My Life in Kashmir III

In the 1940s, every year there used to be a quarrel between Hindus and Muslims on Janam Ashtami [Hindu festival] and Miladun Nabi [Muslim festival] but the matter used to be clear within a week or so. The mischief was often started by the Sevak Sang …

See Zack’s note about this series. It also has an index of this series.

In the 1940s, every year there used to be a quarrel between Hindus and Muslims on Janam Ashtami [Hindu festival] and Miladun Nabi [Muslim festival] but the matter used to be clear within a week or so. The mischief was often started by the Sevak Sang (a Hindu militant political party) trained youth. Activities of Sevak Sang became more hectic with onset of 1947.

I was studying in an English medium school named Model Academy where duration of study for Junior Cambridge was 9 years (including 2 years of nursery) and another 2 years for the Senior Cambridge. In March 1947, I was in 2nd year after nursery when the school closed.

When the creation of Pakistan became sure, hatred could be noted on faces of some Brahmin Hindus. We had one Brahmin, Rambeer, in our class who was a member of Sevak Sang. I had seen him practicing Gatka (wooden replica of sword) and fight with Balum. (Balum is a long wooden rod fitted on one end with a twin-edged large dagger shaped steel piece). Final decision about independence was announced in March 1947. Next day Rambeer passing by me accompanied by a classmate, Keerti Kumar, abused Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah [founder of Pakistan]. On asking him not to do that, he took out a knife. I stood there and he tore my coat from behind with knife and went away after threatening me. He was taller, stronger and 3 years older than me. Two days later, our teacher had not come and we were waiting for a substitute teacher, when Keerti Kumar abused Muslims. On asking him to shut up, he jumped on me saying, “We will kill you Muslims and there will be no Pakistan.” I retaliated and gave him a bloody nose. Other students kept shouting “stop it” but no one intervened. After seeing blood on my shirt, a Muslim and a Sikh student separated us. Our class comprised 6 girls (one Muslim, 4 Hindu, one Christian) and 14 boys (6 Muslim, one Sikh, 7 Hindus). Later, the girls reported the matter to the Principal, who was a non-Brahmin Hindu, who held inquiry personally. All the girls, and 5 Muslim, one Sikh and one Hindu boy favoured me while Rambeer and another Hindu boy favoured Keerti Kumar. When pressed by the Principal, Keerti Kumar divulged that Rambeer had instigated him and that two days back Rambeer had cut Ajmal’s coat with knife and had threatened him. Consequently, both were suspended. My academic record at school was good and I had never quarreled before. A few days later, a quarrel took place outside the school between Hindu and Muslim students of higher class and a boy was injured. Consequently, the school was closed.

Next in this series here.

My Life in Kashmir II

Jammu Tawi was a beautiful and clean town on slant of mountain. Rains were usual and after rain roads and streets used to glitter. Town of Jammu had a specialty. It had flowing waters on its three and a half sides…

See Zack’s note about this series. It also has an index of this series.

Jammu Tawi was a beautiful and clean town on slant of mountain. Rains were usual and after rain roads and streets used to glitter. Town of Jammu had a specialty. It had flowing waters on its three and a half sides. On two and a half sides was river Tawi and on one side was a canal fed by river Chenab. This canal had icy cold water. After passing through electric power station, the canal passed under the river Tawi where Tawi crossed over the canal through a man-made channel bridge.

Inhabitants of Jammu were fond of picnics on the waterside or over the hills. They were also good swimmers. We used to have picnics on the banks of canal in summer. We did not go to the canal on holidays because large number of people used come from Punjab on holidays. In winter, we used to go to Tawi or on mountains across the river Tawi which had some flat areas on the top. There used to be monkeys on these mountains. Once during picnic on the mountain, while we were playing, monkeys took some of our rotis (bread). In summer 1946, we went to the mountain passing through Tawi at the up side. On return, we noticed that water level in Tawi had risen and speed of flow had increased many fold. We started passing through river Tawi. While crossing, we lost our belongings and my elder sister and a female cousin were carried away by water (they didn’t drown). They were rescued about 10 meters down stream. During picnics at canal, we used to place basket of mangos, melons, water melons or milk bottles in the canal and tie them to a tree with a rope. They used to be refrigerated.

