Skip to main content

There is no 'separate' Kashmir story, as there is for Afghanistan, Nepal, Tibet, Palestine

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Kashmir is the northernmost geographical region of South Asia. Until the mid-19th century, the term "Kashmir" denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range. The name Kashmir derives from the Sanskrit Kashyapmeru. The Greeks knew it as Kaspeiria. Herodotus called it Kaspatyros.
Emperor Ashoka, who called it Shrinagari, founded the capital near the present day Srinagar. The ruins of this Ashokan city still stand. Kashmir evolved with a strong Buddhist tradition, but Buddhism here, like in the rest of India, drowned in the wave of Hindu revivalism initiated by Adi Shankaracharya in the 9th century AD.
Muslim rule was ushered in by Shamsuddin Shah Mir (1339-42), a courtier in the court of King Udayanadeva who seized the throne after his death. The Mughals took control in 1586 during the rule of Jalaluddin Akbar. The region came under the control of the Durrani Empire in Kabul from 1753 to 1819 when the Sikhs took over.
In 1846 the treachery of Gulab Singh, a Dogra general and governor of Jammu, was repaid when the British gave him Jammu for it and further turned over the Kashmir Valley to him for Rs 75 lakh. These treaties formed the so-called princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Gulab Singh became its first Maharajah. This was also the first time J&K became one administrative entity.
As governor of Jammu, Gulab Singh had also captured Ladakh and Baltistan. His son Ranbir Singh added Hunza, Gilgit and Nagar to the kingdom. Thus, a composite state of disparate regions, religions and ethnicities was formed. This is reflected in the present day demographics.
The Kashmir Valley of about 6.9 million people is 96.4% Muslim with Hindus and Buddhists accounting for just 3.6%. Jammu which has a population of 5.4 million is 62.6% Hindu and 33.5% Muslims, mostly concentrated in Poonch.
Ladakh has a population of just 30 lakhs with its 46.4% of Shia Muslims concentrated in Kargil, 40% Buddhist concentrated around Leh and 12.1% Hindus. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) areas including Gilgit-Baltistan are almost 100% Muslim. The total population now of J&K is 12,541,30, PoK is 2,580,000 and Gilgit-Baltistan is 870,347.
The purpose of elaborating on this is two fold. Historically, all the regions of J&K are part of the present narrative of India’s composite history. Despite its preponderant Muslim population the history of people of the Kashmir Valley is intertwined with all the different local histories of the many nationalities of present day India, which is also home to the world’s second largest Muslim population.
There is no separate Kashmir story, as there is for Afghanistan or Nepal. It was always a part of the Indian main and except for a brief rule from Kabul. There is no cause or case for a separate Kashmir, like the Tibetans may have or the Palestinians have.

A distinct ethnic group

The second point here is that the Kashmiris are a distinct ethnic group with little of no historical or social affinities, except Islam, with those of the other regions of the erstwhile princely state of J&K. This J&K, with or without PoK, is an artificial entity of recent origin.
J&K is not the only princely state that acceded to India without some early hesitations and a bit of acrimony. The Maharaja of Jodhpur was an early ditherer who even contemplated acceding to Pakistan till sanity prevailed. The story of Junagadh is well known. Hyderabad, India’s biggest princely state and an inheritor of varied traditions, including the Sathavahanas, Kakatiyas, Bahmanis and Mughals, was, like J&K, stitched together with three large and distinct regions.
If J&K had to be rescued by the Indian Army from tribal raiders from present-day Pakistan and encouraged and provisioned by the new state of Pakistan, Hyderabad, surrounded on all sides by former British Indian Presidencies, had to be taken by the Indian Army from the dithering Asaf Jah ruler and his coterie of Muslim nobles and proselytizing rabble.
But look at how differently these one-time princely states were dealt with. Jodhpur is now part of Rajasthan and the princely line are now hoteliers. Junagadh went to Gujarat via Saurashtra and is now better known for its growing population of Asiatic lions, which are now deemed to be symbols of Gujarati pride (asmita).
Hyderabad was dismembered into three parts and parceled off to Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in 1956. The present Nizam lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Istanbul. The only group who feels nostalgic about the Nizam era are some ex-Hyderabad Pakistanis living in Los Angeles.
In the new India, old states got subsumed and new states were created. All the many regions of the erstwhile princely state of J&K, whether in India or under the control of Pakistan, have by and large settled down under their new national identities, except the Kashmir Valley. It is now India’s seemingly intractable problem. It has festered for over 67 years. Did we miss something?
Like Malda, Kishenganj, Hyderabad and Malapuram parliamentary constituencies, Anantnag, Srinagar and Baramula are the only Muslim majority constituencies in India. There are no nationality issues in any of the former.
Independent India is a nation of many nationalities and for the first time with power vested with the people by a lively democracy. More than being a nation bound together by shared history, shared culture and shared ethnicity, it is bound together by shared aspirations assured by a Constitution, written by our founding fathers that shared an idealism and nationalism forged by shared experience.
It is amply clear that many, if not most, people in the Kashmir Valley do not share the aspirations, which bind the rest of us together. But history does not offer them any basis for a distinct and independent identity either. On the other hand, the narrative of Kashmir’s recent history has taken a distinct course, different from the rest of the country. This India must recognize. In these past 70 years, India has made a hash of managing Kashmir either by placation or by iron hand.
The Pakistan-controlled territory has also been a springboard for terrorists and separatists who think of Kashmir as the unfinished business of partition. They don’t seem to realize that the business of Pakistan too is near finishing. Its majority seceded in 1971. Baluchistan that accounts for three-fifths of the land mass too wants out. Sind also wants out.
The Mohajirs from India centred in Karachi are now not so sure as their fathers were about being in Pakistan. Khyber Pakthunkwa is barely governed. The Kashmiris are too intelligent, educated and self-centred not to know that Pakistan is not a future in their interests. Nor is it in their future.
The Indian state has now to offer something tangible to satisfy most aspirations in Kashmir, and we are talking only about Kashmir. J&K is an artificial and recent construct. Its long past its use by date. We must also accept that reunification with the PoK part of it is neither desirable nor feasible.
Historically, culturally, ethnically and linguistically Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir have as much in common as Tamil Nadu has with Punjab or Assam with Gujarat. The destinies of the people of Jammu and Ladakh have to be delinked from Kashmir. Nor are they exactly happy to be dominated by Kashmir.
India must then seek to accommodate Kashmir with an autonomy that will satisfy the aspirations nurtured by this long period of revolt. With accession to Pakistan or a complete independence not options, an acceptable via media must be and can be found. The breakthrough for that must happen in the minds of the rest of India.
Heavens are not going to fall, if Kashmir becomes an autonomous region within India. The extent of autonomy then becomes the only matter for discussion. We can afford to be generous. But is India ready for it?
---
*Policy analyst. Contact: mohanguru@gmail.com. Source: Author Facebook timeline

