The Poplar and the Chinar: Kashmir in a Historical Outline

The Poplar and the Chinar: Kashmir in a Historical Outline

by Subhash Kak

Louisiana State University Baton Rouge, LA 70803-5901
Published in International Journal of Indian Studies, vol 3, 1993, pp. 33-61

The paper presents the recent militancy in Kashmir in a historical context. The policies of the Government of India that have contributed to the alienation of the different religious communities of the State are analyzed. The militancy is seen as an attempt by the fundamentalists to wean the Kashmiri Muslims away from their heritage of Rishi Islam that includes elements of Shaivism.

Keywords : Kashmir, Indian politics, quotas, Islamic militancy, terrorism.

Insurgency and Terror

The middle of 1989 saw the beginning of a campaign of terror Subhash Kakagainst the Kashmiri minorities by Muslim fundamentalists and an insurgency against the Indian government. Within a year hundreds of selective and random murders forced nearly all the Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs, who comprise less than 10 percent of the population of the Vale, to leave their homes for refuge in the Jammu province and in Delhi.

The Jammu and Kashmir State is a union of different ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. There are groups in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir who have sought independence or a union with Pakistan. The terror then represents a plan to eliminate minorities that may not wish to break Kashmir's ties with India.

There are several Muslim groups at work now with their own agendas. Not all of them espouse violence and neither are all focused on political aims. It would be wrong, therefore, to call the events in Kashmir as a struggle for freedom. As in a play of shadows across a silk curtain, understanding the recent events of Kashmir requires a broad knowledge of the plot and considerable imagination. The main actors in this drama are the governments of India and Pakistan and the various Muslim factions in the valley of Kashmir. The roles of the Indian and the Pakistani governments are relatively clear. The Indian government claims the territory of the State under the control of Pakistan, but Nehru and his successor governments have let it be known that it would be willing to accept the actual line of control as the international border. Pakistan covets the Vale of Kashmir since it has a Muslim majority, and Pakistan was shaped out of India in 1947 from the Muslim majority regions. The Muslim leadership of the Kashmir valley has in the past four decades insisted on a certain isolation from the rest of the Indian Union. This policy has been made a shibboleth by many Indian national, left-wing parties for a belief in secularism.

India and Pakistan have fought four wars for the control of the valley. In the first war, during 1947-8, the fighting was confined to the State. The second war in 1965 became a general conflict. The third war in 1971 began over the revolt in the eastern wing of Pakistan but eventually engulfed Kashmir. The most recent war has been fought by proxy through agents by Pakistan in Kashmir. It started in 1989 and is still continuing.

No systematic studies of Kashmiri Islam have been carried out. But its situation is very similar to that of Indonesian Islam, and one might use the analysis of Clifford Geertz (1960) and successors (Hefner 1985, Kipp and Rodgers 1987) to understand its dynamics. We then have the classification of orthodox , traditional , and karkun (urban, State employees) to parallel the labels of santri, abangan, priyayi for Javanese Islam. The interesting aspect of this classification is the fact that the karkun (or the priyayi in Java) has an ethos outside the main religious framework. In Java the priyayi are Muslims who hold on secretly to the Hindu-Buddhist values, whereas in Kashmir the karkun have generally been the Hindus of the valley. In other words, if the orthodox are the sayyids and the mullahs , the traditional the peasants and the craftsmen, then the karkun are the administrators, or the secular gentry. This classification is naturally a great simplification, but it provides important insights.

Recent Kashmiri history can be examined in terms of the dynamics between these three groups. So long as Kashmir was isolated, the three groups lived in a certain harmony amongst themselves. But from time to time forces from within and outside have threatened this equilibrium. The prosperity of the past four decades and modernization have spread the karkun and secular ideals within the Islamic community. The orthodox group has felt challenged by this phenomenon. This has stoked the fires within Kashmiri Islam of the long-standing struggle between the champions of the orthodox variety of doctrinaire Islam and the vast majority of adherents who subscribe to a popular religion that is heavily based on the native pre-Islamic traditions. The groups spearheading the current movement in Kashmir seek to steer the population away from its Hindu roots.

This struggle for the heart and soul of the Kashmiri Muslim against the insidious and growing karkun culture explains the fury and intensity of the militants. The orthodox have sought a revolution that has shown no mercy. So if the insurgency has been against the Indian government and the Kashmiri Hindus, it has also been directed against the dominant religious tradition of the Kashmiri Muslims themselves.

The State of Jammu and Kashmir and the Enchanted Vale

Before the partition of the State at the end of the 1947-9 war between India and Pakistan, it consisted of the Vale of Kashmir, the province of Jammu, the districts of Ladakh and Baltistan, and the Gilgit agency. The inhabitants of the Gilgit region and the Kashmir valley speak languages that are classed as belonging to the Dardic family of the Indo-Aryan language family; in Jammu Dogri, of the Indo-Aryan family, predominates; and in Ladakh and Baltistan the language is a variant of Tibetan. From the point of view of religion also the State presents a mosaic. Gilgit, Kashmir, and Baltistan are predominantly Muslim; Jammu is likewise Hindu, and Ladakh is Buddhist. A little over half of the population of the State is concentrated in the Vale of Kashmir which accounts for only 10 percent of the area, and Ladakh, Gilgit, and Baltistan are very sparsely populated. The State has some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. The Vale itself is about 84 miles long with a breadth of 20 to 25 miles and a mean altitude of 5,600 feet above sea level (Drew 1875, Younghusband 1909). It is famed for its beauty of lakes and mountain streams, chinars and poplars, irises and roses. The Vale is also famed for a great tradition of scholarship, music and arts, shawls and carpets (Singh 1983).

