What surprises me these days is not the fact that Hindus all over India fret and fume over the Islamization of Kashmir. What does surprise me is the short memory Hindus have. We Hindus as a nation in our own right have totally forgotten Kashmir’s short medieval history, for if we ever bothered to open those books and check out Kashmiri history, we would know that whatever is happening today has been happening in one way or another for about 700 years.
Kashmir was a land that always lay at a curious crossroads. To its south lay the rest of Vedic Bharatavarsha. To its west the mysterious land of Gandhara. To north lay the treacherous Pamir knot through which very few people came. To its east lay Tibet. Now Kashmir had been a centre of Vedic culture for centuries. Shiva and the Sun God Surya seem to have been the most popular deities in this land at all times. In fact, the land itself gets its name from the ancient sage Kashyap – progenitor of the Gods.
Kashyap Sar was the name of Kashmir originally. The Sun God seems to have been so very popular as His name is seen as a suffix ‘-Aditya’ in the names of many famous rulers of Kashmir as well as the presence of some sun temples. The Kamboja Kshatriyas of Gandhara seemed to have ruled Kashmir for a long time in the Vedic past and most of Kashmir’s oldest shrines – despite the anachronism in their histories, can be dated back to the Vedic era.
Kashmir’s peculiar position made it a crossroads to many people but the one thing Kashmir ended up doing was that it made its settlers Hindus. The Kushan, the Hun, the Mongol, the Uighur – all adopted Hinduism or some syncretic form of Tibetan Buddhism and lived happily in Kashmir. But that was not to last for long.
It was sometime during the reign of the Lohara dynasty under king Suhadev that a Turko-Mongol chieftain named Zulchu invaded Kashmir. Suhadev, defeated in battle, fled the land to Kathwar – a land in today’s Himachal Pradesh. At this time there was a power vacuum as there were many Hindu chieftains and generals left to defend the lands from the Mongol ravages, but no consolidated leader. Here is where our actual tale begins.
There was a Buddhist Tibetan by the name of Rinchan who assembled the chieftains and was able to rally their armies. He fought off the Mongol Zulchu and drove him out of Kashmir. But now, all records about him are biased as they are mostly Islamic records. So while we back-track the records trying to read between the lines, we know that Rinchan’s life will largely be what the Muslim records tell us. Beyond a point, we won’t know what his life was. But two interesting points are to be noted here – He was a Buddhist Tibetan. The first Muslim communities were actually settling down in interior Kashmir.
Rinchan was according to Muslim annals like the Baharistan-i Shahi, ‘not accepted by Hindu chiefs once Zulchu was defeated.’ This is hardly even a possibility for if they did not accept him, he would have never been their leader in the struggle in the first place. What we do know is that Rinchan was a religious nihilist and an irreligious man as corroborated by Muslim chronicles.
At this time, one particular settler in Kashmir (probably descended from the pre-Islamic now-Islamic lords of Swat valley) named Shah Mir was in fact present in the court of Kashmir. We note here that the Muslim settlers in Kashmir actually had people in the court – a reflection of the Hindu attitude of that era of involving all faiths in the administration. Shah Mir at this time had an overbearing influence on Rinchan who was unabashedly showing favouritism to Kashmir’s Muslims.
Rinchan quickly married Kotarani, the daughter of Ramachandra Dev – a Kashmiri general and unseated a lot of minor nobles loyal to the former Lohara king. He appointed nobles loyal to him and thereby strengthened his power. Before Rinchan died, he did two things – Convert to Islam, and make Shah Mir the Prime Minister of Kashmir.
The year was around 1323. No Kashmiri noble minded Rinchan’s conversion except a very few. Kashmir’s culture was so very heterogenous in history, that no one really foresaw what Rinchan’s conversion to Islam and Shah Mir’s elevation to Prime Ministership really meant. Rinchan had ended his career as a tyrant who arbitrarily deposed Hindu nobles and was in fact opposed for his conversion only very little. At the time of his death, Kotarani and her brother Ravan Raina asked the brother of the former Lohara king Suhadev, Udyanadev, to come and take the throne. Udyana returned to Kashmir from his exile in Kathwar and married Kotarani.
Here is where we see Islamization taking its full shape.
Kashmir witnessed a Turkic invasion from Central Asia which was much smaller in scale than that of Zulchu. At this point, Shah Mir saw the opportunity of taking all of Kashmir’s noble into his trust. One of the most veteran nobles named Tejeh Kakehpuri supported Shah Mir over Udyana because he like many other nobles believed that more than a person’s faith, their ability mattered.
