Abandoned - Legendary Kashmiri Pandits
he ‘Telangana Movement’ is being revived at the initiative of K. Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR) and a separate state is being carved out of Andhra Pradesh simply to avoid the political crisis for the ‘Divine Rulers of India’. But what about Kashmiri Pandits who have inhabited the Saffron Valley of Kashmir since times immemorial, last more than 12,000 years. Today they are desperately vacillating in other states of India. This cursed community has suffered the seven mass exoduses so far – the last one being in 1989, when its members were brutally killed, ladies molested and children harassed. The Union Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, said on Dec 12, 2009: “ The demand for Telangana is 60 years old. This does not mean every where new states are to be created. The demand of Telangana could not be bracketed with demands for Gorkhaland, Kamatapur or other new states”. But why……? Legendary Kashmiri Pandits, who are living as REFUGEES in other states of India since last 20 years need a HOMELAND to live honorably with their traditions, customs, rituals, values, language and literature. No one feels their pain, sorrow and agony. Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram, is OPEN to separatists, terrorists, militants, killers, rapists, kidnappers – every Tom, Dick and Harry; but CLOSED to Kashmiri Pandits. Why this hypocrisy…..? If the Telangana can be ‘created’ after 60 years of struggle and 11 days of fast; why not HOMELAND for Kashmiri Pandits after centuries of malediction, curse and sorrow; and, 20 years of struggle, pain and agony. Kashmiri Pandits desperately need a HOMELAND where every Kashmiri Pandit, living anywhere in India or abroad, can find his ROOTS and settle down peacefully.
Kashmiri Pandits have suffered either at the hands of rulers, invaders or terrorists since long. It was Harsha (AD 1089-1101), a man of extravagant habits and a jumble of contraries, who robbed temple treasures and got the idols of gold and silver melted to tide over his financial crisis. Before him two other kings, Jalauka and Kalasa, employed the same approach of plundering the temples 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. So Muslims as a class appeared in the political field and began to consolidate its roots. 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, 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.
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, but the invader refused and struck terror. He stayed in the Valley for eight months and took about 50,000 Brahmans with him as slaves. However, all the troops and slaves perished while crossing the Devsar Pass. The cruel invader 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 Buddhist 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. Shahmir and Bulbul Shah managed his conversion to Islam. Ramachandra’s son, Ravanachandra, and many others also embraced Islam. A Muslim ruling class came into existence. This newly established Muslim class slowly consolidated its position and employed various methods to propagate the new faith. 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. 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 Rani 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. Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani (AD 1314-AD 1385) pronounced ‘sixteen commandments’ for Non-Muslims in “ Zakhirat’ul Maluk ”:
1. Muslim ruler shall not allow fresh constructions of Hindu temples and shrines for image worship.
2. No repair shall be executed to the existing Hindu temples and shrines.
3. They shall not proffer Muslim names.
4. They shall not ride a harnessed horse.
5. They shall not move about with arms.
6. They shall not wear rings with diamonds.
7. They shall not deal in or eat bacon.
8. They shall not exhibit idolatrous images.
9. They shall not built houses in the neighbourhood of Muslims.
10.They shall not dispose of their dead in the neighbourhood of Muslim graveyards, nor weep or wail over their dead.
11. They shall not deal in or buy Muslim slaves.
12. No Muslim traveller shall be refused lodging in the Hindu temples and shrines where he shall be treated as a guest for three days by non-Muslims.
13. No non-Muslim shall act as a spy in the Muslim state.
14. No problem shall be created for those non-Muslims who, of their own will, show their readiness for Islam.
15. Non-Muslims shall honour Muslims and shall leave their assembly whenever the Muslims enter the premises.
16. The dress of non-Muslims shall be different from that of Muslims to distinguish themselves.
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 dogmatized 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.