Of the different regions of the State, we know the history of the Vale the best. This is due to the 12th century Ra jatarangini of the historian Kalhana. Buddhism was introduced into the Vale by the missionaries of the emperor Ashoka (269-232 B.C.). The Kushan emperor Kanishka (c. 100 A.D.) convened a Buddhist council in Kashmir which led to the foundation of Mahayana Buddhism. Kashmiri missionaries played a leading role in the spread of Buddhism into Central Asia and China.

The Karkota dynasty of the seventh and eighth centuries provides us with the first authentic accounts of the government in the Vale. Lalitaditya (724-61) was the outstanding king of this dynasty. Lalitaditya built the famed Sun temple of Martand. In the 9th century Avantivarman built a grand capital south of Srinagar whose ruins can still be seen. These centuries also saw a flowering of Sanskrit learning and philosophy in Kashmir.

The rise of the Turko-Mongols under Chingiz Khan and his successors brought considerable turmoil to Central Asia after the 12th century. This disorder spilled into the Vale. Powerful feudal lords vied for power and many adventurers from outside invaded.

The end of the Hindu rule was part of a fascinating drama of intrigue and treachery. In 1320 Rinchana, a Tibetan prince, usurped the throne and sought to be converted to Hinduism. Upon the refusal of the Brahmins to do so he embraced Islam. After his death in 1323, his Hindu queen Kota Rani ruled until 1338 although the nominal king was her new husband Udayana, who was the younger brother of Suhadeva, the king before Rinchana. On Udayana's death Kota Rani ruled by herself for a few months until the power was seized by Shah Mir, a native of Swat, who now established the first Muslim dynasty in the Vale.

Islam spread quickly in Kashmir. It appears that there were periods of persecution of Hindus and their forcible conversion that interspersed longer periods of living in harmony. The first such episode of forcible conversion was during the reign of Sikandar (1389-1413) when, according to tradition, the persecution was so severe that the Hindus either left the valley or converted to Islam until only eleven Hindu families remained. But Sikandar's son Zain-ul-Abidin (1420-1470), popularly known as Badshah or Great King, was an enlightened ruler whose policy of religious tolerance persuaded many Hindus to return to the Vale. But after Zain-ul-Abidin the pressure on Hindus to convert to Islam continued. According to a tradition 24,000 Brahmin families were forced to convert during the stay in the valley of Mir Shams-ud-din Iraqi, who arrived in 1492 to proselytize on behalf of the Sufi order of Naqshabandis (Sender 1988).

The Vale was made a part of the Mughal empire by Akbar in 1587. It soon became a favourite summer resort for the Mughal rulers who built many gardens here. The Mughal administration was fair and it brought much prosperity. But as the Mughal empire weakened the governors assumed more power and some of them reintroduced religious repression. In 1752, with the collapse of the Mughal power, Kashmir came into the control of the Afghans. This rule was perhaps the most tyrannical in the history of the land. The Sikhs, under Ranjit Singh, wrested Kashmir from the Afghans in 1819. In 1846, following the defeat of the Sikhs by the British, Gulab Singh, the Dogra ruler of Jammu purchased the Vale from the British.

The Dogras appear to have maintained large degree of autonomy during the period of Muslim rule in India. The Sikh kingdom of Lahore recognized Jammu to be a protected state. In 1834, Gulab Singh conquered the independent state of Ladakh. Baltistan, to the west of Ladakh, was defeated in 1840. In 1841 he attempted to expand into Western Tibet but this campaign ended in disaster. The Gilgit region was also inherited by the Dogras from the earlier Sikh kingdom. Thus by the mid-nineteenth century the state of Jammu and Kashmir had assumed its pre-partition form with the Dogra king as its ruler.

In the 1845 war between the British and the Sikhs, Gulab Singh, although a feudatory of the Sikhs, had not taken sides. The British recognized him as the independent ruler of Jammu, Poonch, Ladakh, and Baltistan in a treaty signed in 1846. But when Gulab Singh purchased the Vale of Kashmir, he accepted British paramountcy which meant the British right to control his foreign relations.

The movement for independence in British India spilled over to Kashmir as well. In the 1920's there were demands for redress of grievances. There was further unrest in the 1930's which prompted the Maharaja to take stern measures. However, the disturbances continued and eventually the Maharaja accepted the establishment of a legislative assembly. Sheikh Abdullah emerged as the most prominent leader of this movement that led to this major reform.

The Maharaja appeared to hold out for independence in August 1947 when India was partitioned. But in late October of that year Pakistani tribesmen, led by military officers in civilian clothes, tried to take the Vale by force. But instead of quickly seizing Srinagar, as they were in position to do, they stopped to plunder, murder, and rape. The Maharaja's hand was now forced and he acceded to the Indian Union and asked for help to expel the invaders. Sheikh Abdullah, who had been released from prison, endorsed this decision. Soldiers of the Indian Army were now flown into Srinagar and this turned the tide of the invasion. Pakistani regulars were now sent in and the war raged throughout 1948. Finally, under the supervision of the United Nations a cease fire was declared on 1 January 1949. Pakistan occupied 33000 square miles of the 86,500 square miles of Jammu and Kashmir State. India held the Vale of Kashmir and most of Jammu province and Ladakh, whereas Pakistan controlled parts of Jammu and Kashmir provinces, Baltistan, and the Gilgit region.

