Primarily Indians and Pakistanis are the same people; similar cuisine, customs,languages etc. They divided their country on the basis of religion courtesy the two nation theory. And the division was not a peaceful one. In fact it saw one of the worst human atrocities ever. A million or so souls were lost. Thousands and thousands of women were raped and abducted on either side. The bloody partition had a fundamental role in shaping the identities of the two countries. Indian nationalism has an element of anti Pakistanism as an essential part of it. Same holds true for Pakistani nationalism. Pakistan sees Kashmir as an unfinished agenda of partition. India sees it as some sort of consolation for the partition. Both have been jostling over it for 71 years now. Kashmir has unfortunately become a battlefield for competing nationalisms of the two countries and an essential part of their national identity. The identity of Kashmir has been forgotten in the process.
Kashmir is very different from both India and Pakistan. Kashmiri language is neither close to Urdu nor to Hindi. It is a Dardic language where as both Urdu and Hindi are Indo Aryan languages. Kashmiri cuisine is unique too. Biryani is as much a novelty for Kashmir as Wazwan is for India and Pakistan. The customs and culture of Kashmir are as different from the two countries as much theirs are similar to one another. Same holds true for climate, racial features, topography, literature etc. These differences are quite visible and Kashmiris are quite conscious of them. Kashmiri identity has proved resilient enough not to be subsumed by competing identities of India and Pakistan.
During the days of anti-imperialist struggle in India, neither Indian national congress nor the Muslim league had any significant presence in Kashmir. In fact Kashmir didn’t join the debate on the Muslim question in India in any significant manner. Kashmiri people had their own problems to contend with. Neither did they identify in any large measure with the Muslims of India at the time .Same could be said about the Kashmiri Pandits and the Hindus of India. When India was divided and communal carnage was the order of day in the north and the east, Kashmir remained completely peaceful. This despite the Punjab and Jammu massacres unfolding close by. Gandhi remarked that he saw a ray of hope in Kashmir amidst the communal holocaust.
Despite the apparent disconnect between the concerns and Identities of the people of Kashmir and the rest of the subcontinent, Kashmiris have made important contributions to the nation building process in both these countries. Allama Iqbal is not only the national poet of Pakistan but also one of its foremost founding ideologues. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru can be safely said to be the architect of modern India. Ancestors of both had migrated from Kashmir. In fact the current prime minister of Pakistan is also of Kashmiri stock. Unfortunately what Kashmir has got in return has been sordid. It has been turned into a battlefield for competing nationalisms of the two nuclear powers.
In 1947 they carved out Kashmir amongst themselves dividing villages, towns, people and hearts in the process. There is a village in Kashmir where a rivulet is the line of control, the defactoborder. Since 1947 people have been gathering on festival days to shout greetings to each other. There are many such villages and towns with divided families on either side. What is the identity of these villages? Indians, Pakistanis or an oppressed people with superimposed artificial national identities.
Since 1990 an estimated 70000 Kashmiri civilians have been killed. Hundreds of women have been raped. More than ten thousand people have disappeared in custody. Lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits have had to leave their home, hearth and land. They have been forced to live in alien climatic, cultural, and linguistic environs. All this in the service of a conflict which is little of their making. If Indians want to avenge the partition of their country or the Pakistanis want to avenge the horrors of the partition, let them do that in the plains of Punjab or in the deserts of Rajasthan. Kashmir played no part in all that. Why should its people suffer?
Mohd Azhardin Ganayee, Research Scholar, IIT-Madras