July 18, 2012
Kashmir: The jewel of the Sub-continent
By Mertze Dahlin
Summary of Kashmir history and the Advent of the Emperor system followed by the partition of British India and the plausible outcome of the province of Kashmir
The Princely State of Kashmir was a desired destination for many travelers and was the choice location for a peaceful and tranquil life. This was the picture in the minds of many a wayfarer in times now gone by. It was also the unwritten calling card known for many centuries and only dreamed of from faraway places.
Everyone seemed to be interested in Kashmir, even before it gained fame as a desirable land. Before the 4th century AD, Its early history was a landmark of Buddhism in which its Emperor, Ashoka, founded the capital city of Shrinagari. Now its remains are closely located near the modern city of Srinagar.
Later, still during the 4th century, a monk known as Kumarajiva studying at the Sarvastivadan Buddhist School in Kashmir, had helped in bringing Buddhism to China. Between the 8th and 9th centuries, Adi Shankara, a scholar from South India, gained distinction in presenting Hindu Philosophy to the temples of learning in Kashmir. He had produced over thirty five works introducing “Kashmir Shaivism” which was instrumental in transforming Kashmir into Hindu rule.
Muslims were also living in Kashmir by this time. Many of the Hindus and Muslims revered the same saints and used the same shrines so they got along together just fine during those years. This led to what was called a “Sufiana Composite Culture”. It was an Islamic lifestyle in which the Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist people of Kashmir lived together peacefully.
In the 14th century, an army of 60,000 men from Turkestan led by Dulucha, the Tartar Chief from Central Asia, nearly ended the Hindu rule of Kashmir by destroying many villages and killing thousands of people when they tried to escape from the Kashmir valley. As if in retribution, the army was wiped out in a snow blizzard as they attempted to travel on, but in the wrong direction, which was through the Devsar Pass.
During the Hindu rule of Raja Sahadev, Shah Mir entered into Kashmir and subsequently became the Muslim ruler. This became known as the Shah Miri Dynasty and evolved into the Chak Dynasty until the Mughals conquered them in 1586. This was continued by a series of different rulers, some of whom were tolerant of the other religions and some, such as Sultan Sikandar Butshikan performed many atrocities, including the breaking of all golden and silver images associated with the Hindu tradition. The Hindus had to leave the country or abandon their religion. Sikandar was known as the “Destroyer of Idols” since he also ordered the Hindu temples to be destroyed.
This series of Muslim rulers continued until after Akbar invaded Kashmir in 1588. He saw to it that a Sanskrit composition of the early rulers of Kashmir was translated into Persian and thus became known to the Muslims in distant places and was the complete history until this Mughal rule by Emperor Akbar.
The Kashmir valley stayed under Muslim rule for four centuries which included the Mughals and the Afghans until 1819 when the Sikh armies of the Punjab area conquered Kashmir. Under the Sikh rule, Muslims had a difficult life because of several anti-Muslim laws including an exorbitant tax rate. Since many people had to leave because of the harsh rule, a famine developed in 1832. The Sikhs had to revise its regulations and offer interest-free loans to the farmers to try to entice the return of the population. Eventually the Kingdom of Jammu was also taken over by the Sikhs as well as lands to the east and north-east of Jammu. This conquest continued until 1845 after which a series of treaties were constituted between the British and the Sikhs after a war between the two of them.
The country now had a diverse population composed of Buddhists toward the east, Hindus, Muslim and Sikhs in the Jammu region. The Kashmir valley was mostly populated with Sunni Muslims. The North, in the Gilgit area, was mostly Shi’a Muslims but all that became of little consequence as now Kashmir came under the British crown. At least, under the British rule, Kashmir continued her internal autonomy.
By 1941, Kashmir had a Muslim majority population but they served as landless laborers for absentee Hindu landlords as they had for the past century. Kashmir was still ruled until 1947 by the Sikhs culminating with the rule of Hari Singh at the end of the British rule and the partition of the British Indian Empire becoming the “Union of India” and the “Dominion of Pakistan”.