Shaivistic and Bhakti Roots of Kashmiri Religion

To understand the religious divide in the Vale it is necessary to go back to the Shaivite roots of the popular religion. It is important to note that this tradition fits squarely within the greater Indian tradition. The Rigveda presents a monistic view of the universe where an understanding of the nature of consciousness holds the key to the understanding of the world. This is further emphasized in the Upanishads, the six philosophical schools, Buddhist and Jain philosophy, the Shaivite and the Tantric systems. Of course this emphasis varies. And sometimes seemingly different terms represent the same central idea. For example the s unyata (void) of Madhyamika Buddhism and the brahman (universe) of the Upanishads are forms of the monistic absolutes. Two opposite metaphors thus represent the same central idea. Likewise the dualism of Sa m khya and of the Jains is correctly seen as projection of a monistic system of universal consciousness that manifests itself in the categories of the physical world and sentience. A grand exposition of the system, that explains how different perspective fit in the framework, is contained in the Bhagavad Gi ta . Even the Iranian religion of Zarathushtra may be seen as reformulation of the earlier Vedic tradition (Boyce 1975) in the same sense that Vaishnavism is.

Kashmir Shaivism, reached its culmination in the philosophy of Abhinavagupta and Kshemaraja (tenth to eleventh century AD) (Chatterji 1914, Dyczkowski 1987, Gnoli 1968, Kaw 1969, Pandey 1963, Jaideva Singh 1977, 1979, & 1989). Their trika (three-fold) school argued that reality is represented by three categories: transcendental ( para ), material ( apara ), and a combination of these two ( para para ) (Lakshman Jee 1988). This three-fold division is sometimes represented in terms of the principles s iva, s akti, an u or pati, pa s a, pas u . S iva represents the principle behind consciousness, s akti its energy, and an u the material world. At the level of living beings pas u is the individual who acts according to his conditioning, almost like an animal, pa s a are the bonds that tie him to his behaviour, and pati or pas upati (Lord of the Flock) is s iva personified whose knowledge liberates the pas u and makes it possible for him to reach his potential. The mind is viewed as a hierarchical (krama) collection of agents ( kula ) that perceives its true self spontaneously ( pratyabhijna ) with a creative power that may be viewed as being pulsating (spanda) . This last attribute recalls the spenta of the Zarathushtrian religion, where this word represents the power of creation of Ahura Mazda . Thus Kashmir Shaivism appears to have attempted a reconciliation of the Iranian religion with its Vedic parent.

The Pratyabhijn a (recognition) system is named after the book Stanzas on the Recognition of Ishvara or Shiva which was written by Utpala (c 900-950). It appears Utpala was developing the ideas introduced by his teacher Somananda who had written the earlier Vision of Shiva . In Shaivism in general, Shiva is the name for the absolute or transcendental consciousness. Ordinary consciousness is bound by cognitive categories related to conditioned behavior. By exploring the true springwells of ordinary consciousness one comes to recognize its universal (Shiva). This brings the further recognition that one is not a slave (pasu) of creation but its master (pati) . In other words, an intuition of the true nature of one's consciousness provides a perspective that is liberating.

For the spanda system the usual starting point is the Aphorisms of Shiva due to Vasugupta (c 800). His disciple Kallata is generally credited with the Stanzas on Pulsation . According to this school the universal consciousness pulsates of vibrates and this ebb and flow can be experienced by the person who has recognized his true self.

Abhinavagupta wrote a profound commentary on Utpala's Stanzas on Recognition. Shaivite philosophy may be said to have reached its full flowering with his philosophy. Abhinava also wrote more than sixty other works on tantra, poetics, dramaturgy, and philosophy. His disciple Kshemaraja also wrote influential works that dealt with the doctrines of both the schools of Recognition and Pulsation. Abhinava emphasized the fact that all human creativity reveals aspects of the seed consciousness. This explains his own interest in drama, poetry, and aesthetics.

According to the ancient doctrine of Sa m khya physical reality may be represented in terms of twenty-five categories. These categories relate to an everyday classification of reality where prakrti may be likened to matter, and purusa to mind. Kashmir Shaivism adds eleven new categories to this list. These categories characterize different aspects of consciousness.

Any focus of consciousness must first be circumscribed by coordinates of time and space. Next, it is essential to select a process (out of the many defined) for attention. The aspect of consciousness that makes one have a feeling of inclusiveness with this process followed later by a sense of alienation is called maya . Thus maya permits one, by a process of identification and detachment, to obtain limited knowledge and to be creative.

How does consciousness ebb and flow between an identity of self an an identity with the processes of the universe? According to Shaivism, a higher category permits comprehension of oneness and separation with equal clarity. Another allows a visualization of the ideal universe. This permits one to move beyond mere comprehension into a will to act. The final two categories deal with pure consciousness by itself and the potential energy that leads to continuing transformation. Pure awareness is not to be understood as similar to everyday awareness of humans but rather as the underlying schema that the laws of nature express.

Shaiva psychology is optimistic, scientific, secular, and liberating. At the personal level it emphasizes reaching for the springwell of creativity ( sakti ) and the schema underlying this creativity ( siva ). The journey leading to this knowledge may be begun in a variety of ways: through sciences, the arts, and creative social activities. But this exploration of the outside world is to be taken as a means of uncovering the architecture of the inner world. Shaiva psychology also reveals that the notion of bhakti, which has played a central role in the shaping of the Indian mind during the past millennium, may be given a focus related to a quest for knowledge.

The intellectual theories of Kashmir Shaivism were given popular expression by the great mystic Lalleshvari or Lalla (1335-1376). Her sayings, vakya , form the basis of much of the Kashmiri world-view that emerged later. But from Lalla onwards the emphasis did shift to the devotional aspects of Kashmir Shaivism (Temple 1924, Odin 1994). The notion of recognition of one's true self was exalted to the central role in the popular religion including Kashmiri popular Islam that views her va kyas and the sayings of her disciple Sheikh Nur-ud-din (1377-1438), Nanda Rishi , as sources of spiritual wisdom. Two of Lalla's va kya that have been adapted from Bamzai (1962) are given below:

I saw myself in all things 
I saw God shining in everything. 
You have heard, stop! see Shiva 
The house is his, who am I Lalla.  

