Thursday, April 30, 2020

Pandits as Mushran Monster, legibly

This is in response to "Pandits as pariah, legally" by Haseeb Drabu, in Greater Kashmir, April 30, 2020.

Drabu's piece rests on careful omission of facts and deliberate inclusion of usual bile. The only legible thing in the write-up is the use of word "pariah" in the title, a "persona non grata" outcaste...a person who the society eats up and then vomits outside the boundaries...then walls are built to keep them out. Often these walls are perfectly sounding arguments built on solid gleaming bricks of history. And to keep the people inside the wall happy, unquestioning, the tale of "Pandit" monster who has been hounding poor mazloom Kashmiri Muslims from five hundred years ago, is graphically remembered.

Drabu's excuse for writing all this: a patronizing "concern" for the wily Kashmiri Pandits, that he now assumes is somehow is not smart enough. That the community was celebrating as law that was unfair to them. He is not bewildered by it. Because, the reader gets it, if it is bad for them and they are still celebrating, either they are dumb or pure evil. Gist of what already the masses in Kashmir have been sold in the valley till now. Drabu, is making it all the more clear for them. 

But, is it true?

All these years, in all discussions on KP exodus matters, the population of KPs impacted by the secessionist movement, "the migrants" has been measured only by numbers of registered migrant families (there was no individual count). The rule change means nothing to them. They are all accounted. They are the bulk. As for those not registered as migrants...something as election cards, rev. records etc. can be considered. Already something like this is done by Relief Commissioner for former government employees who never registered. As for others, KPs who left in 40s/50s/60s....they didn't even have a chance in previous Kashmir fiefdom setup if they wish they can take the normal root in new law. And they don't need to worry who is married where and to whom. All they need is peace, which of course is another matter and subject to guns of Pakistan.

The concern for KPs shown by Drabu is just a ruse to show to show how KPs are somehow in intellectual pits now.

He should remember that Kashmiri Pandits raised the slogan of "Kashmir for Kashmiris"...not "Kashmir for Kashmiri Pandits"...the present violent mess in the state if because of "Kashmir Banega Pakistan", but you can't talk about it, you be deemed "occupier"/"collaborator" and once you are deemed that, all you can do to redeem yourself is remind the people of Pandit monster.  You can compare the present generation to Pandit Shankar Lal Kaul, Jia lal Kilam and J.L. Jalali, but it should be remembered that these leaders also walked away from Shiekh Abdullah's brand of Kashmiriyat Kashmiri Nationalism as formulated by Sheikh is based on what Orwell called "Negative Nationalism" didn't know what it was...until it starts defining what it was against. It is nothing without the "Other". Thus we see it defining itself in beginning as "against landlords"...and eventually morphing into "against pandits" or rather they now proudly say in Kashmir against "certain kind of" pandits, "rest are welcome". Of course, overtime and scenarios the "kind" they are against keeps changing and "they" get to define who they are against whenever they take shelter under nationalism. Not surprisingly no Kashmiri Muslim public intellectual is ready to be "anti-national" to The Cause, great Cause, which is like a shifting goal post based on the political position, physically, the intellectual takes in the power.

When an Kashmiri intellectual is shifting post, one of the clear sign of it is that he will start talking about the history of Dhars, Kouls etc in the valley. It is a tradition coming down from Shiekh himself. It was under him that KPs were shaped as the perfect enemy. It is under his that narratives were created.

The whole idea that KPs as a community were somehow educated elites is itself coloured reading of history. Fact is, according to 1921 census of Kashmir:

73.21 % of KPs were illiterate. That should puncture the myth (that even KPs like to boast): KPs were highly educated class. The edge of education was only with the 9.36% English literate KPs among a total KP population of 55055. That's just 5,154 individuals. To compare: There were 5231 educated KMs in the state with their population of 796392. Of them about 340 knew English. 

