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Mohammad Ashraf | 29 JUNE, 2015

The Invincible Kashmiris

Srinagar: weaving shawls in the 1930s


Webster dictionary defines “Invincible” as “incapable of being conquered, overcome, or subdued”. In the historical context, the word describes Kashmiris very appropriately. From the earliest times, Kashmiris have faced both man made and natural calamities. They have faced floods, famines, earthquakes, epidemics and foreign aggressors. However, they have never been subdued or cowed down, by the natural calamities or by human oppression. They may have gone down sometimes but they rise again and again!

Kashmiris have been called timid, cowards, cheats, liars and greedy. Sir Walter Lawrence in the “Valley of Kashmir”, though mentioning the bad traits of Kashmiris states that these weaknesses are not by nature but due to an extremely long period of external suppression. According to him Kashmiris are good at heart and it is the survival instinct which has made them timid and cowardly. Tyndale Biscoe in his book, “Kashmir in Sunlight and Shade” observes that the amount of oppression Kashmiris have undergone over the ages, if the British had faced the same, they would have lost their manhood!

For over last four centuries, they have been often subjugated several times and lost many of their better qualities. They did rebel in a bid to change their destiny several times, but failed. The main misfortune of the people has been their betrayal by their own kinsfolk. Sir Walter Lawrence in his book the “Valley of Kashmir” while commenting on the character of local people observes that two generations of a just and strong rule will bring out the best in a Kashmiri. Unfortunately, we are still to see that just and strong rule!

However, there was some awakening and a possible emancipation during the last century in thirties. Had there been no partition, Kashmiris may have been able to regain their lost sovereignty. Even at the time of the partition they had a chance to reclaim their independent status but their leaders for their own vested interests let them down and put them in such a mess that there appears no escape from a virtual political whirlpool generated by their two warring neighbours.

The last year’s flood supposed to be the worst in a century severely devastated Kashmir especially its capital, Srinagar. Going through different parts of Srinagar one was terribly shaken by the extent of the devastation. There was a general feeling that the city would take at least 10 years to recover. However, the other day while going through the posh shopping areas of Residency Road and Polo View, one could never imagine that these are the same places which had seen almost total destruction! Anyone going through these areas first time can never imagine the status of these immediately after the last flood. The enterprising and invincible Kashmiris have taken everything in their stride and are going full steam ahead regardless of the totally unsympathetic attitude of the authorities both at the state and the central level.

In fact, the Central Government has cut a practical joke on Kashmiris by giving aid which does not even fit the proverbial description ‘peanuts’ ! They had an opportunity of a lifetime to end the extreme alienation of Kashmiris. However, they seem to believe in cowing down and subduing people rather than winning them over. Probably they have forgotten the saying of the most famous illustrious son of Kashmir, Kalhana, “The country of Kashmir may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit, but not by the force of soldiers!”

This should be evident from the thousands of mourners attending the funerals of the militants slain by the security forces in various encounters. The recent total shutdown to protest against the Sopore killings should be an eye opener. The new generation of Kashmiris is totally uncompromising and invincible. They are all leaders in themselves and take their own decisions. They are Kashmir’s future hope!

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