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Imperiled Kashmir Identity and Our Response


Imperiled Kashmir  Identity


  1. Z. G. Muhammad


 It is a historical truth.   Arthur Brinckman was not wrong when   in December 1867, in his introduction to his forty-page pamphlet titled, ‘The Wrongs of Cashmere’ he wrote ‘that since the bargain (Treaty of Amritsar”) was concluded in 1846  the poor Cashmerees have been shamefully oppressed by the rulers we put over them that this oppression is getting worse. And these unhappy people have been asking us in every way they could, to release them from their wretched condition’.

The subjugated overwhelming majority treated worst than cattle did use every possible channel to reach out to the British in India and inform them that they had sold them to their vassal against their wishes. They narrated their woeful tales about forced labor without wages  and bigoted rule to the European tourist. Some of whom like Robert Thorpe at great risks through their writings ably articulated the injustice done to Kashmiris to the British in New Delhi. The people also sent petitions directly or through the Resident in Srinagar to the British Viceroys to abrogate ‘the 1846 Treaty.’  

The SOS’s from, well-meaning Britishers like Robert Thorpe had set some British Officers into thinking. ‘How best hapless Kashmiri could be helped.   They agreed that Kashmiris needed to be helped ‘spiritually and bodily.’     These officers looked for help from the Church Mission Society (CMS) in England and requested them to send a medical mission to Kashmir. The mission did a wonderful job, in constructing hospitals and providing medical care to the people and also endeared itself to them. For the belief of the missionary doctors that “there is no more potent agency than the work of the Medical Missions for spreading Christianity’, and because of the popularity of the mission, these doctors also like Arthur Brinckman and G.T. Vigne got a wrong impression. And started ‘hoped-for Kashmir someday becoming the focus of Christianity in Asia’ and to quote Vigne, “the Centre of a religion as pure as the eternal snow around.”

Failing in converting common people, more particularly the hapless Muslims even patients to their faith they saw socially ostracized leper patients in their hospitals as potential targets. These patients ‘owed practically everything to Christen work’ and when it came to converting them to their faith they were as hostile as any other common Muslim. As Ernest Neve has recorded from ‘their standpoint a baptized person is no longer one of the great Mohammaden brotherhood- thus a renegade.’ But, for their fidelity to their faith and identity, they could not even convert socially ostracized converts to Christianity.

 For spreading Christianity the   Church Mission Society saw education as another most important medium. It set up a couple of schools in Kashmir and in the spreading of education, it did the laudable job on two counts. One, it persuaded the most reluctant to get modern education. Two, for some people seeing the spread of Christianity as the mission behind setting up of these schools, it instigated and inspired Muslim as well as Hindu intelligentsia to set up schools for modern educations for their respective communities. Notwithstanding, some clerics opposing graduation of traditional Madrassa into a modern school, the founding of Anjuman-I-Nusrat-ul- Islam was a major milestone in spreading of modern education amongst Muslims of Kashmir and resisting moves for dissolving the identity of the over ninety percent population of the land.

It was not only European missionaries who had failed to understand that Kashmiris are resistance and resilience personified and they had protected their identity during most trying times. In early twentieth century an organization had set up its branches in Srinagar and through its propaganda under the umbrella of social transformation and education tried to play foul with the identity of the majority.  Its missionary aims were thwarted by religious scholars by holding a public meeting. Even its top leader Lala Lajpat Rai who had addressed a meeting on 2 June 1928 at Hazuri Bagh was made to bit the dust. These attempts to dissolve the identity of the majority of people worked as a catalyst for causing the 1931 eruption and resulted in founding an organized movement for freedom.

