Regional Patriotism, Religious Universalism: the Kashmir-Punjab Nexus, 1931-2011
Mary Richardson Professor of History, Tufts University
The first part of this paper will focus on the links that were established in the decade of the 1930s between the Muslim politics of Kashmir and the Punjab. In the aftermath of the 1931 protests against princely authoritarianism in Srinagar, the rivalry between the Ahrars and Ahmadis for political ascendancy in the Punjab came to be fought on the terrain of Kashmir. Not just the poetry, but also the politics of Iqbal, will be shown to have exemplified this connection. The intersection of issues of class and sect with Kashmiri regional patriotism and religious universalism needs to be fathomed to get a clear sense of the border-crossing nature of Kashmiri politics.
The paper will in its second part move toward an analysis of the interplay of regional patriotism and religious universalism in the post-colonial era, especially during the last two decades. Training the spotlight exclusively on the terror networks that undoubtedly exist between Pakistani Punjab and Kashmir misses the broader contours of historical and kinship ties between the two regions that give the Kashmiri cause its emotive appeal beyond its strict regional borders.
The third and final part of the paper will propose the principles on which a just and lasting settlement can be reached in Kashmir that can accommodate regional as well as universalist aspirations that are grounded in history. The dictum – “we cannot change borders, but we can make them irrelevant” – must be able to address the complexities of the Kashmir-Punjab nexus if it is to be a successful basis for finally resolving the Kashmir imbroglio. Muhammad Iqbal was not alone among the poets and publicists in the Punjab who eloquently supported the Kashmiri cause.