The partition of India was actually the partition of British India taking place in the year of 1947. It is well known about the struggle and turmoil experienced between the populations of the new states of India and Pakistan as up to 12.5 million people of the former British Indian Empire were now displaced and resulted in an atmosphere of mutual hostility between the two states.
What about Kashmir
The entity of Kashmir at that time was loosely created by the British who felt obligated and rewarded those who sided with them. A problem was starting to show its head since the population was 77% Muslim and shared a border with Pakistan. The political leaders finally agreed upon a plan of partition but could not agree on what to do with the “princely states” as the Territory of Kashmir was known.
At the time of partition, the Maharaja Hari Singh, who ruled Kashmir preferred to remain independent and not be with either India or Pakistan. He wanted it to be a neutral country. A main issue was developing at this time in that the Sikh emperor sold much of the land to Hindus instead of letting it go to Pakistan. The ruling Maharaja didn’t know what to do further and by this time Indian soldiers had entered Kashmir. Too many conflicts arose and he was forced to concede that Jammu and Kashmir should be a part of India. These agreements were subsequently disputed to a great extent and that dispute continues to this day.
Nehru comment about Kashmir status
Finally the United Nations got involved and they insisted that the Kashmiris should decide what to do themselves. Since a plebiscite, demanded by the UN, was not conducted, relations between India and Pakistan had now turned. Even in 1957, Nehru declared that “Kashmir is for the Kashmiris. We cannot stay in Kashmir without the consent of the Kashmiris”.
India & Pakistan claims to Kashmir
Kashmir Province today is uncertain about which direction it will fall. Pakistan claims Kashmir as does India. It is likely that Pakistan is recognizing that it could not defeat India in the accession of Kashmir and as yet the Kashmiris themselves want independence, but a plebiscite vote would need to be taken. The question remains as to who is now the official population as many “outsiders” are now residents. The seriousness of the situation is exemplified by the occurrence of two wars between India and Pakistan in 1965 and 1999 with India now controlling half of Jammu And Kashmir State while Pakistan controls a third which is the remaining territory after providing a portion to China.
The reason both India and Pakistan feel that Kashmir belongs to them starts off as rather simplistic at first. Pakistan lays claim to it because most of the population of Kashmir are Muslims. India puts its claim to it because the Maharaja of Kashmir at the time of Partition gave it to India.
Benefits of Kashmir to India and Pakistan
In reality, Kashmir can be of great benefit to either or both countries. Three major rivers entering Pakistan comes from Kashmir; the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab rivers. All of these rivers contribute to the agricultural economy of Pakistan and are necessary for its survival. There happens to also be three other rivers which flow into India. The fear of dominance by one country or the other is that the water could be denied to the non-dominant country. In 1947, Britain wanted independent Jammu and Kashmir to remain under the influence of Pakistan since it had a dependable bulwark against communism and Nehru was a known Socialist. It was a way of containing communism.
The security issue raises its head from time to time claiming the historical factor, in that the northern provinces of Kashmir are as a gateway to the North West Frontier Provinces of Pakistan and northern Punjab. It is also an access to Russia in the north. These fears as well as the connection to China and Afghanistan would be the issues to be solved during debate.
The present quagmire of no-progress is at somewhat local levels in that Kashmiri resistance is at a personal level between groups engaged in non-stop infighting with the labels of terrorist, fundamentalist and secessionist movements. Reprisals continue with more and more force inviting international organizations such as Amnesty International, Asian Watch, and Physicians for human rights. All are hoping to stop the alleged state sponsored atrocities and human rights violations in Kashmir and allegations of state sponsored terrorism in India. Even within Kashmir, the existing cease-fire line inside the neighborhoods in Kashmir is not accepted to be called an International Border.
Present administration of Kashmir
This now seldom-visited land is located in the Northwest region of the Indian Sub-continent in Asia. It is composed of several states. The major States of Jammu and Kashmir is administered by India, Gilgit-Balistan and Azad Kashmir Provinces are administered by Pakistan and the northernmost areas of Aksai Chin and Trans-Karakaram tract are administered by China. Collectively, they are known as Kashmir. All these controlling factions are in lieu of being an autonomous entity as it once was before the time of partition of the British Indian Empire.
