Islam, Women and Violence in Kashmir: Between India and Pakistan

Item Code: IHL475
Author: Nyala Ali Khan
Publisher: Tulika Books
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9788189487577
Pages: 185 (11 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.5 inch X 6.3 inch
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Book Description

As I sit under the bespeckled sky gazing on to the enthralling beauty of Gulmarg in the Indian-administered Kashmir Valley, lush with lupines, daisies, narcissus and red roses, nurtured by snow—covered peaks and glaciers, I watch the mutable aspects of Kashmir, sometimes joyous and sometimes despondent. I am enveloped by nostalgia for the era of lost innocence and misplaced hope that at one point in time had ensconced the Kashmiri in the heart of paradise. Smoke from the chimneys of chalets with singled roofs creates a languid atmosphere, making the observer oblivious to the anguishes of life. The mist rises stealthily from the mountains and gives tantalizing glimpses of the ethereal vision behind the veil. The tranquil Dal lake in which gentle ripples are created by the oar of a homebound boatman rowing his gondola on a moonlit night calms the angst of existence. From a distance I hear sonorous voices singing folksongs lamenting the loss of a beloved or remembering the imminence of death. These songs are sung by tribal people with weather beaten faces and jaded souls. The pain in their voices and the emotion in the lyrics echo the centuries of political, cultural and religious persecution that these proud people have borne but have not resigned themselves to. Their isolation, caused by the rugged terrain which me? Inhabit, has not extinguished the spark of hopeful romance and faith in: the resilience of humanity. The beauty of quiet meditation and faith in providence is evoked by the rushing pristine streams in Dachigam, a wildlife sanctuary, redolent of trout. The enchanting wilderness, the mystique of winch is enhanced by the soporific sound of crickets and the coverlet of purple hibiscus, provides a haven for the seeker of spiritual comfort. How 2; a prodigal daughter or son not return to this land of enchantment?

Indian and Pakistani-administered Jammu and Kashmir is a space in which conflicting discourses have been written and read. Prior to 1947 the history of Kashmir comprised four phases: Hindu and Buddhist rule, Muslim rule, conquest, and Dogra rule. In about AD 1200 the poet — historian Kalhana wrote a voluminous account of Kashmir’s historical trajectory from 1182. BC, Rajatarangini (River of Kings). In this work of epic proportions, Kalhana writes about the tribal inhabitants of Kashmir, the Nagas, who created au agrarian society and were an idolatrous people. The history of the Kashmir Valley through the year AD 1486 was recounted by Pandit Jonaraja. This task was later taken on by Srivara and Prajyabhatta, who recorded the history of Kashmir through the conquest of the Valley by the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1586 (Sufi 1979: 1).

In the earliest phase, Hinduism pervaded the fabric of Kashmiri culture and society. During the rule of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka who had embraced Buddhism, Hinduism, with its trappings of a rigid caste hierarchy, ornate rituals and pantheon of deities, was replaced by the austerity of Buddhism in the Valley. The monasteries constructed in Kashmir during Ashoka’s reign became centres of scholarly learning, and the Valley became a religious and cultural hub. The hegemonic influence of Buddhism in Kashmir declined in AD 711 with the foray of Islamic military rule, political dominance and religious teachings.

Hindu and Buddhist rule in Kashmir were obliterated by the Muslim conquest in 1339. Prior to that, Kashmir had feared conquest by a Tartar chief. In order to nullify that threat made to the stability of the Valley during the feckless rule of Raja Sahadev, the commander-in-chief of Kashmir requested Shah Mir of Swat (now a part of Pakistan) and Rainchau Shah of Tibet for assistance. Rainchau Shah was quick to offer aid that alleviated the danger posed by the Tartar ruler. Subsequently, he employed Machiavellian strategies to assassinate the commander—in—chief, married his daughter Kuta Rani, and ascended the throne of Kashmir. Shah converted to Islam and took on the name Sadruddin (Lawrence 2005: 179-200). The dominance of Islam in the Valley was consolidated in the fourteenth century by the Sufi Naqashbandi order of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, popularly known as Shah Hamadan. Hamadani first visited Kashmir, during the reign of the first sultan of Kashmir Shah Mir, who assumed the reigns of power after the demise of Sadruddin.

