as 14 Governors. They generally ruled well but one of them, Iftikhar Khan (A.D.1671-75), persecuted Kashmiri Pandits who approached the ninth Sikh Guru, Teg Bahadur. They complained, "We suffer great atrocities, sacred threads (janeus) are forcibly taken off our persons. Cows are killed." The Guru consoled them and said, "Go and tell the Mughal rulers that if they converted Tegh Bahudur they would all voluntarily embrace Islam." This infuriated the Mughal court and led to Guru's martyrdom.

"Agar qahat-ur-rijal uftad
Az an seh mihr kuamjui
Awwal Khumbu, duiam Afghan, soyum bazat Kashmiri.
Zeh Khumbu hila me ayad
Zeh Afghan kina me ayad
Zah Kashmiri na me ayad bajuz anduh wa dilgiri"

This was the reputation of Kashmiris at the barracks-level, and it was not a pretty sight. The song in Persian, popularised by the Mughal armies sent by Akbar, is caustic. It says that even if you are suffering from widespread famine, do not expect any help from these people; the Kumbus, who will cheat you by their cunning; the Afghans, who will only spite you; and the Kashmiris, who will only narrate their own sob stories in response and end up trying to extract something from you rather than give you anything. Even today an average Indian Muslim despises a Kashmiri by recollecting the same couplet.

During the Muslim rule, scores of Sufis visited Kashmir and left indelible imprints of their mysticism. One of them was known as Pir Pandit Padshah. Even the puritan Aurangzeb bowed before the powers of the Hindu pir and conferred a high title on him.

The Mughal empire began to crumble following the death of Aurangzeb. This had its impact on the Valley too, which once again became a hotbed of intrigues, violence and bloodshed. It was in the midst of such chaotic conditions that the local leaders invited Ahmad Shah Abdali to invade Kashmir and establish his rule. He seized the opportunity and sent a strong force in A.D.1753 under Abdul Khan Isk Aquasi. The last Mughal Govemor - Alaquli Khan - had been, in the meantime, displaced by a local upstart, Abdul Qasim Khan. The Afghan General defeated Qasim and established Afghan rule in Kashmir.

The nobles who had approached Akbar with the plea to annex Kashmir made a good judgment. Kashmir was restored its peace and tranquility for about 120 years. It was only after the disintegration of the Mughal empire that misrule returned to Kashmir. But those who invited the Afghan ruler did have no inclination that they were really calling a barbarous horde to their garden of nature. Virtually jumping from the frying pan into the fire, Kashmiris groaned under the tyrannical yoke of Afghans, who ruled for 67 years. The regime was cruel and barbarous, 'one of brutal tyranny unrelieved by good work, chivalry or honour' (Lawrence).

Oppression was the order of the day. And all Kashmiris, whether Hindu or Muslim were treated alike. Jabbar Khan - the last Afghan Governor - however, persecuted the Hindus relentlessly. A Pandit nobleman, Birbal Dhar, unable to see any longer the torment of Kashmiris, approached Maharaja Ranjit Singh for help and provided him with valuable information about the strength and deployment of Jabbar Khan's forces. Ranjit Singh had earlier made two unsuccessful attempts to capture Kashmir, once in 1812 and again in 1814. This time success greeted him. The Sikh forces, under the able command of Misser Dewan Chand, defeated Jabbar Khan at Shopiyan on July 15, 1819 and triumphantly marched into the capital the next day. Thus ended a 67- year-long nightmare for Kashmir.

The Sikh rule lasted for only 27 years and saw ten Governors . Barring Governor Kirpa Ram, the Sikh rule in Kashmir was far from benign or just. Kashmiris as a class were despised. With the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839, indiscipline and instability spread all over his kingdom. The last Governor, Imam-ud-din, was made to surrender possession of Kashmir to Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu in 1846 in pursuance of the Treaty of Amritsar.

There were three principal actors - the British, the Dogras and the Sikhs - on the stage of north-western India at the time of the death of Ranjit Singh. A tense drama of struggle was enacted for the next seven years. The British were modern, scientifically organised, far-sighted and clear in their imperial objectives. The Dogras were hardy, ambitious, feudal, and ill-equipped militarily, but had the good fortune of being led at that time by a sound, sagacious and experienced leader. The Sikhs were martial, brave with a strong army but reckless, ill-disciplined, riven with factions and jealousies and virtually leaderless. Under the circumstances, complete success of the British in attaining their objectives was not surprising. Gulab Singh realistically accepted the position of 'subordinate alliance' to the British and in the process secured a vast princely state free from the vagaries of the Lahore Durbar. The Sikhs lost all their power and position which they had built over the past 50 years.

After the defeat of the Sikhs, two separate treaties were executed. The Treaty of Lahore - which incorporated the terms of settlement between the Sikhs and the British Government - was signed on March 9, 1846. A week later, on March 16, a separate treaty, known as the Treaty of Amritsar, was signed between Raja Gulab Singh and the British Government. In the first treaty, the Sikhs ceded certain areas to the British Indian Government on account of their inability to pay the indemnity of Rs 1.5 crore demanded by the British. By virtue of the second treaty, the British Government transferred "forever in independent possession" some of the ceded areas, including Kashmir, because of Gulab Singh's willingness to pay only Rs 75 lakh out of the total amount of indemnity demanded by the British. Thus Kashmir was passed on to the Dogras in consequence of the terms of the treaties and not in consequenoe of a 'sale deed'.

