By DR MUZAFFAR SHAHEEN
Passing of the bill in the Legislative Assembly for declaring the pre-independent Autocratic ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh’s birth day as holiday in the post-independent democratic era seems to be the prelude to a controversy. The question is: would the celebration of martyr’s day every year with official patronage on 13th July in memory of the Kashmiri people killed ruthlessly by the Maharaja, find any relevance?
If both the days are celebrated in the state, it would inevitably constitute a blatantly harsh joke of modern democratic Kashmir. Judge it from all possible angles, Hari Singh’s birthday as a state holiday appears to be a redundant and bizarre move aimed at alienating Kashmir’s sentimental attachment to the valiant men of 13th July martyrdom. Moreover, it endorses the tyrannical Maharaja’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir. For those having faith in true democratic values it would be construed to be a derision of democracy.
It reminds me of George Bernard Shaw who had a vision of the democracy as a sophisticated form of Monarchy. Consider a scenario: a bill being passed in the House of parliament for observing the birth day of monarchs like Jalal U Din Akbar or Queen Victoria-a holiday, as a sign of obeisance in order to glorify their autocratic rule in the 21st century democratic India! Can it happen?
Even the Maharani of Jhansi, a Hindu ruler of some Northern parts of India-venerated and remembered as an icon of resistance struggle against British invaders of East India company- who fought valiantly but was ultimately defeated, would not receive such reverence in modern India. But it can happen only in Jammu and Kashmir. Being a Muslim majority state disqualifies it to be measured by the same yardstick. Democracy then obviously has different yard stick for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Time and again the people of the state have been made to believe the veracity of the political notion that the form of democracy in this part of the country is merely electoral. All other essentially aligned attributes attached to the spirit of democracy are not necessarily meant for us in Kashmir. Democracy is differently defined in Kashmir than what it stands for in other states of India. Many things that get transformed into many shapes in the garb of democracy here, would hardly find way into the minds of the ruling elites elsewhere.
We have rulers here to rule us but outside the state, they have Governments to serve them. The making of a Hero out of a dictator smacks of a strong narrative of the travesty of democracy. It also mocks at the history of terrible agony and horrendous traumas that Kashmir went through the Dogra monarchial tyranny, when Kashmiri’s were virtually treated as a large flock of sheep. Offensive to morality in all democratic societies of the world, birthday celebration (posthumously) of a past Monarch can easily be made lawful here in.
Democracy then has changed nothing in Kashmir except for making people turn to polling booths in order to elect the rulers who become amnesic about their commitments to people. It is but natural to stir our minds to a simple question: if Maharaja’s birthday can be a holiday why should Bud shah Sultan Zain-ul- Abideen’s birthday also be not declared a holiday? He deserves to be remembered more than anybody else, for in recorded history, he is remembered as as an exalted, just and sagacious king of undivided Kashmir.
It is a calamity that right from 1947, all political lords at the helm of affairs in the state, have proved to be shockingly apathetic to the sensitivities of the people of Kashmir. The people sitting in opposition also have been very craftily and deftly escaping their responsibilities. Glorification of a monarch, whose dynasty bought the whole Kashmir including of men, animals, land, forests, rivers and mountains for seventy five 75 lakhs like any commodity in the market, is not only derogatory but also tantamount to scorning democracy. It constitutes sheer disregard of ten million human souls whose fathers and forefathers were subject to demeaning autocratic rule for a long time.
Things have started changing so dramatically and drastically in contemporary Jammu and Kashmir that there would be little irony if tomorrow, the birthday of Kalhan of Rajtarangini (ancient Hindu Kashmir) or Raja Jambhu Lochan (Founder of Jammu) is declared to be celebrated with official patronage. Political manipulators are leaving no stone unturned to understate the dignity and esteem of people and perhaps it would continue unabated in future too. But there is, amidst gloom and doom some hope: It lies in the inner resilience and of Kashmiris. We have never succumbed but instead survived the travails and tests of the history.
—The Author, an Associate Professor, can be reached at: [email protected]