Introduction to 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.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

It is all here: The Vision Document of IKS and two Intellectuals Offering their two Highly Different Perspectives

The Vision Document of the Institute of Kashmir Studies (IKS) is highly intellectual and thought proviking. The document in its entirety and two intelligent contrary points of view are reproduced below



The Vale of Kashmir: Nature has endowed Kashmir with certain features and favours which are unique and hardly find a parallel in any other land of the world. Set in the womb of the Himalayas, with beautiful and inspiring scenery; Kashmir has been a highly advanced seat of learning since ancient times. To the poets like Bilhana, Kalhana and others it was Śardadeśe. Taking its place along with the famous universities of Taksasila and Nalanda Śardapitha was also known as Śripitha for conferring Sarvaĵňa degrees. As a matter of fact Kashmir had been in the vanguard of the advancement of human knowledge and civilization. From the early centuries of Christian era almost to the end of 12th century A.D, Kashmir was a great seat of learning and knowledge. Through out the Indian sub-continent it was known as Śardapitha,i.e the abode of Sarasvati the Goddess of knowledge. During the 3rd century AD 4th Buddhist Council was held here. Holding of this council in the Valley is a proof of the fact that Kashmir held the position of centrality from the point of view of the development of knowledge and learning, although geographically it happens to be on the margins of the sub-continent. The objective of this council was to reach a consensus regarding the basic tenets of Buddhism. The Mahayana school of Buddhism developed and flourished in Kashmir. This school advocates the emancipation of the whole society and is of the view that individual salvation is no salvation. Kashmiri Buddhist scholars achieved great excellence in logic and the Buddhist school of logic flourished in Kashmir, this School influenced and informed all other Indian schools of philosophy including Kashmir Shaivism. Kashmiri scholars and missionaries were instrumental in spreading Buddhism in Afghanistan, China, Central Asia, and Japan and in many other countries of the Far East. Prior to Buddhism, various forms of Shaivism were prevalent in Kashmir, including Shiv Sidhanth and Pashopati Shaivism. These were essentially dualistic system of thought which got suppressed by the prevalence of Buddhism. These schools of thought became unpopular in Kashmir, but they travelled to Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the south and to Nepal in the north. The followers of these schools of thought are found in these regions eventoday and they have a very close affinity to monisticKashmir Shaivism which became very popular anddominant in Kashmir after the decline of Buddhismtowards 9th Century A.D. Most of the Kashmiri Panditsclaim to be the practitioners of monistic Shaivism.When Kashmir was enlightened by the massage of Islam,the people here did not totally reject the spiritualheritage which their ancestors had bequeathed forthem. In the ancient times the spiritual personages inIndia including Kashmir were known by the epithet of Reshi. After the advent of Islam we find a new galaxyof Reshis who have propounded a beautiful blend of the essence of Kashmiri spiritual tradition and Islam.These Reshis were true Muslims but still they did nottake meat and abstained from all kinds of violence andpreached the same message to their followers, thus inthe contemporary Kashmiri Islam we have not onlypristine and clear message of Islam but also thespiritual essence of Buddhism as well as Shaivism.This makes Kashmir an amazing field of study and research for the scholars of culture, religion and politics.

The University: Situated at Hazratbal, an idyllic area on the western side of the fabulous Dal Lake of Srinagar and held in veneration by the Muslims for the beautiful mosque that enshrines the holy relic of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the University of Kashmir is spread over 256 acres of lush green land with three adjacent campuses of exquisite beauty, Amar Singh Bagh, Naseem Bagh and Mirza Bagh. Amar Singh Bagh is located on the bank of the Dal Lake having on its other three sides a background of mountainous amphitheatre rising to a great height above its crystal clear water. Naseem Bagh, or "the garden of breezes", laid originally by Emperor Akbar, is a magnificent grove of chinar Trees, facing the artificially formed island, Sona Lank or the Golden Island, in the centre of the northern portion of the Dal Lake. The unique combination of Lake and mountain scenery, and the impressive calm and serene ambience provide a highly congenial atmosphere for the philosopher's contemplation and the scientist's research