We used to spend our summer vacation in Srinagar, the summer capital of the state, which was a valley of river Jehlum. There we used to live in a house-boat which had two bedrooms with attached bathrooms and a large drawing-cum-dinning room. A cook-boat was attached to it which housed the kitchen and residence of servants. Vendors used to sell fish and vegetables on boats. Fish they used to catch with net after getting the order. So it used to be jumping fresh. Sometimes, I used to put fish in water tub and enjoy seeing them swim.

We could sail in river Jehlum in our house-boat but generally we used to go on a nicely decorated small boat called Shikara, particularly, during moonlit nights. While in Srinagar, we used to visit natural springs on mountains, beautiful gardens of the Mughal times and high mountain towns like Kulgam, Gulmerg, Tanmerg, Pehalgam, etc. The large mosque, known as Hazrat Bal, was a very sacred place for all the Muslims. In one room, Moo-i-mubarak (a hair of Prophet Muhammad, SAS) had been kept.

The state comprised 6 distinct areas:

  1. Ladakh
  2. Baltistan
  3. Gilgit
  4. Kashmir
  5. Poonchh
  6. Jammu.

All of these have distinct culture and language but they formed a well-knit state. Nobody ever spoke like G. M. Syed [Sindhi nationalist leader] or Abdul Wali Khan [Pashtun nationalist leader]. Gilgitis resembled Baltis, and people of Poonchh could speak Kashmiri like people of Abbotabad can speak Pashto but their culture was different to Kashmiris. People of Poonchh, in my opinion, were more aggressive and clever than even Dogras. All other Muslims were soft-spoken and simple people. Baltis were most simple and honest people in whole of the state, perhaps, due to remaining cut off from the outer world for most part of the year. Some people in Ladakh were Buddhist. In whole of the state, Brahmins, though very soft spoken, were very clever. People in Jammu were generally prosperous, next Kashmir, next Poonch, next Gilgit, next Baltistan, next Ladakh. Literacy in Jammu was more than even Punjab and many other parts of India. Qudratullah Shahab [famous bureaucrat and writer — ZA] and Khushi Muhammad Naazar [poet and governor (?) of Jammu — ZA] of Jammu gained world fame.

Next in this series here.

My Life in Kashmir I

My great-grandfather, after getting fed up with high handedness of the British rulers of India, took refuge in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (here-after called state) from Qila Sobha Singh, District Sialkot [in the Punjab province of Pakistan and very close to Jammu …

See Zack’s note about this series. It also has an index of this series.

My great-grandfather, after getting fed up with high handedness of the British rulers of India, took refuge in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (here-after called state) from Qila Sobha Singh, District Sialkot [in the Punjab province of Pakistan and very close to Jammu — ZA]. His father and grand father were Zamindars (land owner/cultivators). The Maharaja, based on background of the family, granted him provisional citizenship of the state. He purchased a house in Jammu Tawi (the winter capital of the state) and settled there. All land in Punjab having been forcibly acquired by the British and Sikh rulers without any compensation, he had to start from the beginning. So, he had hard time in getting established again.

My grandfather shifted to south India and started business in Madras, Bombay and Hyderabad state. Luck favoured him and he became an international merchant. He used to visit countries in southern Europe, northern Africa and Far East. He had not attended any conventional school due to bad days of his father but learned to speak seven languages including three major languages, Arabic, English and Chinese. He purchased and built property in Jammu and came to be known as the richest Muslim of Jammu. He was granted First Class Citizenship of the state which was a rare favour to an outsider.

