Anantnag or Islamabad?

During the past two decades fascist elements have changed the names of major cities in India. Bombay has become Mumbai; Calcutta is now Kolkata. Similarly Madras became Chennai. They have spared Delhi for unknown reasons.

Names were changed in Kashmir as well. Lachmanpora, a place inn Batmaloo was renamed Sidiqabad. However, in official records the old name still exists and the residents have to write both the names (Lachmanpora, Sidiqabad) for their own convenience.

Do names make a difference? The question haunts me. Unless people in Islamabad are true Muslims, what is the fun of having Islamabad as its name?

Anyways, there is some good news for those who prefer to use Islamabad instead of Anantnag for a South Kashmir district. Contrary to the belief of some elements, the residents of this district do not nurture fascist or communal tendencies. Their position stands officially and historically vindicated. The beautiful district was called Islamabad in Ranjit Singh’s regime, Gulab Singh and Hari Singh did not dare to change the nomenclature. But then came a time when guns started trotting in the abode of saints. Things changed and so did the psyche of the rulers and their security agencies. People who preferred to call the most beautiful district of Kashmir, Islamabad were taken to task. They were ruthlessly beaten, humiliated and at times stripped in public.

An old map obtained from the department of archives makes all the difference. The map shows the extent of Sikh territory at the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Prepared by a foreigner, John Walker in late 30s, the map mocks at all those who believe that the district, where the world famous Valley of Shepherds is situated, was officially called Anantnag. Walker was not aware of the controversy (which did not exist then) and took pains to prepare an accurate map. Walker must have consulted the official records.

He prepared the map immediately after the erstwhile Sikh territory was partitioned by various treaties between the rulers of Kashmir including Maharaja Dhuleep Singh, Gulab Singh, Hari Singh and the government of India.

One such treaty was signed on March 26, 1935, which empowered the Viceroy and the Governor General of India to assume civil and military administration of the "Wazarat of the Gilgit Province". Hari Singh and LE Lang, Lieut Colonel signed the treaty on behalf of the state. The treaty was ratified by the Viceroy Willingdon and the Governor General, HAF Metacalfe on April 3, 1935 at New Delhi.

Immediately after the ratification of this treaty, some changes were effected in the map of Jammu Kashmir. But, the word Islamabad was retained may be for historical reasons.

The controversy (whether the district is Islamabad or Anantnag) has been there for the past few decades. However, in early 90s when the on-going movement gained momentum various security agencies operating in the Valley forced people to use Anantnag instead of Islamabad. The security men would stop vehicles on the highway to ask people where they were going. Those who dared to say Islamabad would be severely thrashed. People would take great care to ensure that proper words (Anantnag) came out from their lips at the proper time. Even today some people get a sound scolding for using the word      Islamabad.

However, there were wise people who neither used Islamabad nor Anantnag for the district. They would say Khanabal. One of them made the following comment. “I do not want to use Anantnag for various reasons. I do not want to invite the wrath of the soldiers by saying Islamabad. Therefore, I say Khanabal in response to the queries of the soldiers”, he said.   

When a portion of this article was published in a local daily seven years ago, a pandit friend mailed from Jammu. “Where is this Islamabad situated? I think Islamabad is in Pakistan” read his mail.

Islamabad means a place where Islam flourishes and Anantnag, a combination of two Sanskrit words Anant and Nag, which mean a land of many springs. Some people also translate it as "a land of snakes."

While different quarters have been fighting over the issue, a senior citizen from the district believes the controversy was totally unfounded. According to him, the people of the district do not care about Islam any more and the Nags (Springs) have almost dried up.

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