The root of this state subject agitation was simple, if one wants to get to the root. British changed the educational setup of whole India. It was designed for creating clerical class. In Punjab, these steps were taken about a decade early. So, there were people who needed jobs. Meanwhile, in Kashmir also, similar steps were taken. So a fresh batch of mass graduates was ready. Kashmiri Pandits, the educated among them, ever depended on state jobs, were first to adopt to the new education system, it was easier for them to break religious barriers to pick up foreign languages in duress for survival, they had done it before. Meanwhile, bulk of KM population remained agriculture driven, men in crafts, shawl trade, craft trade, etc...their religious head put in additional the road blocks. While it is easy to be shock the readers with "There was not a single Muslim student among the 300 odd boys in the C.M.S. School."...someone should shoulder the responsibility of telling the people that this is because the Pandits had lesser issue going to a missionary school while Muslims community even now looks at it with suspicion (why was the school bombed?) Who will tell them that even in the first CMS school in Lahore, in 1849, the first students were KPs? Who will tell them that Samuel Bakkal, a KM convert to christianity, a product of CMS, in 1917 went on to be founder of Mysore Boy Scouts? Who will tell them that in 1912 more Muslims girls from upper cream of the society were reading in the missionary school than Pandit girls because Pandit girls were married off at the age of 13.

Mirwaiz Rasool Shah's school was reaction to Missionary school just as much of Hindu school of Annie Besant was (which opened later), difference being that those religious trust run schools still teach religious doctrines, while Hindu school does not, and is now in "secular" domain. While Rasool Shah's school is lauded (right so), the fact that by 30s Maharaja was giving scholarships to Kashmiri Muslims for higher study, is buried away as it is inconvenient in nationalist narrative as devised in the valley. 

In 1930 when primary education was made compulsory ( order probably signed incidentally by a KP or a non-Kashmiri, the masses cried about zulum of "Zabri school"/forced school ). In 1911, the first batch of Kashmiri graduates was ready (thanks to efforts of a non-Kashmiri Dr. Mitra introducing English and Punjab syllabus in 1890s) but jobs were going to people from outside (Punjab itself was overflowing with graduates). Thus the agitation of 1912. Without the agitation, decades spent in school as an investment would have been wasted for Kashmiri Pandits. They would have been forced to move out of the it happened post 1947...when they were positively discriminated against. Even in 1970s, Pandits were going to supreme courts and proving how the state was passing discriminatory orders in jobs under the freedom granted by article 370. Poet Dina Nath Nadim, too was impacted by these things when he resigned his teacher post in protest in 60s.

The other communities like Dogras were not nominal in this state subject movement, it was not as if scheming Pandits back then thought "okay let's include the Dogras too in the agitation so that it all looks good in post-partition era when Dogras would be out of power." Much against the popular opinion Pandits are not clairvoyant tantric babas who can see future and decide things based on that. At same time the slogan in Jammu was "Jammu for Dogras". The agitation was about community interests, Pandits identified as Kashmiris. 

Drabu causally tells us the shawl-trader princely class, the "cerebral pioneer of the freedom struggle of Kashmir", opposed the state subject law.
What Drabu does not mention (but does mention without saying) here is that religio/political leadership of Kashmiri Muslims asked (and were granted also in part) that rather the non-Kashmiri Muslims (of Punjab) should be given jobs in the state as the state was Muslim majority. They had no interest in "Kashmir for Kashmiris", yet (as KPs, Sikhs, etc were still a sizeable part of what was called "Kashmiri" back then. Today, "Kashmiri" the word is used just to imply Muslims by the progenies of these pioneers of Tahreek. And who do they "other" among them?  The Muslims from plains that they asked for.  

