Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Spy Tales from 70s


In June 1977, Jammu and Kashmir had some interesting visitors from across the border. Five Pakistani men and a woman from Lahore illegally crossed border from Sialkot and walked into Jammu. The woman was a performing artist named Haseena and she was traveling with a purpose. From Jammu, the woman and the troupe travelled to Shopian in Kashmir where she assumed the name - Gul Afroze. She stayed in town for about ten days and then made her way to Srinagar. In Srinagar she rented out two houseboats and kept rotating her residence between the two boats. A few days later she tried to get herself enrolled as a casual artiste in a Central Government department. During a routine "character verification" check with Intelligence Bureau the plot went bust. Haseena was quietly flown out to an undisclosed location. It was revealed that Pakistan's Military Intelligence had enrolled talented girls for spying in Kashmir, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The ring had been active in Jammu & Kashmir since 1973, supplying inflowing of military movement to Pakistan by co opting Indian military and Army officers.

Pakistan came up with the plan under Z.A. Bhutto at the end of Indo-Pak war of 1971. Bhutto re-organized the counter Intelligence wing of Pakistan's intelligence Bureau and Military Intelligence. The objective was to carry out subversive activity in Kashmir and collect vital military information.

In March 1979, 60 men and officers of Indian Army posted in Samba sector were investigated for passing information to Pakistan. Many of these men, including 2 Army officers were found guilty and handed over long prison sentences. About 50 to 60 per cent of arrested Army officers, including senior and junior officers, were alleged to be directly involved while a major-general, two brigadiers and one colonel acted as accomplices.


B. L. Kak writes in his "Kashmir: The Untold story of Men and Matters" (1987):

"Towards the end of April 1979 it was stated that 25 to 30 members of the gang had visited Pakistan individually and collectively from time to time under the veil of secrecy. This disclosure was followed by the circulation of a report that two officers of the Indian Army, stationed in Kashmir, would be punished on charges of "objectionable" activity and misuse of the official position. The two officers, a brigadier and a major, had been accused of spying for Pakistan with the help of two women. These two women - mother and daughter - were identified as residents of a border town in the west of Srinagar. The middle-aged woman (mother) was given the title of "captain" by a Pakistani Intelligence agency, while the daughter, educated and charming with a husky voice, was trained and encouraged until she gained experience to infiltrate into some Army circles in Kashmir.

The middle-aged woman managed to keep her adversaries at a distance in spite of the fact that she had been described as a "Pakistani Agent" in the official records of Intelligence Bureau and the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in the past. A local contractor of the area had wanted to enter into matrimonial alliance with her daughter. But he had to withdraw from the field in the wake of the reported advice from the Pakistani Intelligence agency that it wold be useful to rope in the Indian Army major, who was then posted to that area, as the husband of the charming girl. And as the mother of the girl had a reason to oblige the Pak agency, the Army major was lured to roll down to become her son-in-law, although the marriage between the two was arranged in secrecy. Some time after his marriage the Army major received orders of his transfer to a place outside Kashmir. Happily for him, the major managed to get himself posted to Kashmir again with the help of his wife. The lady wooed a former minister in Delhi and subsequently tricked a senior brigadier of the indian army in Srinagar before the latter became a friend of her family."

In August 1979, a lieutenant colonel of Military Intelligence wing in Kashmir, was accused of having prepared a secret 20 page document for Pakistan.

The document was earlier seized in third week of July near Laghama in Uri Sector by men of Intelligence wing of Border Security Force. The matter was dropped after much controversy between Army and BSF. K.M Singh of the intelligence Bureau as well as Mahesh Shanker, Ghulam Jeelani Pandit, A.M. Lone and Rathinder Kaul from CID refused that the document was prepared for Pakistan.

In November 1980, some captured smugglers revealed that BSF Dakota planes were getting used to fly hashish balls from Srinagar to Amritsar and Delhi.

Kashmir was big money, and men were small fish in mouth of invisible big fish. The real fishing season arrived in 1990.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A Brief history of Book Banning in Kashmir

Following is an extract from "Kashmir: The Untold story of Men and Matters" (1987) by B. L. Kak (1941-2007). The section "Fever and Fear" offers the readers a glimpse of the regressive tide that was building up in Kashmir at the end of 80s. How the violence of 1990 was just the natural outcome of the movement or tahreek that was underway in the crevices of Kashmiri society and how this society was inverted and conformed till regressive voices became mainstream voice of the populace. Like all violent right wing projects, the "revolution" starts as a cultural project in which books are the first targets and the last step in a call to arms. 