Comments

TRENDING

It's now official: Developed Gujarat's regular, casual workers earn less than 19 top states

By Rajiv Shah
Though not as low as state chief minister Vijay Rupani claims it to be (0.9%), Gujarat’s unemployment rate, at least as reflected in a recent report released by the Government of India, is 4.8%, lower than the national average, 6%. Yet, ironically, the same report, released soon after the Lok Sabha polls came to an end in May 2019, brings to light an even grimmer reality: Lower wages in "model" and "developed" Gujarat compared to virtually the whole of India, including the so-called Bimaru states.

Amaravati: World Bank refusing to share public grievances on Land Pooling Scheme

By Our Representative
A new report, prepared by the advocacy group Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), New Delhi, has taken strong exception to the World Bank refusing to share its independent assessment of the Land Pooling Scheme (LPS), floated by the Andhra Pradesh government in order to build the new capital.

Why crib? 4.5% is far better than pre-1980 'Hindu rate of growth': Subramanian replies

By Rajiv Shah
Even as sticking to his original argument that India's gross domestic product (GDP) since 2011-12 has been overestimated by 2.5%, renowned economist Arvind Subramanian has said in a fresh paper that his estimate of post-2011-12 growth rate at around 4.5% is surely not "implausibly low", as some of his critics have been arguing following his controversial June paper.

UP's Sonbhadra killing of 10 tribals highlights 'failure' to implement Forest Rights Act

Counterview Desk
On July 17, as many as 10 people, including three women, were killed and 28 injured when a village head and his supporters opened fire on a group of tribal farmers in Ubha village of Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh. While the firing took place following a clash between over a land ownership dispute, it reportedly highlights failure of officials enforce Forest Rights Acts (FRA) and Survey Settlement in favour of tribals.

Govt of India 'lying': MGNREGA budget reduced by Rs 1,084 crore in 2019-20

Counterview Desk
NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, a well-known advocacy group for the rural jobs guarantee scheme, under implementation since 2005, has said that the statement by the Rural Development Minister has a made a mockery of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) on the floor of Parliament, revealing the ruling BJP’s “anti-worker and anti-poor bias”.

Govt of India seeks to 'subvert' autonomy of adjudicating authorities: RTI amendment

Counterview Desk
India's independent Right to Information watchdog, The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), in a statement, has said that the Government of India’s proposed amendments to the RTI Act to empower the Centre to unilaterally decide the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms of service of Information Commissioners at the Centre and States “seriously undermine” the law.

None of India's ministries, departments have mining children on the radar: MPs told

By Our Representative
A delegation of two civil rights groups, Samata and mines, minerals and People (mm&P), has impressed upon several of India's members of Parliament (MPs) to discuss and raise issues relating to illegal mining, the Samata judgment, children in the mining areas and the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) in Parliament, adding, the issue of involvement of gram sabhas in decision making ought to be central for allowing any new projects in forest areas.

Demand to withdraw sedition charge against 30,000 unnamed Adivasis, activists

Counterview Desk
Every 10th Adivasi of Jharkhand’s Pathalgadi area is charged with sedition, Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM), a network of activists and people’s organisations, which organised a protest in Ranchi in front of the Governor's house, has said. In a statement following the protest on Monday, JMM has called for larger support to stand up against violations of Constitutional rights of Adivasis and use of sedition law as tool for repression.

Introduced in Lok Sabha, amendment proposals a 'blow' to RTI's federal scheme

By Venkatesh Nayak*
In less than two months of returning to power, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA-III) government has revived its 2018 proposal to curtail the autonomy of the Information Commissions established under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). A similar attempt was made exactly one year ago but the Bill to assume power to regulate the tenure, salaries and allowances of Information Commissioners across the country was not tabled in Parliament.

Satellite images may be used to support verdict to 'evict' lakhs of India's forest dwellers

By Our Representative
Ahead of a crucial Supreme Court hearing on July 24, indications have emerged suggesting India's top officialdom is preparing grounds to support the controversial petition by hardcore conservationists, which led the apex court to order on February 13 a time-bound eviction of millions of forest dwellers, whose claims for forest land under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) was rejected by authorities across India.