The Portmir Heritage Foundation is a voluntary sector organisation founded in 2010 by British-Paharis to research, document and celebrate the cultural heritage of their forbears, especially as that heritage now unfolds in Britain.
This is our organisation’s primary goal.
What about your values?
Our endeavours are underpinned by values that give primacy to human dignity whatever a person’s background, beliefs or ‘identity’, self-ascribed or otherwise. These values feed into how we try to understand our cultural heritage in Britain. Like most people, we want to live in an equal and fair society, all the while we contribute our presence to enriching life in the UK, challenging bigotry and prejudice that undermine human dignity.
In Britain, British-Paharis (Azad Kashmiris) have been subjected to unwarranted criticism on the basis of prejudice. We are unequivocal in saying that the ensuing characterisations, stereotypes, scapegoating and slurs are the product of tropes and anecdotes generated by British-Pakistanis. There is a sizeable body of knowledge that would demonstrate this to be the case.
We are not a political or religious organisation, and neither do we advocate for political or religious causes. We’re a broad church though, and are happy for our contributors to express our shared values through their own identities if the outcomes are shared ones.
Ultimately, we stand for social and political justice, freedom of conscience, fairness and equality in Britain, and in the lands of our great grandparents through an intellectual tradition that can accommodate a variety of divergent lifestyles, not least Muslim ones.
With particular reference to British-Mirpuris, a large subsection of the wider Pahari community from the divided State of Jammu & Kashmir and neighbouring areas, we would like to address the social issues that affect this particular demography.
Whilst documenting and celebrating our shared heritage, we will not shy away from critiquing and exposing social problems that exist within our communities that are rooted in attitudes that have no place in a free and open society.
Domestic violence, forced marriages, honour based crimes, and other social problems are indeed features of our communities. As isolated acts, they do not define the wider community or individual members, but this is not the same thing as saying “honour based violence does not exist within our communities”. We ignore these attitudes at our peril.
These behaviours are learnt and symptomatic of patriarchal values that have no place in a modern society. Women should not be relegated to periphery positions within the extended family network. Those embodying such attitudes frequently find justification for their behaviour through feelings of community-solidarity and cultural conventions that normalise honour-based violence to redeem the illusory reputation ‘izzat’ (‘honour’) of males. Not only will we speak out against such vices, but we will contribute our voice to the universal fight to uproot the structural gender imbalances that make such crimes possible in the first place. We therefore actively encourage women to share their insights on our website, whether they are of Pahari ethnic descent or otherwise.
Islam is a beautiful religion like all world religions. The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful. We are therefore opposed to the radicalisation of our youth on the basis of extremist interpretations and politicised ideologies that have ironically not germinated from within the Islamic intellectual tradition, or the Pahari-cultural-sphere – the ethnic homeland of British-Paharis.
Popularly known as Political Islam or Islamism, this phenomenon has been greatly influenced by political thought with roots in a Europe torn asunder by social and political upheavals. The priorities of Islamism do not resonate with ordinary Muslims the world-over despite being couched in the symbolic language of Islamic resistance whilst conveniently using Islam’s imagery. Movements associated with Islamism are therefore committed to obtaining state-power explicitly in the name of Islamic law whilst caring little for personal devotion to God. Devotion has always been the hallmark of a truly Muslim religious experience that can be easily accommodated within secular polities. Muslims have lived side by side with members of different faiths for centuries.
The chaos we see in the Muslim world has resulted in the carnage of innocent people and the emergence of ISIS, the destruction of cities and the normalisation of violence in the name of Jihad. Militant Islamists and their less-violent cadre are now destabilising many societies. Their beliefs are not the beliefs of ordinary Muslims.
To blame western foreign policy for the emergence of such groups is to have a myopic understanding of post-colonial regimes. This misunderstanding feeds into political narratives that are dated, and have not produced their own intended outcomes. The West is not to blame for the chaos that exists in the Muslim world because there is no corresponding western identity that demands the elimination of Islam as the price of its own security; Western communities are as diverse as Muslim communities.