"Knowledge is a treasure; zeal without knowledge is like a fire without light ." A reality, as it is. And you cannot refute it. Ironically, however, most of the Kashmiri Muslims have proved themselves opponents of all books of knowledge. Instances, in this connection, are numerous. A thing of the past, though, became quite an event in Kashmir in April 1982. The police went against a local writer. The step against him was, curiously, ordered about four years after he printed his book in Urdu language in Srinagar and circulated in parts of the State in May 1980. And the unostentatious writer, Tej Bahadur Bhan, was baffled by the action against him. Indeed, immediately after his arrest, he pleaded for a quick answer from a police official to his question: "Have you gone through my book"? It was not for the police official to have an academic discussion with Bhan as the latter had been rounded up on the charge that his bool contained some objectionable material.


On the other hand, however, Bhan's close associates were intrigued when police lifted him and kept him in detention, though for a brief period. It was not unknown that Bhan's arrest had followed the protest demonstration by activists of the militant Jamait-i-Tulba in Baramulla, 32 miles from Srinagar, against the book - "Pehchaan". Scores of Kashmiris, especially writers and intellectuals, found it difficult to appreciate the police action against Tej Bahadur Bhan. It was apparently in this context that 17 known writers and artists, including Ali Mohammad Lone, Autar Kishen Rahbar and Bansi Parimoo, demanded Bhan's release as, according to them, his detention had violated the freedom of expression. Happily for Bhan, some opposition and Congress (I) members in the Indian Lok Sabha, in Delhi, also condemned the government, headed by Farooq Abdullah, for the writer's arrest after he had supported Darwin's theory of evolution in his book.


While most people began to think that this Darwin hatred had come rather late, Muslim fundamentalists in Jammu and Kashmir were dead earnest about keeping the "corrupting" influences away. These fundamentalists found Bhan's book highly objectionable and demanded it be banned and the writer prosecuted. There was already a long list of banned books in Kashmir and most people outside the State might have been surprised to find Bhagwat Gita in the ban lost of Kashmir varsity. A case charging Bhan with attempt at hurting the sentiments of a particular community was registered. And Ali Mohammed Watali, then DIG of police, said that the police had launched a careful study of the issue. This was one positive fallout of the controversy since the study of the book could at least initiate policeman to literature and other intellectual pursuits.


That was the time when Kashmir's education department found itself in a quandary. A serious problem had cropped up, making it difficult for the authorities to support the quoted saying: "Knowledge is a treasure; zeal without knowledge is like a fire without light." In other words, valuable protestations by a section of the Muslim fundamentalists against the introduction of NCERT syllabus in educational institutions in the State created practical dilemma for the policy-making body in education department. Jamat-i-Islami and Tableegul Islam were credited with a success after the Farooq government did not hesitate to oblige them by proscribing a book on history meant for 6th standard in schools covered under the NCERT syllabus. The banning of the book, which allegedly contained derogatory reference to Islam, had further encouraged a section of the Muslim fundamentalists to demand withdrawal of NCERT syllabus itself.


During G.M. Sadiq's tenure as Chief Minister the Muslim militants had whipped up popular sentiments against a famous printed document titled "Bool of Knowledge" which allegedly contained some anti-Islamic material. Demonstrations were organised against the existence in Kashmir of the book. Gripped by religious frenzy, demonstrators had attacked foreign tourists in skimpy clothes and a stinging treatment was given to a few European women - nettle was rubbed on their exposed legs. At the boulevard of the Dal Lake in Srinagar, a foreign tourist was compelled to shout "ban Book of Knowledge". But the ingenious foreigner with unconcealed sarcasm [shouted] "ban all books of knowledge". The Sadiq government soon proscribed the book and also unconditionally released those arrested for violence during the agitation.


After Shiekh Abdullah's return to power in 1975, Muslim fundamentalists succeeded in removing several books from educational institutions and reference libraries. These books included studies on Darwin's theory of evolution, A Short History of the World by H.G. Wells and Monuments of Civilisation. The last mentioned book contained a pencil sketch of the Prophet and this sparked off angry demonstrations, starting from the Kashmir University, and resulting in a series of violent incidents. Jamat-i-Islami was then accused of having incited the agitation, but the charge was stoutly denied by party president, Saduddin, who asserted that it was his party's intervention that had saved the situation. However, a section of Kashmir University students complained to the then Governor, B.K. Nehru, that the party and its youth wing, Jamait-i-Tulba, were injection communalism into campus life. It was alleged that followers of these organisation had tried to build a mosque on the campus and also sought closure of the unique Central Asian Museum.


