For two thousand years, the Himalayan valley of Kashmir in Northern India has been the home of Learning and Wisdom. From this small valley have issued masterpieces of history, poetry, romance, fable, and philosophy and many of the greatest Sanskrit scholars and poets were born and wrote in the valley. Kashmir flourished under some of India’s greatest rulers, such as Mauryan emperor Ashoka, who reigned between 273 and 233 BC and is recorded to have founded the old city of Srinagar. Under his sovereignty, many Buddhist scholars, missionaries, and intellectuals permanently settled in the valley. Or the great Hindu King Harsha (1089 to 1101 A. D) who was versed in many languages, a good poet, lover of music and art, making his court a centre of luxury, learning and splendour.
Unfortunately In the beginning of 14th century, a ferocious Mongol warlord, Dulucha, invaded the valley through its northern side Zojila Pass, with an army of 60,000 men. His savage attack ended for all purposes the Hindu rule in Kashmi and he is said to have destroyed many temples and killed thousands of Hindus. Muslim rule was further tightened in 1389, during the rule of Sultan-Sikandar. He banned all celebrations and would not even listen to music. He imposed Jizia (tax on Infidels) upon Hindus and stopped them to use tilak. Almost all the Muslim chroniclers of that time speak of the wholesale destruction of Hindu shrines including the famed ‘Martand’ Temple, and forcible conversion of Hindus to Islam. Thousands of Hindus fled to India to save their religion and holy books, and also to escape the wrath of the Sultan
Then, after a period of relative tolerance and peace, came the rule of Afghans warlords till 1819, roughly a period of 67 years. The very first Afghan governor Abdullah Khan Aquasi, immediately after assuming powers, started a reign of terror. People were looted and killed indiscriminately, and even soldiers began to amass wealth beyond any imagination. Fortunately, in 1819, 30,000 soldiers of Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh attacked Kashmir, defeated the Pathans, and the state became a part of Ranjit Singh’s empire for nearly forty years, providing some relief to Hindus in Kashmir. But the British defeated the Sikhs and became undisputed masters of India. Not interested by Kashmir, they sold it in perpetuity for 75 lakhs of rupees (appr 150.000 $) to Maharaja Gulab Singh of the Doghra dynasty (what wonderful merchants the British, who sell something which does not even belong to them!).
By treaty, conquest, or inter-marriages, the Doghras created a state comprised of five major units, which are fundamentally very different from each other in terms of geography and ethnicity and have further complicated the problems of Kashmir: the territory around Gilgit (today in Pakistan), which belongs basically to Central Asia; Ladhak, which is an extension of Tibet and is peopled at 55% by Buddhists and 45% by Muslims; the area around Muzarrafad which is today under Pakistan control, comprised mostly of Punjabi Muslims; Jammu, which in essence belongs to Himachal Pradesh and is Hindu in majority; and the valley of Kashmir, of course, which was Indian Muslim at 95 % in 1947.
Finally, India gained its independence from in 1947 and was disastrously divided by the British, against the advice of saints and seers, such as Sri Aurobindo, along religious lines into India and Pakistan. Although many Muslims chose to stay in India, knowing that they would be granted the freedom of practicing their own religion, most Hindus had to flee Pakistan as they were being slaughtered mercilessly. Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir decided to attach his state to free and secular India. Furious, the Pakistan Government invaded Kashmir, and encouraged the Muslim tribal people to carry loot, plunder, death and destruction into the hearths and homes of innocent Kashmiris in general and among Hindus in particular.
Since 1947, Pakistan, aided by China, which also claims parts of Indian territory, has initiated three wars to regain Indian Kashmir, four, if you include the Kargil war fought in the icy reaches of upper Kashmir. Worse, the proxy war which they are waging on India today, by arming, training and financing not only Kashmiri separatists, but also Islamic militants coming from Afghanistan, or even faraway Sudan, has cost the lives of nearly 60.000 innocent people, both Hindus and Muslims. It should be added that Pakistan decided in the late eighties that it would be easier to regain Kashmir if all the Hindus were pushed out by a campaign of terror, both in the valley, where they are a tiny minority and in Jammu where they still have a thin majority. Thus 450,000 Kashmiri Pandits, constituting 99% of the total population of Hindus living in the Kashmir Valley, have been forcibly pushed out of the Valley by terrorists. Since 1989, they have been forced to live the life of exiles in their own country.
People should also be reminded that terrorism in Kashmir is not about separatism only, it is also an ideological struggle with specific fundamentalist and communal Agenda. Terrorist violence aims at the disengagement of the state of Jammu and Kashmir from India and its annexation to Pakistan. It is a continuation of the Islamic fundamentalist struggle.
FACT is building in Pune, amongst the 5 acres, of the Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History (fact-india.com), a special building to permanently house our Kashmiri Pandits exhibition. If you wish to help contribute to this very important endeavor, you may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. FACT is a registered Trust, which has FCRA, Indian, US and UK tax exemption
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