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1st June '2008
Institute of Kashmir Studies
(Myopic Vision Document attempts to bull doze History)
 

The news report in a national English daily about the recent inauguration of the Institute of Kashmir Studies in the University of Kashmir stated, “As President Pratibha Patil inaugurated the Institute of Kashmir Studies (IKS) at Kashmir University, there was conspicuous absence of students and scholars. The University had not invited its students and scholars instead school children had come for the function….The University as a security measure, had closed all hostels and asked the boarders to go home.” The report further stated, “Meanwhile, it was a terrible time for the people living in Hazratbal and its neighbourhoods on Monday as the security agencies clamped an undeclared curfew in the area. All the roads leading to Hazratbal were closed and people had to walk for miles to reach their destinations. At Hazratbal, where President Patil was to inaugurate the Institute of Kashmir Studies, all shops and establishments were closed”. A day after the inauguration, there were violent protests in the University Campus against the forced evacuation of boarders. Not a very friendly way to begin an academic institution! Well, the Institute which is the re-christened form of the earlier Centre inaugurated in 2006 had run into controversies right from the very beginning. In fact, immediately after the inauguration of the Centre in 2006, the Director who was a reputed historian was replaced by a scholar of Kashmir Saivism. This had prompted me to write an article, “Sanskritising Kashmiriyat”, which to me seemed the main purpose of the initiative taken by the highest authorities of the University in establishing the Centre. Now, the so called “Kashmiriyat” has been completely hijacked by them. The vision document of the Institute which has been set up with the support of the Indian Chapter of South Asia Foundation, states, “Historically Kashmir has been an integral part of the cultural mosaic of India and no study of Kashmiri thought and culture is possible without situating it within the broader perspective of Indian thought and culture.” This is not only a travesty of historical facts but a brazen attempt to bull doze Kashmir Studies towards a non-existent thought! Even at the peak of its glory, the “Hindu” Kashmir did not have any significant interaction with North India due to the basic difference in its religious philosophy. Kashmir has been the fountainhead of Saivite philosophy while as North India follows Vedanta philosophy. Even the basic script of the Kashmiri language, Sarda script is different from Sanskrit. Sir Aurel Stein in his translation of Raj Tarangni mentions, “Compared to numerous references in Greek, Chinese and Arabic literature, there is a lamentable lack of exact geographical mention of Kashmir in general Sanskrit literature. Judging from the extreme scantiness of the data, it is clear that Kashmir to them was a country foreign and remote in every way. The name Kasmira is mentioned as the designation of the country and its people but in a very vague fashion. The Mahabharata refers in many passages to Kasmiras and their rulers but in a general manner without giving distinct location of the country. The most specific piece of information regarding Kashmir that Sanskrit literature outside the Valley furnishes is in the term Kasmira or Kasmiraja that designates Saffron and Kustha for which it was famous since ancient times.” The present attempt at limiting the scope of Kashmir Studies under the garb of Kashmiriyat can best be summed up by a quote from “Kashmir Rediscovered” by Dr.Abdul Ahad a contemporary historian, “The projection of this individuality through “Kashmiriat” is nothing but a histrionic gesture; a sinister move to legitimize the position of the disputed Kashmir as India’s peripheral, subservient and sub-national constituency and equate it with Punjabiat, Bengaliat, Gujratiat, Maharashtriat etc; the undisputed sub-identities of all pervasive Indian National Identity.” But Kashmir is different and has its own historic individuality. Kashmir has not only been a hub of learning for the sub-continent and South Asia but for the entire Asian continent and even beyond. Strangely the “scholars” of the Kashmir Institute seem to have forgotten that the most important event which changed the Buddhist learning completely was the holding of the fourth Buddhist Council in Kashmir. Not only was the Council attended by scholars from all over Asia but its teachings transformed the Hinayan School into Mahayana which were carried by Bhikshus to far off places. The Buddhist period of Kashmir history is an important aspect for any study which may be undertaken by the Institute. Similarly, the last eight centuries have carried the profoundest influence of Shah-I-Hamadan, Mir Syed Ali Hamadani who in real terms was an “Apostle of Kashmir”. Shah-I-Hamadan was not only a religious preacher but a real transformer of entire Kashmir society. Kashmir’s present is more akin to Hamadan in Iran and to Tajikistan in Central Asia, the two places where the great “Apostle of Kashmir” was born and is buried than to North India with which it has very little commonality. It is because of a political, psychological, and physical siege of last 60 years that the valley of Kashmir has been completely isolated from its historical connections. Blocking out these historical connections and digging out only the “Hindu” past is not going to strengthen Kashmir’s relationship with India. In fact, it is bound to give rise to resistance and reaction alienating Kashmiris further from the Indian mainstream. Knowledge cannot be compartmentalised. It has to be all inclusive and unrestrained. It would be in keeping with India’s “Unity in diversity” if a free hand is given to scholars to study all aspects of Kashmir without any pre-determined agenda. One fails to understand why the top brass of the University proclaiming to be objective and unbiased research scholars have gone along with the distortion of such a prestigious academic institution? It gives rise to apprehensions that these people may have come with a pre-determined mindset? It is incumbent upon Kashmir’s intellectuals and scholars to resist this persistent onslaught aimed at mutilating and distorting our present by digging out specific portions of our past suited to a bigoted vision of certain rabidly communal, parochial, and chauvinist lobbies. They are doing more harm than good to India’s secular image. Incidentally, a number of people including myself who are supposed to be on the Advisory Committee of the Centre for Kashmir Studies were not invited for the inaugural function for reasons best known to the organisers. May be like the boarders who were turned out, we too (because of our views) are considered a “security risk” for the myopic “Vision Document”. If that be so, then our stand is vindicated!

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