Re-establishing Identity

Dr Abdul Ahad’s Kashmir Rediscovered dismantles ‘his-story’ to re-discover the lost free and sovereign status of the present muzzled people and land

Professor Muhammad Aslam
Srinagar, Publish Date: Nov 14 2018 9:41PM | Updated Date: Nov 14 2018 9:41PM
Re-establishing IdentityRepresentational Pic

Allama Iqbal mourned the sad plight of Kashmiris in the following words: “Today, Kashmir has become weak, helpless and poor/Once, the wise would call it the Little Iran … Alas! These people, so skillful of hands, so rich in mind, and pure in breed/O God, your justice, so long delayed, must come at last as a retribution”. This wailing wasn’t for nothing as this “pure in breed”-and-“rich in mind”-race had been downgraded and labelled as “badzat Kashmiris”, and “Kashmiri be-pir and be-ta-miz” by those who were responsible for their predicament. This resulted in the loss of identity of both Kashmir and Kashmiris, and all future histories became deliberately-concocted-accounts that suited the powers that be. Histories became ‘his-stories’ to further the agenda of alienating the people and subjugating them to the extent that they felt that they had no past of their own. A lie told repeatedly is believed to be truth and the written lies acquire the status of a narrative—a propaganda—especially when it gets the official patronage. Kashmiris would continue to believe in such false narratives if modern scholars and historiographers didn’t take their pen in hand to dismantle and demolish these narratives. Kashmir Rediscovered: The Vicissitudes of Kashmir’s Historical Individuality and Assertion of Kashmiri Personality: (New Delhi: Adam Publishers & Distributors, 2005, hereafter referred to as KR) by Dr Abdul Ahad is one of the most stunning books in this regard. 

Spread over twenty-one chapters, divided into five parts, KR traces the genesis of Kashmir from the Nilamat Purana when Saint Kashyapa and god Vishnu with the help of Balabahadra drained out Satisar to reclaim “the submerged land of Kashmir and made it habitable for people” (KR, 15). However, the reclaimed piece of land—Kashmir—was to be “free from dangerous monsters and aquatic monsters…[had] warm bath-houses for the winte”. Here, “the sun [did] not burn fiercely during summer”, and it had “things that even in heaven are difficult to find” (Kalhana, quoted in KR, 5). This was the place that Emperor Jehangir would like to retain “even if he lost whole of his Indian Empire” (KR, 6). Nature had bestowed this land with an unparalleled beauty forcing Jehangir to say, “If there is a Paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this” (KR, 6). Kashmir’s mountains were acting as barriers, giving the “long immunity from foreign invasion” and “also a historical existence of marked individuality” (Stein, quoted in KR, 6-7). 

The race that, today, is “helpless and poor” was once peerless in the subcontinent.  Even Kashmiri Hindus—Kashmiri Pandits (KPs)—were unlike the Indian Hindus. Following Shaivism, KPs took “mutton, fish and garlicky diet…and without reservation” indulged in “Kashmiri Bikshus for women, wine, gambling…” (KR, 7-8). Those who, today, identify themselves with the majority in India must know that they had unanimously rejected “Manu’s code of social stratification” (KR, 8). Abul Fazal, Jehangir and Aurangzeb on reaching Kashmir found that many religious practices of KPs and Muslims were similar: “Both idolaters and Muslims tread Thine path alone, all uttering ‘God is one and without partner,” (Jehangir, quoted in KR, 9).  For this individuality, Kashmiris were called “bloody Brahmins” by Punjabis but to a foreigner, William Moorcroft, they were the “most lively and ingenious people of Asia” (quoted in KR, 10). Even Nehru had to tell his Parliament in 1952 that Kashmir was unlike other states in India and asked it to recognize and appreciate “Kashmir as a separate historical, cultural, political and geographical entity” (KR, 12). 

KR is our rue story told in an objective and stunning manner.  How did we become so meek, poor and enslaved and who to blame for the mess that we have been in for centuries now? Dr Ahad as a genuine and impartial historian has deconstructed the hegemonistc narrative and demolished it to the extent that we feel sad about what we were and what we have become. The contributors to our plight have not only been the foreign rulers like the Mughals, Pathans and Sikhs, but also the local greedy individuals who for their “petty parochial interest” (KR,335) sold the land and its people to these rulers. The last nail in the coffin of our individuality and personality was struck when Kashmir was sold to a cruel Dogra ruler who unleashed a reign of terror to break the will and strength of the people. In his regime, a particular group got access to his court whose main objective was to alienate the Muslims and earn the favours from the ruler by hook or by crook. They were the people of Kalhana and Ksemendara times, low in character, deceitful by nature and “far superior to a poisoned arrow” (KR, 37). With the help of the local henchmen, the ruler joined hands with another tyrant in 1947, making Kashyapa’s reclaimed paradise turn into a perpetual hell for its inmates: “The savageries of subjugation sucked Kashmiris dry; leaving behind memories of shabby tyrannies ranging from absolutism to brazen savagery; from autocracy to new-style colonialism; different only in their apparatus of repression” (KR, 335). Kashmir, thus, became a tale “of intimidation, oppression, persecution, exploitation and terrorism” (KR, 335).  

Kashmir Rediscovered dismantles ‘his-story’ to re-discover the lost free and sovereign status of the present muzzled people and land.  Demolishing the false narrative, it reminds Kashmiris of their glorious past. It is a rejoinder to them that they weren’t born to be ruled but rule because they are “much more intelligent and ingenious than the Indians” and “[i]n poetry and science they are not inferior to the Persians and they are also active and industrious” (Bernier, quoted in KR, 4). 

Dr Ahad has a unique style of writing; he seems to love weighty words and long sentences in his prose, which to me are a bane rather than a boon for a good book like this. However, many titles of chapters give a glimpse into the aesthetic sense of the writer. Titles like ‘The Birth of a Paradise’, ‘Rags to Riches, ‘Of Satanic Voices’, ‘Of Angelic Smiles’, ‘The Ripples of Growing Unrest’ and ‘Of Prayers and Petitions’ are poetic and musical. They catch hold of you and force you to read the book till the end without a wink. 

 

miraslam@rediffmail.com

 

 

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