The Institute: The Institute of Kashmir Studies was initially established in April 2006 under the nomenclature of Centre for Kashmir Studies, as an autonomous body to study analyse, debate and re-evaluate various dimensions of Kashmir's rich cultural, spiritual and intellectual heritage. From its very inception the Centre has managed to receive the support and expertise of genuine scholars from the various fieldsv related to Kashmir Studies, from within and outside the country. It has been the effort of the Centre to conduct synchronic and diachronic studies of the cultures of various geographical, linguistic and ethnic groups and communities of the State. The sincerity of purpose and our endeavours to translate our desire into action immediately brought us into the focus of Academic bodies of the country and international bodies like South Asian Foundation (SAF). In the month of November, 2007 University of Kashmir signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the South Asian Foundation. As per the terms and conditions of this (MOU) the nomenclature of the Centre was changed to Institute of Kashmir Studies, and the foundation has pledged a financial support of one million US$, to be spread over a period of five years to the Institute. Kashmir Studies though focussed on the valley of Kashmir, considerers Jammu & Ladakh very significant components of its field of study. Moreover, historically Kashmir has been an integral part of the cultural mosaic of India and no study of Kashmiri thought and culture is possible without situating it within the broader perspective of Indian thought and culture. The great contribution made by ancient and medieval Kashmiri thinkers and scholars is in Sanskrit Language which happened to be the lingua Franca of the sub-continent. Considering also deep rooted commercial and cultural links of Kashmir, with Central Asia, China, Tibet, Nepal, Persia and several other important regions of the sub-continent we need to widen the scope of Kashmir Studies, in a much broader historical and geographical context. As said earlier, Kashmir being a significant part of the cultural and civilizational milieu of the sub-continent, imbibes and shares the impacts and influence of the events and concerns associated with the SAARC. As no serious study of the region in any field conducted in isolation is complete, views of all the scholars and experts from all disciplines working at their respective places need to be taken in to consideration while analysing various facts of our studies. In so doing an holistic approach helps us in gaining an insight, which makes our research purposeful and beneficial to the society. So the Institute has decided to offer fellowships to scholars and professionals from the SAARC Countries to undertake research projects relating to the issue confronting the people of the region.


"To create and enhance intellectual space for inter-disciplinary research and inter-faith dialogue, in order to promote better understanding of the pluralistic culture of Kashmir vis-à-vis issues of contemporary relevance and to restore Kashmir to its earlier position of being in the vanguard of the advancement of human civilization".


To provide a viable platform to the scholars interested in Kashmir studies to debate and discuss various issues on the subject. and re-assessment

To create space for a critical re-evaluation of the literature on various subjects related to Kashmir, produced till date.

To dialogue between local intelligentsia and the create an environment for the interaction scholars and intellectuals at the national and international level.

To create space for a dialogue between tradition and modernity and also for critical thinking and new departures in the realm of thought and action. To raise the and to familiarize the young generation with epistemic level of the community their cultural heritage.


To make all efforts for the preservation Cultural Heritage and disseminate the information regarding the same among general public by publishing and projecting the research findings on th various aspects relating to Kashmir Studies. efforts for tracing,

To make locating and preserving all manuscripts relating to Kashmir and for editing and translating the said manuscripts into Kashmiri, Urdu and English.

To work on history of Kashmiri Culture and Philosophy.

To a project for compiling a chairs/institutions of higher learning in the State and outside the establish state, for the growth and evolution of knowledge regarding Kashmir and Kashmiri culture, literature and art,

To conduct research in the fields of language culture, religion, philosophy and other region specific disciplines falling within the scope of the objectives of the Society.

To organize/participate in seminars, symposia, group discussions and workshops at the national and international level in the disciplines related to Kashmir Studies in particular and any otherv closely related disciplines.

