Sameer Ul Haq
There is no denying the fact that Allama Iqbal strived for Kashmir’s political and economic independence. The plight of Kashmiris suffering from abject poverty, exploitation, oppression and lack of education was always on Iqbal’s mind and it wounded his soul. Iqbal always wanted to see the subjugated Kashmiris as a lofty and dignified nation.
Aaj Woh Kashmir Hai
Kal Jisay Ahle-E-Nazar Kehte
(Today that land of Kashmir, under the heels of the enemy, has become weak, helpless and poor/ Which was once known among the discerning as Little Iran)
These lines from one of his books, Aramghan-E-Hijaz or The Gift of Hijaz, perhaps best narrate the story of Kashmir. Iqbal’s patriotic and socialistic poems and his intellectual struggle against colonial rule makes him one of the major political thinkers of the 20th century. Iqbal’s message due to his mastery over Persian reached Iranian and Afghan readers and his revolutionary poetry inspired a generation of Iranian thinkers who created the intellectual basis of the Islamic revolution of 1979. Iran’s revolution was “the embodiment of Iqbal’s dream”, said Iran’s supreme leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei in 1986. “We are following the path shown to us by Iqbal,” he added.
Born on 9 November 1877 in Sialkot (Pakistan), Iqbal’s ancestors were originally from Kashmir who had converted to Islam from Hinduism a few hundred years ago. His grandfather migrated from Kashmir in the beginning of the 19th century. Allama was proud of his Kashmiri lineage and used to say, “We actually belong from Kashmir and our village is near Kulgam, from where our grandfather migrated and settled in Sialkot.”
Allama expressed his love for Kashmir in several of his verses.
Tanam Gulai Zi Khayanban-e-Jannat-e-Kashmir,
Dil Az Hareemi Hejaze
Nawa Ze Sheeraz Ast!
(My body comes from the earthy paradise of Kashmir; my heart belongs to the holy land of Hijaz, and my song to Shiraz.)
Iqbal is known as the spiritual father of Pakistan, the founder of the two-nation theory which culminated in the formation of Pakistan on August 14, 1947. Iqbal formally introduced the concept of Pakistan in his presidential address at the annual meeting of the All India Muslim League held in Allahabad in December 1930. He was the most vocal proponent of the two-nation theory but he did not live to see the day when his dream of a separate nation for Muslims of British India became a reality. He died two years before the Pakistan resolution was adopted on 23 March 1940 at Lahore’s Minto Park.
The works of Allama Iqbal clearly reflect his emotional attachment to Kashmir and its repressed masses. The miserable condition of Kashmir under the Dogra regime influenced Iqbal’s work to a great extent. When he visited Kashmir for the first time in June 1921, he saw smoke and fire coming out of the darkened Chinar trees in Nishat garden. In Lolab valley, he observed that the fresh and lively graveyards were deserted. His heart thumped after looking at the Kashmiris’ plight and hardships. He was supposed to be here only for attending legal Issues but after staying for about two weeks his heart melted at his ancestral nation’s troubles and miseries.
Iqbal has drawn a map of the dilapidated condition of Kashmiris in his “Saqi Nama”, a poem he wrote in the Nishat garden during his stay in Kashmir in 1921. In one of the verses he mentioned that the Kashmiri political struggle started with a rebellion by workers of a silk factory in 1924.
In Javed Nama, Iqbal addressed the League of Nations while lamenting the Treaty of Amritsar (16 March 1846) by which Kashmir was sold to the Dogra king:
Baad Sabah Agar Beh Geneva Guzar Kuni
Hurf-i Zama Beh Majlis Aqwaam Baazgo
Dehkaan Wa Kasht Wa Jo Wa Khayaban Farokhand
Quoomay Farokhand Wa Chi Arzaa
(Zephyr if you should pass over Geneva, Speak a word from me to the League of Nations/ They have sold farmer and cornfield, river and garden, they have sold a people, and at a price how cheap.)
