Thursday, March 22, 2018

Kashmir in Historical Perspective

(To elaborate the political nature of Kashmir problem, one needs to examine the historical perspective of the land and its people)

Image result for Indo-Pak border

Recently Kashmir’s Finance Minister lost his job for saying that Kashmir is not a political problem. Apart from that he had denigrated the political leadership of Kashmir standing for its total freedom. He had stated that they were barking up a wrong tree!  A fellow columnist has shown him his place in his recent article, “Idioms of Hubris”. It would be useful to recapitulate Kashmir’s history for the “Naïve” gentleman displaying total ignorance probably as alleged by some with certain ulterior motives!
Before one delves into history of Kashmir and Kashmiris, it would be interesting to understand the meaning of the words the Nation and the Nation-State. According to Oxford dictionary, a Nation is, “A large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory”. According to Wikipedia, “nation is a stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, ethnicity or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. A nation is distinct from a people, and is more abstract, and more overtly political than an ethnic group. It is a cultural-political community that has become conscious of its autonomy, unity, and particular interests”. “It is a more precise term than "country," but of the same general meaning, being that it is an ethnic nation with its own land (thus "homeland") and government”.
Kashmir has existed as a separate independent country ruled by various kings from the earliest times. Kalhana’s Rajtarangini goes almost 5,000 years back to describe the kingdom of Kashmir from the time of Gonanda I. The most important earliest confirmation of Kashmir as an independent country is from Greek sources. It is the Ptolemy’s geography which has preserved many of the references to Kashmir. He calls the region KASPEIRA. The importance of this reference lies in the name of the territory as it is a phonetic derivative between Kasmira, the ancient Sanskrit name of Kashmir, and the present day Kashmir or Kashir.
After Greeks is the mention of Kashmir in Chinese records. The earliest reference to Kashmir dates back to A.D. 541. Kashmir is described as a country “enveloped on all sides like a precious jewel by the snowy mountains, with a valley in the south which leads up to it and serves as a gate of the Kingdom”.  Ninety years after this first mention of Kashmir in Chinese records, Hiuen Tsang visited the valley and stayed here as an honoured guest for two years. He entered Kashmir through the valley of Vitasta (present Jehlum). Kashmir which he calls Kia-shi-mi-lo described as a country surrounded on all sides by very high mountains which have very narrow and contracted passes for entry.
The next reference to Kashmir in Chinese records relates to the Annals of Tang dynasty which mentions the arrival of the first ambassador from Kashmir sent by Candrapida and then another sent by Muktapida (Lalitaditya) of the Karakot dynasty of the Rajtarangni. In fact, Muktapida had entered into a treaty of military alliance with the rulers of Tang dynasty of China against Tibet which he subsequently raided with a strong Kashmirian army. He failed to conquer it as his entire army perished in the cold and high altitude deserts of Ladakh.
