Myth and reality move together in the Saffron Valley of mystic splendor. The reclamation of land from Satisar created certain complications. The Saraswati River that flowed into the eastern Punjab, Rajasthan, Sind and other parts of Indian subcontinent suddenly got dried up. Geologists are of the opinion that all those streams, which fed Satisar and form the source of water for the Saraswati river, mostly ran underground [Now evidenced c.40,000 years ago]. Once the cleft materialized at Baramulla, the water of the Satisar flowed out in an opposite direction, leaving the Saraswati basin dry. The Aryan Saraswat Brahmans, who used to live on the banks of Saraswati river, migrated to the Kashmir Valley to continue their austerities. With the passage of time these people came to be known as ‘Bhattas’ in Kashmir. The word is derivative of Brahman. Now they are called the Kashmiri Pandits or the Aryan Saraswat Brahmans of Kashmir, who believe in the mystic combination of Shaivism, Kali Bhakti, Shakta worship and Tantra. The valley housed great Rishis - Seers - who were the source of all basic knowledge to advance a world civilisation on a spiritual rather than a material base.
History of the Kashmiri Pandits is the history of Kashmir since last more than 11,000 years. They are associated with its society, culture, civilization, customs, traditions, myths and realities and Kashmir was then the fountainhead of all civilisation, divine spirituality on this planet. However only a couple of millennia ago the impact of Buddhism and reactions by Brahmans gave rise to a long struggle between the two rival ideologies. Buddhism did flourish though in the north of the Valley during the reign of Durnadeo, Simhadeo, Sundersen, Ashoka and Kanishka. The great Buddhist council was held at Kanishpur in Kashmir during the rule of Kanishka and it was presided over by two eminent scholars --- Asvaghosha and Vasumitra. About 500 monks from different parts of the subcontinent attended the same. Nagarjuna , a Bodhisattva and the greatest philosopher of Buddhism, lived in Kashmir. During the reign of Abhimanu, a number of people were converted to Buddhism. It was first struggle of the Kashmiri Brahmans for their survival. A number of Kashmiri scholars – Kumarajiva (AD 384-417), Shakyashri Badhra (AD 405), Ratnavera, Shama Bhatta (5th Cen AD) and others went to China and Tibet to preach Buddhism. However, the Brahmans regained their supremacy during the reign of Nara I . The struggle between Buddhism and Brahmanism came to an end with the emergence of modern Hinduism. A period of comparative historical validity began with the establishment of the Karkuta rule in AD 627. Avantivarman (AD 855-833) is believed to be the first Vaishnavite ruler of Kashmir. During his rule there was a tremendous cultural development in the Valley. The great Shaiva philosophers of this period were Kayyatacharya, Somananda, Muktakantha Swamin, Shiva Swamin, Ananda Vardhana and Kallata.
The struggle between the Brahmans and other castes, such as Kayasthas, began during the reign of Shankara Varman. The authority of the Brahmans was broken and the sacred character of their citadels was violated. However, the Shaivite thought and philosophy flourished. Pradyumana Bhatta, Utpalacharya, Rama Kantha, Prajnarjuna, Lachaman Gupta and Mahadeva Bhatta have made a tremendous contribution to this philosophy. During the regime of Lohara dynasty, Kashmir came into contact with the Muslim invaders who attacked India. When Mahmud Ghazni annexed the Punjab, most of the tribes on the borders of Kashmir embraced Islam. At that time, the Valley was ruled by Sangram Raja (AD 1003-1028). Even after their conversion to Islam, these people continued to visit Kashmir – as traders, wanderers and even missionaries. There are historical evidences that some of these tribals settled in the Valley and made some venture into propagating their new religion.
Harsha (AD 1089-1101), was a man of extravagant habits and a jumble of contraries. He robbed the temple treasures and melt idols of gold and silver to tide over his financial crisis. Before him two other kings, Jalauka and Kalasa, employed the same approach of plundering the temples and melting the images of gold and silver to augment their depleted treasuries. Harsha also employed Muslim generals, who are called Turushkas by Kalhana, for the first time in the history of Kashmir. Now Muslims as a class appeared in the political field and began to consolidate its roots. Bhikshachara, a descendant of Harsha, organized a cavalry force mainly consisting of the Muslims. During the reign of Gopadeva (AD 1171-1180), the Brahmans consolidated their position. But the Lavanya tribe shattered their roots once again. The Damaras, Lavanyas and other tribes never allowed the Brahmans to monopolize. In the reign of Jassaka (AD 1180-1198), two Brahmans – Kshuksa and Bhima, endeavored to capture the throne. But it was the fear of Damaras or feudal lords that prevented them. Ramadeva (AD 1252-1273) humiliated those Brahmans who had helped him in his coronation. They conspired against him but could not succeed. A reign of terror, loot and plunder was let loose against them. Many Brahmans were killed and others crushed barbarously. This was the first direct assault against them in the history of Kashmir. To save themselves they cried “ Na Batoham” (I am not a Bhatta). The Kashmiri Pandits are even now taunted as Bhattas and Dalli Bhattas.
