Who was Sikandar?
Sikandar Shah Miri, commonly known as Sikandar Butshikan (Sikandar the Iconoclast), succeeded Qutb’d-Din in 1389 AD to become the 6th Sultan of the Shah Mir Dynasty of Kashmir. Under the rule of the Shah Mir Dynasty (1339-1561), especially during the reign of Sikandar Shah Miri, Kashmir saw massive changes in its demographics due to the brutal techniques used to forcefully convert the native Hindu population to Islam, commonly known as the ‘Islamisation of Kashmir’.
What inspired his atrocities?
Kashmir during that period had a large number of Sufi scholars were responsible for aiding the rulers in the mass conversion of Hindus to Islam, as well as advising rulers such as Sikandar Shah Miri on how to handle the “infidels” of the valley. Sikandar Shah Miri was a follower of the scholar, Hazrat Mir Muhammed Hamdani. One of Sikandar’s Hindu ministers, Suha Bhatt, was converted to Islam, and given the name Safu’d-Din, by Sikandar Shah Miri and Hazrat Mir Muhammed Hamdani, a figure who would later instigate the two to commit atrocities on the native Hindu population.
The crimes perpetrated on natives:
Sikandar Shah Miri and his newly converted minister, Safu’d-Din, begun their reign of terror and oppression on the native Hindu population through the instigation of Hazrat Mir Muhammed Hamdani. It was noted out in Kashmir, that if a Hindu does not become a Muslim. they must either flee or be put to death, leading to the exodus of many Hindus, the conversion of many to Islam, and many more being brutally slaughtered for their reluctance to abandon their faith.
During the killings and forced conversions of Hindus, it is estimated that around 37-240kg of sacred threads (Janeu) were collected and burned; many of the Hindu holy books in the region were then thrown into the Dal Lake and buried under the stones and the Earth. Apart from forcefully converting and slaughtering Hindu natives, Sikandar further imposed a Jizya tax, whereby Hindus would have to pay money to continue practicing their faith; he prohibited Hindus from applying Tilak (sacred ritual marks) on their head as well the general taboos on music and women dancing.
Kashmir possessed, from the times of Hindu kings, many temples which were renowned architectural wonders, visited by the many who were often bewildered by their brilliance. Sikandar, goaded by feelings of bigotry and intolerance for the native “infidels,” decided to raze them to the ground while looting them of much of their gold and religious images. Temples, such as the 8th-century Martand Sun Temple in modern day Anantnag, built by Lalitaditya Muktapida, are reminders of iconoclasm under Sikandar. Many of the temples destroyed became the foundations for the building mosques directly over them.