Kashmir also figures in records of Muslim scholars. In spite of Kashmir’s natural seclusion, the Arabic literature has very accurate and valuable account of Kashmir. This is due to the research and critical appraisal of ALBERUNI who travelled with Mahmud of Ghazni upto the borders of Kashmir at the fort of Lohkot (presently Loran in Punch). This stronghold of the Kashmiri forces brought the invasion of Mahmud to a standstill and he had to ultimately retreat from here due to the onset of winter. Though this expedition failed to reach Kashmir but it gave Alberuni ample opportunity to collect detailed information on Kashmir. He refers to the pedestrian habits of Kashmiris and mentions that the nobles were carried in palanquins on the shoulders of men. He describes Kashmiris anxiety and care to protect their country. “They are particularly anxious about the natural strength of their country, and therefore take always much care to keep a strong hold upon the entrances and roads leading to it. In consequence it is very difficult to have any commerce with them”.
Thus there is so much historical evidence for the existence of Kashmir as a separate country from the earliest times. Unfortunately, Kashmir lost its sovereignty to Mughals in sixteenth century and since that time has been enslaved by one or the other conqueror. However, in spite of all the hardships the Kashmiris have not reconciled to their external slavery and the urge to regain their lost freedom has been increasing with the passage of time. The movement to achieve this goal is quite strong. Thus, in view of this entire history, as denigratingly suggested by the former Finance Minister, the people are not barking up the wrong tree! Incidentally, in the Indian sub-continent there is at present only one country which qualifies to be called a Nation-State and that is Nepal. Kashmir could be the second one!
The million dollar question is will the Kashmiris be able to reclaim their Nationality as it existed for thousands of years and will Kashmir ever be again a Nation State? Will they be ever able to lead a life of honour and dignity? Well, keeping in view the current regional political set up it seems impossible unless these neighbours get tired of their unending mutual hostility or get decimated in a destructive war! Howsoever, it would be an ideal solution if they agree to declare Kashmir as a Nation State of the erstwhile times and make it a totally neutral zone like Switzerland remained in the two world wars. This may seem a utopian dream but sometimes such dreams happen to show the way. In the present global context, Nation States have almost ceased to exist independently due to the economic considerations. A typical example is the European Union. Even though the individual countries do maintain their cultural individuality yet in reality it has become one unit for all practical purposes. Can’t the countries of our region do the same? Make the area a composite economic unit and keep Kashmir as a Free Economic Zone with total political neutrality! Something on these lines could be worked out through dialogue among all the stakeholders including all the neighbouring countries. Ultimately, after getting exhausted by mutual bickering and fights reducing their citizens to abject poverty, the neighbouring countries may have no alternative but to do it! The other choice would be total obliteration by a destructive nuclear war! Let us hope and pray that good sense will prevail all round and Kashmiris are emancipated after centuries of oppression!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Kashmir Problem, Social or Political?