Shiva pervades the world 
Hindu and Muslim are the same. 
If you are wise know yourself 
Then you will know God. 
"Lalla is as much a part of Kashmiri language, literature, and culture as Shakespeare is of English" is the assessment of Kachru (1981). Says her own pupil Nanda Rishi: 

That Lalla of Padma npor-she drank 
Her fill of divine nectar; 
She was indeed an avata r of ours. 
O God, grant me the self-same boon! 
(Kaul 1973)

Nur-ud-din was followed by a large number of Rishis from both the Hindu and the Muslim communities. The Islamic Rishis provided the leadership to the popular religion of the Kashmiri Muslims.

By the end of the nineteenth century the Kashmiri Hindus were about seven percent of the population of the Vale. Within the community itself a two-fold division had taken place by this time. Those who specialized in the secular sphere, studied Persian and undertook administrative employment, became known as the karkuns ; others who did priestly duties requiring knowledge of Sanskrit were termed bhasha bhatta (Sender 1988, Madan 1989). In recent years this sub-division is disappearing and karkun values have become the dominant ethos of the community.

Islam in Kashmir

The core of Islam rests on the Koran and narratives about the Prophet's life contained in the Hadith. In the next layer is the sharia ---Islamic law. The ulama , who are the theologians who are occupied with the interpretation of the Koran and the Hadith, are the heart and soul of Muslim orthodoxy. The multiple interpretations of the Koran and the Hadith finally formalized into four orthodox schools by 10th century A.D. when the gates of itjihad (individual interpretation of the Koran and the Hadith) closed shut. No further extensions of the Law are now permitted. The body of orthodox Islam is called Sunnite Islam after the Arabic sunna , custom.

The challenge to the orthodox Islamic law by the pre-Islamic pantheistic traditions of Arabia and Iran crystallized within the Islamic framework through the mystical tradition of Sufism. The Sufi teachers from Central Asia and Iran had a hand in converting Kashmiris. The Rishi tradition of Kashmir went hand in hand with the Sufi tradition.

Islam in the Indian sub-continent has incorporated many impulses that hearken back to the original Hindu roots of the inhabitants (Mujeeb 1967, Ahmad 1969). In the Vale of Kashmir the practice of Islam centres around worship at the many shrines scattered across the region. At many of these shrines relics of Pirs and Rishis are worshipped.

In the beginning Islam represented the separate identity of the immigrant from Dardistan, Central Asia, or Iran. As it gained converts the difference in the Hindu and Islamic religious identities in the countryside was perhaps not marked. In the late 14th century many Sayyid refugees arrived from the West and they started agitating for enforcement of the Koranic law. But the popular religion took its inspiration from the Sufis and the Rishis that followed Nur-ud-din.

Some of Nanda Rishi's sayings are given below:

The dog is barking in the compound 
O brothers, give ear and listen: 
As one sowed, so did he reap; 
You, Nanda, sow, sow, sow. 

Your face washed, you call believers to prayer 
How can I know, O Rishi, what are your feelings, what are your prostrations for 
You have lived a life without seeing (God) 
Tell me to whom you offer prayers. 
If you listen to truth, you will master the five (senses). 
If you make union with Shiva 
Then only, O Rishi Mali, will prayer avail you. 
[Adapted from Bamzai 1962]

Many Rishis followed Nanda Rishi and they helped define the uniqueness of Kashmiri Islam. Not all Rishis used Sanskritic concepts to describe their experience. With time Persian concepts and stylistic devices were increasingly used. Eventually the Sufis of Kashmir were also permeated greatly by the Rishi ideals. Writing in 1542 Mirza Haider says in his Tarikh-i-Rashidi : "The Sufis have legitimized so many heresies they know nothing of what is lawful... They are forever interpreting dreams, displaying miracles and obtaining from the unseen information regarding either the future or the past. Nowhere else is such a band of heretics to be found... (they) consider the Holy Law ( shariat ) second in importance to the True Way ( tariqat , tradition) and that, in consequence, the people of the Way have nothing to do with the Holy Law." (quoted in Sufi 1947-8, pages 19-20)

Writing about a hundred years ago, Lawrence ascribed the delightful tolerance between Hinduism and Islam to "chiefly the fact that the Kashmiri Musalmans never really gave up the Hindu religion." He added: "I do not base my ideas as to the laxness of Kashmiris in religious duties merely on my own observations. Holy men of Arabia have spoken to me with contempt of the feeble flame of Islam which burns in Kashmir and the local mullas talk with indignation of the apathy of the people." (Lawrence 1895)

The amity between the Muslims and the Hindus has continued until this recent crisis. The vast majority of the Muslims continue to follow the religion of the Islamic Rishis. According to the Kashmiri Muslim historian G.M.D. Sufi:

A number of the practices of the Kashmiri Musalman are (un-)Islamic... The Buddhist worship of relics has insidiously crept into India's Islam. It is nowhere so prominent as in Kashmir. Hazratbal is an outstanding example. On the occasion of the exhibition of the Prophet's hair ... crowds of Kashmiris are seen weeping and wailing like the Jews before the Wailing Wall... The Pirs have almost created a priesthood and hereditary sacred caste. Necromancy and a belief in omens and magic has gained ground in spite of the (Koranic prohibition against them)... Pure monotheism and the moral fervour of a society based on social equality has in practice nowhere receded more into the background. The ringing of a bell precedes the call to prayer in several mosques in the Valley today... The Kashmiri Muslim has transferred reverence from Hindu stones to Muslim relics. (Sufi 1947-8, p. 688)

Many of the shrines of popular Islam are the ancient Hindu-Buddhist shrines, the Jami' Masjid of Srinagar being an important example (Sufi 1947-8, p. 512). According to M.A. Stein this is perhaps true even of the most popular Islamic shrine at Hazratbal (Stein 1979).