The first sultan to implement Muslim law in the Valley was Sikander. He inherited the throne in 1394. The architectural wonders built during his reign have retained their unique ethos and are still venerated as landmarks. He founded the town of Sikandarpur (now called Nowhatta, in Srinagar), built the splendid Jama Masjid (central mosque) in Srinagar, and constructed the architecturally elegant Khanqah—i-mualla (monastery) on the banks of the river Jhelum. Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani propagated the Islamic faith within the ornate portals of the Khanqah-i-mualla. Sikander was succeeded by Zainul Abedin (1420—70), who was a patron of the arts. Zninul Abedin, popularly known as Budshah, proclaimed religious tolerance and invalidated discriminatory laws; to date, his reign is glorified for the peace, amity and intellectual growth that it personified. Despite his remarkable contribution the cultural, religious and intellectual ethos of Kashmir, Budshah was able to groom his son and successor, Haider Shah, to intrepidly position self at the helm of affairs. With the defeat of Haider Shah by the Chak tribals in 1561, the first Muslim dynasty of Kashmir was terminated (see fence 2005: 179-200; Rahman 1996; Rai 2004: 27).

Subsequently, in 1589, Mughal emperor Akbar’s formidable army laid siege to and conquered Kashmir. Akbar’s grandson, Shah Jahan, conquered Ladakh, Baltistan and Kishtawar, and validated the annexation of those it territories in 1634. The rule of the Afghan military commander Ahmad Durrani, with its brutality and heinous militarism, replaced Mughal rule in Kashmir in 1753. This period is remembered in the annals of notoriety for Its relentless oppression, cultural erosion, religious intemperance, metaphoric and literal burial of the arts, and dehumanization. The brutal intemperance of Afghan rule, which lasted until 1819, drove Kashmiris to urgently implore outside help.

The Kashmiri Pandit community led by Birbal Dhar encouraged the Sikhs to invade Kashmir, and Birbal Dhar offered to bear the expenses of the invasion. Ranjit Singh invaded Kashmir with an army of 30,000 Sikh soldiers and captured the Valley on 15 June 1819. After five centuries of Muslim rule, during which nine-tenths of the population embraced Islam, Kashmir was once again in the hands of non-Muslims. (Rahman 1996: 12)

The demolition of Afghan rule proved to be a pyrrhic victory for the people of Kashmir. However, Sikh rule in the Valley, which lasted twenty Seven years, surpassed that of the unruly Afghans in its barbarism and cruelty. Discriminatory policies ruled the roost and the Sikh rulers made short shrift d the Kashmiri Muslim majority (see Malik 2002; Young husband 1970).

In the 1820s, the neighbouring plains of the Kashmir Valley, Jammu, were ruled by Raja Gulab Singh, feudatory of the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Gulab Singh was crowned monarch of Jammu by Ranjit Singh in 1982. Under the potent overlordship of Ranjit Singh, Gulab Singh efficaciously extended his territory in the name of the Sikh kingdom, and went so hi Is to capture Ladakh, a region bordering China, in 1834 and Baltistan in 1840. After Ranjit Singh’s demise, the hitherto genial relationship between $6 Sikhs and the British declined. The British had been gradually spreading Mir territorial control in India through the East India Company, a commercial trading company which acquired auxiliary military and governmental functions in India and other British colonies, since the middle of the eighteenth century. The subsequent upheaval at the Sikh court caused anxiety within the East India Company, which feared a Russian invasion in the face of the tottering frontier of northwestern India. The resulting interference of the British in the Sikh kingdom led to the first Anglo—Sikh war in 1845. Gulab Singh’s neutrality during this war tipped the scales in favour of the British. His military strength, political acumen and entrepreneurship did not go unnoticed (Lawrence 2005: 200-03; Rai 2004: 20-27; Khan 1978).

The territories of Kashmir, Ladakh, Gilgit and Chenab were bestowed upon the Dogra ruler Gulab Singh for the paltry sum of seventy-five lakhs, in acknowledgment of his services to the British crown. Gulab Singh was required to reimburse the British for the costs incurred by them while taking possession of Kashmir. It was stipulated that one crore of rupees would go towards indemnity. Later the British were allowed to retain the area of Kulu and Mandi, territories across the river Beas, bringing about the waiver of twenty—five lakhs from the sum that Gulab Singh owed as indemnity (Schofield 2002: 56). Prior to the sudden occurrence of war in 1845, political relations between the British and the Sikhs had deteriorated. During this systemic erosion of Anglo-Sikh relations, Gulab Singh played a significant role, which has generated tremendous controversy. Did he indulge in surreptitious dealings with the British while claiming to owe allegiance to the Sikhs? Did he enable negotiations between the British and the Sikhs, which averted an otherwise ugly situation? Why did the British sell Kashmir for a measly amount to Gulab Singh after having acquired it from the Sikhs?

