Kashmir: Culture under attack

A bigger nation influencing smaller territories is no secret, but between the two trips I made to Kashmir in a gap of three years, the Indian influence on the culture, language and history of valley is been done at a rapid pace, writes Iranian documentary film maker Mostafa Ahangarha.

I first visited the famous Kashmir valley in 2011. Rains welcomed me and the lands of saints seemed pristine—but there were scars of the ugly military footprint at every nook and corner.

Kashmir has its own language and history in art and culture but since the sub-continent was liberated from British rule, the Indian cultural project has been carried out with unflinching relentlessness. The influence has not been restricted to culture but even to basic necessities like food. Many restaurants serve Indian food; in ‘Lal Chowk’ — the main square and market area in Srinagar, majority of shops sell Indian mainland dresses.

Khalil Jibran, the poet writer, once remarkable noted: pity that nation which doesn’t drink wine from its vineyards.

Cultural transaction is something desirable, as it enriches both sides. But when it comes only from one side and destroys the other, it is a big threat. During last few days I’ve been in some intellectual meetings with Kashmiri students. One of the important topics was ‘Preserving Kashmiri Language’— ‘Kashur’.

As the influence of Indian culture is not covert, understanding why Kashmiri youth are talking about preserving their language is not something difficult. During one of the several discussions I have had with Kashmir people working or studying in the Indian capital a strong argument given to me was Urdu was all pervasive in valley because the language was considered as a source of Islam for Kashmiris. It was baffled!

I don’t have the details of how much Islamic research work from Pakistan or India is done in Urdu. But I am almost sure there are few intellectual impacts from them in the Muslim World.

If we look at Pakistan and India, hardly have we found significant intellectual work in Urdu and whatever we find have very little impact. The main sources of Islamic literature are in Arabic, therefore Urdu as a language to convey the Islamic message would lead to miscarriage of true history of Muslims.

As the official language for education in Kashmir like rest of India is English, students can easily access huge amount of intellectual works which have been published by Islamic scholars all around the world. Therefore, one wonders why somebody should leave these two languages for studying Islam and pick up Urdu instead?

Isn’t it anything else then we are limiting our horizons ourselves? Why do we define our world in such a limited manner?

As an Iranian, I feel language is the back bone of any culture, if strength has to be escalated it must be done by strongly preserving language, speaking and writing in it, to take it to a next level.


Mostafa Ahangarha is a documentary filmmaker from Iran.  He is working on his next project ‘History of Art’ in Kashmir.