Kashmir’s 5,000 years old socio-cultural milieu continues to be eclipsed by the externally imported religious extremist ideology of fanatic Islamism. In this context, it is important to recount what Kashmir was and what Kashmiriyat means.
In Kashmir, religious extremism and terrorism sponsored and nourished by Pakistan led to the annihilation of ideas like pluralism, secularism, freedom and tolerance in the past three decades. We have seen how the extremist and regressive principles continue to be violently asserted in the most malevolent manner in Kashmir. In the exceptional circumstances of 1947, the secular and democratic foundations of Kashmir brought it closer to India. Kashmir squarely rejected the two-nation theory. The idea of a secular democracy found natural coherence with the idea of Kashmiriyat, which is based on the universal ethos of secularism and pluralism.
This pluralist ethos has historically defined the idea of Kashmir and Kashmiriyat. But unfortunately, we have paid a very heavy price on two counts. One: the conflict and political unrest caused by Pakistan’s proxy war. Two: Pakistan’s mission of cultural and ideological cleansing. Both politically and culturally, our existence came under severe attack for these three decades.
However, it is often stated that the pluralist ideals are best valued in places where they are under heavy onslaught. Their true value is realized in their absence. This is what Kashmiris like me have been tragically made to feel in their lives so far. It is time that we Kashmiris stand to uphold and fight for the great pluralist ethos and identity which our 5,000 years old syncretic culture has given to us. It is important to reclaim it collectively in the given circumstances if we are to survive. We just cannot let “Pakistaniyat” destroy us. Pakistaniyat is something that is completely antithetical to what Kashmiriyatstands for. Kashmiri culture over a long period of time has been marked by the ideals of Buddhism, Shaivism and Sufism. It was through the blending of these three philosophies that the idea of Kashmiriyat was nourished and propagated. Lord Buddha is said to have remarked that Kashmir is a land of Dhyana and Samagra (Contemplation and Meditation) for the peace, amity, tolerance and quietude it offered. The Sufi mystic vision present in the teachings and literature poetry of Kashmiri saints and poets like LalaDed and Nund Rishi gave essence to the idea of Kashmiriyat. The whole focus of this great ideal was on pluralism, tolerance, amity, and brotherhood transcending all socio-religious and sectarian barriers.
Lal Ded, or, Lalleshwari, as she is popular among Kashmiris of all backgrounds, is very important in the articulation of Kashmiriyat. Elaborating her universal mystical vision borne out of the philosophy of Shaivism, Lala Ded writes:
Shiv choy thale thale rozaan
Mov zan heund te muslmaan
Trukey chokh te panun paan parzan
Soye chai sahibs seth zane zaan
Shiva abides in all that is, everywhere
Then do not distinguish between a Hindu and Muslim.
If thou art wise, know thyself
That is true knowledge of the Lord.
I gave up falsehood, deceit, untruth,
I saw the one in all fellow beings, and
Preached the same doctrine to the mind.
What then is the inhibition in eating
The food offered by a fellow human being?
Lal Ded’s thought was further preached by a long line of Kashmiri mystics or Sufis as they spread the universal values and message. These mystics or Sufis are respected by Kashmiris of all hues. One of the prominent figures among these is Sheikhul Aalam or Sheikh Nooruddin, whom we lovingly also call NundRishi. He is often referred to as Lal Ded’s spiritual successor. His teachings also form the core of the idea of Kashmiriyat. Following the footsteps of Lal Ded, Nundi Rishi states his pluralist vision:
We bear no ill will to each other,
Should our love bind us all alike, Hindu and Muslim,
Then surely God is pleased with us
Show me the Kashmiri who is not moved by the spiritual enlightenment of these verses sung in our beautiful, lilting Kashmiri. These verses shake us to the core. They remind us of who we have been, who we are, and show us the light of who we shall be. After Lal Ded and Sheikhul Aalam, the idea of Kashmiriyat as a way of life was further nourished and propagated by mystics and poets like Rupa Bhawani, Arnimal, Rahim Sahab, Shamas Faqir, Wahab Khaar, Socha Kral, Samad Mir, and many more. This led to the articulation of Kashmiriyat as the most fundamental and the most defining element of Kashmiri identity.
