Jammu and Kashmir is known throughout the world for its natural beauty. Mughal Emperor Jahangir called it the paradise on earth. His famous quote which remains on the tongue of every local and non-Kashmiri aptly describes his love for Kashmir, “Agar Firdous Baroyay Zameen Ast Hameen Asto Hameen Asto Hameen Ast(If there is paradise on earth it is here, it is here, it is here). We also find mention of the beauty of Kashmir in the chronicles of those foreign visitors who visited Kashmir during the Mughal and Dogra rule. Though Kashmir has always been the centre of attraction for all foreigners and they have cherished its beauty, but its natives , that is Kashmiris, especially Kashmiri Muslims have always been the victim of this natural beauty and endowments thereof. Kashmiris Muslims have always suffered at the hands of the foreign colonial powers be it Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs, Dogras and have been suffering since then, almost perpetually.
After the last native ruler Yousuf Shah Chak, who was abducted by the Mughal mighty ruler Akbar, Kashmir was thrown for the first time in the hands of foreign occupation. Though, Mughals shared their religion with the majority population of the Kashmir , that is, Islam, but Kashmiri Muslims never accepted them as their genuine rulers rather always treated them as foreigners and outsiders. One of the factors that contributed in giving birth to such feelings in Kashmiri Muslims against Mughals was that despite sharing religion with Kashmiri Muslims, Mughals never gave any space to Kashmiri Muslims in their administration.
The key positions of the administration were given to Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims were reduced to perform menial jobs. They were forced to work as barbers, shoe menders, bakers, washers and so on. Very few Kashmiri Muslims were seen in the administration holding some determining and decision making positions. Soon after, Afghans took over Kashmir; the plight of Kashmiri Muslims could not change. Afghan rule is known for its oppression in Kashmir. Though like Mughals, Afghans too shared their religion with Kashmiri Muslims but again this could not give any relief to them.
After Sikhs took the reins of the Kashmir, Kashmiri Muslims’ fate turned black once again. After the sale deed of Kashmir and subsequent taking over of Kashmir by Dogra ruler Gulab Singh, Kashmiri Muslims witnessed worst of oppression, atrocities, and exploitation. Institutional efforts were employed to keep them dwelling in backwardness, ignorance and compelled them to do menial professions. History bears witness to the fact that how Dogra rulers deliberately resorted not to educate Kashmiri Muslims because of fear that it would endanger their despotic rule in Kashmir. This can be clear with the historical fact that first educational institute made for both Muslims and Pandits was established by a Christian missionary and not by the Dogras. Further, the commission (Glancy) that was appointed to look for the ways to educate Kashmiri Muslims, but the report was never followed in letter and spirit.
With the foundation of Muslim Conference, a ray of hope was sprung among Kashmiri Muslims and they looked to the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah as the savior of Kashmiri Muslims. But, this dream too floundered on the rocks of reality: Abdullah diluted this dream of Muslims with the conversion of Muslim Conference into National Conference. Soon after the controversial accession of Kashmir with India, Muslims were worst hit, be it the massacres in Jammu in 1947, 1990s, and ugly years of 2008, 2010 and 2016 and still haunt the Muslims of the state.
All in all what can be culled from the discussion is that Kashmir seems to be under a curse with the predicament of its majority inhabitants getting worse by the day.
—The author studies economics at AMU and hails from Srinagar. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org