BY DR.ABDUL AHAD
History writing does not take place in vacuum. It comes through a protracted, complex process which includes deeper study and analysis of the legacy and literature left behind for us by our forefathers. Through carefully constructed tests and thorough and persistent scrutiny a historian evaluates the available source material and interprets it to weave the threads of history that helps us in grasping the attitudinal variations people of Kashmir have gone through collectively in ancient, medieval and contemporary times.
No history of sorts can be, therefore, conceived without examining and analysing the invaluable bequest or historical data available in both tangible and intangible form that we get in touch with through primary, secondary and tertiary routes.
Despite gritting his teeth to get on with hardships and impediments during investigation a historian does not wholly succeed in presenting an all-inclusive picture of society. The fault for this does not lie with the historian. It, undoubtedly, lies with the historical literature which is overwhelmingly devoted to kings, queens and nobles and does not go beyond their merry-makings and the concerns of Monarchy to accommodate people’s disquiet and angst.
Even Rajatarangni fails to stock the people’s quandary and instead lampoons and disrespects those engaged in tilling, ploughing, cultivating and animal rearing. Considering them mere chattels its author, Kalhana does not pull out his hate-campaign to accelerate their exodus from the cities and towns. He even castigates them for daring to speak in Sanskrit, which he calls the language of “gods” and Brahmans. Also he ridicules their dialect; the Kashmiri. He fixes our yore in a subjective frame of historical exposition; a tradition that was religiously followed by his successors in the field.
If at all our sources contain any information about common people that is simply incidental and meagre. Even the letters of Father Jerome Xavier do not proceed beyond the official callousness that had rendered the masses famished, emaciated and pitiable enough to expose their children for sale in open market during the devastating famine that visited the Valley on the eve of its occupation by the Mughals in 1586.
However, with the beginning of nineteenth century some European travellers undertook village-to- village visitation and explored and highlighted problems of Kashmir in their travelogues; leaving behind, thus, a huge treasure of information that enables us to form a conspectus of those bitter times when even small children were conscripted for Beggar and masses were denied essential commodities like salt, sugar and milk, and forced to survive on singhara and wild growing vegetables such as wupalhak, hund, satchel and abuj.
During this period we also come across a few local sources, notably Shahbadi’s Shah-ri-napursan and Mirjanpuri’s Tarikh-i-Kashmir which explain how the historical forces shaped the trajectory of tyranny whose dark silhouette reflected amply in the imposition of zar-i-nikah, cow dung tax and corporal punishment for cow slaughter and so on.
Equally important are the Archival literature and the British correspondence that throw full light on the impoverishment of people and the resultant socio-economic insolvency that entrapped them into the quagmire of white slave trade and other unethical dealings. They also speak about the mineral wealth of Kashmir that belies the dominant discourse that Kashmir can never be a sovereign State. The idea that Kashmir is geographically, strategically and naturally well-suited to a sovereign status is not a wishful thinking. It is based on facts profoundly enumerated by the British correspondence besides the Tarikh-i-kaln-i-Kashmir; an official source material that was compiled at the behest of the Sikh Rulers of Kashmir. This anonymous Tarikh has identified the most potent areas of mineral wealth and vivacious economic resources Kashmir was/is endowed with lavishly.
Conspicuously unique and hugely objective in stuff is Robert Thorp’s Misgovernment that has ample resonance for truth and reality and is bold enough to present a true picture of the circumstances that had made life extremely miserable in Kashmir. To the colossal public anguish accumulated over the centuries it gives a powerful expression which boils our blood unfailingly even now after the lapse of a century and half.
Likewise the role of news paper writings in reconstructing the contemporary history can under no circumstances be underestimated. It is vitally important in the context of current mayhem and conflict. Therefore it can be stated without any fear of contradiction that news papers have done a commendable job in giving voice to Kashmir’s historical angst and in presenting to the world the internal and external dimensions of its dispute. They have been a great inspirational source for articulating the vision minaret of Kashmir’s struggle against autocracy; against its illegal occupation by disparate forces and against its colonial dispensation. Boosting up the morale and confidence of its people at a time when they were immensely tired and burning hot under the flames of autocratic cruelty–that had engulfed the entire Valley and spread its paws far and wide–was really an uphill task which they accomplished so skilfully and humanely.
Among the early papers that took lead in depicting the affliction of Kashmir mention may be made of Lahore based Urdu papers like Inquilab, Its sister concern Mazloom Kahmir and the daily Zamindar. They were responsible for refurbishing the Kashmiri psyche with fervour and zest, of course, much to the annoyance of autocrats. But Milap, Partap and Tribune launched into an anti-Kashmiri tirade to project the local Muslims in bad colours to the comfort of their Hindu Rajas. They left no stone unturned to stifle their voice and muzzle the growing dissent by carrying fabricated stories.
Most of the newspapers have indeed helped to nourish the public opinion in ample measure even during odd times when the freedom of press was the greatest casualty of the terror created by forces inimical to Kashmir cause. These papers were published in Urdu only which fact resulted in disallowing Kashmir’s collective view point to penetrate across its mountain ramparts and reach the outside world. There was, therefore, a dire need of an English paper that could fill the ever increasing communication vacuum besides catering to the urges and aspirations of local English writers whose write-ups were always unwelcome to the outside print media. This gap was filled by Greater Kashmir that provided a sound platform to a new crop of thinkers and writers to express their ideas without any fear. The paper has successfully completed 25 years of its life with colourful achievements and largest circulation to its credit.
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.