Jonaraja: Father of Genocide Studies

Jonaraja, the creator of second Rajtarangini is not as famous as Kalhana who started the work of writing of History of Kashmir in verse. His work was deliberately brushed under the carpet because it gave a vivid account of the Genocide of Kashmiri Pandits that could make the ruling class in Kashmir and India uncomfortable. We live in the time when India is beginning to accept the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits, it is very apt to remember our ancestor Jonaraja, who not only recorded but studied and analysed various aspects of our Genocide.

Jonaraja was a Bhatta Brahmin. He passed away in 1459 CE when he was almost 70 years of age. He may have been born in 1389-90. Before him Muslims had been ruling Kashmir for about two centuries. Kashmiri Pandits were under tremendous Socio-cultural-political squeeze. What was happening was nothing but Genocide of Kashmiri Pandits and Jonaraja very aptly coins the Sanskrit equivalent of it—jātividhvaṃs.(605 RajTarangini)Though Jonaraja is referred to as a historian yet if we examine his writing carefully we find that he has studied and analysed the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits very objectively. He has given a vivid expression to their sufferings. His understanding of the interaction of ideology and regime that is in power is very clear. Not only this he underlines intergroup relations and shows how radicalizing ideologies influence intergroup relations. Jonaraja, in all fairness emerges as the father of genocide studies.

To begin with, the regime type in Kashmir was a Muslim regime but it was not totally radicalised. Local Kashmiri influences were there. Sultan Sikander was the son of Qutubuddin. His birth name was śṛṃgāra, a Sanskrit word meaning adornment. Butshikan, the iconoclast which was the name given to him after he broke innumerable idols, was a very liberal and generous man when he became the ruler at a very young age. He used to give alms to poor. While he gave them alms he stood in front of them in all humility. This situation is expressed by Jonaraja in the following verse:

yathākāmārpaṇaprītayācakastutilajjayā  |

vinamana saṃkucana hastastasya  dānakṣaṇeabhavata |  568

(when he gave alms to poor they became happy and praised him, worshipped him like God. This embarrassed him and his hands appeared squeezed and nervous.)

He was such a humble ruler. But in the culminating years of fourteenth century Mir Syed Mohammed Hamdani, the proselytizer, entered Kashmir. King Sikandar was a boy at that time. Hamdani had come to preach Islam and the boy king easily came under his fold. He became interested in Islamic philosophy which Jonaraja refers to as yavanadarśan. Jonaraja writes:

prajāpāpavipākena tato yavanadarśane |

bālasyeva mṛdi kṣoṇipate ruciravardhata ||  572

His subjects had committed sins. The effect of those sins manifested in form of the King’s interest in yavanadarśan, the philosophy of Islam. Jonaraja does not stop with this. He says the king became interested in Islamic philosophy like a child who becomes interested in eating clay. That means the radical Islam was not the way of life of the king before this.

That means those who accept this radicalising ideology are immature children. At another place the same simile is used for the main aide of Sikandar Sūhabhaṭṭ, a Kashmiri Pandit,  who after embracing Islam tortures and kills Kashmiri Brahmins.

apathyāśīva bālaḥ sa sāmantasahitastataḥ|

janānāṃ jātividhvaṃse sūhabhaṭṭaḥ kṛtodyamaḥ| 605

Jonaraja says that like a child eating non-food items like clay and mud, Sūhabhaṭṭ, with his aides indulged in jātividhvaṃs, that is genocide of people. Here Jonaraja makes the point that embracing a radicalising ideology is equal to eating non-food items like clay and mud.

This jātividhvaṃs does not concern with race or ethnicity only. The jāti for the Kashmiri Pandits of those times reflected religious identity also. Changing jāti means, changing their religion, their Dharma, which meant death for them:

jātidhvaṃse mariṣyāmo dvijeṣviti vadatsvatha |

jātirakṣānimittaṃ sa tāndurdaṇḍamajigrahata|606

The Brahmins said that they shall die if their jāti is destroyed, that means they are converted to Islam. They were told that if they want to keep their their jati they should pay the fine, that is Jaziya. Jaziya is economic punishment for non-muslims in an Islamic society.

Jonaraja gives a brilliant explanation of the influence of a radicalising ideology on an otherwise free mind. See how Sikandar behaves in front of Mir Syed Mohammed Hamdani, the proselytizer:

anamad bhṛtyavat śikṣāṃ śiṣyavannityamagrahīt |

dāsavacca puro nītyā rājātatranyavikṣata || 574

he bowed to him like a menial fellow, took lessons from him regularly like a pupil, entered his place like a slave.

This was total submission towards the proselytizer and against the ethics that had evolved from the lived life of Kashmir. What could be the result? Total destruction of Kashmir:

marudbhiriva vṛkṣāṇāṃ śālināṃ śalabhairiv  |

kaśmīra deśācārāṇāṃ dhvaṃsoatha  yavanaiḥ kṛtaḥ || 575

As a storm uproots trees and locusts devastate a crop of rice, the lived life, the way of life that identified Kashmir was destroyed by Yavanas, that means the Muslims.