Kashmiri Culture and Literature

To understand the Kashmiri mind it is best to consider its poets. For the popular culture, which is permeated with the mystical tradition, one must again begin with Lalla. Lalla describes her own spiritual awakening thus:

I, Lalla, filled with love 
Searched day and night 
In my own house I found the wise one 
Whom I beheld at the moment 
Which was the most auspicious of my life. 
Slowly I stopped my breath 
The lamp lit and I realized my true identity 
In the dark recesses of my soul 
I held fast to the inner light 
And emitted it outwards. 
[Lalla translated by Odin 1994]

The major poets who followed Lalla include Habba Khatun (c 16th century), Rupa Bhavani (1621-1721), Arnimal (d. 1800), Mahmud Gami (1765-1855), Rasul Mir (d. 1870), Parmanand (1791-1864), Ghulam Ahmad Mahjur (1885-1952), Abdul Ahad Azad (1903-1948) and Zinda Kaul (1884-1965). Habba Khatun is credited with originating the lol style of poetry where the predominant mood is that of longing and romantic love. Arnimal also wrote in the lol style. Rupa Bhavani, Mahmud Gami, Rasul Mir, Parmanand continued in the mystical tradition of Lalla and Nanda Rishi. Mysticism and romantic love are the two main strands in the tapestry of the Kashmiri psyche. Often the two strands get intertwined since romantic love can be a metaphor for a spiritual emotion.

Which rival of mine has lured you away from me? 
Why are you cross with me? 
Forget the anger and the sulkiness, 
You are my only love, 
Why are you cross with me? [ Habba Khatun translated by Kachru (1981)] 
Oh, spinning-wheel! 
Do not grain 
For I shall apply fragrant oil to your straw rings. 
And, you, Hyacinth! 
Raise your head from under the earth for Narcissus is waiting with cups of wine, 
The jasmine will fade and will not bloom again. 
Do not groan 
Oh, my spinning-wheel! [ Arnimal translated by Kachru (1981)] 
Seeking to know man 
I asked the bubble: 
How live you on water? 
I asked of the butcher about love 
Said he: Steel your heart with love 
This kababs taste better when overdone. 
How live you on water? 
The breath of the lover blew a bubble 
Another breath and it joined water again. 
Who died? what's alive is the riddle. 
How live you on water? [ Mahmud Gami ]

Mahjur, Azad, and Zinda Kaul and their successors have tried to forge a new sensibility in some of their poems but the mystical and the lol continue to be the dominant ethos.

Sheikh Abdullah and the National Conference

Sheikh Abdullah (1905-1982), the towering Kashmiri politician of the past halfShaikh Mohd. Abdullahcentury, was a powerful advocate of the Kashmiri Muslims. His political career was launched when he galvanized his people to agitate for reforms in 1931 during the rule of Hari Singh (Kaul 1985). Next year a political party, Muslim Conference, was formed with Abdullah as its first president. Under pressure from the British the Maharaja set up a Commission to study constitutional reforms in the State. The recommendations of this Commission led to the establishment of a legislative assembly of seventy five members, thirty three of whom would be elected on a communal basis, and an extremely limited franchise. When first convened in 1934, 19 of the 21 seats allotted to the Muslims were won by the Muslim Conference.

Sheikh Abdullah was much influenced by the leaders of the Indian National Congress, in particular Jawaharlal Nehru, whom he first met in 1937. He had already worked closely with the Kashmiri socialist Prem Nath Bazaz. Having by now recognized that popular Islam represented his natural constituency he decided to enlarge the scope of his political party. He stated his goal of forming a wide-based political movement in a speech in 1938:

We must end communalism by ceasing to think in terms of Muslims and non-Muslims when discussing our political problems... We must open our doors to all such Hindus and Sikhs, who like ourselves believe in the freedom of their country from the shackles of an irresponsible rule. (Bamzai 1962, p. 664)

Sheikh Abdullah clearly repudiated the sectarian policies of M.A. Jinnah and the Muslim League. In 1939 the name of Muslim Conference was changed to National Conference to emphasize its secular character. The orthodox Muslims did not forgive Abdullah for this and they remained forever opposed to him.

Sheikh Abdullah walked a tightrope to satisfy the many different groups. His speeches in mosques used religious imagery to appeal to the orthodox Muslims and disarm the influence of their leaders who challenged him. But his real hard-core support lay amongst the Kashmiris who professed the popular variety of the Islamic religion. His closeness to the leaders of the Congress Party and his emphasis on secularism led to the revival of the Muslim Conference by Ghulam Abbas. This revival also reflected the divide between the Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri Muslims of the State. Ghulam Abbas came from the Jammu province where the language is closely related to Punjabi. Muslims of Jammu saw a convergence of their interests with those of the Muslims of Punjab. On the other hand, Sheikh Abdullah was endeavouring to define a special position for the Kashmiri Muslims.