(As Shakespeare has said, “A rose is a rose by whatever name you call it” Similarly, Kashmir is a serious problem whether you name it Social or Political that is presently irrelevant!)
Image result for un hq in srinagar

Haseeb Drabu, lost his job by merely stating that Kashmir is a Social Issue and not a Political Issue. Incidentally, he is one of the architects of the Agenda of alliance between BJP and PDP which forms the basis of the coalition government notwithstanding the fact that the implementation of the agenda is nowhere in sight! Speaking at an event in New Delhi themed as “Kashmir, the way forward”, the former J & K Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu had said “Kashmir shouldn't be seen as a conflict state or a political problem, but as a society with social issues”. The most appropriate comment for such a declaration can only be “the height of naivety!” He had been truly naïve! The definition of naïve in dictionary is, “A person who despite overwhelming blatant evidence is oblivious to what’s going on in his/her surroundings”! People are often naive because they are young and/or have not had much experience of life. However, one could not say this about a stalwart like Drabu Sahib. He has been a top economist, journalist and a banker. The best rebuttal to this declaration can be a quote from the interview that the former vice-President Hamid Ansari gave to Karan Thapar last August which was published in the Hindu newspaper. When asked whether Kashmir was a political problem, he said, “The problem is and has always been primarily a political problem. And it has to be addressed politically.”
One cannot close eyes to the history of last 70 years, the period for which Kashmir has been a lingering political problem internationally recognised by the United Nations Security Council on the agenda of which it continues to figure. The stark and living proof of that is the United Nations Military Observer Group Headquarter in Srinagar. The observers from various European and other countries are not enjoying a holiday in Kashmir but are supposed to be monitoring the Ceasefire Line now called the Line of Actual Control (LOC) between India and Pakistan. It is a different matter that they are not now allowed to conduct their work on the Indian side! Apart from this, one often hears sermons from world leaders and various super powers addressed to Indian and Pakistani leaders for solving Kashmir problem bi-laterally. In fact, in Shimla agreement signed after the 1971 war, both countries declared Kashmir to be a political problem to be solved bi-laterally.
The number of books, articles and various documents written and published about the political problem of Kashmir can fill an entire library! Even in recent times dozens of books have been written on the various aspects of the subject. Unfortunately denial about something which is a stark reality does not make it go away. If one closes all windows and doors of a house and says there is no light outside the house that does not make the light disappear. One is only deceiving one’s own self! On the ground itself, why is Kashmir known all over the world as the most militarised place on Earth? Almost one third of the third largest Army in the world is in Kashmir. There has been continuous shelling and firing going across the Line of Control for quite some time. Are these two forces playing some sort of friendly matches with their heavy fire power? According to government figures over 50,000 people were killed during the uprising of the nineties of the last century. Still over 10, 000 people are missing without any trace.
At the moment over a 1000 persons are detained under the Public Safety Act. Most of the leaders of a popular movement are either detained from time to time or are under continuous house arrest. Almost all the so called mainstream leaders whether presently ruling or out of power have the highest security cover. Every second day Srinagar’s main town, the old city is placed under an undeclared curfew locally given the name of “Restrictions”.  Freedom of expression guaranteed under the constitution has ceased to exist in Kashmir. There have been scores of clashes between Army and militants and a large number of local youth who had joined militancy have been killed. Again are these people playing friendly matches or there is a simmering political problem which has given rise to local militancy?
Regarding “Social Issues”, of course there are umpteen social problems but these have all risen because of the basic political problem which the rulers are trying to run away from. The first social problem is that every Kashmiri Muslim is a suspect all over India. He is being labelled as a Pakistani terrorist! The worst social problem within Kashmir which the continuous political uncertainty has given rise to is the total lack of accountability. Nobody seems to be answerable to nobody. Each one is for himself to make hay as long as the Sun of uncertainty shines. The government is virtually on an “Auto-Pilot”! The recent episode of the rape and murder of a Bakerwal girl whose perpetrators are being eulogised by the members of one of the ruling parties speaks volumes regarding the writ of the government. In fact, the fanatic followers of one of the ruling parties consider “Ghar Wapsi” of Kashmiri Muslims as their most important agenda item!
The most unfortunate part of this episode is that the present PDP leaders have totally betrayed the legacy of their founder Mufti Mohammad Sayed who stood for the “Healing Touch” and the “Self-rule”! Healing touch has become the killing touch and the blinding touch while as the self-rule has been reduced to the “Proxy-rule” by Delhi! Thus, if Drabu Sahab’s naivety is not to cost PDP dearly even though he has been fired, they should advise Delhi to accept the basic fact of Kashmir being a political problem and immediately initiate a dialogue with all stakeholders within the country and across the border. Otherwise the religious frenzy being generated against Muslims all over the country and the continuous heavy firing on the border increasing in scale with each passing day may end up in an Armageddon for the whole sub-continent!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Preparing for Mahabharata’s Last Battle!

(The continuous firing on the Line of Control and the Indo-Pak border looks ominous and could spiral out of control with disastrous consequences!)

