This is the story of Kashmir through the tumultuous decades of the twentieth century – a journey from a peaceful lifestyle (Dar-al-sulh) to a rebellious militant and hateful society (Dar-al-harb).
This is also the story of the transformation of a quiet village that presents a true representative sample of the valley through these times. It details the journey of this village producing very famous personalities like Pt Kashyap Bandhu – a revered National Conference leader in the start of the century to Zakir Musa – a dreaded ISIS militant chief towards the end of it.
This is also the story of my life because only personal experiences have been recorded – no hearsay or references. Having been born during the middle of the century in a typical peasant family and a very liberal society, achieved a high position professionally and ended in exile out of my home, village and the valley itself, I witnessed the change personally.
Around 30 kms from Srinagar, the capital city of the valley, going towards Jammu, one can see very large ruins of the stone temple of Avantipore. Avantipore was the capital of Avantivarman, a great ruler of the valley in 855 CE who got huge temples raised, one for Lord Shiva and another for Lord Vishnu. About 2 kms east of Avantipore, towards a place called Tral lies a sleepy village called Gowripur then, deformed to Gairoo later and NoorPora now. This change in nomenclature took place in consonance with the faith of the populace of the valley from 14th century onwards. In this village, I was born in 1951 in a large Hindu joint family. About 300 families practicing Islam and 50 families practicing the Hindu faith inhabited the village. Another 20 Sikh families lived around 1 KM away.
The people were all peasants living in perfect harmony, belonged to same economic class. All families had a roof on their heads, food for the family and a strong sense of sharing amongst one another. Almost all children went to the same school and played together without any malice and helped their parents in various farming or household activities.
All the people were very active politically and there was an anti-Nehru undercurrent because it was believed that the Govt. of India (read Nehru) had betrayed Sher-i-Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah and had him arrested in 1953. Pt Kadhyap Bandhu, a close associate of the Sheikh had been imprisoned along with the Sheikh. The illwill however was only against Nehru, not against India and surely never Pro-Pakistan. There was no illwill against one-another along communal lines. In the fall of 1963, MOI-MUQDAS (the prophet’s hair preserved in Hazrat Bal) was found missing. The whole populace of the valley was on the roads demanding restoration. The MOI-MUQDAS was eventually restored and everyone (including Pandits) was greatly relieved and rejoiced.
In 1964 when Pt Nehru died, a communal divide was seen for the first time in the valley. While the Pandits grieved, the Muslims were mostly happy rather overjoyed. Pakistan took advantage of this and post Nehru era, it started instigating Kashmiri Muslims openly. Until then they had been doing it covertly without much success.
In the spring of 1965, Pakistan started armed insurgency and very aggressive anti-India and anti-Hindu propaganda. This was broadcasted on Azad(Pak occupied) Kashmir Radio, TradKhal. Although Pakistan’s entire gameplan failed and the insurgents were either killed or captured, this left an indelible impression on the thinking of the common Kashmiri. The idea of “us” and “them” entered into the general discourse of the Hindus and Muslims.
1967 witnessed the first love-jihad in Kashmir. Although there had been prior instances of inter-community love marriages, this was the first case of conversion of a Hindu girl through marriage and economic exploitation. Pandits resented, came out on the roads for weeks, were brutalized, three young men lost their lives, but the girl was not returned to her parents. I watched Muslims rejoicing in the misery of the Pandits and young Muslim men asking for “Phir saal”, the mandatory post marriage feast held by the bride’s parents. With this, the communal divide in the valley started becoming hateful.
In the same year, Muslim boys and girls from different educational institutions started demonstrating against the then government chanting “Humaara leader Ayub Khan”. Ayub Khan was then the leader of Pakistan. When I asked my Muslim friend Manzoor Ahmad Kirmani about this, I was told this was necessary to bring the Delhi laalas on their knees.
The communal harmony took a greater beating and the divide between us and them became very wide. At this stage the alien forces (alien to the valley psyche) from the rest of India also started executing their plans. Pakistan continued it’s communal politics agenda and the Muslim tanzeems from the rest of India sent a large number of round capped moulvis to wean the Kashmiri Muslim from his Reshi culture and bring him into the communal Muslim culture. Suddenly the conical Kashmiri cap was replaced by the round Jamaati cap during Friday prayers. Muslim heads started looking and thinking different unlike their elders a decade ago. This probably was the turning point and paved the way for what was to come later.
In 1971, the Indian hand in the creation of Bangladesh was highly resented by the Kashmiri Muslims and the seed of separation took hold in the Muslim psyche. The idea of separate Qomiyat was used as a fertilizer to nurture this idea. Jamaatis took hold of the mosques and the number of mosques start out-numbering the number of moulvis. Non-kashmiri moulvis appear on the scene to fill the gap and the tone of the sermon became anti-kafir, anti-Hindu. This thinking creeps into all walks of life and everybody is asked to do their bit.
In 1975, Sheikh Abdullah took over the reins of political power again and started watering the plant of separation to see it grow into a big tree. All this was still being done to bring the Delhi laalas on their knees(as my friend Kirmani had told me earlier) and to cater to the local sentiment which was now completely anti-kafir, anti-Hindu, resentful of India and inclined towards Pakistan.
That sentiment is further exploited by National Conference and the Kashmiri peasant is shown a green handkerchief and a lump of rock salt (called Pakistani namak) by the Sheikh’s lieutenant Mirza Afzal Beigh in all public rallies. The timing for Friday prayers is made official along with the dress code. The Government starts admission into technical colleges and Govt. service on communal basis and not on merit alone. The Hindus now find themselves isolated – socially, economically and academically. The last nail in the coffin of Kashmiri Reshi culture was stuck when the Hindu was dispossessed of his small land holdings as well. The divide was now complete.
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