It should be remembered that by this time, Kashmiri Muslims politics was already directed from the Punjab plains. It was the same for Pandit politics, yet Pandits didn't ask that Pandits from other parts of India be given jobs (just like right now Pandits didn't ask for special citizenship rules under UT). For, Pandits of valley, it was a matter of survival in valley, and not some vain agitation over bruised ego. "370" for decades has been sold as an issue about "yazzath"/honor and vague claims of "disenfranchisement". Drabu's claim's "It is tragic because the new domicile law disenfranchises them [Pandits] even more than the Kashmiri Muslims." This would mean Kashmiri Muslims are also getting disenfranchised. Disenfranchised, how? Can't they vote? Real question is will they only vote when they are constantly reminded by two-faced communal politicians, "Vote or pandits will vote and put in their men and then you will be ruled by Hindus, again!"?

What is the charge on Pandit monster? That in 1917, ever selfish Kashmiri Pandits raised the slogan when it suited them. If so, didn't the KM leadership also make their choice based on what was convenient to them at the time? If Ashai's word of “non-mulki” Muslims might be more sympathetic to their plight seems fair, then by same logic if Pandits today claim “non-mulkis” from the plains might be more sympathetic to their plight than the “mulki” KM bureaucracy, why the hue and cry? 

Factually speaking: State Council in 1891 first recognised inhabitants of state as "State Subject" and their right to jobs. Maharaja would talk about it in court. But, nothing was formalised. This triggered the pandit agitation. It was voiced first in writing in 1894 by Saligram Kaul, in Sialkot.

Saligram was brother of Hargogal Kaul, the man who started Sanatan Dharam Sabha. Hargogal Kaul was a man born and brought up in Punjab in a KP family that had settled there in earlier times of persecution. A "non-mulki" as much as a Nehru. Hargogal arrived in state around 1876. He was quickly branded a British agent and rumor started that he had drowned some KMs in a boat. He was a fierce critic of the Maharaja and was even banished from the state for some years. He was charged by Wahabi leader Yahya Shah of hurting religious sentiments of muslims in around 1898. Bazaz's clearly mentions "Kashmir for Kashmiris" started in 1920s. Slogan was coined by Shankerlal Koul. If Drabu has based him opinion based on "Emergence of political awakening in Kashmir" (1986) by Upendra Kishen Zutshi (incidentally a KP ), he already knows all this. 

In 1907, KM representatives while asking for education funds for Islamia school were writing to Maharaja thanking him for protecting them from Arya Samajis , the evil brains behind Congress whose main agenda is Hindustan for Hindus. Sounds familiar?

It must be remembered here that in Glancy Commission, KPs were represented by rationalist, Premnath Bazaz...while the KMs were represented by religious heads and businessmen. Bazaz sided with the KMs. For that Pandits never forgave him. That much is much recounted in Kashmir, but is not remembers that in late 1960s, while in exile in Delhi, Bazaz accepted he was wring, that he gave-in into the obvious communal demands of KM leaders in the commission just because he thought it will create "goodwill" for pandits in the valley. That is all there is to it. Pandits have been trying to gather the currency of "goodwill" for a century now, all while actually losing ground, physically in Kashmir. It was this "goodwill" currency system in which a KP is seen as a good harmless government teacher but an evil bureaucrat ever ready to backstab "Mother Kashmir".

Drabu claims till KMs were no competition to KPs, the KPs took then along. When muslims became competition for jobs KPs went against them. This claim flies in the face of well known facts.

Fact that KP-KM political unity only came about in late 30s after KMs started having their demands met. After there were communal riots, after "Roti-agitation" (1932). A riot for which Kilam was conveniently blamed, triggering it by a speech. Yet, Kilam (along with Kashyap Bandhu and Prem Nath Bazaz) became one of the building block of what later NC sold as "Kashmiriyat". That's how Muslim Conference became National Conference. Bazaz calls it golden era of unity. 

