Monday, November 25, 2019

Prem Nath Bazaz on Ruin and "Land Reform", 1954

"But what of those who had purchased the land since 1934 when as a result of the recommendations of the Grievances Enquiry Commission and for the first time under Dogra rule, the land was allowed to be sold in the Valley. A and B are two brothers. In 1935 A purchased 1000 kanals of land for 30,000 rupees and B purchased building for commercial purpose for an equal amount. According to socialistic principles both the brothers have been having unearned incomes for all these past years. Today the Nationalist Government has deprived A of his land but B is still in possession of his property. What kind of justice is this? And whether the landlord had inherited the land from his forefathers or purchased it in his lifetime if the land is the only source of income to him what sort of justice is it again that he is expropriated without compensation when the State has made no alternate arrangements for his employment or livelihood. By being a landlord he does not cease to be a member of the community."

From: "The History of Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir: Cultural and Political, from the Earliest Times to the Present Day", Prem Nath Bazaz, 1954

Some Supreme Court Cases, non Article 35(a) and the Propaganda

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Prem Nath Bazaz on Muslim Communalism, 1967

In the aftermath of Parmeshwari Handoo case of 1967, Prem Nath Bazaz went on to write an essay titled "Kashmiri pandit agitation and its Aftermath". In it he exlained what lead to communal flare-up in the valley. He blamed Jan Sangh affliated Pandits for fanning the issue and generally suggested that KPs should try and play a contructive role in Kashmir, be more liberal so that Kashmiri Muslims may mirror it and try and be more liberal. The piece is often selectively quoted as proof of KP fanatism, however, in the same piece Bazaz tells us the root of the issue, how Muslim communalism was working in the valley and how Pakistan was fanning it.

"In 1947 at the time of partition which was accompanied by inhuman deeds on a large scale in North and East India the communal harmony was put to a heavy strain but the Valley people rose to the occasion and successfully withstood the wave of frenzy from outside ; the culture of the Valley and its old traditions were heroically preserved. Other occasions arose during the last twenty years when the people had to pass through more severe ordeals but they did not flinch or waver in maintaining their balance.

 That after 33 years of continued harmony the fires of fanaticism were alighted afresh last August by Pandit demagogues no impartial observer can deny. But while making an objective appraisal of the unfortunate episode it would be fair to point out that Muslims are not free from blame in bringing about this situation.

 There can be no manner of doubt that a majority of Muslims is obsessed with the desire that Kashmir should accede to Pakistan. If that aim is achieved it is obvious Pandits will have to leave their hearth and home and become refugees in India. If there was any doubt about it the Azad Kashmir Radio and, inspired by it, a by-no-means mute section of Muslims has been constantly warning Pandits that the Valley is bound to join Pakistan so they should take time by forelock and be ready to depart. What alternative do these threatenings leave to Pandits but to determinedly oppose the demand and tenaciously fight back with all resources available to them. It becomes the foremost duty of even the liberal minded Pandit democrat to defeat the Muslim purpose ; for self-effacement is no part of the philosophy of liberalism or democracy. Muslim politicians shall have to propose a solution which should be acceptable to the non-Muslims. It is well to remember that the Indian subcontinent was partitioned because the minority wanted it so. Had the issue been left to the vote of the majority (right of self-determination) the unity of the subcontinent would have been maintained. As long as the Muslims insist upon the right of secession Pandits will be morally right and politically justified in opposing the demand. This may appear unreasonable to the Muslim politicians but they will ignore it at their own cost."


P.S. In 1968, in the aftermath of 67 riots, my grandfather was convinced by his brothers to purchase a piece of land in Jammu. In 1990 after reaching Jammu, we found some of the land encroached (we let them be), and some part of the land missing, soil dug out and sold. In 1996, we managed to build four rooms over the remaining plot after spending a year, breaking savings and saving money. A few years later around 1998, the ancestral Kashmir house was sold to build four more rooms. Pandits, even Bazazs of the world, knew what was in store for Pandit community. Death or exile. 67 was the last time they put up a fight on the physical ground, in the streets. It also sealed their fate, Tahreek knew Pandits had to be removed from the equation.


Previously: Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz on Article 370

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Matchbox Dwellers

I remember a summer spent going around houses asking for Eedi. Asking random strangers for money. Even then I understood there was no difference between post eid money and post Shivratri money. Back then I had a friend, all I remember is that his name started with Q. That Eid morning, he asked me to recite Kalma...I did...and it was done. I could tag along with him asking for money. We made lot of money and spent is all on ice cream. He would call me when ever a Bakra was getting zibah. The place was always crowded, you couldn't see anything. Only drains in the entire neighbourhood used to turn red. He was a strange fellow. If he saw human blood on ground he would put soil and bury it. For a whole month he wouldn't talk without spitting And he would piss while sitting. The kid was a Kashmiri like me. But, this was all in Jammu. Kashmir didn't have this story anymore. Qadir, that was his name. 