Sikandar- the Butshikan, was bigoted with fanatic religious zeal to spread Islam in the entire Valley. This fanaticism was stimulated by Mir Muhammad Hamadani. Both hatched a deadly conspiracy to prosecute 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 or 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, many 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. 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.
Ali Shah - the tyrant (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. 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. This caused 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. 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 of them left the Valley. 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.
The son of Sultan Sikandar and the brother of Sultan Ali Shah, Zainul Abidin (AD1420 to 1460) followed the policy of tolerance, endurance, patience, sympathy and broad mindedness. 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”. 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. He 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.
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. Not contented with peaceful preachings, he employed the violent methods. Besides the poor vulnerable Brahmans, Sunni Muslims were also violently converted to Shia sect by murderous techniques. This dogmatic fanaticism even crippled the authority of Sunni ruler of Kashmir, Fateh Shah (AD 1510-1517). About 24,000 Kashmiri Pandits 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 molested. 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 Valley. 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.”
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 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 poor 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 Shaikh-ul 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:
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 Shaikh-ul 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.
“Aay Zalimu, Aay Kafiroo,
Barbarous terrorists from neighbouring countries penetrated into the Saffron Valley. Brutal, wild and barbarous techniques were employed to hound and kill the Aryan Saraswat Brahmans of Kashmir. Even wicked Afghans will be feeling sorry in their graves for the brutal holocaust of the legendary Kashmiri Pandits. The brutal 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 operations. Pandits in Kashmir dwindled from 10% in 1947 to fewer than 5% in 1989 and to less than 1% today. In the barbarous turmoil about 60,000 persons including the Kashmiri Pandits, nationalistic Muslims and Sikhs have been killed; besides, thousands of security personnel massacred. Wailing shadows are haunting the Valley. 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. If the creation of Telangana is possible, why not a HOMELAND for Kashmiri Pandits who are suffering since centuries. Even after twenty years of ‘seventh mass exodus’, Kashmiri Pandits are still vacillating with pain, sorrow and agony. They need a piece of land to live a respectable and peaceful life – HOMELAND.
|*Dr Satish Ganjoo was born on May 1, 1956, to Shree Omkarnath Ganjoo and Smt Sheela Ganjoo in the Saffron Valley of Kashmir. He obtained the coveted academic degrees of M.Phil (1983) and Ph.D (1987) in Modern History and International Relations from the University of Kashmir. He held the distinguished faculty position in Govt. Degree College, Baramulla (Kashmir), Centre for Advance Study in Education and Technology, Srinagar (Kmr), CASET Post Graduate Evening College, Srinagar (Kmr) and the Centre of Central. Asian Studies, University of Kashmir. Now he is working as Head and Senior Faculty Member at the Post Graduate Dept. of History, Ramgarhia P G College (GNDU) Phagwra (Pb), with the additional charge of the Dept. of Computer Sciences and Information Technology.
Dr. Ganjoo developed the excellent potential for research and published a number of books on diverse topics of history, politics and international relations. Ignoring the pain and agony of migration from his motherland because of political turmoil, he exclusively worked on Islamic Studies with all devotion and dedication. His widely acknowledged books include :
1. Afghanistan’s Struggle for Resurgence
2. Soviet Afghan Relations
3. Kashmir Politics
4. Muslim Freedom Fighters of India (in 3 vols)
5. Economics System in Islam
6. Glimpses of Islamic World
7. Prophet Muhammad
8. Wailing Shadows in Kashmir (Anmol Publications, New Delhi)
9. Dictionary of History email@example.com
Besides Dr. Ganjoo is involved in different interdisciplinary research projects, participated in several seminars and wrote about sixteen research papers. His name was recommended for the Soviet Land Nehru Award (1991) and received recognition from prestigious NGOs --- Rashtriya Gaurav Award (2004), Best Citizen of India Award (2005), Vijay Shree Award (2005). He is the member of the Arts and Social Sciences Faculty, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar; and, the life member of the Kashmir Education, Culture and Science Society.
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