To counter the supremacy of the Brahmans, the rulers of Kashmir encouraged the influx of Muslims into the Valley. During the reign of Suhadeva (AD 1301-1320) many Muslim adventurers came to Kashmir. The chief among them was a Muslim missionary- Bulbul Shah. Two others were Shahmir from Swat and Rinchana from Tibet. Shahmir came in AD 1313 along with his numerous relations. Suhadeva granted him a jagir in a village near Baramulla. Ramachandra, the Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of Kashmir, employed Rinchana and granted him jagir in a village in the Lar Valley. These two adventurers were instrumental in the establishment of the Muslim rule in Kashmir. Another adventurer who received Suhadeva’s patronage was Lankar Chak.
Dulucha, a Tartar chief from Central Asia, invaded Kashmir with 60,000 strong horsemen. Suhadeva tried to induce him to retreat by paying him off a large sum of money. For this purpose he imposed heavy taxes even upon the Brahmans who had never before been taxed. But Dulucha refused to retreat and struck terror. He ravaged the Valley with fire and sword. Monstrous miseries were inflicted upon the people including the Brahmans. According to Baharistan – i -Shahi, “Dulucha and his soldiers killed everyone they could find . People who had fled to the hills and forests were pursued and captured. Men were killed, women and children were reduced to slavery and sold to the merchants of Khita (Turkistan), whom the invaders had brought with them. All the houses in the cities and the villages were burnt. The invaders ate as much of the corn and rice as they could . Whatever was left, they burnt and destroyed. In this way the whole of the Kashmir Valley was trampled under foot”. Suhadeva fled to Kishtwar, leaving the Kingdom to the cruel aggressors. Dulucha stayed here for eight months and took about 50,000 Brahmans with him as slaves. But all the troops and slaves perished while crossing the Devsar pass. It was a terrible experience for the legendary Kashmiri Pandits.
Dulucha went away from the Valley but left it haunted. The cursed people had lost all faith in their ruler- Suhadeva. Taking the advantage of the chaos and confusion, Rinchana- the refugee from Tibet, occupied the throne with the help of some chiefs . He killed his benefactor, Ramachandra, in the fort of Lar by treacherous means and married his daughter, Kota Rani.
Rinchana, a pseudo- Buddhist, wanted to get initiated into the Brahmanical fold to strengthen his political position. At that time, Shaivism was the most extensively practised religion in the Valley. So he called Sri Devaswami, the religious head of the Shaivas, to indoctrinate himself into the Hindu religion. Devaswami called a secret meeting of the prominent Pandits, who refused to accept Rinchana into Hinduism because of his low birth. Jonaraja says,” The King asked Devaswami to initiate him in the mantras of Shiva, but as he was Bhautta (Tibetian), Devaswami feared that the King was unworthy of such initiation and did not favour him”. This was a monstrous blunder on the part of Pandits, which turned the course of history. In fact, the Brahmans were not ready to share their privileges with an outsider. Thus deflected, Rinchana wanted to establish a uniform faith of warring sects and creeds in Kashmir with himself as its head. But Shahmir and Bulbul Shah manipulated his conversion to Islam. Ramachandra’s son, Ravanachandra, and many others also embraced Islam. A Muslim ruling class came into existence. In this way the Kashmiri Pandits were responsible for the destruction of their own ascendency and the ruin of their very existence. They are tremendously paying for it till today.
People of poorer families and subordinate castes were subdued into Islam by gradual methods. This newly established Muslim class slowly consolidated its position and employed various methods to propagate the new faith. However, the Brahmans put a brave front and resisted the tide. After the death of Rinchana (AD 1326), Udyanadeva, the brother of Suhadeva, was installed on the throne of Kashmir and Shahmir was appointed as Commander-in-Chief.
Achala, a Turkish chief, invaded Kashmir during the reign of Udyanadeva, laying waste the territories he passed through. The king fled to Tibet. Kota Rani - the queen, faced the invader, procured his death and saved the kingdom. In this operation , Shahmir played the dominant role. Jonaraja says, “Strange that this believer in Allah became the saviour of the people. As a dried up river allows men to cross it and gives them shelter on its banks, even so this believer in Allah, calm and active, protected the terrified subjects.” Shahmir’s influence increased tremendously and he further strengthened his position by entering into matrimonial relations with the powerful nobles in Kashmir. A subversive struggle was born between the tolerant Hinduism and the militant Islam.
In AD 1339, after defeating Kota Rain by a foul strategem and procuring her death, Shahmir ascended the throne of Kashmir under the name of Sultan Shamas-ud-Din (The Light of the Religion - Islam). He got khutaba read and the coins struck to his name. Islam became the court religion. Shahmir became the legitimate author and architect of Muslim rule in Kashmir. With the establishment of the new regime Muslim missionaries, preachers, sayyids and saints penetrated into the Valley. Sayyid Jalal-ud-Din, Sayyid Taj-ud-Din, Sayyid Hussain Simnani, Sayyid Masud and Sayyid Yusuf came to Kashmir to avoid the intended massacre by Timur. Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani (Shah Hamadan) entered Kashmir with 700 sayyids; and, his son, Mir Muhammad Hamadani, with 300 more. They endured in the Valley under royal protection and disseminated the message of Islam. This naturally caused animosity among the Brahmans and resulted in frail rebellion during the reign of Shihab-ud-Din (AD 1354-1373). In order to break the upheaval among the Hindus and to make them prostrate, the Sultan turned his attention towards their temples. All the temples in Srinagar, including the one at Bijbehara, were wrecked to terrorize the poor Kashmiri Pandits. It seems that by this time, the sultans of Kashmir were perfectly islamized as a result of their contacts, interactions and intercourses with the sayyids. These sayyids came here as absconders in search of safe harbours, but manoeuvered the events for their own cause and fanatic iconoclastic zeal. The Hindus began to feel deserted and alienated in their own land. To consolidate their rule, sultans institutionalized the “policy of extermination” to eradicate all traces of Hinduism in any form. However, the Kashmiri Pandits stuck to their own religion and traditions, ignoring the atrocities, barbarism and cruelties of the privileged ruling class. But there were many from other castes who, either by conviction or in order to gain royal favour, embraced Islam. These new converts were looked down upon by the Kashmiri Pandits as traitorous and treacherous, with no loyalty for time-honored values. This gave rise to a new class rivalry. Suha Bhatt, who after embracing Islam took the name of Saif-ud-Din, became the leader of the fresh converts during the reign of Sikandar (AD 1389-1413).