Crucially, there is nothing in western foreign policy that influences Muslim extremists to destroy the Muslim heritage on account of it being non-Islamic. Muslim extremists are currently destroying Sufi shrines in many Muslim countries, blowing up Mosques of minority Muslims considered outside their brand of orthodoxy. They have killed religious personalities that disagree with them all the while Muslim states have been lulled into silence. These actions have not been influenced by western foreign policy. The 9/11 suicide bombers and their 7/7 counterparts were radicalised by Islamist teachings; western foreign policy is merely a convenient ruse for such outfits.
To live in a free, open and democratic society that guarantees the rights of individuals and minorities, we must challenge all those who undermine this vision.
Are you pro or anti-Pakistan?
We are often asked this question.
We are not ‘pro‘ or ‘anti‘ anything!
We don’t belong to a tribe and neither are we tribal.
What we are opposed to is the unjust treatment of individuals and communities wherever they live and whatever their backgrounds.
In terms of our ethnic community’s connection with erstwhile Mirpur, the original Mirpur District that includes Mirpur, Bhimbar and Kotli, Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, we are unapologetic in exposing Pakistan’s unjust occupation of the entire ‘A’JK polity especially when explaining why so many Azad Kashmiris now live in the UK.
Pakistan maintains its control of Pakistan-administered-Kashmir ostensibly in the name of disenfranchised Muslims of the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir whilst actively exploiting the region’s human and natural resources. Pakistan’s Military Complex has shown no concern for the welfare of the territory’s inhabitants, and is exploiting the region in the full glare of international criticism. This is not Indian propaganda, but the claims of international NGOs that have similarly criticised India for its biased policies in Indian-administered-Kashmir. There is nothing conspiratorial or outlandish about these claims. Pakistani writers, journalists, NGOs that have nothing to gain materially by voicing their concerns about how Pakistan-administered-Kashmir is governed have reported on these unfortunate realities. They have also commented courageously on the ongoing insurgency in Baluchistan, the huge problems in the tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkwa, the wealth disparity between rich and poor Pakistanis, corruption, state-patronage for the elite, discrimination of ethnic groups living on the fringe of the established political order.
Their writings can be accessed online and we encourage British Azad Kashmiris to read such powerful indictments of the Pakistan State. We believe these courageous Pakistanis are an asset to humanity and a blessing to the ordinary mass of Pakistanis who would otherwise have no voice.
According to internationally accepted corruption indices, the Pakistan is recognised as being politically corrupt and unstable. In solidarity with our Pakistani brothers and sisters, we therefore offer our redemptive critique of Pakistan in accordance with our own values that give primacy to human dignity without advocating a political solution for Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, a political decision that can only be taken by those who live in the territory, or are connected with its Diaspora in the UK.
Occupation of Gilgit Baltistan and so-called ‘Azad’ Kashmir
It is an openly acknowledged fact that the peoples of Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, in Gilgit-Baltistan and ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir are second-class citizens in their own ethnic homelands; their lands and resources are being exploited for the benefit of Pakistan’s elite and Military Complex. It behooves equality and human rights activists and organisations with links to the region to highlight the structural imbalance between Pakistan and Pakistan-administered-Kashmir.
As we are not a political organisation, we are not part of any political struggle to liberate Pakistan-administered-Kashmir. We do not advocate for the territory’s accession to either Pakistan or India. We do not advocate for Jammu & Kashmir’s independence either, having witnessed the tragedy of partition and the huge devastation caused in its wake. We would like the normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan for the common good of all parties, India, Pakistan and Jammu & Kashmir. This does not however preclude the option of independence should this be the natural aspirations of the Kashmiri people.
We recognise in this respect that territorial identities are illusory. Nation State identities are group fictions. The priorities of a Nation Stare may not necessarily be in the best interest of its nationals. Where a State exists for the benefit of its citizens, it makes sense to celebrate the corresponding territorial identity. In the absence of such well-being, the continued self-affirmation of such an identity is to embody a false-consciousness.
