A Tale of Neglect

Qazi Haidar, an illustrious Kashmiri, rose to the position of Qazi-ul-Qazat, the Chief Justice, of the mighty empire
A Tale of Neglect
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Kashmir became part of the Mughal Empire in 1586 AD after a long drawn campaign on the part of the Mughal rulers for its annexation. Even while use of diplomacy, force and coercion were their essential tools, the misrule of the then ruling dynasty acted as a facilitator for the annexation. Also, notwithstanding the fact that this misrule forced a good number of nobles and eminent personalities of Kashmir to seek Mughal intervention, the conquest did not take place with the common consent.

Abul Fazal, the court historian of Shahenshah Akbar draws a graphic picture of the early days of the rule. In Aein-i- Akbari, he records that “the soldiers prevailed over every house, and in every corner there were hot encounters, with the Mughal forces taking over the roof top of houses, sarais to ensure complete acceptance of the fait accompli. This was achieved through systemic planning for months followed by march and deployment of armies through the roads leading to Kashmir”.

This conquest was well on the priorities of the Empire far beyond the reasons of the salubrious geography. The pronounced attributes of arts, literature and culture of Kashmir had reached the Mughal court and it became their cherished desire to make it part of the Empire. Looking back at this period, it has been widely accepted by the local historians that Mughal rule was a period of great attainments and unprecedented stability and peace, of course with their share of aberrations to the contrary. Like the medieval rule anywhere in the world, there are many instances of tyrannies, unjust treatment and imposition of extortionist taxes, and Kashmir also came face to face with such inequities. However, the imperial response to the appeals for justice were quick and appropriate. The inscription at the main entry to the Jamia Masjid Srinagar, a farman by Shahjahan (D 1666 AD) testifies to this aspect of their rule. This royal edict was issued on the plea presented to the king by way of a Persian couplet complaining against Eitiqad Khan, the Governor of Kashmir and brother of Noor Jehan, the most powerful former Mughal Queen. The inscription specifically deals with remission of taxes and levies. It also has a reprimand that ‘any violation of the decree shall invoke curse of God and the anger of the King’.

The Mughal imagination of Kashmir has been aptly described, again by Abul fazal thus; “Kashmir is a sacred land. Here Rishis, Sufis and men of piety worship the Almighty and spend their life in seclusion”. Another instructive quote worth mentioning here is how Faizi, the court poet of Akbar described the conquest of Kashmir’

‘Dayar-e-dilkash Kashmir ra maskhar kard - Badaan sifat ki Sulaiman pari kunad taskheer’

In this couplet, the simile of the famous story of Semitic Prophet, Hz. Solomon comparing Akbar with him and Kashmir with the celebrated celestial beauty, the fairy. It is also tempting to go back in centuries when the great Kalhan pandit, 12th century historian and poet referring to how Kashmir should be ruled, used another simile of carrying Kashmiris along by ‘binding them with chains of gold’. Jehangir, whose love for Kashmir is legendary, exclaimed thus; ‘this is the paradise of which priests have prophesied and poets sung’.

The purpose of this write-up is to locate the role of Kashmiris in the Mughal administrative hierarchies. We find honorable mention of many a poet, calligrapher and man of letters in the period histories. We also know many Kashmiri artists and calligraphers received befitting Royal recognition. However, there is not much of historic record about their role outside the realm of art and letters. The Kashmiri diaspora and their role and position is glaringly missing in the annals of the period or in any subsequent historic records.

A famous biography of Noor Jehan mentions that her bodyguards were Kashmiri and Toorani women - a surprise given that women would have only followed men in Mughal establishment. Post annexation, we have another reference of departure of Akbar from his capital, Fatehpur Sikri, where it is mentioned that his entourage comprised of nobles from Iranian, Turanian, Turkish and Kashmiri extraction. However, this subject is too vast to be accommodated in this write up.

The present writeup is about Qazi Haidar, an illustrious Kashmiri who rose to be the Qazi-ul-Qazat, the Chief Justice, of Aurangzeb, (D 1707 AD), the mightiest of the Mughal Emperors.

Khawaja Muhamads Azam Dedmari, (D 1765 AD) in his magnum opus, Waqi’at-i- Kashmir, makes brief but pointed mention of the Qazi. He states that Qazi Haider belonged to Buch family of Kashmir. His father, Khawaja Muhamad Amin, was a leading merchant ( Malik-Tujar). Qazi Haidar obtained his education in various madrassas under renowned religious teachers in Kashmir. He mentions the name of Moulvi abdul Rashid Zargar in this reference. Qazi Haider first joined the Alamgiri lashkar and this could mean the Mughal army or Administration, where his scholarly attributes came to the notice of the Mughal King. The King appointed him the Qazi of Shahjehanabad, the Official Mughal capital at Delhi. Subsequently, he got associated with Prince Azamshah and during his governorship of Bengal, the Prince got him the position of Qazi of Suba Bengal. Thereafter Qazi Haidar was called to the Royal court at Aurangabad and appointed to the exalted position of Qazi-ul-Qazat, the Chief Justice of the Empire. After the demise of Aurangzeb he functioned as the Chief Justice under his successor, Bahadur Shah. In this mention we get to know that the Qazi passed away in 1121 Hijri, corresponding to 1709 CE, while in the service of Mughal court. As per his wish, his body was brought to Kashmir and buried in the Mughal garden at Bauchpora. He seems to have been bestowed with ownership of this garden while he was alive.

Now the real story starts here. This great scholar, the most prominent of the Kashmiri nobles of the era, the supreme religious authority of the mighty Mughal empire, lies buried at Buchpora. In Mughal time records it forms part of pargana Phag. The erstwhile garden became a waqf property and the propensity of Kashmir Muslims to use waqf properties for developing real estate, buildings and shops, is reflected here in ample measure. We visited the site to offer obeisance and fatiha in later part of October 2021. It was very sad and embarrassing to find that nobody, the local waqf representative who we met, or any of the lessees of the property built on this mazar, knew about the Qazi. The mazar, profusely covered under unkempt shrubs and weed. (refer pics) is now in a corner of the backyard covered on three sides by a three storey concrete structures housing commercial establishments.

They have mercifully spared a small patch in the rare of land where, apart from the grave of Qazi-ul-Quzat, there are few more graves. The grave is in dilapidated and ruinous condition, unmarked and unidentified. We were able to locate the grave with the assistance of Er. Ashraf Fazili sahib, an author and a great resource on mashaikheen of Kashmir, now a local resident, who graciously led us to the mazar. The story of access to the grave is a chilling reminder of the depth of degradation and the lack of sense of history. They seem to have initially kept a gap of about 8-10 feet for entry to the mazar. However, subsequently this gap was leased out for the mobile tower.

We are waiting for the day when this glorious past awakens and gets the attention of our researchers in the university system. Kashmir has now four major universities that churn out scholars of all hues and also with the wherewithal for research on this subject of paramount importance. This will also bring much needed awareness within the community. As has been said in the state of affairs like these, the loss of history and obliteration of cultures does not happen in a day.

The writer is former Director General Tourism, Chairman National Monuments Authority and Convener INTACH, J&K.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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