My last column, Paradise Lost: What Led to the Decline of ‘Real Kashmiriyat’, has generated quite a buzz, though in a limited circle, which I gather from some of the spirited responses I got from my esteemed readers. While many respondents appreciated my views, some passionately argued that ‘Kashmiriyat’ is a divisive ideology and that we should not embrace it at any cost. Even as I appreciate their concerns – they are valid — I would like to state that the present confusion has been caused because of the misappropriation of the term ‘Kashmiriyat’ by divisive and secessionist forces at a political level. Some readers even warned me that ‘Kashmiriyat’ is an expression of sub-national aspirations and encouraging it will lead to national disintegration. This, according to me, is a misconception. Just because a vociferous section misappropriates it doesn’t mean that we should forsake it forever.
As a young boy, I used to wake up daily listening to the famous Annapurna Stotram, which used to be blared out in the early morning from temples near my home in a remote Kerala village. Written by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th Century, the Stotram (hymns), which is sung by millions of Shakti devotees across the country, is very popular especially in the southern states. Describing Goddess Annapurna, a shloka says:
…Kashmira trijaleswari trilahari nityankurasarvari
(She who dwells in Kashmir; the mistress of the three waters in heaven, earth, and the underworld; and three eternally unfolding waves (Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati), the presiding force of the night)
Another verse says:
…Kashmiragaru vasitha ruchikari Kashi Puradheeshwari
(Whose fragrance is pleasing like that of the fragrant flower of Kashmir (saffron), the Mistress of the City of Kashi) (Translation taken from www.himalayaninstitue.org)
Although, at the literal level, it is an invocation to Goddess Annapurna, at philosophical level, it gives a glimpse of the idea of Kashmiriyat, and Kashmir’s physical, cultural and spiritual connect with the rest of the country. It shows how Goddess Annapurna, the dweller of Kashmir, is a symbol of inclusiveness, assimilation and national integration — at physical, intellectual, and spiritual levels.
Hence, ‘Kashmiriyat’ is Indic in its origin. It is a cultural and spiritual concept that is firmly rooted in Sanatan Dharma. There is no dichotomy between real Kashmiriyat and Hindutva, which revels in pluralism. It would be a gross mistake if we bring it down to the level of a mundane, exclusivist political ideology that draws its philosophical sustenance from a monotheist cult that had its origin in the barren desert lands of Arabia. The Goddess of Kashmir should emanate the fragrance of the saffron flower, as Shankaracharya envisioned — not the stench of human flesh and blood. Therefore, it is important for us to recapture the ‘real Kashmiriyat’ in the greater interest of humanity.
In this context, I would like to congratulate the present government for having nullified Article 370, 35A, etc., which impeded physical, emotional, and cultural integration of Kashmir with the rest of the country.