Outside the context of the Kashmir Conflict and the injustices being suffered by the peoples of the region; Hindu Pandits, Muslim Kashmiris, Paharis of ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir, the Balawar of Gilgit & Baltistan, Dogras of Jammu, Ladakhis and all the other ethnic and regional communities, we offer nothing but goodwill to the peoples of India, Pakistan and Pakistan & Indian administered Kashmir.
We are therefore not anti-Pakistan, this would be contrary to our values. In fact we express solidarity with the oppressed and poverty-stricken peoples of Pakistan and the world. We believe the peoples of Pakistan are themselves victims of a hegemony that unfairly centralises power in the hands of a Military Complex that cares little for the well-being of the ordinary citizen. Imran Khan won the 2018 election on a platform of reforming Pakistan and tackling the abuses of power, corruption and poverty. We wish the Tehreek-e-Insaf governing party every success in empowering ordinary Pakistanis. We must point out that of 2020, Freedom House reported that Pakistan under the premiership of Imran Khan is now less “FREE” than the previous government of Nawaz Sharif.
Its Country Report on the “Freedom on the Net” observed,
“The online environment in Pakistan is tightly controlled by the government. Internet shutdowns, blocked websites, and arrests for activity online remain authorities’ preferred tactics in their effort to suppress unwanted speech. Controversial draft Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020 were introduced during the coverage period and if passed, would undermine encryption, give authorities more access to personal data, and enhance the government’s ability to block or remove online content. Separately COVID-19 exacerbated the digital divide for many users in the country, as people with limited internet access were less able to get information about the virus or obtain other services online. The pandemic was also used to justify the rollout of intrusive surveillance programs.”
What’s your ‘take’ on ‘Kashmir’?
Is Kashmir occupied territory? After its Hindu king signed the instrument of accession 70 years ago, the region remains in an unresolved conflict. Here’s how…
The Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir had been a multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic State with diverse religious communities throughout its 101 year timeline. Centuries earlier, the wider region remained ethnically diverse because it was the frontier through which many Central and Western Asians entered the subcontinent particularly through the mountain pass of Khyber. The ‘Province of Kashmir’ (Subah-e-Kashmir) when it was first incorporated into the Mughal Empire during the 1500s, centuries before the emergence of Jammu & Kashmir State (1846), was not ethnically uniform either. It included diverse linguistic communities including our own Pahari-speakers in the Chibhal region in the south-west of the new State. The Hill Tracts of Muzaffarabad, Uri and Karnah, now part of Baramullah District, Kashmir Province, have always been Pahari-speaking areas including the Hill Tracts of Khari Kharyali, Bhimbar, Kotli, Rajouri (erstwhile Mirpur Division), and Poonch in Indian and Pakistani administered Jammu Province. The Mughals had designated Bhimbar the ‘gateway to Kashmir’ recognising the traditional ties of these neighbouring Hill Tracts with Kashmir. The centre of gravity for these hill/mountain tracts was firmly located within the Western Himalaya, and not the Indo-Pak Plains.
After the partition of British India (1947), Kashmir became contested and divided between India and Pakistan and the internal demography has since changed as communities were forcibly evicted to Muslim or Sikh/Hindu majority areas. ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir as it later emerged was forcibly depopulated of its non-Muslim inhabitants whilst many Muslims from eastern Jammu were forced to flee into neighbouring Muslim areas. Sialkot and Gujranwala are two cities in the Pakistan Panjab that have large communities from these areas; their origins are routinely confused with the ‘Kashmiris’ of the Vale. These communities are mostly from areas in the Jammu Province.
The term ‘Kashmir’ masks huge diversity and is therefore an unwelcome misnomer for the reasons explained above. It offers tangible benefits for those who occupy a particular ethnic space called Kasheer but little else to Kashmiris from non-Kashmiri ethnic spaces who’ve lived in their own ancestral homeland for centuries. When the term first emerged as a territorial shorthand for the entire State (“Riyasat-e-Kashmir”), it was on account of a colonial convention that was criticised in the early years of the State’s formation by a number of colonial writers. This was akin to the colonial British mislabelling the territories of the Sikh Confederacy (“Sarkar-e-Khalsa”) that extended into many parts of the Panjab as the ‘Lahore State’ because of their own foreign terminology. It would have been a curious move on the part of the ‘subjects’ of the Lahore State to identify as ‘Lahoris’ – but this is how the international community refers to the diverse peoples of Jammu & Kashmir State by calling them ‘Kashmiris’.
