Agony, No Ecstasy


It takes courage to tell the truth. In our situation, where “leaders”  believe that they are the Zeus’ in their own right and their hanger-on’s make them believe that they are infallible demigods, “intellectual go-betweens” and “manufactured-elites” are engaged in strengthening the ‘dominant discourse” telling truth is like walking over double edged sword.   Dr. Abdul Ahad, with his new book “Kashmir: Triumph and Tragedies” published by Gulshan Books, Srinagar has done the same- he is   fearlessly treading on sharp razors by challenging the “manufactured narratives.”

The book spreading over 294 pages has nine chapters, preface, prologue, epilogue and appendix. More than one way the book is encyclopedic in as much in exploring some virgin chapters of our history and exposing grey areas of contemporary Kashmir politics. The author, in writing this book has adopted methodology of writing research papers, starting with an abstract, followed by an exposition of the problem and then debating it threadbare. One could say that it is compendium of research papers, but with subtlety, he has blended these papers thus giving a holistic picture of the Kashmir narrative. Entrenched in history, it is a political commentary distinctively authors own.  

In mid nineties efforts were made to change Kashmir narrative and synchronize it with what Antonio Gramsci calls as “dominant ideology” and “cultural hegemony”.          To the political lexicon of Kashmir a new, word ‘Kashmiryat’ was added. This word has no etymology.    In the entire gamut of Kashmiri literature, there are no traces of this word. From Lal Ded to Dina Nath Nadim, from Sheikh-ul-Alam to Ahad Zaragar and from Ali Muhammad Lone to Akhtar Mohiudin no Kashmiri poet or writer has used the word.  Historically, this word, at no point of time has been part of Kashmir’s political discourse. Some writers out of share naivety have been attributing the coinage of the word to Sheikh Abdullah. Taking a dig at what he terms as “jobbing historians” and “surrogate academics”,   Dr. Ahad  writes, “ Though intellectually shallow these strategies are too engaging to plague the young minds ‘jingoistically’ and lure them into the bandwagon of Kashmiryat, a borrowed conceptual model now used as conciliatory device to push the youth into quagmire of illusions and  deviate their attention from real burning issue of Kashmir dispute.”  

In   chapter Kashmir, Kashmiris and Kashmiryat giving the genealogy of the word, he has deconstructed the official narrative. Slogans, which had enabled Sheikh Abdullah to float on the crest of popularity for five decades, had lost all their sheen after his death pushing the National Conference into a quandary.  The post 1975, slogan Izzat-oo-abroo-ka-muqqam in place of rai shumari, plebiscite   had lost all its appeal and vibrancy. The party has lost all its buoyancy.  Death was knocking at its door but for New Delhi through it’s off and on pinpricks making it relevant.

Farooq Abdullah’s triumph at hustings had not gone well with the Congress leadership. To understand the emerging scenario the party in 1983 had invited a cross section of intelligentsia to Srinagar Club on the banks of river Jhelum. The discussions had revolved around ‘how Kashmir identity was rendered ‘impotent, ineffective and imbecile resulting in destroying  its historical character.’ New Delhi’s machinations had enraged Farooq and made him spew venom against India and made him say whole of Kashmir would one day hug crescent and green flag.” The author writes someone amongst the invitees had immediately reported it to Mrs. Gandhi.  And she remarked: 

Farooq tiflani harkatoo say baz nahi aatta hai.  
These remarks were repeatedly broadcast from All India Radio.

The word Kashmiryat  in 1983, was in fact one word substitution for Kashmiri nationalism- it symbolized that Kashmiris were the ‘real masters of their destiny’, ‘a “propellant” forces that could drive them towards “azadi” and not a synonym for what commonly is projected as syncretism of faith, a sort of   Dina-allahi   by some academia. In a reference, the author points an accusing finger at Kashmir University and at its Institute Of Kashmir Studies for “fishing whatever material required to build up what suits the hidden agenda of their clients and atoot ang singers.” 

Highly caustic about “academia” having ‘hidden agenda’ of theirs to spoil pleasantness of Kashmir ethos the book exposes the role played by some ‘academicians’ and how their activities are detrimental Kashmir’s social ethos. 

It is an agonized tale told in good prose. The author sounds elegist in writing, “we may be consumed as a nation to leave nothing behind but ugly reprehensible reminiscences as our historical legacy.” Truthfully, the book discusses how lack of foresight of leaders had contributed in perpetuating Kashmir tragedy. Calling the leaders as neem hakeem, he sees a revolt against them in offing that ‘shall be too devastating that it will burst like a volcano’. Looking for charismatic leadership, he alludes to many important leaders of the land from Nila Nag to Sheikh-u-Alam and Mir Saiyed Ali Hamadani.  Hailing Kashmir chroniclers of the yore the books dwells in detail on the negative role played by the some contemporary historians.

On the question of identity, the book is a treatise.  While writing in  depth about, how the three great religions of the world shaped the social ethos of the land and how Islam “augmented” Kashmir personality the authors see “Shah-e-Hamadan  as great facilitator of Kashmir transition to Islam and the principle architect of its Muslim identity”. In Chapter Islamic Stock and Augmentation of Kashmir Personality, he writes that the Sufis and saints, through Islam initially reached Kashmir lacked strategic thinking and experience evolve a line of action that could bring about a tangible change and they failed to popularize it the way Shah-i-Hamdan did- he made it religion of masses.’

On the question of accession of accession of the State with Indian Union, for author having access to many important classified documents is more iconoclastic than Alastair Lamb’s Disputed Legacy, thus calling a separate   a detailed discussion.

The book is important read for both scholars and common students of Kashmir history.

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