Muslim League represented the aspirations of the orthodox Islamic minority of the mullahs, the Islamic intellectuals, and the descendents of the immigrants from Central Asia and Iran. These groups felt that unless their apartness was given a legal basis they might not be able to preserve their heritage as a minority in a democratic India with its Hindu majority (Embree 1989, Gilmartin 1988, Jalal 1990, Kak 1991, Shaikh 1989). Since Kashmiri Islam is so radically different from orthodox Islam, the philosophy of Muslim League could never have mass appeal in Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah worked hard in the interests of the Kashmiri Islamic community in the emerging political frameworks of Pakistan and India. He appears to have calculated that Pakistan would eventually either imply orthodox Islam or Punjabi cultural domination.

Partition and the War of 1947-8

At the time of the partition of India in 1947, only the Muslim Conference, which was based mainly in Jammu, was in favour of the State's accession to Pakistan. On the other hand Hindu Sabha in Jammu and the Maharaja were hoping that the State could become independent. There were other groups in Jammu who wanted accession to India, whereas Sheikh Abdullah and his National Conference also appeared to be working for independence but given a choice between accession to Pakistan or India they felt that they could preserve autonomy for Kashmir within the secular Indian Union. The attack by the Pakistani tribesmen forced the hand of the Maharaja. As the tribesmen reached the outskirts of Srinagar, the Maharaja sought the aid of the Indian army. He was advised that this could not be done unless the State acceded to the Indian Union. Sheikh Abdullah accompanied the Maharaja's Minister to Delhi to communicate to the Indian government acceptance by the Maharaja of all Indian conditions. On 26 October 1947 the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession.

Indian troops were flown in to protect Srinagar on October 27. Soon the tribesmen and the Pakistani soldiers were in retreat. By November 14 most of the Vale was in the control of the Indian army. By winter the fighting had reached a stalemate and on 31 December 1947 Nehru referred the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations.

In 1948 the war continued at other fronts. Pakistan tried to cut off Ladakh from Kashmir but it was unable to do so. In the autumn of 1948 the Indian army captured Poonch in the Jammu province. The Indian army now threatened to cut the Pakistan controlled area in two by reaching the international border beyond Poonch. Pakistan now wished to enlarge the conflict by attacking Jammu so that the State would be cut off from India. There was great pressure on both countries to stop fighting and cease-fire took effect on 1 January 1949.

The New Constitution and Quotas

In March 1948 Sheikh Abdullah was appointed the prime minister of an interim government of the State. A Constituent Assembly was convened in October 1951. The members of this Assembly were elected and Sheikh Abdullah's National Conference won all its seats. In 1952 Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah signed an agreement in Delhi which specified that the State of Jammu and Kashmir, while part of the Indian Union, yet enjoyed certain unique rights and privileges within the Union. Thus citizens of the State had rights related to land ownership within the State which were denied to Indians from outside the State. This fact was recognized in Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which was entitled " Temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir" (Lamb 1966, Puri 1981).

Curiously the restriction of land ownership to the hereditary State subjects goes back to Hari Singh in 1927. This order also reserved government posts to such residents. Hari Singh had become the Maharaja two years earlier and he was trying to assert the autonomy of the State from the British paramountcy. But he was also bowing to the interests of the Hindus from Kashmir and Jammu who did not wish to have any competition for the various administrative positions from people out of the State. At that time the Kashmiri Hindus, with less than 2 per cent population of the State, constituted 80 percent of all those who had received higher education. This policy of reservation of jobs and restriction of land ownership was opposed by the Muslims of the State and outside. (Puri 1981)

Sheikh Abdullah was now trying to implement a programme that had been outlined by the National Conference in 1944 in a manifesto entitled New Kashmir . This amounted to a one-party government dedicated to social reform in the style of the Soviet Union. Sweeping land reforms were implemented in 1953. But there was also a suppression of dissent and increasing bureaucratization with its attendent corruption. Sheikh Abdullah's goal still appeared to be autonomy for the Kashmiris, but he was unwilling to allow real democracy to the other regions of Jammu and Ladakh. Growing tensions in the State led to his dismissal and detention in August 1953. He was succeeded as prime minister of the State by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed who remained in power for 10 years.

The Constituent Assembly decided upon a constitution which came into operation in January 1957. But this constitution formalized inequities in the political structure that had seeds in it for trouble down the road. The constituencies were delimited in a fashion that perpetuated control by the Kashmiris of the Vale (Jagmohan 1991). The typical constituency in the Vale had a population of 50,000 whereas it was 85,000 in the Jammu region. For elections to the Lok Sabha, Kashmir sent one representative for each one million people, while Jammu was allocated one representative for each 1.4 million people. Furthermore, the constituencies were so delimited that the Kashmiri Hindus, in spite of their population of about 7% in the Vale, could not get a single member elected on their own.

The fundamental rights of the Indian Constitution were made applicable to the State in 1954; these forbade recruitment to government jobs on communal and regional considerations. The government of the State circumvented the law by declaring all the residents of the State but the less than 3 percent Kashmiri Hindus to be backward. Quotas were now fixed for recruitment based on ethnic origin and religion both for recruitment and promotion (Puri 1983).

These policies split up the people of the State in three main worlds: one Kashmiri Muslim, the other Hindu from Jammu, and the third was that of the Kashmiri Pandit who was now discriminated against. A system of quotas in schools, colleges, and jobs was instituted. These quotas did not apply only at the entrance levels of the government departments but also for promotion to higher ranks. This system was so perverted that the candidates from the Muslim community were not chosen according to their merit either. The bureaucratic system that emerged in Kashmir must have been one of the most corrupt in India and the whole world.

