BY DR.ABDUL AHAD
History wouldn’t say this if it weren’t the gospel truth Kashmir has remained a rich repository of wonderful array of protests which have not been only immensely potent to accomplish the goal of the protesters/ dissenters but also distinctively unique and profoundly imaginative to have no parallel anywhere else in the world. Close to the side of bunger strikes, self-immolations, voluntary deaths, beating of drums; hitting of cymbals, burning of mashals and public assemblages, Kashmiris devised a unique technique of protest that was non-violent in essence. They came to place Upalhak, wild growing vegetable of bitter taste, on the base of god’s icon to express their discontent against the atrocities of the administrators and the Damaras, the land grabbers and trouble makers. The people of Kashmir never lost the sight of what they had learnt 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 1931 and onwards when they manifested their burning desire or change-more change and more change and when they began propelling their voice across the line and vehemently spoke up against autocracy more concertedly than before.
That Kashmir history abounds with the examples of innovative and mindblowing variety of protests is a statement of verifiable historical fact which most of the historians and writers, especially non-locals, have all the time over looked to portray the Kashmiris as Zulunm Parast “(worshippers of tyranny), chattels, dumb driven cattle and thoughtless enough to reconcile to any kind of unpleasant situation without a murmur or dissent. Whenever the Will of the rulers tended to acquire disproportionate weight in Kashmir the voices of public dissent and overwhelming worry would instantaneously become visible to stir the influential to create noise and chaos to unnerve the monarchy. The people, generally of urban Kashmir and more specifically the Purohits, would exhibit tremendous courage and guts while opposing those who callously curbed to the minimum their means of livelihood and exploited them to the hilt.
Kalhana’s Rajatarangni furnishes ample evidence to this effect. Clearly delineating the contours of public anger and fury against the coercive policies of the ancient and medieval establishments, it refers to protests and resistance movements whose pattern was not only immensely potent to accomplish the goal of the protesters of course after they surmounted untold difficulties but also distinctively unique and profoundly imaginative to have no parallel anywhere else in the world’.
One of the most creatively viable modes of protest was that of the Hunger strikes (Prayopavesas) or Solemn Fasts which undoubtedly proved an efficient antidote to an abnormal conditions created by political tormenters; a vital instrument that enabled the dissenters to rectify the wrongs done by the rulers.
These Solemn Fasts richly express the thoughtfulness of the early Kashmiris-mainly Brahmans who resorted to these for the redress of their grievances both common and personal. Then there were self-immolations and voluntary deaths which the Kashmiris used as the most powerful means of protest to coerce the flabby Kings to agree to their demands and make their living hassle free and smooth.
However, these proved most effective weapons of resistance in the hands
of Brahmans who constituted the most influential class of the cast-zidden society of early Kashmir. Organized into Parsads” or corporations at all shrines and temples where they conducted prayers, sacrifices, festivals and, thereby
shaped the character of the people, these well-organized priests, also called Parisadyas, made best use of these protests against the royal atrocities and tor meeting their personal and communal demands.
Apart from receiving alms and donations these Brahmans possessed vast temple lands as sattra or achyinyas or endowments. And when for one reason or the other the rulers tried to confiscate these lands or imposed restrictions on them, they resorted to hunger strikes, self-immolations and voluntary deaths which the Kings generally dreaded very much, But the stubborn among them Scarcely paid any heed to these pressure tactics. King Jayapida (751-785AD) was so obstinate that despite strikes and Brabman uproar he continued confiscating lands of the Tullamula shrine. And when informed that the Brahmans were preparing to take resort to voluntary deaths he was least stirred and instead spoke in furry.
“Let it be reported (to me) if hundred Brahmans less one die in a Single day,”
This was a challenge which the Brahmans accepted without demure. Consequently 00 Brahmans minus one sought death in Tullamula river to put in motion a precedent of great sacrifice as a protest against oppression that ultimately forced the King to discard the practice of seizing temple lands and to adopt conciliatory measures to win the Brahman support.
As the State interference in the temple lands continued unabated after King Jayapida the Brahmans began observing strikes more vigorously than before. The ever increasing corruption, insecurity, chaos and fiscal oppression which afflicted Kashmir during the reigns of Queen Didda (981-1003), King Sussala (1120), King Bhiksacara (1121) and King Harsa geared them up to expand the net of their protests. They held assemblies to agitate these burning issues alongside the confiscation of temple lands. The system of beggar or forced labour introduced by King Sankara Verman (1883-1902) roused their indignation during the reign of King Harsa. Compelled as he was by their confrontational style of resistance and defiant attitude the King granted them exemption from the beggar.
Similarly the Brahman Corporations met everywhere in the Valley to consider law and order situation that had completely deteriorated during thee reigns of Bhiksacara, Kalasa and Harsa due to the violence perpetrated by the Damaras, a brutal tribe with a semi-independent feudal outlook. Apart from bringing about a definite change in the circumstances of a huge social whirl characterized by the feelings of disenchantment and divisiveness, these assemblies inspired King Lalitaditya” not to allow villagers to accumulate wealth to become “in a single year very formidable Damaras and strong enough to neglect the commands of the King.
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.