Revisiting the Paradise on Earth: Kashmir, it's Past & Article 370
“Gar Firdaus bar-rue zaminast, hamiasto, haminasto, haminast…”
As Amir Khusrao delineates, we long for the serene landscapes of Kashmir and yet despise the political and religious violence that exists on the horizon.
Jammu and Kashmir have been contentious enough to scourge the Indian media with its happenings in the nation and abroad.
Claimed by a number of countries for centuries, with the abundant valleys and mesmerizing climate, the reality of violence and civilian misery that shrouds underneath is difficult to pass by.
Whether it be innocent Amarnath yatris (pilgrims to a holy place) or armed soldiers, the wrath of Improvised Explosive Devices didn’t discriminate amongst them.
We might think that these conflicts have emerged in modern times, but here is where our conscience needs to travel to the 5,000-year-old history which forbade peace in the region.
What did it look like in ancient times?
Kashmir’s history is well versed by Kalhana (1149-50 A.D) in Rajatarangini. While it is not well researched and accounted for in the modern probational approach, it did trace some of the dynasties which were evident in the continent.
Accordingly, The oldest king of the region is said to be Gonanada I, who reigned before the occurrence of Mahabharata, an Indian epic.
Kashmir became a constituent region of Great Asoka’s empire after his son Jaluka established his independent rule.
The Brahmanas (the priestly class of Indian society) scaled the Northern part of India in search of knowledge. And, classical Sanskrit (one of the rudimentary languages on the globe) was first developed in the region.
Nagar Karkota Dynasty (7th century AD) :
Durlabha Vardhana was the pioneer ruler, followed in a few generations by the most memorable ruler Lalitaditya. The latter defeated tribes of Tibet and North-eastern frontiers up to Western India, extending to Bengal.
He was a religiously sound ruler who gave protection to Hinduism and Buddhism and funded the construction of shrines.
Utpala Dynasty (855 CE) :
The founder of the reign, Avanti Varman, was concerned with consolidating his power in the designated region. He immersed himself in catering to economic prosperity and brought significant successes in irrigation practices.
He was furthered by comparably weak kings until Kshema Gupta, one of the weak king’s wife became the real authority. Thus, registering considerable female power acquisition.
Lohara dynasty (1003 CE) :
The spirituality ascended by the kingdom identified an upliftment in moral values and oneness with God, which led to a successive decline in Buddhism.
Though Kashmiris accepted their customs, the onset of Mughals, especially Akbar led to them being employed as sheer blacksmiths for armed weapons.
What inducted the earliest discord?
As can be inferred from the historical chart, the region had extensive culture intermixing initiated by Iranian elements, Brahmin influences, and Buddhist strands.
What more is evident, would be the particular ruffle between Brahmnic centered Sanskrit and the Muslim community.
Rajatarangini has been contested by Kashmiri Historian Khalid Bashir for neglecting the 1000 years of Buddhist rule after Asoka as Kalhana was a Brahmin and thus was biased.
He quotes that the latter has conveniently turned myth into an art form to establish priestly class supremacy.
Contentious Historical Accords
Until the 14th century, Kashmir was dominated by Brahmin rulers but with the reign of Shamsuddin Shah Mir, the chronicles started depicting Muslim customs in a more structured and contrasting outlook.
After colonial rule handed over the region to Dogras, Brahmanas flourished yet again. Thus, many aspects of the Dogra rule were completely ignored, one of which included “pouring of burning oil on people” even for catching fish from rivers.
However 19th-century European travel writings, provide us with the grim proof of Muslims being ill-treated and restricted from basic livelihood functions.
Colonial Interventions and Consequences
The policy of separate electorates had caused enough rifts between the Hindu Muslim communities which furthered the occurrence of Partition.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim league placed imperial authority with the proposal for separate nations. British readily gave in to the divisions, amongst the rising fear of nationalist movements.
As riots grew more severe, the government decided to provide independence after World War II.
After the partition in 1947, 550 princely states came under Indian territory and the British gave them the voluntary will to join India as a state or rule independently.
Jinnah claimed Pakistan’s right over Kashmir as the region was dominated by Muslim inhabitants.
Hari Singh, ruler of the region signed a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan allowing Kashmiri citizens to trade and facilitate movement amongst the territories.
Riots and Further Revelations
Tribes from the Pakistani region had started to infiltrate Kashmir from the west. Hari Singh kept delaying the decision of accession which intensified the warfare.
Pashtun tribesmen flocked the region, making the king request for military assistance from India and in exchange he signed the Instrument of Accession, constituting it as part of the country.
