My take on the book, 'Kashmir Glimpse of History and Story of Struggle' by Saifuddin Soz the past week in this column triggered an important debate on the social media. Minus, some unsavoury remarks by some friends on the book and the scholarship of the author, the debate generated was important in as much as, it raised some important questions about the history writing in Kashmir and its relevance to the political uncertainty in the state and resolution of the Kashmir Dispute.
One of the friends, a former civil servant, interested in the contemporary Kashmir history had a plethora of questions about the developments in the State, after 29 September 1947, when the National Conference leader, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was released from jail by Maharaja Hari Sing at the asking of Sardar Patel first Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India. Patel had intervened, only after he had received a lengthy letter from Prime Minister Nehru, on 27 September advocating for the release of Sheikh Abdullah and other leaders of the National Conference. Emphasising, the need for Hari Singh making friends with the National Conference for seeing Kashmir joining India, Nehru wrote to Patel, "Releasing Abdullah and enlisting the support of his followers, would also help bring about the accession of Kashmir to the Indian Union."
The former civil servant was not the only person who was anguished over the missing links and deliberate distortions in the post-1947 narrative. Nonetheless, many others have been expressing their ire against a section of academia for befuddling the Kashmir narrative for addressing the galleries in the capital and advancing their career. The gaps that the civil servant friend pointed out in the post-1947 narrative have been intentionally left to create space for interpreting the history the way it suits the powers that be. "This is not to say that facts or data are not important," as rightly said by Edward Said, "but that facts get their importance what is made from them in interpretation."
The facts and data of the popular narrative undoubtedly are sacrosanct, but sadly we have allowed the others to 'write our history, re-order our past' to use Said's phrases, 'What's more truly frightening is the defacement, the mutilation, and ultimately the eradication of history in order to create… an order that is favourable to the powers centres.' In many parts of the world, it is the premier academic institution and the Universities that work as a bulwark against mutilation and eradication of the history and off beam interpretations. But, in conflict situations like that of ours were the discourses of the overwhelming population and the state are not synchronized, it would not be fair game to expect the 'campus-scholars' to be honest in going against the hegemonic discourse when the working of the campus is monitored by bureaucrats and retired army generals. In such a scenario, it is only the institutions without any strings attached to them that can conduct research and articulate and interpret the facts objectively to further the people narrative for taking them out of the quicksand of gory uncertainties that have been devouring our children like man-eaters.
Seventy years, after the birth of the dispute, our intellectuals and intelligentsia have failed to realize, 'he who writes his story, inherits the land of that story.' In fact, we have failed to tell the world our story. Neither at home nor at the international level have we succeeded in putting up credible institutions that could enable scholars from within and outside to conduct objective research on various dimensions of our problem. Some well-meaning scholars in the past endeavoured to create some independent institutions. But, these proved to be half-hearted attempts in as much they came cropper only sometime after their take off. In 1975, Kashmir Council of Research was established by a group of intellectuals and academia. The objectives laid down for the council were, 'encouraging and facilitating research in the arts, humanities, social sciences and field sciences. It was non-commercial cooperative of men of research, non-governmental, non-partisan organization engaged in research. The Council was registered under Jammu and Kashmir Societies Act and was recognized by the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages' On its board, it had some important scholars of the seventies, these included people like Professor Mohi-u-Din Hajani, Dr. Ghulam Hassan Khan, Mohammad Amin Pandit, Mirza Ghulam Hassan Arif Beg, F. M. Hassnain, Dr. Mohan Kishen Teng, Dr. T.N. Ganjoo and S. S. Gregan. The organization brought out a series of studies on various facets of Kashmir. But, with Chief Minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as its patron, it could not unshackle itself from the State narrative and hegemonic discourse. It brought out special numbers on subjects like 'Struggle For Freedom in Jammu and Kashmir and published papers like the Constitutional Developments of Jammu and Kashmir State but by no stretch of the imagination could these works be called as independent and impartial. The intuition died after a few years without causing any ripples.
In October 1992, when thousands of youth had taken to guns, and the armed struggle for the right to self-determination was at its high mark, the Institute of Kashmir Studies was born with laudable objectives. It promised to provide a forum to the experts and intellectuals for contact and exchange of views. To undertake research on problems and issues relevant to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. To award fellowship of various research programs. To publish books and manuscripts and to create a data bank. It had also established a separate centre for documenting human rights violations and disseminating the reports- it published more than fifty reports. The Institute, with its set objectives, could have grown as an important research institute. But it died with a whimper on two counts; one the Trust instead of allowing it to grow as an independent organization was virtually converted into another outfit of the Jamat-e-Islami, two, forgetting research it just focussed on documenting the human rights violations.
Since, the mid-nineties, some credible human rights organizations like the Coalition of Civil Society were born- these had found takers at the international level. But, where we have lacked behind is an independent research institution that could zealously work for erasing aberrations that have crept in or have been inserted into our narrative with a design. It is high time for concerned citizens, intelligentsia, and academia to work for establishing an institution on the lines of the Brookings for conducting 'in-depth research that leads to new ideas for finding a solution.'