Kashmir: Its Aborigines and their Exodus

Kashmir’s past is seething with unpleasantness but the author refrains from sugarcoating, embellishing, or sandpapering these realities for political correctness or to create a superior impression.

Kashmir: Its Aborigines and their Exodus

Introduction

This is not a book for the faint-hearted or those who choose to live happily with blindfolds. If you have your feet firm on the ground and are courageous enough to take on a journey through unchartered waters, that may even challenge your conditioning – this bold masterpiece on Kashmir is for you.

In addition to people from J&K, all other Indians must also get curious about this book since it elucidates important aspects of our civilization and history. It would clear doubts about the contemporary issues faced by our state. For those interested in defence and international affairs, this is a treat.

Col.Tej K.Tikoo’s work is a brilliant encyclopedia of the state that goes far beyond personal or community-based narratives. It is rich with information and covers a variety of themes around the exoduses of the aborigines. Almost half the book is over when we enter the post-independence era. History lovers cannot afford to overlook this book on Kashmir.

From ancient history until 2019, this one book gives us all that we would wish to know about the state. The comprehensive and widely researched book is a prized contribution to the nation.

The single dominant theme of the book is Col.Tej K.Tikoo’s burning desire to set-right the distorted history and false narratives on Kashmir. The author succeeds in doing so, through mammoth efforts put into the research which is obvious in the detailed references, footnotes, interviews, statistics, etc. His own rich experience as an authority on defence, an ex-army man, and a native Kashmiri is an advantage.

Col.Tikoo’s energetic and lucid style of writing makes the book engaging and delightful. The author’s painstaking effort is laudable. It grants impressive reliability to this priceless hardcover.

The author

Col.Tej K.Tikoo (PhD in Defence Studies) is often seen on TV, as an expert, commenting on subjects such as terrorism, defence, and international affairs. Born and brought up in Srinagar, he was recruited into the Naga Regiment and fought the 1971 Indo-Pak war in the East. He has served several years on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir or fighting the insurgency. In 2011, he served as the elected President of ‘Kashmiri Migrant Welfare Association’. In 2017, he became the Editor in Chief of NAAD (a community journal) and in 2018 he was elected as the President of the All India Kashmiri Samaj.

A summary

Kashmir: Its Aborigines and their Exodus is an attractive hardcover book adorned with Veer Munshi’s oil painting called “Hope Against Hope”.  The painting shows Kashmiri Pandits queuing up to register as “migrants” in Jammu. With excellent print quality, this voluminous book is a collection of well-researched essays, carefully divided into nineteen chapters with maps, data tables, charts, graphs, and detailed appendices that prove to be very helpful. This summary has been divided into convenient sections for ease of reading.

Ancient history

Starting from the earliest evidence of human settlements, the author passionately takes us through the ancient history of Kashmir. It is an uplifting read, with legends from the Purans and archaeological findings, both given their due importance. Kashmir’s rich heritage from the Vedic period and its imposing place in our civilization, the various Hindu and Buddhist dynasties, etc., are all wonderfully elaborated. The reader is left spellbound with the grandiosity of the land.

Islamic rule

Muslims who were being persecuted in Persia and other regions were given refuge by Hindu rulers. It was these refugees who treacherously established Islamic rule in Kashmir from the 14th to the early 19th century. There are vivid descriptions of events leading to the six lesser-known gruesome mass exoduses of Hindus from the Valley.

Medieval history is teeming with deplorable details, one being, a book called Zakhirat-ul-Mulk that described the most demeaning conditions that are recommended to be enforced upon non-Muslim subjects by Muslim rulers, to let them live!

The Islamic period is an eye-opener to the cruelties committed on the indigenous people of Kashmir in the name of religion by Suni and Shia sects. The demographic shift to Islam started ages ago. The gripping read, leaves you outraged but with a few random breathers given here and there, owing to the kinder reigns of Zain-ul-Abidin and Akbar, the splendid Mughal gardens, and Habba Khatoon’s romance.

Sikh and Dogra Rule

The dark period of Kashmir temporarily ended with the commencement of Sikh rule (1819). After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, there was a vigorous power play between the British, Dogras, and Sikhs. The British shrewdly used their ‘divide and rule’ policy. Maharaja Gulab Singh established Dogra rule and the Jammu and Kashmir state was formed. It is surprising to learn that during the reign of the Dogras, Kashmiri Pandits led a movement demanding the State-Subject Law that was vehemently opposed by the Muslims. The dynamic political developments of this time are pertinent for the reader to grasp since they prepared the ground for future troubles.