As more than half of the population in the Vale of Kashmir were Muslim, tensions mounted quickly. The United Nations had intervened in the ceasefire in January 1949 and thus came about the concept of Line of Control (LOC) continued till date.
Indian Line of Control: Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh
Pakistani Line of Control: Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan
LOCs at the southernmost point became the hotspots of untimed violence between Indian & Pakistani armed forces and militant organizations. It has split numerous families apart and disrupted basic government functions to take action.
Over the years numerous militant organizations have sought refuge in the contentious territory. But a definitive war raged when Pakistani troops infiltrated the region without the knowledge of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
They established themselves in key positions to gain an advantage. The infamous Kargil War which incites patriotism in every Indian’s core was heralded when Pakistani troops fired Indian jets and men from a higher altitude.
Operation Vijay was announced to be successful as the Indian military revolted back efficiently with the help of local shepherds uncovering the opposition’s key positions. Conflict continued to arise until a ceasefire agreement in 2004.
Beginning of Cordiality and Skirmishes
The composite dialogue between the two nations enabled bus services between Srinagar and Muzzafarbad which united the departed families.
The devastating earthquakes in the region furthered the allowance of both nation’s inhabitants to transport relief supplies to and forth.
Nonetheless, the agreements couldn’t withhold the occurrence of terrorist attacks in Mumbai (2008) and Pathankot (2016). These have escalated into full-on airstrikes as both nations struggle with their status in Kashmir.
Militant activities and swaying away from the youths frustrated by the conflict were much evident as they became stone-pelters. The continued strikes and lockdowns due to the high rate of casualties have denied access to basic functions of the internet and or even earning for families.
This doesn't stop with just India or Pakistan, even China is claiming a piece of the land. Currently, the Aksai Chin region is administered by China.
Is Revoking Article 370 a solution?
Article 370 constitutionally provided for the state of Jammu and Kashmir to acquire special status. Their laws, essential rights, and citizenship were identified as different from regular Indian inhabitants. Thus outsiders couldn’t buy property in the region nor could the Indian state announce a monetary crisis on it.
This led to Kashmir left with an administering body and Ladakh without any law-making authority. On the 5th of august, 2019 the article was subsequently revoked for imperative development of the valley.
Kashmir is now constituted as an Indian state unifying it with other territories under a single constitution. It has opened the scope for structured development in the region.
Terrorism and corruption are put to check, with a visible reduction in the facilitation of militant activities. Private ventures are enabled entry which could provide the gentry with refined services.
Citizens are stripped off from their dual citizenship which was owed to them after years of conflict. Many groups are insecure about the implementation of the generalized rules as they see it as appeasement to the Hindu population.
Women are threatened for their right to marry outside the state, raising gender issues. Militant groups are presented with yet another agenda to create ripples in the peace.
Indian Cinema and Kashmir
The cinematography about the Kashmir conflict has revealed visual confirmations for the actuality of the centuries spanned tussle.
While the adaptations might be misleading, we can enjoy the valley’s scenic vistas through some of them here and enhance our understanding of the region.
Haider 2014: Directed by Vishal Bhardwaj
An adaptation to Shakespearean play Hamlet depicts the Ikhwan counterinsurgency which is one of the paramilitary groups stationed there. As depicted, the person's (in the pic) family had contributed to the formation of Ikhwan.
Mission Kashmir (2000): Directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra
The movie depicts eventual grooming terrorism inside a kid whose family was killed by policemen. In vengeance, he goes on to plant bombs and terrorize civilians.
Fanaa (2006): Directed by Kunal Kohli
The male lead in the movie affiliates with JKLF (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front) inspired pro-independence organization that was recently banned by the Indian Government.
Shikara (2020): Directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra
The movie delineates the story of a couple and hundreds of inhabitants who are forced to vacate their ancestral homes as communal riots rage against the Kashmiri Pandits in the valley.
The revocation of special status might ensure better prospects of livelihood to the civilians. As a result of direct interactions, students are getting considered for scholarships, and diverse cultural eating places are finding their way into the region, ensuring cultural mixing and unity.
Ending on the same note, as we interpret Kashmir’s past, it is important to take into account every opinion available at hand so that we do not end up forming a one-sided outlook.
Help us fight Free Speech, along with all other pressing issues of our world by contributing whatever you can.
We use these funds to provide quality education, training, and awareness to youth from underserved communities to help them become better leaders of tomorrow.
Mayuri Chaudhuri is an Indian-based History Honors Graduate and a Content Writer at the International Youths Organization for Peace and Sustainability, who is seeking cognizance to varied issues in the world through the power of a pen.
Inputs and Edits by Aswin Raghav R.