IIAS | IIAS Newsletter Online | No. [nummer] | Regions |Central Asia

institutional newsinstitutional news

Centre of Central Asian Studies, University of Kashmir

The primary factors for the establishment of the Centre of Central Asian Studies in the University of Kashmir, Srinagar, were geographical proximity and socio-cultural identities of the state of Jammu and Kashmir with Central Asia, boosted by the linkage of the kingdom throughout the medieval times with the Silk Route network.

By Abdul Majid Mattoo

The idea of the establishment of an advanced research institute with multi-dimensional and interdisciplinary approach was conceived as early as the 1950s by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, then prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir State. The idea did not materialize until he again resumed the reins of the power in 1975. In the year 1976-77, a High Power Committee under a leading educationist and retired civil servant, Badar-ud-Din Tuybji, was appointed to ensure that reforms were introduced in the field of higher education, especially in the university system. The idea of the institute came up again and in consultation with Professor S.Nurul-Hasan (minister of education of the government of India) and Professor Rais Ahmad (vice-chancellor of Kashmir University), the proposal for formal establishment of inter-disciplinary Research Centre was mooted in the apex body of University of Kashmir in 1978. The Centre of Central Asian Studies was founded as a consequence and Prof. S. Maqbool Ahmad was appointed its founding director. Later a specialized Museum of Central Asia was also added.
The State Government transferred a huge collection of antiquities and artefacts bearing Central Asian characteristics from the Tosha Khana (the state-owned treasure house) and State Museum including the world famous Aurel Stein Central Asian collection and antiques from the ancient site of Burzhome. In the year 1979-80, a High Power Committee for Evaluation of the Indian Universities recommended the inclusion of the Centre in the Area Study Scheme of the University Grants Commission of India, and since then, this Institute has continued to be an Area Study Centre on Central Asia.
At the time of its inception, the area of study was determined by consulting Caucasus experts, and areas stretching from the region of the Caucasus to the Gobi desert and the Siberian Steppes to the northern region of the Indian Subcontinent were included in its scope. But the thrust was mainly on Turkistan (both Western and Eastern), the scheme of study was holistic in character with a stress on multidimensional interaction of cultures in the region and its impact on society, religion, culture, administration, literature, politics, economy, languages, urbanization, and education was the core area of study.
With such a broad canvas additional academic staff was appointed to the Centre, supporting infra-structural facilities, plus financial support was given for the in-depth study of the Area in socio-historical perspective.
The breakup of the USSR and the liquidation of the socialist model of change broke its Super Power Myth. The unipolar world emerged on the scene. A dozen independent countries came into being, and Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgizia, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan in Central Asia also declared independence. Hence, the scope of this Research Institute was widened yet again. Scholars began to take a growing interest in the development of the Centre, and some renowned academics are associated with the academic programmes of the faculty.
Central Asia with its diversified socio-political and economic background had been a hub of activities and was rightly termed the cradle of human civilization. The Silk Route network connecting East and West had crisscrossed the entire region and consequently had knitted the countries into a unique civilization for centuries.
In the recent past, it was the focus of the two major imperial powers, Great Britain and Russia, and the area was the playground of the Great Game. The socialist annexation after the October 1917 Revolution sealed the future of the countries and they remained in oblivion for 70 years, but now the meshes of the iron curtain have melted in the wake of USSR breakup and Central Asia is again in focus. This not purely on economic considerations. The social revolution which is shaping the East has a part to play. The Asian giants are thrusting up their heads to determine their genuine place in the nations of the world, a phenomenon which is drawing the attention of scholars, academics, area analysts, and economists. The whirlpool is bursting out of its confines. The Afghanistan situation, the prolonged transitional pangs in Tajikistan, and the Iranian model on the fringes are other pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.
Several questions with far-reaching consequences are emerging. Will Central Asian countries adhere to the greater traditions of Islam, as advocated, encouraged, and propagated by the Sufi Schools of Thought? Will Central Asia be forced to realign with Russia? Have the peoples of Central Asia the determination to safeguard and maintain their independence? Being virtually land-locked, can they forge independent economic policies? What will be their role in the unipolar world? Will their historical traditions allow them to embrace the reactionary and fanatic model of Islam? Will the Hanafi School of law again emerge as a beacon of light in such pitch darkness? The list of such questions is long, hence the study of the area with a multidisciplinary approach is essential.
For further information, please contact Prof Abdul Majid Mattoo, Centre of Central Asian Studies (CCAS), Postbox 1074, G.P.O., Srinagar 190 001, India.

   IIAS | IIAS Newsletter Online | No. [nummer] | Regions |Central Asia