Kashmir has suffered historians’ apartheid. I have been trying to make this point for the last couple of years through my columns, at various seminars and in my personnel interactions with most of the contemporary historians. I think I might have broached this subject more than once with some of the living historians including Prof. Muhammad Ishaq Khan, Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Wani, Dr. Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal, Dr. Abdul Ahad, Prof. Fida Muhammad Hassnain and some competent teachers in the history and other departments of the Kashmir University. I have been strongly advocating for writing an objective history of Kashmir from medieval period to contemporary times. Though there have been some efforts made in writing an objective history of our medieval period but what could be seen as an acceptable genuine work that could make earlier works by jaundiced historians fail the litmus test is yet to be published. It is a hard reality that most of the scholars outside Kashmir and even researchers from Kashmir continue to depend on these biased works and quote from them thus perpetuating the distortions and allowingthe fictional narratives to survive.
All along I have been trying to point out that it is not only the historian’s bias but also the journalistic apartheid which has conspired to make the simple story of Kashmir convoluted and most devious and intricate. Today when we are observing 78th Martyrs Day, I am reminded of how this great day of our sacrifices was presented by a section of influential media outside the ‘country of Kashmir’- as it was known up to 1947. To illustrate my point let me quote a bit extensively from a chapter on media from my forthcoming book, “Kashmir has been a victim of journalistic apartheid for more than a century. What has been behind this apartheid – religion or politics – is the moot point. This policy of discrimination by a section of press outside the State was born not with the birth of Kashmir dispute in 1947 when a “misplaced Patriotism” overtook majority of the journalists in the newly born Indian dominion, rather it existed brazenly and blatantly during the people’s movement against the feudal and autocratic Raj in the State in 1930s and thereafter. The ‘misrule’ of the Dogra rulers in Kashmir had caused a lot of anguish in the British Press but it had not drawn a flake of criticism in Delhi and Jalendhar newspapers.
In the contemporary history of Kashmir, July 13, 1931 is an important milestone. On this day sky was overcast and there was a dust storm — the situation outside Srinagar jail was surly and gloomy, people in thousands had gathered to hear about the trial of one Abdul Qadeer who was being tried for sedition inside the jail. At noon when people were preparing for prayers police arrested five people, which made people restive and they raised slogans against the government and in support of the young man who had few days back given vent to peoples sentiments by raising his voice against cruel and unjust Dogra rulers. The ruthless Dogra soldiers opened fire on innocent people killing twenty one of them and injuring scores. So apathetic were the autocratic rulers that they did not even care to provide treatment to the injured. This incident was followed by the imposition of the Martial Law and a reign of terror. No sooner this news reached outside world there was resentment all over the Sub-continent. The Lahore press particularly Inqalab, Zamindar and papers owned and edited by Kashmiris like Muhammad Din Fauq raised a forceful voice against the mayhem. The brutal killings of innocent people had provoked a lot of criticism against the autocratic rulers in the British press. But ironically the entire Jalendhar press, Hind Samachar, Milap, Partap and many others had justified the firing on the innocent and supported the brute action against humanity. These papers in their editorials and columns condemned the people’s revolt against the autocracy and also castigated the popular leadership of the state. These papers totally distorted the news from Kashmir and carried banner headlines like, “The Revolt of Muslim Slaves”, “Invasion of Hindu State by Muslims” etc. Even some papers owned by Sikh Organizations like “Akali” official organ of Akali Dal condemned Muslim agitation and supported Maharaja. Not only that these newspapers distorted facts about Kashmir but even made efforts to create hurdles for Kashmir supportive Lahore papers.
Writes Muhammad Yusuf Saraf, “Hindu press and leadership in the Punjab succeeded in persuading the British Governor to take action against the daily Inqalab Lahore, which was spearheading the campaign for reforms in Kashmir”. “It was not only during the movement for the restoration of rights and battle for ending the autocracy in the state that the Delhi and Jalendhar press has been discriminatory against Kashmir but even later the apartheid continued. It is ironic that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who preferred Congress, Nehru and Gandhi to the Muslim League, Liquat Ali Khan and Mohammad Ali Jinnah also failed to be darling of press in India. He did initially have some votaries in the leftist press but later on they also turned against him and denounced him as an ‘American stooge”.
Having suffered historians and journalist’s apartheid and biases for so long there is an urgent need to retell our story – the true story- yes the whole truth. It is not only the medieval history that needs to be told truthfully, there is an utmost need for telling the whole story of our struggle against the cruelty of the autocratic rulers. It is a harsh reality that we have been only telling half-truths about our struggle. How many in our new generation know the names of the heroes who fought heroic battles on the streets, villages and forests from Srinagar to Mirpur and Muzzafarabad to Jammu. Though there have been some individual researches but they too have told the story in bits and pieces – what could be seen as a whole story is yet to be told. There is hardly a textbook on the Kashmir struggle against the autocracy, which has been prescribed in our schools and colleges.
I think some four years back in connection with the commemoration of the Martyrs Day a two day seminar was organized on the subject: Role of literature and media in bringing political awakening in Kashmir in the first half of the 20th century. A resolution was adopted in the seminar for setting up a chair in the name of Muhammad Din Fauq, one of the pioneers of Kashmir struggle, journalist and historian, in the University of Kashmir for conducting an in-depth study in Kashmir’s struggle during the Afghan, Sikh and Dogra rules. More than two dozen eminent historians and writers had endorsed the resolution. The matter was taken up with the then Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University. The Vice Chancellor had shown total apathy towards the proposal made by the intelligentsia as he did not even bother to reply the missive. I called on him – and the meeting was so disgusting that it continues to live as mental agony with me. The first objection the Vice Chancellor raised against setting up of chair in the name of Muhammad Din Fauq was that he was buried in Lahore. He argued how could they institute a chair in the name of person who was buried in a different country. When I told him that Dr. Allama Muhmmad Iqbal was also buried in Lahore but there were scores of academic institutes, libraries and parks in his name in Kashmir why cannot we have a chair in the name of a person whose contribution towards our struggle was hailed by Allama himself, the Vice Chancellor talked about his faith and the discussion ended on a discouraging note that the state governor will not approve a chair in the name of someone who is not buried in Kashmir.
It may be genuinely difficult for the Kashmir University authorities to convince the state bureaucracy and politicians some of whom continue to look at 13 July as sedition against the landlords called Maharajas who had purchased the land and people of this beautiful “country” for a paltry’ sum. In conclusion I appeal to the Kashmir civil society to emerge as a living society and sponsor a project for writing the truthful Kashmir story.