There was another much elder kid, an adult...had a nice big zabiba mark on his head from all the 5 time prayers he must have read in 23 years. The man could swing the ball like Imran Khan. He would play sometimes and people would watch just to be awed with speed. A man in pathan suit, a short run up, and the plastic ball bends in air like a flying snale. Sometimes, he would bring news of Kashmir. One time he told me ditties they were singing in Kashmir for pandits. There was one funny song in which he would ask a pandit to keep paache (feet) clean...for he was coming to have them. Even then I knew it was a sort of warning. I still don't understand why they wanted to eat our feet. Then there was Nafi, he was best buddies was a guy whose father we liked to imagine was in RAW, because he was a Kaw. However, Kaw was more of a Jammu boy, his mother was a Dogra, we could tell, he was dark. He was the kid with the biggest comic collect, the costliest bat, a VCR, a color TV, he had the best of everthing. And Nafi from Kashmir, kid with crew cut and Uzbek looks was his second in command. We all hung out together. I had come to Jammu from Kashmir with a bat that had no handle, a cousin had broken it. The bat was no good but I continued using it for a few years, playing without handle. Finally father bought me a Kashmir willow. Nafi came to check out the bat. Nafi, Nafi, Nafi, how mad you made me that day. Nafi took the bad and then went door to door in the quaters we lived in. He went to each boy in the neighbourhood, me in tow. Showed the bat, "We have a new bat." Another door, another kid, "We have a new bat." Another door, another kid, "I got another bat". Another door, "I got another bat". I got worried, irritated, "tommorow he may declare it to be his bat, he has all the witnesses also now." We must have gone to 20 houses like that. I told him to return the bat, I had to go back him. He was not done yet, there were 20 more doors to knock. He laughed. He knew what he was doing. Something inside me snapped, I made a dash at the bat. He wouldn't let go. Nafi was not even a batter, he was a bowler, he could hit, but he was a bowler. His grip on the bat tightened. I pushed, he pulled. A second later we bother were down rolling on the ground like two snakes grappling. It was not about bat anymore. It was something more primal. I could see his eyes, just as he could see mine. There was hate that normally comes with age. But, we were locked, neither of us ready to give up. As we rolled on the ground, from the corner of my eyes, with horror I could see, a little girl with a big rock in hand running towards us screaming something that my sense were too shocked to register immediately. "Myani Khodaya!!! Baya!!" (My God! Brother!) It was Nafi's youngest sister, no more than seven or eight. She was about to bash my head. Nafi turned, he left the bat, got up, took the stone from her hand. Tuned around towards me and dropped it. He then slapped his sister yelling, " chu mai boi. Ghas dafa!" (Mad girl! He is my brother. Be lost). I got up, took my bat and left for home.

A few days later I was sitting at the window with a matchbox in hand. I saw Nafi passing, I threw the matchbox at him. "A gift for you." Nafi picked it up with a smile and opened. A big yellow Tumudi, a wasp flew out singing that stingy song. Nafi jumped, both feet in air, running away, thowing the matchbox away. It was a scene straight out of Charlie Chaplin. Nafia was still shivering when he looked up screaming, "Batta gokha pagal!" (Have you lost you mind Pandit!)

Still laughing, I replied, "I am coming down. We have a new bat, get everyone, let's play."



Feb, 2019. The quaters in Jammu where site of big communal flare-up between Kashmiri Muslims quater dwellers and outside locals. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Asad Mir's Yeli Janaan Ralem by Rahul Wanchoo

A SearchKashmir production. First in the series.

Rahul Wanchoo sings Asad Mir's "Yeli Janaan Ralem". Asad Mir (d. 1930) in mystical verses describes love, act of meeting the beloved, as a feeling similar to being reborn, to be a new human, again.


