Suhail Ahmad Wani
“And just because you have Schools, Colleges and Universities doesn’t mean you have education” (Malcolm X)
Maharaja Gulab Singh (1846-1857), the first Dogra ruler of Jammu and Kashmir made no efforts to educate the masses. Traditionally, education in the state of Jammu and Kashmir was imparted through indigenous institutions. In case of Muslims, these indigenous institutions were connected with the mosques, where the boys were taught to read Arabic so that they may able to read Quran. Likewise, Brahmans had their indigenous institutions, where Sanskrit was taught so that boys may able to read their sacred Hindu religious books. With these two languages Arabic and Sanskrit, Persian was also added and then certain amount of arithmetic was taught. There were no regular schools or pathshalas.
Modern education does not seem to have its existence in Kashmir until the advent of the Christian Missionaries when a changed outlook gradually came into being. With the passage of time, the state also followed suit and founded various schools. However, surprisingly, Muslims remained illiterate and did not take the advantage of the new system of education. The worst feature of the Dogra rule was its communal outlook. It discriminated the Muslims on the basis of their religion and also interfered in their religious affairs. The Dogra State was actually a Hindu State and its rulers tried their best to broaden its Hindu nature, with the result Kashmiri Pandits as a co-religionists’ class found it easy to get associated with it and the Muslims were marginalized. Regarding the nature of the Dogra Government, P. N. Bazaz, declared in 1941: “Speaking generally and from the bourgeois point of view, Dogra rule has been a Hindu Raj. Muslims have not been treated fairly, by which I mean as fairly as the Hindus. Firstly, contrary to all professions of treating all classes equally, it must be candidly admitted that Muslims were dealt with harshly in certain respects only because they were Muslims”.
Many causes have been put forward for the educational exclusion of Kashmiri Muslims. According to Sir Walter Lawrence, Muslim villagers preferred Masjid schools, and stressed on moral education. There was also apprehension about the Christian missionary schools. But, the main cause was the indifferent nature of the government towards the education of the Muslims. As the services of the Government were closed to them, they did not send their children to schools for even after getting education they would remain unemployed. Bazaz, a Kashmiri Pandit criticized the Dogra Government for its indifferent behavior towards education among the Muslims and not working for the welfare of Kashmiri Muslims and held the Government responsible for the backwardness of Muslims.
Out of 2 ½ crore income, only 15 lakhs were spent on education. But, mostly non-Muslims benefited from this expenditure because of their dominant presence both as teachers and students. Moreover schools were not established in those areas where Muslims were in clean majority. Ironically, the schools in the Muslim areas were shifted to non-Muslim areas.
The aid given to Muslim schools was lower than given to other schools. In 1891-92 the condition of education was like this. Out of a population of 52,576 Hindus, 1327 were receiving State education and out of 757,433 Muslims, only 233 obtained benefit from the State schools. That is, although the Hindus formed only 7 per cent of the population, they had monopolies over 83 per cent of the education bestowed by the state. The doors of employment for Muslims were closed even if a Muslim was qualified, he was not employed and if employed he was given a low job and less pay as compared to his Hindu counterpart having the same qualification. Thus because of their inadequate representation in Government departments Muslims had to suffer in various ways.
As Bazaz, observed: “In educational department, Muslims felt that the Hindu teachers and officials would not take as much interest in the spread of education among them as it was necessary. In medical department also Muslim patients did not receive as much care as the Hindus. In the offices and courts Muslim clients were shabbily treated while the cases of Hindus were expeditiously described”. In 1924 when the Viceroy, Lord Reading visited Kashmir a memorandum was presented to him regarding the sufferings of Muslims by some Muslim representatives, in which they demanded, inter alia, the abolition of begar, better educational facilities, good representation of Muslims in the State services, release of religious places, buildings and the proprietary rights to the peasants. The State Government did not tolerate it and the signatories were severely punished. Saad-ud-Din Shawl was banished from Kashmir, Khawaja Hassan Shah lost his jagir, Hassan Shah Jalali was dismissed from the office of zaildar.
In the late 1920s, when Indians were preparing for the Civil Disobedience Movement, Purna Swaraj, and the British were ready to give more constitutional concessions to Indians, the Kashmiris were still labouring under many disadvantages. Officially, their disadvantages were known to the outside world by Sir Albion Bannerji, the Foreign and Political Minister of Kashmir, who resigned on 15th March, 1929 and in a press statement at Lahore exposed the autocratic Dogra rule and the impoverished conditions of Muslims of Kashmir.
Leveling serious allegations against the Dogra rule, he said: “Jammu and Kashmir State is laboring under many disadvantages, with a large Muhammadan population absolutely illiterate, laboring under poverty and very low economic conditions in living in the villages and practically governed like dumb driven cattle. There is no touch between the Government and the people, no suitable opportunity for representing grievances and the administrative machinery itself requires overhauling from top to bottom to bring it up to the modern conditions of efficiency. It has at presented little or no sympathy with the people’s wants and grievances.”
This was the picture of the of Dogra rulers towards the educational health of Muslims in Kashmir. With the beginning of the 20th century, education was spreading among Muslims, but it was limited to the upper strata of society. The state repeatedly moves away from its responsibility and blames Muslim leadership for its backwardness in education. By promoting languages most suited for religious instruction at the expense of Kashmiri, the state created a gap between education and the public space. It must be said that if there have been a ruler whose chief concern were the welfare and educational development of the people, instead of the exaction of money, the position would have been different.
The author is a Ph.D Research Scholar at the University of Indore. He can be reached at: Wanisuhail51@gmail.com