Kashmir now has three countries who want to ‘protect’ and have a part of her. The north-eastern area borders with China and that border line is still in dispute. India borders the central and southern portion while Pakistan is at the lower border of the province. These are all very diverse areas ranging from large salt plains in desert areas with no actual settlements of people to nearly inaccessible mountains in the North and fertile farming in the valley.
Several attempts have been made to bring peace to the province. Probably the first was by the UN with their Security Council Resolution # 47 adopted on April 21, 1948, which stated that a plebiscite be formed and for Pakistan to withdraw all their Tribesmen and Nationals who were there for fighting and for India to leave just a minimum of troops in order to keep Civil Order. Pakistan ignored the mandate and the plebiscite was not implemented and there was no vote on whether the Kashmiris wanted to join Pakistan or India. Finally, in 1990, the United States has changed its position and no longer urges a plebiscite. They think that the dispute should be settled by negotiation between India and Pakistan.
Summit meetings about Kashmir in the United States
The result of a meeting of the “Group of Eight Summit” in Sea Island, Ga. in July, 2004, as relayed by Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, was about “Democracy and human rights in the Middle East”, but somehow remained silent about the problems in Kashmir. The G8 recognized “democracy and human rights militate against extremism and strife in the Middle East and North Africa”, but did not mention that it applies equally to Kashmir. They could have mentioned that the denial of democracy and human rights in Kashmir has been an open wound in India-Pakistan relations for more than 50 years. This kind of thinking is reminiscent of the occasion in 1938 when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain scoffed at the Nazi menace to Czechoslovakia. His neglect precipitated World War II.
A report of the Interlocutors in their discussions for the Jammu and Kashmir meeting in May, 2012, presented by Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai who tells us of the meeting which did not include members from Jammu and Kashmir Province nor did they realize the importance of Dignity and Honor which the Kashmiris so desperately need and to include the word ‘Aazadi’, referring to independence from occupation. Therefore, a reasonable meeting should include the full participation of the people from Jammu and Kashmir from both sides of the ceasefire line including those in the Diaspora who should still be counted as Kashmiris. Lacking these prerequisites, the meeting was of no consequence.
India / Pakistan positions for Kashmir
The countries of India and Pakistan are becoming increasingly determined that Kashmir belongs to one of them. Despite the innumerable conferences, meetings and conventions about possible remedies or surrender of claim, it is unlikely that either party will give up their claim to Kashmir. Adding to this is the realization that India would likely not garner sufficient votes from the Kashmiris to become the choice of vote, yet India and Pakistan hold equally inflexible positions.
The continuing stand-off between the two nations in their desire to possess Kashmir is akin to Kashmir being the awarded prize as of a camel or lamb in which the judges could not decide to whom the prize shall be awarded. In perhaps a division of the award, the favorite one shall have the hind quarter or perhaps the head – still impossible to fairly divide judiciously. More closer to reality, however, is that Kashmir is as the beautiful woman who should not have a lock of her hair misplaced. She is not to be divided nor can she be. Further, she is not likely to present herself as the comely choice for either of the admirers, but rather enjoy the benefits each may have to offer in their zeal to gain her favor. She is destined to be admired and supported by those who would have her and in return, her abundance in charm and desirability can be utilized in what Kashmir is noted for.
For possible mediation efforts, there seems to be not complete trust in the United States or even Britain -- The wider body of Peace-Keeping nations as represented by the U.N. should be considered, even if there seem to be thoughts that it is an ineffective organization -- the methods, standards and experience is contained within the U.N. and not subject to a change of Presidential power or a new Prime Minister as would be the case in administering a change for Kashmir by the United States or Great Britain.
