A series of five articles on the History of Kashmir, by Munshi Ghulam Hassan, carried in the Greater Kashmir Newspaper, Srinagar, Kashmir in June 2005.

The events that shaped the history of Kashmir – I

This is how it all happened, Munshi Ghulam Hassan recollects the memories of a forgotten political past.

(from greaterkashmir.com)

My article (What went wrong and how? mainly based on the memoirs of my father, Alhaj Munshi Muhammad Ishaq, three-time president of All Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front, about the political movement of our state covering the period 1938-1947 was published in the leading daily Greater Kashmir (16th to 19th November 2003) under the above caption. I now write about the momentous events of pre-1938 period and God willing, shall write about the post 1947 period in due course of time. Reference to other sources of information is given at the relevant places.The political movement launched in the year 1931 had a limited purpose of demanding, inter alia, justice with Muslims in recruitment to government service, elected legislature and local bodies, release of Auqaf properties in government possession. Before I deal with the topic it may be appropriate to make a brief reference to its background and some movements launched in the past though on a limited scale.

Once there was an acute scarcity of food grains and the government was unmoved. The people approached Kh. Mukhtar Shah Ashai, a noble dignitary. On his advice they marched in a procession after offering Friday prayers in Jamia Masjid and passed through two gates of Ashai sahib’s residence. The unusual event was reported to the Maharajah who called Ashai Sahib to make an inquiry about it. The latter submitted that the people suffering from acute from scarcity sought his permission to make a revolt but he warned them not to take such an unlawful step. The device worked and next day the market was flooded with food grains at cheaper rates. Another such event occurred in the year 1903 CE one rupee was the cost of each 2 ½ seers of rice, 3 ½ seers of wheat, 4 seers of paddy and 4 ½ seers of maize. Massive demonstrations at Amira Kadal with stone pelting at Court promises were held under the leadership of one Hussain Shah Zeerak by Muslims as well as Hindus. The distressed government called out military to deal with the situation. Zeerak and many other persons were arrested under the orders of Raja Amar Singh and prosecuted in the court of a biased judge Babu Reshibar Zeerak Sahib was sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of two hundred and fifty rupees. The other leader who was a Hindu was fined two hundred rupees only and this amount was also paid by the Maharaja out of his own pocket. Twenty other accused were sentenced with a lighter punishment of a few months imprisonment with some fine. Most of Hindu detainees were set free. After a couple of months Zeerak, who was a poet, was released on submission of a petition to the Maharajah containing the following verse `Zeerak ba zeerki ba jail raseed nirkhi shali ba asli khaish raseed’. The discriminatory treatment against Muslims even by a court is obvious.

Undoubtedly the abject plight of Muslims was attributable to the biased and discriminatory policy of Sikh and Dogra regimes in government employment and other fields but lack of education was the main contributory factor for their poverty and backwardness. The Mullahs used to give futwah of Kufur to a person learning English and acquiring modern education. The unfortunate negligence in acquisition of knowledge by Muslims can be gauged from the following extract of autobiography (unpublished) of my grand father, Abdul Hamid Munshi Hassan Ali, who learnt English surreptitiously even without the knowledge of his father from an English doctor of Drugjan missionary hospital when it was opened in consideration of teaching the doctor Kashmiri for about three years. He was the first teacher of Christian Missionary School Fateh Kadal. In the beginning hundred percent students were Hindus. I have in my possession a diary written in his hand relating to the years 1900 and 1901 containing the names of thirty two beneficiaries of poor found given to them for payment of school fee and for purchases of dress etc. All of them were Pandits. The relevant extract follows. `When the school was opened the students who got admission were hundred percent Hindus.

I tried to persuade Muslims but in vain. Being victims of ignorance they are under the influence of Mullahs under whose edicts one who learns English is a Kafir. I could persuade a few upper class families but it gave me no pleasure because they are interested in confining it to their own class only, on the other hand pursuit of education by Hindus is laudable. Muslims who are still victims of superstition and ignorance would awaken but it would be too late when there would be no alternative but to repent and wail.” With the advent of Christian missionaries a campaign of conversion to Christianity was launched. As an employee of mission school Munshi Sahib used to have discussions with the missionaries and was annoyed to notice the anti-Islam literature published mostly in Kashmiri language. In absence of any reaction for local Mullahs he made intensive research for about three years studying numerous books on Christianity and Islam. He found Islam to be the only true religion and compiled a book named Mizan-ul-Tahqiq. The book in manuscript form containing 534 pages is available with us. For want of finances he could not publish it.

