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Kashmir Through History

[Also published on Oped Page, Greater Kashmir, 12th June, 2010]

[Also published on Op-ed, Rising Kashmir, 12th June, 2011]

[Also published on Political Theatrics, 2nd August,2010 ]

[Also published on Counter Currents, 2nd August, 2010]

The IK Group

Our land, Kashmir, has been suffering in its darkest periods, since the last 400 years. Still, people fail to write a literal sentence on Kashmir because they are choked by inarticulate remembering, failure in resourcing valid history and lack of true belongingness.

Bookstalls have given me a feeling of disgust. Not many have written about us. People from every conflict zone have written their stories but there is lack of profoundity in our own telling because very few have passionately written about it. As a Kashmiri, it is a pain for me, as much as an absence of a beloved. People have to write about it, speak about it because it is a gut wrenching tale waiting to be told.

We have had various foreign rulers. The first usurpation came through Duglat tribes through Zogi La pass in January, 1533. Their 5000 cavalry looted, plundered Srinagar. Duglats went back in May, 1533. Naive people have no idea how much Kashmiris have suffered under the the Afghan rule of Abdali or under the Sikh rule. The Aghan rule was more of a tyrannical monarchy when it was passed to Abdali in 1752. In 67 years of their reign, they showed less signs of a passive administration. Grandeur conduct vanished in their time, which Kashmiris were renowned for.

The Chak rulers, the first homegrown powers, had an obsession to impose Shiah doctrines. They made full use of Shia-Sunni conflict to stay in power. Some pious saints like Qazi Musa (ra) were persecuted in their court. The self- respect of Kashmiris was greatly wounded which was the main reason of the Chak downfall. Sunnis, under leadership of Yaqub Sarfi (ra), a student of Makhdoom Sahib(ra), revolted which put Kashmir into agony and chaos.

There are no good stories about any conflict. There are only difficult, gloomy, unambiguous and unresolved stories. Akbar, the Mughal Emperor, made full use of this timeserving advantage, invaded Kashmir in December, 1585. Yusuf Shah Chak, the ruler of that time, tried to expel the Mughal might, but it was impossible to crush the aggression. Yusuf was a weak king, comparatively. He was finally sent to a remote prison in Bihar where he died of namelessness and isolation. Kashmir lost its sovereignty and independence back then. Kashmir was never free since Habba Khatoon started singing in the longing of her beloved. Somehow, people again preferred home grown Chaks to Mughals and Duglats, but it was too late. Kings were isolated and minds were repressed, even more.

It was Sikh colonization which was more misery per se. Gulab Singh, a tribal chief from Jammu, helped British by staying away from war in 1846. He in turn, got a price for it; he got Kashmir. The British sold Kashmir to Gulab Singh for seventy five lakh rupees in 1846 which paved the way for Dogra rule till 1947. Even more suppression followed under the reign of his son, Pratap Singh. History says that only a few voices were were heared against the Kashmir sell off, due to dominating suppression. With the result, brave writers like Thorpe were silenced, before their voice could have been critical.

Heroes like Robert Thorpe & Maqbool Butt fought against forced beggary, ruthless taxation and deaths due to overexerted labor. Dying as a martyr and recounting a story about your land is a priceless special service. That's an irony because the sacrifices rendered were one of a kind; no one can count how many died for Kashmir. Its a tale of rebellion, which is more than a century old and suppression still dominates.

India achieved freedom on 15th August, 1947 from the British, but fate of some princely states was left undecided. In 1940's, Sheikh Muhammmed Abdullah, a popular figure arose among the masses. He spoke eloquence. He talked about land to tiller, civil rights and liberty in authoritarian 'Lincoln' style. Sheikh Sahib achieved immense popularity among the masses. Thousands waited and wanted to hear him. He was seen as a prime hope. Sheikh Sahib , along with Maharaja Hari Singh, sought time to decide the fate of Kashmir. Maharaja signed a conditional deed of accession with India, which gave Kashmiris a greater autonomy. Sheikh Abdullah, close ally of Nehru, supported him. However, things turned ugly in October 1947, when North-West Frontier tribes stormed into Kashmir. The invasion was sponsored by Pakistan Army. The war was stopped when UN interfered. UN model gave Kashmiris a right of plebiscite and supported a truce-line between the two countries which is known as the LOC (Line of Control).

Things radically changed some years after. Sheikh Sahib, the Lion of Kashmir, was caged in 1953 when he gave boisterous utterances of an independent Kashmir. India, in the meantime, installed stooge like leaders which degraded the 'greater autonomy' status which Kashmir had. After twenty years of imprisonment, Shiekh Sahib stopped roaring and gave up for what he stood for. He compromised the right of plebiscite and went on with full affiliation with the State of India. The epic image of Shiekh Sahib was questioned by the masses. Sheikh Sahib now turned Shiekh Abdullah. In his rule, people didn't suffer from acts of vehement violence but were subjected to a psychological suffering of despair.

From mid-nineteen eighties, people saw was a decade of frequent arbitrary arrests, disappearances, killings, loss of property, unmarked graves, rapes, torture; it has dominated Kashmir. I heard, Srinagar, at that time was a city of protests, massacres, pallbearers and mourners. Bloodbath, cross firing on streets, in houses and yet more killings and mournings. Peoples war with India had started. Thousands have been laid to rest in ordered rows. Kashmir even has empty graves waiting for vanished dead.

Two decades later, the people of Kashmir decided stone as a weapon to show their resentment about the prevailing political arrangement than Ak-47, in the nineties'. After every killing, or a disappearance, or a failed public policy, protests gather momentum, and stone pelting has becomes a mode of a frustration vent, and less of an organised strategy - a lie circulated by the media. The people have went back to stone age, because they want the world to know, that holding Kashmiris hostage to suppression, violates accepted forms of political and humanitarian liberty.

If civil disobedience is massive, a curfew is imposed to tackle the protesters. If it isn't threatening, it is curbed easily by excessive force- Both ways, curfews and hartals in Kashmir seem directly proportional to each other. That has also resulted in a self-erosion in our society, sometimes, hartaals and curfews have continued for months, which has affected students, self-employed people and low key workers, failing to earn to feed their families.

 The Indian mainstream politicians, on the other hand, have been are slaves to Indian political theories, uncompromising and over zealous, ready to fight for their Indian causes. To conclude, we have had knavish politicians here, speaking lies about killings, war and peace but the truth lies there : we haven't won but we can't be defeated.

There are reminders about disappeared on every street. You could find women and men, holding placards, with dismayed faces. Many missing people are believed to be killed in fake encounters and custody, some even have been dumped in prisons. People who were taken never returned. Those who returned were never the same. Government even has refused to install any Truth Commission. Some have given up hope and some and some are fighting for justice even now, hoping that their loved ones would return.

Thousands of dejected lot of women, have been molested by the security forces. The State home department, have no such robust record of abuses, which have been proved by Medicins Sans Frontiers, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. This unspeakable humiliation, at the hands of the security forces, has motivated women to sustain the secessionist movement, even now.

Anytime, a body is found, government tries biotechnology, exhumes a body and more anxiety returns. You never know who the person would be. A family only hopes that it shouldn't be their kin. Government, in turn, offers a monetary compensation but it can't compensate a son.

I often think that whether we could have really changed our history. What if our conflict wouldn't have turned out this ugly and fatal? What if our history wasn't so tragic? What if there would have been no armed struggle? What if India & Pakistan both would have genuinely talked and avoided thousands of deaths? What if UN resolutions didn't seem like miserable failures? But this never happened, only savagery followed.

© Naveed Qazi, Insights: Kashmir

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