The city of saints. That is how best, I can call my part of city. It had been abode of great Auliyas – some natives and some from distant lands in Arabia, Persia and Central Asia. In wee morning hours, it has been resonating with Persian Munajats and Mankabats written by masters like Hafiz, Rumi, Jami and Sadi. When, I got up in the morning, borrowing from Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in the Wonderland, “I almost think, I can remember feeling a little different”, But, I never questioned myself like Alice, “Who in the World am 1?” I had an identity- the identity that my city had given to me and made me distinct from the larger sub-continental identity. It had taken centuries to shape this identity- no marauder with all his repression despite attempts succeeded in denuding me of my identity.
Notwithstanding, the overwhelming people being highly possessive about their identity, culture, ethos and faith, new political philosophies have swept across this land but have failed emerge as popular narratives or strike their roots. In thirties, Ahmadis from Lahore supported whole hog the popular movement against the Maharaja Hari Singh and earned some space in the political echelons of the State. It used money power to win people and popular leadership. Nonetheless, for the strength of deep rooted religious ethos of the land, this new cult suffered an immediate repulsion and failed to strike any roots in the land.
In my childhood, likewise, some youth, some barely literate and some totally illiterate had taken fancy to communism. They looked at Lenin and Stalin as their seers and counted Karl Marx’s Das Kapital as their new bible. Retaining the names given to them by their parents most of them suffixed their names with names Russian leaders: Lenin, Stalin etc. I remember a friend of my uncle was nicknamed as Bulganin and another as Khrushchev after the visit these of two communist leaders to Kashmir in 1955. I never understood what had attracted a pug-nosed woodcarver, a tin-smith, a shroud-stitching-tailor, and some small time scrape vendors of our locality towards communism- all that I could make out was all that they had been told: It is a battle of have-nots against the rich- who they believed had exploited them for decades.
These Bolsheviks, who were considered as alien to our social ethos for their illiteracy were also unimpressive. It was much later during my days in college that I came across a group
of student who professed Marxists-Leninist ideology. Names of some still lurk in my mind; Chaman Lal Kantroo, Bansi Lal Handoo, Maharaj Das, Janki Nath, Manzoor Ahmed Khakh, Shafi Shouq, and Gulshan Majid. They were students of S.P. College and Degree College Anantnag. Besides, these students some of whom were my classmates and contemporaries in the campus there were many others like Muhammad Yusuf Dantaroo, Ghulam Muhammad Lone and Hassan Koka, who despite not having joined any college were fully conversant with the political philosophy that they believed in. Abdul Kabir Wani and Muhammad Yusuf Dantroo articulated their political belief quite impressively in chaste Kashmiri.
Out of curiosity during my days in the University I started visiting office of this group in Basant Bagh area. It was a small austere room, no sofa, no chairs, the floor was covered with traditional Kashmiri mat (wagu). There were no bolsters in the room. The only artefacts that caught my attention copper Hubble-Bubble, a tin tobacco box and an earthen fire pot. I still remember the face of frail G.M. Malik, an advocate by profession who was an ideologue of these left leaning youth. Some of them were also a part of the morning Coffee House crowd. Bansi Lal was distinct for his bushy beard. He perhaps never read books but flaunted his book-dustcover knowledge’ with great skill making other believe that he was voracious reader. But others in this youth group were knowledgeable and scholarly. I admired Chaman Lal Kantroo from Cheena Chowk for his human qualities and scholarship,
Of the lot, he was most read person and highly committed to his ideology. During those very days he had translated India’s China War a breath-taking work by Neville Maxwell and Dialectical Materialism into Kashmiri. In fact, every one of them more particularly Shafi Shouq and Gulshan Masjid, two young poets and writers were voracious readers. I remember, in those days when I loved reading thrillers and spy stories and my favourite author was Agatha Christie, the duo would take me on a far higher plane and they talked about Sigmund Freud and Jean Paul Sartre.
They talked of Sahir, Faiz and many others. They were madly in love with Kashmiri poetry and looked at this language as symbol of Kashmir identity. Chaman Lal Kantaroo established a boarding school in Anantnag and Shafi Shauq and Gulshan Majid joined academia. Like many other political philosophies, the Marxist-Leninist philosophy or Charu Majumdar revolutionary ideas also found no takers in Kashmir.
Shafi Shouq romance with Marxism ended in early eighties and he committed himself to creative literature.
Z.G.Muhammad is a noted writer and columnist