Similarly, under the intoxication of royal receptions- river processions and cavalry carnivals arranged by Sheikh Abdullah and his party in 1948 for Indian National Congress leaders,   Jawaharlal Nehru had also failed to recognize the innate resistance of Kashmiris when he had made, the 14 May 1948 letter of his daughter Mrs Indira Gandhi as the main pillar for his Kashmir policy. In this letter, she had written “Personally, I feel that all this political talk will count for nothing if the economic situation can be dealt with.  Because, after all, the people are concerned with only one thing- they want to sell their goods and have food and salt.” In mentioning about the ‘political talk’, she was referring to the conditions attached to the “Instrument of Accession.” Notwithstanding many eminent historians have challenged the fact and date of the “Instrument”, by restricting conditional accession to three subjects only and promising allowing people deciding their future through a referendum, it loudly recognized the  Kashmir identity. The euphoria created by Nehru and Abdullah after this “instrument”  that the battle for Kashmir had been won it took only a couple of years to evaporate. And make senior UN official Ralph Bunch say in February 1953 that ‘Kashmir is potentially the most dangerous place in the world’. A phrase that was repeated forty years later by President Clinton and since then has almost found a permanent place in the Kashmir narrative. Had not Nehru been guided by Mrs Gandhi letter and backtracked from his commitments and through conjured narratives tried to dissolve the Kashmir identity perhaps the situation in the subcontinent would not have come to such an impasse and Kashmir would not have become a nuclear flashpoint in South Asia?

I have recapitulated these historical realities to make a point that there are indications that attempts are once again at play to melt the identity of Kashmiris by even removing any traces of references to the history and geography of the State. In seeing the ‘teaching of two maps in classrooms: one of India and the other of J&K in the government schools playing a major role in radicalizing youth’, General Bipin Rawat, had subtly suggested about the moves ahead for imperiling the Kashmir identity. The State Education Minister and the opposition leaders had rightly reacted to the statement. In fact, for strengthening the integrity of the State there is a need for reintroducing subjects like history and geography of Jammu and Kashmir in the curriculum of schools that were removed in the early seventies. Moreover, the intelligentsia will have to reinvent the role played by our ancestors for safeguarding what is called as the Kashmir identity.  The day our intellectuals learn to say like Mahmoud Darwish,   ‘Write down!  I am an Arab’ no one will try to fiddle with our identity.   




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One Response to "Imperiled Kashmir Identity and Our Response"

  1. Qayum Tariq Khan says:

    We as a people too often underestimated these people who always and all along helped the aggressors to dilute our identity for the reasons of cupidity and avarice. And we like stupid always give these people representative character in one way or the other, though, knowing the fact they are there to enhance their self-oriented political agendas.
    In the life of nations there are ups and downs but the phenomenon of political dementia that we experience in our people stands unexplained. How is it that we as a people stood by a Abdullah Sheikh and his descendants for decades together without questioning our good sense and conscience. And there after we knew who was at the helm of affairs when Gawkadal massacre happened and yet we voted 75 percent for the same man. Omer Sheikh who got 125 school going kids murdered enjoys still representative place in the assembly. Who was voted to be there where he is.
    Politics and its institutions deal with real people and their life. This is what we need to understand. We need to have highly responsible political behaviour when it comes to our political life as a people. While boycotting elections we leave door open for political intrigues and bad governance. We need to come up to political challenge that we as a people are confronted with. The question arises are we incapable people to create a new political party with innovative political agenda that can balance our fundamental aspirations and restore our hope and faith in ourselves. Unless we come to grips with our proper understanding we will continue to suffer all kinds of difficult situations threatening the very identity of present and succeeding generations.
    We complain about atrocities committed day in and day out against us but at the same time we stand by and vote for those who have legal and moral responsibility in subduing us with violence. There are protests everywhere in the world even in the disputed territories but how is it that only in Kashmir protesters are met with pellets and bullets. The reason is that our so called representatives who in our name govern us do consent for violence of all kinds against us. The point is that if we want to change at least our internal political situation we need to take our responsibilities responsibly and change the existing governance by proxy by real representative government. We as a people do need to organise ourselves intellectually like french people who in the 2016 elections created new reality by voting for an unknown person called Emmanuelle Macron, defeating established candidates of political establishment dated back more than centuries.
    We know and understand the dynamics of Kashmir problem as an international problem but what is equally important is how we live and thrive in hard circumstance and situation that we are in since the treachery of Abdullah Sheikh, bringing fall to our sovereign nation.