Once the Turkic raiders had been driven out of Kashmir, Udyana was forced to flee under circumstances which are fairly murky. But when he did flee to Tibet from Shah Mir, Shah Mir took the throne. At this time, Kotarani tried to take the throne but with the support of Tejeh Kakehpuri, Shah Mir not only defeated her in battle at Andarkol, but also forcefully took her to his harem. When he did this, Tejeh Kakehpuri understood his fatal error. When he raised an army to depose Shah Mir, the other nobles supported Shah Mir and Tejeh was killed.
Shah Mir became the Sultan of Kashmir.
By the time Shah Mir died in 1342, the Dogra Rajput chieftains and other Kashmiri nobles had wholeheartedly accepted the fact that a non-Hindu would rule them. In fact, they seemed to have taken great in the Shah Miri dynasty in serving them. The 2 older sons of Shah Mir Alauddin and Jamshid fought a minor civil war and their reign saw nothing eventful. But what we observe in retrospect about their reign is that going by the deeds of Shah Mir’s descendants, it becomes clear that the Hindu chieftains and nobles supported this house of Muslim rulers and therefore they could never really have rejected Rinchan’s rule on the grounds that he was a foreigner. Islamic narratives always try to portray the Hindu side as a fundamentally flawed hateful anti-Islamic society which Rinchan tried to ‘reform’ and hence converted to Islam. But from the way the nobles accepted Shah Mir’s sons as their rulers seemed to throw this rhetorically repeated lie out of the window.
Alauddin and his son Shihabuddin made Kashmir an empire. They expanded almost till Delhi’s gates and became a strange kingdom in the sense that they were led by Muslims with a Hindu administration.
At this time (1350-60s), we see the ugly side of many Hindu nobles in Kashmir – they watched and did nothing as Shihabuddin destroyed the Chakradhar and Vijayeshwar temple complexes at Beejbahar and killed every single Hindu therein. Not one of his chieftains batted an eyelid. In fact, they stayed silent as long as he gave them land in return.
At this time there arrived in Kashmir the second column of Islamization – the Sufis. Sayyid Ali Hamadani was a Sufi from Hamadan in Iran wherefrom he brought a large number of followers into Kashmir. Under the patronage of Shihabuddin’s son Qutbuddin, he began preaching feverishly. As the Hindu’s of Kashmir did absolutely nothing even now, Sayyid had a free hand and a king’s patronage. For the first time in Kashmir’s history (in 1371), a dress code was promulgated to all Hindus – an Islamic dress code.
By this time, lucrative economic positions were in the hands of Hindu stooges of the sultan or the sultan’s own family members. No doubt the Muslim minority enjoyed the perks of being Muslim. But now came more foreigners and this was about to take an all new turn in the coming generations. At this time, after having established Islamic schools and Islamic laws over Kashmir (through Qutbuddin’s offices), Sayyid Ali had a falling out with the king Qutbuddin as he felt that Qutbuddin was not zealous enough in spreading Islam. Sayyid Ali then left Kashmir on the pretext of going to Mecca.
In 1393, Qutbuddin died and then came to power his son – Sikandar.
The son of Sayyid Ali, Mir Muhammad came to Kashmir at this time. Both Mir Muhammad and Sikandar had one goal right from the start – The complete and total Islamization of Kashmir. And for this he would take the epithet of ‘Butshikan’ literally in Persian – ‘The idol smasher.’
The board was set –
- A strong administration made up of avaricious puppet Hindus.
- A very strong loyalty base for the king’s family.
- A tried, tested and proven fact that the Hindu chiefs of Kashmir cared little by now for Hinduism.
The dice was to be cast. Mir Muhammad now came with more than just an army – He came with large groups of foreign faith militants. These were Afghan and Iranian Muslim thug gangs that acted as a faith police, demolishing shops, wine breweries, musical instruments and implemented Sharia at the street level. These were Sufi orders arriving from Eastern Iran which acted as strong arm street level enforcer units.
At this time, Timur was invading Eastern Iran and he expelled many of the Sufis out of the region. These refugees came over the Himalayas into Kashmir and in them, Sikandar saw an opportunity. By bringing them into Kashmir with royal patronage, he not only was able to skew the demographics in his favour, but also had a private army of faith police.
Added to this was the fact that Mir Muhammad’s father Sayyid Ali had left behind a huge preaching network that would brainwash the populace. These orders were given to Mir Muhammad to fully train and control as he pleased.