To publish journals, periodicals, magazines, papers, seminar proceedings, news letters for guest speakers and dissemination of knowledge and information.

To invite and organize extension lecturers for furtherance of the objectives of the society.

To facilitate and encourage exchange experts/members of the society with corresponding institutions/organizations in the country and abroad for furtherance of the objectives.

To establish a library and facilitate dissemination of knowledge by harnessing modern technology.

To give awards, medals and prizes to persons distinctions attained in the fields connected with the objectives of the society.

To associate and collaborate with Central and State Governments, educational/ academic institutions, NGOs, Industry and corporate bodies for organizing social, cultural and educationalprogrammes for furtherance of the objectives of the society. receive in donation or lease .

To build, establish, purchase, acquire, moveable or non-moveable assets in the State and outside the State for the promotion of the objectives of the society. To augment, maintain, alter, improve and develop assets and physical infrastructure of the Society .

To sell, transfer the physical and other assets of the mortgage, lease, exchange, Society for furtherance of the objectives of the society Goals of extension lectures.

Organize and Conduct workshops. periodic Conferences, Seminar. Utilize services of the lectures at different educational institutions, and at the Centre to organize different departments and research Centers of the University. Disseminate through Research journal of the Center, seminar proceeding, research findings, edited books, monographs, etc. Publish research works of the independent studies, research related to Kashmir studies.

Conduct of surveys and area preparation of bibliography and procurement of manuscripts and rare books. Translate ancient texts into Kashmiri.


The Institute is headed by its Director Prof. (Dr) G. M Khawaja, (alias) Meem Hai Zaffar. The other positions, which are given in the box are visiting in nature and shall be open to the eminent scholars from different SAARC Countries. _______________________________________________________

Myopic Vision Document attempts to bulldoze History


The news report in a national English daily about the recent inauguration of the Institute of Kashmir Studies in the University of Kashmir stated, “As President Pratibha Patil inaugurated the Institute of Kashmir Studies (IKS) at Kashmir University, there was conspicuous absence of students and scholars. The University had not invited its students and scholars instead school children had come for the function….The University as a security measure, had closed all hostels and asked the boarders to go home.” The report further stated, “Meanwhile, it was a terrible time for the people living in Hazratbal and its neighbourhoods on Monday as the security agencies clamped an undeclared curfew in the area. All the roads leading to Hazratbal were closed and people had to walk for miles to reach their destinations. At Hazratbal, where President Patil was to inaugurate the Institute of Kashmir Studies, all shops and establishments were closed”. A day after the inauguration, there were violent protests in the University Campus against the forced evacuation of boarders. Not a very friendly way to begin an academic institution!

