Kashmir — in the mirror of history

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Mohammad Jamil

IN Quora forum, there has recently been an intelligent discussion over the question as to “why Indian history is silent about Karko?a Empire and its great king Lalitaditya Muktapida of Kashmir”. Many wrote that his empire was huge almost twice the size of Mughals, but it didn’t last long. But, Indian history books ignored the reign of King Lalitaditya Muktapida of Kashmir, who by some accounts had one of the biggest empires in world history. Since there are many professionals on Quora, one can expect to get reliable information. However, nobody appears to have answered the question stated above. If one cares to look back at history, it appears that for centuries, Kashmir was not part of India, but India was part of Kahmir’s Karkota Empire. Anyhow, it was ruled by British, Sikhs, Mughals and Afghans, and after the partition, India forcibly occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
In 1846, when the British East India Company defeated the Sikh Empire in the first Anglo-Sikh war, Kashmir was sold to Gulab Singh, a Dogra, who had served as Governor of Jammu in the Sikh Empire of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He however chose to side with the British in the Anglo-Sikh war. After the war, the East India Company sold Kashmir to Gulab Singh for a sum of 7.5 million rupees to reward his loyalty. Kashmiris had suffered at the hands of British, Sikhs and Afghans; however the crushing of Kashmiris’ freedom sentiment by the Indian state had started off when its militarily occupied the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1948. They left no savaging weapon untried to break and subdue the freedom-demanding Kashmiris, but they failed. The wholesale orgy of death and destruction that its rampaging military has been indulging so freely and abundantly that there is not a single home there without a family tragedy.
Especially during the last three decades more than 500000 army and paramilitary forces stood humbled thoroughly and abysmally at the hands of unbending Kashmiris in India-occupied Kashmir (IoK). Their unending nightmare continued with revocation of Article 370 of India’s Constitution, which had ensured the Muslim-majority state its own Constitution and independence over all matters except foreign affairs, defence and communications, was undoubtedly the most far-reaching political move on the disputed region in the last seven decades. Since 1989, Kashmiri youth had started struggle against atrocities, killings and ruthless exploitation, and since then about 90000 Kashmiris have laid down their lives. Human Rights Watch and other groups every year issue reports of Indian forces’ brutalities. Even international human rights groups have in the past called for a probe into whether the unmarked graves held bodies of civilians who disappeared when Indian security forces tried to crush the freedom movement.
Upsurge in the IoK had started with the brutal and inhuman acts of rape and murder of two innocent women in Shopian (IoK) in 2008. Martyrdom of Burhan Wani had also given impetus to the freedom struggle of Kashmiris. However, Indian forces brutalities had moved right-thinking Indian politicians and intellectuals that Kashmiri ordeal deserved serious contemplation. International community should take notice of the atrocities committed against Kashmiris, and help resolve the Kashmir issue because tension between the two nuclear states would not only make the environment of the region perilous but also the world at large. Noted Indian author, Arundhati Roy is perhaps the only sane voice in India who stands for the freedom of Kashmiris from Indian occupation. Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatama Gandhi is another Indian but settled in America, who holds similar views.
In 2010, Arundhati Roy, addressing a seminar organised by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) in Srinagar, had reiterated that Jammu and Kashmir was not an integral part of India. She went on to state: “It is a historical fact. By describing the pro-freedom leaders in the Valley as separatists, India in a sense has already acknowledged that secession has taken place.” Some of right-thinking Indians also highlighted the atrocities perpetrated on Kashmiris. In 1990, Humra Quraishi, an Indian national, was asked by the editor of Tribune to go to Srinagar and report on the situation after surge in Kashmiris’ struggle. She witnessed in Srinagar scenes of disaster; the army was everywhere letting loose the reign of terror that traumatized the people of Kashmir. In the author’s note (preamble), she expressed her disdain in following words.
“There is little space available to highlight the daily humiliation Kashmiris suffer, the plight of families whose young men have disappeared and the effect of the long years of turmoil on the psyche of young and old alike”. She narrated heartrending stories of mothers waiting for their young ones who disappeared years ago picked up by the army and agencies. In her book, the first chapter was titled as ‘Valley of Death’, she wrote: “Srinagar is a city under siege, every single day, for nearly a decade…There is a martyrs’ graveyard in every mohallah of a town and every village, and an entire generation of young men and adolescents has grown up on the stories of their heroism and sacrifice”.
Anyhow, India had started its efforts to change demography of the IoK when in June 2008, Kashmiri Muslims had protested against allotment of land to Delhi-based Amarnath Shrine Trust, which was violation of the law. In fact, Congress-led government had allotted a piece of land near the shrine apparently to facilitate Hindu pilgrims that throng the shrine in large numbers, but Kashmiris were suspicious of the government’s intentions, as efforts were being made to encourage migration of Hindus to the state with a view to diluting Kashmiri Muslims’ 98 per cent majority in IoK. Now Narendra Modi is implementing that plan.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.