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Looking   Beyond The ‘Shop-Front Narratives’


Z.G. Muhammad


Let me begin my today’s column, with one of my favourite quotes of Mahmoud Darwish; “He who writes his story, Inherits the land of that Story.” The reason for this couplet buried somewhere in the subconscious resonating in my mind has been an ongoing debate on the social media the Facebook for a past couple days on some posts by historian Dr Abdul Ahad, author of ‘Kashmir to Frankfurt, ‘Kashmir Rediscovered’, ‘Kashmir: Triumphs and Tragedies’, and Legends of Unsung Heroes. It would be hard to ignore these posts, grounded in history and having a direct bearing on the contemporary narrative. Moreover, for these posts demolishing, to use Antonio Gramsci’s phrases “hegemonic discourses” and “historical blocks” around these discourse did annoy a few friends still caught up in the ‘shop-front and pedestrian narratives’. For political expediencies and covering up their faux pas, some leaders had intentionally hidden certain historical realities from general masses and popularised the concoctions as the street narratives.   Notwithstanding researchers having brought the hidden facts to the fore some friends continue to promote these street, pedestrian and shopfront narratives.
Moreover, they desire writers and historians also to fall in line.  However, some participants with their informed posts made the debate on the social media much lively than those in the goody-goody temples of learning in the state. Such vivid, honest and frank discussions generated on the social media which are not possible in the universities denied academic freedom, are iconoclastic in as much raising some critical questions and deconstructing the ‘dominant discourses’.
The posts by the historian friend were about three   Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers, who at one time was in the vanguard of the resistance movement against the feudal autocracy and ruled Jammu and Kashmir, almost for twenty-three years from 1947-1972.   The debate, in a way, had global participation as many a non-resident Kashmiris from diverse fields; academia, journalism, medicine, engineering and business fraternity reacted and responded to these posts. Some, in approbation, took the discussion to higher levels. In their disagreement, some others pronounced the posts as biased. Some others denounced these as whipping dead horses and digging old graves. And few others holding the view that the immediate past has no relevance to the contemporary situation counted the debate generated by the posts of zero consequences to the position as has been obtaining in the state for past seventy-one years in general and past thirty years in particular.
Nonetheless, for dwelling further on the debate  explaining why the street  narratives were perpetrated by the vested interests and passed on from generation to generation and why their deconstructing and demolishing  is vital for strengthening the popular narrative, it would be pertinent to quote the one-liners posted by historian Dr Ahad  on the social media:
  • To change from a protagonist to the antagonist of the accession/plebiscite was intrinsically woven in Sheikh Sahib’s character.
  • Bakshi, a long-running horse of New Delhi in Kashmir did never-ever waver in fortifying the pyramid of Kashmir’s slavery, unlike
  • Sadiq, superstar of Kashmir’s integration via intrusion was foremost in defacing our identity for a reward.
In sum and substance, the quoted posts are antithesis to the ‘hegemonic discourse’ and narratives conjured by these politicians and their cohorts and orchestrated to this day by the vestiges of their power structure. Nonetheless, the subject of my column is not agreements and disagreements of the Facebook friends on these one-liners but to inform, how history demolished the conjured street narratives that had been forte of these three politicians for hoodwinking the people. Moreover, how heirs of their political legacies have been working to perpetuate these street and shopfront narratives to strengthen the ‘dominant discourses’ and confuse the ‘popular narrative that represents the aspirations and urges of the overwhelming majority.  To illustrate, my take on the subject, let me begin with the developments that preceded the 27 October 1947 happenings and the events after.
On 29 September 29, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was set free from jail, and he was taken in a river procession. On both the sides of the river Jhelum, the workers of the Muslim Conference raised slogan in support of the accession with Pakistan. That same evening, Abdullah addressed a public meeting in Hazouri Bagh (Iqbal Park). In his address, he said, “I don’t know why I was arrested and how I was  set free.” Feigning ignorance about his release from jail was calculated move to keep general masses ignorant about his secret meetings with the Indian National Congress leaders and envoys of Jawaharlal Nehru during his detention in a sub-jail in Bhadarwah, Doda and the agreement he had entered into with the Congress leadership on the accession of the state. In his speech, he was critical of M. A. Jinnah and extolled Nehru’s friendship and his role in 1946. But at the same time added, that for safeguarding the interests of people, he would neither allow Jinnah’s animosity nor Nehru’s friendship to come in his way.’
The demagogue in him had succeeded in converting his ‘pretending ignorance about his release by the Maharaja,into  so strong a  popular discourse that it had set a sharp mind like Josef Korbel guessing. In his magnum opus on the State, ‘Danger in Kashmir’ referring to Maharaja Hari Singh sentencing him in May 1946 to nine years prison, he writes, “On September, while the State was in the midst of a revolt, the Maharaja ordered Abdullah’s release. There is no evidence of any official intervention with the Maharaja, but the only guess which suggests itself is that Abdullah was released on the intervention of Government of India”.  That Abdullah had not entered into any ‘Faustian contract’ with the Congress for his release continued to be part of the Kashmir story, until the release of the Nehru-Patel Correspondence. The correspondence contains Nehru’s letter of 27 September 1947, which tells the whole story how the release of Abdullah is connected to the Instrument of Accession and landing of troops from New Delhi at Srinagar Airport on 27 October 1947.
Nonetheless, some friends on the social media, not the trolls but wedded to the shop-front discourses and the street narratives are yet to accept the harsh historical realities, that the ‘Afradi story’ is not connected to 27 October 1947 happenings, as they were made to believe by their leader but to the Poonch rebellion.  The September 27, 1947 letter of Nehru to Patel also explains the die for airlifting of troops had been cast much earlier to 22 October 1947, when Afaradis were seen in Muzaffarabad. Through, their arduous research historians like Christopher Snedden and Alastair Lamb have documented these stories to the minutest details. Thus demolished narrative conjured by Abdullah in 1947 and then reiterated by him after bidding goodbye to the plebiscite movement and returning to power in 1975.
Instead of opening their shut minds, some of these friends on the social media are suggesting to historians, researchers and writers not to inform readers about their past and not to pass on the honest Kashmir narrative to the generation next. For these friends let me conclude this column with a quote from a black African Nationalist Marcus Garvey,   “A people without the knowledge of their history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”










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