In Europe & other countries, before invention of printing press in mid 15th century & emergence of newspapers in 17th & 18th centuries, the news was spread by word of mouth; by the peddlers from place to place within geographies & beyond.
After receiving the same from the merchants & travelers who had visited the area wherefrom the news had come. The oral spread of news, which was often contaminated by rumours & canards, lost its existence with the introduction of newspapers followed by radio, television & internet.
In Britain, till 19th century, to recall here, Sir Philip Francis [1740-1818] was getting his letters leveling trenchant criticism against King, published & republished in Public Advertiser, London Evening Post, other weeklies & periodicals under a pen name of Junius. [Lord Denning, Master of Rolls] But in JK, one could not think of writing against the rulers under a pseudonym even.
In the past, in the city of Srinagar, there was an evil system among Kashmiris of disseminating false rumours. Srinagar’s Zaina Kadal, 4th bridge then, 6th bridge now, in a sequence of bridges spanned over the Jhelum by Sultans of Kashmir, was used to be the hub where false rumours were hatched. But then the news makers moved to Amira Kadal, 6th bridge, wherefrom they further passed it on to others who would take it to villages & towns as Afwah-Dali of Shehar. Though the wise knew that news from Zaina Kadal, which was locally called Khabar-e-Zain-e-Kadal-e-Chi, was false, ‘the majority were not that wise’ [Walter Lawrence]. In tumultuous pre-colonial days, false-news & rumours were invented by most of the local politicians which were transmitted by their mischievous-gangs & which spread like wildfires across Kashmir & even to the hills of the valley. On written record, false news & propaganda items were “hand-written” & “printed” at some “ specific” area of Old city & then distributed free like “songs” to be sung & re-sung till their “devious melody” penetrated deep in psyche, not mere ears & hear of common masses.
“Gaye Ja Kashmir” pamphlets of 1947-1948 containing Kashmiri “songs & poetry” of Kashmir’s “famous” poets & Adeebs , printed & published by “Qoomi Cultural Mahaz” at “New Kashmir Press Mijahid Manzil” Srinagar is a glaring written evidence at hand. Kashmiris have a long history of Dastaan-Gos , oral story tellers of fantastic folklore tales & these oral story tellers were described as “Ravis”? “Ravi” is a Perso-Arabic word used by Muslim scholars all over the world for narrators of the Ahadeeth of the Holy Prophet [PBUH]. But in old Kashmiri folklore tradition it was used for Dastaangos.
Kashmiris have had been very fond of songs & singing. Even till date, gullible, credulous & socio-economically backward masses easily trust what they hear from the rumour-mongers & gossipers. Lo, the stuff uploaded by some gossipers & cheap-talkers on YouTube & other social media channels. Just crap! Most of this stuff is banter, folklore gimmick, superstitious talk, circulated unfortunately by some “educated flocks” doing thereby disservice to the community in general. Recently, I received a foreign video clip from a friend in which a father is seen training his 2 or 3 year son for swimming in a pond with a dolphin. Compare it with a local video where an “educated” man is seen telling barren women that they can conceive if they do livun of a dan [mud-plaster of traditional Kashur stove] in a Kashmiri shrine. Just amazing! In another video, a Kashmiri you-tuber is attributing miracles to a spring [nag] & so on.
Social media is such a platform on which anybody can post anything to get attention of multitudes. The great Sufis & Saints of Kashmir were pious souls who had nothing to do with the superstitious material of this kind.
Well harping back to our narrative, the hearers consider rumours plausible for want of knowledge, illiteracy & other factors of pre-conceived notions about things & persons. Rumours are scandalous not subject to testimony. In Shakespearean play, Henry IV, there is a character, Rumour, true to his name & character. Rumour, begins his appearance on the stage, “painted full of tongues” & then Rumour speaks to the audience, “open your ears ; for which of you will stop, The vent of hearing when loud Rumour speaks?” Rumour continues to tell the audience: “Upon my tongues continual slanders ride, the in every language I pronounce, Stuffing the ears of men with false reports.” “He compares rumour with a musical-pipe upon which many thoughtless people can easily play a tune”. Rumour speaks thus: “Rumour is a pipe, Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures, And of so easy and so plain a stop That the blunt monster with uncounted heads”.
In old Kashmir there was a “famous Rumour”, M, rather rumour-monger. M was a prominent journalist cum politician of those days when radio, television & virtual-Press did not exist in the valley. He had invented countless rumours & canards. It is well recorded & transmitted by oral-telling to later generation by the elders who were eyewitness to it. Before proceeding, I must state here that folklore is a part of any cultural community of the world. While other conscious communities maintain a marked distinction between history & folklore, in Kashmir , unfortunately, this has been lost to oral-narrative told, retold & repeated over decades by natives as well as outsiders for a number of factors. Illiteracy & socio-economic backwardness of the past chiefly contributed to the malady of creating false narratives on “happenings of the time” by the diabolic politicians & some agenda-writers even. Though the time exposed the falsity of tales & mischievous narratives before the people, it was not, however, before huge damage done to people & consequential impact it had on their minds. Kashmir has been rich, fertile, land for folklore propaganda & mythological tales over centuries. There have been “lacs”[ lakhun] of propaganda tales & lies woven around the Kashmir’s political history by the people for their political designs. One such story is related to one that M who was well known for his political manoeuvres in the land. Sheikh Abdullah has highlighted this in his Memoirs, Atash i Chinar. One day, it is recorded & published, M was speaking to a gathering at Srinagar where he “narrated” number of “stories” about the tribesmen mostly funny & fascinating on face. Politics apart. There has to be a limit to propaganda till it loses its meaning & relevance to the people. One of the stories was that 27-thousand dozen eggs were prepared for them by the villagers of remote village within three or four hours. “The author”, who has recorded it, too belonged to the same group of mainstream politics who knew M very closely. One day, after the tide was over, he asked M: Jenab how is it possible to prepare so many eggs at a time within few hours during such extremely difficult times? Who was counting the numbers? he asked M. The politician remained silent for some time & then replied that the story was brought to him by another well known politician Mr. K of that time to be told to the naïve people. It is how propaganda is used for political ambitions down to the modern times.
