Writing History

I have been nursing a strong grouse, so strong   that it has been raking my nerves. The grouse is not against any of my leaders. It is not against any of the collaborators- incidentally in our history we have had a pantheon of them. My complaint is against my alma mater- the University of Kashmir that by and large has stopped to grow beyond what my teacher Late Dr.  M.S. Want used to call as ‘goody goody school’.

My complaint is: Sixty one year on; it has failed to grow as a credible institution of scholarship and research. True, it has expanded, the campus with most beautiful natural ambience has been converted into concrete jungle, and a large number of buildings have been raised. There can be no denying that infrastructure wise it is now richer than it was some decades back. A large number of disciplines have been added, many in tune with the changing times.

The disappointment is; it is not only in sciences that this University  has not been so far able to produce a scientist with an international recognition or the one whose research in any field has been adapted at the global level as authentic work   same has been  holding true about social sciences and languages. One could  buy the argument that the university laboratories  are  not for conducting advanced serious scientific researches that match the research done in the West or even in other parts of India but why is not research done in social sciences in our University comparable to research done about Kashmir in some American or European Universities.   I am yet to see a book on Kashmir by scholars from our university published at the international level that could be considered as a work of scholarship.  The truth has been that while writing about Kashmir majority of scribes around the world depends upon on works by writers like Lord Birdwood, Josef Korbel, Alistair Lamb, Stanley Wolpert, Robert Wirsing, Victoria Schofield, Stephen Cohen, Howard Schaffer or Sumantra Bose.  If at all any other academic work on Kashmir history and problem is considered that  is  by authors outside the university.

Kashmir along with Afghanistan and Palestine continues to be a subject of interest for scholars in the United States and European countries. In many universities young researchers have been working on Kashmir and producing works brimming with authenticity and scholarship. I am amazed that if Professor Ayesha Jalal sitting far away in the Tufts University could guide her researchers   and make them produce internationally recognized works on Kashmir what is amiss in our academics that they have not so far been able to produce    a scholar on Kashmir history, polity or dispute of international standing. The glaring examples are Mirdu Rai and Chtralekha Zutshi authors of two very valuable books on Kashmir Hindu Rulers and Muslim Subject and Language of Belonging. Many researchers some of Kashmiri origin not in only the Tufts University but in many American Universities are working on Kashmir history and problem.

The question that bothers me the most is why our university has not been able to produce researchers and scholars of the standards of the Tufts and other universities produce. The factors responsible for this that   instantly comes to my mind are, one politics that goes in the appointment of Vice Chancellors, two politicking on the campus, and third narrow mindedness of our academia and   lack of exposure.   There are many an instances that have made me to draw this conclusion. Here I am reminded of two such instances.

Some years back a group of writers at a seminar on history of Kashmir adopted a resolution demanding setting up of Muhammad Din Fauq Chair in the University of Kashmir for conducting research on post 1819 period more particularly about peoples struggle against oppressive feudal rule. It was believed that there are many missing links in our history more particularly about the freedom struggle of Kashmir.  The naming the chair after  Muhammad Din Fauq was seen as most appropriate for his contribution to the freedom struggle as a journalists and historian.   Fauq in the words of  Prem Nath Bazaz ‘Worked tirelessly for people of Kashmir. When common people were in deep slumber and educated class was self-centered busy in pursuing their vested interests. He worked day and night to wake them up from their slumber and was preparing them for fighting for their rights.” Dr. Iqbal admired him a lot for his commitment for Kashmir and called him Mujdil Kashmara and composed verses in praise of his newspapers.

The resolution was sent to the University and for months there was no response. Once, an inquiry from the high office in the University was made I was informed that the setting up of chair in his name could not be considered as he was buried in Lahore. I was amazed at the silly argument. And on this I said name was not important but setting up a chair for conducting exclusive honest research on peoples struggle against tyrant tax system, discrimination on the basis of caste and faith and oppression was important. Name it after any important patriotic Kashmir historian. But, it did not happen.

Another glaring example has been relatives of Ghulam Ahmed Ashai top most freedom fighter and one of the founding fathers of Jammu and Kashmir University wanted to sponsor some research projects on freedom struggle and status of education in the state and in this regard they had moved a proposal with the University. And the University showed no response.

It has been this kind of culture in Kashmir University that has prevented it to grow as an institution that could produce as good scholars as those in many American, European even Universities like JNU and Jamia. I cannot say if this closed-minded-culture amongst our academia ever ends but I strongly believe there was need for conducting independent research, writing and documenting history of the land for subverting all counter narratives. In vibrant civil societies such institutions are made from public funding.

It is moot point for our civil society and leadership.
(Feedback at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)