Sikandar- the Butshikan, was bigoted with fanatic religious zeal to spread Islam in the entire Valley. This fanaticism was stimulated by Mir Muhammad Hamadani. Suha Bhatt - the convert, was appointed Prime Minister by Sikandar and both hatched a deadly conspiracy to persecute the Hindus and enforce upon the Nizam-i-Mustaffa. Jonaraja says, “ The Sultan forgot his kingly duties and took delight day and night in breaking images … He broke images of Martanda, Vishaya, Ishana, Chakrabrit and Tripureshvara …… There was no city, no town, no village, no wood where Turushka left the temples of the gods unbroken.” According to Hassan (History of Kashmir), “ This country possessed from the times of Hindu rajas many temples which were like the wonders of the world. Their workmanship was so fine and delicate that one found himself bewildered at their sight. Sikandar, goaded by feelings of bigotry, destroyed them and levelled them with the earth and with the material built many mosques and khanqahs. In the first instance he turned his attention towards the great Martand temple built by Ramdev (the temple was rebuilt by King Lalitaditya, AD 724-760) on Mattan Kareva. For one year he tried to demolish it, but failed. At last in sheer dismay, he dug out stones from its base and having stored enough wood in their place, set fire to it. The gold gilt paintings on its walls were totally destroyed and the walls surrounding its premises were demolished. Its ruins even now strike wonder in men’s minds. At Bijbehara, three hundred temples including the famous Vijiveshwara temple, which was partly damaged by Shihab-ud-Din, were destroyed. With the material of Vijiveshwara temple, a mosque was built and on its site a khanqah, which is even now known as Vijiveshwara Khanqah.” The stones and bricks which once configurated a marvelous and splendid temple or monastery, now hold up mosques. Hassan further adds, “ Sikandar meted out greatest oppression to the Hindus. It was notified in the Valley that if a Hindu does not become a Muslim, he must leave the country or be killed. As a result some of the Hindus fled away, some accepted Islam and many Brahmans consented to be killed and gave their lives. It is said that Sikandar collected, by these methods, six maunds of sacred thread form Hindu converts and burnt them. Mir Muhammad Hamadani, who was a witness of all this vicious brutality, barbarism and vandalism, at last advised him to desist from the slaughter of Brahmans and told him to impose jazia (religious tax) instead of death upon them. All the Hindu books of learning were collected and thrown into Dal Lake and were buried beneath stones and earth.” Sikandar issued orders that no man should wear the tilak mark on his forehead and no woman be allowed to perform sati. He also insisted on breaking and melting of all the gold and silver idols of gods and coin the metal into money. An attempt was made to destroy the caste of the Aryan Saraswat Brahmans by force and those who resisted were subject to heavy fines. Farishta says, “ Many of the Brahmans, rather than abandon their religion or their county, poisoned themselves; some emigrated from their native homes, while a few escaped the evil of banishment by becoming Muhammedans”. To strictly enforce the Nizam-i-Mustaffa, Sikandar established the office of Shaikh-ul-Islam.
According to W.R. Lawrence, the Aryan Saraswat Brahmans of Kashmir were given three choices-death, conversion or exile. “Many fled, some were converted and many were killed, and it is said that this thorough monarch (Sikandar) burnt seven maunds of sacred threads of the murdered Brahmans”. As for the statements of Hassan and Lawrence, six maunds of sacred threads of converts and seven maunds of murdered Pandits were burnt. The number of people, to whom these thirteen maunds of sacred threads belonged, might have been tremendously colossal. A mammoth number of the Saraswat Pandits also went into exile, causing the first disastrous mass exodus of the community. When Suha Bhatt- the convert, came to know that many Brahmans were leaving Kashmir, he tried to check their exodus and ordered the frontier guards not to allow any one to cross the borders. The unfortunate Pandits caught while crossing the border were awarded severe punishments. Even the converts were required to pay jazia as they were suspected of secretly clinging to their old religion.
Not only Sikandar- the Butshikan, but Suha Bhatta – the convert, also was responsible for this barbarous, murderous and cruel approach towards the mythical Kashmiri Pandits. Jonaraja says, “ Suha Bhatta- the convert, after demolishing the temples felt the satisfaction, and with the help of sayyids, ulema and newly converts tried to destroy the caste of the people… the illustrious Brahmans declared that they would die rather than lose their caste and religion, and Suha Bhatta - the convert, subjected them to a heavy fine, jazia, because they held to their caste and religion.” There is no parallel of this religious persecution in the history of the subcontinent.