Audio steam and Download available here:

Saavn: Link


yélí jànànû ralêm
adû balêm dílé bèmàrò
dàg jígras tsalêm
adû balêm dílé bèmàrò
yélí jànànû ralêm

käli yélí tòtû kalêm
zäli panjras gatshí lúrû-pàrò
hês hòsh rang mé dalêm
adû balêm dílé bèmàrò
yélí jànànû ralêm

àbè zamzam chhalêm
asad mîras dílé gúmànò
rahmatûki jàmû valêm
adû balêm dílé bèmàrò
yélí jànànû ralêm
adû balêm dílé bèmàrò


When I meet my beloved
My ailing heart will come alive again
Bruises carved on it will go
My ailing heart will come alive again
When I meet my beloved

Someday, I will lose my speech
Cage around me will fall apart
I will lose all my senses and sheen
My ailing heart will come alive again
When I meet my beloved

zamzam water will purify me
Asad Mir has this surmise
He will decorate me with the graceful attire
My ailing heart will come alive again
When I meet my beloved
My ailing heart will come alive again


Friday, April 19, 2019

Some Supreme Court Cases, non Article 35(a) and the Propaganda

Sampat Prakash, a self-claimed Naxal labor unionist, was arrested and taken into preventive custody on 18th March 1968 under the Jammu and Kashmir Preventive Detention Act No. 13, 1964. The held him in captivity for long duration, although in non-violent, humane manner.

But what made the detention legal?

This was possible because Art. 35 (c) was introduced in 1954 providing protection to any law relating to preventive detention in the State against invalidity on the ground of infringement of any of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution. It was originally meant for only 5 years. In 1956, ,the Constituent Assembly of the State completed its work by framing a Constitution for the State and it came into force on 26th January 1956. In 1959 the period of 5 years in Art. 35(c) was extended to 10 years and in 1964, it was further extended to 15 years by Orders passed by the President of India under Art. 370(1).

Matter went to Supreme court on 10 October, 1968. Justice Hidayatullah was on the bench.

First things first (contrary to propaganda):

1. The case had nothing to do with 35(a).

2. Sampat Prakash's defense was that he wanted protection under fundamental right guaranteed by constitution of India. And that since Constituent Assembly stood dissolved, extensions provided to 35(c) was ultra vires, done without authority. In a way defense wanted to ignore 35(a).

His defense was:

Art. 370 of the Constitution could only have been intended to remain effective until the Constitution of the State was framed and the will of the people of Jammu & Kashmir had been expressed and, there after, this article must be held to have become ineffective, so that the modifications made by the President in exercise of the powers under this article, subsequent to the enforcement of the Constitution of the State, would be without any authority of law.

It was Attorney-General appearing on behalf of the Government of India who defended the continuance of article 370. According to Government the "situation that existed when this article was incorporated in the Constitution had not materially altered" thus the article stays. The court agreed "The legislative history of this article cannot, in these circumstances, be of any assistance for holding that this article became ineffective after the Constituent Assembly of the State had framed the Constitution for the State."

So what was this "situation" and "these circumstances"?

Since the court case was about preventive detention that is in spirit at conflict with fundamental right in constitution of India. Government explained the situation quoting Gopalaswami Ayyangar when he moved in the Constituent Assembly clause 306A of the Bill that  now corresponds 'with Article 370 of the Constitution. When the Bill was presented Maulana Hasrat Mohani, founder of the Communist Party of India, interrupted Ayyangar and pointedly asked: ‘Why this discrimination please?’. Ayyangar's at length explained that it was due to special conditions in the state. These special conditions were defined as:

(1) that there had been a war going on within the limits of Jammu & Kashmir State; 

(2) that there was a cease-fire agreed to at the beginning of the year and that cease-fire was still on; 

(3) that the conditions in the State were still unusual and abnormal and had not settled down; 

(4) that part of the State was still in the hands of rebels and enemies; 

(5) that our country was entangled with the United Nations in regard to Jammu & Kashmir and it was not possible to say when we would be free from this entanglement; 

(6) that the Government of India had committed themselves to the people of Kashmir in certain respects which commitments included an undertaking that an opportunity be given to the people of the State to decide for themselves whether they would remain with the Republic or wish to go out of it; and 

(7) that the will of the people expressed through the Instrument of a Constituent Assembly would determine the Constitution of the State as well as the sphere of Union Jurisdiction over the State.

Of these what had (or has) materially altered:

(7) Constitution of the State is already done.

(6) the Government "had committed", the language is not "has committed".

(5) UN is no longer holding any special sessions for Kashmir. Even Gandhi in 1948 understood that taking the matter to UN was an open invitation for western politics to be played in Indian subcontinent.

(4) POK. Indian Government almost agreed to converting LOC into international border. What would have been the impact of article 370?

(1), (2) and (3) can be summed up as War and Subversion are still existing in Kashmir. If article 370 or any article enables it. What to do with it?

The ruling shows that article 370 is not a permanent feature, it is dependent on "situation".