Lack of concern by other countries
When one is seated many hours away from the small, but suffering region of Kashmir and enjoying our present environment, it is so easy to unconscionably regard that maintaining a status quo concerning the people of Kashmir is all one needs to do because we never hear of the pain and near-war conditions the people are experiencing. After all, for many of us, it is the other side of the world – so who cares? It takes but a moment to realize that we are, and should be, concerned with what goes on anywhere in our world. It will, and does affect everyone and as many of us realize, every land has something beautiful to offer and we, the US as a “super-power” are presently unwittingly permitting several other “lands of paradise” to be destroyed.
distorting of facts
A lot of fact distortion began occurring in India, Pakistan, as well as Kashmir. The Kashmiris are split between supporting Pakistan, India and independence, but in any case, Kashmiris suffered the most. There was the development of the Kashmiri Socialist party that preferred accession to Pakistan. The impatient Pakistan invaded Kashmir and caused the Maharaja to seek India’s help and in doing so, he signed the statement of accession to India. Then came the split of Kashmir between India and Pakistan. For some reason, Pakistan gave part of its land to China. Saudi influence began in 1979 with an Islamic conference in Srinagar. They set up a medical college in 1980 and began starting Madrassah’s, schools for planting the seeds of Islamic Fundamentalism in Kashmiris. It became known as Kashmiri Islam, a derivative of Sufism. Pakistan was unable to offer democracy while they themselves had a military dictatorship. Pakistan views that they are providing moral support to Kashmiris in their fight for freedom against the brutal Indian army. The Indian view is that they are dealing with a proxy war by Pakistan who has not accepted Kashmiris accessions to India. There were a number of occurrences that developed and few were documented precisely and the status-quo remains.
Reflections of Kashmir’s cultural history to apply
Kashmir’s history spans an abundance of cultures whose people lived harmoniously together for hundreds of years. The religious pluralism exhibited by Kashmir for these many years have not been seen elsewhere in this world as we know it. Elements of those same people from long ago exist today and could develop a series of “oases” in the form of “Temples of Learning”, “Religious Universities”, “Retirement retreats”, and “Shelters” all within the confines of this magnificent location. These environments can be sponsored and supported by the different schools from a world-wide aspect. Kashmir itself will benefit by the income produced by having a wide variety of enterprises taking part and contributing toward the payment of costs involved.
Points for mediation
An outline of a solution involving water-rights to both countries without jeopardizing its use within Kashmir should be presented with the expectation that the details could be discussed and agreed upon. It should be recognized by Kashmiris as well as all countries bordering Kashmir that it is in fact a rather international country in that it has great effect upon those who share its border. Considering that, a complete autonomy should not be expected, but rather a sharing of responsibilities and benefits by all the border countries which will pay for greatly improving the infrastructure and well-being of Kashmir and its population.
Independent state concept
The bordering countries of India and Pakistan will benefit as conveyors of people now being part of the tourist element that Kashmir will become and can provide the needed transportation and guidance.
This is not an entirely new concept of a state totally dependant on its neighbors for survival. One state that has been in existence the longest is perhaps the “State of Vatican City”. Italy provides military defense for the Vatican. The Police are provided by trained Swiss Mercenaries who are Catholic. Vatican City is a recognized National Territory under international law. There are no embassies in Vatican City due to space limitations. The City State budget revenue is derived from museums and the post office financially by the sales of stamps, coins, medals and tourist mementos plus fees for admittance to these museums and the publication sales. Although it is the world’s smallest state (110 acres), the politics of Vatican City is an absolute elective Monarchy – the Pope appoints a body of Cardinals for legislative authority. It presents itself as though it is the model for a self-governing nation.
In the United States, we need to look only to the District of Columbia, in which is located the city of Washington DC, the capital of the United States; it is not part of any US State. To form the District of Columbia in 1791, the states of Maryland and Virginia donated land to form the Federal District – the Virginia portion was returned in 1846. The National government in DC does not rely on any state for its own security which covers 68 square miles. It is the fourth largest metropolitan economy in the United States, 29% of jobs are Federal. DC has several universities – Georgetown, George Washington, Howard University, Children’s National Medical Center plus many Historic sites and museums, including the White house. The US Congress has jurisdiction over the city; the city has its own mayor. It at least borders on independence.
