Kashmir – Questions Never Asked

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Prof. Suresh Chander

After 1947, there has been a flood of articles on Kashmir about practically every aspect of Kashmir and its people. Most of these articles relate to the so-called Kashmir problem rather than aggression by Pakistan. Kashmir has been a topic of research in many universities around the world.
The History of Kashmir is mostly about rulers of Kashmir but very little is discussed about its people and culture. There are references about transformation of the valley from a predominant Hindu society to almost a Muslim-dominated valley with a sprinkingly of Kashmiri Pandits.
Prof. K. L. Bhan in his book, ‘Paradise Lost Seven Exoduses of Kashmiri Pandits’, lists seven exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley.
The First Exodus (1389-1413)
The Second Exodus (506-1585)
The Third Exodus under the Mughals (1585-1753)
The Fourth Exodus under Afghan Rule (1753)
The Fifth Exodus (There is no specific reference except 1931 incidences)
The Sixth Exodus (This relates to migration from villages to Srinagar in 1947-48 and later leaving for better pastures in rest of the country as is the norm all over the world. The movement of population from one place to another can not be termed as exodus.)
The Seventh Exodus (1989-)
A narrative has been built around six and later seven exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1989 from the Kashmir Valley.
Kashmiri artisans are known to have been migrating to other states of India especially in the state of Punjab (Hameed 2012). The famines of 1724, 1735 and 1746 badly affected the lives of people in Kashmir and forced them to sell their personal belongings including their small children (Ahad Abdul 1987).
The Third Exodus under the Mughals (1585-1753) is said to have occurred during regimes of Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. Kashmiri Pandits are said to have settled in Bazaar Sita Ram in Delhi, seat of the Mughal Empire. Normally exodus occurs from one kingdom to another. How could they have been safe under the very nose of Emperors, who were responsible for their exodus from a far flung corner of their empire.
The third exodus most probably occurred in the famines of 1724, 1735 and 1746 and it was migration that normally takes place during natural calamities. Muslims would also have migrated during that period.
This is not to minimise the sufferings of Kashmiri Pandits, especially the recent one, what is being called as The Seventh Exodus. It amounted to ethinic cleansing of the valley. There is no information as to why Hindus in Kashmir are only Brahmins popularly referred as Kashmiri Pandits without any reference to other denominations of Hindus like in rest of the country.
The following passage from Census of India 1941 Vol XXII Jammu Kashmir State is of interest.
In the Kashmir Province the whole population for all practical purposes was Hindu upto about 1325 A. D. and in the Frontier Districts they were either Buddhists or belonged to primitive tribes. About this time Syed Abdur Rahman, better known as Bulbul Shah obtained many converts to Islam. He was followed by Hazrat Mir Syed Ali Hamdani, whose piety and learning made such a great impression on the people that large numbers are said to have embraced Islam. Islam continued to spread without any differences in its ranks upto the period of Sultan Hassan Shah. A little later Mir Shamas-ud-Din Iraqi arrived in Kashmir from Khurasan and commenced to preach the tenets of the Shia sect.
He experienced many vicissitudes but eventually some of his followers gained influence at court and by 1554 AD Ghazi Chak, a Shia, became King of Kashmir. The dynasty lasted 32 years. There are said to have been acute differences between the two main sects of Islam-Sunni and Shia-during the period of Chak dynasty, which led Sunni elerrents to beseech Akbar the Great to conquer Kashmir. The two sects were on good terms during the Mughal period but at intervals since their relations have been strained.
The said report discusses in details the various castes and subcastes in all religions in various regions of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, as it existed in 1941, except Jhelum Valley (Kashmir Province) using the nomenclature as used in the Census of India 1941 Vol XXII Jammu Kashmir State report. The said report mentions Muslims of Kashmir Province only as Kashmiri Muslims who have lived in Kashmir since ancient times and previous to their conversion to Islam from the early fourteenth century onwards were a part of the resident Hindu population of Kashmir. The 1941 census describes all Hindus in the Valley as Pandits or Kashmiri Pandits.
It is a very curious interpretation of demographic data.
The study fails to address some important questions namely:
a) Was everyone upto 1325 AD a Pandit or Brahmin in the valley?
b) If so, who performed other functions of the human society, such as farming, construction, washermen, carpenters, safaikaramcharis etc,
c) Does it mean that only nonBrahmins, with some exceptions, converted to Islam?
d) Were these conversions due to indifference of Brahmins towards lower casts?
