Deconstructing grand myth of Kashmiriyat


No book of history or literature of any credence on Kashmir has anywhere used the term “Kashmiriyat” in its references to socio-cultural values of its inhabitants:  Kashmiris. I.  However, the term “did not emerge ex-nihilo from the soil of Kashmir.  II. It has a clear background more political than pretended or projected socio-religious that gave birth to it. In a desperate attempt to historicize this myth [“Kashmiriyat”], number of theses & theories have been written & advanced during the past two to three decades by linking its genesis in what is described as “liberal Islam”, III  differentiated from “orthodox Islam”, IV that despite its predominance in the valley, it is claimed, was accommodative of several Brahman & Buddhist practices into its fold that produced a confluence of [Kashmiri] Shaivite traditions & mystic Sufi practices, or a blend of religious belief systems of Islam, Buddhism & Hinduism. V This unique co-mixture of mutually conflicting core factual realities, or unnatural, unfounded & unrealistic conflation of fundamentally different monotheistic & polytheistic traditions, or simply put, “inherent contradictions”, VI has, the protagonists presume, taught Kashmiri Muslims & Pandits “communal harmony, mutual respect & peaceful co-existence”. VII

The protagonists further state thatKashmiriyat” which wedded Kashmiris to the shrines of Sufis & Rishis , VIII   is exposed to grave danger by Islamic radicalization. IX The protagonists of the fancied idea ofKashmiriyat” try to trace it to the times of [Brahman] Lalleshwari or Lal Ded X and [Muslim] Sheikh Noor ud Din Noorani or Nund Reshi XI, both somewhat contemporary patron saints, respectively, of mystic orders of Rishism & Sufism of the Kashmir valley.

But the votaries of “Kashmiriyat” who view them as pioneers of “Kashmiriyat” forget to make reference to the times they preached the values of mutual tolerance, harmony & respect among religious communities of Kashmir. XII It was Medieval Times of Kashmir when society was in transition, where social, political and religious affiliations were in a process of fast re-definition, when these mystic poets captured this fluidity more evocatively. XIII  It was the time when Kashmiri society as a whole was showing substantial signs of religious transformation from Brahmanism to Islam. They represented a tradition that shows contextualizing of change rather than a transcendental movement of tolerance and porous boundaries. XIV  Both of them expounded their mystic philosophy through their poems, Vakh & Shrukh,  by using neither Sanskrit nor Persian, but popular Kashmiri language, XV and this whole period is designated as Vakh-Shrukh period expressing high moral lessons for the society, XVI  but, without any political or nationalistic overtones.

Even if “Kashmiriyat” is presumably attributed to that time, it “far pre-dates the emergence of nationalism” XVII  and the fluidity of this idea has in turn led to the disorientation of different assumptions about it & provided rich ammunition for Kashmiri nationalists for the propagation of “Kashmiriyat”. XVIII Reference to Kashmiri nationalists here has to be understood with respect to the time this idea was launched & by whom? The point is elaborated in undergoing discussion.

The idea that “Kashmiriyat” is secularistic & nationalistic in character is a mere hogwash & figment of imagination for obvious reasons. 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 socio-cultural mores of 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, Kashmiriyat is not even “sub-nationalism” of Indian nationalism. XIX  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.

According to some Kashmiri “academicians”, “Kashmiriyat” which is equated with “composite culture” or “cultural identity” of both Kashmiri Muslims & Kashmiri Hindus, received three blows by (1) “Pandit exodus” from valley in 1990, XX, (2) onslaught of Islamic militancy against Indian rule in valley in  1989, XXI  & (3) dismissal of Sheikh M Abdullah on 9th August, 1953. XXII


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. XXIII Delhi is keen to project trilogy of “Kashmiriyat”, “Jhoomoriyat” & “Insaniyat” as the new exit window from the ongoing crisis, writes well known columnist, Masood Hussain, XXIV but Manish Tiwari, Congress Spokesman, seemed amazed by this trilogy when he told ANI on 26-08-2016 that the Indian leaders themselves do not understand the meaning of the words “Kashmiriyat”, “Jhoomoriyat” & “Insaniyat”. Noted human rights lawyer, Nandita Haskar in her book, “the many faces of Kashmiri Nationalism, from the cold war to the present day”, writes: “the term “Kashmiriyat” is a State-sponsored term which is aimed at promoting official national (Indian) integration, and this is totally an artificial concept. XXV From its definitional angle, it is vague & amorphous word, XXVI  lacking a precise meaning for its intra-conflict of political overtones which has rendered it a gobbledygook or a discredited idea, as it has no buyers in JK. XXVII It may be compared to Emperor Akbar’s failed Deen e Illahi. XXVIII Some say it is a prototype for Hindustaniyat. XXIX

