Over the past two decades, outsiders have prostituted the word `Kashmiriyat,’ a concept of which various definitions have been given, but none in precise terms. Some have connected Kashmiriyat to the tolerance Kashmiris have displayed for centuries, and some to their docile nature. But now the term is being used for a particular purpose. And the same definition-givers have, to suit their own petty interests, contradicted themselves time and again by dubbing Kashmiris as communalists.
To understand the term in the right context, one has to have an in-depth study of history. Kashmiris have been enslaved, tortured, humiliated and ruthlessly killed over the past four centuries. Perpetual occupation has gone into their psyche. They have moulded their personality accordingly. They have always resisted external aggression. The whole of the sub-continent accepted Mughal rule but Kashmiris fought them. They fought the Afghans and Sikhs, though the resistance was very subtle. Their heroic fight against the Dogras is unparalleled. And since 1947, they have been offering huge sacrifices. Can anybody deny it?
People have dared to disagree with Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad. Both of them were too ruthless to allow dissent to flourish. Hundreds of dissidents were exiled or jailed. A man from Zaina Kadal still carries the mark of a red-hot iron on his back.
A Hurriyat leader once cursed the people of Kashmir for their failure to support the on-going movement. According to him, the people have failed the leaders time and again. I strongly objected, much to his chagrin. The people of Kashmir are a great people. This is what I firmly believe. They have been offering resistance for the past four centuries, and this is what makes them great.
The leader referred to Bakhshi’s conversation with Nehru where he had said that all Kashmiris were with him. In 1953, the Prime Minister of Jammu Kashmir, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, was dethroned and arrested. Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad succeeded him. One day, the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, asked him how many people were with him. “Forty lakh,” Bakhshi replied. Nehru asked how many were with Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. “Forty lakh,” he repeated.
Yes Kashmiris have shown this trait very often. Kashmiris participated in assembly elections in 2008 after the massive uprising of June that year. A few months later, they boycotted the parliamentary elections. What does this convey? Kashmiris are politically very mature. They know what to do, and when. During assembly elections, they made clear that they were voting for roads, water and electricity. All voters made clear that they stood for self determination.
In 2009 and 2010 they were again on the roads to demand this right. Sixty people were gunned down by the police in Srinagar city alone in 2008, and in 2010, 130 teenagers were killed. They have supported Bakhshi, they have loved the Sher-e-Kashmir and supported Dr Farooq Abdullah, but their resistance has never died. The Sher-e-Kashmir, who was the undisputed leader of the masses, had to draft a draconian legislation to crush dissent in 1978. The Kashmiris loved him, but did not accept his political stand. The resistance was there even during his times.
Very often this couplet from some unknown Central Asian poet is cited to malign Kashmiris: agar qahat-ur-rijaal uftad, az seh mehr kam joyi/ awwal khumbo, du’am afghan, su’am badzaat kashmiri (if there is dearth of men in this world, never friendship with an Afghan, Khumbo or Kashmiri even in such difficult times). Historians believe that Akbar’s army recited this verse repeatedly while fighting Kashmiris. Kashmiris do not need a character certificate from a colonizer and his army, but the question as to why the poet resorted to their character assassination needs to be answered. In this verse the poet has prefixed an adjective to Kashmiris. Badzaat means a person who has no character, who changes colours like a chameleon and who resorts to cheating. Well, while it is not known what prompted the poet to use such derogatory language against Kashmiris, knowledgeable people strongly contest this aspersion. According to them, Kashmiris are a great people, with strong evidence to prove it. Hearsay reports suggest that the Khumbos, or Khumbus, (a tribe somewhere in Punjab) force their women into prostitution. Kashmiris on the other hand launched a strong movement against prostitution seven decades ago and forced the then government to ban it. A barber, Muhammad Subhan Hajam worked tirelessly and succeeded in persuading the government to ban the practice, which then earned the government of the day 25 per cent of its total revenue. Six years ago, people came out and demanded stern action against the individuals involved in the sex scandal. Many were arrested. The accused were put on trial.
Kashmiriyat is all about resistance. It reflects the will of the people to fight occupation and aggression. Tolerance is in our blood. We fight the oppressor and stand by the weak. The father of the Indian nation bears witness to this.
Kalhana has been proved right. Kashmiris cannot be tamed by the sword. The soil of Kashmir hosts thousands of chinars and the fire of these majestic trees will never go cold.
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