There are ample historical records available establishing the existence of age-old ties between Kashmir and Jammu as two separate regions. Not only that there were matrimonial alliances between the ruling dynasties of the two regions, but also political, commercial and cultural contacts linking the people of the two regions into closer bonds of unity. As per the Rajtarangini and other historical documents, the rulers of Jammu provided shelter to many dissenters from Kashmir and also actively participated in many battles fought on the soil of Kashmir. Many political developments of great import were aided and abetted by the rulers of Jammu. The contiguity of the two regions laid the basis for the development of a close interaction between them despite the mountain ramparts posing serious barriers for such an interaction. Prior to Gulab Singh making his debut, Jammu had no unified government, but was divided into numerous feudatories perpetually at war with each other. Credit goes to Maharaja Gulab Singh, who founded the State of Jammu and Kashmir through his political acumen, valour and ability to divine and measure future developments. With a view to weaken the Sikh regime, the Britishers through the Treaty of Amritsar transferred the territory of Kashmir to Maharaja Gulab Singh, who had stood by them through thick and thin. The Dogra rulers by and large ushered in a new era of peace and prosperity in Kashmir. Many significant developments in the areas of trade, commerce, communication and education got registered during the rule of Dogras. The British interference in the management of the state affairs not only slowed down the pace of development, but also weakened the state power to a larger extent. Given to the policy of divide and rule, the Britishers played the Muslims against the Hindus with a view to strengthen their hold on the state power only for safeguarding their imperial interests.
During the Dogra period of Kashmir history, the Kashmirian Hindus were not subjected to barbaric treatment as had been their fate in the Muslim rule. They enjoyed comparative peace and respite. But it never meant that there were no marauders out to loot, kill and maraud them. The fanatical elements were only lying in wait for an opportune moment to harass, intimidate, loot and plunder them. The Dogra rulers subscribing to the faith of Hinduism proved a blessing for such elements. The propaganda inside and outside the pulieux of Kashmir was vigorously launched that the Dogra rulers were inimical to the Muslims, out to kill and crush them. The declaration of Maharaja Hari Singh that ‘Justice was his religion’ made no impact on such communal elements among the Muslim populace.
The Hindus not given to the campaigns for proselytisation outright rejected the suggestion of Maharaja Ranbir Singh, a scion of the Dogra dynasty, to reconvert the Muslims to the fold of Hinduism as they were forcibly converted to the faith of Islam and were willing to hark back to their original faith and creed. Even the influential elements among the Hindus of Kashi are said to have turned down the suggestion of the Maharaja.l This particular instance speaks volumes for the tolerant creed of the Hindus, who, dead-set against the use of force for converting men of other faiths to their religion. They contribute to a pluralistic concept of religion and society allowing every individual to espouse his faith without any interference from any quarter. The Hindus without an exception have worked for social peace, harmony and cohesion and have never launched upon marauding campaigns for conversion.
The battle against the Kashmirian Hindus started off with the cry that they had an absolute monopoly of the state services. The fact of the matter was that they had impeccable academic credentials for entry into the services, but were actually considered for lower rungs of services. It was the Punjabi and Bengali Hindu and Muslim, who were manning all the superior services of the state. The Kashmirian Muslims wallowing in dust and dirt had yet to register an advance in the field of education despite many concerted efforts made by the rulers of the land including the measure to forcibly put the Muslim scholars to schools.
That many of the Kashmirian Hindus, bright people by all standards, who had been abroad in pursuit of academics, aspired to join the state services, but were denied such opportunities by the powers that be.2 Unlike the Muslims, the Kashmirian Hindus have maintained a top record of literacy rate, which fact is cognized even by the UNESCO, a vital organ of the United Nations Organisation.
The Kashmirian Hindus recognizable an advanced segment of the Kashmirian society in terms of cultural and academic achievements were responsible tor innovating certain new ideas aiming at an advancement and emancipation of the entire fabric of society comprising different shades and strands. They were fully aware of the ills of an exploitative system prevalent in the land of Kashmir sapping the total fabric allowing some to obtain the lion’s share at the cost of the general populace. They firmly clung to the idea that the decadent and moribund system of government based on autocracy was to be done away with for the betterment and progress of the entire society. That is why sons of high and very affluent Hindu families contributed to the growth of nationalist movement in Kashmir. Fully cognisant of the role of the Punjabi and Bengali bureaucracy in manning state machine, the Kashmirian Hindus joined the ranks of the Jummuites seeking the entry of the Mulkis into the key positions of the state. Maharaja Hari Singh with ample grains of patriotism in him was not averse to the innovative idea motivating all sections of people from the regions of Jammu and Kashmir. The first momentous meeting demanding the entry of the residents of Jammu and Kashmir into the key positions of the state services was held in Jammu and was presided over hy Pandit Jia Lal Kilam, a very prominent personality of the Kashmirian Hindu community.
