People resist as long as they are people; Kashmir too has a people's history
Resistance in Kashmir has a long history. It dates back to the 16th century when the Mughals started incursions into Kashmir and eventually occupied it. Much before they annexed it in 1586, the Mughals had made several attempts to grab Kashmir but failed. Many a time their troops entered the landlocked country but were sent back, or withdrew, in the face of stiff resistance from the locals. Even after Akbar occupied Kashmir the Mughals for years faced tough time and several unsuccessful battles were handed down to them by the resistance forces who did not reconcile to the occupation of their country. They persistently fought back the Mughal imperialist power.
During the reign of Zaheer-ud-Din Babar in India, when Sultan Ibrahim Shah (1528-29) ruled Kashmir, the insurgents fighting him approached the Mughal king for help. Babar dispatched two of his commanders with a large army. The Mughal troops entered Kashmir in the summer of 1528. Kaji Chak, who had rendered Ibrahim Shah a puppet, usurping all powers, tried to stop the advancing Mughal army at Tapar, Pattan but did not succeed and was defeated. Several of the Chak chieftains were killed. However, Kaji Chak managed to flee and take refuge in the Salt Range. Ibrahim Shah was overthrown and the rebels coroneted Nazuk Shah.
The presence of the Mughal troops in Kashmir resulted in widespread concern among people and those who had invited them were naturally alarmed by this development. To prevent any untoward incident from happening, the Mughal soldiers were presented gifts and sent back.
In the meanwhile, Babar died and was succeeded by his son, Nasir-ud-Din Humayun. When the retreating Mughal commanders reached Lahore they convinced Kamran, the Governor of Punjab, to invade Kashmir where, they told him, a weak government existed amid prevailing disunity. Kamran sent an army of three thousand mounted soldiers which easily entered Kashmir as all the entry points were undefended in the absence of a strong rule. The Mughal army captured Srinagar and set the city on fire. The defeated Kashmiri army withdrew to Athwajan and camped there. When Kaji Chak came to know about the possibility of his motherland getting into the hands of outsiders his sense of dignity was aroused and he returned to join the resistance forces at Athwajan.
Kaji’s presence lifted the morale of the resistance forces who, in a fierce battle, defeated the Mughals. After this success, they held positions atop the Takht-e-Sulaiman hill and continued with attacking the Mughal soldiers in the city. The Mughals could not withstand these attacks for long and sent a peace message to the Kashmiri troops. This was followed by a dialogue between the two sides held in a boat over the Jhelum at Athwajan. An agreement was reached that saw the Mughal army returning to Lahore via Baramulla.
The next attempt to grab Kashmir was made by the Mughals in 1533 when Babur’s cousin, Mirza Haider Doghlat, at the head of an army entered Kashmir through Zojila. Doghlat was a soldier and a writer who penned a chronicle, Tareekh-i-Rashidi. He destroyed grand buildings and massacred people. The Kashmiris, whose spirits were aroused by religious preachers, soon recovered from the initial shock of the invasion and defeat and began to organise resistance. What followed were surprise attacks by the resistance troops on the Mughal army. They hung on to the enemy soldiers, harassed them and stalled their movement.
The resistance forces avoided direct battles and instead resorted to guerrilla warfare. They descended from the hills and made surprise attacks on the Mughals. This tactic proved successful and wore down Mirza Haider and his men. One of his advisors, Ali Tagha’i counseled Doghlat to withdraw from Kashmir as it would be difficult to conquer it. Much against his second advisor, Da’im Ali’s counsel Doghlat decided to quit Kashmir and made peace overtures to Kashmiris. An agreement was reached between the two sides and at the end of May 1533 the Mughals left Kashmir by the same route by which they had made incursion into the country.
In 1540, Mirza Haider Doghlat again marched into Kashmir, this time through the Poonch pass. As Kashmir was strife torn and nobles were draggers drawn at each other he experienced no resistance and captured the valley without bloodshed. Although a king was set up on the throne but Doghlat himself wielded the real power. The outer hills of Kashmir proved troublesome for the Mughals. In 1551, Doghlat sent via Baramulla a mixed army of Mughals and Kashmiris to quell a rebellion but when it reached Mankot, a village and fort in the province of Poonch, the Kashmiri chieftains rebelled and attacked the Mughal troops. The Mughals could not resist the onslaught, which the Kashmiri troops launched on them by descending from a hill, and fled from the scene.
The Kashmiris pursued the fleeing Mughals and killed many of them and seized their baggage. Those who managed to escape took refuge in a fort near Tosamaidan pass. They were besieged by the Kashmiri troops. The commander of the Mughal troops, Qara Bahadur, wanted to make peace with them but as he came out of the fort he was captured upon which the rest of his garrison fled to safety outside Kashmir. Many were imprisoned and several had their hands cut off. The leader of the Kashmiri resistance force, Idi Raina, was emboldened and marched towards Srinagar.
