Anytime I’ve had a conversation with an American about Kashmir, the first thing they think of is the Led Zeppelin song. And then the conversation ultimately goes to which Zep album we think is the best. The answer is ‘IV’. Some people think it’s ‘I’ or ‘Physical Graffiti’ and the truly wrong say ‘In Through The Outdoor’, but the correct response is ‘IV’.
If it’s not an argument about Led Zeppelin, they usually tell me how Kashmir is their favorite kind of sweater…
As controversial as what the best Led Zeppelin album is, the subject of Kashmir, the occupied territory north of India is an even more controversial subject. Kashmir is currently the most militarized place on Earth; second only to any city in America where the cops have killed innocent people of color. Come to think of it, perhaps the militarized police is just an attempt at America trying to be number one at something again! Look America, you’re already number 1 in prisons & war & reality TV franchises & Dorito flavors! Nobody asked for an extreme pickle & Mountain Dew flavor corn chip, but you did it anyway! Maybe take it down a few notches and let someone else take a crack at ‘Best Oppressor’.
I’m not exaggerating about Kashmir. Currently there are at minimum 500,000 Indian troops occupying this region & the Indian government is aiming to add more. There’s mass media censorship, a total communication lockdown – which yes, sounds like the Weird Al version of the Led Zeppelin song, ‘Communication Breakdown’ – and a military rule of the region. In order to understand how and why this happened, we have to look at the history of the Kashmir valley!
The story of Kashmir’s origin comes from Sage Kashyapa who drained a lake so his people can find a home. That region became known as Kashyapamir or Kashmir for short. This area became a central worship point for the Hindu God Shiva and Buddhism. In fact, Buddhism was introduced to China & Tibet through the Kashmir Valley! Eventually the Sultan Dynasty introduced Islam to the valley, which would become the prominent religion in the area.
Now this sounds like a powder-keg waiting to go off, but in reality there was co-existence between the religions. In fact that was the prevailing philosophy that governed Kashmir: co-existence or Kashmiryat. This co-existence made this region an even bigger hub for trading, business and tourism than it was before. Kashmir was the Indus Valley’s Silk Road.
During the 400 years of the Sultan Dynasty, Hindus were a minority. Despite this, the Hindu Pandits were given a higher class status than most of the Muslims in the valley. Pandits were the scholars, educators and academics, which allowed them become successful businesspeople in the region. While most of the Muslims were peasants and artisans who worked the land that the Hindu Pandits owned.
Following the Sultan Dynasty, the Mughals were in power for 200 years. The Afghans overthrew them and established Kashmir’s very first dictatorship. You always remember your first…dictator…I’ll never forget mine, Dick Cheney. I always keep a photo of him right under my Sword of Damocles.
But the Afghans were overthrown by Sikh warriors, who expanded Kashmir’s borders under the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. A few years before a treaty was struck, the Maharaja died, passing the torch to one of his sons, Gulab Singh. After striking the Treaty of Chusul in 1842 with China, Kashmir’s borders were clearly defined, ranging from present day Afghanistan to China, and trade in region was restarted.
Following this, Gulab Singh allied himself with Colonel Lawrence of England’s East India Trading Company. The English were at war with Sikh nation of Punjab, and even though they won the war, it was very costly. When Gulab Singh was let go as a vassal lord of the empire, he sold the expansive Kashmiri borders to the British. He purchased a portion of the land back from the British equivalent to Kashmir’s original borders. Under this, the Dogra Dynasty, the British had control of communication, defense & trade within Kashmir.
In 1925, after a Hindu King is put in charge of a majority Muslim region, the secular National Conference For All Kashmiris is formed. They launch a “Quit Kashmir” movement against the crown – both British and the Indian one. The leader of movement Sheik Abdullah is arrested by the Hindu King.
This is like American citizens protesting police violence and the American government uses police violence to silence their voices. If there’s one thing we can say about Imperialism is that it’s always got its eyes wide shut! They hear you but they’re not listening to you!
In 1935, the Brits signed a 60 year lease of the Gilgit region, in fear of the Russians. Everyone fears the Russians. Because in Russia, you don’t lease the land, the land leases you. But right before the Partition of 1947, the British cancelled their lease. FYI, unless you’re an imperial force, hellbent on dominating the world under one Capitalism, you can’t just cancel a lease! Trust me I’ve tried.