My grandfather first had two daughters, then one son (Abdul Ghafur), my father, born on Thursday, September 17, 1908 at Breli, India. One daughter had no children. Her husband died in Egypt in 1946 when she was in Jammu to visit her parents. Thereafter, she lived with us. My father married daughter (Noor Fatima)1 of his maternal uncle Haji Allah Ditt on Saturday, March 29, 1930. In early 1930’s, again clashing with the British rulers of India, my father shifted to Egypt where his father-in-law was already living. Soon he shifted to Palestine and established his business there.

My eldest sister was born at Cairo, Egypt and the next at Jabalpur, South India. Then, I was born on Friday, the 6th August, 1937 at Jammu Tawi. My grandfather was so happy that he celebrated my birth with great fervor and gifted gold necklaces to his two daughters and all the nieces.

I was still an infant when I started having fever and losing weight. After couple of months an abscess was diagnosed at junction of right leg with body. That was operated upon to remove puss etc then the cut was not getting jointed. All efforts failed and there remained no hope of my survival except by prayers. As a last effort, the surgeon applied hot steel rod. Allah, Soobhanohoo Ta’ala, granted me second life.

Next in this series here.

Continue reading “My Life in Kashmir I”

My Dad in Jammu and Kashmir

So the long promised series is here. My Dad sent me his writeup about a month ago. But I have been too lazy and too busy to do much with it.

He wrote it in Microsoft Word. I am going to break it up into reasonable sized chunks and post them over the next few days. I will do only some minimal editing, so it’s all my Dad’s writing.

I thought about how to post this and decided on creating my Dad as an author in the Movable Type system. So the posts will have his byline. But don’t let that fool you, I am the one posting them. I’ll respond to any comments etc. as well.

I’ll add an index to the posts here as I continue to post them.

You can also access all the posts about Kashmir from the category listing on the right.

Kashmir Photos

1.jpg 2.jpg 3.jpg
4.jpg 5.jpg 7.jpg
10.jpg 11.jpg 12.jpg
16.jpg 18.jpg 19.jpg
21.jpg 22.jpg 23.jpg
25.jpg 26.jpg 27.jpg
28.jpg 24.jpg 29.jpg
30.jpg 31.jpg 32.jpg
6.jpg 8.jpg 9.jpg 13.jpg
14.jpg 15.jpg 17.jpg 20.jpg

Disclaimer: All photographs are copyrighted by their photographers. You can visit their sites and view their galleries by clicking on the images.

Kashmir: Religion

Current census figures for religious affiliation in Kashmir according to the BBC are: …

Current census figures1 for religious affiliation in Kashmir according to the BBC are:

Religious groups: Indian-administered Kashmir
Region Buddhist Hindu Muslim Other
Kashmir Valley 4% 95%
Jammu 66% 30% 4%
Ladakh 50% 46% 3%
Religious groups: Pakistani-administered Kashmir
Region Buddhist Hindu Muslim Other
Northern Areas 99%
Azad Jammu and Kashmir 99%

Courtesy of the Kashmir Study Group.

Also see here for more information.

Most of the Muslims in the Kashmir valley, Jammu province and Azad Kashmir are Sunnis. Shias, mainly Nizari Ismailis, dominate in the Northern Areas. Ladakh also has a large number of Shias.

Muslims are a majority in the Kargil district of Ladakh while Buddhists dominate in the Leh district. There are also some Sikhs, mostly in Jammu.

Overall, according to the 1981 census, Muslims are 74.9% of the population of Kashmir, followed by Hindus (22.6%) and Buddhists (0.8%).

According to the 1941 census2, the percentage of Muslim population in the districts of Kashmir was as follows:

District Muslim Controlled by
Gilgit Agency 99.99% Pakistan
Gilgit Wazarat 100.00% Pakistan
Ladakh 79.00% India
Baramula 96.49% India
Muzaffarabad 92.89% Pakistan
Punch 90.97% Pakistan
Srinagar 91.55% India
Mirpur 80.41% Pakistan
Riasi 54.79% India
Udhampur 43.15% India
Jammu 39.00% India
Kathua 25.45% India
TOTAL 77.11%

The “controlled by” data in the above table is based on who controls more of the district as some districts are divided by the Line of Control. For example, more than half of the Punch district is controlled by Pakistan but the town of Punch is on the Indian side of the line of control.