It is “a product of the collusion of Kashmiri and Indian majoritarian nationalisms, both of which needed to obscure the inherent contradictions in their logic and rhetoric, ” XXX, and so naturally, Kashmir could not become captive of the narrative of “Kashmiriyat” that originated elsewhere with extra-Kashmir agendas. XXXI  It is owned by the Indian State. XXXII This newer term with Perso-Arabic roots, XXXIII, and etymologically, not a Kashmiri word at all, nowhere existed during 1931-1933 of Kashmir, XXXIV  but, as Sheikh M Abdullah was gradually shifting towards nationalisation & secularisation of the J&K Muslims’ Movement under the banner of “Muslim Conference” till he formally converted it into “National Conference” in 1939, he was actually invoking the concept of “Kashmiriyat” that was prima facie in full consonance with its Indian cousin or the policy of Indian National Congress by using poetry of great Kashmiri poet, Late G A Mehjoor Sahab. XXXV  But in the political crisis of October 1947 stunned by where Sheikh M Abdullah had brought Kashmir, the disillusioned poet composed an exciting poem that began with the words: “Though I would like to sacrifice my life & body for India yet my heart is in Pakistan”. XXXVI  It is ironic that the poem was taken as crime by the NC leadership, and so, the poet was put behind the bars for several days & released only after withdrawing his poem. XXXVII Obviously, Kashmiriyat which was used by NC for its “secular mantra” had made Kashmiri Muslims ambivalent about Pakistan in 1947, XXXVIII  and, as religious and communal touches were thrown away from the “Kashmir freedom movement”, Muslim Conference banner was easily replaced by National Conference banner. XXXIX  It shows that NC, as a political organisation,dwindled as it moved away from its emphasis on forging a just society based on the Islamic ideals familiar to the population and began to focus instead on the undefined ideas of nationalism and secularism that specifically disparaged religious affiliations”. XL  “Kashmiriyat” that represented these undefined ideas of nationalism and secularism was created as “dominant discourse” by the NC after it assumed administrative control of JK affairs on 30th October, 1947 & so, it became the accepted way of looking at the then socio-religious-political aspects of Kashmir, since it was repeatedly propagated by the NC, right from its birth in 1939, as a “new political awakening” with active support of the INC whom it suited most.  Any one opposing it was branded as communalist & anti-Kashmir. XLI

Among a line of politicians, academicians & columnists, who have failingly attempted to historicize the myth of “Kashmiriyat”, few have expressed that it was actually coined during Farooq Abdullah’s rule in 1980s, while others say it was floated by NC to perpetuate their rule after the Indira-Shaikh Accord in 1975. XLII On the weight of the authority, it can be safely said that Kashmiriyat was brainchild of NC which was surreptitiously invented and propagated by it during crucial times of Kashmir’s history from 1939 to 1953, albeit it may have been couched in express terminology not before 1975-Accord or 1987-NC rule, as mentioned above. But, all opinions merge on its NC-genesis.

