Kashmiriyat: Fact or Fiction? A Kashmiri Perspective


No historian on Kashmir has ever used the term “Kashmiriyat” in his reference to its socio-cultural values. There are, however, some “assumptions” about its genesis, all converging on a single point that it was brainchild of NC. Many say it has its origin to post-1947 political developments of JK when NC founder under the influence of his countable number of [Pandit] party workers & communists invented it as a premise to base & justify his “huge” political actions of 1938 & 1947. Some believe the idea was floated after 1975 Accord or during 1980s’ NC rule by NC leadership. (Greater Kashmir dated 21-12-2011). However, the fact is that it has not caught fire its “assumed NC launch” might have intended to among the common masses of Kashmir anytime, though Hindu-Muslim harmony, as in the past, continued to permeate the socio-cultural consciousness of Kashmir after 1947. The glaring example is the exemplary communal harmony of 1947 displayed by K-Muslims when lakhs of their brethren in faith were being massacred in Jammu by Hindu fanatics. They didn’t react, though they had, in the justifying-words of Sangh Pariwar about post-Godhra carnage of Muslims in Gujarat, every right to react against local Hindus—K-Pandits. No-reaction from their side was humanely correct, as per their rich religious & cultural collectiveness. It was truly something unknown kind of tolerance exhibited by K-Muslims for which K-Pandits have had every reason to be apparently thankful to them for generations following. Such an exceptional calm shown and care taken by K-Muslims of K-Pandits in the face of “extreme provocation” was sufficient cause for them to seal their fate permanently with Kashmir & K-Muslims. But their sectarian tendencies of plotting against K-Muslims right from 1931 for their “covert vested interests”, and “overt communal outbursts” after 1990 have only split the whole idea of so-called “Kashmiriyat” asunder. Not all K-Pandits are so, to be mentioned. Those of them who have stayed back from “State-managed-mass exodus” of 1990 are a part of composite culture of Kashmir. (Greater Kashmir dated 16-08-2016, Kashmiri Pandits: an incendiary, venomous narrative).

The theory propounded by some Indian [Hindu] writers that “Kashmiriyat” is secularistic & nationalistic in character is a mere hogwash & figment of imagination for obvious reasons:

Firstly, overwhelming population of Muslims & small minority of K-Pandits in Kashmir have always been “strictly religious” in their day to day socio-religious affairs, although the Indian State since 1947 wears a secular veil. But pierce the veil, you will find Hindutva ideology being propagated & asserted by it either directly or indirectly through “independent media” & other actors at all levels as only socio-political philosophy of Indian masses.

Secondly, if “Kashmiriyat” is equivalent to Kashmiri nationalism, then, why it has no takers among non-Muslims including K-Pandits. The reason is simple that for them Hindutva is only reality or raison d’etre of their socio-political life & Kashmiri nationalism, if at all one may call it so, has, as such, no relevance for them. If it were not so, then, they would not have severed their connection with Kashmiri-ethnicity, their roots & culture, and connected themselves completely with an “outside ideology of Hindutva” having least nexus with their homeland–Kashmir. Ever since they under a well-orchestrated plan of the then State apparatus of 1990 choose to migrate to Jammu & other parts of India, K-Pandits have been pontificating about more and more strength not for themselves or their community or JK but for the Hindutva in which they have chosen to sink their individual identity of “Kashmiriyat”. For them, it is not even “sub-nationalism” of Indian nationalism. (Within commas expression used by a ex-PDP Minister, Haseeb Drabu, in a NDTV talk show “We the People” that was held at Srinagar in 2016 summer when Kashmir was at boil) Nor could it be so, since historically & socially Kashmir till 1947 had no nexus at all with India. It has no takers in PAK, Gilgit, Baltistan & Chenab-Peer Panchal areas, even.

This political bogey of “Kashmiriyat” which is an idea of mind was floated, post 1990, by some Indian [Hindu] writers & political heads of India State in the recent past, all of whom are but staunch adherents of Hindutva ideology. It has been accepted & carried further by some Kashmiri [Muslim] writers who are, however, well known for their allegiance to “invisible” secular polity of India. It is an open secret that the K-protagonists of this mental-aberration have been thriving on the “largess” of many sorts from GOI since decades.

The introduction of “Kashmiriyat” inside Kashmir is like a metaphysical abstraction unmoored from actual politics of brutalization, secured by brute force & mutated in many ways with unclear meaning. (Indian Express, 27-08-2016). Manish Tiwari, Congress Spokesman told ANI on 26-08-2016 that the Indian leaders themselves do not understand the meaning of the words “Kashmiriyat” [“Jhoomoriyat”and “Insaniyat”].