It must be realized that the Muslims in Kashmir are not a monolithic community. Caste in India is a phenomenon that transcends religion (Leach 1960). Muslims in Kashmir, as Muslims elsewhere in India and Pakistan, are socially divided into castes that have traditionally worked in different occupations. Furthermore, the converts from the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, as well as the descendents of the Turks, Afghans, and the Iranians have generally maintained their identities and their status. Since performance and skills were not determinants for hiring, the urban Muslim elites, who were from a few select groups, were able to carve out a lions share of government openings. The nature of the quota system makes it out as an entitlement, so there was a great deal of resentment in the weaker Muslim classes about this matter.

In the corrupt bureaucratic world of the two Kashmirs, many of the small minority of the Hindus, who were traditionally professionals, played the game according to the new rules. Others simply left the State. And when the Central government expanded its bureaucracy in the early seventies the Hindus joined in large numbers. Having been systematically excluded from the State government jobs, the Hindus used whatever access to power they had to obtain these jobs. No wonder, therefore, that the Central government offices were perceived as being Hindu as against the Muslim State government offices.

The division between the Hindus and the Muslims of Kashmir was made worse by the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which gives a special status to the Jammu and Kashmir State. According to this Article, apart from defence, foreign affairs, and communications the laws enacted by the Indian parliament apply to the State only with the concurrence of the State government. It is important to remember that this Article was supposed to be of a transitional nature. But it came in handy to the karkun elite who justified it by the rhetoric of socialism and kashmiriyat (Kashmiriness). This law preserved the dominance of the Muslim elite classes in Kashmir and they fought hard to preserve it. Politicians of the ruling party made embrace of this Article to be axiomatic for a belief in secularism. Anyone who questioned the wisdom of retention of Article 370 was dubbed a communalist, an obscurantist, and worse.

The psychology related to Article 370 made the Muslims feel that their State was not quite a part of India. But this sense of fostered apartness was the basis of the political alliances made throughout India by the Congress Party to maintain political power. The government controlled media harped on the themes of social justice and the remedy of quotas and set-asides. Although this approach was useful for the short-term political ends of the Congress Party and the National Conference, it increased social discord and it kept out capital needed for economic development in the State.

The forces unleashed by these policies led to a progressively greater alienation of the Muslims in the State. Fundamentalists seized upon this disaffection and they targeted the Kashmiri Hindus as being representatives of the unjust order. They argued that Indian polity had sunk into great divisions based on caste or regional origin and that the Indian system is not blind to caste, ethnic background, or religion. The fundamentalist in Kashmir said that if India is really not a secular state, as evidenced by all the quotas and reservations based on different criteria, the why should they not seek an Islamic, independent nation, or accession to Pakistan.

The Accord of 1974 and After

After spending almost 14 years since 1953 in jail, Sheikh Abdullah was finally set free in 1968. The defeat of Pakistan in the 1971 War and the consequent independence of Bangladesh seemed to ring the death knell of the two-nation theory on which India had been partitioned. This weakened the pro-Pakistan forces in the Valley considerably. Meanwhile in 1972 India and Pakistan signed the Simla Agreement which effectively superseded the U.N. role in Kashmir. Pakistan agreed to the Indian demand that both countries will not resort to force or threaten to use force in Kashmir and settle the issue bilaterally. In other words, foreign interference, mediation or arbitration was to be precluded. The 1949 cease-fire line in Jammu and Kashmir was redrawn into a new Line of Control which meant that the U.N. observers posted along the previous line became redundant.

In March 1972, Sheikh Abdullah reiterated the finality of the State's accession to India. In November 1974 he signed an accord with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi which basically signaled his acceptance of the existing political realities. When he resumed power as Chief Minister in February 1975 he was welcomed tumultuously back in the State. He now revived the National Conference Party and won a massive mandate in the elections held in 1977.

Sheikh Abdullah now faced challenges from the leaders of Jammu and Ladakh who pressed for autonomy for their regions. Furthermore he was harried by the party of orthodox Islam as represented by Jamait-e-Islami. The growing strength of the Jamait was no doubt due to the growing fundamentalism in Islamic societies around the world after the Iranian revolution. Sheikh Abdullah fought the Jamait for not respecting the traditions of Kashmiri Islam.

Sheikh Abdullah died in 1982. He was succeeded as Chief Minister by his sonFarooq AbdullahFarooq, who called Assembly elections in 1983 and won a majority. In July 1984 Indira Gandhi dismissed Farooq's government for mis-administration and installed G.M. Shah as the Chief Minister of a minority government. Shah, who was Farooq's brother-in-law and a rival for the leadership of the National Conference on Sheikh Abdullah's death, was widely believed to represent the pro-Pakistan group in the party. The administration became even more corrupt during his tenure. Now followed an episode of Central rule to be succeeded by a return of Farooq.

The new administration of Farooq Abdullah was as inept as the first one. The intrigues of the Congress Party increased the distance between the ruling clique and the people. Meanwhile, the pro-Pakistani elements subverted most government institutions. Then between July and December 1989 the Farooq Abdullah government released seventy hardcore terrorists. Soon civil administration literally collapsed.

Pakistani Direction of the Insurgency

With the Soviet Union taking sides in the Afghanistan civil war that began in December 1979, Pakistan became strategically very important to the U.S. President Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan decided to aid the anti-communist Afghans who were fighting the Soviet troops. In 1981 Pakistan received a six year aid package from the United States worth several billion dollars. In addition the U.S. opened a pipeline through which sophisticated weaponry flowed to the Afghan mujahiddin operating from their headquarters in Peshawar. More arms and ammunition came from China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The field losses as well as a deteriorating home economy eventually forced the Soviet Union to sign an agreement in April 1988 to withdraw from Afghanistan by mid-February 1989.

