It may not be assumed that only priestly class made use of assemblies and Solemn Fasts ; other classes too exploited these to achieve their goal. Even the soldiers employed these to seek redress of their legitimate grievances and restoration of their marching allowance. The women belonging to Brahma community too observed hunger strikes for their defence against cruelty and for seeking justice and some respectability that was so callously denied to them in the society both at domestic and social levels.
On occasions the Solemn Fasts were misused by the Brahmans for securing personal gratifications. They abused these to seck rewards from the rivals of Queen Didda’s Prime Minister and paramour, Tunga. They also besieged King Sussala and with their fasts compelled him to bestow on them numerous favours and shower with honours gold vessels and other valuables.
Close to the side of hunger strikes, self-immolations, voluntary deaths and assemblages, the Kashmiris developed a typical technique of protest that was non-violent in essence. They placed Upalbak, a wild growing vegetable of bitter taste, on the base of god’s icon and, thereby, expressed their discontent against the atrocities committed by the administrators and the Damras, the land grabbers. But this kind of protest didn’t prove as effective as voluntary deaths and hunger strikes.
Also the people adopted other methods to register their anger and express their disquiet. These included abandonment of work for a long time, continuous beating of drums and hitting cymbals with sticks to create loud noise, burning of mashalas, campfires, pelting of stones etc. These were generally used against anti-social elements bent upon disturbing the tranquillity and prosperity of the country by their looting habits. They proved arsenal of consequence to pester and silence those who disrupted the normal public life. The powerful Damaras and militant Tantrians, the rural rich people, who were always on prowl to scare people with their marauding exploits and by taking to arms to confront each other for economic and political gains particularly in the time of weak Kings were dealt with these means of confrontation. When the mutual bickering and nonstop pillaging of these intractable clans wreaked unprecedented havoc in the country the people of all classes and castes gathered together to express their anger on the streets and by-lanes through these weapons of mass resistance. Everywhere in the countryside the cultivators, handicraftsmen and other workers left their work unattended and the Brahmans gave up Vedic recitation, all rose to the occasion to fight against the troublemakers in unison and pelted stones on scoundrels and chased them with burning marshals and beating of drums and cymbals.
Likewise people in medieval Kashmir voiced their concerns against the falling morals ot monarchy and the irrationality of those yielding considerable influence owing to their “religious knowledge” and social background and who had nurtured an ethos that Was overwhelmingly disposed towards corruption, oppression and exploitation and in which addiction to women and wine was regarded a virtue. They refused to succumb to the pressure exerted by the Mawalis over their means of sustenance to constrict their mobility, individuality and respectability. They rose in revolt against these oppressors -who had swooped over Kashmir like water birds hungry enough to devour anything that came their way; not sparing even the refuse of vegetables -and with their hatchets, spades, spears etc engaged them fiercely at Eidgah grounds for quite some time. To augment their resistance, they didn’t even hesitate to burn up their mansions that used to be swept clean by silvery-bosomed slender damsels, holding in their delicate hands fly-whiskers of blue horse’s tail with handles set in gold. The destruction caused was so enormous that the enemy was forced to surrender in utter disgust.
Other means of dissent were equally employed to give vent to public anger notably popular religious movements of Sufism and Rishism, besides armed insurrections all depending on the conditions of time and exigencies of situation. There is no denying that these movements didn’t, apparently, touch politics or economics but nevertheless these were direct expressions of acute social discontent and at the same time the protest against real distress. In the medieval times when everything was measured in terms of religion and when the masses were made to believe that their misery and suffering was “God sent, theological movements proved effective means of subordinating institutions to a lively sense of living and of emancipating people from prevailing melancholy and sadness.
It was, however, really courageous of the great Mukhdoom Sahib” that he set in motion the tradition of dissent in those difficult times when it was impossible to differ with the official opinion. Not bothering for the consequences and retribution he opposed vehemently what the rulers were pursuing to hurt the majority view
His tradition was, however, faithfully followed by his successors. Bolstering the Kashmiris to confront tribulations, misrule and alien domination at different periods of their historical formation, it continued occupying history’s space even more virulently than before. The people of Kashmir never lost the sight of what their ancestors had taught them to do when caught up in a cauldron of coercion. They gave ample proof of their defiance in 1846 when they fought with indigenous knives and agricultural tools against the occupation of their land by an upstart. Their virulence became even more and more pronounced in 1846, 1865, 1924 and 19314 and onwards when they manifested their burning desire for change-more change and more change and when they began propelling their voice across the line and vehemently spoke up against atrocities.
But unfortunately most of the writers on Kashmir have altogether ignored these facts to portray the Kashmiris as worshipers of tyranny, Zulum Parastt.
Dr. Abdul Ahad is a well-known historian of Kashmir. He presents a perspective on the Kashmir issue and talks about Kashmir’s history and individuality and personality.