But it was Sheikhs' recourse to communalism post 47 that put an end to it. One can rather claim that KPs were taken for a ride. Their support sought when it was needed, when it was needed to be in good books of Congress and progressives. In the "Naya Kashmir" manifesto a seat was reserved for a KP representative in the assembly. What happened of it? Post independence, KPs, a dispersed minority were actually disenfranchised. Even in areas where they were in majority, delimitation was carefully done to keep them out.  Drabu is taking names of KPs, long dead KPs, without knowing much about them. In 1950, J. L. K. Jalali  (a man who in 1920s waged lone campaign against grain hoarder and black marketers ) wrote about the brutal realities of "Naya Kashmir" and the dangerous form of Nationalism sold by NC to masses, at the core of which was the theory of "evil KP":

"I am a Kashmiri to whom Kashmir has always been the dearest of treasures, and suffered for it. To me the nationalism of today is nothing a garbled version of majority communalism directed towards a definite end."

Telling tales of evil pandits used to a hobby in Kashmir, now it seems to be a profession, particularly of former bureaucrats, courted by center from time to time. There is no other reason why someone, who lives in a community where crackers are burst after terror attacks, would rather than writing about it, would tell those crackers how fanatic Pandits were distributing sweets on abrogation of a law. All these are nothing but attempts to save their own skin but blaming the eternal pandit for all the invisible webs they themselves have woven.

For this class Bazaaz was to write:

"Was the special status and autonomy conferred on the State under Article 370 to pave way for integration of Kashmir with the rest of India by assuring State people of their political, social and cultural freedom or was it meant to allow the State politicians, especially Kashmir Muslim leaders, untrammelled opportunity for exploitation of the ignorant, gullible and backward massed? It was a moot point which probably never occurred to stalwarts of the Congress party in early days of independence when they evinced fullest confidence in the honesty, sincerity and love for teeming millions of National Conference leadership. Capture and enjoyment of power brought an awareness to the favorite leaders that the integration of the State with India, however desirable, was antagonistic to their private interest; no sooner than the objective was achieved, their own importance would cease and opinion of State people would grow in importance and weight.

Therefore, to keep people in darkness and not to make them politically conscious and socially awakened became a vested interest of Kashmir politicians. A policy was evolved to make Kashmir Muslims feel perpetually in terror of the hostile Hindu majority and depend upon the local coreligionist leaders for protection against it. Article 370 was frequently maligned and abused, and conditions were created not to allow it to outgrow its utility as originally intended but to make it a permanent feature of the Indian Constitution. In this atmosphere while the leaders thrived, the position of average Kashmiri worsened. The Central leadership of the Congress was caught in a web woven by the National Conference leaders before they could realize what was happening."

It was again Bazaaz who wrote what the actual cost of KM secessionism would be, or rather the cost of communal majoritarian KM politics, which community will first bear the actual cost of it and how KPs will and must respond.

"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."

A reminder: 98% of Pandits today live in places (all over the world) where there are "immigrant" yet equal citizens. It comes from present. The world as it is. Not as it was. The progenies of Kaul, Kilam, Jalali, Bazaz are all outside Kashmir. Probably as divergent in their individual political stands at their ancestors were. But, they are all outside. There was there becomes of decades and decades of "othering". 

While Sanatan Sabha, Aryan Sabha hold no sway over Pandits today, the KMs still rally under new Ashais (who cozy upto Imran Khan now) and Mirwaizs...while politicians like Drabu try to stay relevant in that same eco system (as some sort of rational voice) by deploying three hundred year old terms like “Karkun Bhatte” and “Bhasha Bhatte" in front of a young muslim audience in valley who hasn't lived next to a Bhatta in three decades, their minds getting used to the shape of Pandit Mushran, which they now know comes in these two medieval flavors.