The Dogras are a predominantly Hindu people who were installed as rulers of Kashmir under the Treaty of Amritsar signed in 1846. This Treaty declared that, ‘the British Government transfers and makes over, for ever, in independent possession, to Maharajah Gulab Singh and the heirs male of his body, the Kashmir Valley as well as the area of Gilgir to the north (in Aitchinson 1931: 21-22). The princely state of Jammu and Kashmir comprised territories which at one point in time had been independent principalities: Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Mirpur, Poonch, Baltistan, Gilgit, Hunza, Muzaffarabad, Nagar and some other nondescript kingdoms. Article IX of the Treaty further emphasized that the British government would provide aid and succour to the monarch of Kashmir in protecting his territories from disruptive forces. Article X underscored the monarch’s allegiance to the British government. As a manifestation of his acknowledgment of the primacy of the British government, the monarch was required to present annually one horse, twelve shawl goats and three pairs of impeccably woven Kashmiri shawls (ibid.), Thus British suzerainty indubitably asserted itself through the obeisance paid to it by the Dogra monarchy.

Gulab Singh was succeeded by his son Ranbir Singh in 1847, who in turn was succeeded by his son Pratap Singh in 1885. Pratap Singh had no male Heirs and tried to orchestrate the accession of a distant male relative. His manoeuvre, however, was quashed by the British, who facilitated the accession of Pratap Singh’s nephew, Hari Singh, to the throne. The last Dogra monarch, Hari Singh, succeeded to the throne in 1925. He exercised power just as arbitrarily and unjustly as his predecessors had. A decade before the expulsion of British rule from India, Hari Singh ratified a legal settlement in British Indian courts that added Pooch, which hitherto had been bestowed by ‘the Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh upon Gulab Singh’s brother Dhyan Singh, to ms territorial possessions. This significant acquisition completed the prepartition Jammu and Kashmir conglomeration. The Muslims in Pooch, however, have always remained ambivalent about their merger with the; princely state. The reinforcing of Dogra rule by the British was ‘in light of [the Company’s] concerns for stability on its north-western frontier. Towards end, the British sought to vacate power held in pockets in Kashmir and transfer it to the new maharajah, in whom alone a personalized sovereignty was now to vest’ (Rai 2004: 27). The unquestionable and eternal authority promised to the Dogra elite in the Treaty of Amritsar was cut short exactly century later, at the time of India’s independence and partition in 1947. Jammu and Kashmir remained an independent principality until 1947.

Although the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was predominantly Muslim, members of that community were prevented from becoming officers um the state’s military and did not find adequate representation in the civil services. Kashmiri Muslims were disallowed from expressing their political opinions and did not have access to a free press or any other such forum. The lack of protest against autocratic and brutal rule until the end of the 1920’s was attributed to the passive character of the peasantry in the Kashmir Valley (Lamb 1991: 28). The authority of the maharaja in the internal of the state was paramount. Although his oppressive and exploitative methods were not thwarted, they were carefully watched by the British representative at his court. His stature was further exalted by the pompous title of His Highness. The maharaja was given the privileged position of major-general in the British Indian army and was entitled to a twenty-one gun — one among five ‘twenty-one gun’ princes. The maharaja’s decadence Mass proverbial and he indulged himself by participating in expensive sports, . luxurious parties and other extravagant hobbies. He unapologetically persecuted and exploited Kashmiri Muslims (Korbel 2002: 14).

During the autocratic rule of the Dogra maharajas there was an unrelenting regional and religious bias against Kashmiri Muslims. Kashmiri Muslims ‘were politically, economically and socially suppressed. Navnita Chadha Behera points to the plight of Kashmiri Muslims during Dogra rule, in her complex study of Kashmir: ‘The lot of Muslims was even worse: they were excluded from state services, the Muslim peasantry and industrial workers were heavily taxed, and trade, business, and banking were monopolized by Punjabis and Dogras. Without access to modern education, Muslims sank into a deep distrust of rule under the Dogra Hindus’ (Behera 2006: 14). The miserable plight of Kashmiri Muslims was reported by Prem Nath Bazaz, a prominent Kashmiri Pandit political and social activist, in 1941. According to him, the Muslim peasants lived and worked in despicable conditions; the Muslim masses were traumatized and victimized by official corruption (Bazaz 2002: 252-53). The subsequent awakening of a national consciousness in the state, which I delineate in chapters one and three, challenged the despotic abuse of authority. The role played by the nation-states of India and Pakistan in the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir echoes the animosity created during the partition. The political and social upheaval that followed upon the creation of the two nation-states in 1947 has left legacies that continue to haunt the two countries. The partition enabled forces of violence and displacement to tear asunder the pre-existing cultural and social fabric so systematically that the process of repair has not even begun. I would argue that although the ‘third world’ intelligentsia unceasingly complains about the manipulations and shortsightedness of British imperial cartographers and administrators, the onus of the calamity engendered on 14 and 15 August 1947 does not lie entirely on the colonial power. The failed negotiations between Indian and Pakistani nationalists who belonged to the Congress and the Muslim League, the blustering of those nationalists and the national jingoism it stimulated, and the unquenchable hatred on both sides contributed to the brutal events of 1947.