The British Partition is where the major conflict of Kashmir begins. The Brits divided India & Pakistan based on religion. Muslims go to Pakistan & Hindus go to India. As for Kashmir, the Brits were hoping they’d side with Pakistan, which would give them a leg up in terms of resources in order to control in Indus Valley, despite the fact that nobody wanted them there.
It’s like showing up to a party you’re not invited to. And because no one wanted you around, you try and get everyone’s parents divorced. And yes I am saying that the British are responsible for every parents divorce!
Kashmir wanted to be its own sovereign nation, but both India & Pakistan wanted the region for themselves. Pakistan launched a military operation to annex Kashmir for itself. The Brits were hoping the Pro-Pakistan Prime Minister of Kashmir would accede to Pakistan, but thanks to a shift in public opinion, the PM was dismissed. Legend has it that when the news of this reached high ranking British officials, they spit out all the tea in the country. The crown had never seen so much mediocre tea go to waste!
Kashmir accedes to India, who provided military support against Pakistan. Under both British & Pakistani influence, a portion of Kashmir breaks off and claims it is part of Pakistan. This region is known as the Pakistan Occupied Jammu & Kashmir or POJK, which also determined the Line of Control or LoC. It is Acronym Central in the Jammu & Kashmir region or the ACJK!
As India attempts to put a nation together, Nehru headed to the UN to sort out what to do with Kashmir. The UN suggests an interim government needs to be put in place and all foreign actors – which included both India & Pakistan – need to leave the region. Sheik Abdullah is put in charge as Kashmir’s Prime Minister and eventually India & Pakistan’s first war ends in a stalemate.
As India drafted its Secular Constitution, it also wrote Article 370 in regards to Kashmir. Article 370 granted Kashmir autonomy over its laws, land & people, while still being a part of India. This would be like a calling a really close friend a part of the family. You help them out when they need it but that friend is also their own person. Basically Kashmir was the Shawn Hunter to India’s Corey Matthews.
They also sign Article 35A, which empowers the citizens & permanent residents of Kashmir the rights to own land, get government jobs, participate in social programs & education. Both of these documents let Kashmir govern itself, while India helps them with defense, foreign affairs & communications. And at that time, Kashmir did need help after the Brits stuck their grubby imperial fingers in the region.
It’s like nursing an injured bird back to health. The idea isn’t to keep the bird for yourself, but let it be free. But as we’re about to learn, instead of setting it free, India is responsible to keeping the bird injured…sorry for the super bummer of analogy. No birds were actually harmed in the writing of this joke.
India and Pakistan have been in constant conflict over this region for over 70 years! This includes active warfare, overthrowing Kashmir’s elected Chief Minister or Governor, election manipulation and even waging covert wars over a glacier!
You know that moment in every sibling fight, where both people try to up the ante and wind up holding the beloved family pet hostage or threaten to circus throw a knife into the other sibling’s cornea? It’s the moment when both siblings realize, we’ve probably taken it a little too far. Fighting a covert war over a fucking glacier should’ve been that moment for India & Pakistan.
They fought a war over a sheet of ice that leopards & penguins pee on! At this point, the question shouldn’t be who’s going to take Kashmir, but rather when are these 2 countries going to join Kashmir! Neither of these countries have the maturity to be governing over people.
By the 90s, Pakistani insurgents begin using plain clothes operatives that the Indian Army doesn’t know how to deal with. So they increase militarization in the region. This has led to draconian measures including equating any government protest as terrorism which was only strengthened after 9/11.
The true victims of the prolonged crisis in Kashmir are the people of the valley! The region was supposed to be a home to everyone. It was founded on the idea of coexistence & thanks imperial foreign interference, battles over religion & political Dick measuring contests, Kashmir has drifted away from its original mission and into dystopia.
Krish Mohan is a socially conscious, Indian standup comedian and writer who regularly tours the country. He performs at small theaters, bars, comedy clubs, colleges, DIY and house venues. With his quirky attitude, charming personality, and intelligent humor, Krish captivates and engages audiences of all backgrounds, tackling hot button topics like race, religion, war, immigration, while adding an optimistic, philosophical & sociological twist!