Continue reading “Kashmir: Religion”

Kashmir: Geography


Click on the map to see a larger version.
Map courtesy of Perry-Castañeda Library, University of Texas.

The red line shows the traditional boundary claimed by the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. The green area is controlled by Pakistan, the orange by India and the rest (in the northeast) by China.

Here is a more detailed map of Kashmir region.

The total area of the state is 85,806 square miles, around the size of Utah or Minnesota. Pakistan controls about 43% (about the size of Indiana) 35% (about the size of South Carolina), India controls another 37% (about the size of South Carolina) 46% (about the size of Indiana) and China controls about 20% 19% (a little less than double the size of New Jersey).

According to the 2001 census, the population of Indian Kashmir is 10,069,917 with a density of 256 persons per square mile. The population of Pakistani Kashmir is 3.785 million according to the 1998 census. This comes to about 114 persons per square mile. The Chinese-controlled portion does not have any significant permanent habitation. If Kashmir were a US state, it would be the 5th most populous one, after California, Texas, New York and Florida.

Kashmir consists of a number of distinct areas (with different history and ethnicity) and is controlled by three countries. The state can be divided generally into the Kashmir vale, Jammu province, Ladakh, Gilgit and Baltistan. India controls Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh. Pakistan controls a strip of land which is called Azad (Free) Jammu and Kashmir and Northern Areas which consist of Gilgit and Baltistan. China controls the northeastern part of Ladakh (called Aksai Chin) and some area in Hunza/Baltistan (Shaksgam) that Pakistan gave to China in 1963 over the objections of India.

Here is a description of the geography of the state.

Although the terrain of Jammu and Kashmir is highly diversified, only a small portion of its total area of approximately 85,000 square miles (220,000 square km.) is well suited to human settlement. Of particular note is the fertile Vale of Kashmir, a valley roughly 80 miles long and up to 35 miles wide (130 × 55 km.) astride the upper Jhelum River. This densely settled and surpassingly beautiful area, lies at an average elevation of approximately 5,500 feet (1,675 m.). Held entirely by India, the Vale comprises the core of Kashmir proper. In normal times, it supports an economy based on tourism, handicraft industries and intensive agriculture. Two other favorable areas are of note: the foothills of the Himalayas, together with a narrow strip of the adjoining plain, in Indian-held southern Jammu; and the northwestern extension of that region, comprising the greater part of Pakistani-held Azad Kashmir. These mainly agricultural areas are all relatively well-watered and, where not cleared for cultivation, support rich stands of mainly coniferous forest.

Between southern Jammu and Azad Kashmir on the one hand and the Vale on the other is the Pir Panjal mountain range, which, despite its rugged nature, supports a moderately dense and partially migratory population dependent on largely terraced agriculture, pastoralism, and forestry. Through these mountains must pass the overland traffic connecting the Vale with the plains of India. In the immediate aftermath of the de facto partition of the state in 1947-48, this traffic was funneled through the Banihal Pass, which, at an elevation of 9,290 feet (2,830 meters), was often closed by winter snows. This problem has been mitigated, however, though not entirely eliminated, by the construction of the Jawaharlal Nehru Tunnel at a significantly lower elevation, and by increasing reliance on air transportation. A much easier and formerly much more heavily utilized route to and from the Vale ran through the Baramula Gap by which the Jhelum River flows to what are now Azad Kashmir and Pakistan.