The system of spreading fake news, rumours, mischief, by word of mouth continued among Kashmiris till the beginning of 1960s, albeit spread of news by “word of mouth” had ended in Europe & India centuries before. The absence of “private” media in Kashmir till 1958 provided fertile ground to the local mainstream politicians of that time & even before, to exploit the age old illiteracy, poverty & other backwardness of the common people for spewing out unhindered their narratives about Kashmir & political developments of the subcontinent at that time that had a direct bearing upon J&K later. In view of censorships on the publication of the facts on ground on Press before & after 1947 till establishment of some local independent newspapers in Urdu in Kashmir in late 1950s, people usually believed in & advanced what they had heard from others usually without verification. Just rumours. But, now, with the advent of mass media & multi-media news channels across globe, the scope for hiding facts & spreading lies has diminished considerably.
Khabr e Zain e Kadalechi:
The question now remains how the cited Kashmiri proverb had originated? To iterate, “Khabr e Zain e Kadalechi” is an old Kashmirian adage. It is in currency at present also. With freely accessible internet & social media platforms, a good use of this proverb under varying manifestations & frustrations , damn essay & tricky now for mischief mongers, is observable among facebook gossipers & other jugglers. Well that is not my mood to tell you about the captioned proverb. I want to share with you the background of the whole story how it got into prominence in Kashmiri society.
Most of you may be aware of the adage, Zain e Kaddaleh Pethe Gayi Thokh Hoyo or Gayi Ho Gayi Ho Zaine Kadle? Well I trust you all know it. In olden days, it is said that a foreigner had visited Kashmir. He wanted to learn about the inhabitants of Kashmir & know about their common behavioural responses. What he did. He rambled around the city & stood on the Zaina Kadal bridge. He spat into the river & then looked at the spot where his spittle had fallen, and said, ” Where has it gone ? Where has it gone? ” The passers-by asked the meaning of this. He did not reply, but continued saying, ” Where has it gone ? ” More & more people crowded around him. It grew into large muddle or vast assembly of people. He got apprehensive that the wooden bridge (that time all bridges were wooden) may break which would put lives of all people around him in great danger. He didn’t want that happen. So, he told the crowd: “Look I spate in the river & was checking where my spittle had gone”. On hearing this, the crowd scattered & when he returned to his country he called his friends & told them what kind of stupid people the Kashmiris were!
So since that time, we find the proverb “Zain e Kaddaleh Pethe Gayi Thokh Hoyo or Gayi Ho Gayi Ho Zaine Kadle” in usage in spoken Kashmiri language which continues till date.
Why Zain-Kadal, why not any other Kadal?
But our curiosity does not end here. The question is why Zaina Kadal only was chosen for mischief & rumour hatching & spreading. It has a background since Afghan Rulers time. The Durani Rulers of Afghanistan ruled Kashmir for 66 years only (1753-1819) during which they changed 28 Subedars/Governors of Kashmir. Well, Azad Khan was one of the Afghan Governors of Kashmir (1783-85). He was just 18 years of age when he succeeded his father for the job in Kashmir. He was not addicted to pleasures of harem, wine, hookah, & other vices, but legend says that he was denominated “Zalim Khan” reported an eyewitness traveler. Historically, he was a rebel & the Durani Emperor had to send Imperial Army to dispose him off. That said, there is a story, just story [dastaan], that his wife was about to be delivered of a child but just before her confinement he went to her lying-in room and said, ” If it is a boy that be born, I will give you many presents ; but if it should be a girl, I will slay both you & the child.” A girl was born, and as soon as he heard of it, he slew his wife and threw the infant into a fireplace. He became restless that news of dastardly act within his palace may go out among the inhabitants of the city. To inquire if the news had reached the people, he sent his servant to “Zaina Kadal” bridge to see whether the people had got wind of the news & if possible, the originator be also traced. The servant went and in a little while, he found some four people had assembled on Zaina Kadal Bridge who were chatting or talking to each other. The servant neared them. He eavesdropped them. They lowered the tone of their talk. They whispered in each others’ ears. The servant got suspicious. He caught all of them & asked who had initiated the talk but without further inquiring what was actually talked about between him & his friends on Zaina Kadal ? They pointed to the one among them. The servant presumed that man had got the news of the “dastardly act” of his Master’s home. So he became confident that he had traced the man who spread the news against the ruler. When the man was brought before Azad Khan, he asked him, without inquiring like his servant, how had he got the information? The man was very clever & knew of the ill-temperament of the ruler. He told him that a saint had appeared in his dream who gave him the information of the things within the king’s home, palace. “True, True” said Azad Khan. “The Khabar (news) from Zaina Kadal is correct ….” And, since that time, the legend [Dastaan]went unabated in Kashmirian society whatever Khabar was coming from Zaina Kadal , it was believed by simpletons & foolish people correct without inquiring into its truth & any knowledge of things.
No doubt, Azad Khan was an arrogant rebel ruler, like many of his kind of that time in the subcontinent, who ultimately paid for that with his head cut off & placed before the Durani Emperor. Yet, the cited story is just an anecdote invented among multitude by “vested interests” for general demeaning of 500 years’ Muslim Rule of Kashmir. “Mughal Number”, series of stories, published by Cultural Academy was likewise an attempt to demean, humiliate & disgrace Mughal Rulers.
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.