The story of Kashmir oscillates between ecstasy and agony; joviality and desperation; happiness and disappointment; hope and despair. It has had its eras of triumphs. It has its periods of defeats. It has had both the avuncular and despotic rulers. It has had naiks and khalnaiks. Many a merciless marauders have invaded this land in the past and set a blaze the salubrious and sylvan vales and dales.
There might have been golden periods in the history of this land but predominately the people of this beautiful place have been bawling and wailing. They have passed from one phase of deprivation to another, one period of slavery to another period of slavery. The end of Moughal rule ushered in a whole train of miseries for the people of Kashmir. After Moughals it was Afghans that ruthlessly trampled down the people of the state. The Afghan governors proved to be 'ferocious bigots, tyrants and barbarians. The women both Hindu and Muslims were targets of the lustful eyes of some lascivious Afghan soldiers. Many beautiful damsels were put by them in their harems. "Many Kashmiri both male and female were captured and send as presents to their masters, friends or kinsmen at Kabul" The end of Afghan rules saw the arrival of the Sikhs and Kashmir fell to Ranjit Singh in 1819-the Sikhs entered Kashmir in great triumph and Jubilation. "The troops not unexpectedly, indulged freely in loot. Then Jamiamasjid, in Srinagar was shut up under the plea that it afforded accommodation for some 60 thousand persons. While assembling there, it was apprehended that they would find opportunities for meeting together and plating against the Sikh rule" It was not only shutting of mosque writes Mr R.K.Parmo in his book a History of Sikh in Kashmir, "Then Azan or call for prayer was prohibited. It was followed by placing cow-slaughter under a ban. Soon after, Phula Singh, the leader of Nihangs and Akalis arranged guns to blow up the Khanqah Moulla mosque." There is no need for an evidence for proving that "A virulent anti-Muslim communalism marked the policies of new dispensation. Muslims had a taste of what it meant to be on the receiving end of bigotry. The Sikh rule was synonymous with hated beggar (Corvee) and exploitation of worst kind for the common people. In words of Mr. M.J.Akbar the Kashmir spirit seemed to have collapsed under the burden of nearly a century of operation. The Muslims were on the receiving end, they were most discriminated against. His life was not worth peanuts. Mr. Moorcroft writes, "The murder of a native by a Sikh is punished by a fine to the Government from 16-20 rupees ,of which 4 rupees are paid to the family of the deceased if a Hindu and 2 rupees if a Muhammadan". The end of Sikh rule heralded the arrival of yet another century of tyrant and despotic rule. The Dogra rule was established through the so-called Treaty of Amritsar, signed on 16 March 1846. The velley of Kahmir was sold to Gulab Singh for just 75 lacs. The Maharaja Gulab Singh first Dogra ruler wanted to "the recover the amount from the people of Kashmir within his lifetime. To achieve his goal he introduced a tyrant tax system. Prithvi Nath Koul Bamzai , notes with some dismay in his book on History of Kashmir that the maharaja would personally pounce at and pocket as little as a rupee if it was held out in front of him.' The tax system introduced by the Dogra rulers was so horrifying that it had made life of the common people miserable; the worst sufferers were the Muslims of the State, who were discriminated against on every count and every count. The Paradise on Earth, that had waxed thousand of Sanskirit, Persian, Urdu and English poets lyrical had been converted into a virtual inferno, to escape from the flames emanating from this perdition many a Kashmir escaped into the neighbouring states of Punjab and North West Frontier Province. They departed from this state with a bag full of stories of pain and agony. How aptly said by our great poet Agha Shahid Ali:
" I am being rowed through Paradise on a rive of Hell"
The stories of the plight of the people of the state had traveled outside the State. Punjab, particularly Lahore and Amritsar were second home for Kashmiris. Thousands of Kashmiris during winters used to travel to these two twin cities for making an earning. The long winter's, meager sources of income, lack of work during winters forced thousands of peasants and farmers to migrate to these two cities as labourers. It were not only the labourers but thousands of artisans, craftsmen, small traders and businessmen who were part of the caravan of Tongas and Lorries that traveled on the Jhelum- Valley road after the harvest season. Thousands of Kashmiris for economic reasons had made the cities of undivided Punjab particularly Lahore as their permanent abode. "In 1891 according to census 111775 Kashmiris residing in different parts of Punjab" By dint of their commitment, dedication and hard work they had created an important niche for themselves in Punjabi society. Without getting assimilated in Punabi society they had become an important part of this society. They not only contributed to the economy of Punjab but also adorned its intellectual landscape.