Ali Shah - (AD 1413-1430), son of Sikandar- the Butshikan, during his short rule of six years, carried on his father’s 24-year tyrant reign with homicides, conversions, tyranny and enforced jazia. Suha Bhatta – the convert, who retained the prime ministership continued his earlier crimes and atrocities against the Kashmiri Pandits. Jonaraja gives a graphic account of the plight of the illustrious Kashmiri Pandits in the draconian reign of Ali Shah. He says,” Suha Bhatta- the convert, passed the limit by levying fine, jazia, on the twice - born. This evil-minded man forbade ceremonies and processions on the new moon. He became envious that the Brahmans who had become fearless would keep up their caste by going over to foreign countries, he therefore ordered posting of squads on the roads, not to allow passage to any one without a passport. Then as the fisherman torments fish, so this low born man tormented the twice-born in this country. The legendary Brahmans burnt themselves in the flaming fire through fear of conversion. Some Brahmans killed themselves by taking poison, some by the rope and others by drowning themselves. Others again by falling from a precipice. The country was contaminated by hatred and the king’s favourites could not prevent one in a thousand from committing suicide …. A multitude of celebrated Brahmans, who prided in their caste, fled from the country through bye-roads as the main roads were closed. Even as men depart from this world, so did the Aryan Saraswat Brahmans of Kashmir flee to foreign countries. The difficult countries through which they passed, the scanty food, painful illness and the torments of hell during life time removed from the minds of the Kashmiri Pandits the fears of hell. Oppressed by various calamities such as encounter with the enemy, fear of snakes, fierce heat and scanty food; many Brahmans perished on the way and thus obtained salvation.” This was the second miserable mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits. Jonaraja calls it “ Chandh-Dandh” - violent, cruel, brutal and horrible punishment, for the abandoned and vulnerable Saraswat Brahmans of Kashmir. History repeated itself again in AD 1989-1990.
The brutal religious persecution of the Kashmiri Pandits has been borne testimony to by almost all the Muslim historians. Hassan, Fauq and Nizam – ud – Din have condemned these excesses in unscathing terms. It was the reign of terror and homicide. The majority of the Hindus were converted forcibly and a large number had left the Valley. Yet many more were passing their days in the most deplorable conditions only on payment of jazia. The allowances of the Brahman academicians were stopped to destroy the ancient learning, literature, education, art and culture. These enlightened intellectuals had to move from door to door for food, like dogs. One can’t imagine a higher level of mental torture!
The Brahmans, even after paying jazia, could not openly declare themselves as Hindus nor could they apply tilak on their foreheads. Neither could they pray in their temples or perform any religious ceremony. Even then they did not forget their past and rich tradition. As the custodians of their extraordinary cultural heritage, they wrote the illuminating treatises on the stupendous Kashmir Shaivism, colossal literature, splendid art, marvelous music, grammar and medicine.
Sultan Zainul Abidin-the Budshah (Great Monarch), ruled Kashmir from AD 1420 to 1460. The son of Sultan Sikandar – the Butshikan, and the brother of Sultan Ali Shah- the tyrant, Zainul Abidin followed the policy of tolerance, endurance, patience, sympathy and broad mindedness. He recalled the Kashmiri Pandits who had left the Valley during the rule of Sikandar and Ali Shah. Jazia was abolished and the Brahmans were given their earlier positions in administration. Demolished temples were rebuilt and new ones constructed. Two temples were built by Zainul Abidin at Ishbar, Srinagar. The Sultan also participated in the Hindu festivals. A large number of houses were built for the widows of the Brahmans who had suffered during the reign of terror. Zainul Abidin stopped the killing of cows, restricted the eating of beef and catching of fish in the sacred springs of the Hindus. Even the personal law as laid down in the Shastras was adopted for the Hindus. The legenday Kashmiri Pandits were resurrected and resuscitated. Ferguson observes that indeed history has very few examples where the policy of a father was so completely reversed by the son. Even the Mughal monarch, Akbar - the great , capitalized on the religious policy of Zainul Abidin. But the conservative and dogmatic Muslims reacted very sharply to this policy of toleration and mutual coexistence . According to Mulla Bahauddin, “ The Sultan reimported practices of infidels which had once become extinct”.
But the honey-moon of the Kashmiri Pandits proved very brief. During the reign of Haider Shah (AD 1470-1472) - the prodigal son of the great Zainul Abidin, Kashmiri Pandits once again suffered tremendously. Under the evil influence of Purni- the Hindu barber, Haider Shah adopted various corrupt and cruel practices against the Saraswat Brahmans. The repression was so terrible that the tolerant Pandits lost their cool. Hassan says, “ the patience of the Pandits having reached the breaking point, they rose in a body and set fire to some mosques which were built with the material of the Hindu temples once demolished by Sikandar. The rising was quelled by the sword; many more Pandits were drowned in rivers; and, loot and plunder was practiced with unbridled licence.” Srivara also illustrates the cruel and inhuman treatment given to the mythical Kashmiri Saraswat Brahmans, “ many Pandits struggled and threw themselves in river Vitasta to be drowned there. The arms and noses of many people were cut off, even of those Brahmans who were king’s servants.” Ravage and arson of the sacred places continued during the indifferent rule of Hassan Khan (AD 1476-1487), when the real authority was with the gang of three persons- Shams Chak, Shringhar Raina and Musa Raina. The pressure exerted on the illustrious Kashmiri Pandits was so barbarous that, in order to save themselves from merciless brutality, some of them gave up their caste and screamed – “ I am not a Bhatta, I am not a Bhatta” ( I am not a Hindu). They went in strict seclusion to avoid any argument or controversy.
