A Must Read

It can generate good debate on the vital elements of Kashmir’s history


Book: Kashmiri Muslims: An Historical Outline
Author: Muzafar Khan
Publisher: Humanizer Publishers
Year: 2012

Recently some useful additions were made to the available literature on history of Kashmir; Novels by Shafi Ahmad and Gulam Nabi Gawhar and the second volume of Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s autobiography, Walur Kinarey, shed light on some dark corners of the modern history of Kashmir. However, more significant than all of these works in terms of context and detail is the two volume book, Kashmiri Muslims: A Historical Outline, authored by Muzafar Khan.
The work is an authoritative and riveting account about the triumphs and tragedies of Kashmiri Muslims. The first volume of the book is essentially a political narrative. The author has contested many dominant perspectives with both intelligence and moral clarity. Prof. Khan questions validity of the Pandit view that they are Saraswats, and that they migrated to Kashmir Valley after the drying up of the legendry river Sarasvati. Citing the latest researches, the author asserts that Hakra River flowed through Haryana and Rajasthan up to Derawar (Bahawalpur) and that it dried up before the arrival of Aryans in India. Also the claim of some Pandit writers that they are the original Kashmiris has been strongly contested.
Prof Khan bemoans the tendency of portraying Muslims as intruders in India. The whole human history, he suggests, is a story of migration of people and internecine struggles. The fault of Muslims is that they came last of all, and with a religion of their own. In Kashmir Buddhists were converted to Hindu religion forcibly and nobody sheds a tear on the fate of Buddhism in Kashmir and India.
There is an interesting but authoritative analysis on Afghan rule in Kashmir. The author does not accept the view that Afghans were anti-Hindu in general. The very fact that the first governor of Afghans in Kashmir was Sukh Jiwan Mal, who even banned cow slaughter and imported ‘jinsi’ sikhs from Panjab, principally for his own defense, speaks volumes about the topic. Had they been anti-Hindu, the rise of Dhars, Tikus,Kulis and Kachrus would not have been witnessed during their rule by proxy. On the other hand Sikhs and Dogras did create conditions that were anti-Muslims.
Volume second of the book is in a way thematic and gives a detailed account of the miseries that befell Kashmiri Muslims after the Treaty of Amritsar.The author tries to explain the basic motives of the East India Company in selling Kashmiris only to Gulab Singh. Prof Khan suggests that Islamphobia of the Governor Generals and their Panjabi officers drove them to support a Hindu/Sikh buffer state between the British Indian territories and Muslim kingdoms across Khyber till the genesis of the first Anglo-Sikh war.
Prof Khan has tried to lay bare the pernicious policy of early Dogra rulers to de-humanize the Kashmiri Muslims by way of imposing on them inhuman practices like begar, organized prostitution, exorbitant taxation, besides unarming them so that they do not rebel against the Dogra rule. Even then the shawl weavers protested on April 29, 1865. It was perhaps the first trade union movement in the entire subcontinent at a time when Marxism was not even known to Europe. Twenty eight unarmed weavers were killed and this was followed by arrests and custodial deaths. A Muslim subject along with his family could be given the harshest possible punishment for a mere suspicion of slaughtering a cow.
The history of Freedom Movement has been covered in about 150 pages. It is a good read where details have been avoided. The woeful tales related by Abdul Aziz, Shabir Salaria and Krishna Mehta are indeed moving. The other themes include growth of modern education, sectarian divide, Pandit-Muslim relations, post-1947 developments and Muslim culture etc. A brief chapter on Kashmiryat exposes the inherent contradictions on which the concept is based. One wishes that author had given more details on this very important issue. An interesting chapter has been devoted to the supposed grave of Jesus Christ at Rozehbal (Khanyar). The author citing the archeological findings, rejects the presumption.
Although Prof Khan is not a trained historian, he has however, surprisingly, mastered  the art of scrutinizing the sources. He has used non-conventional sources like folk lore, poetry, place names, and oral traditions in a very professional manner. He could have, however, avoided the unnecessary citation of secondary sources at many places were primary information was easily available. Also some more care should have been given to the designing of the book.
The work is a must read not only for those interested in the history of Kashmir, but the history of entire subcontinent. One hopes that the book is able to generate a constructive debate on many important areas of Kashmir history.      

The reviewer teaches History at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. Feedback at altafhussainpara@gmail.com

Lastupdate on : Mon, 5 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 5 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 6 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST

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