F. Younghusband wrote: "Surprise has often been expressed that when this lovely land had actually been ceded to us, after a hard and strenuous campaign, we should ever have parted with it for a paltry sum of three-quarters of a million sterling." But the British had a subtle and long term purpose. This is borne out by a dispatch dated March 19,1846 from Governor-General Lord Hardinge to the East India Company. It states: "I request your attention to the treaty made with the Maharaja Gulab Singh, by which a Rajput principality of the hill districts has been constructed, extending from the Rabi to the Indus, and including the province of Kashmir. The Maharaja is declared by the treaty independent of the Lahore State and under the protection of the British Government. As it was of utmost importance to weaken the Sikh nation before the Government could be re-established, I considered the appropriation of this part of the ceded territory to be the most expedient measure I could devise for that purpose, by which a Rajput dynasty will act as a counterpoise against the power of a Sikh prince, the son of the late Ranjit Singh, and both will have a common interest in resisting attempts on the part of any Mohammaden power to establish an independent state on this side of the Indus, or ever to occupy Peshawar." The Dogra dynasty lasted a little over hundred years. The period saw four Maharajas - Gulab Singh (1846-57); Ranbir Singh (1857-85); Partap Singh (1885-1925); and Hari Singh (1925-52). But the dynasty was always at the mercy of the British Government.

On account of the pressure of the British Government and also on his own initiative, the Maharaja undertook constitutional reforms on a moderate scale. In the meantime, there were serious riots on July 13, 1931, outside the Srinagar Jail in which 21 persons were killed. In 1934, the Maharaja further promulgated another Constitutional Act which introduced a diarchy. It also provided for a 75-member Legislative Assembly (Praja Sabha), including 37 elected members. While the State was witnessing limited constitutional reforms, the freedom movement in India was gathering momentum. The Indian National Congress and the Muslim League had emerged on the scene. The developments had its echo in J&K where a number of young men had returned with social and political awakening following higher education at Lahore and Aligarh.

In 1932, a political organisation by the name of Jammu & Kashmir Muslim Conference was founded, and Sheikh Abdullah was elected its first president. It began with modest demands. Its main objectives were to work for social, economic and cultural betterment of Muslims and to secure for them a large share in civil services and Army jobs. In 1938-39, the Muslim Conference was renamed as 'All Jammu & Kashmir National Conference' which opened its membership to all classes, irrespective of religion.

M. A. Jinnah, who visited the State in 1944 on the invitation of the National Conference, exhorted the Muslims to come under the Muslim Conference (which was associated with the Muslim League). He did not even spare Mirwaiz Maulvi Yusuf Shah, whom he called a "rotten egg." He told the maulvi, "I advise you to remain aloof from politics. In Kashmir, we want a leader, and not a mulla".

The National Conference under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah launched the 'Quit Kashmir Movement' on May 10, 1946. Jinnah labelled it as 'an agitation carried on by a few malcontents who were out to create disorderly conditions in the State'. Jinnah's outbursts in 1944 and observations on the Quit Kashmir Movement must have convinced the Sheikh that his political future would be weak if the State joined Pakistan.

Mirwaiz Maulvi Yusuf Shah fled to Pakistan. Later in 1953, his teenaged nephew - Maulvi Farooq - was installed as the Mirwaiz on the initiative of the then Prime Minister of Kashmir, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad.

Discussing the forces and actors on the eve of Indian Independence, Jagmohan wrote: "A number of forces were operating on the political firmament of the State. There was the National Conference, headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. It dominated the Valley but had only limited influence in Jammu and Ladakh. It had developed close rapport with the leaders of the Indian National Congress, particularly Jawaharlal Nehru, but its equation with the Muslim League was marked by hostility. Mirwaiz Maulvi Yusuf Shah, who had a wild and fanatical following in the old areas of Srinagar city, was antagonistic both to the National Conference and the Congress. Then, there was the Muslim Conference which had little following in the Valley but had acquired rapid strength amongst the Muslims of the Jammu region during the last two years on account of its ideological affinity with the Muslim League, which had the potential of spreading its influence in the Valley also. Voices for independent Kashmir were also being raised here and there. The Maharaja was yet another force. The Dogra Rajputs of Jammu considered him their own kith and kin. The relations between him on the one hand and Sheikh Abdullah and Pandit Nehru on the other were marked by mutual distrust and dislike. None of the three leaders was able to rise above his pride and prejudices while taking vital decisions in regard to the future of the State. All these forces and actors were soon to play their part in the first act of the tragic Kashmir drama. The Maharaja was indecisive. Jinnah was impatient. Pandit Nehru was caught in between his idealism and the stark realities of the situation. Sheikh Abdullah with streaks of megalomania and duplicity embedded deep in the layers of his mind and with Jinnah's doors closed to him, was nursing secret ambitions to carve out a Sheikhdom for himself and his family. No wonder, there was consequently confusion and inconsistency on the stage."

Such frequent aberrations by the rulers and politicians, in power, in the history of Kashmir, led to the persecution of Kashmiri Pandits - the aborigines - from time to time.

Crescent over Kashmir



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World Kashmiri Pandit Conference 1993 Panun Kashmir
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