In Kashmiri folktables "mushran" was an evil spirit that came in the shape of a dirty old man and will a parental hug, suck your soul, cause slow death.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Farewell to M.M. Munshi

"Your photographs with captions are very interesting. I really enjoy these. I even now visit kashmir frequently and can contribute some photographs to search Kashmir. If acceptable please let me know"

This simple small email from Man Mohan Munshi in November 2009 went on to lay foundation of our decade long association. Back then I was manually going through all the old books on Kashmir getting uploaded to by various libraries around the would. I would go track down each book and manually visually scan each page and download any image of Kashmir, and then upload images with caption to this blog. It was the beginning. And an email like that was good enough motivator. I told him he was more than welcome to share. I didn't know what to expect. Over the decades, Man Mohan Munshi Ji shared pages from rare books in Kashmiri and Urdu, his personal family photographs going back to 1910s, articles on historical sites and pilgrimages and his encyclopaedic notes on geography of Kashmir, after all he retired as a director of Geological Survey of India. He told me things that few would know. He corrected me. I learnt. Some of his photographs (like of Nehru) went on to be part of Wikipedia, some (like an old family photo) went on to be part of a short art film that I accidentally came across in an festival, some (like a simple land purchase deal from late 1800s in Persian) went on to be misused by propagandists as sale deed of Kashmir (an image still circulated like fools). Sometime I would upload an old photograph from a book and he would email me a detail that only he would know. I would append it to the post. He would send me images of rare Kashmiri household items, arts and crafts from older times. He would photograph them on a film camera, go to a cyber cafe guy, have it scanned, have it cleaned up and have it emailed to me. Sometime accidentally wrong photograph would get attached to email, instead of Ramchakor, an image of a relative would get sent. I would have some fun with him. He would remind me that he is an old man. He was in his 70s at the time, and we were friends. He still had child like enthusiasm for history, arts and culture of Kashmir. A few years back he asked me to visit his place in Jammu. I never got the chance. My visits to Jammu were getting fewer and shorter. I regret it.

For last few months I was writing emails to him. No response. I looked up his FB. No update. Only year old photograph of him hitting the gym.  But, I needed to get in touch. Someone had come across an old family photograph uploaded by him and managed to identify a common ancestor. This was a 14 year old kid who wanted to know. I was sure Man Mohan Ji would have been thrilled to hear it. No response.

For past many years I had a pending FB friend request from Man Mohan Munshi. It was an alternate account. I assumed it must have been an older lost account of him, his other account. The account I was Friends with was very much his latest. Somehow, this morning, I don't know what came over me, I accepted that pending friend request. In evening, someone, a friend of his tagged that profile to inform that Man Mohan Ji passed away this morning after a brief illness.

Man Mohan Ji made this blog richer, helped me understand a lot of things, most of all, his emails often kept me going. It was always rewarding to know that someone more knowledgable was caring for the work you were doing, someone was reading. That someone was trusting you with his memories and treasures of his past.

It was a pleasure knowing him and an honor to be a conduit of all that he had to share.

Man Mohan Munshi, May 1954.
At 13000 ft near a Mollen pot hole in a snow covered valley in Pir Panjal Range.
for his post graduate thesis paper submitted in 1955


You can spend hours browsing through the garden of memories he has left:

Man Mohan Munshi Collection

Friday, April 17, 2020

Rare DD recording of Ghulam Hassan Sofi, 1970s

Original Upload by Basharat Ahmed
[only about 30 views since 2017]

A rare recording of Doordarshan Kashmir station's "Anhaar" program.

Here's the playlist of the gems sung by legendary Ghulam Hassan Sofi
6:35 Roz Roz Boz by Mahjoor (1887-1952)

12:30 Tan Naar Daez Arei by Samad Mir (c.1893 – 1959)

17:45 Yaar Yikhna Cham krav poshan by Abdul Ahad Nazim (1807-65). Music by Bhajan Sopori

24:00 Chani Bartal Raevim Raetche zah ti goshan goi na myoni (awaaz waetchi no) by Mahmud Gami (1765-1855)

33:00 Tche Kyamu Karnay Taweez pan Yaro Wan by Wahab Khar (d. 1914).

kolgam yandra kornas taiyaar
neal chum yoni tai kailmas tandaar
tche kartamchi chi shamar zan

39:20. Soz ashqun Boz wan Haeri lol naeri kornam soor by Azizulla Haqqani (1854 - 1928). 

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