It is kind of funny that this case (in which petitioner, a Naxal wanted to extend an article concerning fundamental right to J&K state ) is now hated by Sangh intellectuals, they say: "The judgment of the Supreme Court in Sampat Prakash case in 1968 upholding the power of the President to extend to J & K the Constitutional amendments was outrageously wrong". Organiser Magazine. 1992). The reason: because Supreme court held in 1968 that article 370 was needed.

Meanwhile A.G.Noorani, unofficial Indian brain on hire for Kashmiri ultra-nationalism also bemoans the case. According to him: "The court held that Article 370 can still be used to make Orders thereunder despite the fact that the state's constituent assembly had ceased to exist....[that] Supreme court totally overlooked the fact that on its interpretation, Article 370 can be abused by collusive State and Central governments to reduce Article 370 to a nought." [Article 370: A Constitutional History of Jammu and Kashmir By A.G. Noorani]. Essentially the state assembly of J&K can modify the nature of State constitution, President of India can approve it and it will be treated as if (non-existent) constituent assembly of the State did it.

Away from all these complicated matters, when Art. 35(a) controversy started, the simplistic Tahreeki propaganda factory in Srinagar celebrated Sampat Prakash (emphasising his Kashmiri Pandit identity) and freely quoted him for hysterical effects saying that he was saved by article 35(a). When the truth is Art. 35(c) was being discussed in the court, and Sampat's defence was that his fundamental right offered by constitution of India was being violated by the J&K state which had no authority to do it as the constituent assembly was already dissolved. It is funny that the experts in Kashmir celebrated the case as a win. Article 35(c) deprives the residents of the state of certain protective constitutional guarantees available to other citizens of India. It is as discriminatory as article 35 (a). Given the status of detainees in J&K, one would think sensible people would towards abolition too. But forget all this because Sampat Prakash is needed by Tahreek to be the KP Hindu face of its propaganda.

While on the same subject of propaganda, there were some other equally fancy celebratory balloons also released in state. It was claimed that land distribution was also made possible because of Article 370 and Article 35(a). Is that the case?
First thing first. It was Sheik Abdullah who declared the first land distribution act, from Mujahid Manzil, headquarters of NC, he did it even before it was discussed in the state assembly, without consulting the head of the State, Karan Singh. By declaring it from a political platform, he forced the hand of the state and the "Big Estate abolition Act" came into force. Land owners were not paid anything in return. In a few years, the state was reeling under the ill effects of the not too well thought out implementation and massive corruption. [for ref. Dr. Daniel Thorner, University of Pennsylvania, on Kashmir Land Reforms, EPW, 1953. How "new jagirdari" system was carefully created by selectively abolishing old one.]

Rise of "khadpanches" (people, who hang around the village officials in the hope of gaining influence or wealth)
"The Kashmir Land Reforms Some Personal Impressions" by Daniel Thorner
EPW, 12th September 1953

With that said, getting back to the subject. In 1950, Article 31 of the Indian Constitution ensured that "no person would be deprived of his property save by authority of law, and it would not be acquired save for a public purpose, and most crucially, it provided for the payment of adequate compensation." It was a fundamental right [It no longer is. It was Janta government [with early BJPites] which struck it down with 44th Amendment of 1978. If an individual can lose land for greater good? Can a group of people also lose it for greater good of another group? Isn't that what actually happened? Can it happen again, say with another group?].

Article 31 was the main reason why earlier land reform acts in other states like Kerala and Bihar ran into lot of trouble. To circumvent it ninth Schedule of the Constitution was introduced [the current standing of which is also controversial today because essentially due to some ruling it seems Judiciary today had the final say of defining the spirit of the constitution]. It is interesting that while Nehru backed Sheikh's land reform in Kashmir, in Kerala, first democratically elected communist government was dismissed over the issue. It is however important to remember Kerala went on to implement Land reforms more successfully without having Article 370 to back the move. It is pure propaganda to claim that land reforms would not have been possible without Article 370. It is a malicious thought being sold to Kashmiris, fanning their xenophobia.

Even in case of Jammu & Kashmir, the matter did go to Supreme court in 1959. In Prem Nath Kaul vs State of Jammu and Kashmir, petitioner, claimed his fundamental right had been infringed by "The Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, 1950". In this case the court held that instrument of accession was the key, in the judgement it said: J&K Big Landed Estates Abolition Act was valid and not ultra vires the powers of Karan Singh conferred on him by Maharaja Hari Singh entrusting the administration to the former. The Constitution Act clearly brings out that Maharaja Hari Singh was absolute monarch and all the legislative, executive and judicial powers vested in him without any fetters. As a result of the passing of the Indian Independence Act, 1947 Maharaja continued to be absolute monarch of the State and in the eye of International Law [not Indian law or Independence act] he could have claimed the status of sovereign Independent State [fate of which was sealed by Pakistani aggression in1948 even after Jinnah promised Maharaja that his say in the matter will be final]. The execution of the Instrument of Accession did not make any inroad on the aforesaid powers which vested in him. [Instrument of Accession does also say that only he can purchase land and lease it out in case GOI needed Land in the state.] The court also held that no fundamental right was violated. [ref: Jammu and Kashmir: Political and constitutional Development, Justice Jaswant Singh, 1996].