Doghlat was alarmed at Idi Raina’s advance and decided to checkmate him before he could reach Srinagar. He moved to Wahthor [in present Budgam district] where Kashmiri chieftains under Idi Raina had fortified themselves near Khampur. He had a small force and decided to attack the enemy at night. While he attempted to enter the fort, an arrow hit him and he was killed. That was in 1551. There are other versions of his death also. According to one he was killed by a butcher who suspected him to be a Mughal spy. Another version credits one Kamal Dubi with killing Doghlat with a sword. Yet another version says that he was killed by an arrow discharged by a trooper of his own army.
The demoralized Mughal troops fled to Anderkot where they were besieged by Kashmiri troops. Doghlat’s widow decided to make peace with them. She did not see any merit in continuing the fight after her husband’s demise. She sent her trusted man to negotiate the terms of surrender. The Kashmiris undertook not to molest the family and followers of Doghlat and brought them with respect to Srinagar from where they were dispatched via Pakhli to Kabul and Kashghar.
A year after the death of Doghlat, Haibat Khan Niyazi, a ferocious Afghan, marched towards Kashmir to invade it. Idi Raina, who was now the prime minister of Nazuk Shah, along with other Kashmiri chieftains collected his army and met him near Banihal. Severe fight ensued in which, although they fought valiantly, the Afghans were routed. Haibat Khan with many of his chieftains was killed.
Humayun’s foster son, Abul Ma’ali, whom Akbar had imprisoned but who managed to escape, ganged up with some Kashmiri nobles and attacked Kashmir via Poonch. At the head of a mixed Mughal and Kashmiri army, he camped at Pattan. After heavy fight at Hanjiveer the invaders were defeated.
Akbar had been eying Kashmir for long. The expansionist in him did not digest an independent country in his close neighbourhood. His first foray into Kashmir was in 1560 when he dispatched a large force under Qara Bahadur to invade Kashmir. Qara, who had been in Kashmir earlier, had impressed upon Akbar that Kashmiri nobles who were against Kaji Chak’s ascendancy had requested him to help them out but the nobles in the end backed out. This disheartened Qara who did not advance further from Rajouri. The Kashmiri army sent by Kaji Chak attacked Qara’s forces and defeated the Mughals. Kaji Chak is believed to have announced a reward of an ashrafi to anyone who brought the head of a Mughal soldier and 700 heads were brought to receive the promised award.
In 1578, Akbar sent his two ambassadors with a proposal of marriage between his son, Salim, who later ascended the throne as Jahangir, and niece of the Kashmir’s ruler, Ali Shah. The actual motive, however, was to test the waters for a Mughal invasion of Kashmir. Ali Shah accepted the proposal and also had khutba read in the name of Akbar and coins struck in his name.
After Yusuf Shah Chak had to abdicate the throne barely within two months of his coronation due to a revolt, he went to Akbar in Agra in 1580 seeking his aid to regain his throne. Akbar deputed Raja Man Singh and Mirza Yusuf Khan to help him. He was at Lahore when his former minister, Muhammad Bhat, reached him and suggested against brining the Mughal army to Kashmir. Bhat feared that it would be an unpopular development in Kashmir and the Mughals would take over the administration and enforce their own laws. Following the counsel of Bhat Yusuf managed troops on his own and entered Kashmir via Tosamaidan, fought pitched battles with the armies of Haider Chak and ultimately occupied Srinagar.
In 1581, Akbar again sent two ambassadors to Kashmir asking Yusuf Shah Chak to make personal appearance at his court as he had not informed him about the conditions in Kashmir. Yusuf instead sent his son with costly gifts to the Mughal court. Akbar was not impressed and insisted that Yusuf must at once proceed to his court. He was threatened that if he failed in doing so the Mughal army would be sent marching on him. Yusuf again did not go and instead sent his eldest son with presents. This infuriated Akbar who saw in Yusuf’s response disrespect towards the Mughal throne.
In 1585, while on his way to Kabul, Akbar sent two of his envoys to Srinagar asking Yusuf Shah Chak to at once come to pay his homage to him in Punjab. Yusuf consulted his advisors who counseled him on organizing his army and be ready to defend his country against the Mughal invasion instead of presenting himself before Akbar. Yusuf was afraid of the Mughal might and wanted to present himself before Akbar even as he was dissuaded by his nobles and the army. He was warned that if he left Kashmir he might never regain his throne. The two envoys of Akbar failing to take Yusuf with them left after two months and reported to Akbar at Hassan Abdaal.
Akbar lost his cool and dispatched 5000 troops to invade Kashmir. They entered the valley via Pakhli. The reluctant Yusuf prepared for the defence. The Mughals were fought back. The inclement weather added to their woes besides stiff resistance by Kashmiri troops. They were defeated. A beaten Bhagwan Das, the Mughal commander, sent a word to Yusuf that although the Mughals were defeated this time they would return with stronger army and make Kashmiri resistance impossible. He suggested that Yusuf should make personal appearance before Akbar. The nobility again advised Yusuf against taking such a step but he betrayed them and escaped to the Mughal camp in February 1886.
