Heritage – Kashmir, yesterday, today and tomorrow – Pl.D.Parimoo

Nearly 6000 years back a civilization flourished in a geographical territory comprising of several of today’s nations like Syria, Jordan, Lebanon ( the Levant lands) besides Iraq and north western parts of Iran. The civilization that flourished in this vast stretch of land the Mesopotamian civilization generally presumed dead surprisingly persists and its heritage preserved even today by the Levant and the Kurds.

Aram Abdul Rahim is a young metallurgist trapped in the bloody battle grounds of Syria. I could control my surprise with difficulty when he as a proud new father told me he had named his daughter Inana! Sensing my discomfiture he was quick to add that Inana might be the name of a primitive Sumerian Goddess but she was a part of their heritage and  meant nothing odd in the Muslim society of Levant; of course it may not be tolerated in Saud or Qatar, who did not have a civilization worth the name before the great Prophet (PBUh) gave them a semblance of civilization which was fabulously enriched by contribution of Egyptians, the Iraqis the Iranians and many other societies including those from India. A great civilization came into prominence during the last about 1500 years which is the jealously guarded heritage of Muslim world today. Some ill informed people may wish to just define it as a world of Muslim society careful to omit the heritage status it has gathered over the centuries.

The word Heritage is extensively used by tourism brochures to promote new avenues and explore new markets of tourism.  Many including some NGOs feel that heritage signifies just a ploy to attract tourists and is a term coined to collect higher revenues. Dictionary defines heritage as things or circumstances inherited. Heritage may be of a family, a community or a large mass of humanity with more similarities in common than dissimilarities amongst them. The older the vintage of inheritance and the better preserved it is by successive generations the richer and more distinguished the Heritage is considered which  not only makes the inheritors proud of themselves, enhances  their sense of self esteem but also  commands  respect of  even those who don’t fall in its ambit.

Our Kashmiri heritage is our architecture be it the ruins of majestic Martand, peace radiating exquisite Nur- Ul- Alam’s durgah or the Hazratbal mosque’s beautiful reflection over the Dal Lake. Our heritage is our distinct music, Sufiana or folk variety, the typical Kaandar waan, the waazwaan but above all it is our distinct language Kashmiri! The language of our ancestors never promoted or patronized even in the pre 14th century era, it was dominated over first by Sanskrit and then by Farsi. May be this statement may not be to the liking of some who now a days swear by the dead language Sharda. To such persons I would recommend to read what a Pandit historian Kalhan has recorded a thousand years back clearly stating that the natives spoke an uncouth language even reciting a few words of Kashmiri as spoken in those times.

The Kashmiri Sultans too  never extended any patronage to Kashmiri language though we had dominating personalities  like Lal Ded, Hazrat Nur Ul Alam and even Habba Khatun who did have great influence on the rulers of the times and enriched the native language taking it to new heights of cultural edifice.

The official apathy towards the very plinth of our society and its heritage, our language, had its first reinvigorating breath when Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah made it one of his prime goals to create the strong fundamental requirement of a language which is its script. One has to concede that Sharda script probably could have done better justice to spoken Kashmiri with its 23 vowels, but the problem was there was only a miniscule minority who could read this script.

Sheikh Abdullah in his mission to create a proud nation out of an illiterate, hungry mass that could  be proud of its heritage had to walk a tightrope to satisfy the several  different ethnic and religious groups. His speeches in mosques or in open grounds always started with verses from holy Quran to appeal to the orthodox Muslims and disarm the Mullas and Moulvis whom even Mr.Jinnah found unfit to be the leaders of Kashmiris. But his real hard-core support lay amongst the masses of Kashmiris who professed the popular, peaceful and tolerant version of the Islamic religion. It is a well acknowledged fact that Islam as practiced in Kashmir  is considerably  different from the Wahabi version of  Islam and the philosophy of Muslim League combining extreme form of feudalism with a religious fundamentalism could never have mass appeal in Kashmir. Those in Kashmir who deny that Sheikh Abdullah worked hard in the interests of the Kashmiris in general and the Muslim community in particular are suffering of a self delusory syndrome. He, long before anyone could comprehend, had the vision which became apparent later that Pakistan would eventually evolve into a deadly cocktail of Wahabi Islam and the feudal Punjabi cultural domination. A phenomenon that could sound the death knell of Kashmiri Heritage!

