Of Kashmir, Kashmiriyat and Khirbhawani

Over the last several years, precisely in the aftermath of the Pandits’ migration from Kashmir, the annual religious festival of Khirbhawani at Tulmula has acquired an importance and character which seems less religious and more political. It has become a grand political stage for enacting what has been archaically mentioned and appropriated in the politico-cultural discourse over Kashmir as ‘Kashmiriyat’. Right from one side of the political spectrum which include ‘mainstream’ political parties to the extreme other which include the ‘freedom camp’, almost all sections of society seek their respective niches in the space, both symbolically and physically, around the centre of activity in this historically important dusty village. This is presumably done to appear and be recognized as ‘secular’ forward looking and accommodative in ideology and practices toward the so called cultural ethos of ‘Kashmiriyat’. On the other side of the same spectacle, it’s quite interesting to see migrant Pandit pilgrims who throng this place in overwhelming proportions on this particular day seem more interesting in putting forth their historical versions of Kashmir history, and are much keen to re-inscribe their dominant, ‘aboriginal’ position in the socio-cultural and political milieu of Kashmir. Narratives that come out of this event and day are so much focused on statements addressed to Local Muslims reminding them of their residual Hindu identities, and how Kashmir should be read and recognized as an originally Hindu land. Neither versions of these practices and narratives, those attributed to the Muslim representatives of Kashmiriyat or the ones coming forth from Pandit émigrés, are going to have any positive impact on the contemporary realities of Kashmir. All such myths which are circulated and perpetuated in various spaces of Kashmir conundrum are bound to cloud our collective understanding of the realities of Kashmir as a conf lictual geography.