Image result for nuclear mushroom

Recently, there have been numerous statements from leaders as well as defence services officers of the two neighbouring countries in the Indian sub-continent about the escalating situation on the border. Saner people have been repeatedly emphasizing that the spiraling situation on the border could blow up into a full-fledged war which would mean virtual annihilation of the sub-continent. A real Armageddon! Surely the enmity has not reached such a level that it should blow out the entire sub-continent. Hopefully, there are still saner people on the two sides? Politicians on both the sides seem to be deriving political mileage for elections and control of opposition in the two countries. The BJP from the very start has been going on the religious turf. From the first day after taking over the government in Delhi they have mounted a sustained campaign for converting India into a Hindu Rashtra. Even though their election campaign spoke more of development (Vikas) yet on taking over they forgot about it. In fact, they have miserably failed to keep their promises to the teeming millions starving under the poverty line.
Having totally failed on the economic front, they are now once again reverting to religious fanaticism. They are in a way creating a religious frenzy to virtually fight the next election. Vikas does not sell now! They can as usual use the religion as the opium of the poor! However, by doing so, inadvertently they may be preparing for the last battle of Mahabharata at Kurukshetra!  Mahabharata is one of the two famous Indian National epics. It was written from 540 to 300 B.C. by Sage Vyasa. It relates the legends of the Bharatas, a Vedic Aryan group.
Bharat Bhushan, a senior Delhi based journalist has written an article in Asian Age, “Modi playing with fire, driving J & K to despair”. According to him, “… having failed to deliver on the economic front, given the mess created by demonetisation and the hasty implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, increasing agrarian distress and rising unemployment, Mr Modi needed to rejig the nationalist narrative to maintain and expand the structure of his communalised politics. One of the tropes in this reinvented nationalism is to paint Pakistan as the source of all Indian woes in the Kashmir Valley. A supine mainstream media played the cheerleader in creating a nationalist paranoia to suit Mr Modi’s political ends”.
The ethos of the real India of ancient times as perceived by Guru Dev Tagore and Dr. Iqbal cannot be brought back by physically merging the broken away parts again into Akhand Bharat. The India of the ancient times can be redeemed only by making the artificial borders separating these countries irrelevant. If this Hindu-Muslim divide had not taken place and India had remained as one united country, it would not only have been a real super power but would have been one of the best welfare states for its citizens. They can still remain united by adopting the European Union model. If, after the most destructive world war, Europe can virtually unite as one country, why cannot India, Pakistan and Bangladesh do the same?
One is reminded of the battle of Kurukshetra in Mahabharata. It would be interesting to recapitulate what some people say about the Mahabharata’s last battle. Mathilda’s Weird Web Blog has translations of some of the verses which look scary because of some resemblance to a few modern weapons like the nukes, rockets and the lasers! “Gurkha, flying a swift and powerful vimana [fast aircraft], hurled a single projectile [rocket] charged with the power of the Universe [nuclear device]. An incandescent column of smoke and flame, as bright as ten thousand suns, rose with all its splendour. It was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death, which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas”. “The corpses were so burned as to be unrecognizable. Hair and nails fell out; Pottery broke without apparent cause, and the birds turned white.…After a few hours all foodstuffs were infected……to escape from this fire the soldiers threw themselves in streams to wash themselves and their equipment”
Kongari Mahalakshami a computer scientist writes in Quora on the subject. She is debating whether nuclear weapons were really used in the Mahabharata War. “The concept of Astra (Missile) and Dhanush (Launchers) emerged from there. Astra was a super-natural hand-carried weapon blessed by a specific deity. Astras like Brahmashira, Brahmasthra, Pasupatasthra, Vaishnavasthra, Narayana Astra, Agneyasthra, Vayavasthra, Nagasthra, Vajrasthra, Varunasthra etc. were used in Mahabharata along with positive indications of the use of Nuclear weapons (atom bomb) , otherwise how could the war cause the death of around 1.5 billion people in a matter of 18 days”.
Even Oppenheimer, the father of the modern Atom Bomb has said about the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons mentioned in Mahabharata. “No, I’m not totally mad”. Oppenheimer thought it may have happened. He was very familiar with the ancient Hindu texts. When asked if his was the first ever detonation of a nuclear bomb, he said. ‘Yes, in modern times’. Keeping in view all these references one feels scary that the Hindutva frenzy being raised for a war with Pakistan, a Dharam Yudh may be a repeat of the war in the ancient times which had resulted in total destruction.
If both the countries fail to check the religious extremists from taking over, one never knows these western powers may even encourage and allow a small nuclear exchange as a lesson for other similarly disposed countries! Recently a columnist had warned about the possibility of the western countries preparing for a nuclear exchange somewhere in Central Asia. Another possibility could be the Indian sub-continent. Mahabharata mentions Kal Yug, which is already here. India and Pakistan have become Pandvas and Korvas and Kashmir is the Drupadi who has been disrobed umpteen times! Ultimately, this tussle may end in a nuclear exchange which would definitely be the last battle of Kurukshetra thereby ending the whole epic of Mahabharata of the present times! Incidentally, the Kurukshetra of ancient times is the Haryana and Rajasthan of these days which has been usually the main battle ground for recent Indo-Pak wars!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Flood prevention Hakeem Suyya way!