Thus we can clearly see, article 370 or article 35 (a) had nothing to do with the first land reform in state. If anything, it was, ironically, instrument of accession, Karan Singh and Sheikh's populist manipulative move that made it possible.

Since "Kaul" case is the only one that is often remembered in propaganda circles for obvious reason. Pandit The Evil Land Lord. We do have another case of land owner(s) taking the State to court over land reform.

Khalid Fida Ali (and others) in 1974 took the State to Supreme Court over the later land reform act: J&K Agrarian Reforms Act (Act 6 of 1972). The petitioners, all big landowners, claimed that the compensation (this time there was compensation) offered to them was pittance, illusionary. That "orchard land" was kept out of the act deliberately (orchard owners were (are) the new rich class of the state).

In this case too, court [Justice P.K. Goswami] held the act valid and without relying on article 370 or 35(a). It was held valid because of article 31-A of Indian constitution. Art. 31-A, was inserted by the Constitution First Amendment Act, 1951, and provided for acquisition of estates of the nature referred to in various clauses, declaring that such laws shall not be deemed void on the ground that they take away any of the rights given by Article 14 or 19 of the Constitution.

The state on its part claimed: "Act is passed in order to ensure better production avoiding concentration of means of production in the hands of a few and to annihilate the exploitation of the peasantry. With regard to the objection regarding compensation, it is stated that the minimum rate of compensation has been fixed and the same is not illusory."

See, no mention of article 370, but direct reliance on Indian constitution and again the definition of fundamental right.

The 1972 act was later suspended and replaced by 1976 J&K Agrarian Reforms Act. In this act, orchard were again excepted but it did say:

"No person, who or any member of his family holds an orchard exceeding one hundred kanals shall be eligible to resume land (clause (g) of sub section 2 of section 7). So according to general rule any person who is holding orchard land exceeding one hundred kanals is in entitled to further resumption, but if a person is holding orchard land below one hundred kanals he will be entitled to resume land, but the aggregate land including the orchard land shall not exceed one hundred kanals."

An interesting feature of the act was that Gumpas of Ladakh were exempted. Since the beginning of Land reforms in State in 1950, Ladakhi Lamas [under Kushok Bakula] fought it tooth and nail as their temple land and centuries of traditional way of income was under direct threat [they knew what had happened in Tibet and what was happening]. Sheikh would not budge. However, now Gumpas were allowed to keep their land. But, along with Gumpas, other religious trust could also keep their land, and in effect their relation with their workers. What it all practically meant was that more and more land (cultivation) was converted to Orchards and more and more religious institutions cropped up in the state.

This in brief is history of land reform in the Jammu and Kashmir State. All this while I went to look into how fundamental rights enshrined in Indian constitution and the various acts in J&K constitution interact with each other, and how propaganda works in Kashmir.


Sampat Prakash vs State Of Jammu & Kashmir & Anr on 10 October, 1968

Sampat Prakash vs State Of Jammu & Kashmir on 6 February, 1969


Monday, April 15, 2019

Gallery of Kashmiri Pandit Urdu Poets, 17th, 18th & 19th century

window of an abandoned Kashmiri Pandit house.
Gusamnar Mohalla, Ladhoo village, Pampore
"Hari Om" in Urdu.
Photo: Ashima Kaul. 2018.

Presenting photographs of Kashmiri Pandit poets given in "Bahar-e-gulshan-e-Kashmir," the two volumes  containing verses by hundreds of Kashmiri Pandit poets, with each contributor introduced with a brief biographical note. The work was compiled in 1931 and 1932, each running about 900 pages and published from Allahabad under the patronage of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru. The work has been available online for quite sometime, however this is first time all the photographs from the work are being made available together. [Will be adding notes on the poets over the years as I come across more info. ]

[my mother-in-law, Jiji, who helped with the translation. Any additional notes and corrections are welcome.]

Chandra Bhan Brahman presented by Dara Shikoh to Shahjahan. Dara once asked Brahman to recite in the presence of Shah Jahan the following verse: "So greatly is my heart associated with infidelity, that many a time When I took it to Mecca, it returned a Brahman."

