Living a Kashmiri Life


Matrika Poudyal

For common Indians dwelling in other parts of India, Kashmir is an issue of a nonstarter. But for Kashmiris, it’s the matter of life and death. 

Kashmiris have witnessed how history has cheated them by keeping them detached from the rest of the Indians. They merely see their dreams evaporate-the dreams to be like any other people of the Subcontinent like Marathi, Bengali, Laddakhi, Sikkimese, Sinhalese, Maldivian, Bhutanese or Nepalese--free from daily protests, religious extremity, socio-political retardation and economic degradation. 

The balmy air of Chinar forests, the spring at Shalimar garden, the timeless iconic Dal lake and globally reputed saffron have no longer been talk of the town. 

The headlines after headlines across the national/international news media are flooded with the bombs and barricades, blood and blasts and curfew and custody concerning Kashmir and its people. All these have always kept the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir including its inhabitants at the verge of devastation. 

Dozens of Bollywood movies and some award winning novels are based on and set in Kashmir: the plights and prejudices, fights and feuds the people of Kashmir have to undergo everyday.

It’s no fun to marvel about how beautiful it is to travel in and around the place but the dreadful compulsion of ordinary Kashmiris spending nights after nights under house-turned-bunkers has different stories. 

National/international news media are flooded with the bombs and barricades, blood and blasts and curfew and custody.

Some decades ago, present Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir used to be a sovereign country under a monarch-ruled by the Dogra dynastic successors.

Even much before that, the Kashmir valley used to be a lake which was believed to be drained by some sages according to local folklores. Then place was peopled by Kashyapa, one of the prominent sages in Indian mythology. The place was also illustrated by some of the renowned Greek historians which they called Kaspeiria. 

In the later era, it was under the sovereignty of Pashtun Durrani Empire. Then, Ranjit Singh of Punjab kept it under his territory. One of his vassals, Gulab Singh fought against the East India Company forces to save Kashmir. 

However, he failed. The Treaty of Lahore encompassed entire Jammu and Kashmir into the jurisdiction of East India Company as the first Anglo-Shikh War ended in 1846.

But Gulab Singh was endowed by the triumphant Company ruler to continue his rule as he was ready to regard the Company Dominion and its sovereignty as the superior to his dukedom through through the Treaty of Amritsar.  Since then, Gulab Singh took the title of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. It lasted till India got independence from the British Raj.

The last ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh followed as what Jawaharlal Nehru advised him-he was told to sign an agreement to annex his territories to the newly independent country India because Muslim Pashtun fighters had attacked and forced his army to surrender. 

Before he would be forced to make a treaty with Muslim fighters, he had consulted Indian Prime minister Nehru for any possible assistance to keep his country independent and sovereign. Maharaja Hari Singh had very limited options; so, he looked for help from India. Many other small principalities were getting annexed to the Union of India one after another.  

However, the last viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten solicited him to follow suit.  He had nothing but to sing an agreemnet called  the Instrument of Accession, the legal text which was implemented by Maharaja Hari Singh, on 26 October 1947. The execution of this document took place under the provisions of the Indian Independence Act 1947. Thus, Maharaja Hari Singh agreed to accede his proud country and its people to the Dominion of India. 

Before it was a part of India, the state's population was 77 percent Muslim, 20 percent Hindu and 3 percent others. It sounds unbelievable that how a Muslim majority country could be ruled by the minority Hindu people. The Muslim population would be treated badly. They used to be taxed heavily. They would get meagre means to barely survive. 

The end of British rule in the Indian subcontinent left a never ending calamity due to the creation of new states: Pakistan and India.  

Since then, India and Pakistan are at loggerheads. They have fought full-scale wars in 1947, 1965 and 1999.  Since 2003, both of these warring nations have maintained a line of control often called LoC—an amorphous physical demarcation of the borders between them.

There have been hundreds of incidents of breaching the norms of ceasefire. India as well as Pakistan  have been administering almost fifty-fifty of the entire Kashmir.  The Indian side terms the part of the Kashmir state beyond LoC as the POK that is, Pakistan  Occupied Kashmir. And the Pakistani side terms the part of Kashmir under Indian jurisdiction as the IOK i.e. Indian Occupiued Kashmir. 

Unfortunately, the real life of Kashmiris seesaws between the circumstances (un)balanced by unpredictable security forces of two nuclear arsenal holders-India and Pakistan without tangible and permanent peace deal in remote horizon.