Land, its people and culture  

Diverse cultural and geographical descriptions of Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, and Gilgit-Baltistan have been enthusiastically represented. Areas of strategic importance to India and interaction with Pakistan have been extensively explored. The author makes a soothing entry into Kashmir by quoting Kalhanas captivating words from the Rajtarangini. The mesmerizing beauty of the Valley is further infused with life through stories and events. The reader relishes the charm of the land while staying well-grounded in reality.

Plunging into the Kashmiri Pandit community, Col.Tikoo describes their history and culture. Intriguing details on innovative methods devised to preserve their culture through the long periods of Islamic persecution are presented. The intense intellectual activity of the region is seen in the form of its vast contribution to literature, arts, dance, music, science, spirituality and philosophy. The fascinating particulars offered, would leave you amazed.

Kashmiriyat

From some peaceful regional concept that is implied by the word “kashmiriyat”, to who really coined it (quite a shock) and when – the read is scintillating with naked ground reality. It would tease journalists, scholars, and politicians who use this word liberally in various discourses. The author effectively and objectively reviews statements made in books, and by eminent people. Armed with simple facts and logic, in non-flowery language, Col.Tikoo succeeds outstandingly in ending misconceptions.

The beginning of the Kashmir problem

The genesis of the Kashmir problem and the events between 1931 and 1947 are vigilantly dissected. Events of partition and international developments are thoroughly dealt with. The personalities and journeys of prominent leaders like Sheikh Abdullah, Nehru, Maharaja Hari Singh, Jinnah, and their contribution to the Kashmir issue are meticulously exposed. Important topics like the entrenching of communalism in state politics, Accession, Pathan invasion, massacres, and role of the British and UN, etc., are elaborated.

An engrossing first-person account of Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw is given. Justice AS Anand, Air Marshal KC Cariappa (Rtd) and Major General Hira Lal Atal, and other prominent people from the Forces have shared vital inputs. The Indo-Pak war, China, and international events are discussed at length. A patient study of this sumptuous portion of the book grants enormous clarity on complex subjects, and India’s defence and foreign policy.

Article 370 

Starting with Sheikh Abdullah’s fascinating quotation, the author briskly moves into the historical background of Article 370, stating all the problems it created. Legalities of Article 370 and 35A and the questions and myths around it have been elucidated. The rationale behind the Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A and the reorganization of J&K, have been justified with clear-cut explanations.

Kashmir’s politics

Amidst the fine intricacies of the politics of J&K, we are introduced to the long rule of Sheikh Abdullah, supported by Nehru. Why did large numbers of Hindus leave Kashmir in the 1950s? What position did the Indian Union take towards shamelessly open communal politics and loud slogans like ‘Indian dogs go back’? What was the majority’s pulse? What (and who) helped Pakistan embed themselves so deeply? What was the impact of the Indo-Pak and Indo-China wars? What allowed rapid Islamization of the state in the late ’70s in “secular” India – even cinemas were shut on Fridays!? While Col.Tikoo dispassionately answers all these questions, the reader gets passionately involved in the page-turner that is quite shocking and infuriating.

Rising terrorism and Pakistan’s role 

Owing to the unique position of J&K with Article 370 and intimate ties of Nehru and family with the Abdullah’s, we learn how Farooq Abdullah came to power. If you wondered what made an Indian politician make the recent comment that Kashmiris don’t feel they’re Indian, the study of his political career and Kashmir turning into a divine playground for terrorists, Islamists, and Pakistanis, shall clear all doubts. The author uncovers lesser-known truths and events that helped gather storm for the horrors to unfold.

Kashmir was a fertile terror playground for Pakistan with ample local support at myriad levels. Kashmiri Pandits were made a target, being “pro-India” kaffirs. Pakistan’s local and international politics have been detailed, covering its Islamization in the ’70s under Zia-ul-Haque and its adoption of jihad as state policy. The emergence of Inter Services Intelligence’s (ISI) power, its international role, and involvement in J&K since 1969 are explained. Pakistan launched ‘Operation Topac’ in J&K (1988). The author expands upon it and we learn about the rise of organizations like Hizbul Mujahideen, Hurriyat, etc. What made thousands of Kashmiri Muslim youth support this and join terror outfits? If you believe that it was for political and economic reasons, the nasty realities could be devastating. Suspense interspersed with alarming information engages us further.

The horrific genocide  

Col.Tikoo quickly revisits the six exoduses of Kashmiri Hindus and demonstrates how history simply repeated itself the seventh time. One would find it hard to digest the disgraceful words of Nehru spoken at the annual session of the National Conference (August 1945). Further, the author expresses how several warning signals went ignored by Pandits. Some incidents of violence are touched upon. The manipulation of public opinion in the rest of India through the spread of disinformation is stressed. The first-hand accounts of Jagmohan, Kedarnath Sahni, Director General of J&K Police, and others, plus prominent Kashmiri Pandits, including the author himself, impart immense worth and keep the interest thriving through sinister topics.