As after 1990 many new theories like “pre-1950 position”, “self-rule” & “vision document” were failingly marketed by mainstream or pro-India parties to create ripples in K-Movement, hollow missile of “Kashmiriyat” was also launched with the same objective in a persistently anti-State scenario existing here since decades. It was a deliberate attempt by some Indians with the help of an ever-ready-bunch of local loyalists or coterie of writers whose “assignment” is to confuse the masses & obfuscate the Movement itself. Thus, writes noted human rights lawyer, Nandita Haskar in her book “The many faces of Kashmiri nationalism, from the cold war to the present day”: “the term “Kashmiriyat” is a State-sponsored term which is aimed at promoting official national (Indian) integration, and this is totally an artificial concept. (Livemint, TOI, dated 07-09-2016). From its definition angle, it is vague & amorphous lacking a precise meaning for its political overtones which has rendered it gobbledygook or a discredited idea, as it has no buyers in JK.

If at all, one has to look for the genesis of “Kashmiriyat” as a socio-economic, political & spiritual phenomenon, it goes to the time of Mir Syed Ali Hamdani , Ammer –e-Kabir (RA) a great Muslim saint of 14th century corresponding to 8th Hijra century who with his son & their disciples was highly influential in spreading Islam in Kashmir & areas surrounding it. At that time, there were two religions prevalent in Kashmir: Buddhism & Hinduism. Hinduism was divided between Brahmans & other low caste Hindus (Shudras) while Buddhism was divided into Mahayana and Hinayana sects. The Buddhist sects were fighting each other & against Brahmans about validity of worshipping idols including that of Buddha. Brahmans were staunch “supremacists & sectarians” who would never allow influence or interference from outside or inside. So, maleech was name given by them to the outsiders including Buddhists, Muslims & even Shudras who are today’s DALITS who before Partition were called Untouchables.  Any kind of influence from maleech, shudras & Buddhists was completely disallowed by “Brahman supremacists”. There was complete hatred, disharmony & persecution from their side which had made the society totally chaotic & divided. It was precisely in that scenario of mistrust & skepticism that message of Islam alleviated ages-old suffering of maleech, shudras & Buddhists by “Brahmans”. Islam offered equality, justice & brotherhood in that caste & hate ridden society that worked as a long felt desideratum for the sufferers influencing & persuading them to accept Islam as their new faith. Thus, within a short span of time, entire Buddhist & low caste Hindu communities became Muslims. In that sense, the foundation of Islam in JK factually & historically lies in extinction of its Buddhism & Shudraism. While a minority community of “Brahmans” which was a small leftover of socio-economic & spiritual transformation of mass Kashmiri society into Islam, continued & continue to live in Kashmir according to their sectarian & “supremacist” ideology till date.

Inborn Brahman perfectionism harboured extreme hatred for maleech in their minds and so, it did not allow them to mix up or integrate with the majority Muslim community. A huge population of Hindus & Buddhists before embracing Islam was living on chiseling idols on stones but after Islam, obviously, they could not continue this practice of idol making & worshipping. When some 15 thousand people complained to Hazrat Shahi Hamdaan (RA) about their “joblessness”, the great saint & his disciples offered & taught them the Art & Craft of woodcarving, paper mashie, embroidery, chiseling & stippling on copper & bronze, etc, as alternate jobs. But “Kashmiri Brahmans” for their inner hatred did not accept the offer of “menial jobs” as they strictly believed in their “caste supremacy” that encompassed only “non-secular jobs” of teaching scriptures & performing religious rituals.

The first Muslim king of Kashmir was Renchan Shah who was a Buddhist who had come from Tibet. He embraced Islam through first Muslim saint of Kashmir, Bul Bul Shah. Before converting to Islam, he wanted to become a Hindu but insular Brahman Community did not admit him to their religion. Thus, he en mass with all Buddhists of that time embraced Islam as his religion. He was never obeyed & respected as a ruler by the Brahmans. As already said, the Brahman supremacists did not allow any one enter their Brahman Community as they believed themselves to be the best & purest on the earth. On the other hand, Islam provided space to all those who had no equality in society & who suffered persecution at the hands of Brahmans & their rulers. So, it is exactly in that scenario of disharmony, hatred & inequality, that Islam laid the foundation of true “Kashmiriyat” connecting people of different ideologies & sects through a common thread of spirituality, called Islam. Till date, it connects all people of JK in peace & harmony.

 M J Aslam Author, academician, story-writer & columnist



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