Emperor Jahangir once said about Kashmir, “Agar Firdawsbaroy-izaminast, haminast-u haminast-u haminast,” meaning “If there is Paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.”
Jahangir’s Kashmir has become a history and provides a feeling of nostalgia. Today, it has become the cradle of violence. But violence in Kashmir has its roots in its history. Kashmir has witnessed the oppression and barbarity at various points of time in history. Be it the Afghans, the Sikhs or the Dogras, all have exploited and oppressed the innocent segregated population of Kashmir. The Dogra period is the most horrible one apart from the Afghans.
The rulers of the Dogra Dynasty overtly displayed their communal stance by renaming most of the parts of Kashmir on religious lines. They promoted prostitution in the heart of Srinagar and collected revenue from that. This had completely contaminated the cultural fabric of state. In the first instance, their claim on Kashmir was grossly iniquitous. On 16 March 1846, under the Treaty of Amritsar, Kashmir (an area of 84,471 sq. miles and 2½ million people) was sold to Maharaja Gulab Singh, for just seventy five lakhs by the British. This treaty recognized Maharaja Gulab Singh, traitor of Lahore Darbar as the Independent ruler of what constitutes the present day Jammu and Kashmir including the Pakistan occupied part of it.
Regarding this treaty, SaifudinSoz in his book Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle quoted Captain Knight who said, “For seventy five lac of rupees, the unfortunate Kashmiris were handed over to the tender mercies of the most thorough ruffian that ever was created- a villain from a kingdom down to half penny.” The inhuman and unjust sale deed of Kashmir finds its mention in the poetry of Sir Mohammad Iqbal, the Poet of East. He wrote on the genesis of this unparalleled pact in his poetry as:
Oh the breeze of dawn
If thee reach Geneva
Tell our tale of fate
To League of Nations of world
They sold the peasants and farms
Streams and orchards
Whole nation was sold as slaved
With a little price of gold
Allama Iqbal’s level of frustration can be detected from his poetic genius. But when he wrote, the Dogras had already penetrated deep into the state. Lawrence was the first man who reported about the miseries faced by the people of Kashmir under the autocratic rule of the Dogras. He wrote in his book ‘The Valley of Kashmir’, “The peasants were overworked, half-starved, treated with hard words and hard blows, subjected to unceasing exactions and every species of petty tyranny… While in the cities a number of unwholesome and useless professions, and a crowd of lazy menials, pampered the vices or administered to the pride and luxury of the great.” The Pandith community in Kashmir played an important role in fostering the Dogra rule in Kashmir.
The Pandith community was the only educated community of that time. The Kashmiri Muslims suffered heavy privations under the Dogra dogmatism. The State administration was monopolized by the Dogras, the Punjabis and the Kashmiri Pandiths. Given the role Kashmiri Pandiths played, Professor Mridu Rai called the Pandith community as key collaborators of the Dogra project. Another author Chitralekha Zutshi who differs from Mridu Rai holds that the narrative suggests no unilinear project of Hinduization under the Dogras; rather, there were complex and fluid processes of collaboration and conflict among various categories of elites, both Hindu and Muslim. Then the Kashmiri people stood against this rule under the able leadership of Sheikh Abdullah, who was an alumnus of the Aligarh Muslim University.
He succeeded in uniting the people against the autocratic rule of the Dogras. Islamic congregations became an outlet for Muslims to protest against their oppression and marginalization. Mridu Rai on this asserts, “Religion and politics became inextricably intertwined in defining and expressing the protest of Kashmiri Muslims against their rulers”. Zutshi writes the growing salience of the specifically ‘Muslim’ aspect of the identity of the Kashmiri Muslims was “a direct result of the overtly Hindu nature of the Dogras’ apparatus of legitimacy”. Sheikh Abdullah succeeded in forming Kashmir’s first political party ─ the Kashmir Muslim Conference (later named as National Conference) on 16 October 1932 with Sheikh as the President, Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas as the general secretary, and Molvi Abdul Rahim as the Secretary.
The continuous fight of people of Kashmir finally ended the validity of the Dogra rule in 1947 after a centenary of the lethal Treaty of Amritsar (1846). Unfortunately, this was the year of partition and that eclipsed the joy of our freedom. Kashmiris were yet to taste the delight of freedom that it was thrown into the hands of modern India against the wishes of people. When Kashmirs started fighting again for their cause with a small halt in between, Kashmiris were promised that their future will be decided by themselves. A promise that never became reality because of the Nehruvian Perfidy that has ultimately led to current imbroglio.
Picture Courtesy- Shehjar