The campaign against the museum was started after the museum claimed to have identified a figure on the coloured tiles of the building to be that of said-philosopher, Syed Mohammed Madani Ali Kashmiri. Popularly known as Madin Sahen, the saint came to Kashmir in the 15th century from central Asia. he and his son were buried near a mosque at Zadibal on the outskirts of Srinagar. The museum survived the closure campaign thanks to stiff opposition from many influential Kashmiri Muslims, including Shiekh Abdullah. interestingly, in view of the attitude of the fundamentalists, booksellers in the State began to ensure that the books they put on sale were non-controversial. A leading bookseller in Srinagar had to engage an experienced Muslim teacher to go through several books on Islam before he put them on sale. Similarly, many librarians had voluntarily removed such books and periodicals that could provoke the irascibility of fundamentalists.


Even after the formation of the Congress (I) backed government headed by G.M. Shah a serious development had taken place with the high-pitched cry for Islamic order in the Muslim-majority Kashmir. The cry and unhindered actions by a section of the Muslims to communalise the situation perturbed most of the Hindus, particularly those residing in villages. And although the authorities in Srinagar and Delhi reaffirmed their resolves to stamp out the evil of communal politics, the growth in the activity of Islamic fundamentalists in towns and villages of Kashmir had become a reality with a phenomenal increase in the number of protagonists of Islamic order in a decade. The decade that was: June 1975 to June 1985. With the removal of Congressmen from power in February 1975, hundreds of Muslim fanatics got an opportunity to intensify behind-the-scene efforts on the need for the preservation of Muslim character of Kashmir.


Even Sheikh Abdullah, after his installation as the Chief Minister in 1975, was found encouraging actions designed, as they were, to unite Muslims and to increase the number of Islamic institutions, including mosques, not only in the two capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu but also elsewhere on the State. The Sheikh called himself a secularist. And yet he always advocated the need for the preservation of Muslim character of Kashmir. True, as the ruler of Kashmir for over seven years, he did not allow his opponents belonging to the Muslim-dominated groups to grow. But these opponents belonging to the right-wing Jamait-i-Islami, Jamait-i-Tulba, People's League, Mahzi Azadi and People's Conference were not prevented from open and secret attempts to strengthen and widen Islamic centres.


New Delhi had been apprised of the Shiekh's unwillingness to know out those Muslims who had engaged themselves in activities seeking establishment of more and more Islamic institutions, particularly mosques, in Kashmir. But the ruling party at Delhi could not assert itself simply because of the Sheikh's capacity to whip up passions of his con-religionists. Curious, indeed, was the oft-repeated statements by senior Congress (I) leaders describing the Shiekh, after his death in September 1982, as "a secularist" and "highly progressive in outlook". Equally curious was the statement by the leader of the State Congress (I) Legislature party, Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, describing the Sheikh as "a communal politician sympathetic to Islamic fundamentalism". Less than a month before the Sheikh's death, Sheikh Tazamul Islam, President of the Jamait-i-Tulba, said that his party was being reorganised to bring about an Islamic revolution in Kashmir. In an interview published in "Arabia," a journal published from London, Tajamul mentioned that, as part of the programme, students and youths were being trained and drilled for achieving "our goal of establishing an Islamic government in Kashmir."


About a year after the Sheikh's death, Jamait-i-Tulba and People's League voiced the demand for acquiring arms for their workers and supporters. What for? Just to prevent "Hindu chauvinists" from attempts at doing away with the distinct identity of the Kashmiri Muslims. Before its merger with the Mahzi Azadi, the Muslim League had asked the Muslim youth to join "jehad" against secularism and for Islamic fundamentalism in Kashmir. The message was contained in a booklet in Urdu language circulated in Srinagar and elsewhere in the State. The 32-page booklet urged the Kashmiri Muslims to "prevent daughters of nation (Kashmiri nation) from moving around half-naked in educational institutions, offices, shops and public parks, to force closure of cinema houses and liquor shops, to eliminate narcotics like hashish which have fouled atmosphere in cities and towns and to revive your Islamic identity." The booklet blamed outsiders (apparently meaning Indians) for attempts to "annihilate" Muslim religion and called upon Kashmiris to initiate a "struggle" against them.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Genesis of Utility of "last rites of KP" in mythical Kashmiriyat narrative


Claude Lévi-Strauss tells us that people think about the world in terms of binary opposites—such as high and low, inside and outside, person and animal, life and death—and that every culture can be understood in terms of these opposites. "From the very start," he wrote, "the process of visual perception makes use of binary oppositions.