Yusuf’s betrayal did not stop Kashmiris to fight the Mughals. They set up his son Yaqoob on the throne and inflicted heavy casualties on the Mughal army forcing them to make peace overtures to Yaqoob. A treaty of peace was reached by the Mughals with Yusuf Shah Chak which, among other things, restored him his throne. However, when he was presented to Akbar at Attock on March 28, 1586, Yusuf was imprisoned in a clear breach of the peace treaty driving a dejected Bhagwan Das to attempt suicide. Although released after some time, Yusuf was not allowed to return to Kashmir and died at Biswak in present Bihar longing to return to his country.
Yaqoob did not honour the treaty either. As against it, he had khutba read and also struck coins in his own name. He proved a religious fanatic and displeased all his nobles who conspired against him and a delegation went to Akbar to invade Kashmir. An agreement was reached between the two sides which guaranteed complete freedom of worship, no interference with the purchase and sale of commodities and no molestation or oppression of Kashmiris neither taking them on forced labour. The Mughal army entered the valley but was given tough resistance at various places. It suffered severe beating at various places at the hands of Kashmiri resistance troops. There were almost daily skirmishes between the two sides and the Mughals were put to real trouble. They lost 300 men in a fight at Gusu and 1500 in another at Hanjik. This situation disheartened the Mughal commander, Qasim Khan, so much so that he requested Akbar to recall him. Akbar instead sent him reinforcement.
Despite consolidation of his rule and bringing its people to submission, Akbar’s soldiers were hated for their presence in Kashmir as an occupation army. He could not ignore this ill will and its possible fall-out and, to avoid an ugly situation from taking place, established an exclusive cantonment for his troops encircled by a high rising wall at the foot of the Hariparbat hillock, known as Naagar Nagar. Whenever the soldiers passed through the streets of the city people would look at them with contempt and scorn, sometimes resulting in unpleasant scenes. At one such occasion, a soldier tortured a civilian which anguished the people. Mirza Askar, son of the Mughal Governor, Yusuf Khan, ordered his arrest but the soldier managed to escape. However, in order to restore peoples’ confidence and ensure that other troopers did not indulge in such things, Askar asked for a big boat to be rowed into the middle of the Jhelum and filled it with firewood. Then, as if the guilty soldier was burnt alive inside the boat, put it on fire.
For a long time, the Mughals encountered resistance but were ultimately able to douse the flames of resistance and in 1588 Akbar found the situation conducive to undertake his first visit to Kashmir. In the words of Forster, “Akbar subdued it [Kashmir]; aided more, it is said, by intrigue, than the force of his arms.”
After the termination of the Mughal rule, the resistance also showed up in varied measure during the Afghan, Sikh and Dogra rule. In 1748, the Afghans invaded Kashmir and penetrated up to Srinagar but could not resist the onslaught by the enemy. The Afghan commander, Asmat Ullah, was killed and his army scattered and annihilated. Subsequently, Ahmad Shah Abdali could take over Kashmir in 1753 but not before his army suffered heavy losses in a battle that lasted for 15 days near Shopiyan. The Afghans faced insurgency which was ultimately dealt with by Governor, Nooruddin Khan.
When the Sikhs occupied Kashmir in 1819 they were weary of its majority population’s hostility, accustomed as they were to bitter opposition by Muslims in Punjab and the Frontier. They ruled Kashmir ruthlessly and promulgated rules to check the emergence of opposition of Muslim population. They banned azan (call for prayers) and seized mosques including the Srinagar’s Jama Masjid even as one Sikh Governor attempted demolition of the most sacred Muslim shrine of Khanqah-e-Moalla. The Sikhs also faced fierce resistance and attacks from the warrior tribes of Khokhas and Bombas from the areas now in Pakistan Administered Kashmir who would frequently invade the valley. They were a constant source of anxiety and danger for the Sikhs. A British Officer in 1822 had to return from Uri as the Khokhas did not allow him passage to Kashmir.
When after the infamous Treaty of Amritsar the Dogras arrived in Kashmir in 1846 they had to face rout at the hands of Kashmiri resistance forces in the Battle of Maisuma claiming their commander, Lakhpat Rai. It was only the British intervention that saved the day for the Dogras. The 100-year long Dogra rule is known for brutal and atrocious dispensation in Kashmir leaving no scope for the people, whose condition one of the Bangali chief minister of the Dogras, Albion Banerjee, likened to dumb driven cattle, to revolt. But when it became extremely intolerable for the oppressed people they rose against the Dogra rule. The Silk Factory Workers’ uprising in 1924 and the people’s revolt in 1931 are the cases in point. After this, the last of the Dogra ruler, Hari Singh, could not administer with the level of ease with which his predecessors did till he was ousted from power.