This great success emboldened Zia now to try force to pry Kashmir out of Indian control. The arms and equipment that had flowed to the Afghan mujahiddin had been channeled by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The ISI was now asked to plan and coordinate an insurgency in Kashmir. This was to complement the training of the Sikh militants which had been managed by the ISI for several years.

Although Zia died in a plane crash in August 1988, his successors pressed on with management of the insurgency under the control of the ISI. This involved running training camps for the militants, supply of arms and intelligence. This operation was launched with full intensity as the weak administration of Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh took office in Delhi in late 1989. Kidnappings, bombings, and assassinations and a literal abdication of governance by the Farooq Abdullah ministry soon virtually achieved the administrative and psychological severance of the valley from India.

Central rule was imposed on the State in January 1990. But with the money provided by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and the arms flowing in from the ISI warehouses the terror unleashed on the minority communities of the Vale continued. Very soon the Hindus and the Sikhs had to flee to Jammu and Delhi for the safety of refugee camps. The terrorist groups were now hoping for a quick conclusion to their campaign. Banks, post offices, schools, colleges, cinema halls were all forced to be shut down. Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto talked of a thousand year war to liberate Kashmir.

Refugees from the Vale

The terror has forced about 250,000 Kashmiris to seek refuge out of the Vale. The Indian government is waiting for the law and order situation to return to what it was in before the mass exodus began in late 1989. A carrot and stick policy has been used to control the insurgency. But the government does not appear to have done any rethinking of its basic Kashmir policy.

In refugee camps the living conditions are very poor. And now the exiles seek jobs wherever they can find them, howsoever far from their homes that they have been compelled to abandon. Can that unique tradition and culture that the Kashmiris have preserved and reinvented with each generation be saved once they are scattered in permanent exile out of the valley?

The government of India has tried to play down the refugee problem since it smacks of religious strife. Many Muslims have also been killed, and others have had to flee the valley. Recently the government of India has raised this question of continuing murder of innocent civilians by terrorists with sanctuaries in Pakistan in international forums. The U.S. government has placed Pakistan on watch as one of the countries that sponsor terrorism.

The crisis in Kashmir should not be viewed as arising just from the alleged rigging of the last elections, the mis-administration of the Farooq Abdullah years, and the Islamic fundamentalism that is sweeping the world. This is the analysis that has been embraced by the officials of the government of India. While this analysis has a ring of truth to it, it is misleading. Events of the eighties have undoubtedly contributed to the disaffection in the valley, but the seeds of separation were laid by much older policies that are still in force.

The question of the alienation of the Kashmiri Muslims has not been properly analyzed. Part of this alienation has a linguistic basis. Although the Kashmiri language is different from the other north Indian languages, all educated Kashmiris are bilingual. The second language of choice for the Kashmiri Muslims is Persianized Urdu. This sets them apart from the residents of Jammu or Kashmiri Hindus who have generally adopted Sanskritized Hindi as the second language. Another contributing factor is Islamic fundamentalism. But this alienation has been made worse by the increasing bureaucratization of Indian life which causes untold frustrations. A long-term solution to the Kashmir problem would require more decentralization that proceeds down to the city and the village level. But this restructuring must also sweep aside anachronistic statutes such as Article 370 as well as other laws that discriminate based on religion and caste.

Conditions for economic development and local business initiatives will have to be improved. This will require clipping the wings of the corrupt bureaucracy and elimination of the system of quotas and licenses. Affirmative action should be based solely on economic considerations. That is the only way traditionally disadvantaged Muslim groups will be able to benefit from new development.

The bureaucratic style of administration that has evolved in India is based on a reactive approach to problems. Many of the frustrations that the citizen, be he Hindu or Muslim, feels are due to excessive centralization. In the style of government that has been followed in Delhi and in Srinagar, people have considered all problems in political terms alone; this is natural given that the government runs the schools, the banks, the colleges, and considerable part of business and industry.

A Democratic Kashmir

The international situation which emboldened Pakistan to exploit the disaffection in Kashmir to organize an insurgency has passed. With the collapse of the Soviet Union the strategic importance of Pakistan to the West is much reduced. Pakistan's own internal problems will require increasing attention from its leaders. It is, therefore, possible to look beyond the current situation and visualize a return to near normalcy in the Vale where most of the refugees will be able to return to their homes.

In the current geopolitical situation India cannot let go of the Kashmir valley because of its strategic importance. Culturally there are no reasons that the Kashmiris should feel more bound to Pakistan than India, when India has about as many Muslims as Pakistan and India's multicultural and secular society promises more freedom. But Kashmir's relationship to India will become strong only if real democracy comes into the Vale. This will require that schools, colleges, banks, and industry be increasingly privatized. Such a privatization will weave a thousand different links between organizations in Kashmir and the rest of India. But this also means that Kashmir should get rid of restrictive laws of land ownership and citizenship which have discouraged outside investment. A modern State should treat all its citizens equally, irrespective of caste, religion, and ethnic origin. The Jammu and Kashmir government, with the tacit approval of the Centre, has not done this in the past. The policies of quotas have served to divide the citizenry based on ethnic and religious basis. Economic links forged between Kashmiris and Indians outside the Vale would eventually determine the nature of their union.


According to the 1971 census the Kashmir valley had a non-Muslim population of 6 percent. However, about 250,000 refugees, which is more than 7 percent of the Vale's current estimated population, have registered with government agencies. According to Facts Speak , Panun Kashmir, Jammu the number of migrants was 242,758 in 53,750 families at the end of November 1990. India Today , January 15, 1991 speaks of more than 55,000 migrant families. It appears, therefore, that the 1971 census might have undercounted the population of the minorities in the Vale.

The Legal Documents of Kashmir

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