(For three weeks now the entire Kashmir Valley has been turned into a huge prison with total blockade of communication within and with outside world)
The intention of the authorities in Delhi appears to cow down Kashmiris to the extent that they bite the dust and give up! This shows the utter lack of knowledge about the Kashmiris and their 5,000 year old history. Kashmir from the ancient times was known to be a very beautiful country somewhere in the Himalaya. One finds mention of Kashmir in almost all ancient chronicles of the Greeks, the Arabs and even the Chinese. There are no other people in this area who have such an ancient recorded history. It used to be the best seat of learning in this entire area. Kashmir had trade relations with Central Asia and people from far and wide used to come here for studies. The most important Buddhist Council which changed this religion from the strictest Hinayana School to the more acceptable Mahayana was held in Kashmir.
Kashmiris are proud of their ancient history. However, the country was an independent sovereign kingdom till the sixteenth century when Akbar, the Mughal King annexed it to his empire through treachery. Mughals had failed twice to capture Kashmir but then Akbar invited the then king Yusuf Shah Chak to Lahore for talks, arrested him there and attacked Kashmir. Being leaderless, Kashmiris still gave a fight and his son Yaqub Shah Chak fought a guerrilla war for six months but was ultimately captured in Kishtwar. Thus ended Kashmir’s independence in 1586!
Since that time the country of Kashmir has been under the occupation of outsiders who took turns in capturing it one after the other. After Mughals came the Afghans. Then came the Sikhs and finally, the Dogras purchased it from the British for a paltry sum of rupees seventy five lakhs along with its inhabitants. All the foreign rulers oppressed the local people so much that they ultimately became wretched serfs without any self-respect and dignity. The four centuries of slavery completely squeezed out of them every semblance of chivalry and manhood and they were turned into characterless bonded labour! However, there were occasional rebellions but these were put down with a harsh hand!
In spite of all the harshest conditions for last four centuries, Kashmiris have survived and are now more vigorous and vocal than ever before! There are no Mughals; there are no Afghans, there is no Sikh empire and there is no Dogra kingdom but the Kashmiris are still there! It is only their misfortune that when the whole sub-continent was having an awakening of freedom and they were expecting to free themselves from the centuries of slavery that they got locked up in a tangle which refuses to go away.However, they have not given up the hope of final salvation. It is the misfortune of the authorities keeping them down that they have not learnt a lesson from Kashmir’s history. Kashmiris will survive all the harshest measures and would still be there. However, on the contrary, the people oppressing themmercilessly may not be there like the oppressors of the earlier times!
For last three weeks the entire valley has been converted into a prison and a virtual concentration camp. There is continuous curfew in the entire valley without any relaxation or break. All communication links within Kashmir and with the outside world have been snapped. Nonstop protests are taking place all over the valley. Protesting teenagers, children and women are being showered with bullets and pellets. Over 50 people have been killed and more than 3,000 injured. As per latest reports, the pellets have affected the eyesight of over 185 persons. The newspaper presses and offices were sealed and papers confiscated. One used to hear about such harsh measures being taken in the countries behind the erstwhile “Iron Curtain”. Some of the measures are even harsher than the “Iron Curtain” measures! Kashmir is supposed to be an integral part of the democratic and secular republic of India. There is no record of similar measures ever having being taken in any other part of the republic of India. The authorities could have learnt a lesson from the happenings of 2008 and 2010. Kashmiris can never be cowed down and they always rise up whenever they feel their existence is being threatened.
For last 70 years it has not been possible for the outside forces to bring down Kashmiris on their knees. They have risen up again and again and will continue to do so in future also. A British author has observed that no outsider has ever been able to know what is really in the heart of a Kashmiri and it is only a kind word and a joke which brings out the best in a Kashmiri.The authorities in Delhi stillseem to believe in cowing down and subduing people rather than winning them over. Probably they have forgotten the saying of the most famous illustrious son of Kashmir, Kalhana, “The country of Kashmir may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit, but not by the force of soldiers!” The time seems to have run out for Delhi and there appears no turning back now!
Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org