However, the fact is that it has not caught the fire its “NC-launch” might have intended to among the common masses of Kashmir anytime, though Hindu-Muslim harmony, as ever before, continued to permeate the socio-cultural consciousness of Kashmir after 1947. The glaring example of that is the exemplary communal harmony of 1947 displayed by Kashmiri Muslims when lakhs of their coreligionists were being  hounded and mercilessly massacred in Jammu’s Hindu dominated areas by Hindu-Sikh fanatics under the patronage of the fleeing Dogra monarchs. The Kashmiri Muslims didn’t react, though they had, in the justifying-words of Sangh Pariwar about post-Godhra carnage of Muslims in Gujarat, XLIII  every right to react against local Hindus—Kashmiri Pandits. No-reaction from their side was humanely correct, as per rich traditions of their religious & cultural collectiveness. It was truly something unknown kind of tolerance exhibited by Kashmir Muslims during those post-partition deadliest days of 1947 for which Kashmiri Pandits had every reason to be thankful to the former for generations to follow. Such an exceptional calm shown and care taken by Kashmiri Muslims of Kashmiri Pandits in the face of “extreme provocation” was sufficient cause for the latter to seal their fate permanently with Kashmir & its majority population. But their sectarian tendencies of plotting against Kashmiri Muslims right from 1931 onwards for their “covert vested interests”, and “overt communal outbursts” after 1990 have only split the whole idea of so-called “Kashmiriyat” asunder. Not all Kashmiri Pandits are so, to be mentioned. Those of them, though a tiny minority, XLIV who have stayed back from “State-managed-mass exodus” of 1990 are a part of composite culture of Kashmir. XLV There is a united appeal & desire of Kashmiri Muslims, right from day, that the migrant Kashmiri Pandits should return & live side by side with them in their homeland of Kashmir. XLVI

End word:

If at all, one has to look for the genesis of this unique socio-cultural togetherness, harmony & peace of Kashmiris, one has to go to the time of 14th century corresponding to 8th Hijra century when chaos & power tussle pervaded the country, and it was during those turbulent times that Sufi mystics & preachers like Sharaf ud Din Abdul Rahman eka Bulbul Shah (during the reign of Raja Sehdeva 1301-1320), Mir Syed Ali Hamdani (1314-1384) & Mir Syed Mohammad Hamdani (1372- 1450) were 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, Mleech was name given by them to the outsiders including Buddhists, Muslims & even Shudras XLVII  who are today’s Dalits who before Partition were called “Untouchables”.  Any kind of influence from Mleech, 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 Mleech, shudras & Buddhists at the hands of “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 to Islam, continued & continue to live in Kashmir according to their sectarian & “supremacist” ideology till date.

Inborn Brahman perfectionism harboured extreme hatred for Mleech 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 with that practice of idol making & worshipping. When some 15 thousand people complained to Hazrat Mir Syed Ali Shah Hamdani & his son Mir Syed Mohammad Hamdani about their “joblessness”, they & their disciples who had accompanied them 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 (ruled from 1320-1323) 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. . XLVIII 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. XLIX 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, no respect, no rights, 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 socio-cultural-religious cohesiveness & harmony connecting people of different ideologies through a common thread of spirituality, called Islam. Till date, it connects all people of JK in peace & harmony.

M J Aslam is Author, academician, story teller, essayist & freelance columnist. Presently AVP, J&K Bank.

Note: Opinions are personal & not of the organisation he works for.

I. ……………;
II. Chitralekha Zutshi, Language of Belonging: Islam, Regional Identity, & the Making of Kashmir (Permanent Black, D-28 Oxford Apartments, 11, I.P. Extension, Delhi, 2003) page 257’;
III. Read Komal Sharma’s article “Reclaiming Kashmiriyat” published in Livemint dated 29-04-2011 […the liberal way of life that transcended religion, where Sufism and Shaivism coexisted, and evenings gave way to Sufiana mausiqi, or gatherings by the riverside…….];
IV. ……………………;
V. ………….;
VI. …………..;
VII. Nyla Ali Khan’s article “The Land of Lalla-Ded: Polarization of Kashmir & Construction of the Kashmiri Women”, Journal of International Women’s Studies, September- 2007, volume 9, Issue 1, Article 2, page 25. To buttress her point, Dr Nyla Ali Khan quotes, inter alia, Salman Rushdie who according to her “describes the sentiment of “Kashmiriyat” succinctly in his fictionalized account of the history of Jammu and Kashmir like this: “The words Hindu and Muslim had no place in their story . . . . In the valley these words were merely descriptions, not divisions…..”; see also Andrea Remes, Kashmiriyat: Culture, Identity & Politics (Universitiet, Leiden, 2016);

VIII. Read Sir Walter Roper Lawrence, The Valley of Kashmir (1895- printed/published in 2014 by Ali Mohammad Sons, Srinagar) page, page 286[Hindus at heart];

