Sometimes, I feel downcast not for the fast changing political discourses. Not for the pipers and drummers of the ‘peoples narratives’ subtly joining the ‘dominant discourse’ and singing songs in symphony with actors that they often told us not to believe in but for our failure to tell our story effectively. It is not a new phenomenon, our history is full of bagpipers of ‘people’s narrative’ suddenly joining the drummers of the ‘dominant discourse’- some out of fatigue, some falling prey to the machinations of the ‘powers that be’, some out of lust for power, some for petty consideration and some stumbling for taking wrong steps at right moments. Nevertheless, the ‘people’s narrative’ never died. Our ancestors successfully always breathed fresh life in it by passing on ‘the story’ from generation to generation.
On Saturday morning, a newspaper report about ‘Palestinians under a private initiative having started work on construction of the West Bank’s largest museum devoted to their history, planning to tell diverse stories of Palestinians in their land and of millions abroad set me thinking. ‘The museum represents a step in the Palestine quest for statehood by creating a repository for 200 years of history alongside galleries and space for debates about Palestine cause.’ They have already dedicated a museum to Palestinian national poet Mahmud Darwish and are constructing another for their late leader Yasser Arafat.
Have we been telling our stories to our new generation and to the world at large? How many of our children know the stories of their own Spartacus’, Quoodeh Lala, Ali Pal, Sona Shah Rasool Sheikh who led the 1865 revolt against the cruelties of the rulers. How many of our children know they were whipped, tortured and shifted to Jammu where they died in captivity. How many of our children know the sad story of starving subjects drowned in the Wular Lake. And those who wanted to escape starvation were stopped from migrating and died out of hunger. Many years later skeletons of inhabitants of villages and villages were discovered from gorges. Hardly any of children know that their forefathers were left to vultures to feast upon after being brutally killed for slaughtering of an animal. The world would never know these stories of heinous crime against people professing a different faith than that of the rulers but for some European travelers and missionaries working in Kashmir recording and perpetuating them.
Our story has been more scarlet than ever before during the past sixty-five years- hundreds of thousands have fallen to bullets and bombs, colonies have been raised to ground- thousands of widows, half-widows, orphans, half-orphans have provided warp-woof to our narrative. During past couple of decades more gruesome chapters have been added to our narrative. It is ironic that despite struggling heroically now for past one hundred and fifty years for restoring our freedom, dignity and identity we have not been able to throw up a credible institution that would be able to tell the story of the land to the word. True, some European and American historians, writers and journalists and also institutions have been telling our story in bits and pieces to the world but what could be called ‘the whole story’ is yet to be told. It is not suggesting that our own writers whose heart bleeds for their people have not been endeavoring to tell the story of the land- but for institutionalizing story telling many of our stories despite being told remain untold.
In April 2013 a writer and a top historian died on their writing tables- both of them were engaged in enriching the Kashmir narrative. Tahir Muzter, was making final changes to his book on, how under the façade of religious tourism attempts were being made to weaken rather deconstruct the peoples narrative. Prof. Muhammad Ishaq Khan known for his scholarship internationally had almost completed his book on post 1947 developments in Kashmir. “It would be an inside story taking lid off many untold development thereby deconstructing the ‘dominant’ discourses”, he told me days before his death told me. I do not known if these books will be ever published and brought in the public domain. Going by the experiences, of the fate suffered by two important works on Kashmir, one by Ghulam Nabi Hagaroo and another by Muhammad Amin Pandit, I am not optimistic. In mid nineties, Mohammad Amin Pandit had completed a thousand page book, “Keys to Kashmir”- the manuscript of the book was almost ready to be sent for publishing but it failed to come in the public domain. In 2006, (perhaps June) during a meeting at his home Ghulam Nabi Hagaroo, showed me manuscript of his book, which I believe was in its final stage. On flipping through the pages of the manuscript that book is important for over all Kashmir narrative for the author being the only leader who had been witness to the birth and the death of the Plebiscite Front movement. He was competent enough to write about the transition from the peaceful movement for right to self-determination to young men resorting to guns to make their voice heard. Had these books been published in time perhaps they would have enabled many of our leaders catapulted to the centre stage after 1990, to identify the potholes in their path and cautioned them about the machinations, some of them have fallen prey to. Had we institutionalized our story telling perhaps our story would be known as intimately as that of Palestine.
In early nineties an attempt was made to establish a will intended institution to provide forum to the experts and intellectuals for contact and exchanges of views on Kashmir- obviously the objective was debating and discussing ways and means for resolution of the Kashmir dispute. To undertake research on problems and issues relevant to the state- economical and social included. To award fellowship for research on Kashmir to enterprising scholars from the state and outside. To publish books, rare manuscripts, periodicals, project reports, literary works for wider dissemination. The institute had also drafted many other lofty objectives for itself. The Institute of Kashmir Studies, as it was named did a good job on documentation of human rights violations and brought out about fifty publications. It failed to grow and survive one for working as an extension of religious-cum-political organization and two for not living its objectives. Had the Institute not been tagged to a particular politico-religious organization, it would have by now grown into as premier institution- in its own right as distinct as the Brooking Institution or other such institution.
The failure of this institution prompted establishment of a couple of institutions in Kashmir to weaken the people’s narrative and strengthen the dominant discourse, but to tell our story – the people’s story – there is need for institutionalization