The state subject movement was basically generated and strengthened by the Kashmirian Hindus, who had sailed abroad to invest themselves with modern education prevalent in the West. Fired with new thought and conceptual frame, these youngmen led by Pandit Shankar Lal Koul carried on a relentless campaign in the Indian press for the Kashmirians to be solely employed to man the administrative set-up of the state. They were not sectarian and partisan. They covertly contributed to the growth of nationalist ideology embracing all segments of the state population. It was their patriotic zeal which led to the popularisation of the ideas of freedom, equality and universal brotherhood among lhe Kashmirians. The introduction of such ideas in the backward polity of Kashmir was of farreaching importance in matters of forging a new movement for the political and economic emancipation of the Kashmirians of all hues. First to be attracted by modern education and modern political thought processes, the Kashmirian Hindus were the precursors of the futuristie movements forged for shaping new destinies of the Kashmirians as a whole.
Being above narrow considerations and sectarian interests, the Kashmirian Hindus as the vanguard of the Kashmirian society led to the enactment and implementation of the state subject law covering all shades of population without distinction of caste, creed and religion. Pandit Jia Lal Kilam, Pandit Jia Lal Jalali and Pandit Shanker Lal Koul were in the front ranks of the agitation for enactment of the state subject benefiting the Hindus, Muslims and Dogras of all shades. The Hindus of Jammu region also played a momentous role in ridding the state of outside bureaucracy.
Yet another innovative idea regarding the establishment of a Labour Board for looking after the interests of the Muslim labourers migrating to Jammu and the Punjab to earn their pittance in winter months was mooted by Pandit Kashyap Bandhu, a bright son of the Hindu community. The labourers more often than not fell prey to a dreaded disease like malaria and the Maharaja’s government by and large was apathetic to their miserable plight. Pandit Bandhu as the pioneer of the idea of Labour Board aroused the Maharaja’s interest in the problems confronting the Muslims of Kashmir. He was solely motivated by the design of bettering the lot of the Kashmirian Muslims. The Kashmirian Hindus in appreciable numbers joined the ranks of the agitationists agitating against the use ur a despicable nomenclature of hato for the Kashmirian Muslim labourers working in Jammu and other parts of the Punjab. What needs be emphasised is that the Kashmirian Hindus as the cream of the Kashmirian society of varied hues concertedly worked for the weal and welfare of the majority population of Kashmir, thus rising above narrow interests and partisan ends.
The bright sons of the Kashmirian Hindu community having come under the powerful impact of westernised education and thought models were the first to demand a legislature elected by the popular vote, free press and free platform for purposes of highlighting the urgent problems facing the Kashmirians of all denominations. The demand over the years snowballed forcing the Dogra ruler to form a legislative body though limited in range and scope of its functioning. The Kashmirian Hindus without an iota of doubt were the first to set the tone and tenor for the coming events in the domain of Kashmir politics.
The Kashmirian Hindus with a powerful background of generations of education were instrumental in introducing the Kashmirian Muslims to the light of education, especially the modern education. The obscurantist Muslims clinging to archaic models of thought vehementaly opposed all positive efforts in the direction of establishing new type of schools for investing the Muslim scholars with modern education. The Mullahs as the custodians of the Muslim brain and conscience hatefully castigated the Muslims motivated by the idea of putting the Muslim scholars to schools imparting liberal education. Such Muslims were denounced as heretics thereby forcing them to abandon their plans for radicalising and reforming the mind-set of the Muslim community as a whole.
There is no denying the fact that Molvi Rasool Shah despite all opposition from conservative Muslims undertook the vital project of setting up an Islamia school for the Muslim scholars with a view to introduce them to westernised education apart from the religious teaching considered far greater in importance than the liberal pattern of education. The Muslim opinion was dead-set against any form of liberal education as it was deemed to lead to the dilution of Islamic teachings in the mind-set of the blooming buds. Molvi Rasool Shah was physically assaulted and hurt inflicted on him. Even the Kashmirian Hindus, who had stood by him in undertaking the pioneering work, were equally manhandled and hurt. They were warned of dire consequences if they continued to meddle in the religious affairs of Muslims. Despite it, to the chagrin of the Muslim stereotypes, the fact of history is that the Islamia school was established with the active support of the Kashmirian Hindus. The said-school to this day was manned and run by the Kashmirian Hindu teachers of high academic merit guided and motivated by the pious design of drawing the budding scholars out from the enveloping darkness of ignorance and investing them with new visions and dreams only to set a new tone for the Kashmirian Muslim society at large. There was hardly a home in village, hamlet and city where a Kashmirian Hindu would not go with the torch of light and knowledge held aloft by his feeble hands.