These are examples of independent /dependent states that best uses their independent uniqueness as characterizes the province of Kashmir, which will still depend on the resources of its neighboring countries to provide the infrastructure not available to such a land-locked state.
A complete autonomy for Kashmir would not be economically feasible. In the possible reconcilement of the Kashmir issue, there can only be a win, win, and win solution in that while we have concern for satisfying the citizens of Kashmir, the other countries who have a sizeable, legitimate concern is of course the major bordering neighbors who are India and Pakistan. Their interest is needed as well as required for the development of Kashmir which includes the benefits each will achieve by “partnering” with this middle Province who in fact can provide a reciprocal support to each nation. Also, to achieve this outcome, each of the neighboring parties should expect to make some sacrifices, both to each other and to Kashmir itself.
Both countries can provide medical facilities and other civil requirements for Kashmir as well as conduct tourist traffic for the economical benefit to both in the form of tourism to each plus benefit Kashmir as the destination of said tourists. The Province of Kashmir is conveniently configured to be an ideal religious retreat for any number of persuasions. Srinagar, as the Capital city, can establish offices relating to the existing religious groups that were there historically and be the distribution point to lead to centers of learning for the different faiths as a multi-religious state. Mahatma Gandhi felt that Kashmir was the only hope for peace with its peace among religions. An Indian expense will be greatly reduced when the large deployment of Indian troops can be reduced in the civilian neighborhoods.
Conferences and decision-making meetings are sometimes too easily crafted by the local governments involved. Of course any government is concerned about its political status in determining the future of any country, state or territory, but of utmost concern should be the quality of life being planned for the “inhabitants” of such a place. In discussions about improving the status of the residents of Kashmir as well as the limits of jurisdiction for those determined to “protect” Kashmir, the local leaders of Kashmir must be equally involved as well as seasoned “world acclaimed” personalities such as “Bishop Desmond Tutu and Kofi Annan”. In this kind of environment, the needs and wishes of the Kashmiris will be “on the table”. Knowledgeable personalities from India as well as Pakistan must be part of the meeting. In creating the framework for a workable solution, it stays at the conference level. However, the meetings should be “transparent” as far as the governments are concerned as reports should be freely relayed so nothing will come out as being “hidden”. When the “roadmap” of a possible solution is attained, these “well known” leaders and scholars will allow it to be presented officially to the “powers that be” for their ratification of the plan.
Future of Kashmir
One can foresee Indian businessmen going on a seasonal vacation to the mountains of Kashmir and fishing in the streams with their families joining them, also joining them would be Pakistani industrialists leaving their busy city life for a few days of relaxation and meeting with their cousins from India. The rivers will continue to flow and provide water to the farms and industries and finished goods derived from the lumber industry would find a good market in India as well as Pakistan. Kashmiris can expect a more relaxed life when the military leaves and thus end their security force operations. India and Pakistan share many common things including similar land, poetry, arts, music, rivers and animal life – all of which are reflected in Kashmir. Foreign tourist sports enthusiasts will employ Kashmiri youth for skiing, trekking, parasailing and water skiing. Kashmir is known as the Switzerland of India with its sprawling lakes, towering mountains with white snow blankets, apple farms and colorful roses.
I can also envision historical scholars, religious scholars, students and visitors from all corners of our globe flying into Karachi or Islamabad, Pakistan, and Mumbai or New Delhi, India, then travelling by train through suburbs, countryside and villages, stopping along the way to enjoy the local hospitality and then to finally enter their dreamed-of Kashmir. They will then find a hotel, a place to eat and taxi to the office complex in Srinagar to make arrangements to visit the University of their choice located farther inland. Once his reservations are made, the shuttle bus assigned to his campus will arrive and he is on his way to a new life experience among the Kashmiri citizens on his new campus.
Mertze Dahlin in the Managing Editor of the Journal of America.