IX. Prof T N Madan quoting Late Prof M Isaaq Khan …….; Riyaz Punjabi, K.Warikoo & other “academicians” of Kashmir hold similar views, …….; Kashmiriyat rejected two nation theory & present Kashmiri “insurgency” which is threat to it aims at establishing Islamic world order, writes a vehement protagonist ,Meena Arora Nayak, in her essay, Kashmiriyat: An embracing spirit languishes like the dying chinar tree, World View Magazine , 2003, volume 16,number 1;

X. 1320-1392: See Wikipedia for further details;

XI. 1377-1440: See Wikipedia for further details,
XII. ………..;
XIII. ………….;
XIV. ………;
XV. PNK Bamzai, Culture & Political History of Kashmir (M D Publications, New Delhi 1994) Volume Two………; P N Bazaz, the history of freedom in Kashmir , Cultural & Political ( first edition, 1954) ……..;
XVI. Omkar N Koul, Kashmiri Language Linguistics & Culture (Central Institute of Indian Languages, Manasagangotri, Mysore, 2000);
XVII. …………;
XVIII. ……….;

XIX. (expression “sub-nationalism” was used by an ex-PDP Minister, Haseeb Drabu, in a NDTV talk show “We the People” that was held at Srinagar by its anchorperson Barkha Dut in 2016 summer when Kashmir was at boil) Indian Constitution envisages only single Indian Nationalism , which right wing parties equate with Hindutva, the concept of dual nationalism does not exist anywhere in Indian Constitution;
XX. …………………………………..;
XXI. Read paper titled “Evolution of my Identity vis-a-vis Islam & Kashmir” by Late Prof M I Khan, published in Parchment of Kashmir, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) pages 13-36: But these kinds of views have not only overlooked colossal death & destruction of Kashmiri Muslims since decades, far higher than that of Pandits, they have also, writes Prof Hameeda Naeem, “negated indigenous nature & character” of Kashmiris ‘Movement, ibid, page 217;

XXII. ………………………….;
XXIII. Indian Express, 27-08-2016: [What is Kashmiriyat?];
XXIV. Kashmir Life dated 29-08-2016: Kashmiriyat;
XXV. Cited in Livemint, Times of India, dated 07-09-2016 ;
XXVI. ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,;
XXVII. ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,;

XXVIII. ………………………;

XXIX. New Age Islam, dated 21-08-2008: Read also Sayed Naqvi, Being the other: Muslim in India (2016) pages 4-5 about the impact of Hindustaniyat on Muslim lives;
XXX. ………………………………………..;
XXXI. Mridu Rai , Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects: Islam, Rights, and the History of Kashmir(Permanent Black, 2004) page 44;
XXXII. ……………………………………;

XXXIII. Christopher Sneden, Kashmir: Unwritten History (C. Hurst & Co, UK, 2012) page 18;

XXXIV. ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,;

XXXV. ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,;

XXXVI. …………………… ;

XXXVII. ………………..] ;

XXXVIII. ……………;

XXXIX. …………………..

XL. …………………………..;
XLI. ……………………;
XLII. …………………………….;
XLIII. …………………………..;
XLIV. ………………..;
XLV. …………………..;
XLVI. DNA India dated 01-03-2006 (Kashmiri Pandits are welcome); Mumbai Mirror dated 19-01-2018 ( Mirwaiz appeals Kashmiri Pandits); Kashmir Observer dated 30-06-2016 (How does Kashmir feel );
XLVII. In Hind-Sanskrit-English Dictionaries, the word “Mleech” means unclean, polluted, barbarian, foreigner; under the influence of this doctrine, all the Buddhists & low caste Hindus (Shudras) who had embraced Islam en masse —–following Rinchan Shah, originally a Buddhist fugitive prince from Tibet, who had taken refuge in the court of Kashmir’s last Brahman Raja Sahadeva ( 1301-1320), , who later became first Muslim ruler of Kashmir under the new name of Sultan Sadr-ud-din Shah (1320-1323) , who embraced Islam at the hands of Bulbul Shah, a devout spartan Muslim saint who lived in Kashmir during the time of Raja Sahadeva ( 1301-1320),—- were forced after their conversion to Islam to live within the confines of a specified area of old Srinagar called Mleech-Mar (abode of Mleeches) which name exists till date;
XLVIII. Jia Lal Kilm , History of Kashmiri Pandit (Gandhi Memorial College , Publication Committee, Srinagar, 1955) …………………;
XLIX. …………………… .



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