In the words of historian Uma Kaura (1977: 170), ‘the mistakes made by the Congress leadership, the frustration and bitterness of the League leadership, and the defensive diplomacy of a British Viceroy cumulatively resulted in the demand for Partition’. Ever since the inception, in 1885, of pro- independence political activity in pre-partition India, the Muslim leadership insisted on the necessity for a distinct Muslim identity (ibid: 164). Kaurn also underlines the inability of the nationalist leadership to accommodate Muslim aspirations because its primary concern was to ingratiate itself with the militant Hindu faction which would have created ruptures within the Congress. Gutted homes, rivulets of blood, ravaged lands and meaningless loss of lives were the costs of this nation-building.

The upsurge of ethnic and religious fundamentalism that led to the creation of Pakistan has been characterized by political psychologist Ashis Nandy as of a nationalism that takes an enormous toll on a polyglot society such as India’s

The borders that were brutally carved by the authorities at the time of partition have led to further brutality in the form of those riots, organized historical distortions and cultural depletions with which the histories of independent India and Pakistan are replete.

For India, Kashmir lends credibility to its secular nationalist image. For Pakistan, Kashmir represents the infeasibility of secular nationalism and underscores the need for an Islamic theocracy in the subcontinent. Once the Kashmir issue took an ideological turn, Mahatma Gandhi remarked, all over the world are watching the experiment in Kashmir .... Kashmir is the real test of secularism in India.’ In January 1948, India referred the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations (Hagerty 2005: 19). Subsequent to the declaration of the ceasefire between India and Pakistan on 1 January 1949, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two portions. The part of the state comprising the Punjabi-speaking areas of Poonch, Mirpur and Muzaffarabad, along with Gilgit and Baltistan, was incorporated into Pakistan, whereas the portion of the state comprising the Kashmir Valley, Ladakh and the large Jammu region was politically assimilated into India. Currently, a large part of Jammu and Kashmir is administered by India and a portion by Pakistan. China annexed a section of the land in 1962, through which it has built a road that links Tibet to Xiajiang (see Rahman 1996: 5- 6; Schofield 2002:25) The strategic location of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir (J 8c K) underscores its importance for both India and Pakistan. The state of J & K borders on China and Afghanistan. Out of a total land area of 2,22,236 square kilometers, 78,114 are under Pakistani administration, 5, 180 square kilometers were handed over to China by Pakistan, 37,555 square kilometers are under Chinese administration in Leh district, and the remaining area is under Indian administration (Census of India, 1981: 156). In order to make their borders impregnable, it was essential for both India and Pakistan to control the state politically and militarily.

Back of the Book

"... Probably the first time a Kashmiri woman rises above herself and her unfortunately limited role (particularly in these last two decades of violence, destruction and mayhem) and attempts to voice her opinion so emphatically. You will come to clearly understand through Nyla Khan’s instructive style that a journey into Kashmir symbolizes a strange exaltation that is an undefinable quest but, like a torrential rainstorm, both cleansing and destructive."

AGHA ASHRAE ALI (historian and veteran educator)

"... Sadly, Kashmir has been captive, during the past sixty years, in the making of the myths of origin of India and Pakistan. Even more sadly, it now seems unable to resist the birth of a new creation myth of its own, which promises to replicate the efforts of its tormentors faithfully. Once a community experiences the trauma of state-formation at its expense, its capacity to envision a different kind of political arrangement weakens. Happily, the myth may not have yet gelled in Kashmir. This is where Nyla Ali Khan comes in. ...”

ASHIS NANDY (political psychologist and sociologist of science)

Nyla Ali Khan, Associate Professor in the Department of English, University of Nebraska-Kearney, USA, is the grand-daughter of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the first Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. She is the author of The Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism (New York: Routledge, 2005).

Preface & Acknowledgements ix
Abbreviations xiii
Introduction 1
Conflicting Political Discourses: Partition, Plebiscite, Autonomy, Integration 15
Cultural Syncretism 40
Political Debacles 55
Militarization of Jammu and Kashmir 81
Negotiating the Boundaries of Gender, Community and National hood 100
Conclusion 127
Negotiating Necrophilia: An Afterword ASHIS NANDY 149
Appendices 155
Glossary 159
Bibliography 167
Index 181
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