In the narrative of Kashmir, if Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims are the binary, under what conditions do these binaries interact with each other? Is there a pattern to the narrative used to define the relation between there binaries? Perhaps there is. Every year as violence rages in the valley, we find media latch on to the stories of Kashmiri Muslims performing last rite of some forlorn Kashmiri Pandit. In the grand narrative of Kashmiriyat, this is the part where reader is reassured of humanity. The part where the narrator of the myth reveals some kind of generic truth that makes the whole tale all too real and human. Even the reader who does not know the checkered history of Kashmir conflict, its many layers and complexities, gets the "truth" due to the way  this story is told. How? And Why?

 Strauss in seminal work "Structural Anthropology" (1973) tells us:

"Myth is the part of language where the formula tradutore, tradittore reaches its lowest truth value. From that point of view it should be placed in the gamut of linguistic expressions at the end opposite to that of poetry, in spite of all the claims which have been made to prove the contrary. Poetry is a kind of speech which cannot be translated except at the cost of serious distortions; whereas the mythical value of the myth is preserved even through the worst translation. Whatever our ignorance of the language and the culture of the people where it originated, a myth is still felt as a myth by any reader anywhere in the world. Its substance does not lie in its style, its original music, or its syntax, but in the story which it tells. Myth is language, functioning on an especially high level where meaning succeeds practically at "taking off" from the linguistic ground on which it keeps on rolling. "

Strauss postulates: "Myth like rest of languages is made up of constituent units. These constituent units presuppose the constituent units present in language when analyzed on other levels - namely, phonemes, morphemes, and sememes - but they, nevertheless, differ from the same way as the latter differ among themselves; they belong to a higher and more complex order. For this reason, we shall call them gross constituent units."  He calls these units - mythemes. According to him a structural analysis of sentence based on : economy of explanation; unity of solution; and ability to reconstruct the whole from a fragment, as well as later stages from previous ones, we will see patterns, patterns that can be read. He explain the concept, he gives an example. Imagine a future archaeologist from a time when humans have disappeared and so has all information about their culture. This archaeologist comes across of book on earth having orchestra score ? How will the archaeologist know that he is looking at orchestra score. The only way he intelligible can: he will see the patterns, notes and symbols repeating, he will eventually realize that the symbols in the book have a meaning and there is music in them. Similarly, if someone really smart goes to a fortune teller, the will know that the teller's cards are limited and the "future" being read to him is having finite outcomes based on various combinations of those cards. 

Strauss in the beginning of his work quotes father of American Anthropology, Franz Boas: "It would seem that mythological worlds have been built up only to be shattered again, and that new worlds were built from the fragments." 



We are now going to look at the mythical fragment using which this recent discourse about Kashmiri Muslims performing last rite of Kashmiri Pandits is built. The mytheme of the story which again appear during a violent era.

Margaret Bourke-White was the american photographer who famously chronicled 1947 partition violence, the horrors captured by her appearing in Time magazine. She travelled all over the sub-continent and met all the main actors of the narrative from Jinnah, Gandhi, Nehru to Sheikh Abdullah. In 1949. she brought out a book "Halfway to Freedom: A Report on the New India" based on her experience in the field, all that she heard and all that she saw.  In the section "Democracy in Himalayas", she discussed Kashmir and rise of Sheikh Abdullah.While writing about the subject, she does something that very few other western writers of the time had done, he gives us myths that surrounded the man known as Sheikh Abdullah. So, we are told how people believed that in 1931 when Sheikh Abdullah was imprisoned by Hari Singh in Hari Parbat fort, the king personally tried to have the man fried alive in a pan of hot oil. But the great pious Sheikh dipped his hand in hot oil like someone would in a pan of curd. He was unscorched. The king seeing the miracle grew afraid and let him go. Then we are told how people started noticing the name "Sher-i-Kashmir" mysteriosuly appear in autumnal Chinar leaves all over the valley. (Interesting that Aatish-e-Chinar should be the man's biography). Among these tales we are told another tale of the great Sheikh, the tale of "last rites of KP" placed centrally in the narrative:

