Monday, January 18, 2010

Kashmir…1585 & 1947

Like Akbar, Nehru could not let Kashmir chalk out an independent courseDr Javid IqbalEmperor Akbar successfully achieved by diplomacy, what he could not gain in a twice attempted military campaign against Yusuf Shah Chak. Severe Kashmiri winter, labelled as ‘General Winter’ by some authors has been given a greater role in thwarting Akbar’s appointed commander, Raja Bhagwan Das, than the resistance. No doubt, round the year snow on mountain tops, the frontal post of ‘General Winter’ has spelled the dome of many, who tried to cast an evil eye on the Valley.
The Mongol warrior Dalucha, who caused death and disaster, got buried in the snow clad mountains, with his entire army. However the effort of some authors including Lawrence to play down the valour of Kashmiris by over-emphasizing the natural defence barrier gets negated by exploits of Laltaditya and Shuhab-ud-Din Shahmiri. While the former held sway over large parts of South and Central Asia, the later preferred to defend Kashmir, not by taking cover in her mountainous range but by putting his forward posts in Central Asian territories. Allama Iqbal, while recounting Shuhab-ud-Din’s exploits, puts in a note of lament:Mudat ha Gul Rakht Bur Bast VA GushadKakh Maa Digar Shuhab-ud-Din Na Zaad!(Lost remains; the flower, the soul of the NationWaiting for a la Shuhab in feverish anticipation!) Akbar befriended the last independent monarch of Kashmir. Yusuf Shah had his own compulsions to respond to Akbar’s overtures. The house of Chaks was not united. His beta noire, Cousin Lohar Chak, proved to be an unrelenting bugbear. Elements of majority Sunnis resented rule of a minority Shia clan. Whatever the last reigning monarch might be charged with, the fact stands, whatever the sect he belonged to, religion was not his strong suit. Yusuf Shah was a liberal in true sense of word. Kashmir’s prince charming was a wanderer of the valley, seated on the horse back, humming couplets of Persian and Kashmiri poetry, some of his own composition. Yusuf Shah was not only a poet of substance; he had a deep knowledge of music. Haider Malik Chadura writes of Yusuf Shah’s expertise in music “Yusuf Shah was unparalleled in musical expertise and stood out in any gathering of song and music. Emperor Akbar maintained contact with him. Once it so happened that the supreme musician, of the era Tan‘sain struck the wrong note in a musical symphony called ‘Kalawant’. Yusuf Shah pointed it out and Tan’sain accepted the correction.’’ On a peace mission in Akbar’s court, Yusuf might have put in a politically wrong note or Akbar had decided that he had his fill of Kashmiri King’s poetry and music. He was arrested and incarcerated in Muzafarpur in distant Bihar. The peace mission, many say he didn’t have to take, the one he took against the explicit advice of his queen, Habba Khatoon. How true the legend of poetess queen’s injunction is historically, remains disputed. In 1586, as Akbar took over Kashmir, Habba Khatoon took to hills and mountains of Kashmir to leave a trail of soulful songs woven in heart rendering poetry. The wails of ZOON her maiden name form the lore of the valley; song and the legend of Himalayan’s sweetest corridor.Che Kumui Su’ne Miene Bram Deth Nu’nakhoChe Khu’ze Gayi Miene Dey’e!(Which one of my rivals stealth you?How cometh the hate, as I love you)The rival here is not another damsel or another ‘Zoon’ sweeter than our own ‘Zoon’ but Mughal Azam, Mahabili Jalal-ud-Din Mohammad Akbar, who deprived our ‘Zoon’ of his Yusuf and his own son Salim of Anarkali! Politics governed both decisions. Much water flew down the Ganga and the Jamna in the plains of India and in Vitasta/Jhelum in the hills of Kashmir before another friendship developed between Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah. In 1947 Sheikh backed the accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh. Did he have a choice? Dr. Mustafa Kamal, whom the human rights activist and the author of series of books on Kashmir; Dr. Abdul Majid Siraj called Abdullah’s beloved son in a recent writ-up would have made us believe that his father had no role in the signing of accession. Dr Siraj, a family friend of Abdullah’s knows better than the most. It is another matter that Dr Farooq put some Mustafa’s latest statements in different light. Sheikh Nazir, Abdullah’s nephew, the NC General Secretary tends to agree with his aggrieved cousin. It is all in the family of likable individuals. Politics more often than not messes it up! I would prefer not to join issue with Dr. Mustafa, a senior colleague in the field of ‘Medicine’ a thorough gentleman, worthy of respect. However, I would like to put a rider on his statement. It might have made it a wee bit more difficult for Nehru to retain Kashmir within the Indian fold without Abdullah’s support, but not impossible. The unfolding of events in 1953 proves it comprehensively. Nehru could take nothing on Kashmir except his own take. He was adamant to have his beloved Kashmir stay with India, overruling those who thought it might be too hot to swallow. Pundit and Sheikh fell apart, just as Akbar and Yusuf did. And it is worth noting, for precisely the same reasons. Neither religion nor ethnicity had anything to do with it. While as Akbar and Yusuf had the same religion, Pundit and Sheikh were ethnically of same Kashmiri stock. Like Akbar, Nehru could not let Kashmir chalk out an independent course. When Abdullah started thinking on these terms, as Loy Henderson’s record of his meeting with Adalai Stevenson, the presidential contender bears out, he was incarcerated in 1953, a fate similar to Yusuf Shah Chak’s in 1586. In a telegram to Clement Attlee, the British Prime Minister, Nehru noted Kashmir being vital to India’s defences [Allistar Lamb: Birth of a tragedy (page 88)]. The strategic depth argument might not hold in a nuclear armed subcontinent; however strong Indian sensitivities, Pakistan’s chronic instability and divided Kashmiri leadership is coming in the way of the settlement of the vexed issue. The hope and prayer remains that the soft, suave, urbane economist; Dr. Manmohan Singh, free from imperialistic ambitions of Akbar and romanticism of Nehru weighs the sub continental problem on an economic scale, rather than a political one and manages to engage Pakistani and Kashmiri leadership in a purposeful dialogue to address the external and internal dimension of the problem. And achieve, what has defied the politicians and diplomats from 1586 till date. Sooner, the batter! Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

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