Founding Father

TELLING the truth is not being dishonest to history. ‘Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the poet philosopher of the East is known as spiritual  father of Pakistan’ is not what only  Rashida Malik writes in her book ‘Iqbal and the Concept of Pakistan’, but it is what majority of historians of  the Sub-continent  believe in. ‘The concept of Pakistan is usually attributed to his Allahabad address 0f 1930, in which he articulated and unfolded the concept of  a separate Muslim nationalism as opposed to the concept of a composite Indian nationalism.’ There have been scholars like K.K. Aziz, Saad A Khari, Chowdary Muhammad Ashraf and Nisar Ahmad Kasans who do not subscribe to the populist view.  Many of them believe that it is a myth that was woven around Iqbal’s personality two years after his death at the time of adoption of the Lahore Resolution.  They mostly see Chowdary Rahmat Ali, ‘who came to lime light as young follower of Iqbal in 1933 as the real originator of the idea of Pakistan.’ To dismiss these scholars as dishonest would be wrong.

  I am not going to enter into any debate about this question but am interested in making a different point.   It was not in 1933 when Iqbal thought of a separate identity for Muslims of South Asia. Dr. Javid Iqbal in his book Islam and Pakistan’s Identity has debated in detail about genesis of Idea of Pakistan. The Muslim League was founded in 1906. Javid sees the idea of separate nation rooted in the separate electorate. Allama Muhammad Iqbal was an ardent supporter of separate electorate. ‘On Ist May, 1927, in a meeting of Punjab Provincial Assembly, Muslim League at Lahore Iqbal presented a resolution in favor of separate electorate and against acceptance of joint electorate. Supporting the resolution he had said, “I have every right to say that   I am the first Indian who felt the importance of Hindu-Muslim unity and always wished that this unity should become permanent feature in our collective life –but on seeing the mentality of the Hindu elite he asked the League leaders to stand on their own feet and pleaded for fighting the elections on a separate electorate.’

 There is reason for starting this article with Iqbal’s role in the creation of Pakistan and debate there off. Some nom-de-plume in Kashmir Uzama, a sister publication of this newspaper, had blamed me of being dishonest by seeing Allama Muhammad Iqbal as founding father of Kashmir’s Struggle against autocratic rule. He had also denounced my attaching more importance to the activities of the All India Kashmir Committee in projecting the Kashmir cause after 13 July 1931. He had seen some of my earlier writings published under this column and their translation in Kashmir Uzma as misleading. I might have more than once written about Iqbal’s role in Kashmir struggle- but he had not pointed out which one was misleading.

 I do see Allama Muhammad Iqbal as founding father of Kashmir struggle. History bears testimony that much before the birth of the All India Congress and the Muslim League the seeds of fighting a battle against the “ Kashmir misgovernment” full of atrocities and brutalities against the majority community  were sown in Lahore.

 There can be no denying that the first revolt against the suppressive autocratic rule started on 29 April 1865, when weavers took a procession against the tax system at Zal Dagar and twenty eight people were drowned to death by the soldiers of the autocratic ruler but what could be seen as the birth of an organization took place in Lahore.  It were Kashmiris who had migrated to this city during the Sikh and Dogra rule who organized themselves under a banner.  More than a lakh of Kashmiri Muslims had been forced to leave the State and settle in neighboring Punjab. “In a few generations they became highly educated and economically prosperous community in twin cities of Amritsar and Lahore.” Majority of the historians have recorded the birth of Kashmiri Association in Lahore towards end of nineteenth century. Muhammad Yusuf  Saraf writes, “ In 1986 sprang up an association named Anjuman-i-Kashmiri-Mussalmanan-i-Lahore. Its first meeting held in February was attended by Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal, who became famous as Allama  Sir Muhammad Iqbal”. (See page 449 Kashmir Fights for Freedom by Muhammad Yusuf Saraf.) He also read a poem on the occasion hailing the birth of the Association and attached high hopes with it for delivering Kashmiris out of miseries and centuries old servitude. None of the leaders who were destined to lead the movement later on  were born in the year the Association was founded – Chowdary Ghulam Abbas was born in 1904 and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in 1905. The Kashmiris by 1909 widened its base and renamed itself as Anjuman-i-Kashmiri Muslimanan-i-Punjab and by 1920 it widened its base further and assumed an all India character.  

