THE ethos and spirit of Kashmiriyat were largely destroyed with the beginning of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989 and the term lost its remaining substance and actuality following the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus and attacks on other religious minorities, according to a European-based think tank.
In its study paper, the Amsterdam based European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) details how the term Kashmiriyat, coined by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has its relevance in today’s times and been often inconsistently utilised, in accordance with the certain agenda of relevant actors, including political leaders and human rights activists.
“The idea of Kashmiriyat refers to feelings of communal harmony, hospitality, peace, equilibrium, tolerance and understanding, embraced by adherents of both Hinduism and Islam in the Kashmir Valley. Despite the difference in religious beliefs, members of the two religious communities manifested similar customs, practices and traditions, which portrayed their common ethnic and cultural ties,” the think tank said.
“The syncretism of the two religious communities is further demonstrated through the frequenting of Sufi shrines by members of the groups. Sufis settled on various hills across Jammu and Kashmir, where they sought solitude in their pursuit of meditation, prayer and ascetic way of life,” it said.
Hence, the idea of Kashmiriyat could not be described not as an ideology, according to some scholars, but a behavioural pattern, as a pluralistic culture of tolerance and sharing of common practices, instead of a mixture of religions, according to EFSAS.
“The ethos and spirit of the Kashmiriyat were largely destroyed with the onset of the Kashmir conflict in 1947. With the beginning of Islamic militancy in 1989, and thereof the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus and violent attacks against remaining religious minorities, the term completely lost its remaining substance and actuality. What was earlier known as a higher power, which bound together individuals with different beliefs, casts or creeds, was long gone,” the think tank said.
The politicisation of the term Kashmiriyat began in the early 20th century, when excessive oppression of Dogra rulers was deemed alien and illegitimate to the people, thereby triggering nationalistic sentiments.
Between 1931 and 1939, Kashmiri nationalism primarily constituted Muslim political movement, designed to challenge the injustices meted out by the Dogra rulers. Later, it expanded to include all religions, giving it a secular flavour, resulting into the transformation of the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference into All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, said EFSAS.
“Its leader, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, recognising the need of establishing a framed and structured political narrative, which will unite his followers, evoked the tale of Kashmiriyat, thus reinforcing the legitimacy of the National Conference as a representative of all Kashmiri Muslims and Hindus,” it said.
The term Kashmiriyat, according to other scholars, argue that it has become a “powerful socio-political tools, which assisted in singling out and shaping certain groups in the region of Kashmir.”
“As a result, the term has been associated with a lot of vagueness and thereof controversy, highlighting the conflicting political agendas of different actors who resort to it,” the think tank said.
It stated that with the onset of the Kashmir issue, the idea of Kashmiriyat as an appraisal of common ethnic identity was off-track following the rise of religious sentiments by certain actors to propagate their stance.
“For instance, as it was the case of Pakistan, the country was emphasising on the Muslim identity of the majority of Kashmiris living in the Valley in order to brew sectarian beliefs, by fostering a pan-Islamic and anti-Hindu agenda, ultimately aiming at their merger with the Islamic republic,” EFSAS said.
Violence began to take centrestage in Kashmir Valley in the late 1980s, following the launch of the so-called Operation Topac, the brainchild of Pakistani President Zia-ul-Haq, intended to “liberate” the Muslim majority in the Kashmir Valley and create an independent state. In 1988, several separatist leaders and Kashmiri youth crossed the Line of Control (LoC) into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and received weapon training and returned to the Valley.
“Pakistani and Kashmiri religious parties and their terrorist squads were used as a front to escalate armed attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and succeeded in injecting the ideology of communalism in the Valley of Kashmir. A malicious campaign against the Kashmiri Pandits, was launched by extremist Islamic terrorist groups using periodic write-ups in local newspapers, sermons through mosques, shouting slogans and referring to the minority community as non-believers (kafirs),” EFSAS said.
“A final ultimatum was given to this community through a press release on April 14, 1990, asking them to leave the Valley within two days or face death as a reprisal. The entire community of about 350,000 Pandits was ethnically cleansed and forced to flee their ancestral homeland. In this phase, the local Muslims who resisted, also bore the brunt of atrocities by Islamist terrorists and mercenaries as there was a massive propaganda drive against Sufi Islam and the composite Kashmiri culture, both dubbed as anti-Islamic,” it added.
The EFSAS stated that with the advent of terrorism in the Valley, the narrative on Kashmiriyat has changed drastically. While Kashmiriyat has not only lost its intangible meaning, the tangible cultural elements of the term started to erode slowly, it said.
“With the rise of Pan-Islamism and almost three decades of violence, religious extremism, uncertainty and instability, the national ethos of Kashmir has been altered and one wonders whether the same culture will ever prove to be a binding force for the people of Kashmir again and thereby, perhaps, be the stimulus for the resurrection of Kashmiriyat,” the think tank further said. (ANI)