Mir Shams-ud-Din Iraqi, who visited the Saffron Valley twice in AD 1477 and 1496, was the founder of Nurbakhshiya order (Shia sect) in Kashmir. His mission was the vigorous propagation of his faith. So, not contented with peaceful preachings, violent methods were employed. In this adventure , Iraqi was helped by the homicidal creature and most dreaded tyrant- Malik Musa Raina, a convertee, whose original name was Soma Chandra. Not only the poor vulnerable Brahmans, but the Sunni Muslims were also violently converted to Shia sect by murderous techniques. This dogmatic fanaticism even crippled the Sunni ruler of Kashmir, Fateh Shah (AD 1510-1517). A khanqah was built at Zadibal (Srinagar) by Iraqi, which became the nucleus of Shia concentration.
Kashmiri Pandits suffered ferociously under the instructions of Shams-ud-Din Iraqi and Musa Raina. About 24,000 of them were forcibly converted to Shia sect of Islam. Iraqi had even issued orders that everyday about 1500 to 2000 Brahmans be brought to his doorsteps, remove their sacred threads, administer Kalima to them, circumcise them and make them eat beef. These decrees were ferociously and brutally carried out. The Hindu religious scriptures from 7th century AD onwards and about 18 magnificent temples were destroyed, property confiscated and ladies abused. Thousands of Brahmans killed themselves to evade this horrific barbarism and thousands migrated to other places, resulting in their third tragic mass exodus from the Saffron Valley of Kashmir. Those who stayed behind were not only forced to pay jazia, but their noses and ears were chopped off. To escape the tremendous pain and agony, they cried. “I am not a Hindu.” After Kashmir , the next destination of Iraqi for war against so-called infidelity was Kargil. It is now a Shia –dominated area and there are frequent sectarian clashes between them and the Buddhists.
In AD 1519, about ten thousand Kashmiri Pandits died during pilgrimage to Harmukh Ganga, where they had gone to immerse the ashes of those eight hundred Hindus who had been massacred during Ashura a year before. Poet-historian Suka says about this cataclysm, “ Ganga was oppressed with hunger, as it was after a long time that she had devoured bones; she surely devoured the men also who carried the bones.” It was after a gap of many years that the people were allowed to go on a pilgrimage to Harmukh lake, which ended in the most devastating tragedy.
Qazi Chak, the founder of Chak rule in Kashmir (AD 1553-1586), carried on ferocious religious policy and made conversion of many Hindus to Shia sect of Islam. According to Suka, one thousand cows were used to be killed everyday without any opposition under the orders of the Chak rulers, who were Shias, just to injure the religious sentiments of the Kashmiri Pandits. These celebrated and highly educated Aryan Saraswat Brahmans were made the objects of laughter and reproach. They were publically taunted, abused and humiliated. The last Chak ruler, Yaqub Chak, had a bigoted zeal for the propagation of Shia sect and planned mass conversion of the Hindus. However, he could not administer his criminal designs because of the Mughal annexation.
Akbar was tremendously influenced by the amazing moral supremacy of the Kashmiri Pandits. Abul Fazl records in Ain-i-Akbari, “ the most respectable class in this country (Kashmir) is that of the Pandits, who, notwithstanding their need for freedom from the bonds of tradition and custom, are the true worshippers of God. They do not loosen their tongue of calumny against those not of their faith, nor beg, nor importune. They employ themselves in planting fruit trees and are generally a source of inspiration for others”. The great Mughal Emperor abolished jazia and other unjust taxes imposed upon the Hindus. He also evinced great interest in the rehabilitation of the Pandits. Suka says, “ The Emperor announced that he would without delay reward those who would respect the Brahmans in Kashmir and that he would instantly pull down the houses of those who would demand the annual tribute from them.” The greatness of Akbar lies in his magnificent and fascinating policy of religious tolerance. Jahangir and Shah Jahan were not so tolerant. But their religious enthusiasm cannot be termed as fanatic. During this period, the Brahmans could perform their religious ceremonies after paying some tribute. But the whole scenario changed with the accession of Aurangzeb to the throne. With his bigoted fanatic and dogmatic approach, the Kashmiri Pandits were once again made vulnerable. Iftkar Khan, the Mughal governor of Kashmir during the reign of Aurangzeb, brutally tyrannized over the Brahmans to such an extent that they approached Guru Teg Bhahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru, at Anandpur in Punjab and solicited his personal intervention with the Emperor. This ultimately led to the Guru’s martyrdom and made Guru Gobid Singh to create the Khalsa to fight the oppressors . Muzaffer Khan, Nassar Khan and Ibrahim Khan were other governors of Aurangzeb who ferociously terrorized the Kashmiri Pandits. These celebrated scapegoats were once again forced to migrate from the land of their origin. It was the fourth disastrous mass exodus of the Aryan Saraswat Brahmans from Kashmir.
