Dr. Radha Kumar, the author of this book on the political history of Kashmir, mentioned: “Any discussion on Kashmir has to begin with history, however mythologized some of it may be.” So, the book starts with the analysis of the book “Nilamata Purana”, an ancient text from Kashmir which contains information on its history, geography, religion, and folklore which is also known as “Kashmira Mahatmya”. The religion of Islam came to Kashmir officially in the fourteenth century. Interestingly during Kushana’s rule, Buddhism spread to China from Kashmir as well as from east India.
Later Kashmir and China became the ally to fight against Persia and Tibet. Kashmiris always considered themselves as Kashmiris first regardless of what religion they belonged to. They were probably open to new ideas but were never very welcoming to the non-Kashmiri people from outside the valley. Even though many Muslim rulers have destroyed temples and persecuted non-Muslims including Muslim minorities, many sultan or Badshah encouraged cross-pollination of Sanskrit and Persian literature. For example, Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, translated Bhagavad Gita in Persian.
After the Mughal empire’s fall, the Afghans conquered Kashmir but they were even more brutal. The Kashmiris hoped for better when Maharaja Ranjit Singh took over. But nothing changed on the ground. After 30 years of Sikh rule, in 1846 The British sold Kashmir for a sum of 75 lakh to Ranjit Singh’s own appointed governor Dogra Gulab Singh and titled him Maharaja. Dogra dynasty ruled Kashmir for the next hundred years. Kashmiris suffered under all the rulers and even today nothing much has changed. It had grown intellectually isolated wavering from Monarchy to Empire.
Ironically though it was during the Dogra monarchy, one of the worst, Kashmir valley tasted some air of positive changes with British support. But sadly only the educated Hindu, Pandit minorities, and Rajputs were able to utilise those privileges. The majority of Kashmiris still remained poorly schooled Muslims though the demographic composition was 54 percent Muslim to 46 percent Hindu in Jammu and 96 percent Muslim to 4 percent Hindu in Kashmir.
Even before the partition divided this British colony into India and Pakistan, Kashmir valley became the most critical issue to be resolved. There were actually five stakeholders involved whose future depended on the decision of Kashmir’s accession: India, Pakistan, British Government, Maharaja Hari Singh, and the people of Jammu and Kashmir valley.
I was shocked to read how the British played a trick by supporting Pakistan and supplying soldiers because their two-pronged strategy was to build Pakistan as a security partner while strengthening economic ties with India, and how RSS supplied arms to Hindu and Sikh mobs in killing Muslims during partition and became the reason for Kashmiris’ resentment against India even though they were always in favour of India. In contrast, when the entire country, especially Jammu was burning with riots the Kashmir valley was free of any conflicts.
The author makes this book more interesting to read by her unbiased narration of each and every event. As a historian and experienced policy analyst, she has created this excellent documentation based on her own first-hand experiences and study. There are many books on Kashmir but if we should just pick just one to know and understand everything about Kashmir, this should be the one.
A long-lasting peace on the valley can only be possible by talks and not by violence. For the sake of Kashmiris, I just hope an agreement for a successful solution arrives soon. I believe a book such this can help to pave the way towards that goal.
About the author:
DR RADHA KUMAR is a historian and policy analyst who has authored several well-regarded books on ethnic conflict and feminism, including Making Peace with Partition, Divide and Rule?: Bosnia in the Annals of Partition and The History of Doing: Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India, 1800–1990. She was one of the interlocutors appointed for Jammu and Kashmir by the Manmohan Singh administration in 2010.
Author(s): Dr Radha Kumar
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Release: October 2018
Genre: Non Fiction/History
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