"The episode which has most deeply influenced them took place just after Sheikh Abdullah had come back from college [possibly 1930]. There was a religious clash in the streets of Srinagar; not a full-scale riot, but enough throwing of stones and threats of violence so that no Hindu dared cross a Muslim district. This placed the Hindus pitiably at a disadvantage, because Hindus are outnumbered nine to one by Muslims in Srinagar.
Srinagar, the "City of Seven Bridges", is channelled with water-ways and busy with traffic of little pointed boats pushed with poles. Near the Second bridge [Habba Kadal] a Hindu girl was lying dead in her house. It is an injunction of Hinduism that the body must be offered up on the funeral pyre within twenty-four hours after death, but for two days she had been lying there and the family dared not carry her away for fear of Muslims. When Sheikh Abdullah learned of the girl's death he went to the house and brought away the body in a boat.
'Not even the police or government officials could have done it, ' a Home Guardsman who had been a policeman explained to me. 'I was on duty on the Fourth Bridge. I saw the boat passing down the river. Shiekh Saheb was fresh from college then, and dressed in his black student's jacket and red fez. On a wooden plank was the body of the Hindu girl, wrapped in white. Crowds were following the boat's course along the riverbank, shouting that the Sheikh was a kavog' - the Kashmiri word for low-caste burner of corpses.
Sheikh Abdullah could hardly have chosen a more symbolic demonstration of his belief that human relations should transcend differences of creed. One of the sharpest contrasts between Hindu and Muslim ritual is in the treatment of the dead: Muslim bury, Hindus burn their dead."

Thus we see that even back then a dead KP in the narrative served the same purpose that it does now. A prop to show the humanism in brute majoritarianism. Again we read of an act that (still) no government agency like police or any local administration can do. At least back then it was accepted and reported that the minority was in precarious situation. That the community was depended on goodwill of the majority and was subservient to their whims and fancies. In the language employed in current reports, in the present re-tellings of the "last-rite" story, the greatness of the majority is further amplified while the minority has been further obliterated. Back then the myth, built on binary of weak Kp and humanitarian KM, was used to build a personality cult, it was a single event in a narrative, now the event is held over and over again in news reported, narrative repeated over and over again to the point of propaganda, all to humanise tahreek that finds all kind of ways to use death, all just to convince the reader that the story is still the same.

Interestingly, in her book Margaret Bourke-White, we hear Sheikh say something that the later politics of Sheikh made impossible to concede, that KPs too victims of system, that they were not "the" system. We read:

Muslims had found it easy to blame all poverty on the "Hindu yoke", the oppression of the Hindu Dogras, the class to which the Maharaja belonged. While still a youngster, Abdullah told me he had witnessed an incident that led him to learn that the mere fact of Hindus' oppressing Muslims was insufficient to explain poverty. He was passing though an apple orchard which happened to be owned by a Muslim, and which employed some Hindu pickers. The owner had ordered one of the men to the top of a rather frail tree, and when a branch loaded with fruit came crashing down, bringing the apple picker with it and breaking his rib, the proprietor fell on the fellow with curses for his stupidity and heavy blows from his walking stick.

Abdullah accompanied the workman home and was stuck by the fact that, apart from the little cluster of plaster Hindu gods and sacred stones and flower petals in a clean corner of the hut, this Hindu family lived in the same wretched squalor as the Muslim needleworkers. Then he began visiting the shacks of quarry labourers - stone cutting is generally a low-caste Hindu occupation - and here too he found that when it came to living conditions the problems of Hindus and Muslims were identical. The fault lay in a system where a fortunate few could treat millions as chattel. As he grew older he became convinced that justice could come only with self-rule and that the people must forget religious differences and wage the fight together."

What strikes in the passage is the need that is the need felt by Sheikh to make it clear that his fight is not against Hindus per se, that he stood for something greater. Today, Tahreekis make the same claim. That it is a "political issue". In the older tale, an experience, a description of a lived experience is given. However in the current tale, good intentions are to be assumed from the act of "last rite of KP".

In reality, reading into the cards, the way this story is told, repeatedly, a pattern, a symphony does appear, from the symbols it is clear that all such tales end badly for KPs. They end with a KP burning on a funeral pyre and a KM besides it singing song of self-praise. 

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