It is now a well known fact that American allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar which are Wahhabi states have been organizing and financing the numerous armed jamaats or militia groups that are brainwashed into an extreme brand of Wahhabi fundamentalism in Pakistan ,Afghanistan and the far off Syria. Those who can be spared, are dispatched eastwards to Kashmir to destroy the legacy of Sheikh Abdullah and along with it the Heritage of Kashmir.

The happenings in the Muslim country of Syria which finds itself in a most deplorable condition today can be an eye opener to people like us living in a conflict zone. The people there are dying of bullets, bombs and all basic needs. One of the most beautiful countries of Arab world has been reduced to a country of living dead. Have the Firangs launched a war against them or are they the Mujahadeen of Alqaeeda brand or is it a combination of both? The future alone can say whether the Kashmiris be able to withstand this onslaught or will they let the GULISTAN of KASHMIR turn into a KABRISTAN..

It is interesting and important to understand how very same ideological groups busy destroying the society of Syria with guns, are trying to sabotage the very plinth of Kashmiri heritage which has been its tolerant society strengthened by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah in recent past.

The neo intellectual class of Kashmir after putting up a firewall against any rebuttal of their fantastic enunciations of contemporary history opens its diatribes with the sole aim of destroying the image and reputation of a man who became an icon for a multi religious, tolerant secular society amongst the Kashmiri masses.

One such gentleman recently cast allegation of a Fascist rule against Sheikh Abdullah, based on a letter by Mehar Chand Mahajan to Sardar Patel. Shri Mahajan  who had lost his job as Prime Minister of J&K state had all the reasons to whine about the position of law and order that was brought about by the agitation in Jammu of Praja Parished an off shoot of JanSangh. Apart from the unruly Praja Parishad leaders,the only person of note that was arrested in Kashmir during that period was Ghulam Nabi Gilkar an ex associate of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah from the Muslim conference days.The story of his arrest is as under:

In accordance with the conspiracy hatched by Pakistan, the formation of a so called “Azad Kashmir” Government set up in a hotel at Rawalpindi in Pakistan, took place on 3rd.Oct 1947. In the same meeting, some Pakistani leaders and anti Sheikh Abdullah elements of the incursion had decided to dethrone the Maharaja of J&K and have him exiled. Radio Pakistan announced the formation of this Government headed by one Mr. Anwar as the President of this newly formed Government in exile.   However later it was known, that Anwar in reality was Ghulam Nabhi Gilkar who had been a working committee member of Muslim Conference and an old colleague of Sheikh Sahib. The possible reason of hiding the identity of the President could be the fact that soon after the radio announcement of the new government, Mr.Gilkar, the President had left for Srinagar in surreptitious circumstances to arrest Maharaja Hari Singh .Meanwhile the war of the tribal invaders had broken out, Gilkar Sahib cut off from his supporters, and resources in Pakistan could not make it back to Pakistan. Eventually the Government of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah later arrested him. (Refer:Kashmir and Sher e Kashmir)

One Christopher Sneda’s book “ Kashmir” is cited as challenging the landing in Srinagar of Indian army. The fact that Indian army landed in Srinagar is not contested by anyone and it is not clear as to why the intellectual reactionaries have mentioned it. In any case I would prefer to quote a Pakistani source about this episode. Pakistani Major (retd), Agha Humayun Kabir has this to write about what happened in those fateful days: “The Indians collected 30 Dakotas for the airlift and flew two companies of 1 Sikh to Srinagar on 27th October1947 from Willington airport near New Delhi. At this moment, the Indian situation was highly critical; only 40 men were holding a weak defensive position 5 kilometers east of Baramula. All commanding officers during this situation believed in leading from the front, Lieutenant Colonel Dewan Ranjit Rai the Commanding Officer of 1 Sikh being one such man.  By 2nd. November the Indians had flown in a very strong infantry brigade (161 Brigade) consisting of approximately four battalions into Srinagar.”

Some news paper scribes also now fallaciously blame Sheikh Abdullah for closing the negotiation window with Mr.Jinnah. The story takes a different hue when viewed in broader perspective of Sheikh Abdullah’s stand. One has to bear in mind how zealously Sheikh Sahib believed that the decision of accession was in the power of Kashmiris alone, and refused to accept the authority of an autocratic State in this regard. The Working Committee of National Conference being   passively divided on the issue of accession, sensing which Sheikh Sahib sent a delegation of Kashmiri leaders that included Kh.Ghulam Mohd.Sadiq, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, and Chaudhry Mohd.Shafi to discuss the issue, and to assess the thinking of Pakistani leadership.