Jonaraja clearly explains the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits. He takes, cultural, economic, social, religious, all aspects of it into consideration. Raphael Lemkin also had incorporated all these aspects into his concept of genocide. After a person is radicalised by an authoritarian ideology how does he behave. What is his mental state? Jonaraja explains it in the following verse:

turuṣkadarśane bhaktyā na tu dveṣena sa dvijāna |

vyaplāvayadataścāsmina hatvā na prajagalbhire | |670

Here Jonaraja refers to Islam as turuṣkadarśan, the philosophy of Turuṣhkas. This is the verse where intergroup relations and the influence of a radicalising ideology on them is underlined. The verse is about Suhabhatta, a Kashmiri Pandit who after converting to Islam kills and tortures Kashmiri Pandits. Jonaraja says as he had been a dvijā, a Brahmin himself he had no malice towards any  dvijā. It was because of his devotion towards turuṣkadarśan that he resorted to atrocities against Brahmins and killed them. But he did not get the load of sin of killing as he had not killed out of malice but out of devotion towards an ideology only.

So the perpetrator is motivated by a radicalising ideology. Suhabhatta, the perpetrator here belonged to the community that he was bent upon exterminating now. Brahmins are a civilized community. But under the influence of the ideology a Brahmin man become uncivilized and commit genocide. This challenges the United Nations Organisation idea that civilized world does not like genocide. Even Raphael Lemkin was of this view. But Jonaraja underlines the fact that an ideology can turn civilized men into uncivilized brutes. And truly so. Suhabhatta’s terror had no parallels.

tato mīnāniva vyādho dattabandhe sarijjale

dvijātinatidurjāto deśesmina nyagrahīttarāma 657

like a fisherman who kills all fish in a river, this evil brute committed all atrocities on Brahmins. It became impossible for Brahmins to escape the fire of his horror.

tadbhayānalajaṃ tāpaṃ pāpaṃ ca bahavo dvijāḥ|

agnijvālāpraveśena sahasaiva nivārayana ||658

Many Brahmins immolated themselves to escape the fire of Suhabhatta’s atrocities.

kecidviṣeṇa pāśena pare toyena cāpare|

bhṛguṇā vahninā cānye viprā bhītyā vipedare||659

some took poison and died, some hanged themselves, some committed suicide by jumping into rivers and some jumped down from mountains. Others tried to escape out of Kashmir.

gṛhāddhūmyeva viprāṇāṃ paṃktirjātyabhimāninī|

ruddhadvārāttato   deśādapamārgairapāsarata|| 662

like the smoke rising from homes a large number of the Brahmins who were proud of their ethnoreligious lineage escaped through very difficult and tedious paths because the main paths were blocked.

Suhabhatta, the perpetrator and the chief aide of Sultan Sikander knew that to save their jāti, their ethnoreligious existence, the Brahmins will escape to places outside Kashmir:

śaṃkamānaḥ kṛtātaṃkasaṃkocānāṃ dvijanmanām |

videśagamanājjātirakṣāmajñāmamatsaraḥ || 655

But to block their path Suhabhatta had directed the borderguards not to allow anyone without a mokṣākṣara that means a passport.

mokṣākṣaraṃ vinā mārgo dātavyo naiva kasyacita|

ityādiśadaśeṣān sa mārgarakṣādhikāraṇaḥ  || 656

If some Brahmin were spotted on unusual paths they were killed. Many of those who escaped died of other causes.

dhāṭīphaṇīndrabhītīvratāpasvalpāśanāturaiḥ  |

mārgaianekairdvijairmṛtyulābhāt sukhamlabhyata  ||665

some died of sudden attacks, some died of fear of snakes and some died of the agony caused by extreme heat. Death brought them relief. This verse gets back the memories of 1990. In the following verse 1990 is again repeated though in that year of agony there were almost no Kashmiri Pandits who resorted to begging. But other agonies were the same as written by Jonaraja:

kvaca snānaṃ kvaca dhyānaṃ tapaḥ kvaca japaḥ kvaca  |

bhikṣārthamaṭatāṃ grāmānagāt kālo dvijanmanāma || 666

where could they have a bath, where could they meditate, where could they offer the prayers! They just moved begging from village to village.

Suhabhatta did everything possible to destroy Kashmiri Pandits in everyway and all he did was to fulfil the wishes of the ruler of the times Sikander Butshikan. He wanted to destroy all Brahmins who always strived for knowledge. Jonaraja expresses his anguish over the situation:

vicchetumicchatā vidyāṃ tenāpahṛtavṛttibhiḥ |

laḍitaṃ prativeśmāgre piṇḍīlobhād dvijaiḥ śvavata ||  669

Suha wanted to destroy all knowledge. He snatched away all employment opportunities from Brahmins and they stood like dogs with their tongues out so that someone may give something to them.

This has been the attitude of all Kashmiri rulers towards Kashmiri Brahmins. Jonaraja has defined it so aptly. The genocide that he recorded was completed in 1990. Journey of Genocide that began much before Sikander and got a distinct shape in Sikander’s time was carried forward by the Muslim rulers of Kashmir till 1990. Even after the forced migration our children studied in horrible conditions of camp schools and colleges and kept the flame of knowledge burning.

The study done by Jonaraja will always remind us that the perpetrators do not have any malice towards us. It is their ideology that drives them towards the extermination. That ideology is still trying to take our whole country in grip of its tentacles.

The analysis done by Jonaraja is our weapon. He is indeed the father of the discipline of genocide studies. I bow to his memory.

 

 

 

 

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