e) In rest of India, the caste groupings remained even after conversion to Islam or Christianity. Did Kashmir become a classless or casteless society?
Kashmiri Pandits need to answer as to why large majority, presumably nonPandits, of Hindus converted to Islam? Wasn’t it their duty as elders to have prevented it especially when there were no forced conversions to begin with, forced conversions happened much later. In rest of the country, the majority of all casts of Hindus remained Hindu even when there were forced conversions.
The report, under the heading 13, the Hindus- heading, records Brahmans and Kashmiri Pandits separately, “The most important numerically are the Brahmans, Rajputs and Kashmiri Pandits.” There were no objections as to why Kashmiri Pandits were not classified as Brahmans. An uninitiated person will be led to believe that Kashmiri Pandits and Brahmans are two different castes among Hindus.
The special treatment was not reserved for only Kashmiri Pandits but for Kashmiri Muslims as well.
The 1941 census has a special mention about Kashmiri Muslims, namely.
“There is no occasion to say much about the Kashmiri Muslims in spite of their numerical importance. They have lived in Kashmir since ancient times and previous to their conversion to Islam from early fourteenth century onwards were a part of the resident Hindu population of Kashmir. There is no occasion to say much about Kashmiri Muslims in spite of their numerical importance. They have lived in Kashmir since ancient times and previous to their conversion to Islam from the early fourteenth century onwards, were a part of resident Hindu population of Kashmir.”
The report does not specifically mention various denominations of Kashmiri Muslims unlike Muslims in the rest of the state. It didn’t reflect the actual reality on ground.After 1947, there has been a flood of articles on Kashmir about practically every aspect of Kashmir.
The following extracts are from essay of Mudsir Ali Lone on casteism in Kashmir.
We usually shrug our shoulders when it comes to casteism in Kashmir. If you’re in a mood for horrible stories, go to Greest (peasants) and hear about the horror stories of how Malluh/Peer (upper-castes) used to treat them. If you think that’s not horrible enough then go to Naangaar (landless) and ask them how they were treated by other communities and still are. If you’re looking for more disgust then go to Waatal community (Chamaar, also called Sheikh in Kashmir) and ask them about how they have always been ostracised from
society. They have been ostracised to such an extent that the word Waatul/Sheikh has become a taunt and is used to insult each other by people from other communities. There’s also Haaenz (fisher community) who have to face ire of casteism.
I don’t know anyone from the community personally, but since childhood I have heard the word Haaenz being used as a taunt/insult, and almost everyone in my village and others disparaging/disrespecting them. After you’ve done all that, come back to me and shrug off your shoulders again at the mention of casteism in Kashmir. I dare you!
Malluh/Peer stand at the top of caste-pyramid, then there are Greest, then come the Naangaar, then at the bottom are the communities like Sheikh, Haaretz. Malluhs have exploited everyone and maintained their position at the top through treachery, deception and lies. There is a common saying about them ‘Malluh deeshith goss parun istigfaar’ which means, ‘if you see a Malluh, seek forgiveness from God’.
I was talking to a friend about casteism in Kashmir yesterday and he said that, “Sheikh and Haaenz always lived in ‘ghettos’ and were ill-treated”. He then narrated an incident from his village where, ‘A person from the Sheikh community was asked to dine with the head priest of village (Malluh). He, unaware of Malluh’s presence in the gathering, ran away from the gathering, saying he will burn in hell if he shares the plate with the Imam (Malluh)’. Malluh has a notorious reputation for using religion for their personal benefits and for exploiting others. They have always used religion as a tool to maintain their position at the top of hierarchy.
Mudsir Ali Lone sounds revolutionary when he says, ‘Brahmins and Mullahs are just two different names for the same class of people. Kashmiri Brahmins like to be called Pandits and Kashmiri Malluhs like to be called Peers. You can easily draw a parallel between a fat-stuffed Brahmin and a fat-stuffed Malluh. If a child was born somewhere, Peer Sahib had to be invited there to eat. If a person died somewhere, Peer Sahib had to be invited there to eat. Whether it was a happy or a sad occasion, Peer Sahib had to be always invited to eat. Also, if a Malluh found out that a farmer is sending his son for studies. He would call him & tell him about his son: tamis kath parun, soazun sah maynis zameenas peth, kaaem karih toatih kamaaye kyehnchhaa (why does he have to study? Send him to work on my land, at least he’ll earn something). This article is not a criticism or to put certain people in a bad light but is an attempt to seek some answers to questions never asked.

(The author is former Head of Computer Engineering Department in G B Pant University of Agriculture & Technology)

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