My most childhood memories of Kashmir are of a beautiful azure sky, snow-capped Himalayas, climbing trees in fruit orchards, lush green valleys, sweet water springs, and Popular tree-lined avenues.
|Alpather Lake, Kashmir, India|
Kashmir was about walking down Chinar ( maple) laden roads in fall, dragging my feet to carry as many as possible in my stride. It was about making snowmen when we got buried feet deep in powder for months with no electricity, heating our frozen hands over a warm wood Bukhari ( a wood-burning stove) and mouth-watering Kashmiri food.
It was also about a strange unexplained fear of the unknown. The surface was warm. We lived in deeply divided undercurrents. The divide was deep, yet the fissures were shielded in the sweet coat of “Kashmiriyat”.
Kashmiriyat is the name given to the cultural values of Kashmir. When the subcontinent was divided by the British on the basis of religion, Jammu and Kashmir decided to be an independent country. The social consciousness of the common Kashmiri is to preserve that ethos that defines the relationship between our common ancestral heritage. When the entire sub-continent was burning in the communal divide between the Hindus and the Muslims; Kashmiris chose to remain steadfast as a community defined by these common values.
The Kashmiris held each other close and stood up for the values they believed in.
The 1947 Jammu massacre was a communal episode in the Jammu Region. Several tribesmen from Northwest frontier province of Pakistan, at the behest of ISI ( the Pakistani intelligence agency), raided several cities of the country of Jammu and Kashmir; killing, mass raping and looting Hindu and Muslim residents of the region.
The Prime Minister of J&K, at the time of Independence, Ram Chandra Kak was of the opinion that since Kashmir would not accede to Pakistan it could not accede to India. He advised the Maharaja that Kashmir should remain independent.
However, the Maharaja’s decision was that he did not want to accede to Pakistan, and, so, India was his only option if independence proved impossible.
The Governor-General accepted the accession on 27 October, the day the Indian troops were airlifted to Kashmir to stop the invasion by Pakistani sponsored tribals of the territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The ‘Instrument of Accession’, specified three subjects on which Jammu and Kashmir would transfer its powers to the government of India: 1. Foreign affairs, 2. Defense and 3. Communications. In March 1948, the Maharaja appointed an interim government in the state, with Sheikh Abdullah as the prime minister. In July 1949, Sheikh Abdullah and three other colleagues joined the Indian Constituent Assembly and negotiated the special status of J&K, leading to the adoption of Article 370 to protect the special identity of the Kashmiri people. The controversial provision was drafted by Sheikh Abdullah. Islamization of Kashmir began during the 1980s when Abdullah Government changed the names of about 2500 villages from their native names to new Islamic names. The Sheikh also started delivering communal speeches in mosques similar to his speeches in the 1930’s. Additionally, he referred to the Kashmiri Pandits as “mukhbir” or informers of the Indian government
The law of citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights of the residents of Jammu & Kashmir are different from the residents living in the rest of India. Under Article 370, citizens from other states cannot buy property in Jammu & Kashmir.
It is important to note Article 370(1)© explicitly mentions that Article 1 of the Indian Constitution applies to Kashmir through Article 370. Article 1 lists the states of the Union. This means that it is Article 370 that binds the state of J&K to the Indian Union. Removing Article 370, which could and was done by only a Presidential Order,
Article 35A gives the Jammu & Kashmir Legislature full discretionary power to decide who the ‘permanent residents’ of the state are. It gives them special rights and privileges regarding employment with the state government, acquisition of property in the state, settling in the state, and the right to scholarships and other forms of aid that the state government provides. It also allows the state legislature to impose any restrictions upon persons other than the permanent residents regarding the above.
To guarantee these special rights and privileges, the Article says no act of the state legislature that comes under it can be challenged for violating the Constitution or any other laws.
The special status that Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed was to preserve the unique identity of the people of the state.
As a Kashmiri Hindu, the repealing of Article 370 and 35A does nothing to my status quo. Apart from the war cries erupting from the venting of the anger of 3 decades of homelessness, many Kashmiri pandits have little or no value to gain from this action.
The “special status” of Kashmiris was lost the day the mass ethnic cleansing of the Hindu population of the valley began, under threat and fear of rape, murder, and annihilation. The social pact that built the communities in the valley and therefore the concept of “Kashmiriyat” was forever buried in those pre-dawn disappearances.
The day Sanjay’s father was killed, hiding in a rice drum by Pakistani- trained militants, who were also his neighbors. The day Mr. Taploo was murdered in his own home. The day Mr. Ganju was shot dead for sentencing a terrorist to his death. The day Rubaiyya Sayed was kidnapped. The day the daily newspaper Aftab published a message asking all Kashmiri Hindus to immediately leave the valley of their ancestors. When masked armed men started threatening residents to reset their clocks to Pakistan Standard time and raise Islamist green flags. The day a woman politician and her husband were kidnapped. The day Javed Bhat was held and beaten by Kashmiri pandit boys in Jammu, in retaliation. The same Muslim Mr. Bhat, whose family was taking care of an invalid Hindu boy, abandoned by his own family, bringing him up as their own, Our special status also ended the day Lassa Kaul was assassinated. The day boot-stomping armies of soldiers started visiting our homes without as much as a warning. The day we had to start proving our allegiance to each other and our humanity. The day the killer of Abdul Ghani Lone was buried next to his grave. The day signage outside the shrine of Sayed Saheb forbids non-Muslims to enter the place they always found solace in. The day we started cooking meat during the Urs of Reshi Mol. The day we walked the path of violence, people who were dividing us won.
At this time in the history of Kashmir; the only thing that the special provisions of the Indian Constitution were protecting was a right to Islamic fundamentalism. We have lost the ethos of Kashmiriyat. There is no longer anything left to protect.