Kashmir, the bone of contention between India and Pakistan since the Partition of India in 1947, has created an acrimonious atmosphere in the subcontinent leading to wars between the two arch enemies. Although efforts have always been made by India to narrow down the differences and take confidence-building measures with her neighbour Pakistan, not much interest has been shown by Pakistan in creating an atmosphere that permeates with friendship and good neighbourliness. Despite the restarting of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service and opening up of a few points on the Line of Control to provide relief to the earthquake victims of Pakistan to diffuse the tense situation between the two countries, two major problems ? terrorism by Pakistani extremists and the perpetual trouble in Kashmir continue to plague the peace initiatives.
The author of the book is more famous for his other work, Kashmir to Frankfurt: A Study of Arts & Crafts published in 1986-87 for the socio-economic history of Kashmir and for providing an insight into the cultural formations and productive relations existing in Kashmir at various periods of its history. As a Muslim Kashmiri by birth, he claims to be presenting the Kashmiri perspective on the issue, when each and every word written by him reeks of bias and subjectivity. Whatever he has to say evidently points to his demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir ? ?The sacrifices made by the Kashmiris over a period of 16 years have not at all pricked this possessive consciousness about Kashmir, nor have these caught the Indo-Pak attention towards the genuine Kashmiri aspirations.? He talks of referendum in Kashmir without revealing how Kashmir hopes to exist without aid or assistance from India, caught as it is in the grip of poverty and backwardness.
He lashes out, ?Kashmir may be a territorial issue between India and Pakistan, but to the Kashmiri, it is the restoration of their dignity, their historical individuality and their hoary nationhood. Here any objective viewer would ask, ?What, if referendum is granted to Kashmir, against all realities? Are the Kashmiris capable of existing by themselves in isolation? Can autonomy provide the basic needs of the Kashmiris when to this day one can see long convoys of Indian trucks loaded with food and other necessities make their way on the roads leading to Kashmir??
In Part I of the book, the author talks about Kashmir'shistory and its individuality which is seen ?in the eating habits of its Shaivites who take mutton, fish and garlicky diet with great relish and without reservation; in the cupidity of Kashmir Bikshus for women, wine, gambling and prosperity (Kashmiris had married Bikshus who owned homes and large estates); in the solemn fasts observed by the Pandits to press their demands; in the wupalhak (wild growing vegetable) which was placed in the case of God'sicon to express protest against the authorities; in the unanimous rejection of Manu'scode of social stratification; in the systematic demolition of temples and the desecration of sacred images of gods and goddesses by the Hindu kings, and the construction of Hindu temples by the Sultans.? Alongside with all this the author himself admits that the state or kingdom ?was founded by Nila and its socio-religo-politico structure based on the theory of dharma and karma: the most significant aspects of Hinduism. The Nilmal Purana and other literary sources have commended the combination and blending of temporal and religious functions by the state. The king is shown holding the priestly office as well, giving sermons and imploring his subjects to abide by his inclination?a mixture of religious and political ideas?duly sanctified by the Hindu religion.?
Furthermore he criticises the entry of Buddhism but admits that ?with its already developed culture and deeply entrenched Brahministic pantheon, Kashmir did not allow Buddhism to spread its sphere of activities? beyond art, architecture and literature. Rulers like Pravarasena-II, Lalitaditya, Avantivarman and others are praised for their rule, particularly Lalitaditya who laid emphasis on nation building. He continues that in AD 700-1300, ?Islam started knocking at the fragile doors of the Valley? and its spread by the Sultanate of Kashmir gave birth to ?Kashmirian culture in language, art and architecture.? He singles out Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin for ?his perception of Islamic justice and rational theology? and who became popular as Bud Shah.
He is vocal in his praise of the expansion of Islam in Kashmir which ?did not necessarily signify uprooting of old traditions and attitudes? but which was ?largely due to assurances of political and economic benefits and of a sophisticated culture which the people of Kashmir were eagerly yearning for?. He is equally vocal in his criticism of Maharaja Ranjit Singh whose rule in Kashmir lasted for 27 years.
He concludes by saying that after the British left, Kashmir lost its ?national status and identity? and ?the projection of their individuality through ?Kashmiriat? is nothing but a histrionic gesture; a sinister move to legitimise the position of the disputed Kashmir as India'speripheral, subservient and sub-nationalised constituency and equate it with Punjabiat, Bengaliat, Gujaratiat?? He alleges that by proclaiming Kashmir as an integral part of India and by ?relentlessly striving to validate the conditional ?accession? through holding of bogus elections?India is trying to hoodwink the international opinion.?
This is a book meant to be read by those dissatisfied elements in Kashmir who want to have their cake and eat it too. The less said the better about this highly prejudicial, anti-national and controversial book.
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