Starting with the cold-blooded selective assassinations of distinguished Kashmiri Pandits in September 1989, the author takes us through the massacre of kaffirs and secular Kashmiri Muslims with nationalist leanings. The zealous men unleashed a well-orchestrated terror operation. Streets echoed with their marches and deafening Islamic war cries. Innumerable local Muslims deceitfully facilitated the bloodcurdling murders of their neighbours, friends, and associates. What instigated them, is something we get to learn about. Even now, uncountable murderers and conspirers roam free in Kashmir, and this has mummed thousands of voices that remain threatened. Many non-fanatic Muslims took to Wahabi Islam succumbing to fear.

Did we know that the terror party called Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) was entirely made of local Kashmiri Muslims? What was this “liberation” they were fighting for? Are we aware of the dehumanizing rapes, chopping off of limbs, gouging of eyes, stitching of lips, nailing of tilak marks, and such gruesome tortures that were done by the terrorists before killing victims? Have we heard about bodies floating in the Jhelum? Do these even sound like the events of a democratic nation? Where were the government and police? What happened in hospitals? We have to find out.

The freezing blood-soaked night of January 1990, has been covered minute by minute as the author also relates his direct experience, taking the reader through the pages with bated breath. Why were the Pandits targeted? What was the fate of Sikhs? How did the rest of India and the world react? Just reading this gives one sleepless nights.

It all happened on Indian soil, only about 30 years ago. It is not some occurrence brought out from dust-laden archives. Why are most Indians still ignorant about this ethnic cleansing? Why has the media and education system remained silent? Some critical questions are answered.

 The seventh exodus, its aftermath and rehabilitation

The exodus of over 3.5 lac survivors out of the Valley, their unimaginable losses, and the pitiable state of the refugee camps have been enumerated. Basic human rights have been denied. Would the Kashmiri majority welcome the Pandits back home? What about their properties? What would ensure safe rehabilitation? Serious issues are addressed. While the author does not forget to give due credit to those Kashmiri Pandits who managed to turn adversity into opportunity and have made a mark at a national and international level.

Myths perpetuated to justify violence  

Col.Tikoo has rightfully granted an entire chapter to the myths that have been disseminated to justify violence in the Valley. All points made by the author are supported heavily by data, statistics, and other authentic evidence. This would enlighten many who have fallen prey to untrue narratives.

Conclusion

“Kashmir: Its Aborigines and their Exodus” is a powerful, refreshing, and straightforward account on the state, with the author unquestionably rooted in the spirit of Satyam-eva Jayate.

It teaches us how we stand on flimsy grounds when we do not know the actual history of our nation. It empowers us with extensive information on Kashmir so that we may freely and meaningfully form our own opinions.

This book successfully rescues us from misinformation and fake propaganda that has also been fueled by an influential segment of Kashmiris (Hindus and Muslim) who are plagued with negationism, Stockholm syndrome, vague ideas of secularism and, vested interest.

Col.Tikoo has done the work of a soldier through the intellect, serving us humbly with this book that acts as a protective armour of knowledge.

Kashmir’s past is seething with unpleasantness but the author refrains from sugarcoating, embellishing, or sandpapering these realities for political correctness or to create a superior impression. Col.Tikoo, being a seasoned army man, has effortlessly emerged victorious in keeping evidence at the core of this project, rather than his own ethnic identity, emotions, and biases.

The book displays tremendous maturity and compassion through the substantial documentation of Kashmir’s events. The ancient history gives a sense of pride in one’s heritage, and contemporary history serves as an eye-opener and a healing balm of acknowledgement for those who faced terror.

Only after acknowledgement, does healing happen, justice is sought, transformation occurs, and society evolves. This harsh learning dawned upon mankind in World War II, and no responsible society must forget it.

Col.Tej K.Tikoo’s big contribution deserves a salute of the nation. This repository of knowledge must be owned, especially by all those from the state. The book shall be treasured by generations to come and is a must-read for every Indian who seeks answers and wishes to learn the correct history of India and its regions.

 

Book Links: i) Lancer Publishers

ii) Amazon

 

(Note: Kindly ensure you buy the revised edition published in 2020.)

About Author: Mudita Badhwar

Mudita is a housewife and a perpetual student. She is in awe of ancient temples, loves to be in nature, and explore Indian arts and crafts.

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