Where this labelling norm is strictly territorial (‘Kashmir’), for the purpose of identifying 17 million people (‘Kashmiris’) residing in 84 – 86 thousands squares miles of territory (Riyaasat-e-Kashmir, Kashmir Mulk), we are reconciled with this fact of history. This would be analogous to identifying the diverse ethnic communities of Switzerland or Britain – the vast majority of nation states are multi-ethnic – Swiss or British. Similarly, India and Pakistan are multi-ethnic States, their ethnic people respectively do not own India and Pakistan exclusively, because of naming rights borne of origin myths and legends. The real Kashmir of history, of antiquity, of Greek, Chinese and Arab accounts, of Ibn Batuta’s imagination had always been landmass and not ethnic people. Ethnicity is a modern-day social construct that is being conflated with history.
On account of researching and appreciating this complex history whilst appraising the current skewed discourse on the Kashmir Conflict, we recognise the colonial legacy in how skewed representations of Kashmir and Kashmiris has become.
The majority of ethnic Pahari-speakers from the erstwhile Districts of Mirpur, Poonch, and Riasi (particularly from Rajouri), Jammu Province and Muzaffarabad, Kashmir Province do not identify as ‘ethnic Kashmiris’. Kashmir for such people is territory and not a corresponding identity. There is nothing to be gained by the continued use of the territorial shorthand if it does not reflect the aspirations, histories and cultural realities of the ethnically-diverse nations subsumed within the State. In many ways it hampers how ethnic Pahari-Kashmiris are being identified giving succour to disinformation, anecdotes, tropes and factoids about their identity. A lot of these ideas are propagandistic in nature. Pakistan and India are trying to degrade the Kashmiri identity of Azad Kashmiris.
We take offence to being identified or labelled as Kashmiris outside the context of the territorial conflict between India and Pakistan, because this is not our ethnic identity – we are British Paharis, born and raised in the UK, whose forebears came from the Western Himalaya. We are not Pakistanis, this is not our ethnicity, becasue we originate from Azad Kashmir, per UK ethnicity classificatory norms, we are Azad Kashmiris. We are, however, aware of Kashmir’s ancient and medieval history that included many areas of ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir including Chibhal, the old name for Mirpur District. We are reconciled with this particular legacy. We are, thus, Kashmiris on account of the region we occupy, and not on account of an ethnic Kashmiri identity, which our people have never once claimed.
We accept that some pro-independence actors outside the Vale of Kashmir do self-affirm as Kashmiris as their primary identity in direct opposition to Pakistan, and we respect their endeavours for the political emancipation of our people in both Indian and Pakistan administered Kashmir.
Before the emergence of the modern Kashmiri ethnic identity, Kashmir was geography not ethnicity or culture ruled by various indigenous and foreign rulers. The Kashmir Region is an old region and included many valleys across the western Himalaya. Like other historical regions, it expanded and shrunk over millenia.
The modern ethnolinguistic Kashmiri identity when exclusively subsumed within a territorial Kashmiri identity does nothing to help shed light on all the peoples indigenous to Kashmir State. By saying this we are not denying fraternity with ethnic Kashmiris (Kasheer speakers from the Valley of Kashmir). Rather, we have profound respect and love for our ethnic Kashmiri brethren of the Vale, whether Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Christian or of no faith, with whom we share not only a divided State but an even older heritage of suffering and humiliation. We belong to the same territorial fraternity and accept our ancestral lands are tied with the fate of Jammu & Kashmir. We openly acknowledge that Kashmiris have been treated unjustly by both India and Pakistan because of Conflict over territory and natural resources, most notably water, on both sides of the LOC.
Indians and Pakistanis fight over Kashmir, whilst Kashmiris become collateral damage to their rivalries and war strategies. This is an unjust situation.