Only to invest the Muslim scholars with new type of education, Shri Kanth Koul founded National High School at Baramulla. The said school has rendered a yeoman’s service to the Muslims, who deliberately kept away from westernised education. Another such school was founded by Pandit Swaroop Nath Raina, a veteran freedom fighter, at Shopian. It enrolled peasant boys absolutely poor and deprived and served as a beacon light for furthering the cause of Muslim education. The schools were run by the Kashmirian Hindus and the teachers-essentially Hindus effacingly devoted themselves to the task of endowing the Muslim blooming buds with such education as would prove of great henefit in shaping their lives in a different mould. Pandit Dina Nath Hanjura, a wellknown scholar and educationist, headed the National School at Shopian. If you kill a dog in Kashmir, his dying confession will be that he was taught by a Kashmiri Pandit.
Be it said that the Kashmirian Hindus have been heir to a rich store house of learning and erudition and despite all odds they have preserved their instinctive lust for learning. The currents and cross-currents of history have played havoc with their psyche. They through the vicissitudes of history have been subjected to frequent bouts of loot, plunder, ravage and massacre. Bereft of rest and peace, they have been perpetually haunted by the spectre of insecurity, instability and uncertainity. Forced to march out of their native place only to save their skin in face of tremendous persecution, the Kashmirian Hindus could not but develop resilience and tough fibre to suffer untold miseries and traumas quite patiently. They would have undoubtedly made richer contributions to the formation of culture and civilisation had they not been hounded out every now and then by the Muslim zealots. The Kashmirian Hindus unlike the Muslims have never chosen to be sunk in the quagmire of communal bigotry, sectarianism and narrow interests.
With a view to draw the Muslim women out of the well of backwardness, male tyranny and more than most ignorance, the Kashmirian Hindus under the inspiring guidance and leadership of Pandit Sri Kanth Toshkhani, Professor of Philosophy, Sri Pratap College, Srinagar established a school for Muslim girls, who were initiated and given impetus to come to schools for learning 3 R’s. What is highly significant is that Prof. Toshkhani and the Kashmirian Hindu lady teachers launched upon a door-to-door campaign mobilising the Muslims to put their daughters to the school. Hindu lady teachers would even go to the homes of Muslim girls only to provide them with more of guidance as they were first generation learners of backward and ignorant parents, who had consciously kept away from the light of education despite countless incentives provided to them by the Hindu ruler and his government.
The Dogra period of Kashmir history was marked by the British advent into Kashmir. The Dogras could not but succumb to the pressures put on them by the British masters working assiduously for watching the imperial interests in Kashmir, which had come to acquire a position of importance in their total game-plan. It was natural for the British officers to have come into contact with the Kashmirian Hindus, who were present in the Administrative set up at the lower rungs. They were impressed by the suavity, cultured demeanour, general ability and intelligence of the Kashmirian Hindus. They appreciated their qualities of head and heart especially their administrative skills. That the stock of the Kashmirian Hindus was very much up with the Britishers gets testified by the mention various European travellers have made about them in their travelogues and other tomes. To them, a Kashmirian Hindu was conservative in sticking to his religious practices, but modern in adapting himself to new thought nuances and manner of dress. But, the British encouragement of Kashmirian Hindu was short-lived and they wove and hatched conspiracies not only to derogate them but also to get them looted, plundered and killed.
The Britishers developed hatred and revulsion for the Kashmirian Hindus when they got attracted to new developments in the arena of Indian politics initiated and led by the Indian National Congress symbolising the aspirations of the Indian masses for a new order based on self rule, democracy and free thinking. The highly educated sections of the Kashmirian Hindus directly participated in the struggle for freedom from the British yoke and contributed their mite to the spread and dissemination of new thought structures as enunciated by Gandhi and Nehru at the national level and Marx, Engels and Lenin at the international level. The Testament of New Kashmir contains all the seed ideas and thought trends, which the bright sons of the Kashmirian Hindu community had imbibed through their intelligent and painstaking study of the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin and a host of Marxist thinkers.
