What if our history wasn't so tragic?

 

Our land, Kashmir, has been suffering in its darkest periods, since the last 400 years. Still, people fail to write a sentence on Kashmir because they are choked by inarticulate remembering, failure in resourcing valid history and lack of true belongingness.

Bookstalls have given me a feeling of disgust. Not many have written about us. People from every conflict zone have written their stories but there is lack of profundity in our own telling because very few have passionately written about it. As a Kashmiri, it is a pain for me, as much as an absence of a beloved. People have to write about it, speak about it because it is a gut wrenching tale waiting to be told.

We have had various foreign rulers. The first usurpation came through Duglat tribes through Zogi La pass in January, 1533. Their 5000 cavalry looted, plundered Srinagar. Duglats went back in May, 1533. Naive people have no idea how much Kashmiris have suffered under the Afghan rule of Abdali or under the Sikh rule. The Aghan rule was more of a tyrannical monarchy when it was passed to Abdali in 1752. In 67 years of their reign, they showed less signs of a passive administration. Grandeur conduct vanished in their time, which Kashmiris were renowned for.

 

 

Our land, Kashmir, has been suffering in its darkest periods, since the last 400 years. Still, people fail to write a sentence on Kashmir because they are choked by inarticulate remembering, failure in resourcing valid history and lack of true belongingness.

Bookstalls have given me a feeling of disgust. Not many have written about us. People from every conflict zone have written their stories but there is lack of profundity in our own telling because very few have passionately written about it. As a Kashmiri, it is a pain for me, as much as an absence of a beloved. People have to write about it, speak about it because it is a gut wrenching tale waiting to be told.

We have had various foreign rulers. The first usurpation came through Duglat tribes through Zogi La pass in January, 1533. Their 5000 cavalry looted, plundered Srinagar. Duglats went back in May, 1533. Naive people have no idea how much Kashmiris have suffered under the Afghan rule of Abdali or under the Sikh rule. The Aghan rule was more of a tyrannical monarchy when it was passed to Abdali in 1752. In 67 years of their reign, they showed less signs of a passive administration. Grandeur conduct vanished in their time, which Kashmiris were renowned for.

There are no good stories about any conflict. There are only difficult, gloomy, unambiguous and unresolved stories. Akbar, the Mughal Emperor, made full use of this timeserving advantage, invaded Kashmir in December, 1585. Yusuf Shah Chak, the ruler of that time, tried to expel the Mughal might, but it was impossible to crush the aggression. Yusuf was a weak king, comparatively. He was finally sent to a remote prison in Bihar where he died in isolation. Kashmir lost its sovereignty and independence back then. Kashmir was never free since Habba Khatoon started singing in the longing of her beloved. Somehow, people again preferred home grown Chaks to Mughals and Duglats, but it was too late. Kings were isolated and minds were repressed, even more.

It was Sikh colonization which was more misery per se. Gulab Singh, a tribal chief from Jammu, helped British by staying away from war in 1846. He, in turn, got a price for it; he got Kashmir. The British sold Kashmir to Gulab Singh for Rs seventy five lakh in 1846 that paved the way for Dogra rule till 1947. Even more suppression followed under the reign of his son, Pratap Singh. History says that only a few voices were heard against the Kashmir sell off, due to dominating suppression. With the result, brave writers like Thorpe were silenced, before their voice could have been critical.

Heroes like Robert Thorpe fought against forced beggary, ruthless taxation and deaths due to overexerted labour. Dying as a martyr and recounting a story about your land is a priceless special service. Kosovo protested, they won; Americans protested, they won; Indians protested, they won; Kashmiris too protested and till now, we haven’t won. That’s an irony because the sacrifices rendered were one of a kind; no one can count how many died for Kashmir. It is a tale of rebellion, which is more than a century old and suppression still dominates.

India achieved freedom on August 15, 1947 from the British, but fate of some princely states was left undecided. In 1940’s, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, a popular figure arose among the masses. He spoke with eloquence. He talked about land to tiller, civil rights and liberty in authoritarian ‘Lincoln’ style. Sheikh Sahib achieved immense popularity among the masses. Thousands waited and wanted to hear him. He was seen as a prime hope. Sheikh Sahib , along with Maharaja Hari Singh, sought time to decide the fate of Kashmir. Maharaja signed a conditional deed of accession with India, which gave Kashmiris a greater autonomy. Sheikh Abdullah, close ally of Nehru, supported him. However, things turned ugly in October 1947, when North-West Frontier tribes stormed into Kashmir. The invasion was sponsored by Pakistan Army. The war was stopped when UN interfered. UN model gave Kashmiris a right of plebiscite and supported a truce-line between the two countries which is known as the LoC (Line of Control).
Things radically changed some years after. Sheikh Sahib, the Lion of Kashmir, was caged in 1953 when he gave boisterous utterances of an independent Kashmir. India, in the meantime, installed stooge like leaders who degraded the ‘greater autonomy’ status had been granted.

From 1990s, Kashmir witnessed a new wave of violence and bloodbath. Death, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, loss of property, unmarked graves, rapes, and torture became frequent. Two decades later, the people of Kashmir took stone as a weapon to show their resentment about the prevailing political arrangement. After failed political initiatives, stone pelting becomes a mode and an organised strategy. If civil disobedience is massive, a curfew is imposed to tackle the protesters. If it isn’t threatening, it is curbed easily by excessive force.

We are continuously reminded of our sacrifices. One could find women and men, holding placards with dismayed faces in public parks. They are looking for their missing ones who they believe are killed in fake encounters or in police custody. People who were taken never returned. Those who returned were never the same. Government even has refused so far to establish truth commission. Some have given up hope and some are fighting for justice even now, hoping that their loved ones would return.

Thousands of dejected women have been molested. The State home department, have no such robust record of abuses, which have been proved by Medicins Sans Frontiers, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. This unspeakable humiliation, at the hands of the security forces, has motivated women to sustain the secessionist movement, even now.

Anytime, a body is found, government tries biotechnology, exhumes a body and more anxiety returns. You never know who the person would be. A family only hopes that it shouldn’t be their kin. Government, in turn, offers a monetary compensation but it can’t compensate a son.

I often think that whether we could have really changed our history. What if our conflict wouldn’t have turned out this ugly and fatal? What if our history wasn’t so tragic? What if there would have been no armed struggle? What if India and Pakistan both would have genuinely talked and avoided thousands of deaths? What if UN resolutions didn’t seem like miserable failures?

Author is an avid blogger, and head of intellectual activism group, Insights: Kashmir. His blogs have appeared on national and international journals like Open Democracy, UK, The Nation, Pakistan and Muslim Institute, London. He can be mailed at naveedqazi@live.com