During the rule of later Mughals, Kashmir witnessed the outbreak of the worst kind of religious intolerance. In AD 1720, Mullah Abdul Nabi, also called Muhat Khan, a non-resident Kashmiri Muslim, was appointed as Shaikhul Islam . In order to assert his religious authority, he asked the Deputy Governor, Mir Ahmed Khan , to start a campaign of persecution of the Kafirs (infidels) - as the Kashmiri Pandits were called. In order to satisfy his satanic ego, the Mulla issued six commandments:
- No Hindu should ride a horse, nor should a Hindu wear a shoe;
- That they should not wear Jama (Mughal costume);
- That they should move bare arms;
- That they should not visit any garden;
- That they should not have tilak mark on their foreheads;
- That their children should not receive any education.
But Ahmed Khan refused to execute the mischievous decree. The Mullah then excited his followers against the Kashmiri Pandits. He established his seat in a mosque, assumed the duties of the administrator under the title of Dindar Khan and let loose the reign of terror. The Hindus were wickedly tormented, their houses burnt and property looted. Hundreds of Brahmans were killed, prostrated, maimed and humiliated. They began to run away in large numbers and hide themselves in mountainous terrain. This was the fifth dreadful mass exodus of the legendary Kashmiri Pandits from their mystic motherland. Those who remained behind lived in the most horrific and terrible conditions generated by the Mullah and his gang. But soon he was assassinated by his rivals and his son, Sharif-ud-Din, become the new Shaikhul-Islam. The son improved upon the brutal methods of his father and inflicted most barbaric, cruel and inhuman tortures upon the vulnerable Brahmans. The plight of the Kashmiri Pandits during this period became tremendously miserable and tragic.
The Afghan rule in Kashmir (AD 1753-1819) was a period of cruelty, homicide and anarchy. W.R. Lawrence calls it the “reign of brutal tyranny.” The barbarous Afghans employed every wild, inhuman, primitive, ferocious, cruel and brutal method to suppress the Kashmiri Brahmans. A pitcher filled with ordure was placed on the head of a Pandit and stones were pelt on it, till it broke and the unfortunate Brahman become wet with filth. Their brutality and atrocity crossed the extreme limits when Hindus were tied up in grass sacks, two and two, and drowned in the Dal Lake. The victimized Hindu were forced to flee the country or were killed or converted to Islam. There was horrible mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits, sixth one, to far away places like Delhi, Allahabad, etc. Many covered the long distances on foot.
Hindu parents destroyed the beauty of their daughters by shaving their heads or cutting their noses and ears to save them from degradation. Any Muslim could jump on the back of a Pandit and take a ride. Mir Hazar - an Afghan governor, used leather bags instead of grass sacks for the drowning of Brahmans. Turbans and shoes were forbidden for them. The Saraswat Brahmans of Kashmir were also forced to grow beards and tilak was interdicted. The Afghans are now only remembered for their barbarity, brutality, ferocity, tyranny and cruelty. They thought no more of cutting of heads than of plucking a flower.
The Shahmirs, Chaks, Mughals and homicidal Afghans tore the fabric of society in Kashmir and left deep scars on it. When the Afghan oppression became intolerable, the Pandits turned with hope to the rising power of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. But they were suspected. The Afghan governor, Azim Khan, confiscated their jagirs and imposed jazia on them. Eminent Pandits were brutally killed, humiliated and their authority was snatched. Nur Shah Diwani - a cruel Muslim official who was in charge of revenue collection, hatched a conspiracy in league with Azim Khan to eliminate the distinguished Kashmiri Brahmans. But this evil manoeuvre was exposed and a galaxy of Pandits saved. Pandit Sahajram, the Diwan, played a prominent role in the rescue operation.
Azim Khan had appointed Sukhram Safaya, Mirza Pandit and Birbal Dhar as revenue collectors. Birbal Dhar could not collect the required amount due to failure of crops. The atrocious Afghan governor browbeated Pandit Birbal to make the payment of one lac rupees. Rowdy and boisterous soldiers were send to threaten him and other Pandits. Sensing the Afghan tsunami, distinguished Kashmiri Pandits called a backstairs meeting in which it was resolved to invite Ranjit Singh for the conquest of Kashmir and salvation of the Aryan Saraswat Brahmans. Accordingly Birbal Dhar and his minor son, Raja Kak Dhar, secretly left for Lahore with a petition signed by the prominent Kashmiri Pandits through which as invitation was extended to Ranjit Singh to take over the Valley. When Azim Khan came to know about these developments, he sent his soldiers to nab Birbal Dhar and teach him a lesson. But when these bandits met with no success, the cruel governor turned his guns towards the wife and daughter-in-law of Birbal Dhar . Both the ladies had taken shelter in the house of a trustworthy Muslim, Qadus Gojwari. Azim Khan asked Pandit Basa Kak to hunt down the innocent ladies. Basa Kak knew about the retreat of ladies but did not disclose it even after monstrous tortures and oppressive penalties. At last his abdomen was ripped open in the most barbarous manner and the dead body discredited - the most unfortunate and brutal crime against humanity in the civilized world. The poor ladies were also captured . Birbal Dhar’s wife committed suicide by swallowing a piece of diamond. The younger lady was violently converted to Islam and handed over to an Afghan noble, who carried her to Kabul.
