The Parchment of Kashmir


Book: The Parchment of Kashmir: History, Society, and Polity
 Edited by: Nyla Ali Khan
Chapters: Nine
Pages: 262
Publisher: Palgrave-Macmillan: 2012

Nyla Ali Khan feels her grand-father, Sheikh M Abdullah symbolized Kashmiri ethos. On her yearly visits to homeland from her country of naturalization—United States, Kashmir University is her first port of call. Academic herself, Nyla interacts with academics, civil society activists and thrives on intellectual pursuits.  To substantiate what she stands enamoured by, she has prompted some of her friends from academia to write on the subject closest to her heart. Nyla has deftly placed the academic input to workout a uniform narrative in ‘Parchment of Kashmir’. She could be credited with choosing the right persons for pursuing different streams of the subject in hand, collectively labeled as ‘Kashmiriyat’. There is already considerable academic input in contention. ‘Kashmiriyat’ it is said is a political phraseology coined to be the dominant narrative and meant to negate the narrative of masses.  
The essays by Kashmir University academicians—Noor Mohammad Baba, Gul Mohammad Wani, Hameeda Nayeem, Rekha Chowdhary of Jammu University revolve around Kashmiri culture and socio-political narratives. There are essays on the same subject with varying emphasis by other academicians who have completed their innings as teachers of repute; Ishaq Khan – a historian, Bashir Ahmad Dabla - sociologist, Neerja Mattoo, Rattan Lal Hangloo and M. H. Zaffar. Ishaq Khan relates his identity to Islam and Kashmir. Many Islamists a la Prof. Ishaq see no contradiction, as Islam makes provision for assimilating local cultural traits. However, the myopic view persists that it breeds extra-territorial loyalties. And it has been often held against Muslims living in varying cultural settings. Specifically in Kashmiri realm, Rattan Lal Hangloo sees it as past mis-constructed, where what he calls ‘Kashmiriyat’ is being seen in poor light, as new narratives impacting socio-cultural traits have sprung forth.
Kashmir’s Sufi traditions, however, have had a measure of tolerance, as it is seen in different light, many see it as akin to some Indian socio-religious movements like the Bhakti Movement that had Kabir, Meera departing from orthodox ritualistic traditions and working out a cross cultural synthesis—an assimilative process that could bridge the gulf in Indian subcontinent’s widening diversity. M. H. Zaffar and Neerja Mattoo in essays on cultural syncretism and deconstruction of a monolithic culture allude to mystic thought of Kashmir and syncretic tradition and creative life. M. H. Zaffar headed Kashmir University’s ‘Institute of Kashmir Studies’ for some time, so alluding to mystic thought of Kashmir comes naturally to him. However, the Institute has been criticized for working out narratives, not in sync with hard realities of Kashmir situation. Mystic thought might dampen the needed socio-political activism; argue the contenders, as also whether it provides the answers to what ails Kashmir. Yet the fact stands that faced with a personal misery, people seek spiritual relief in centers of spiritualism, located in every nook and corner of valley. Whether the individual relief could ever be a collective panacea remains questionable. Neerja Mattoo visualizes mysticism in poetic realm which carries the richness of Lal Ded, Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani in socio-religious and of Habba Khatoon in socio-cultural realm.
Three professors of political science—Noor Mohammad Baba, Gull Mohammad and Rekha Chowdhary grapple with the subject that should interest them—conceptualization of sovereignty, governance and regional stability. The learned academics though have taken up separate streams of the subject. Noor Mohammad Baba relates to democratic deficit that is so evident, and forcefully relates it to Indian democracy fed to Kashmir in measured doses. Gull Mohammad visualizes it falling much short of Kashmiri aspirations. Rekha Chowdhary sees a place for ‘Kashmiriyat’ as a sub-national identity in the wider Indian nationalism. In Kashmir centric narratives, the pet theme of Indian academicians’ stands strongly contended. It is being taken as the step towards eventual merger.  Of late, even mainstream narratives have emerged against merger. Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah stated on the floor of legislative assembly that J&K state has acceded not merged with the Union of India.
Bashir Ahmad Dabla, the sociologist is a known commentator on social impact of the conflict—how it has affected individuals, families, and the overall effect on masses. The social disorganization being widespread, Dabla emphasizes the need for social rehabilitation. That would entail political investment and it would be difficult to work out without conflict resolution. Hameeda Nayeem in her essay on politics of exclusion visualizes stakeholders in resistance to prevailing power dispensing, intellectuals, civil activists being gradually excluded by denying them space to operate in socio-political milieu. The dominant discourse of the establishment, relates the essayist, provided wide space by the state is made to override and dominate the discourse of the masses. The discourse of the masses thus becomes the dominated discourse.
‘Kashmiriyat’ has been strongly contended in a recent publication by a historian—Dr. Abdul Ahad. In his ‘Kashmir—triumph and tragedy’ he relates that word ‘Kashmiriyat’ was never in vogue until some spin doctors coined it for Farooq Abdullah in early eighties to sustain his resistance of Delhi Raj. Whatever the truth of it, Farooq did need it for long, as he meekly submitted.
The book has by reviewed by Jim Drummond—U.S based lawyer and an eminent writer. He notes that “this remarkable collection of essays about Kashmir brings to light both the resilience and plight of a beautiful and ancient region caught up in the soulless food-chain politics of Pakistan and India”. Jim adds “Dr. Khan’s astute selection of diverse authors to write specially for this elegant edition makes clear that stirring the pot of religious conflict between Hindus and Muslims has been a cunning strategy of divide and conquer, running counter to the long tradition of Kashmiri religious osmosis often inspired by Sufi saints who were reverenced by adherents of both faiths”. Some food for thought, your take could be as good as mine.

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]
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Lastupdate on : Wed, 9 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 9 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 10 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST

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