The migratory Kashmiris played ambassadorial role in making plight of Kashmiris known to the world. The migratory laborers with 'stomach' full of painful and agonizing stories of exploitation, chastisements, tortures and tyranny by the Dogra rulers traveled every year to different areas of Punjab. Many a hearts were moved on listening tales of miserable plight of Kashmiris in tattered dress. It was on 15 March 1929 that the conscience of world was shaken when Sir Albion Bannerji a former minister with a feudal rulers exposed the misrule of Maharaja Hari Singh and told an international news agency Associated press at Lahore that " Jammu and Kashmir state was laboring under many disadvantages with a large Mohammedan population absolutely illiterate, laboring under poverty and very low economic conditions of living in the villages and practically governed like dumb driven cattle. There is no touch between the government and the people, no suitable opportunity for representing grievances and the administrative machinery itself requires overhauling from top to bottom to bring it up to the modern conditions of efficiency. It has little or no sympathy with the people's wants and grievances."
Not only people of Kashmiri origin settled in Punjab were moved by pitiable stories of this beautiful land but many others with human hearts expressed their concern. The miserable plight of Kashmir inspired many a poets to write highly melancholic odes about the people of this unfortunate land.
Punjab Press and Kashmir.
Kashmiri who had became a stranger in his own country found yet another envoy to tell his story- the story of his agony pain to rest of the world- the Punjab press. The newspapers published from Lahore played a yeoman's role to tell the story of Kashmir to the rest of the world. When Kashmir was sold along with Kashmiris for peanuts i.e. for Rs.7 by a handful of British officials to Gulab Singh the subdued Kashmiri accepted new master with out any ostensible resistance. This document which had been described as Treaty of Amritsar has been denounced by many historians as "Document of Kashmir Bondage" had not evoked any perceptible resistance and Kashmiris by and large had accepted it as fait accompli. It was an English newspaper published from Lahore The Punjabee founded by Syed Mohammad Azam who later founded the Lahore chronicle "was the first to raise voice in support of the Muslim population, now the slaves of a tyrant." This paper continued to raise its voice against the plight of Kashmiri Muslims who were at the receiving end wrote on 9 May 1857. "By the brutality and tyranny of that incarnation of sensuality avarice and all evil, Maharaja Gulab Singh, Cashmere is rapidly being converted into melancholy desert." The paper further said, " The smiling fields now lie waste, happy hamlet have turned wretched collections of ruined homesteads and desolate hearths. And all this is the work of one demon, to whose tender mercies an enlightened Christen Government has made over the most beautiful valley."
At the commencement of the 20th century an important and powerful Kashmiri Mohammad Din Fauq appeared on the scene. "Fauq was born in February 1987. After serving in Government as Patwari he turned to journalism under late Munshi Muhbub Alam, editor and proprietor of the Paisa Akhbar . In 1901 Fauq began his own paper Panja Fauld and in 1906 Kashmir magazine was ushered into existence which lived up to 1934." Fauq was interested in bringing out a paper from Kashmir his ancestral home. "In 1905 he filed an application to Maharaja Partap Singh seeking permission for publishing newspaper Kashmir from Srinagar. Permission was not granted instead Maharaja instructed his Minister to frame such rules that would debar even considering these applications in future." There was blanket ban on publication of newspapers in Kashmir at this particular period of Kashmir history. He had dedicated his writings for raising his voice against the plight of Kashmiris and stirring conscience of people against the tyrant rule of autocratic rulers.
