Great people

On September 15, Adbee Markaz Kamraz, an amalgam of 22 registered organizations hosted an Iftar party. Eminent scholars, journalists, lawyers and social workers besides some bureaucrats were present. All of them expressed serious concern over `dying Kashmiri language’. A signature campaign was also launched to revive the language. Late in the evening a caller hurled abuses on all Kashmiris. According to him, Kashmiris were character less people. “They prostrate when they are supposed to stand upright. They speak out when they are supposed to remain mum. They exhibit total defiance when they are supposed to obey and vice versa.” He wanted to know why I held Kashmiris in high esteem.

The angry caller quoted a verse of an unknown Central Asian poet. “Agar Qahtul Rijaal  Uftund A(z)e Shaan Unus Kumgeeri, Awal  Kambo Doum  Afghan Soum Budzaat Kashmiri.” (If there is dearth of men in the world, never make friends with an Afghan, Kambo or Kashmiri even in such difficult times). Historians believe that Akbar’s army recited this verse repeatedly while fighting Kashmiris. While Kashmiris do not need a character certificate from a colonizer and his army, the question as to why the poet resorted to their character assassination needs to be answered.  In this verse the poet has prefixed an adjective to Kashmiris. Budzaat means a person who has no character, who changes colors like a chameleon and who resorts to cheating.

Well, while it is not known what prompted the poet to use such derogatory word against Kashmiris, knowledgeable people strongly contest this. According to them, Kashmiris are great people. They have strong arguments to prove it. Hearsay reports suggest that the Kambos (a tribe somewhere in Punjab) force their women into prostitution. Kashmiris on the other hand launched a strong movement against prostitution seven decades ago and forced the then government to ban it. A barber, Muhammad Subhan Hajam worked tirelessly and succeeded in persuading the government to ban prostitution. The detested practice would earn the then government 25% of its total revenue. Three years ago, the people came out and demanded stern action against the persons involved in the sex scandal. Many were arrested. The accused were put on trial.

After the end of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, long queues were seen outside the barber shops. Desperate people in a bid to get rid of the beard waited outside the saloons for hours together. When Bollywood announced its arrival in the conflict torn land, as many as six people died in a stampede outside a cinema hall. They were so desperate to see Madhuri Dixit dancing on the silver screen that they killed six people to make it to the hall.

Here an attempt has not been made to cast aspersions on the Kambo and Afghan races. There are black sheep in every community. But when compared to Kashmiris, a totally different story comes to surface. Yes, many Kashmiris also shaved off their beard under compulsion. In 1979, it was done to escape the wrath of the angry pro-Bhutto demonstrators and during the past two decades for `security’ reasons. Queues were never seen outside the barber shops in Kashmir. Similarly when the government reopened cinema halls in Srinagar, very few people visited them. Two were closed down for want of customers. Only one is running in the city’s high security zone.

The caller still had some venom in his veins. He referred to Bakshi’s conversation with Nehru wherein he had stated that all Kashmiris were with him. In 1953 the Prime Minister of Jammu Kashmir, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was dethroned and arrested. Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad succeeded him. One day, the Indian Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru asked him how many people were with him. He replied: “Forty lakhs.”  Nehru asked him how many were with Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. He said: “Forty lakhs.”

 For understanding the psyche of Kashmiris one has to have an in-depth study of its history. Kashmiris have been enslaved, tortured, humiliated and ruthlessly killed since the past four centuries. The brutal occupation has gone to their head. They have molded their personality accordingly. So where does their greatness lie? Kashmiris have always resisted external aggression.

The whole of sub-continent accepted Mughal rule but Kashmiris fought them. The fought the Afghans and Sikhs though the resistance was very subtle. Their heroic fight against the Dogras is unparalleled. And since 1947, they have been offering huge sacrifices. Can anybody deny it?   

People have dared to disagree with Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad. Both of them were ruthless enough to allow dissent to flourish. Hundreds of dissidents were exiled or jailed. The process of pushing people across the cease-fire line ended during Sadiq’s regime. A man from Zaina Kadal still carries the mark of an iron on his back.  

Kashmiris participated in assembly elections last year after the massive uprising. A few months later, they boycotted the parliamentary elections. What does it convey? Kashmiris are politically very mature. They know what to do and when. During assembly elections they made clear that they were voting for roads, water and electricity. And this happens when the people at helm are incompetent.

History of the world bears testimony to the fact that people across the globe are no different than their counterparts in Kashmir. Have a look at the battle of Uhud. The holy Prophet (SAW) lost some of his teeth and had a narrow escape. A hard earned victory turned into defeat. This should not have happened especially when the Prophet (SAW) was around. But it happened.

MKC Gandhi’s salt agitation turned violent. Gandhi had to call off the agitation. A disgusted Jinnah left for England. It was Iqbal who brought him back. Yes, Kashmiris have committed mistakes at times but they have always re-emerged strongly. If they accorded welcome to Sheikh Abdullah for signing the accord in 1975, they resorted to arms in 1987 to enforce the same demand which Sheikh Abdullah had just abandoned. The Hurriyat Conference tried to persuade people to come out on the streets for two decades.  Last year they came out on their own and forced the world to focus attention on Kashmir once again.           

Kalhana has been proven right. Kashmiris cannot be tamed by the sword. Iqbal’s couplet merits special mention here. “Jis Khak Kay Zameer main Houn Aatish-e-Chinar; Mumkin Nahi Ki Sard Ho Woh Khak-e-Arjumand.”

(The dust that has in its conscience
The fire of chinar trees
That dust, celestial dust,
Will never become cold)

No doubt Kashmir is fast losing its chinars but  a single chinar  can provide the spark.

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