Kashmiriyat - the face behind the veil
Author: Sanjay Kaul
Date: January 2003
Every time there is a spate of killings in Kashmir, almost everybody
with any investment in the Kashmir situation rushes in to protest the
incongruity of the event in the context of the fabled liberal traditions
of Kashmir, or what is now fashionably also known as Kashmiriyat.
It has been a while since Kashmiriyat began doing the rounds, to the
extent I can't really say who or what actually coined it - it could've
been a coinage of the Maharaja era; or even the JKLF's accidental
discovery in arguing the cultural isolation of the Kashmiris, although
why they would ignore Jammu-yat or Ladhaki-yat I don't know. It could
also have been a National Conference plant, in arguing its case for
greater autonomy for a very special people; it is a pliant enough word
to be used by the rag-tag Hurriyat, in their hurry at becoming amenable
to any international platform that seems available; and it is often used
by the Indian political establishment across the floor when they want to
rub in the distinction between this Kashmir and the one that is not
The truth, in this case, is not somewhere in between but somewhere
completely else. Kashmiriyat as an attempt to brand the socio-cultural
ethos of the Kashmiris, as distinct from the Jammuites and the Ladhakis
serves to not only undermine the other two cultural identities, but it
accents dangerously the distinction of being a Kashmiri. That this is
also patently incorrect is another matter, for how different is
essential Kashmiriyat from Punjabiyat? What is it that makes the
Kashmiri unique which does not the Jammuite or the Ladhakhi? Or even the
Bihari or the Bengali? Is it the salubrious climate? Or is it some
stunning example of secular behaviour that, some would hope, puts the
Gujaratis to shame? No Sir. Kashmiriyat is only as unique or as average
as any other socio-cultural component of the region. And in that too, it
does not possess as flattering a lineage as say, Bengal, if only for a
people's intellectual and other achievements.
Kashmiriyat as tokenism, is yet another variation on the theme. When we
want to propound the fictitious secularism of Kashmir, we use this
variation wholeheartedly. But when it takes on meanings as a distinctive
community of a people who have other politico-religious ambitions, we
duck. This is precisely what Prime Minister Vajpayee had to skirt when
he famously proposed 'insaaniyat' as a more encompassing paradigm to
bringing peace in the Valley. And when it is used to speak of a distinct
culture, its users usually fail to provide its context; if the
Kashmiriyat of the Kashmir we still have with us is the liberal and
benign variety, what of the Kashmir on the other side? Is that
Kashmiriyat too or is it POKashmiriyat?
For the world community this word is fast achieving a flexible quality
of application depending on what the pressure points are. The West is
beginning to like this word because it gives them the handle to rub in
the distinctiveness of the Kashmir region, and therefore its problem,
with no reference to the state, and without upsetting the Indian
viewpoint. This dubious quality of the word, quite in keeping with the
political character of the region, is the perfect way to talk in a
variety of tongues about the same thing without anybody discovering the
Then there is the quintessential spin-doctored version of Kashmiriyat,
as a wonderfully benign, Sufistic version of Islam that is so unique
that you find it nowhere else in the world. Quite right, that you find
it nowhere else on earth - for where else do you find a land that has
over the last 400 years, systematically expelled wave after wave of
Kashmiri Pandits from its confines with no weapon other than religion.
Here is a people who stand testimony to startling reduction in their
count repeatedly - from over twenty-nine per cent of just Srinagar City
in 1873, (Fredrick Drew; Census of 1873) to less than one per cent in
the entire valley today...is this is the tradition of Kashmiryat?
That a minuscule minority, representative of the last remnants of any
figment of pluralism in the valley, could become the focus of such an
organised onslaught over such a long time! - and we are still all keyed
in to watching The Pianist win an Oscar for its Director, a Jew who
purportedly survived the Holocaust. Hey! we have our very own holocaust
here, and its called Kashmiriyat, but is anybody looking?
The only constant, it seems, is that nobody seems to want to put the
reality in its correct perspective - after all, if this sort of violence
does not belong to Kashmir by culture or religion, why does it happen
with such regular frequency?
I can just about visualise the champions of India's secular traditions
rising in an echo against what is implicit in this statement. But would
they care to ask if this kind of a campaign can survive century after
century without bearing in its soil a small seed of what makes all this
possible? No it can't, for without the seed there can be no tree;
without a nurturing climate there can't be fruition.
There are commentators who want to wish away any finger-pointing at
Kashmiris by pointing fingers at the north western borders - and the
tradition continues even till today. But is the pusillanimous nature of
the Kashmiri the only weak link that allows one morbid regime after
another to find just the right environment in this place, all through
its history, to practice such a long drawn cleansing? Be that as it may.
To absolve Kashmiris, for what has happened in the valley, is to excuse
a people their complicity in what has always happened in Kashmir.
Let us not allow the word to veil the truth: If Kashmiriyat represents
liberalism, Aushwitz was Disneyland..
Sep 12, 2007
Kashmiriyat - the face behind the veil - by Sanjay Kaul
If you didn't read I said in "Kashmiriyat - the True story...!!!" earlier, here's Sanjay Kaul unveiling the same hoax, in his own words...