To their utter dismay, the top politicians of Pakistan cold shouldered the emissaries of the Sheikh. Nevertheless, the message of Sheikh Sahib was conveyed when the Kashmiri emissaries held inconclusive discussions with Feroz Khan Noon, Mian Mamtaz Daulatna and Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, a second tier leadership of the Muslim League in Pakistan. The undisclosed catastrophe of Sheikh Abdullah’s attempt to keep windows of negotiation open and the harsh rebuff he received from Pakistani leadership has been written about by a leading personality of Pakistan.

Amman Allah of Pakistan administered  Kashmir(PAK) wrote about this visit of Kashmiri leaders to Pakistan baring all that had happened, about which none of the Kashmiri delegates or their leader ever uttered a word:

“The three Kashmir leaders were not even allowed to meet the Qaid Azam (Mr. Jinnah). Some Pakistani leaders in their private conversations went to the extent of referring to the state of Kashmir as their “bearer cheque” which they could cash anytime. Ch.Mohammed Shafi was assaulted in Lahore and some Pakistani papers even demanded the arrest of the Kashmiri delegation. Instead of mending their fences with Sheikh Sahib the state controlled Pakistani press unleashed a vitreous campaign against Sheikh Sahib’s person, even portraying him in cartoons as an ass or a dog. This highly undiplomatic and uncouth behavior by Pakistanis only helped to push Sheikh Sahib further into the welcoming embrace of India. It is further testimony to Sheikh Sahib’s far sightedness and absence of prejudice that despite such a shabby treatment meted out to him by Pakistan, he insisted on including the clause of right of self determination while signing the treaty of accession with India.”

Goebles has had many competitors for his notorious baseless stories but some Kashmiri scribes score over him very easily.One of them even tries to convey that the raiders from Pakistan in 1947 were messengers of goodwill. I don’t wish to enter into any argument on this score; however I quote sources based in Pakistan who have written about the raiders’ invasion of Kashmir:

Sardar Shaukat Hyat Khan a prominent Muslim League leader of that time and a minister of the Pakistan Government while admitting the atrocities committed by Pakistani invaders writes in his book, “The Nation that lost its soul.”

“For three days they did not move (after invading the important town of Baramulla). They started looting locals and cutting lockets and earrings of Nuns who were running a Convent at Baramulla… Instead of going forward and taking over Srinagar Airport, these Pathans started looting bazaars and wasted precious time. By then Indian reinforcement arrived by air into Srinagar… We lost Kashmir through our own blunders and bungling.” “Pakistan lost Kashmir not because of Sheikh Abdullah, but because of follies and shortsightedness of Pakistani leaders. After losing Kashmir, they had to find a scapegoat and Sheikh Abdullah was the best candidate for this, and they blamed him.”

Margaret Bourke White, an American photojournalist (based in Pakistan at that time), in her book, “Halfway to Freedom” describes the invasion of Kashmir in these words,

“Their buses and trucks, loaded with booty, arrived every other day and took more Pathans( the tribals) from the adjoining areas of Pakistan to Kashmir. Ostensibly, they went to liberate their Kashmiri Muslim brothers, but their primary objective was riot and loot. In this they made no distinction between Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. The raiders advanced into Baramulla, the biggest commercial center of the region with a population then of 11,000, until they were only an hour away from Srinagar. For the next three days, they were engaged in massive plunder, rioting, and rape. Sparing no one, even members of the St. Joseph’s Mission Hospital were brutally massacred.”

Nobody can question the fact that our state has been a Muslim majority state, so resorting to demographic data seems unnecessary, but this fact obviously did not clinch the issue. It would be interesting to read how this issue was addressed to by Sheikh Sahib in his inaugural speech of the State Legislative Assembly.

“The most powerful argument which can be advanced in her favor (Pakistan) is that Pakistan is a Muslim State, and, big majority of our people being Muslims the State must accede to Pakistan. This claim of being a Muslim State is of course only a camouflage. It is a screen, to dupe the common person so that he may not see clearly that Pakistan is a feudal State in which a clique is trying by these methods to maintain itself in power. In addition to this, the appeal to religion constitutes a sentimental and a wrong approach to the question. Sentiment has its own place in life but often it leads to irrational action. Some argue, as supposedly natural corollary to this, that our annihilation or survival depends on our acceding to Pakistan. Facts have disproved this, right-thinking men would point out that Pakistan is not an organic unity of all the Muslims in this sub- continent. It has on the contrary, caused the dispersion of the Indian Muslims for whose benefit it was claimed to have been created. There are two Pakistans at least a thousand miles apart from each other. The total population of Western Pakistan, which is contiguous to our State, is hardly 15 million. While the total number of Muslims, resident in India is as many as 40 million. As one Muslim is as good as another, the Kashmiri Muslims if they are worried by such considerations should choose the forty millions living in India.”