Roopa Bhawani urf Alkeshwari with Madhavjoo Dhar

Pandit Rajkak Dhar "fitra"

 Dewan Amarnath Madan

Dewan Bramnath Madan
 Dewan Manath Madan "Zafri"
Dewan Pandit Radhaynath Koul "Gulshan"

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Note on Words and Songs of Shivratiri

Among Kashmiris the words that are said in praise of Shiva-Parvati mostly involve Shrutis. There is Shiv Sankalp from Yajur Ved. There is Abhinav Gupta's Shiv Stuti and Shiv Chamar Stuti. 

Abhinav Gupta's Shiva Chamara Stuti starts with 'Ati Bheeshan...'. It's possibly the most famous one among Kashmiri Pandits...rendered in a peculiar sing-song manner. It is this peculiar meter that adds ‘Chamara’ to the name. 'Chamara’ meter – signifies the movement of a hand fan. ‘Chamara’ comes from the Sanskrit word 'Charmkara ' meaning tail of a yak. Apparently this tail was used as fan. [See images of Sikh Granthis in your mind]. 

Then there is Shivashtakam, Lingashtakam, then something that goes Shivoha-Shivoha-Shivoha (Nirvanasuktam), there is the famous ShivaPanchaShahastraStotra, Shri Rudrashtaka, Shiv Shadakshar Stotram that starts with 'omkar bindu sayankut' and I think a few more. Beltai Madal...Bhajan by Krishanajoo Razdan...most popularly rendered by Tibet Bakal.

I, like most Kashmiris, see this festival more as a wedding and it is celebrated as such. For Kashmiris it is the day of the actual wedding of Shiv and Parvati. And as often happens in weddings, ritual have greater impact than words. A perfect "saat" or timing is needed for weddings, and so are calculations done and the day of Shivratri decided (often there are disputes over the timing). Funnily, the word "saat" itself comes from the Arabic word for "hour/time/clock". 

The ancient rituals performed by Kashmiri Pandits, the actual beauty of this festival, was wedded into a poetic mystical experience by Pandit Krishnajoo Razdan (1850-1926) in his work Shiva Lagna. The rituals he described can he traced in the rituals now followed during the Pooza and these are also partly the Kashmiri marriage rituals. Like the ritual of looking into mirror is same for the couple getting married and for Shiv-Parvati during Shivratri pooza. 

The source of the Shiv Ratri Puja as performed by Kashmiri Pandits now is based on early 20th century documentation by Pandit Keshav Bhat Jyotishi (1873-1946) who is credited for preserving a lot of old Kashmiri works by setting up a Printing Press that made ancient works cheaply and easily available to masses. Only two decades ago, the cassettes of the Shivratri Puja and the Booklets popular among Pandits are in fact produced by progenies of Pandit Keshav Bhat Jyotishi. Today the same are streamed online.

Lot of short-cuts and modification have been introduced in the Pooja since the old era but the procedure essentially remains the same. Some meanings are forgotten, and some are remembered. 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Macabre Tales of Hakeem Sahib

Sketch of Human Anatomy from
Tashreaat Jism-i-Insani.
by Syed Hakeem Ahmad Shah. Urdu.
 Kashmir Library.
I have previously written down and dramatised a Hakeem Sahib story [Electric Fish, 2012]. The tale was narrated by an uncle of my father few years back. On that day he told me another story of a Hakeem, I left it to be written for some other day. A few months back, a relative of my wife told me another story of a Hakeem Sahib, a seemingly similar story and then it hit me that there is a genre of folktale told in Kashmir that has Hakeem and his bizarre "treatment" as the central motif. 

Thus I now narrate the two tales with some noon-mirch.