"Munshi Mohammad Din Fauq is one of those patriotic personalities of Kashmir who worked tirelessly for revolutionizing political and social consciousness of his people," Writes Prem Nath Bazaz, . "In Kashmir common people were in deep slumber and educated class was self-centered busy in pursuing their vested interests. Fauq worked day and night to wake them up from their slumber and was preparing them for fighting for their rights." Dr. Iqbal admired him a lot for his commitment for Kashmir and called him Mujdil Kashmara . He loved his writings Fauq himself wrote about it, " Sir Iqbal liked my newspaper writings because of Kashmir and invariably called me Mujdil Kashmara ( ) This sufficiently suggests that he liked my writings about Kashmir aimed removing educational and moral backwardness in Kashmiris and waking them up from their deep sleep."
Since there was ban on publishing and printing of newspapers in Kashmir, some writers from this land got their write ups also published in Lahore newspapers. " Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz started writing for a Lahore based Urdu weekly Akhbari- I- Am when he was a student as back as 1928." The writings in Punjab press about the pitiable condition of people in Kashmir had mobilized some Muslims of Kashmiri origin to launch an organization, The Anjuman-I-Kashmiri Mussalman-I-Lahore. This organization became a strong voice for redeeming people from deprivation and exploitation. 'The Anjuman raised it voice against providing jobs in the State to non-state subjects, it worked for recruitment of Muslims in army and demanded restoration of proprietorship of land to peasants'
In the history of Freedom Struggle, 13th July 1931 is an important milepost. On this day many people fell to the bullets of the Dogra soldiers. "The news of indiscriminate and unprovoked firing outside the Central jail, Srinagar, reached Lahore on the evening of 16th July and was published in the Muslim Press on the 17th morning. The news shocked Muslims of Punjab. Individuals and organization sent about seven to eight thousand protest telegrams to Maharaja. Thousands of telegrams were also addressed to the Viceroy urging immediate intervention."
The publication of news about the mayhem outside the Central Jail in Lahore newspapers sent a chain of shockwaves to the Muslim community allover India. There were widespread demonstrations against the killing of Muslims outside the Central Jail allover India. It stirred the conscience of the Muslim intellectuals. "Hundreds of poems appeared in newspapers of Punjab in condemnation of the firing which were recited to huge crowds. Two of the poems one by Abdul Majid Salik and second by Agha Hashar Kashmiri, were read out from pulpits in mosques." Had not the Lahore newspapers reported 13th July tragedy, it would perhaps have gone unnoticed and Kashmir Struggle would not have gathered the desired momentum. The indignation that the news created amongst the Muslims of India against the Maharaja earned many a friends to Kashmir movement and resulted in the birth All India Kashmir Committee that subsequently played a very significant role in mustering mass support for the Kashmir movement. Seen in retrospect this organization which was later on headed by Dr. Mohammad Iqbal played a more vital role in exposing the misrule of Maharaja before the world community than the indigenous political organizations in the State which where caught up in schism right from 1932 more for ego-centric reasons than for political reasons.
Two newspapers, Inqalab and Zamindar published from Lahore played significant role in advancing Kashmir cause. "One cannot speak of the great influence and support given by the Punjab press, especially Lahore, to Kashmir cause writes C. Bilqees Taseer, "without making special mention of Maulana Abdul Majid Salik and of his newspaper and that of Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Zamindar" These newspapers undoubtedly played an important role in bringing socio-political awareness amongst Kashmiris. They in real sense worked as periscopes for outside for looking at Kashmir. These newspapers were available in Srinagar city at two shops Ghulam Ahmed Book Sellers Zania Kadal and Ghulam Mohammad Noor Mohammad Tajrain Kutab Maharaj Ganj. There were many other papers like Siyast, Muslim Outlook, Alfazal, Al Aman, Eastern Times, Kashmiri Musalman, Kashmir Mazloom that had dedicated themselves for advocating Kashmir cause. These newspapers printed in Lahore were smuggled into the State in Lorries. "The Youngman's Muslim Association of Jammu helped in their distribution in Resi, Udhampur, Sopore, Mirpur, Kishtiwar, Ramban, Srinagar, Shopian, Muzzfarabad."
Seen in retrospect, the role of Punjab newspapers in bringing about socio-political awareness in Kashmir is commendable.