Introduction to KashmirForum.org Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.
www.kashmirforum.org

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Young Kashmiri Laments on Fading Memories of a Pluralistic Society

KASHMIRIYAT: Is it a long forgotten concept?

COEXISTENCE BY NIDA RAFIQ SHIEKH

(Ms. Nida Shiekh, 22, was born in Srinagar. She passed her Matriculation from the Presentation Convent High School and completed her 12th grade from the Mallinson Girls High School, both with distinction. She recently graduated from the Women's College, Srinagar, and hopes to pursue a Master's degree in mass communication. She is presently a free lance writer who likes writing about the Kashmir issue and other topics like communal violence that have torn apart the Kashmiri society with tragic consequences. )


Kashmiriyat (Kashmiri-ness) is the ethno-national, social consciousness and cultural values of the Kashmiri people. The concept emerged long back but developed approximately around the 16th century and is characterized by religious and cultural harmony, patriotism and pride we Kashmiris have for our homeland.

According to a Hindu legend, Kashmir was once a vast lake called Satisar, inhabited by the Nagas, the snake people. Once upon a time, a demon, Jaladeo, began terrorizing the Nagas, so they beseeched their father, Sage Kashyap, to help. Kashyap, deciding to evoke the gods, performed such severe penance that the heavens shook. Finally, Shiva descended from Mount Kailash, his abode in the Himalayas, and rented the mountainside with his mighty trident. All the water of Lake Satisar drained out. Then Vishnu’s consort, the goddess Laxmi (called Sharda in Kashmir), took the shape of a Hari or a mynah bird and dropped on the demon’s head a pebble, which penetrated his body and grew to the size of a hill, encasing him in the rock. Thus, the hill came to be known as Hari Parbat (Hari’s Mount). In gratitude to Kashyap, the site was called Kashyap Mir or Kashyap Mountain. Over the years, the slopes of the hill became enshrined with Hindu, Muslim and Sikh places of worship. Till the 16th century; Akbar constructed the Hari Parbat fort along the top of the hill, enclosing the city of Srinagar in a citadel.

Even before Akbar built his fort, Srinagar and the whole Kashmir valley was already a citadel nestled securely between the lofty Himalayan range in the north and the Pir Panjal in the south. The 134-kilometer by 40-kilometer oval plane with its meandering rivers and rippling lakes, rolling greens and flower fragrant paths was a citadel of eden, a citadel for a way of life which the world would never comprehend. And Kashmiris call it Kashmiriyat .

Kashmiriyat , when experienced as a culture, is so syncretic that it inspires and epitomizes co-existence: man’s oneness with man; man’s oneness with nature. Kashmiriyat , when perceived as a faith, is an amalgamation of four great traditions: the aborigines’ Shivism, a Hindu monistic philosophy, and the disseminated wisdoms of Qur’an , Buddhism’s Nirvana and Sikhism’s Ek Onkar. Kashmir enjoys a significant ethnic, cultural and religious diversity. The region has historically been an important centre for Hinduism and Buddhism. Islam was introduced in the medieval centuries, and Sikhism also spread to the region under the rule of the Sikh Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. Kashmir has a significant place in the mythology and history of all four religions. Kashmiriyat is believed to have developed under the rule of Muslim governor Zain-ul-Abedin and the Mughal emperor Akbar, both of whom gave equal protection, importance and patronage to Kashmir’s different religious communities. Kashmiriyat is believed to be an expression of solidarity resilience and patriotism. It is believed to embody an ethos of harmony and a determination of survival of the people and their heritage. To Kashmiris, Kashmiriyat demands religious as well as social harmony and brotherhood. The culture and ethos of Kashmiriyat was greatly eroded with the onset of the Kashmir conflict, when this region was claimed by Pakistan and India and its territory divided during the Indo-Pak War of 1947. In the political debate on sovereignty over Kashmir, many interpret Kashmiriyat as nationalism and an expression for political independence from both Pakistan and India.

One of the finest examples of Kashmiriyat is in Rajtarangini, which is one of the oldest literature on Kashmir written by Kalhana. It is mentioned that there was an entire period in Kashmir’s history under so many governors and rulers when no major event took place and there was nothing which Kalhana could write about that period. This entire period was characterized by peace and harmony. This capability of Kashmiri people to live in peace and harmony with each other is Kashmiriyat . Also at the time of the partition in 1947, when the entire Indian sub-continent was witnessing bloodshed, Kashmir was the only region in this part of the World which did not witness any communal violence. Mahatma Gandhi had quoted then, “if there is a ray of hope for humanity, it is there on the soil of Kashmir.”

Another question that I was asked in an Indo-Pak youth conference was, “Has Kashmiriyat been redefined because of the armed conflict?” I had never heard of Kashmiriyat in my school but I told them that I did not believe at all that Kashmiriyat has been redefined because of the armed conflict. But rather from the perspective of religion, this idea has lost its essence to some extent because the Pandits (Kashmiri Hindus), who formed one of the basic pillars of Kashmiriyat , are no longer in Kashmir. But, that doesn’t mean Kashmiris have forgotten Kashmiriyat . It is still deep rooted within us. We still believe in religious harmony and peace. We still value our traditional sanctity and cultural heritage. So, whether Kashmiris live in Kashmir or outside Kashmir, the value of peace and brotherhood will always be within them.

It is the responsibility of the youth of Kashmir to keep alive this tradition of Kashmiriyat and to show to the world that Kashmiris love peace. We inherited peace from our forefathers, not violence. Let us promote peace wherever we go and make Kashmir a better place to live in. Kashmiris are facing an identity crisis at present. No place is perfect. We have to make our Kashmir perfect. For this we need to feel proud of what we are and what we have inherited. The youth of Kashmir has to dream of a brighter future and do their level best to attain it at all costs.

1 comment:

Bushra said...

the concept of kashmiriyat can only be perceived by people born, raised and living in Kashmir. don't even dream of kashmiriyat if you have emigrated to US, UK even other parts of India. The Kashmir generation born outside Kashmir care least about kashmiriyat. talking about Kashmir pundits, the only way they can regain and retain their kashmiriyat is by re-settlement. the first generation Kashmir pundits born outside Kashmir MAY inherit kashmiriyat from their parents but no question about the second and onwards generation.

i think that the most practical way to preserve kashmiriyat is to stop brain drain. the more you loose your brain power the more incompatible Kashmir will become with the human existence. educational system of Kashmir has collapsed (especially when compared to the standard of education in the rest of the world) while the entire world is experiencing a boom in quality as well as the quantity of educational institutions Kashmir has gone in to regression. look at the condition of the govt. medical college srinagar. it is pathetic, it looks like it has been seriously affected by a pandemic. i cannot imagine any patient getting cured in such a hospital. Kashmir has come to a stage where the closest available standard health care is in Delhi. the high schools and colleges have the same plight. people who worry about the future of their kids would therefore consider immigration first and kashmiriyat later.

Kashmir needs to be resuscitated badly. getting your lost brain power back is impossible, but you could at least stop the on going brain drain process. stop corruption. stop offering government jobs to relatives and friends or against the down payment.

i wrote an article in greater Kashmir in 2006 i hope that brought some enlightenment to the decision makers. here is the link:

http://www.greaterkashmir.com/full_story.asp?Date=15_8_2006&ItemID=6&cat=14

i don't know how much it will help to preserve kashmiryat but we created a website called 'Flicker for Kashmir' I invite you to visit and join us. to know more please go to

www.flickr4kashmir.ning.com

thanks

basharat