Climbing the Wrong Hill

20 Mar, 2014    ·   4349

Shujaat Bukhari writes about the complex dynamics of the relationship between Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmriri Muslims

Shujaat Bukhari
Shujaat Bukhari
Editor in Chief, Rising Kashmir

During the past two decades a section of Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) have been looking for a space not only to denigrate but also demonize their erstwhile compatriots—the Kashmiri Muslims, even on unfounded charges. For this they presumably get support of certain elements in establishment besides many influential people. The reason for this support is that they easily invoke the “sacrifice” of leaving Kashmir just because they “are and were Indians”. This obviously has an appeal among those who cherish politics on the basis of dividing the communities essentially on religious basis.

The latest “adventure” carried out by this bunch of KPs was about something, which did not exist at all. They presumed and almost made everybody in the rest of India believe that the government was resorting to “aggression” and was renaming the religious places in tune with the practices of Muslims. The example cited was of Shankaracharya Hill and Hari Parbhat, which are concurrently known as Takht-e-Sulaiman and Kohi Maran respectively. These names are not new and KPs know it very well. These hills have been known by both the names for long time. But the way some organizations of KPs organized a protest at Jantar Mantar on Sunday and some other outfits have been doing in other places only shows the hatred with which they have been living for past some time.

No less an authority than chief minister of J&K categorically denied that any such thing had happened and neither was there any such move planned, but at the time of parliamentary elections, they seem to have been tasked to do something which invites attention. I may not be wrong in presuming that this was being done to divide people only to garner votes, the way Amarnath land row was used in 2008.

The Shankaracharya temple very much exists on the hillock like many other temples in Kashmir valley and people call it by its name. Similarly the mountain is also referred to as Takht-e-Sulaiman as has been the practice for long. The temple’s history dates back to 250 BC and the place has been equally revered by Buddhists. The temple was constructed by Ashoka’s son Jaluka as its reference is found in Hindu history. It was repaired a few times including once by Lalataditya and also by King Zainul Abidin. In one reference it is believed that Raja Gopadatya got the temple constructed in 371 BC, giving it the name of Gopadri.

The mountain is originally known as Gopadari as the circumstantial evidence in 8th and 9th century suggests. Obviously with advent of Islam it was also known as Takht-e-Sulaiman since people attributed stories to King Solomon out of mere reverence. And these stories attributed to him are not confined to Kashmir only but all over the world. For example in Farghana valley in Uzbekistan and Gandara in North Western Frontier Province where the Buddhist sites have been located, the mountains are known as Takht-e-Sulaiman.

But here the temple was named after Shankaracharya by Dogra ruler Maharaja Ranbir Singh. Even as many believe that Shankaracharya had visited Kashmir, but this is strongly contested by many historians. And the name Takht-e-Sulaiman has been going on side by side. Even the historians have referred to the hill as Shankaracharya Hill or Takht-e-Sulaiman”.

Sir Aural Stein, who is credited with compiling the ancient period, has also referred to this mountain in his book “Ancient Geography of Kashmir” as “Takht-e-Sulaiman”. Interestingly, Stein was helped by Kashmiri Pandit scholars in shaping his work so any reference in his book is not based on something given or fed by Kashmiri Muslims.
Like Stein, other historians have also run Takht-e-Sulaiman as parallel name for the hill. Legendary Samsar Chand Kaul’s book titled ‘Srinagar and Its Environs’ (published by Utpal Publications, Srinagar) also gives the name of the hill as ‘Shankaracharya Hill or Takhet-I-Sulaiman’ (Page 57, Chapter VI). Likewise the name Kohi Maran for Hari Parbhat has been in practice for long. There may not be any religious attachment to Kohi Maran, as Maran in Persian would mean Naag and Muslims would not show any reverence to a Naag but the Persian has been for long a lingua franca and official language and it could be result of that influence.

So the so called campaign by these Kashmiri Pandit organisations is nothing but a fallacy with which these people are trying to demonize Kashmiri Muslims and project them as extremists/fundamentalists who are out to change the cultural milieu of the Valley. But the fact remains that in past 20 years, Kashmiris have not accepted any such thing. Even if people started renaming certain institutes in early 90s but it was done away with passage of time. People take pride in having composite cultural and rich heritage. For example, Dogra rulers have been most pathetic towards Kashmiris, particularly Muslims, since KPs were a ruling class at that time as well. We have preserved even S R Gunj and M R Gunj, which are named after the most tyrannical ruler of that time Ranbir Singh. Similarly Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, S P College, S P Higher Secondary School, Amar Singh College, SPS Museam and many other places and institutions are named after those who have left no stone unturned in torturing and killing Kashmiri Muslims.

It is a fact that migration of KPs in early 1990 was the darkest period of Kashmir history. Majority of Kashmiri Muslims have not reconciled with that tragedy. Reasons are mixed and it needs a separate column to discuss that since the narratives are at war. Kashmiri Muslims are not apologetic about a situation in which they have suffered most but are ready to live and embrace the KPs. There are scores of examples of reunion and reconciliation but unfortunately the fringe elements among KPs who don the role of leaders are hogging the limelight and do nothing positive towards rapprochement. Who has not suffered in Kashmir but the way these elements continue to swindle India in the name of protecting Kashmir “for Hindustan”, will not work and should not work.

There is still a huge space for being together even at distance, but to spread the canards like this only creates distances between the communities. It may help a few self-styled leaders but will not bring positive change on this front.

By arrangement with Rising Kashmir