 Allama Muhammad Iqbal all along felt about the land of his ancestors, Writes Syed Bashir Jafery in an article, “Allama had never denied his links and relationship with Kashmir. Irrespective of whether he lived in Lahore or Sialkot, England or Germany, he would always hold his head for Kashmir and would highlight the agonies of Kashmiris in his poetic and literary works, philosophy and conversation.” He was always pleased to meet people from his ancestors’ land. “When Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited Allama Iqbal in Lahore, writes Javid Iqbal, “He introduced Nehru to him as a great son of Kashmir.”  

 Lahore and Iqbal inspired even Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah to play a role for delivering people from the tyrant autocratic rule, recounting his experience with the great Kashmiri; Sheikh writes that he melted like wax of taper when he first heard him reciting his poetry at a function in Lahore. ‘I had heard from some friends that Allama takes great interest in the affairs of Kashmir- I called on him with some friends. I and my friends were so much impressed and awed by his towering personality that we just heard him with rapt attention and did not dare to talk” ( Aatish Chinar page 40-41).

  Iqbal visited Kashmir first and last time in 1921. He had seen the plight of famished migratory Kashmir laborers who labored hard in their tattered clothes in the plains of Punjab to seek a living during winter months but on visiting Kashmir he was deeply moved by the miserable conditions of his fellow brethren and made him to write poetry that continues to remain inspirational for people of his land to this day.  

 The Kashmir Association in Lahore played a very leading role in telling the world about the suffering of Kashmiris. Saraf writes, “Some members of the Association also started publication of newspapers solely devoted to the cause of uplift of Muslims in the State. Sheikh Jan Muhammad Ganai who owned a bookshop started publication of a weekly newspaper from Lahore named Kashmir Gazette”.  Munshi Mohammad Din Fauq launched one after another newspaper and magazine under the patronage of Iqbal to highlight the cause of Kashmir.  He earned great admiration from the poet of the East for bringing out the first newspaper Panja Foulad, then monthly Kashmiri Gazette in 1900.  In my some earlier columns I have written in detail about the role played by Muslim press of Punjab in highlighting the Kashmir struggle against feudal rule after the happenings of July 1931. ( Rashid Taseer’s book on history of Journalism is a highly valuable read on this count).

 At the cost of repetition let me recount the names of people who played an important role with Allama Iqbal day and night from the platform of All-India Muslim Kashmiri Conference, Lahore. The names  included “Khan Bahadur Haji Rahim Bux (1931), Mian Nizamuddin (honorary magistrate), Haji Mir Shamsuddin, Maulana Syed Habib editor, Mian Amiruddin (lord mayor Lahore), Munshi Mohammad Din Fauq (Kashmiri historian), Mohammad Rafiq Ahmad bar-at-law, Khawaja Ghulam Mustafa advocate, Mian Hisammuddin (honorary magistrate), Nawab Habibullah, Sheikh Sadiq Hassan (he was appointed minister in the Punjab cabinet after creation of Pakistan), Sheikh Mohammad Sadiq, Khawaja Mohammad Yousuf, Khan Bahadur Sheikh Din Mohammad (later chief justice and member boundary commission), Malik Abdur Rafi, Malik Abdul Qayyum bar-at-law and Col Mirza Qutubuddin while Syed Mohsin Shah was appointed secretary of the committee.”

 There are many books about Iqbal’s role in Kashmir Freedom Struggle- including one by Ghulam Nabi Khyal  that I had reviewed   some years back.

 I have written many a time in the past about the pain felt by Iqbal when he saw Kashmiri leadership divided in 1933. He had become restless and wanted Kashmir to forge unity amongst Kashmir leaders.

 Iqbal’s role in Kashmir Struggle needs to be seen in historical perspective rather than through tinted glasses- the Kashmir University that has an Institution in the name of the poet needs to work on his Kashmir connections.

(Feedback at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)