Punjabi Caste-Kashmiris (Zaat) as opposed to Kashmiris (Qaum)
Identity labels can mean different things to different people. The caste-Kashmiri identity is not an ethnic-based Kashmiri identity despite its deliberate conflation with myths of origin to Kashmir and popular anecdotes. For the greater part of a caste-Kashmiri identity timeline – where people were identified as Kashmiris by “caste” (Zaat), the majority of those identified as such did not speak Kashmiri natively (Kasheer) or have any connections with an ethnic Kashmiri space. Ethnicity is intricately linked with language and culture, and not myths of origin, which in the case of a collective caste-Kashmiri identity is greatly imagined.
Technically, the caste-Kashmiri identity is a derivation of a Punjabi-based identity that is essentially occupational-based masking the landless occupational status of refugees who ended up on the Plains of North India from Jammu & Kashmir. These realities were greatly influenced by events unfolding in British India, and for this reason, the caste-Kashmiri identity is a distinctly separate identity to an ethnic Kashmiri identity rooted within the State of Jammu & Kashmir. There is no bond of fraternity between Punjabi caste-Kashmiris and ethnic Kashmiris from Jammu & Kashmir. The two groups belong to separate communities with radically different priorities and experiences. It would not be an exaggeration to state that many Punjabi caste-Kashmiris have never met ethnic Kashmiris to have significant interactions with the latter to appreciate the reality of an ethnic Kashmiri identity rooted within the orbit of an ethnic sphere. Lots of Punjabi caste-Kashmiris have never been to any part of divided Jammu & Kashmir to understand how the Kashmiri label is deployed territorially.
The caste-Kashmiri identity was primarily shaped by colonial policies that classified ethnically diverse people on the basis of colonial norms – a naming convention. Kashmiri refugees from Jammu & Kashmir – “Kashmir” = “Kashmiris” sought shelter and opportunities in the British Punjab Province of India. The ensuing Kashmiri identity was couched in dispossession. It is the remnants of a legacy that we should challenge because of social and caste prejudice.
Landless Kashmiris & landed-Kashmiris (Zamindar)
Landless occupational caste-groups outside Kashmir State that weren’t part of the Zamindar class (landed-groups) were cruelly stigmatised and discriminated against. British colonial practises prohibited the buying and selling of land to occupational groups that included Kashmiris (by Zaat) identified as caste-Kashmiris. Occupational groups were not allowed to buy land, and were prohibited from entering certain professions, such as recruitment into the British Indian Army, because they were deemed racially inferior to the martial races – a colonial social construct reserved for groups privileged by the British. According to this caste hierarchy, landless Kashmiris were deemed low-caste. Mindful of these unjust norms historically speaking, we are strongly opposed to the caste-system. We do not therefore subscribe to any form of caste-identity, bias or prejudice, and neither do we give credence to any claims that attempt to historicise the caste-system. We will discuss this history irrespective of how painful it appears to people who want to hide this past becuase they now feel removed from it, having adopted new identities.
For the purposes of the Kashmir Conflict and the stakeholders of Azad Kashmir, whenever Kashmir and Kashmiris are implied within the context of our own discussions, no reference is being made to Punjabi caste-Kashmiris except those who continue to enjoy ‘state subject status’ (nationality) to Kashmir State, ethnic Azad Kashmiris. These nationals can vote in ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir’s elections because they have attested roots within the AJK polity.
We consider caste-Kashmiris part of our historical fraternity, but not part of our divided State. Although they may choose to self-affirm through their own contemporary identity labels, our priorities of maintaining links to Jammu & Kashmir are radically different to theirs.
Divided ethnic Paharis of Jammu & Kashmir State
The actual landmass associated with the Vale of Kashmir is no more than 2000/2500 square miles, out of a total landmass of approximately 84 to 86000 square miles. The old Province of Kashmir did not amount more than 9 to 10 percent of the State’s entire landmass. Although a majority in their own ethnic homeland, Kashmiris are a minority within the larger State. The communities divided between the Line of Control – the Indian-Pakistan de facto border are ethnic Pahari speakers, and not ethnic Kashmiri speakers – very little is known about the plight and misfortunes of this forgotten demography.
