Kashmiriyat Is Much Misunderstood

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Kashmiri Pandit selective targeted killing by the Jihadi terrorists

Sushil Kumar Kaul, Arazbegi

Having been initially brought up and lived in Delhi and Kolkata, I shifted to Kashmir in the year 1968, an unusual and a classic case of my family’s reverse migration. Let me confess that on getting introduced to Kashmir’s medieval history and cultural heritage, I became a strong believer and adherent of Kashmir’s multi religious and composite cultural identity and values – called Kashmiriyat – it was something unique and an entirely different identity from what I had generally experienced or known in India or even in the entire Indian subcontinent.

I know that in today’s context of Kashmiri Pandits being selectively targeted and killed by the Jihadi terrorists, Kashmiriyat is a much misunderstood, maligned and a berated word among the Kashmiri Pandits. It is almost a sacrilege for any Kashmiri Pandit nowadays to talk of communal peace or amity between the two communities. I have many a times over the last one year faced many embarrassing moments and criticism at the hands of some of my own friends in the community for my continued faith in these beliefs and for advocating the philosophy of “Kashmiriyat”.

The often-asked question is that – Do Kashmiri Muslims have faith and belief in our Kashmiriyat values? Then why the targeting and selective killing of Kashmiri Pandits? These are very difficult questions to handle or answer. But I know from my experience of having lived in Kashmir that a fairly large number of the Kashmiri Muslims do believe in and subscribe to the “Kashmiriyat” philosophy but sadly these sections over the past years are getting rendered irrelevant, helpless or speechless in front of the gun wielding Jihadi terrorists. We all know that a large number of such moderate and rational Kashmiri Muslims are also falling prey to these hardliner Jihadi terrorists.

Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims have always been aware of their religious differences. But despite their religious differences, Kashmir is probably the only place in the Indian sub-continent where it was hard to differentiate between a Hindu and a Muslim, by their practices or by looking at their last names. Kashmiri people as a rule used to take pride in their Composite culture as the Kashmiri society was deeply influenced by the Reshi and Sufi schools of mysticism.

The Muslim Rishi movement was started by, Nuruddin Nurani (1377-1440), by moulding the pre-existing Rishi tradition for the spread of Islam, using local institutions to make Islam more comprehensible to the people of Kashmir.

The Hindu followers remember him as Nund-Reshi or Sahaza-nand (The blissful one). Nund Rishi alias Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Wali was in turn greatly influenced by Lal Ded, a female rebel Kashmiri Hindu Saint; a revolutionary woman mystic of 14th century Kashmir, who is known through her poetic verses referred to as ‘Lal-Vaakh’.

Lal Ded or Laleshwari was known as Lala Arifa by her Muslim followers. She used Kashmiri language to spread the message of brotherhood through her sayings (Lal-Vaakh), which made Nund Rishi quote that she is, “The Divine Manifestation for us”, which makes her the undisputed founder of contemporary Kashmiri literature. “That Lalla of Padmanpore, who had drunk to her full the nectar. She was an avatar of ours, Oh God, grant me the same spiritual power” – Nund-Rishi.

I have been brought up in a somewhat liberal and progressive Pandit family with the belief that Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims, have barely or very little to talk about in terms of our separate cultural existence or identity. We are like inseparables and have always lived together for centuries and complimented each other.

I therefore personally believe that in any scheme of KP’s return and rehabilitation in Kashmir (as are currently being deliberated upon at various levels) it may not or cannot happen without the active involvement and support of the local Muslim populace and it is a given must.

It is true that we have been continually persecuted, targeted and traumatized by the majority Muslim population in the past whenever it suited them in their religious pursuits and this tragedy is continuing even till today with our community members becoming easy targets – or sitting ducks – before the blazing guns of the Jihadi militants or the Islamist terrorists.

I am also aware that a substantial number of Kashmiri Pandit organizations have been persistently asking for a separately carved out place in Kashmir – Homeland – for rehabilitation and relocation of all Kashmiri Pandits. The proponents of such a strategy somehow believe that this solution will lead to lessening of conflict with the majority Muslim community and bring down the targeted killings of Kashmiri Pandits.

Many people on the other hand, including me, are of the contrary opinion or belief that – simply carving out any designated place with whatever security arrangements would only be counterproductive and catastrophic for us – such plans would certainly be offensive to local Muslim sentiments and cannot guarantee a safe and secure environment for carrying out our communities daily routine activities in whatever corner or secure area of Kashmir.

Also many of our Iconic places of worship or cultural identity including places of tourist attractions are evenly spread all over the Valley, mostly in Muslim dominated areas and there is no way they can be relocated to our proposed homeland location. Therefore a way forward to ensure the safety and security of these Iconic and important institutions will have to evolved and discussed with the majority Muslim community including a safe passage for regular visits of our community members to these sites.

In the current scenario we know that many KP’S, after migration, have almost settled permanently at different locations in India and abroad and they or their next generation children have no or little intention or interest in returning to Kashmir. This group of people, which to my mind is substantially large, essentially constitutes qualified professionals with higher levels of skill sets having no reason or compulsion to relocate.

At the same time there is another group of people primarily living in Jammu, Delhi and nearby locations who have strong inclination to return to Kashmir valley. For this group of people – living unconditionally with local populace as before though in specified carved out and relatively safer locations in various major towns of Kashmir may be a necessity and a possible way forward.

I believe that to facilitate such a possible return and rehabilitation – Kashmiris of all hues have to work hard towards generating mutual trust and respect for each other’s religious beliefs and human rights.

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