Tale 1

There was in Kashmir once a very famous Hakeem who could judge a disease merely by listening to the pulse of mareez. His fame had spread far and wide. Hakeem Sahib was once visiting Bombay for a personal matter. It so happened that the news of his stay in Bombay reached a rich Parsee who suffered from a condition that all the great medicine men of the great city had described incurable. Parsee man sought an appointment with Hakeem Sahib one morning but the request was turned down. Hakeem Sahib who was staying in a local hotel told him that he was visiting the city to settle some personal affairs and he was not in town to meet the incurables. The Parsee man was desperate and begged Hakim Sahib to stay with him for a night as a guest, enjoy his hospitality, finish his personal work and then perhaps if time permits, he could treat his host as a patient. Hakeem Sahib knew the moment he saw the man that this was a body in lot of pain. Hakeem Sahib relented and shook his hand. Parsee man took him to his house. Although rich and old, he lived a lonely life in a mansion all white. All he had for company was a Persian cat and a loyal Gujrati house help who had mastered Parsi cooking. The cook was underpaid and the cat was over-loved. Parsi man treated the cat like one would treat a child of his own. To the Hakeem all these things mattered. Hakeem Sahib thanked Parsi man for the hospitality and suggested that the night's dinner be Kashmiri Chicken Korma. How could the Gujarati cook a Kashmiri meal? Hakeem Sahib insisted that he would instruct the cook. We must have Kashmiri food. What about the disease, the permanent pain in his stomach? After dinner, the matter will be looked into. Parsi Man found it queer but then accepted that greatness comes with a certain degree of madness. Both men had business to attend in the afternoon and agreed to meet at night. Hakeem Sahib decreed he would get the chicken on the way back in evening. And if possible some saffron for the special curry. The thought of saffron cheered up the Parsee. Perhaps that was the cure. Where will he find Saffron in this fish stinky town? "No worries, leave all that to me. Perhaps in an Irani tea shop". Parsee man felt a knot untie in his stomach. He was already getting better. He looked forward to the meal cure at night. It was going to be stupendous affair even if the Parsee man was never hungry at night.

The two men met over dinner. The house smelt sweet with the aroma of strange spices. God knows what Hakeem Sahib put in the deg. The dish came out beautiful. However, when they sat down to eat, Hakeem Sahib excused himself, refused to eat and started walking out of the room. Why? "Why do you think I am in this port city. I am trying to catch a ship to Mecca, it was the month of Ramzaan, the month of fasting and one of the best times for Umrah. I can't eat, it is not time yet. See me after you are finished." Parsee Man couldn't process it all but then it dawned on him, "Hakeem Sahib had cooked a special meal just for me. This is the cure. Bless this man!" With this thought, mustering courage to summon hunger, he dug his fingers into the dish, mixed it with some rice and with each morsel felt his life force returning.

After dinner, Parsee Man sought his Persian cat with a leftover morsel in his hand. "Here kitty-kitty! Here kitty-kitty!" He roamed around the house. "Here kitty-kitty! Here kitty-kitty!" Hearing the call, Hakeem Sahib appeared and asked him what he was doing. "I just want to feed this fine dish to my cat." Hearing this Hakeem Sahib started laughing like a ghoul, "Hahaha...that would be quite a scene if it was possible!"

"If it is possible? What do you mean? What is so funny"

"My dear host, what you had today for dinner was a finely cooked degi Persian cat. The Kitty is inside your tummy!"

Hearing this the Parsee Man suffered a violent convulsion in the pit of his stomach. He started to vomit out the kitty. The kitty, the bits of it were all over the cook. Bitter and acidic. It went on for quite some time. He was crying and bent over. "There! There! Get it all out!" Hakeem Sahib held the Parsee man's head back with the palms of his two hand for support. It was as if the Parsee Man wanted to vomit out a whole cat out of his body.  When it was over, exhausted, still crying but with a hint of anger, he screamed, "Why? Why the poor cat? That's all I had."

Handling a towel over to the Parsi Man, Hakeem Sahib explained, "That is the only cure for too much worldly love. If the love overpowers your pulse, it becomes poison, it binds your nafs... you have to sacrifice what you love the most. You are lucky the object of your affliction was a cat. What cured you was not what you ate but what you threw out. You my friend are now cured."

Tale 2

A man once arrived at the gates of Hakeem Sahib with a disease that he was told could only be cured by the great Hakeem Sahib. With much expectation and hope he had knocked at this door. One look at the patient and Hakeem Sahib wanted to turn him away. The man was young but he was turning brittle, muscles dissolving, dark circles under the eyes, cheeks sunk-in till only a long beak was all that remained of his face, earlobes drooping under their own weight, his throat a small cage for a large Adam's apple with taunt veins sticking out as if in anger. The man must have suffered all this transformation only in last few months. His cloths were misfit, they were still meant for his old healthy frame. One look and your could tell this man was dying. Hakeem Sahib knew he could not help this dying soul, but did not wish to leave the man hopeless. "Let him live a month in hope". Hakeem Sahib pretended to check the man's pulse, and asked him to come again next month with the excuse that it will take a month to prepare the medicine.  The man however was so frightened of eminent death and Hakeem Sahib seemed such a miracle cure that this man started to knock on Hakeem Sahib's door everyday. A few times Hakeem Sahib entertained him but then started to find ways to evade the man. Every time the man turned up, Hakeem Sahib would watch him from his upper balcony window, duck and have his house help announce that he had gone out and his cure was getting prepared. Hakeem Sahib cursed himself for the torture he was enduring and the torture this dying man had to bear, walking everyday to this door only to be turned away. Hakeem Sahib expected the man to stop after a few weeks as the disease would be nearing its destination. But, the man persisted and kept coming. Hakeem Sahib perhaps had discounted a man's will to live. As the month was about to end, Hakeem Sahib started worrying how he would now face the man. "How could I get the time of death wrong?" he wondered.