In Javed Nama when Iqbal meets Mir Syed Ali Hamdani and Ghani Kashmiri, the topic of the conversation is Kashmiris’ dilapidated condition, slavery, and their struggle for Independence. Iqbal laments the negligence and indifference of the people of Kashmir to their miseries:
Cheh Be-Parwah Gazschinad Aaz Nawhaye Subhagah Mann
Ki Bard Aashoor Wa Masti Azz Syah
(How carelessly they passed by with no ear to my lamentations/
The Kashmiri black eyes, so lacking in lustre and life, who made them so dead and mute?)
For most of his life Iqbal had seen the sinister shadows of a terrible and horrible rule hovering over Kashmir. Allama dreamed of independence of Kashmir and was encouraged when he saw the spirit of independence rising in Kashmir after centuries of violence and oppression. The state wanted to suppress it but Iqbal stressed that it was impossible, for it was a spark of the soul that was destined to be a flame.
In 1925, Kashmiri Muslims presented to the Viceroy of India a memorandum that narrated their plight and helplessness. It was prepared on the advice of Iqbal. Allama did his best to encourage the youth of Kashmir to get education. In Kashmir magazine, Iqbal published an article titled “Scholarship to Kashmiri Students” in which he lamented that the youth of Kashmir were not interested in education and training. The article mentions that the “Anjuman Kashmiri Muslims” in Lahore had arranged for the Muslims of Kashmir to study at Aligrah Muslim University and Islamia College Lahore with eight stipends of Rs 10 per month and one stipend of Rs 20 per month.
In 1931 when a new chapter of the Kashmiri rebellion against Dogra repression was started by the blood of Kashmiris, Iqbal again seemed anxious to go to Kashmir. The 13th of July 1931 was a momentous day in the life of Iqbal. That day, 22 Kashmiris were gunned down by Dogra forces and the news badly wounded Iqbal’s heart. The Kashmir cause was so dear to the poet and philosopher that he never missed an opportunity to talk about Kashmir. Iqbal was instrumental in organising Kashmir Day on 14 Aug 1931. A mammoth meeting held at Mochi Darwaza Lahore was presided over by Iqbal. Around 50,000 people were present in the gathering, where Iqbal said, “If Maharaja of Kashmir continues his atrocities on the innocent and unarmed Kashmiris, the day is not far when the autocratic government in Kashmir will meet its destruction. Today God has caused heat and passion in the blood of Muslims. We called Kashmiris as timid but these very people have taken bullets of an oppressor on their chests. We want justice and the Muslims of Kashmir should be given their rights.”
After the July carnage, Iqbal not only helped in raising funds for oppressed Kashmiris but also persuaded some prominent lawyers to visit Kashmir and provide legal aid to those languishing in jails. However, the Dogra ruler banned the entry of these lawyers. Iqbal too was disallowed from entering Kashmir, a ban that stayed for the rest of his life. Iqbal requested the Nawab of Hyderabad for financial help to fight the legal case on behalf of Kashmiris, and it was because of his efforts that the British Indian government conducted an investigation into the July 1931 massacre, following which the Galancy Commission was formed.
On being elected as President of the All India Muslim Conference, Iqbal raised the issue of Kashmir in his presidential address. “I appeal to the Muslims of Kashmir to beware of the forces that are working against them and to unite their ranks. The time for two or three political parties in Kashmir has not yet come. The supreme need of the moment is a single party representing all Muslims in the state,” he said.
On July 5, 1933, Iqbal sent a letter to the Viceroy of India expressing concern over the deteriorating situation in Kashmir and urged the Dogra government to refrain from coercion. The situation in Kashmir had caused great unrest among Muslims of British India and there were fears that the situation would worsen, the statement said. The All India Kashmir Committee, the letter said, expected the Dogra Government in Kashmir to refrain from firing, baton charges, and arrests in these circumstances.
During his last years Iqbal’s great desire was to visit Kashmir, but his wish remained unfulfilled. However, his message reached every Kashmiri:
Jis Khaak Ki Zameer Mein Hai
Mumkin Nahi Hai Ki Sard Ho Woh
(The earth that enshrines in its bosom the fire of the chinar tree
Its exalted earth can never be dead and cold)
The writer did his masters at Department of History, University of Kashmir. [email protected]