Reimagining and revisiting the history of Kashmiris
Syed Suhail Yaqoob
It was a routine discussion on sociology. Within the time it converged to political discussion. Kashmiri’s restrained discussions often converge to politics and we have become habitual to it. It is our oppressed history that has converted us habitual to politics. We have seen worst kinds of abuses; both physical and psychological. Invaders like Dulchu have constantly pried on this patch of land called Kashmir. It is a wonderful region dotted with rivers, stitched with forests and gardens of every kind. Poets and writers wonder about its charm and natural beauty. Kashmir’s alternative name is ‘paradise’ on earth.
It is exactly from the usage of specific words that politics start. By describing Kashmir as Paradise, the writers have taken away the nationalistic rights of Kashmiri people. In religious language, a paradise is a place where everyone can come, live and share with other inhabitants. A curious point to note here is that it is Kashmir as a place that is described as so-called paradise, not its inhabitants. Barring few writers we are described as dirty, filthy and cheaters. Abu’l-Fazl in his book ‘Aine-Akbari’ counseled his generations that we should never be trusted. He forgot his own king’s treachery when he called Yusuf Shah to Delhi for talks and imprisoned him there. Biscoe went further and defined us lazy, niggards and Zulum-parast. He forgot that British (whom he considered as fertile minded) were the people who sold us for mere 75 lakh rupees. We have thousands of examples like these.
Kalhana Pandit said that we can never be conquered by force and history has proven it. His book Rajtarangni is full of stories of our past heroes who went down even to Sri Lanka with armies. The world used to shake at the marching sound of kings of Kashmir. Who can forget the exploits of Lalitdatiya, Awantiwarman and noble rule of Budshah? We have like these thousands of examples hidden from our people intentionally. We know a lot about Che Guevara but little about Maqbool Bhat. His flight from Central Jail was no less than a
wonder. Realising that Kashmir can never be subjugated by force, the writers either intentionally or without intention coined the worst that remained part of our literature. An idea about it can be gauged from the convergence of our research. It is focused on the ‘other world’ rather than life on earth. Their aim was to break the spirit of Kashmiri people. And the attack was on history and literature.
Our history is full of mystical and metaphysical writings. On reading the history of our people we get an idea that we have always kept aloof from material pursuits and remained engrained in otherworldly things. This is totally a lie. Passivity and aloofness towards life were deliberately pushed in the books to help imperialists and their nefarious agenda. Unfortunately, the very people who made social revolutions in Kashmir like Sheikh-ul-Alam were described as being passive to life. Careful and detailed analysis of books and the creation of Rishi-Culture related to him shows that he was very active in life and believed in both materialistic pursuits and spiritualism. We shall not forget that he was a changed person when he left the cave. Similarly, our heroes who would have paved way for improvements in our culture were either kept hidden from us or their speeches were twisted to help imperialistic designs.
There are few books which tell us that the first workers’ revolution happened in Kashmir in the 19th century much earlier than it happened in Europe. Few tell us there was Subhan Hajam who fought against prostitution in Kashmir and also there are less who tell us that there was Tazi-Chak who was a nightmare to Mughals. Many less will write that our rule stretched from Bengal to Bukhara. The writing of our revolutionary poets is kept hidden from our generations. We now hardly find the writings on Mehjoor, Abdul-Ahad Azad and Rasul Mir, the legendary poets. We are given doses of Sheeren- Farahad love story but not Heemal-Nagrai’s love story. Every imperialist country makes sure that inhabitants forget their history, culture, and ethics and remember other’s heroes rather than their own. This is exactly what has happened to Kashmir.
As if this was not enough, our culture is also corrupted. Long oppression gives rise to superstitions of every kind. Superstitions prevail over the entire Kashmiri society. Some days are considered auspicious compared to others. People refuse to marry on certain days. Also, people refuse to buy luxurious goods owing to something called Nazar (the evil eye). Europe and other countries have reached an unprecedented level of production and consumption. They never get blown away by the so-called Nazar.
Many people believe in a fatalistic ideology. The ideologies like Kismat or Tawakal were deliberately introduced to make people fatalistic towards life. These ideologies believe in waiting for some good to come rather than the strength of arms and work to make things happen. The idea in the enlightenment period in Europe was to make sure that people disown all superstitions and believe in consistent hard work and struggle. Not only superstitions pervade our society but also every attempt was made to make us lethargic and lazy. Pheran, the traditional cloak of Kashmir, is being dubbed as a part of our culture. If anyone rationally thinks over merits and demerits of this very cloth, he or she shall never wear it. This very thing impedes the body movements, presents Kashmiri people like a bag of sacks, gives a sensation of cold around and disturbs the growth of the body. We have been carrying around 2 kg of cloth on our bodies unnecessarily for a long time and the so-called elites have dubbed it as our culture. Some people believe that Akbar deliberately introduced it to reduce the manliness of Kashmiri people. Not only this very cloak reduces manliness but also it encourages dirtiness. Most people like to wear a black cloak with the expectation that it will not be washed many times. In the 19th century, Kashmir people launched a movement to discard Pheran. Unfortunately, the movement did not found support among the masses. The dress has a peculiar influence on the mindset of an individual so the adage goes ‘Clothes maketh a man’.
Perhaps religion is the most sensitive issue to talk about in contemporary Kashmir. It can lead anyone in hot water. If we compare the period of early Islam to present day Islam in Kashmir, there seems to be a lot of distance between them. In early Islam, the focus was on creating a better society based on justice, constant activism, and creation of a better man or woman. Islam encourages no superstition whatsoever. It encourages the use of faculty, encourages science, literature, and art. Islam discourages laziness, staying idle and dumb bodies. It discourages lavishness and spendthrift. Today in the garb of being ‘Spiritual persons’ people have exploited common masses. Today a simple marriage ceremony costs lakhs of rupees. It is no wonder that thousands of girls have remained unmarried due to costly marriage system. When dowry lost its prevalence in society, cunningly it is provided using different language. People have termed dowry with Shookh (love of parents for girls). In the garb of love for girls, dowry is quietly accepted. These evils have crept into religious institutions as well.
It is no wonder that we are likely to spend lakhs on religious ceremonies rather than proving a help to the poor. In early Islam, Masjids were simple with no lavishness whatsoever, but a poor man was always provided food and necessary items. We have adored every religious place with marbles and luxurious items but we are leaving thousands of our fellows in poverty and destitution. And from mosques, our leaders talk about removing poverty and destitution. Poverty is the worst sin in society. We have thousands of orphans and thousands of widows without necessary living.
Post-script: Yes, indeed we need an overhaul of our society. It must start with writers who have kept hidden our accomplishments in history. R. L. Bhat says that essential aspects of our culture of Kashmir were ignored by official historiographers. We must encourage new perspectives on Kashmir’s history. Not only history, but social revolution is also a must for Kashmir. We must throw away things that encourage superstition, lavishness when poverty is around, check laziness and being dirty and encourage the high spirit. This is one of the hopes for our better future.
*Syed Suhail Yaqoob is a Ph.D. scholar in the Dept. of Economics at Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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