Well, the Institute which is the re-christened form of the earlier Centre inaugurated in 2006 had run into controversies right from the very beginning. In fact, immediately after the inauguration of the Centre in 2006, the Director who was a reputed historian was replaced by a scholar of Kashmir Saivism. This had prompted me to write an article, “Sanskritising Kashmiriyat”, which to me seemed the main purpose of the initiative taken by the highest authorities of the University in establishing the Centre. Now, the so called “Kashmiriyat” has been completely hijacked by them. The vision document of the Institute which has been set up with the support of the Indian Chapter of South Asia Foundation, states, “Historically Kashmir has been an integral part of the cultural mosaic of India and no study of Kashmiri thought and culture is possible without situating it within the broader perspective of Indian thought and culture.” This is not only a travesty of historical facts but a brazen attempt to bull doze Kashmir Studies towards a non-existent thought! Even at the peak of its glory, the “Hindu” Kashmir did not have any significant interaction with North India due to the basic difference in its religious philosophy.
Kashmir has been the fountainhead of Saivite philosophy while as North India follows Vedanta philosophy. Even the basic script of the Kashmiri language, Sarda script is different from Sanskrit. Sir Aurel Stein in his translation of Raj Tarangni mentions, “Compared to numerous references in Greek, Chinese and Arabic literature, there is a lamentable lack of exact geographical mention of Kashmir in general Sanskrit literature. Judging from the extreme scantiness of the data, it is clear that Kashmir to them was a country foreign and remote in every way. The name Kasmira is mentioned as the designation of the country and its people but in a very vague fashion. The Mahabharata refers in many passages to Kasmiras and their rulers but in a general manner without giving distinct location of the country. The most specific piece of information regarding Kashmir that Sanskrit literature outside the Valley furnishes is in the term Kasmira or Kasmiraja that designates Saffron and Kustha for which it was famous since ancient times.” The present attempt at limiting the scope of Kashmir Studies under the garb of Kashmiriyat can best be summed up by a quote from “Kashmir Rediscovered” by Dr.Abdul Ahad a contemporary historian, “The projection of this individuality through “Kashmiriat” is nothing but a histrionic gesture; a sinister move to legitimize the position of the disputed Kashmir as India’s peripheral, subservient and sub-national constituency and equate it with Punjabiat, Bengaliat, Gujratiat, Maharashtriat etc; the undisputed sub-identities of all pervasive Indian National Identity.”

But Kashmir is different and has its own historic individuality. Kashmir has not only been a hub of learning for the sub-continent and South Asia but for the entire Asian continent and even beyond. Strangely the “scholars” of the Kashmir Institute seem to have forgotten that the most important event which changed the Buddhist learning completely was the holding of the fourth Buddhist Council in Kashmir. Not only was the Council attended by scholars from all over Asia but its teachings transformed the Hinayan School into Mahayana which were carried by Bhikshus to far off places. The Buddhist period of Kashmir history is an important aspect for any study which may be undertaken by the Institute. Similarly, the last eight centuries have carried the profoundest influence of Shah-I-Hamadan, Mir Syed Ali Hamadani who in real terms was an “Apostle of Kashmir”. Shah-I-Hamadan was not only a religious preacher but a real transformer of entire Kashmir society. Kashmir’s present is more akin to Hamadan in Iran and to Tajikistan in Central Asia, the two places where the great “Apostle of Kashmir” was born and is buried than to North India with which it has very little commonality. It is because of a political, psychological, and physical siege of last 60 years that the valley of Kashmir has been completely isolated from its historical connections. Blocking out these historical connections and digging out only the “Hindu” past is not going to strengthen Kashmir’s relationship with India. In fact, it is bound to give rise to resistance and reaction alienating Kashmiris further from the Indian mainstream. Knowledge cannot be compartmentalised.

It has to be all inclusive and unrestrained. It would be in keeping with India’s “Unity in diversity” if a free hand is given to scholars to study all aspects of Kashmir without any pre-determined agenda. One fails to understand why the top brass of the University proclaiming to be objective and unbiased research scholars have gone along with the distortion of such a prestigious academic institution? It gives rise to apprehensions that these people may have come with a pre-determined mindset? It is incumbent upon Kashmir’s intellectuals and scholars to resist this persistent onslaught aimed at mutilating and distorting our present by digging out specific portions of our past suited to a bigoted vision of certain rabidly communal, parochial, and chauvinist lobbies. They are doing more harm than good to India’s secular image. Incidentally, a number of people including myself who are supposed to be on the Advisory Committee of the Centre for Kashmir Studies were not invited for the inaugural function for reasons best known to the organisers. May be like the boarders who were turned out, we too (because of our views) are considered a “security risk” for the myopic “Vision Document”. If that be so, then our stand is vindicated!

COUNTERPOINT: I wonder what wrong the author smells in having this institute established. Are reasons personal? Prof R K Bhat sharply reacts to M Ashraf’s column on Institute of Kashmir Studies.