Take A Stark Look At The Dark “Pakistaniyat” For Which Kashmiri Youth Are Dying Endlessly
Take a hard, clear look at what constitutes the “Pakistaniyat” for which a section of radicalized, indoctrinated Kashmiri youth is dying endlessly. Kashmiris have fallen into Pakistan’s bait and its attempt to injure India. In the bargain, these Kashmiri youth have brought death, destruction, and misery upon themselves, their loved ones and also upon Kashmir. Why is a section of our youth doing this? For some deluded men enjoying power and privilege in Rawalpindi. This has been our lot for 30 years.
It has been so till now. But Kashmiri youth need to be conveyed in blunt terms that they need to stop self-destructing themselves for the rich upper-class Punjabi establishment of Pakistan. Pakistan’s self-serving establishment has been playing the failed, divisive, and hate-filled ideology of the Two-Nation Theory to conserve its unbridled power and privilege. Kashmiris need to open their eyes and demystify all the “myths” constructed about Pakistan by the ISI-backed local propaganda machinery. We need to think about our lives, our own good, our own interests, our own welfare, our own future. We need to recognize that the upper-class Punjabi establishment of Pakistan has a long history of oppressing lower-class Punjabis and all non-Punjabi ethnicities and nationalities in Pakistan besides non-Sunnis.
Pakistan a horrible, almost unlivable nation
On this count, Pakistan is a horrible, almost unlivable nation. It is not simply something worth dying for. Pakistani flag cannot cover the mass atrocities being committed by Punjabi establishment in Pakistan on a daily basis. Pakistan is a country which is beset with the most rigid form of inequality and feudalism even in this modern age. In the rural areas of Punjab, Sindh, KPK and Baluchistan where Jagiradari is still prevalent, ancient age-type slavery still exists. Pakistan is essentially ruled by an exploitative nexus of feudal-military clergy. Numerous scholarly studies have shown this. Pakistan was created in the name of Islam. But it broke down into two parts within 24 years because of the Punjabi and Urdu speaking establishment’s brutal political, cultural, and economic oppression of Bengalis in East Pakistan. Balochs, Sindhis, Mohajirs and Pashtuns from time to time have resisted against the Punjabi domination through movements like “Independent Baluchistan”, “Sindhu Desh”, “Jinnah Pur” and “Pakhtunistan”. Shias, Ahmadiyas, Hazaras, and Gilgitis also suffer from repression of all kinds.
Why Pakistan Army Manufactures Constant Delusions, Untruths
Pakistan is controlled and dictated by the Punjabi-dominated military establishment. Any politician who doesn’t toe the line is shunted out like Nawaz Sharif. The real power center in Pakistan is not Islamabad, but the Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. Pakistani military also has acquired immense wealth, land and corporate ownerships at the cost of poor Pakistani people. The military establishment manufactures constant delusions and untruths to keeps the gullible Pakistani masses in ignorance.
As one famous Pakistani author and former ambassador writes: “About 95 percent of Pakistanis were born after partition, but the Pakistani education system reinforces a national narrative that airbrushes a lot of history out and photoshops a lot of non-history into people’s minds. So Pakistan generally has a national discourse that has not always been completely open. Pakistani nationalism has been built around two ideas: antipathy to India, and Islam as a political slogan. So those two mixed together do confuse the people, and don’t forget that half of Pakistanis are illiterate and that 42 percent of school-age children don’t go to school of any sort. Also, there are very well-organized Islamic political parties that use violence to make sure that facts and history are not openly discussed and debated.”
If a country does this distortion in the minds of its own people by feeding lies and propaganda, what good can it think of us Kashmiris? It is our responsibility to reject such propaganda which is meant to harm us rather than anyone else.
Why Pakistan Encourages Extremism, Fundamentalism
In order to suppress various internal ethnic struggles as its existence is so fractured, Pakistani establishment has a deliberate policy. It encourages extremism and fundamentalism to dilute these struggles for justice. Imagine living in a nation which has no unifying factor except promotion of religious extremism and fundamentalism. This is Pakistan. This policy comes at a cost of self-destruction as these groups ultimately acquire much power and ideology. However, the Pakistani establishment continues to use them against internal dissenters and also outside the country in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Within Pakistan, no dissent is tolerated. Journalists and intellectuals are frequently targeted and forced into migration or submission, or killed. In recent times, intellectuals who dared to critique were brutally murdered. These include Sabeen Mahmud, SalmanTaseer, Mashal Khan and many others. Their killers enjoy patronage and protection of ISI.
The stark difference between the two worldviews and ideologies – Kashmiriyat and Pakistaniyat – is clear as day and night. The choice is ours – whether to choose life, amity, pluralism of Kashmiriyat? Or choose division, hate, death and destruction of Pakistaniyat.