Along the northeastern flank of the Vale runs the main range of the Himalayas. This enormous mountain chain extends from the eastern border region of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan southeastward to and well beyond the southern border of Jammu and Kashmir. Forested on their windward southwestern flanks, the Himalayas present a dramatically different, largely barren, aspect to the northeast. There the terrain gives way to the high, arid regions of Pakistani-held Baltistan, administered as a part of the Northern Areas, and Indian-held Ladakh. These two thinly populated regions, comprising well over half the total area of the state, form a western extension of the Plateau of Tibet and are compartmentalized by a series of mountain ranges, generally paralleling the main crest of the Himalayas. They support scattered patches of agriculture, largely dependent on small-scale irrigation works, along with sheep-, goat-, and yak-based pastoralism. An even more barren area, further to the northeast, is known as the Aksai-Chin (White Stone Desert). Held by China since the mid-1950s, it is regarded by India as a part of Ladakh.

The western portion of the Northern Areas, comprising the former Gilgit Agency, is a region of highly variegated, generally mountainous terrain. Through it runs the strategic Karakoram Highway, linking Pakistan with China, and providing access to such fabled, once-isolated locales as Hunza. A thinly populated area, with an economic base similar to that of Ladakh and Baltistan, the region has considerable tourist potential and its Karakoram Mountains, wherein lies K2 (elevation 28,250 ft../ 8,611 m.), the world’s second highest peak, are a mecca for mountaineers.

No discussion of the geography of Jammu and Kashmir would be complete without mention of its great rivers and numerous glaciers. Among the latter are the Baltoro and Siachen Glaciers, the world’s largest outside the polar regions, and the site of continuous military skirmishes between India and Pakistan, the highest battles ? and, arguably, the most senseless ? fought in all of history. Of the state’s rivers, all but some interior-draining, intermittent streams (mainly in the Aksai Chin) form portions of the Indus drainage basin. The Indus itself originates in Tibet. Along with its major tributaries, the Jhelum and Chenab, it flows out of the state and into Pakistan, which is vitally dependent on their waters for its canal-based irrigation. Another major tributary, the Ravi, flows along the state’s southern border before entering Pakistan. The distribution and use of the waters of the Indus system between India and Pakistan is regulated by the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960.

Here are some more maps. The first one shows the different districts of Kashmir. You can also see the maps of Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas, the two regions of the state controlled by Pakistan.

Finally, a word about word usage. “Kashmir” is a confusing name since it applies to the Indian state of Kashmir, the Pakistani Azad Kashmir, the Kashmir valley and to the whole state as well. I’ll generally use Kasmir to refer to the region demarcated with a red line in the map shown above (i.e, the whole state). When referring to the portion of Kashmir ruled by India (or Pakistan or China), I’ll call it Indian (or Pakistani or Chinese) Kashmir or Country-controlled Kashmir. I’ll avoid Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) or Indian Held Kashmir (IHK). I’ll however refer to a portion of Pakistani Kashmir as Azad Kashmir. I am not making a value judgment here, but I think this is the easiest and least confusing way to refer to that area.


I am working on a few posts related to Kashmir. I can’t promise when they will be posted since I have to do a lot of research on the topic and am busy with my dissertation as well.

You might ask why I want to write about Kashmir, a place where I have never lived and have visited only a couple of times on the Pakistani side. There are two reasons, one of which is personal. My Dad was born in the city of Jammu (currently part of the Indian Kashmir) in 1937. My ancestors lived in Jammu for a few generations before migrating to Pakistan in the chaos that was partition in 1947. However, I am not an ethnic Kashmiri.

The other reason is my interest in international affairs and conflicts everywhere combined with the fact that most of the world sees Kashmir as a border dispute between two nuclear-armed countries. Recently, people have also taken an interest in the terorrist dimension of the conflict. Most Pakistanis and Indians see Kashmir as their property as if no humans lived there. Not many people are interested in the history of the region and its people.

Discussion about Kashmir among Indians and Pakistanis often gets very acrimonious with extremist viewpoints prevailing. I’ll try to be as impartial as I can be and hoepfully my readers will keep it civil and correct me when I am wrong or shrill.

Also, if I can convince my Dad to write his memoirs of his early life in Kashmir and his travails during the massacres in 1947, I’ll post them here.