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Destruction and Injustice
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Destruction and Injustice

The  Tribulations   Of   Kashmiri   Pandits


An Outline Of History of Kashmir

Fourteenth Century to Independence

Rajeev Pandit

Muslim Era

 

Islam first came to India through traders, warriors, and missionaries starting as early as the 8th century.  In the 12th century the Mongols, under Genghis Khan, brought havoc to Central Asia and part of this chaos spilled into the Kashmir Valley . Islam penetrated Kashmir in the early part of the 14th century. Through the Sufi saint Bulbul Shah  and found some acceptance.  At the same time Dulucha, a fierce Mongol, invaded the valley with an army of 60,000 and practically ended Hindu rule under Raja Sahadev.  A Ladakhi prince, Rinchin, usurped the throne in its weakened state and sought to be converted to Hinduism.  The Brahmins refused the request and so he embraced Islam instead. 

 

After his death in 1323 Rinchinís Hindu Queen Kota Rani married a nominal king, Udayana Dev, and ruled until 1338.  At Udayana's death Shah Mir wanted to marry the surviving Hindu queen who refused his overture and instead stabbed herself to death in 1339 to pave the way for the establishment of Muslim rule in Kashmir . 

 

In the middle of the 14th century, Lal Ded, a great mystic and poet, promoted Kashmiri Shaivism.  She had far-reaching influence which included acting as mentor to a Sufi saint, Nooruddin, and whose school of Sufism is called "Rishi."  Islam also spread quickly and in 1389 led to the persecution of Hindus under Sultan Sikandar, a puritan.  He banned joyous celebrations, did not listen to music, imposed jizia (taxation of non-Muslims) upon Hindus, and forbade the practice of using tilak on foreheads.  In their zeal he and his minister Saif-ud-din (a former Hindu) were responsible for the wholesale destruction of temples, shrines and idols.  Hindus were forcibly converted, and so in order to save their faith and heritage many fled the valley until there were only eleven Hindu families remaining.

 

Sikandar was replaced by his son, Shahi-Khan in 1420, or Badshah (Great King) who was an enlightened ruler and promoted religious tolerance.  Many Hindus returned to the valley.  Additional canals were built, irrigation systems were improved, and arts and crafts were promoted (such as carpet making and shawl manufacture).  Works from the Sanskrit were translated into Persian and Arabic.

Mughal and Pathan Eras

 

The Kashmir Valley became a part of the Mughal Empire under Akbar and turned into a popular summer resort.  The Mughals built a number of famous gardens such as Shalimar, Nishat, and Chashme Shahi on the banks of Dal Lake .  Under Aurangzeb, another Muslim puritan, Hindu oppression again resurfaced as he began to lose administrative control of North India . His rule was marked by anarchy and his Puritanism allowed for religious bigotry and fanaticism towards the people.  In 1752, Mughal rule collapsed in Kashmir when the Afghan brigand Ahmed Shah Abdali was asked to assume control of Kashmir by two Muslim noblemen. 

 

Kashmir now became a dependency of Kabul until 1819 and fell further down a well of darkness.  This Pathan rule of 67 years is arguably the bleakest and most tyrannical period in Kashmiri history.  They imposed a reign of terror instead of bringing stability by looting and killing indiscriminately.  Hindus and Shias were their chief victims.

 

Sikh and Dogra Eras

The Sikhs, under Maharajah Ranjit Singh, finally defeated the Afghans in 1819 and took over Kashmir for a brief period of 27 years.  Although the people were elated to be rid of the Pathans, natural calamities such as premature snowfall destroyed rice crops and resulted in famine and disease.  At the same time the British defeated the Sikhs in Punjab resulting in the Treaty of Amritsar which now gave the British rights to the Kashmir Valley .  However, they quickly sold it to Gulab Singh, the Dogra ruler, for 7.5 million rupees in 1848.  The Dogra rulers trace their lineage back to the Kshatriyas in the Mahabharata.  The British would retain right of paramountcy or control of foreign relations.

 

Gulab Singh is the only Indian ruler to carve out a state and extend India 's borders in the 19th cent.  He was a distinguished soldier and diplomat who consolidated Kashmir .  The Dogras established English civil law, built major roads, started the first colleges, and formed telegraph links in order to end the isolation of Kashmir .  In 1925, Maharajah Pratap Singh's nephew, Hari Singh, ascended the throne and ruled Kashmir through Indian Independence until 1949.  He helped to modernize the state and allowed political consciousness and political parties to flourish. 

 

As a consequence during the 1930's a legislative assembly was established where Sheikh Abdullah emerged as the most prominent leader.  He founded the Muslim Conference that was later changed to the National Conference as an attempt towards secularization. The Indian National Congress under Nehru heavily influenced Sheikh Abdullah.  Maharajah Hari Singh, the Hindu ruler, appeared to be holding out for independence around 1947 for the 86,500 square miles of this place found at India 's crown called Jammu and Kashmir.

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