Nervous to the marrow of his bones and crazy with rage, Azim Khan tormented all those Kashmiri Brahmans whom he suspected to be in league with Birbal Dhar. Prominent Pandits were detained in a concentration camp at Nishat Garden and ferociously tortured. But on learning about the Sikh advances towards Kashmir, he lost all nerve and solicited instruction from Pandit Sahajram Dhar. The illustrious Pandit advised him to sent off his ladies folk to Kabul. It was the only way to save them from the ignominious treatment. Sahajram himself escorted the ladies to Kabul and saved them from disastrous shame. Azim Khan himself ran away from the Valley, leaving the administration into the hands of his brother, Jabbar Khan. However, atrocious Afghans were crushed and the Sikhs annexed Kashmir. Some extremist Sikhs, including Phul Singh, endeavoured to knock down the mosque of Shah Hamadan. But celebrated Birbal Dhar, at a considerable risk to his own life, made them desist from this action. According to GMD Sufi, “ It is to the lasting credit of Birbal Dhar that when a deputation of Muslims headed by Sayyid Hasan Shah Qadiri Khanyari approached him to dissuade the Sikhs from the destruction of the Khanqah, he moved in the matter, used his influence and saved this historical structure from vandalism.” It reveals the true personality and character of a distinguished Kashmiri Pandit.
During the Sikh rule in Kashmir, AD 1819-1846, the celebrated Pandits reclaimed their past glory and magnificence. They claimed back the prominent places of trust and honour. Cow slaughter was banned, temples renovated and the earlier wrongs rectified. The legendary Kashmiri Pandits received a healing touch after centuries of barbarity, ferocity and tyranny. But by the time, the Sikhs conquered Kashmir in AD 1819, about nine-tenths of the population had become the followers of Islam. Out of the 10% Hindu population, a large number had migrated to the Punjab and other provinces. The Pandits in general belonged to the middle class while the upper and lower classes were dominated by the Muslims.
With the formation of Jammu and Kashmir State; and, establishment of the Dogra rule in 1846, Kashmiri Pandits were imperceptibly elbowed to the background. Administrators and officials were deputed from Jammu region. Though they enjoyed comprehensive religious freedom and social emancipation, political rights of the Kashmiri Brahmans were confined. On certain occasions, they even became victims of intrigue and suspicions. The vicious communal forces also turned their wrath against them. During the communal disturbances of July 1931, shops and houses belonging to the Kashmiri Brahmans were not only looted but also burnt. Three innocent Hindus lost their lives. This communalism in the state politics aggravated and magnified with the passage of time . It was fed for years with vicious communal propaganda and brainwashing.
After independence and accession of Jammu & Kashmir state to India, Kashmiri Pandits were pushed back to the uncultured Afghan era. They were given the sugarcoated dozes of poisonous toxics. Article 370 of Indian constitution just reduced them to cipher and liquidated their population. Under the pretext of economic reforms, their jagirs (properties) were confiscated and distributed among the Muslim peasants. The administration of Shaikh Abdullah adopted malicious and pernicious approach towards the Saraswat Brahmans of Kashmir. They were taunted on one excuse or the other. Hindu temples were desecrated, looted and plundered. Minor girls of the community were forced to embrace Islam and marry the Muslim youth.
Shaikh Abdullah tried to create “ Shaikhdom” for his dynastic rule in Kashmir. But his dreams were shattered when he was arrested in 1953 for anti-national activities. In 1958, he was released but detained again after three months under the Kashmir conspiracy case. However, the case was withdrawn in 1964 because of political reasons. But he was arrested again in May 1965 for his subversive activities and released in January 1968. Again, in January 1971, a ban was imposed forbidding him to enter the Jammu Kashmir state. This restriction was lifted in 1972.
During 1953-1974 Shaikh Abdullah characterized India as an imperialist power endeavouring to subjugate the people of Kashmir. He asserted that the accession of Kashmir with India was his greatest blunder for which history will never forgive him. He also demanded the right of self determination for the people of Muslim – dominated Kashmir, but ignored the Hindu- dominated Jammu and Buddhist- dominated Ladakh regions. The sophist Shaikh advocated plebiscite and unconditional withdrawal of Indian army from the Saffron Valley. He also campaigned against the import of food grains from India and asked people to eat potatoes grown in Kashmir. For such arguments, Shaikh Abdullah was nick named as “Aaloo Bab” --- Feeder of Potatoes. He made emotional solicitations that after death his body should not be buried in the subjugated Valley, but immersed into the sacred waters of Arabian sea. However, today his magnificent tomb stands on the banks of beautiful Dal Lake in Srinagar and is guarded by the Indian security personnel. By such gratuitous and conflicting statement, his secular credentials evaporated into thin air. The prospect of disloyalty and sedition began to haunt the Saffron Valley. Kashmiriyat switched over to political vandalism and bigoted fundamentalism. Shaikh Abdullah desperately held Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, a Kashmiri Pandit, responsible for the shattering of his malevolent dreams in 1953. The mortified Shaikh ambiguously decided to retaliate against the whole Pandit community in Kashmir. In vindictiveness, he instigated his associated that while making a choice between a Kashmiri Pandit and dreaded cobra, kill the Pandit first. A vicious campaign of terror was launched against the Aryan Saraswat Brahmans of Kashmir. They were refused entry to government jobs and institutions of higher learning. Besides hurling strong statement against the Government of India and Kashmiri Pandits, the Shaikh derided that the whole lot of Indian army cannot save the Hindus in Kashmir against the malevolence of Muslims. Farooq Abdullah also employed the same approach towards the crumbled Pandits when his brother-in-law, Gulshah, seized the chief ministership in 1984.The reactionary leaders- Afzal Beg, Maulvi Farooq, Mohi-ud-Din Kara and Maulana Masoodi; ignored the very existence of Kashmiri Pandits during their political adventurism. The Kashmiri Pandits were made to pay for every move on the political chessboard in Kashmir because they represented the pseudo-secularism, incognito- socialism and flowering- democracy of India. They were scolded and emotionally hurt in the Afghan fashion.