In his venom spewing article on the above subject, M Ashraf has indulged in falsehoods galore and has distorted facts. He has also betrayed a lamentable lack of knowledge of history. His one point agenda is to promote his rabidly communal views and find fault with everything connected with the Institute of Kashmir Studies. Let us examine the various issues raised by him seriatim.

He says that Centre for Kashmir Studies was started in 2006 with an eminent historian who was its first Director but replaced by a scholar of Kashmir Shaivism.. The first Director who was employed for one year only was accommodated as Director of Shaif-ul-Alam Chair with a two year term. He did not protest and was happy to accept an assignment for a longer duration. The Director who succeeded him is not only a scholar of Kashmir Shaivism but of philosophy and history who had been Principal of a College. M Ashraf was a member of the Advisory Committee, who neither ever protested nor resigned. He even happily participated in the Seminar on “Approaches to Kashmir Studies” held on 29-31st of Oct 2006. Scholars from Pakistan and Central Asian Republics also participated in that seminar. Yet today he is breathing fire and brimstone against Centre for Kashmir Studies now redesignated as Institute of Kashmir Studies. May be his anger arises from the fact that he did not receive an invitation for the mega inauguration function of the Centre on May 26th, 2008. The organisers could have slipped up in not inviting him or may be his invitation did not catch up with him.

Being a member of the Advisory Committee he could easily have telephoned the Director and found out the real reason for his outburst against the Institute is perhaps something different. Never before in the last sixty years has such a mega international function been held in Kashmir. Apart from the President of India inaugurating the function there was participation at high level of representatives from all the eight South Asian countries. Sri Lanka was represented by Chandrika Kumaratunga Bandarnaike former President and Prime Minister, Afghanistan by Dr. Gazanfar a Cabinet Minister, Pakistan by the daughter of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and other countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Maldives also by eminent personalities of their countries. India was represented by a Cabinet Minister, Mani Shanker Iyer. The 2500 capacity of the Kashmir University was full and from all points of view the function went off extremely well. The other connected function of Junoon band concert of Sufi Pop music by a party from Pakistan, despite boycott call by fundamentalists was a roaring success with several thousand audience enthralled by the music.

The unprecedented success of these two events was perhaps a bit too much for him and separatists to stomach. No wonder he has come out with a tirade against the Institute. Before discussing Ashraf’s misguided and misleading formulations against the Institute, two points need to be mentioned. Tight security arrangements and vacation of hostel for security reasons. No doubt many people must have been inconvenienced due to security arrangements. However, this was a necessary evil in a militancy inflicted State with grenades being lobbed and IED explosions taking place every day. As for vacation of hostels, criticism on that account may to an extent be justified as it appears to have been an ill advised measure. However, the other version is that the Vice Chancellor persuaded the boarders of one hostel and they willingly moved out for a day, some to their homes for the week end others to other hostels. There was no protest or incident on the day of the function. The following day some students protested and the Police was brought in. The Vice Chancellor who was not present when this happened. He rushed to the place of incident and pacified the students. All was quiet thereafter. The next day another major event, an international Economics Seminar was successfully held and everything was normal.

Now for the various ideological aspects connected with the Institute mentioned by Ashraf, he has taken strong objection to the Institute’s Vision Document. In particular to the statement, “Historically Kashmir has been an integral part of the cultural mosaic of India and no study of Kashmir thought and culture is possible without situating it in the broader perspective of Indian thought and culture”. Only a person totally ignorant of facts of history can contest the veracity of the basic truth stated in the Vision Document. The cultural mosaic of India is based on a secular philosophy linked with belief in “Vasudhav Kutumbkam” (All mankind is one family). Ashraf and his ilk may want to break the political link of Kashmir with India and may be allergic to the term integral in the political context, but they cannot obliterate the common cultural mosaic in which Kashmir and the rest of India are bound from the dawn of history. His bigoted and myopic vision does not permit him to appreciate that Indian cultural mosaic of which Hinduism is only a part, as indeed are other great religions. Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism and Christianity are all integral parts of the Indian cultural mosaic, each with a separate identity but at the same time sharing a common ethos.

