Let me begin my today's column, with one of my favourite quotes of Mahmoud Darwish; "He who writes his story, Inherits the land of that Story." The reason for this couplet buried somewhere in the subconscious resonating in my mind has been an ongoing debate on the social media the Facebook for a past couple days on some posts by historian Dr Abdul Ahad, author of 'Kashmir to Frankfurt, 'Kashmir Rediscovered', 'Kashmir: Triumphs and Tragedies', and Legends of Unsung Heroes.
It would be hard to ignore these posts grounded in history and having a direct bearing on the contemporary narrative. Moreover, for these posts demolishing, to use Antonio Gramsci's phrases "hegemonic discourses" and "historical blocks" around these discourse did annoy a few friends still caught up in the 'shop-front and pedestrian narratives'. Despite researchers having brought some historical realities intentionally kept away from the public gaze to the fore, these friends continue to promote such discourses and narrative. Moreover, desire writers and historians also to fall in line. Nonetheless, some of the participants with their informed posts made the debate on the social media much lively than those in the goody-goody temples of learning in the state. Such lively, honest and frank debates generated on the social media that are not possible in our universities denied academic freedom are iconoclastic in as much raising some important questions and as smashing the 'dominant discourses'.
The posts by the historian friend were about three Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers, who at one time was in the vanguard of the resistance movement against the feudal autocracy and ruled Jammu and Kashmir, almost for twenty-three years from 1947-1972. In a way, the debate had global participation as many a non-resident Kashmiris from diverse fields; academia, journalism, medicine, engineering and business fraternity reacted and responded to these posts. Some, in approbation, took the discussion to higher levels. In their disagreement, some others pronounced the posts as biased. Some others denounced these as whipping dead horses and digging old graves. And few others holding the view that the immediate past has no relevance to the contemporary situation counted the debate generated by the posts of zero consequences to the current situation in the state.
Nonetheless, for taking this column further and explaining why the shop-front narratives were perpetrated by the vested interests and passed on from generation to generation and why their demolishing is vital for strengthening the popular narrative , it would be pertinent to quote the one-liners posted by historian Dr Ahad on the social media:
• To change from a protagonist to the antagonist of the accession/plebiscite etc. was intrinsically woven in Sheikh Sahib's character.
• Bakshi, a long-running horse of New Delhi in Kashmir did never-ever waver in fortifying the pyramid of Kashmir's slavery, unlike Abdullah.
• Sadiq, superstar of Kashmir's integration via intrusion was foremost in defacing our identity for a reward.
In sum and substance, these posts are outside the 'hegemonic discourse' and narratives conjured by these politicians and their cohorts and orchestrated to this day by the vestiges of their power structure. Nonetheless, the subject of my column is not agreements and disagreements of the Facebook friends on these one-liners but to inform, how history demolished the conjured street narratives that had been forte of these three politicians for hoodwinking the people. Moreover, how heirs of their political legacies have been working to perpetuate these street narratives to strengthen the 'dominant discourses' and confuse the 'popular narrative that represents the aspirations and urges of the general masses. To illustrate, my take on the subject, let me begin with the developments that preceded the 27 October 1947 happenings and the events after.
On 29 September 29, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was set free from jail, and he was taken in a river procession. On both the sides of the river Jhelum, the workers of the Muslim Conference raised slogan in support of the accession with Pakistan. That same evening, he addressed a public meeting in Hazouri Bagh (Iqbal Park). In his address, he said, "I don't know why I was arrested and how I was set free." Feigning ignorance about his release from jail was calculated move to keep general masses ignorant about his secret meetings with the Indian National Congress leaders and envoys of Jawaharlal Nehru during his detention in a sub-jail in Bhadarwah, Doda and the agreement he had entered into with the Congress leadership on the accession of the state. In his speech, he was critical of M. A. Jinnah and extolled Nehru's friendship and his role in 1946. But at the same time added, that for safeguarding the interests of people, he would neither allow Jinnah's animosity nor Nehru's friendship to come in his way.'
Nonetheless, his feigning ignorance about the reason for his release by the Maharaja had so strongly become part of the public discourse that it had set a sharp mind like Josef Korbel guessing. In his magnum opus on the State, 'Danger in Kashmir' referring to Maharaja Hari Singh sentencing him in May 1946 to nine years prison, he writes, "On September, while the State was in the midst of a revolt, the Maharaja ordered Abdullah's release. There is no evidence of any official intervention with the Maharaja, but the only guess which suggests itself is that Abdullah was released on the intervention of Government of India". That Abdullah had not entered into any 'Faustian contract' for his release continued to be part of the Kashmir story, until the release of the Nehru-Patel Correspondence. The correspondence contains Nehru's letter of 27 September 1947, that tells the whole story how the release of Abdullah is dovetailed to the accession and landing of troops at Srinagar Airport on 27 October 1947.
Nonetheless, some friends on the social media, not trolls but wedded to the shop-front discourses and the street narratives are yet to accept the harsh historical realities, that the 'Afradi story' is connected to the Poonch rebellion and not to 27 October 1947 happenings. And the September 27 release is most relevant to the story than Afridis on 22 October 1947 Muzaffarabad. Through, their arduous research historians like Christopher Snedden and Alastair Lamb have documented these stories to the minutest details that smashed the narrative started by Abdullah in 1947 and then reiterated by him in 1975 to return to power.
Instead of opening their shut minds, some of these friends on the social media are suggesting to historians, researchers and writers not to inform readers about their past and not to pass on the honest Kashmir narrative to the generation next. For these friends let me conclude this column with a quote from a black African Nationalist Marcus Garvey, "A people without the knowledge of their history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots."