Sunday, 2 October, 2022
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Kashmir was never just a 1947 problem, it is a 5,000-year old battle of histories

When it comes to Kashmir, who gets to tell the region’s story is linked to who gets to lay claim on the land.

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In Indian public imagination, the history of Jammu and Kashmir begins in 1947. But the sole prism of ‘1947 conflict’ is restrictive. At the heart of Kashmir’s contested politics lies its 5,000 years of history, and the competing claims on historical grievances. Who gets to tell Kashmir’s history is important to who can lay claim to the land and how its troubled ties with New Delhi today gets addressed.

It might seem today that the fundamental problem in Kashmir is the lack of genuine political representation. But even a quick overview of Kashmiri history by local historians shows that this has always been the case.

Over the past five millennia, Kashmir has been ruled by Kings from several ethnicities — Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Afghans, Sikhs, and Dogras. While the ruling clans kept changing, a large number of Kashmiris in the past 1,000 years continued to feel they were un-represented and suppressed.


Also read: Talk Point: ​Does ​​the Rajatarangini narrative of ​5000 years of Hindu history in Kashmir need challenging?


Brahmin vs Muslim history of Kashmir

For a long time, Jammu and Kashmir’s historians have presented competing views of the region’s history — Sunni, Shia, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, liberal and conservative versions. But the most prominent conflict over the ‘right’ version of history has been the Brahman-centric Sanskrit versus the Muslim version.

Kashmiri historian Khalid Bashir Ahmad does a spectacular job of highlighting this conflict in his book, Kashmir: Exposing the Myth Behind the Narrative.

He argues that historian Kalhana’s seminal work Rajatarangini has been the most pivotal historical account over the past millennia. Kalhana, a Brahmin, was the son of Lord Champaka, who was a minister in King Harsha’s regime in the 12th century. Kalhana’s historical account depicted Kashmir to have been ruled by Hindu rulers for over five millennia. This is the history that many Kashmiri Pandit scholars and activists today cite to highlight their stake in Jammu and Kashmir— their lost homeland in the current political template of ‘Muslim-majority state’.

But Kalhana is also contested. According to Ahmad, Rajatarangini completely ignores a 1,000 years of Buddhism in Kashmir, following the occupation of the region by King Ashoka.

Ahmad also points to a much deeper problem in Kalhana’s account. He writes that Kalhana’s history turned mixing “fact and myth” into an “art form” and questions his claims about Kashmir being ruled by Hindus for several millennia.


Also read: How India’s liberals and opposition can start winning the battle of ideas


Enduring legacy of the Kalhana school of history-writing

By the 14th century, Shamsuddin Shah Mir established the Muslim Sultanate in Kashmir. Until now, most chroniclers of Kashmir’s history had been Brahmins. Now, the Brahmin chroniclers made way for Muslim ones. Although they began to depict Muslim life and the rule by Muslim kings in a more meaningful way, they accepted Kalhana’s ancient Hindu rule myth as it is. This continued to be the case through the next few centuries.

When the British Raj handed over Kashmir to the Dogra ruler Gulab Singh, Brahman historians were again empowered. And this is perhaps when the most severe misrepresentations of Kashmir’s history began to take shape.

These new Brahmin historians not only sanctified Kalhana’s saga about ancient history, but they also exaggerated them. More strikingly, they demonised the past 400 years of Muslim rule and ignored any possible positive aspects of it.

The establishment of the Mughal rule in Kashmir marked the beginning of the subjugation of Kashmiris, according to the Brahmin historians. And this subjugation became all the more severe in the Afghan rule in the second half of the 18th century. And it entered its darkest phase during the Dogra rule — when burning oil was poured over people — “as ordinary a ‘crime’ as catching fish from a river”. More recent accounts by Kashmiri historians such as Prem Nath Bazaz talk about heinous subjugation of Muslims by their non-Muslim rulers.

Brahmin chroniclers of early 20th century, such as P.N.K. Bamzai and Anand Koul, chose to completely ignore these aspects of Dogra rule. Today, if we are aware of some of these accounts of subjugations, it because of the writings of European travellers through the 19th and early 20th century. Looking at Robert Thorp’s Cashmere Misgovernment and Arthur Brinkman’s The Wrongs of Kashmir, a grim picture appears, where Muslims were not only ill-treated but also restricted from accessing public education.


Also read: Pakistan needs to stop thinking of Kashmir as an unfinished business of Partition


The historical lack of representation in Kashmir

What does this battle of histories tell us about modern Kashmiri society?

The Brahmin version of Kashmir’s history argues that the region had always been ruled by Hindus and the intervening periods of Muslim rule were just a blip. The Muslim historians contend that Kashmir’s Muslim subjects have been subjugated by centuries of Hindu rule and their miseries never found any mention in historical writings.

At any given point of time, only a single ethnic community was represented by the regime of the day. And even then, it was just a tiny minority of that community that was co-opted by the rulers.

While the Muslims felt unrepresented during the Dogra regime, the Hindus and Buddhist felt the same under the Mughal rule and in the post-1947 period.

That leaves us with a region with a deep lingering sentiment of grievance amongst all Kashmiris – a feeling that they have never been meaningfully represented by the rulers. And this feeling has been entrenched over centuries of misrule in Kashmir. It continues till today.

The popular notion that today most Indians love Kashmir, but not Kashmiris, isn’t a post-1947 feature. Historian Mridu Rai in her pivotal book, Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects, shows that this has been a constant feature since the 18th century. More strikingly, this view was not just prevalent among people outside Kashmir, but also in the very people ruling over it.


Also read: No, Modi’s Kashmir policy isn’t new. He’s only continuing what Nehru started in the 1950s


 

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18 COMMENTS

  1. I suggest you read and educate yourself for another 10 years so that you might be able to think and look beyond your stones n temples n stars and every creation, that you might consider God and understand this is not an abrahamic faith, it is the faith of Adam and eve, when your hand made stones didn’t exist, don’t you dare to attack any religion, cause if others started attacking yours, yours will be the at the brink of oblivion, yours is already loosing its every impact and every teaching, thanks to people like you who concentrate on every thing else but not the scripture. Hope this doesn’t make you and you will reply with reason.

  2. stupid article with no proof just some muslim glorifying of mslims here what a a bunch of lies without no proof , welcome to islam 101

  3. If it had been ruled for 1000 years by Buddhists, then who was there before them? Hindus of course because Buddhism itself originated in 5th century BC. This infantile abrahamic religion (Islam) which did not even exist 1500 years back has no authority to claim land, any land, on the south asian subcontinent for their conquest by war and forced conversion is hardly a legitimate annexation, it’s appropriation. The number of ancient Shiva and Shakti temples destroyed by muslims in Kashmir is far too many to let go, their murderous philosophy that looks down on all but their own, reeks of anthropocentrism and conceit in the name of all that they call holy.

    • I suggest you read and educate yourself for another 10 years so that you might be able to think and look beyond your stones n temples n stars and every creation, that you might consider God and understand this is not an abrahamic faith, it is the faith of Adam and eve, when your hand made stones didn’t exist, don’t you dare to attack any religion, cause if others started attacking yours, yours will be the at the brink of oblivion, yours is already loosing its every impact and every teaching, thanks to people like you who concentrate on every thing else but not the scripture. Hope this doesn’t make you and you will reply with reason.

      • Calling Islam a religion is a blatant exaggeration.
        And as far as the attacking is concerned, go and check the statistics to get the true picture of how the Abrahamic followers have spread their ‘annexations’ all across the world not by moral force of persuasion but by all kinds of illegal, immoral and illegitimate forceful conversions. This narrow-minded, homogeneous, orthodox group of great intolerants and their venomous nexus with the misleading leftists ( like ‘The Print’) stand exposed today.

  4. The Author has forgotten to mention that the history of Kashmir did not begin with Hindus! But it was a civilization with no religion, so much so it welcomed people of all religion and accepted them as they were so long as peace and harmony was not compromised! How and why and where do you think Shardha Peeth existed, It all began when Mughal wave arrived hind kush. Outsiders who were living peacefully started getting influenced and likewise started creating a separate Muslim dominated world. It was never religion based earlier on , but post mir shah things changed and Kashmir started moving towards it doom.

  5. Are Hindus any different from Budhist, Jains or Sikhs. They all have similar religious thought, philosophy and way of life. Also all of them were equally killed by Muslims.

  6. The following statement from the author sums up the history of Kashmir.
    “The Brahmin version of Kashmir’s history argues that the region had always been ruled by Hindus and the intervening periods of Muslim rule were just a blip. The Muslim historians contend that Kashmir’s Muslim subjects have been subjugated by centuries of Hindu rule and their miseries never found any mention in historical writings.”
    Brahmin version and Muslims version, both views confirm that Kashmir was ruled by non-Muslims for most of the time in the history. Islamisation of Kashmir is also a fact that is more important today because of ISIS ideology spreading among Muslims.

  7. To continue my earlier post..
    Sharda Peeth in Kashmir was a repository of Vedic manuscripts, largest library of its kind. Repeated Muslim invasions and massive conversions happened very recently a few hundred years ago.
    It is the birth place of Kashmir Shaivism. All said and done the people are solidly with Modi-Shah-Doval triumvirate. Historic injustice has been rectified.

  8. The only fact of Kashmir’s history that interests me is the mother of all catastrophes Maharaja Hari Singh created. All of us are still picking up the tab seventy years later. 2. It would be wise now to start with 2019. I respectfully do not agree with the Abrogation of Articles 370 / 35 A, even less with the conversion of a privileged state into a Union Territory. We will find that the mainstream parties were in fact playing a useful, necessary role. 3. Economic progress and prosperity have been promised to a state whose woes started about the time the rest of the country was opening up to reform. A sincere effort should be made to improve the lives of ordinary Kashmiris. 4. As far as terrorism and Pakistan are concerned, the constitutional changes in themselves will provide little solace. We have embarked on an immense adventure with emotion and ideology playing an outsize role in the decision making process.

    • You need to educate yourself a bit more. Till then just understand that being a passenger in a highly dynamic geopolitics does not help India’s cause. And, this legislative changes on Kashmir is just to make that important point. Whether Kashmir is a part of India or an independent nation has nothing to do with this change. However, expect any secession to take place after a very bitter war, which again has nothing to do with Article 370. It would happen anyway unless Pakistan accepts the status quo. And by the way, citizens like you are happier watching Pakistan playing on the front foot and when India plays front foot, you cry foul. I once again suggest to you to educate yourself before commenting. Or admit that you are a saint.

    • Understanding Kashmir doesnt start just with past 70 years of saga with Hari Singh and Sheik Abdulla. The history has much more component to geo-political changes that has been happening over the period of time, thousands of years passing by. If you want us to believe that Pakistan is a saintly state and talking with them will solve all the problems is like Nehru once did. When our army general told Nehru that he needs another 2 weeks to liberate POK and we can also get Lahore which is the seat of Punjabis, Nehru adamantly stopped and told that he will go file with UN and get the POK legally from UN as if his Chacha is sitting there to gift him Kashmir. Nehru’s ego came before him and that put him and India in vulnerable position many times, the last one being 1962 when China just walked in to take away Aksai Chin. If history of these events not taught you any lesson, no one will be able to teach any closed mind.

  9. There is no mention of forced conversion of Hindus of Kashmir during Jehangir’s and Aurangzeb rules . This is how Brahmin have been ignored by Muslims.

  10. This writer talks about multiple narratives but all the skepticism is only directed towards ‘brahmin’ historians while the muslim historian from 20th century or the european chroniclers from 19th had no biases ?It is hard to miss the pointed use of ‘brahmin’ but no such qualifier for specific muslims or the europeans. This is the kind of apologia and too clever by half attempt at showing hindus as a disjointed oppressors presented as ‘correct’ history is what pushes hindus towards the right wing.

    • Well, if you can refute their claims by providing sources like they did, we are all ears dear.

      • I am not your dear and such pathetic attempts to patronize are just silly. The question isn’t about sources but the skepticism towards any or all of them. Your poor comprehension and willingness to lap up as wisdom whatever is sold to you does explain why these jokers continue to peddle this nonsense .

      • Well, if you are from Tamil Nadu or Kerala the fist thing to do is hate brahmin as if he has stolen your cloths. The history given by the author is like Romila Thaper’s fictional version, patronized as historian by commies. And such story also do not have any source. It is like I create my story and say myself as source doesnt mean that there is a history to it. The author talks about Brahmins ruling. Go and check the history. The rulers of Kashmir were not Brahmins and the Mohammadins walked in only in 14th century. Who ruled Kashmir… there is a big list, not the one presented by the author here.

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