Two Journalist Arif Urfi (from pakistan part of Jammu Kashmir) and Pawan Bali (from Indian side of Jammu Kashmir) traveled along River Vitasta (River Jehlum)…
To rectify the current imbalance in how the peoples and regions of the State of Jammu & Kashmir are being treated, we would like to raise an awareness of the plight of ethnic Paharis in Jammu & Kashmir. We are mindful that the Princely State was itself an imposition on tribal networks that looked elsewhere for their sense of identity, many of whom had never reconciled with the new rulers of the State post 1846 (Dogra Raj).
Aside from stating this preference, we will support the people of Kashmir Vale, the Dogras of Jammu and all the ethnic peoples of divided Jammu & Kashmir in their struggles against Indian hegemony for justice and accountability, as will as expressing our solidarity with the Hindu Pandits, who have been forcibly evicted from their homes becuase of a dehumanising conflict. The demands of all these victims for social and political justice per democratic norms accords with our values for human dignity. In expressing this solidarity, we are keen to point out that we have no enmity for the Indian Republic. Many Indians are justifiably proud of their country’s diversity and peaceful traditions. We hope that the government of India can finally redress the grievances of ordinary Kashmiris whatever their ethnic and religious backgrounds.
We wish Indians from all over the Republic, health, well-being and prosperity.
We recognise that pro-independence actors from Azad Jammu & Kashmir have gained little by aligning their cause with the Valley Kashmiris, many of whose leaders subscribe to Valley-centric views of Kashmir State, alienating the various ethnic groups of Kashmir. This bias is evident in how ethnic Kashmiri pro-independence parties conduct their affairs, all the while they condemn the excesses and atrocities of Indian Occupation, they are strategically silent about the excesses and atrocities of Pakistani Occupation of Azad Kashmir. Without the reconfiguration of this priority, we are clear that the struggle for the independence and eventual reunification of Kashmir State is not our struggle. It offers the ethnic Paharis of divided Jammu & Kashmir and other ethnic groups nothing by way of equitable and fair treatment.
If, the divided people of erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir State were allowed to exercise their right to self-determination and the majority voted for independence in a free and fair referendum, or elected merger with Pakistan, or India; or, voted for alternative options of relocation to India, relocation to Pakistan etc, we believe any such ensuing result should be respected as the democratic will of the people. We believe in the democratic enfranchisement of all communities as a basic human right.
Outside this sentiment, we are opposed to wasting resources and time to political causes that yield the various ethnic peoples of Jammu & Kashmir no tangible benefits.
Are you pro or anti-Muslim?
We are Muslims by virtue of our cultural heritage, but only on account of the forced depopulation of non-Muslims from our ethnic homeland in ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir. We have profound respect for the religion of Islam that is currently being misrepresented by religious fanatics who are intolerant of Sufi Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Some of our contributors are practising Muslims, whilst others do not subscribe to Islam. We are committed ideologically to the primacy of free thought. Our associated contributors are free to live their lives in accordance with beliefs that they freely adopt whilst extending respect and tolerance to the views of others with whom they may not necessarily agree. We are opposed to compulsion in every form whether religious, political or social, and which undermines the personal autonomy of individuals.
We are opposed to literalist interpretations of scripture, Muslim, Christian, Jewish that indirectly advocate hatred and suspicion as a means of normative interactions between people.
We recognise and acknowledge openly that our primary frame of reference is not based on medieval juristic interpretations of Islam, a tradition that we nonetheless respect and celebrate for its huge intellectual achievements whilst pointing out its many deficiencies for modern societies. As part of our heritage-awareness campaign on this website we are committed to presenting the history of Sufism and Buddhism in our region especially as these movements prioritised humanism as the chief expression of faith.
