‘K’ resistance lore and Ashai Tale
Certain things we need to put in a perspective
The revelation by NC Additional General Secretary—Dr. Mustufa Kamal vis-à-vis Ghulam Ahmad Ashai being a NC member of yore has stoked a debate in civil society circles. GA Ashai was one of the initiators of civil and political rights movement, as it initiated in late 20’s of 20th century, reaching its climax in 1931. Dr. Kamal’s assertion while welcoming Ashai’s grandson—Junaid Azim Matoo to NC ranks needs to be assessed on documented scale of the recent past, apart from GA Ashai’s son—Anwar Ashai, a civil activist stating clearly that his father never ever was a NC member. GA Ashai was in the thick of downtown ‘Reading Room’ party, where the movement started. It included Sheikh Abdullah, Saad-ud-Din Shawl, Munshi Shuhab-ud-Din and a scion of prominent Shiite family–Syed Hussain Jalali. Along with Mir-Wai-zain—Mirwaiz of Jamai Masjid and Mirwaiz Hamdani the core group of seven formed nucleus of resistance. Ashai tale is thus related to the lore of ‘K’ resistance. His multiple family ties made Ashai household in downtown a prominent feature. Munshi Mohd. Din Fouq-the prominent chronicler records the tale in his ‘Tarikh Aqwam-i-Kashmir (History of Kashmiri clans)’.
Ghulam Ahmad Ashai—his prime act in ‘K’ lore apart from other acts being representation of Kashmiri Muslims in 1932 Glancy commission was born on 4th April 1895. His father Khawaja Qadir Shah Ashai was a rich ‘Shawl’ trader and he had a rich lineage to live up to. Fouq relates amongst others—Mulla Tahir Ghani Kashmiri [1040-1079 A.H] and his brother-Mohammad Zaman Nafay [another chronicler of Kashmir’s history] were ancestors of the Ashai clan [Vol: I, p: 235]. Tracing G.A Ashai’s scholarly graph, Fouq relates that he passed B.A [Hons] from Punjab University at the age of 20/21 standing first. He followed it up with B.T and Munshi Fazil. In 1918 he cleared his masters [M.A] in Persian from Calcutta University, beating all previous records, earning him a ‘Gold Medal’ awarded by the viceroy and Governor General of British India, with a cash award of Rs.200 [p: 236]. Appointed a teacher in a government school on a monthly salary of Rs. 80, he was soon elevated to teach Persian in S.P.College, a job he held for three years. Subsequently he served a seven year term as ‘Assistant Inspector of School’ which ended in his service termination–result of differences with his superiors. His exit from services coincided with first rumblings for political rights in downtown Srinagar. Ashai was in forefront, as were others of ‘Reading Room’.
13th July 1931, red letter day in Kashmir’s long tale of resistance, when some sacred blood was shed for a cause had the rulers reluctantly concede bits and loaves. Dalal commission was rejected, relates Fouq, with Ashai yielding to public pressure not to testify. He was nevertheless the sole representative of Kashmiri Muslims to testify their plight, when Glancy commission opened proceedings [Fouq–p: 236/7] Pundit Prem Nath Bazaz represented Kashmiri Pundits, Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas–Jammu Muslims and Chaudhary Charan Jit Lal-Jammu Dogras. Proportion of reservations in services were made for Muslims, my maternal grandfather—Babu Gh. Mohammad, a noted postal official had difficulty in finding three qualified Muslims for slots in post office, the old man would relate it with a deep sigh—such was the state of Muslim education.
A place in the front rank of Kashmir’s political leadership was there for his taking, Ashai opted out of it, to join services, as ‘Assistant Secretary’ Ministry of Finance, subsequently taking over as ‘Deputy Secretary’ publicity/Ex. offico member and chief whip of Praja Sabha [legislative assembly] special inspector of Muslim education and Principal S.P. College in 1947. Whether he was disillusioned with politics or there were other factors at play, remains a matter of speculation. However, while Muslim Conference was changing hue to NC, Ashai was in state services. Dr. Mustufa would do well to note that. Junaid Azim Matoo joining NC is his choice. Without any prejudice to his decision ‘K’ lore needs to be recorded in its true colours. It is true however that in 1947, Abdullah’s choice as ‘Registrar of Kashmir university’ was GA Ashai. As registrar, he toured India and shot a letter to Sheikh Abdullah, relates B.N.Mullik-India’s spymaster in his [My years with Nehru-Kashmir, pub: Allied publishers-June 1971, p: 11] . The letter related, “Muslims in India were being treated as second class citizens and they had no future in this country”. In 1953, Ashai was incarcerated as the Indian State swooped on Sheikh Abdullah. On his release, he was seen in public during the lifting of Moi-i-Muqadas from its sanctum sanctorum; otherwise he lived a calm and retired life breathing his last on 13th November 1964. Relates his son Anwar Ashai—a retired executive engineer and a prominent social worker, “before his death late in the night Sheikh Abdullah visited him, as he heard of his critical state”. Half an hour after Abdullah left, he breathed his last. Abdullah was one of his pall bearers.
In 1988 note by Chief Engineer (R&B) Kashmir invited people including members of Ashai family to attend the function of declaring the road from ‘Khalipora to Pandach’ in Srinagar as ‘GHULAM AHMAD ASHAI ROAD’. It did not materialize; Dr. Mustufa Kamal would do well to look into it.
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]