The book tries to counter the popular narrative about the history of Kashmir, Pandits and Muslims. However, it ends up as a propaganda literature!
This book is propaganda! To make a point, it mostly uses the vague “archival record” as reference. Claiming Kalhan as a literary genius and not a historian is an attempt to disassociate Kashmir from its glorious past. This is now part of the narrative in the valley; Shankaracharya hill is called Takht-e-Sulaiman, the irony is that Solomon never visited Kashmir; Hari Parbat is Koh-a-Maran, Anantnag is Islamabad etc. Even dropping the Kashmiri surnames is a pattern in the Valley now. With political dust and propaganda hiding the truth, the false narrative is brainwashing the Kashmiri children; we all have failed our children in the process.
The book benchmarks the incomparable terrorism driven exodus and ethnic cleansing of Pandits in the 1990 to the sequential natural catastrophes leading to migration of Kashmiris in 1891. These migrant Kashmiris are the Nehrus, Sharifs, Abbassi, Saprus, etc. Kashmir had major catastrophes such as famine (1878) , earthquakes (1885), Cholera epidemic (1892) and floods (1893), that reduced the population of Kashmir from eight hundred thousand to two hundred thousand; apart from this, Srinagar city burnt twice during this time.
Background of the Violence
With USSR withdrawing from Afghanistan by February, 1989, the large scale violence was directed towards Kashmir under the watch of the American Ambassador to Pakistan, Robert-Oakley with Kashmiri Islamist Terrorists (KIT) acting as the foot soldiers. Oakley later conceptualised the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in 1993, as the President of United States Institute of Peace.
In 1989, KIT used “We Vs Them” to drive out non-ethnic Kashmiris (but Citizens of Kashmir) out of the valley- starting with a blast at Shakti Sweets in Srinagar; a non-Kashmiri owned shop. The miniscule fringe elements i.e. KIT, hijacked the collective consciousness of Kashmiris in 1990 and drove out the Kashmiri Pandits out of the Valley, along with the mainstream politicians, intellectuals and local security officials.
From December’1989 to April’1990 little less than three hundred Pandits from around hundred thousand; and little more than three hundred Muslims from around five million Muslims got killed in the Valley by the Islamist terrorists. This shows a huge percentage of Pandits having been killed. Incidentally today “We Vs Them” is driving out Kashmiris on basis of class; any Kashmiri who can afford to set-up a home outside the Valley has moved out.
In pre-Independence census of Kashmir Province done by Scottish Missionary Dr Elmslie, the Hindus were around 19 per cent in the Kashmiri Province. Muzarafabad, now part of Pakistan occupied Kashmir has no Hindus and as per last census of 2011, Hindus in Kashmir are around 2 per cent.
In the last winter of 2018, five infant girls were abandoned in the valley, in the subzero temperature, to die. Kashmir didn’t utter a word against this but is protesting against the killing/rape of a girl child in faraway Kathua, since the alleged killers are the “others”. What a low for all of us!
Bashir doesn’t reflect the main change that Islam brought to Kashmir. Earlier we would not marry into the same Gotra (descendant of a sage/rishi) nor in our mother"s and both grandmother"s Gotra. After Islam, Kashmiris started marrying even first cousins; it is matter of research what inbreeding has done to our race in last six hundred years.
The book comparing Sangrampur (1997),Wandhama (1998), Nandimarg (2003) etc. i.e. mass massacre of Pandits guided by KIT; with the killings at Gowkadal, Bejbehra etc. is shameful. Kashmirs’ tragedies can’t be divided into Pandit & Muslims. The January, 1990 Gowkadal killings made us numb with grief; it could have been any passerby, it could have been me; this was my cycling route from school to home. These were the dark days, when each day would bring the news of the killing of someone we knew or someone we knew who knew the killed.
The Way Forward
The way forward is reconciliation, unlike Bashir’s book that is dividing Kashmir into Pandits and Muslims. Today, Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims have demonstrated an ability to live with different communities outside the Valley. The Pandits will be happy to work with fellow Kashmiri Muslims in rebuilding a plural and economics focused Kashmir. I believe that majority of Kashmiri Muslims & Pandits; along with Sikhs, Shias, Christians, Gujjars, Dogras, Ladhakis etc; will happily live together in the valley, like all of them do in Jammu today, thanks to the emancipated Dogras.
An area in the Valley may be earmarked, where every J&K Citizens, irrespective of religion, especially those who have fled in last thirty years and the ones who don’t own a house in the Valley, can be settled. This area should also have Special Economic Zone, that can attract Industry and talent, so that jobs and business opportunities are created for the whole valley; in isolation to economic progress, the valley will continue to stay a ghetto with people holding onto their imaginary grievances.
What we also need is focus on school education that, apart from skills and hands-on Laboratories, also teaches (a) Kahlan’s Rajtranjani,Wahabsaab Khar, Rasool Mir, Badshah, Lal Ded, Mahjoor, Dina Nath Nadim etc. Connect children to the glorious 5000 years of Kashmir History, Art, Poetry etc. and b) Indian Army saved Kashmiris in October, 1947, on the invitation of Kashmiris and drove out the enemy with the active support of Kashmir"s Salamati Fauj. In last thirty years, Kashmir is up against a manufactured enemy and is riding the tiger that it doesn’t know how to dismount. This truth not being told to our children, has destroyed what Kashmir stood for and is stopping Kashmir from what it can be.
A fast track tribunal under a Supreme Court Judge, to bring to book people who have blood of innocent Kashmiris on their hands, is required, starting from 1986 Anantnag riots. Reconciliation in isolation to justice won’t be sustainable.
This book has failed to tell the truth; and is an attempt to divide Kashmiris through propaganda. Incidentally Bashir has worked with Information Department, the propaganda armof the State.
(The writer is the CEO of Powai Labs and a citizen of Jammu and Kashmir)