Sikandar targeted temples and allowed Mir Muhammad’s gangs to ransack anything they saw. The most remarkable thing happened at this time – Malik Suh Bhatt – the Hindu army chief of Sultan Sikandar converted to Islam and now all the armies of Kashmir were steadily islamized as chief after chief in his avarice to garner favour abandoned his own faith and people. They were deployed to ransack their own temples, monasteries and even homes of people. Kashmir was reduced to a state similar to what you can see in Iraq today.
In all this, many Hindu villages were depopulated, massacred and burned. Many Hindus simply ran out of Kashmir. The Bayhaqi Sayyids – the post-Timurid exiles from Iran, now entered into the lands the Hindus had abandoned and settled them. Most of Kashmir’s Hindu heritage had been wiped clean by 1410.
In all this –
- The Jugdev temple lay in a smouldering heap.
- The Marthand sun temple – one of the only Vedic Mithraic temples of India had been all but leveled to the ground.
- Numerous libraries attached to the temples were destroyed with all the texts in them.
- The Panj-hazara Mahadev temple was turned to rubble.
- Kashmir’s demography itself was transformed from a 100% Hindu state to a near 100% Muslim state.
- Muslim only had the permission of the Sultan to own property.
- All Hindu crafts made of gold or silver was melted down to make coins to finance the Islamization project.
The culture of using freebooting Sufi militants at a time when troops in the regular army were lacking, was prevalent in Iran in those days. The Mongol Khan of Iran – Ghazan Khan had converted to Islam less than a century before this and had instituted the practice of allowing these Sufi mercenary militia to operate within his lands. These orders were known as Futtuwa and they came in handy in Kashmir.
The Sayyid Futtuwas were given full rights to build pirs, dargahs and mosques on the ruins of temples, and Madrassahs on the ruins of libraries. All in all, Kashmir’s demography and its culture had been wiped clean off the slate and replaced with total Islamization. Kashmir in just a few years became a Muslim majority region.
The last Hindus to rebel against this tide of Islamization were bands of Kashmiris under Raja Jasrath (of whom almost nothing is known today) in the 1460s and 1470s. But it was too late. Large bands of Sufi Futtuwa descended repeatedly on Jasrath’s fortress for over a decade unable to defeat him. Finally, after Sikandar’s son Zainul Abedin had also died, the total extermination of Jasrath’s fortress was carried out by Amir Shamsuddin Muhammad Iraqi – an Iraqi general. After Jasrath’s revolt, there were never any major native revolts by the Hindus in Kashmir against the Islamic rule.
Formerly Hindu noble houses such as the Chandas, the Chak, Raina, Rawal, Thakur, Magray – all were by now Islamized completely and still in control of the offices of the realm which they held formerly as Hindus. And somehow, these Muslim Kashmiris seem to actually remember and maintain records of their Hindu past – grudgingly but nevertheless, willingly.
After his reign, there were numerous wars between the Muslims of the land and then again in the early 16th century, there was a huge massacre of Hindus by the hundreds.
What changed in Kashmir:
When Maharaj Ranjit Singh conquered southern Kashmir, a good many of the Afghan and Iranian settlers therein where expelled – almost 400 years after they had driven out the Hindus in the land and occupied it. And when Ranjit Singh died, the British let Kashmir fall into oblivion in history. If we notice post 1947, Jinnah did the exact same thing in Punjab and Kashmir as did Sikandar Butshikan – take Afghan hillmen from the west and ethnically supplant Hindus and Sikhs with them. This would be the dictionary definition of ethnic cleansing. In fact, Ranjit Singh’s campaign was the only thing that saved the doddering Hindu ethnicity of the Kashmir valley.
Once August the 15th 1947 had dawned, the rebels who began to fight Hari Singh were the same Afghans of upper Kashmir whose forefathers had systematically committed holocaust against the Hindus of that land. Is it even surprising that Kashmir is the way it is today? Not to me. Nor to anybody who has a shred of knowledge of Kashmir’s history. Alas, what Maharaj Ranjit Singh did for the Hindus in Kashmir in the 1700s was betrayed by our very own democratic India, which turned a blind eye in 1990 when the valley of Kashmir was finally cleansed of Hindus – who were either forced to run away or were raped and killed.
Kashmir valley and upper Kashmir (Gilgit-Baltistan region) have no more Hindus left today. The travesty in all this is that while the left wing in India including members of the Congress and AAP have repeatedly said that Kashmir’s people alone can decide their future, they deliberately ignore the fact that those in Kashmir today are not its people. They are those carpetbagging occupiers who were imported into the region and are still being imported into the region purely out of a desire to ethnically cleanse the Hindu identity of Kashmir.