Ace historian Fida Hassnain is no more

Hasnain, 93, was admitted in the hospital for the last 12 days following health issues. His death has been widely condoled both here and abroad among the academic circles.

HAROON MIRANI
Srinagar, Publish Date: Jul 10 2016 12:48AM | Updated Date: Jul 10 2016 12:48AM

Noted historian, researcher and former Director Archives and Libraries, Fida Mohammed Khan Hassnain, today passed away at Sher I Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences after a brief illness.

Hasnain, 93, was admitted in the hospital for the last 12 days following health issues. His death has been widely condoled both here and abroad among the academic circles.

Born on 22 January 1923 in Srinagar in the house of teacher Raja Din Mohammad Khan Khokhar, Hassnain has his earlier education at SP School. He later went to Punjab University Lahore for B.A and also completed Masters in History and LL.B from Aligarh Muslim University. At Aligarh Hassnain got fixed with the rich history of Kashmir and it became his life long obsession. After a brief teaching stint at SP College, Hassnain was made Director Archives Archaeology, Research and Museum (then Archives and Libraries) in 1953, the position he held till his retirement in 1983. During these thirty years of service he discovered, preserved and promoted the history of Kashmir. His study tours resulted in the salvaging of several hundred manuscripts in Arabic, Sanskrit and Persian, which were housed in the Archives and Oriental Research Libraries. He was instrumental in establishing two new government repositories in Kashmir and Ladakh that nowadays preserve hundreds of historical files.

Hassnain was an expert archaeologist, who conducted several excavations and discovered unknown aspects of past civilizations. Hassnain was also instrumental in bringing to life unsung heroes of Kashmir like Robert Thorpe, Subhan Hajam, Rasool Galwan and others with his research. Hassnain was very proud of Kashmir, worked hard to preserve and showcase its rich history to the world. His first book was ‘Buddhist Kashmir’ that got published in 1973 followed by ‘British Policy’ in 1974, ‘Ladakh Moonland’ in 1975, ‘Hindu Kashmir’ in 1977, ‘History of Ladakh’ in 1977, ‘Gilgit’ in 1978, ‘Heritage of Kashmir’ in 1980, ‘Kashmir Misgovernment’ in 1980, ‘The Abode of Shiva’ in 1987 and ‘Freedom Struggle in Kashmir’ in 1988. Hassnain shot to fame with his work on Rozabal Shrine. His ‘The Fifth Gospel’ (1988), ‘A Search for the Historical Jesus’ (1993) and ‘Roza Bal: The Tomb of Jesus’ (2008) are the most sought after books in the world on the subject. He has appeared as the key expert in number of documentaries that have been made on subject. Even at an advanced age, Hassnain was working on a new book ‘Precious Stones of Kashmir.’ His work has been published into Russian, French, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Spanish and Arabic. Hassnain who started learning the holy Quran at the age of three was once given the charge of Imam at Tral. He has done a lot of work on comparative religion.

His achievements fetched him the title of Doctor of Indology. Hassnain was highly critical of New Delhi for having tricked Kashmir in getting the precious historical manuscripts. “It was during the time of G M Sadiq that when Maulana Azad the education minister of India flew to Kashmir and asked Sadiq to handover the Gilgit Manuscripts as he said they are in a danger from Pakistani invasion,” said Hassnain during an event in February. “After they took the manuscripts, there was no invasion. But when we demanded them back, they never returned it. Instead they sent us photostat copies of those manuscripts.”

Recipient of numerous awards, Hassnain was conferred lifetime achievement award by state government in 2009.

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