(In view of the failure of the government to implement various flood prevention measures especially dredging and strengthening of river banks, someone has to become a Hakeem Suyya to save Srinagar!)
Image result for dredging in jhelum

The popular minister of the famous Kashmiri King Avanti Varman, Hakeem Suyya, is still remembered everywhere as a Messiah who saved Kashmir from the ravages of flooded Jhelum and prevented famines. His story used to be in the history books prescribed in Schools in forties and fifties. One does not know if the feat of this famous and popular man is still in the present school text books. However, there is an everlasting tribute to him in the name of the town Sopore which is a later version of the original Suyya Pur, town established by the able minister.
The story about Suyya in Kashmiri Pandit Network website is given as, “Once the country was in the cruel clutches of a great monster-famine. Everybody was grieved. The king was helpless and no plan could be devised to mitigate the suffering. But then God sent an angel in the form of a man Suyya. His birth was unknown. When a baby he had been left in an earthen pot covered with a lid which a Candala woman picked up while sweeping. Her name was Suyya. She gave it to a Sudra for rearing up. The baby grew up into an intelligent boy and acquired some education. He became a teacher. He was generally surrounded by a crowd of sensible men. When the people complained of Famine, he told them that he could get rid of this monster provided he had the means. The king summoned him but he didn't reveal his scheme. The people thought him mad but the king kept the treasury at his disposal. Suyya took many pots, full of money, in a boat and went towards Madavarajya, the southern district of the valley. He threw some of money at a village called Nandaka (Nandi on the Veshan river), meaning `the place of money', which was submerged with flood water and then quickly came back. Then he went to Yakshadara (Dyara-gul, meaning `the place of money', near Khadanyar below Baramulla) and threw lot of money into the river. Everyone except the king thought that he had gone crazy. But the famished people who had watched Suyya throwing money in the water, immediately jumped into the river to find the coins and thereby clear the bed of rocks which had rolled down from the hill side and blocked the river. Consequently the water flowed down.Previously the Jhelum and the Sindh met near Trigam turning large areas into a swamp. But Suyya regulated the course of the river so that the water flowed right into the Wular Lake. The tributaries also were directed usefully. Suyya had many villages reclaimed by having circular embankments raised all round them to keep out the water so that they looked like round bowls (kunda). As a result of these projects hundreds of villages were reclaimed and crop grew unprecedentedly. One kharwar of paddy which used to sell for 200 dinars in prosperous times-now was sold for 36 dinars. Suyya built the present town of Sopur on the bank of the river Jhelum in his name. He prohibited killing of fish and water-fowl in the Wular Lake. He granted the village Suyya a Kundala to the Brahmins in honour of his mother Suyya and constructed the bund Suyya-setir after her name”.
Well, we may not find a Suyya in present times but one could follow his example to save the population from the ravages of the flood. One does not have to go with bagful of gold coins and throw in the River to dredge it. There are more sophisticated means available now which could be bought against the present gold coins! Unfortunately, the expenders of the gold coins want to keep some for themselves which slows down dredging and strengthening of embankments. There is a way to follow Suyya’s example! People need lot of sand and earth for construction which is going at a breakneck speed all over the valley. The government has only to announce that people in need of sand and earth can take it free on their own from the River and the flood channel. Only areas and depths to which they can go have to be demarcated. Dredging and removal of sand will take place at break-neck speed.
However, the embankments would need to be strengthened. Even this work can be done by the people on their own. One wonders why the leaders of the “Popular Movement” are not stepping in and starting something like Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt and Khadi movement. They could motivate people to work out wonders on the environmental front including the salvaging of fast disappearing water bodies. If the people start such works on their own the government would have no justification to stop these and would rather be put in an embarrassing situation. This may force them to take to initiate all requisite technical steps at an accelerated pace. In any case, there are no two opinions that unless fool-proof flood prevention measures are taken on a war footing, Kashmir may be in for another disaster soon. Even God Almighty may not help us at that time because of our refusal to learn from our past mistakes!