In his ignorance of facts and blinded by hatred, he has gone to the extent of calling the Vision Document “travesty of historical facts” and “a brazen attempt to bull doze Kashmir studies to a non-existent thought”.

It should be noted that the objective spelt out in the Vision Documents states, “To create and enhance intellectual space for inter-disciplinary research and inter-faith dialogue, in order to promote better understanding of the pluralistic culture of Kashmir vis-a-vis issues of contemporary relevance and to restore Kashmir to its earlier position of being in the vanguard of the advancement of human civilization”. Let us note some facts of history, which Ashraf does not seem to be aware of Kashmir’s name is derived from the name of Kashyap Muni. The city of Srinagar was founded by Emperor Ashoka, initially a Hindu who had converted to Buddhism. His philosophy enunciated in one of his Rock edicts states that all his subjects, irrespective of their creed were like his children. Ashraf asserts that “Hindu Kashmir had no interaction with North India” when the fact of history is that Hindu Kashmir had intimate interaction not only with North India but also South India. He also appears to be ignorant of the fact that the Kingdom of Lalitaditya extended over a large part of North India.The Shankaracharya Hill in Srinagar is an everlasting reminder of that link. Shardapeeth was a great centre of Sanskrit learning to which flocked people from all over India. Sanskrit after all was a language of India and not of any other country. The fact that the Sharda script was different from Devnagri script is of little consequence. Pali script in North India was also different from Devnagri. The language and literature was Sanskrit and eventually a large number of scripts merged into Devnagri. Another point made by him is that Shaivite philosophy is different from North India Vedant philosophy. Although Kashmiri Shaivism has a separate identity, it is absurd to insinuate that it is something out of the Hindu fold, when it is a part and parcel of it. There are several schools of thought within Hinduism which has led some people to say that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. Arya Samajists do not recognize idol worship but yet they are Hindus. The game plan of establishing a separate political identity for Kashmir from India cannot be buttressed on the basis of Kashmiri Shaivism being out of the Hindu fold. All major religions have different sects. Islam has Shias and Sunnis, Buddhists, Hinayan and Mahayan, and Christians, Catholics and Protestants.

Ashraf’s forays into history of Buddhism again shows his ignorance of history. There can be no doubt that Buddhism is an indigenous Indian religion. It was not imported from outside as insinuated by Ashraf. No doubt a schism took place at the Fourth Buddhist Council in Srinagar with the emergence of Mahayan sect, different from the earlier Hinayan sect. Incidentally the individual who presided over than Council in Srinagar was Ashwaghosh from Bihar. Ashraf has referred to Buddhists from all over Asia assembling at Srinagar when the fact is that Buddhists from all over India attended that conclave with a few from neighbouring countries. It was only after the Fourth Council that Buddhism spread all over West Asia and to China and Japan.

No doubt, Hamdani the great Sufi saint from Iran not only brought Islam to Kashmir, but also transformed the Kashmir society. Close cultural links got forged with Iran and Tajakistan. This did not mean that the umbilical chord of Kashmir with India got snapped. Sufi Islam of the Reshi cult flourished in Kashmir. Our great saints Sheikh Nooruddin or Nund Rishi and Laleshwar or Lal Ded, illumined the Valley and so did poets like Mehraj. Incidentally, Ashraf has not even bothered to mention the names of these great saints, revered equally by both Hindus and Muslims. They are a glorious part of our Kashmiriyat heritage .

Unfortunately Ashraf seems to feel that study of the cultural mosaic of India of which Kashmir is an integral part is “digging only the Hindu past”. He is totally mistaken. The Institute of Kashmir Studies is striving to delve equally into Kashmir’s Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic past. People belonging to Ashraf’s line of thinking have succeeded in carrying out an ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. Let them now not carry out a philosophical cleansing from Kashmiriyat.

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