One Kashmir in his column even implies  that Indian leaders sent the army to Kashmir, under the belief that Pakistan would go bankrupt by declaring a war. The economic or military strength of Pakistan at that juncture is best written about by the noted Pakistani analyst,Ayesha Jalal who in her book  “The State of Martial Law- the Origins of Pakistan’s Political Economy of Defense (1990)” states.

“One has perforce to conclude that the government of Pakistan with the connivance of the Frontier ministry was actively promoting the sentiments that had encouraged the tribesmen to invade Kashmir. Admittedly, the Pakistani leadership refrained from officially committing the army in Kashmir. However, they did so because of the severe shortage of arms and ammunition, not because this was the preferred course of action. If they had been in a position to do so, the Muslim League leaders, with Jinnah’s blessings, would have thrown in the army behind the tribal effort. The commander-in-chief of the Azad forces was a Pakistani army officer, colonel Mohammad Akbar, who went under the pseudonym of ‘General Tariq’ [legendary conqueror of Spain in the 8th century] and was known to be in close contact with Qayum Khan and through him with Jinnah and the League leaders in Karachi”.

One more point raised by the same journalist  is the supposed nonchalance of Sheikh Abdullah about the atrocities on Jammu Muslims. I think journalists are supposed to do their homework well. People who make such allegations are  confused about the chronology of events. It is a well known fact that the communal frenzy of the undivided sub continent including Jammu, reached its climax in August 1947 when Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah was behind bars. Nehru had to rush to Kashmir to procure Sheikh Abdullah’s release but was himself arrested by the Dogra regime. Following this Lord Mountbatten visited Kashmir to prod Maharaja towards an accession decision, failing which Gandhi ji came to Kashmir. He was observing his Mom vrat during his stay in Kashmir. Covering his visit The Times, London, October 25. 1947 wrote about Gandhi’s visit to Kashmir:  “What exactly did Gandhi tell the Maharaja? We will never know, but the chain of events that followed his visit is an indicator of what must have happened. After his visit, the Prime Minister of Kashmir, Ram Chandar Kak, who had no inclination towards India, was replaced by Janak Singh and then by the Indian loyalist, Mehr Chand Mahajan. Dismissal of the British officers in the Kashmir Army and Police followed. This included the Inspector General of Police and the Chief of the General Staff.”

It is after Gandhi ji’s insistence that Sheikh Sahib was released, so how could he have prevented the onslaught on Jammu Muslims which happened when he was behind the bars? But what remains generally unknown is the fact that Sheikh Abdullah did avenge the sufferings of Jammu Muslims when he forced Government Of India to secure voluntary abdication of Maharaja Hari Singh or else let him face legal charges of criminal nature. Maharaja Hari Singh, one of the 500 odd princely states was the only ruler who had to abdicate his throne!

(The writer has been writing columns for Kashmiri papers and is author of :Kashmiryat at cross roads,Passion,power,perfidy…tales from Kalhan, and also the recently published book:Kashmir and Sher e Kashmir. reachable at peejip@yahoo.co.in)

3 comments

  1. Meenu Kaul /

    a peek into kashmir i am not much familiar with…

    • wonderful article ……I will make some notices soon …it worth read it more and more ….thank you sir …wish I hear and meet lot of people like you..:)

  2. In Paradise, man is born dead. Kashmir is a Paradise for all Jihadi’s, for it is here they realise their dream to be with houri’s with crystal clear waters flowing,cool sunshine….there cannot be a better place to die and get a passport cum visa to the Paradise. Root cause of the conflict is the beautiful damsel called “Kashmir Valley”. This perennial desire will eventually consume Pakistan by default. Parimoo Sahib’s pen keeps moving providing some perspective to conflict in Kashmir, which to me is as unending as the “human desire” . Human greed has taken a toll of what was Kashmir and Kashmiriyat. There are no right thinking people around, so the conflict is as endless as the universe around us.

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