The policies of the Myanmar government in its ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohinga is eloquent testimony that the peaceful religion of Buddhism cannot be conflated with unjust policies of military juntas and political actors. This is akin to blaming Islam for the actions of radical Muslims and extremists, or conflating the peaceful Islam of Pakistan with the Pakistan Military that commioted a genocide against Bengalis in 1971. We can categorically say that the Buddhist Monks of Myanmar that find justification in the murder of Muslims are no different to Muslim extremists who detonate bombs in civilian areas, or Pakistan Army sponsored Laskhar-e-Tayba shooting live ammunition into Indian crowds.
How are you about cultural heritage when you’re also committed to social agenda issues?
These two expectations are not in conflict as they are desired outcomes of the same undertaking.
We believe that our cultural heritage is important and must be documented and preserved for future generations in the UK. This is borne out of the realisation that we are indeed an ‘ethnic’ people with a cultural and linguistic heritage that makes us distinct from other Pakistani and Indian sub-groupings – ethnic or linguistic. Many of our youngsters are simply ignorant of the cultural legacy of our forebears’ actual cultural heritage, ashamed of our grandparents native ‘Pahari’ tongue. They do not understand that they are connected with ancient peoples with celebrated histories that are today being claimed by numerous Pakistan sub-groups to the exclusion of the actual beneficiaries. Critically, neither Pakistan nor India is religiously, culturally or linguistically homogenous.
As a cultural heritage organisation we recognise that our forbears and ancestors included Buddhists, Hindus, Sikh, Christians, Pagans and people of no faith. On the basis of this self-evident truth we recognise that our cultural heritage belongs to the non-Muslims of the wider region, and who, post-partition, have settled in India in the wake of communal violence.
We will therefore give a space to their stories in the spirit of rapprochement with a view of promoting social cohesion and harmony, whether in the subcontinent or here in the UK. We strongly encourage our ethnic counterparts to join our efforts to contribute their own experiences, write articles and comment on posts.
Here in the UK we are not merely settled as members of ethnic minorities, but are proud Britons. We do not consider ourselves as a Diaspora but Britons of Pahari or Azad Kashmiri ethnic descent. Our group loyalties do not lie with diverse peoples thousands of miles away, but with British values here in the UK. Britain is home to many divergent ethnic and linguistic groups, all of whom must express their belonging in a shared Britishness that gives primacy to the English language and ‘values’ borne of the Enlightenment Tradition.
Multiculturalism is not necessarily a bad thing where we celebrate our self-evident ethnic diversity through shared values. If multiculturalism is cultural relativism, we do not subscribe to this position. We believe in the full integration of British Paharis into the mainstream British culture.
We believe we have a social contract with the British People collectively, a value that we not only practise but cherish, celebrate and defend. Our celebration of our ethnic otherness will never be to the disadvantage of our national coherence and uniformity or vice versa. In this respect we recognise the fact that Britain has been a better friend to émigré Azad Kashmiris than Pakistan withstanding issues of racism, institutional or otherwise. In Britian, we have the sad reality of racism, but in Pakistan we have the grave dangers of ethnic persecution; no ethnic minority is persecuted in Britain, whilst in Pakistan, ethnic minorities are persecuted.
It should be borne in mind that in Britain we have never been denied the right to rectify wrongs and challenge the State, its various institutions and agencies in anticipation of a just resolution.
This single reality has been denied to ethnic Paharis (Azad Kashmiris) in Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, who for all intents and purposes are second class citizens in their own homeland.
India, Pakistan (Partition) & Kashmir
On August 15, 1947, the Partition of the Indian subcontinent created two nation-states – India and Pakistan. In this two-part special, 101 East traces the e…
What do you hope to achieve?
Put simply, we hope to achieve dignity for our people in particular, and for all people in general.
We cannot achieve this dignity without advocating for a free and fair society that values human achievements outside the narrow strictures of artificial constraints, political, religious or otherwise. A fair and just society can never be achieved without uprooting injustices and cruel practises that undermine equality for all. And so we recognise that with these rights come civic duties. We have opportunities in Britain to not only celebrate our culture, but also address our problems through the assistance of a mostly benign political culture, denied to our ethnic counterparts in Pakistan-administered-Kashmir.
We owe it to this legacy as fortunate beneficiaries that we contribute our own struggles to the common good of all British people on a common humanitarian platform.