Rediscovering Kashmir in Kalhana’s Paradise

Nava Thakuria

Nava Thakuria

By Nava Thakuria

GUWAHATI, India, 30 August 2019

Suddenly narratives over Kashmir have changed for both India (Hindustan/Bharat) and Pakistan, when New Delhi extended its horizons up to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (known as Ajad Kashmir), and Islamabad aggressively insisted on its domination over the entire Jammu and Kashmir. The lousy debate broke out as Indian Parliament endorsed the revocation of Articles 370 and 35A, and also reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir province, in the first week of August 2019.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah, defence minister Rajnath Singh, and many others in the ruling clout start making stronger statements that the entire Kashmir (read comprising PoK, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Aksai Chin) would be an integral part of India very soon, whereas Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has shown desperation to prove Islamabad’s authority over the region. Amidst the war of words, an interactive session with a Jammu-based senior journalist was organized at Guwahati Press Club on 23 August, which was materialized with the video-conference at a time when there was wild rumour that entire Jammu & Kashmir was under strict internet censorship as a precautionary measure by the government.

Tito Ganju, editor-in-chief of Epilogue, an English newsmagazine published from Jammu, while interacting with Guwahati scribes commented that Article 370 was always a temporary provision in the Constitution of India and architects of the Constitution were clear about its temporary position.

Recognized as an expert on the Constitution, Ganju was clear that those individuals who argue that Article 370 forms the basic structure of India’s Constitution were simply trying to mislead the nation. He added that the temporary provision is the weakest one among three provisions (the other two being Special Provision and Transitory Provision).

Ganju pointed out that the government had the legal and constitutional mandate to deal with it in the manner it deems fit. Jammu & Kashmir was under President’s rule, and hence the legislative power of the State in accordance with the constitutional provisions lay with the Parliament; the Centre took the route of Parliament to bring in the bill to make necessary changes in Article 367 and Article 372.

The historic decision by the Union government in New Delhi to revoke Article 370 and 35A and reorganize Jammu & Kashmir into two union territories was denounced sharply by various individuals and organisations of India and abroad. The authority has continued the detention of various Kashmiri leaders, willful restriction of communications and even of public movements in the valley, even though normalcy returns to the Ladakh (adjacent to Tibet) and Jammu regions.

Recently around 600 eminent Kashmiri Hindus along with their hardcore supporters welcomed the removal of Article 370 and geo-political reorganisation of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. Displaced Pandits of Kashmir, who are presently taking shelter in various parts of the world, believe that it was the foundation where the prejudiced J&K Muslims flourished in secular India.

Signatories include Anupam Kher, Padamshri Subash Kak, Padamshri Pandit Bhajan Sopori, Padamshri Jawahar Lal Koul, Padamshri Kashi Nath Pandita, PN Razdan, RL Hangloo, Ashok Ogra, Sushil Pandit, Shakti Bhan, Ashoke Pandit, Ratan Parimoo, Ashok Kaul, Hriday Kaul Bharati, Kailash Mehra Sadhu, Kavita Suri, Khema Kaul, Kuldeep Raina, Avtar Krishan Rahbar, Sunil Bhat, Ashok Hak, Kashmiri Khosa, Lalit Ambardar, Ramesh Marhatta, MK Raina, TK Ganjoo, Sanjay Raina, Usha Handoo, Ravinder Raina.

Ganju, while speaking about the possibility of the return by hundreds of Kashmiri Brahman families to the valley, commented that the time and situation was yet to be conducive for their return. Asserting that Kashmiri Pandits have suffered genocide and their presence in the valley has been eventually reduced from cent-percent to hardly three percent now, Ganju commented that their homecoming must be addressed in terms of its historical aspects rather than a cosmetic contemporary understanding.

Moreover adequate safety, security, and dignity should be the cardinal of any policy on their return and rehabilitation, he stated. Though Kashmiri Pandits are the aboriginals of the valley, with first and uncontested claim over the resources, their demand for a centrally-administered region carved out of Kashmir valley should be acknowledged, he argued.

Ganju declared that in every foreign attack in Kashmir, Hindu families were made to pay heavily as they were subjected to arson, humiliation, and displacement from various localities such as Muzzafarbad, Gilgit, Baramulla, Poonch, Rajuari, Mirpur, Bhimber, Kotli, and Skardu. In the course of discussions, Ganju mentioned Rajatarangini, an authentic historical chronicle on rulers of early Kashmir and its neighbours, written in Sanskrit by Kashmiri Brahman historian Kalhana. Penned some time in 1148-50, the book has descriptions of Maharaja Jaisimha as the last great Hindu ruler in Kashmir.

Considered as the best authentic work of its kind, Rajatarangini reveals the beauty of Kashmir as comparable only to heaven. A place named after Kashyap Rishi (sage), Kashmir is enriched with mild sunshine, icy cool water, majestic tree-flower-fruits, etc. “Kailash is the best place in the Tri-loka (the three worlds, namely Swarga, Marta, and Patal), the Himalayas are the best place in Kailash and Kashmir the best place in the Himalayas,” narrated Kalhana.

For some time, Kashmir was a part of Mauryan emperor Ashoka’s Buddhist territory. Kashmir then emerged as a flourishing centre for Buddhism when Buddhist scholars, intellectuals, and followers frequently visited the place. Ashoka also developed Puranadhisthan (present-day Srinagar) and repaired numerous temples, pagodas, and old shrines. The region was also ruled by Kushana emperor, Delhi sultan, Mughal samrat, Sikh raja, Dogra kings, etc.

Rajatarangini has cited Amritprabha, popular queen of Kashmir (wife of Meghbahan), who hailed from Assam (then Kamrup). Another important king of Kashmir, Lalitaditya, had maintained a friendly relationship with Kumar Bhaskar Varma, the powerful king of Kamrup. Harshavardhana, the 7th-century central Indian emperor was a common friend to both of them. Then most of the local population in Kashmir were worshippers of Shiva (one of the Hindu Trinity after Brahma and Vishnu).

Narrating the recent political history of Jammu & Kashmir, Ganju claimed that Maharaja Hari Singh had all moral, ethical, and legal rights to decide upon the accession of his kingdom with either dominions (India and Pakistan), and the king duly signed the treaty of accession with Indian Dominion on 26 October 1947.

The J&K Maharaja was seeking a better deal with both the Dominions before finally making up its mind. The unwanted aggression of Islamabad through Pakistani Army regulars and tribal forces into the erstwhile province of Jammu & Kashmir later compelled the king to seek assistance from New Delhi and eventually he signed the Instrument of Accession (J&K). Speaking about the petition filed by India in the United Nations after Pakistan’s aggression, Ganju made it crystal clear that it was strictly on the Pak hostility into Jammu & Kashmir with the lone argument of majority Muslim presence there, but it had already become a legal territory of India following the official consent of the J&K Maharaja.

He further disclosed that the Centre was simply pampering the separatists of Srinagar valley in particular through a kid glow treatment, prostrating the interests of the nation and the supremacy of its Constitution to the whims of the Kashmir region. The nation-state over 70 years now unfortunately incentivised separatists including the so-called mainstream political parties of Kashmir region and ultimately continued penalizing the nationalists of the region.

About the author

Nava Thakuria is a journalist and media commentator based in Guwahati, Northeast India. He has been covering socio-political developments of Northeast India, along with its neighbours Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, for various media outlets for more than two decades.

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