Maharajah Pratap Singh visited the school in August 1892. As he did not have adequate knowledge of English Munshi Sahib, under instructions of the head of the school, read the welcome address drafted by him in simple Urdu so that English audience could also understand English translation of an extract, recorded by him in unpublished Waqati Kashmir is reproduced here:

“Your highness! On this auspicious occasion our joy knows no bounds. This school which is working here for the last ten twelve years has progressed with four encouragement. Though a small step it is a historic event worth recording in golden letters and it would be a monument in years to come when the intellectual class would hold it in high esteem. Though Mr. Doxy planted this seedling but it overgrew with strenuous efforts of his successor Mr. Knowels and his colleagues to such an extent that your highness was pleased to pay a visit. At the time of its inauguration by Mr. Doxy there were only four students but at present there are about three hundred students in it and its several branches’. Munshi Sahib has recorded the following profile of the Maharaja, `on the day of his visit to the school I had an opportunity to observe him closely. With a `sophy’ type bent of mind and temperament simple and straightforward in manners, he is devoid of royal dignity and perseverance and not fit for governance. Raja Amar Singh has the capacity to rule but he is not kind to people.”

The freedom movement launched in India by Indian National Congress followed by All India Muslim League during the last quarter of nineteenth century did have an impact in Kashmir though belatedly. In the third decade of twentieth century there wee three important developments. The first event was a secret meeting convened by a noble dignitary Khawaja Saad-ud-Din Shawl to ponder over the discriminatory treatment of Muslims by the Dogra despotic regime in the matter of recruitment of Muslims in government services and other spheres. Besides the convener Mirwaiz Ahmadullah of Razia Kadal, Mirwaiz Ahmad Ullah Hamdani, Khawaja Hassan Shah Naqshbandi, Khawaja Noor Shah Naqshbandi who was a high ranking revenue officer, Haji Jaffar Khan, Aga Syed Hussain Shah Jalali and Aga Syed Sayed Shah Jalali participated in the meeting. A memorandum of grievances and demands drafted by Aga Hyder, a Shia barrister of Lucknow, who as a tourist happened to be at Srinagar and signed by the aforesaid persons was submitted to the Viceroy of India on his visit to Kashmir in the year 1924. The Viceroy’s Royal River procession started at Shalateng. He was greeted by a valiant group of Khankashees waving black flags and raising anti-government slogans on the bank of Jehlum river at Khankahi Moulla. The government took strong action against the signatories to the memorandum Kh. Saad-ud-Din Shawl was exiled and Kh. Noor Shah Naqashbandi was dismissed from service, jagirs of some members were confiscated and others were deprived of the privilege of darbar nisheeni. The episode did not evoke a mass response but it provided food for thought to the Muslims and gave rise to anti-government feelings. This bore fruit after a couple of yeas. The Muslims press of Punjab however gave wide publicity to anti-Muslim policy of the state government and continued writing articles on the subject.

Another event was a series of demonstration held by the suppressed labour class of government sericulture department to press their demand. The cavalry crushed the movement ruthlessly. The third important event was the unity among various rects of Muslims, particularly between shias and sunnis, after more than three centuries of foreign tyrannical rule of Mughal, Afghan, Sikh and Dogra dynasties which adopted `divide and rule’ policy. This development was a happy and pleasant revival of Muslim brotherhood reminiscent of the only two native Muslim patriotic kingdoms of independent Kashmir, namely, Shahmir and Chak kingdoms. It was the unity of Muslim ummah which defeated three aggressive onslaughts of the mighty mughal empire but alas! It succeeded by means of a conspiracy with some self-seeking nobility and betrayal of an agreement made between the king of Kashmir, Yousuf Shah Chak and commander of Mughal army Raja Man Singh by the Mughal Emperor Akabar. Raja Man Singh like a brave Rajput attempted suicide for the betrayal of trust by his master. Pertinent to quote an extract from the historic statement of Moulvi Muhammad Sayed Masoodi which he gave in the court of Judicial Magistrate Srinagar on October 16, 1946 during his trial for treason in pursuance to his speech delivered at Hazratbal during `Quit Kashmir Movement’. He stated that a small army of brave Kashmiri under the command of Yaqoob Shah Chak, son of the king of Kashmir, Yousuf Shah Chak, gave a valiant fight to the army of mighty mughal emperor killing thousands of their soldiers and the mughals could not succeed in subjugating Kashmir till some Kashmiri nobles appeared in Akbar’s court and invited him to invade again. Thus Kashmiris themselves jumped in to the pit of slavery’.

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Chief Minister, probably conscious of the third and the last blunder of making an ignoble accord with Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, in the year 1975 putting a seal on all the erosions made since the Delhi Agreement 1952 in the internal autonomy of the state, visited a far flung village of Bihar despite his old age and failing health and offered prayers at the grave of Yousuf Shah Chak.

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