But then the whole political scenario in Kashmir took a dramatic turn in 1974, when Indira-Shaikh accord was signed by virtue of which the Shaikh became the Chief Minister of the State after the lapse of 22 years. Ignoring the great expectations he had created among the people in Kashmir and his vigorous campaign for plebiscite, the sophist Shaikh began to speak the language of Indian nationalism, democracy, socialism and secularism. The slogans of plebiscite, self-determination and independent Kashmir melted away. But the Hate- India virus, infused by him into the blood of the Muslim youth in Kashmir, was exploited by other corrupt self-styled politicians for their own interests from time to time. A vacuum was created because the people were betrayed disillusioned, politically raped and left in wilderness by their own leaders.
Omkarnath Ganjoo, who established the Index Branch of the Jammu & Kashmir Criminal Investigation Department under the directions of Union Home Ministry in early 1960 and managed the same upto 1986, established a powerful network in the State. He collected detailed information about the seditious, subversive and treasonous persons and sent the detailed dispatches to the government from time to time . He also excavated the nefarious designs of ISI- the Pak Intelligence Agency, and informed the concerned authorities. But the state as well as the central administration lacked the determination and resolution to act.
The programmes and policies of Bakshi, Sadiq, Qasim, Farooq and Gulshah were also damaging for the Kashmiri Pandits. They were continuously haunted by antagonistic, hostile and rebellious elements. Mufti Syed is even believed to be responsible for the anti-Hindu communal riots of 1986, when cows were slaughtered and temples destroyed in Anantnag district. From 1947-1986 about four lac Kashmiri Pandits silently migrated from Kashmir. Hypocritical atrocities and criminal ignorances of political leaders were responsible for these development. Pakistan, to avenge the defeat of Bangladesh, blatantly sponsored the violence and terrorism in the Valley, resulting in the turmoil of 1989-90. The then celebrated governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Jagmohan, wrote a detailed letter to the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi , on April 21,1990, endorsing the alarming signals earliest transmitted by discerning Omkarnath Ganjoo. But Indian leadership was still unconcerned.
“Aay Zalimu, Aay Kafiroo,
Kashmir Hamara Choudh Dou”
Bharat Kay Aiwanu Ko
Aag Lagado, Aag Lagado”
The final assault on the Kashmiri Pandits started with these slogans. Terrorists from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Sudan and even Saudi Arabia penetrated into the Saffron Valley. Brutal, wild and barbarous techniques were employed to hound and kill the Aryan Saraswat Brahmans of Kashmir. Even the helpless ladies were not spared. Sarla Bhat, a nurse in Soura Medical Institute, was abducted on 19th April, 1990, by JKLF militants who repeatedly gang-raped her and eventually killed her on 25th April. Girja Tikoo, a teacher from Bandipur, was kidnapped, raped and eventually shred to pieces by a saw mill on 4th June, 1990. Bimla Braroo from the Nai Sarak, Srinagar, who along with her daughter, Archana, was raped in the presence of her husband, Sohanlal, before all the three were killed on 31st March, 1992. There are dozens of such brutal instances. Even the Afghans will be feeling sorry in their graves for the sanatic holocaust of the legendary Kashmiri Pandits.
The barbarous murder of hundreds of innocent Brahmans of Kashmir caused their seventh and final agonizing mass exodus from the Valley. This was the final knock down of ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Kashmiri Pandits. The mass massacres at Sangrampora (1997), Udhampore (1997), Prankot (1998), Wandhama (1998) and Nadimarg (2003) were the follow up cleansing operations. Pandits in Kashmir dwindled from 10% in 1947 to fewer than 5% in 1989 and to less than 1% today. The pretended world bodies, contaminated human rights organizations, pseudo-secularists, self-styled leaders, so-called policy makers, tainted political parties and slack bureaucracy have failed to express serious concern at this great human tragedy. Danse macabre is going on. During 1990-2005, the security forces seized around 30,000 assault rifles, over 15,000 pistols, more than 20,000 kg explosives, about 2000 UMGs and RPGs , from terrorists. In the barbarous turmoil about 45,000 persons including the Kashmiri Pandits, nationalistic Muslims and Sikhs have been killed. However the government is keen to provide a healing touch to militants. But the legendary Kashmiri Pandits, who were virtually exterminated from the Valley, have not even received the displaced status since the few remaining live like refugees in their motherland India.