Finally, towards the end of the month, he decided to tell the man his truth. The door was opened and the man was let in. That day Hakeem Sahib observed the patient more clearly and not from the distance of balcony window. The cloths were still a misfit but the veins were gone, throat was all fine, there was semblance of cheeks taking shape on his face when he smiled and the dark circles were still there but a shade lighter. All this may have escaped a normal man's eye but not those of Great Hakeem Sahib. Hakeem Sahib went straight for the patients wrist. "His pulse! His pulse is strong as a mule!" This was a man under a cure. Hakeem Sahib felt a pang of shock and shot at the man in anger, "Couldn't you wait for the cure? Didn't I tell you I was working on it? Who did you goto for cure and what did he give you to eat?" The patient was shocked at the time of questioning. "Hakeem Sahib, I am still waiting for your medicines to arrive. I haven't been anywhere else. Why else would I come here every morning?" Regaining his composure,  Hakeem Sahib was now a bit embarrassed. He changed his tone and asked the question that really mattered, "You have partaken something that has set your body on correct path. Have you been eating anything new? "

Now it was patients turn to be shocked, "I am cured! Shukraan Hakeem Sahib! Just by knocking at your gate, I evaded sure death. You are great. Greatest of Great!" With that he started kissing Hakim Sahib's hand.

"Foolish man! Stop this drama now and just tell me the truth. What have you eaten this whole month?"

"This month?  All the same that I have been having for the rest of my life. I tried nothing new. Nothing new...expect.."

"Except what?"

"Hakeem Sahib...every day on way to your house...I would stop at the chowk and have some Gostaba from that new Hawker. He is one fine Waza and makes the finest Gostaba meat balls I ever had - softest and the juiciest. He now has quite a following."

"Gostaba you say. Makes sense. We will have to meet this great meat masher. Let's go right now."

On reaching the chowk, Hakeem Sahib grabbed the Waza by collar and making a fist with his hand, said, "Swear on Allah, I am going to make mince meat out of you if you don't answer this question correctly: Where do you get your meat from?"

Hakeem Sahib squeezed Waza's Adam apple as the man tried to squeal, "From the market."

A gentle squeeze from the expert hand and out poured the truth: "From the market not....from the graveyard...from the graveyard...I am a poor man...where do I have the money...I do this for my family. From the dead bodies."

Hearing this the former sick patient started to vomit. Hakeem Sahib started laughing like a hyena, "Hehehe... take your time. You ghoul of a man. Bring it all out. Had you died, this Waza would have made soup out of your feet and sold it in the market. Yes, bring it all out. The moment I saw you, I knew it was anger that was eating your inside. An anger that has not explanation, anger as if coming from pits of hell. Anger was eating up your soul, it was eating your body. Unchecked anger is a cannibalistic desire. The only cure for it is that it needs to be fed some other human body.  I could have never recommended that to you. So I was waiting for you to die. Your cure is not what you are throwing out, your cure is what you took in."


A brief origin of terror blasts

A brief origin of terror blasts
it was the 50s when terror first arrived
it came as blasts...
the plan was the same.
timed to a bomb
In Srinagar, the first target was a cinema hall.
"Sardar ji park your bag"
Then was blown a bridge here and a truck there.
A certain Kid "Parwana" crossed border
he was looking for a bride
returned with a bomb
got caught
he is listed in the "conspiracy case"
you can look it up
the grand plan for Kashmir
you can't look up name of
Any of the victims
On it went
A blast near Maisuma mosque
In Jammu Residency Road was first
then a temple for balance
it was a bomb squad from Sialkot
Remember before all that
before those cities
the wave it all started in Dilli
At Jama Masjid there were
what the newspapers called "loud" explosions
Nehru was meeting Chinese
Embarrassed Nehru had no clue
Foreign Hand
Invisible Hands
Police worked, overworked
caught some Kashmiris
among them a pandit too
some non-communist communist tribe
nothing was proven
it was 1956 when terror first arrived
in Delhi at Jama Masjid
it came as blasts...
the plan was the same.
timed to a bomb
by 1957 reached Jammu and then Kashmir
back then the numbers were small, deaths less
yet this was probably the year Sahir wrote:
"ho rahi hai loot mar, phat rahey hai bum"

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