Kashmir had an intelligent group of Radical Humanists, who through their ideological discourse led to the dissemination of their ideas in the backward polity of Kashmir. The fact remains that they could not win many sympathizers for their ideology among the Muslims of Kashmir. The proponents of the ideology of Radical Humanism were mostly Kashmirian Hindus hailing from all walks of life.
The Btitish officers stationed in Kashmir and elsewhere felt a cold shiver down their spine when the Kashmirian Hindus led by their fiery sons demonstrated against the arrest of Gandhi and supported his clarion call tor boycott of foreign goods. The bonfire of foreign goods in the S.R. Ganj locality of Srinagar in 1930 amply demonstrated the patriotic zeal and fervour of the Kashmirian Hindus, who had their gaze fixed on new political forces shaping and emerging both on national and international scene. Unlike many other communities, they were not bogged down in the mire of communal politics. It will not be out of place to mention that the first memorandum submitted to Maharaja Hari Singh by the Muslims of Kashmir sought a ban on Indian National Congress and the activities of the Kashmirian Hindus fraternising with the organisation.3
The Britishers feeling alarmed at the new orientation given to the Kashmirian politics by the Kashmirian Pandits took no time in hatching conspiracies against them only to deflect them from the path of patriotism and nationalism. They in complicity with the All India Muslim Conference of Lahore and a group of Muslims in Jammu let loose a flood of vicious propaganda on the backward and illiterate masses of Kashmir arousing their communal and sectarian passions. Allegations were levelled against some Hindu constables of Jammu only to foment communal trouble. A Hindu police sub-inspector, Babu Khem Chand, was accused of heresy as he had not permitted a Molvi to read out khutba. He was dismissed from services even though the magistrate in his judgment had made it amply clear that he was not reading Khutba but delivering a political speech against the ruler characterising him as cruel and tyrant. 4 Another Hindu head constable, Labh Ram, was accused of desecrating the Quran.5 The government feeling jittery dismissed the employee without probing the entire incident. The Muslim groups communally oriented did not feel satiated by the dismissal of the two employee as they had different plans up their sleeves only to be materialised in the loot, murder and arson of the Kashmirian Pandits. The Reading Room Party led by Sheikh Abdullah was an abettor of the vicious propaganda unleashed against the Hindus, who had been the main target of the Muslim politics. The life size posters instigating the Muslims to protest and revolt proved a catalyst for the communal frenzy engulfing the Kashmirian Pandits.
On 13th of July, 1931, history for the Kashmirian Hindus got repeated. They were put to an orgy of loot, murder and arson. Their houses and business establishments were ruthlessly looted and put to flames. They were cruelly killed and mercilessly beaten and roughed up. As per the official records, numerous Kashmirian Hindus were killed and countless seriously wounded. The worst affected areas were Maharaj Ganj and Vicharnag localities in Srinagar. Hindus everywhere in the valley of Kashmir were subjected to harassment, intimidation, persecution and torture. The goons had their heyday everywhere especially in Srinagar indulging in loot, murder and arson. Wakefield, the then Home Minister, turned a Nelson’s Eye to all the happenings corroding public order. He was fiddling with the Resident while the valley was burning. The British officers mostly owing allegiance to the British network of intelligence in complicity and connivance with the communal forces in the Valley were guilty of looting, murdering and pillaging the Kashmirian Hindus.
One Qadir, a bearer in the employ of an European, was responsible for instigating the Muslim crowd got collected in the Mir Ali Hamadani Mosque in Srinagar to choose their representatives for a meeting with the Maharaja. He was tried for sedition and during the course of hearing held in camera, the Muslim crowds gate crashed into the Central Jail in Srinagar only to disrupt the judicial process. The police posse stationed on duty fired leaving ten Muslims killed. What ensued was mayhem, loot and murder for the Hindus of Kashmir. The government pursued a policy of drift and never brought the looters and killers to book for the crimes against the fragile minority of Hindus. Those responsible for letting loose a reign of terror for the helpless and hapless Hindus were hailed and bolstered up as freedom fighters and even as martyrs. The communal orgy had its full sway for two weeks and Maharaja Hari Singh’s government proved utterly incapable of providing protection to the victims of loot, murder and arson. As per government records, the total loss suffered by the Hindus in the destruction of their properties was estimated to be exceeding a crore of rupees.5
Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz,7 known for his pro-Pak leanings, was not forthright in condemning the Muslim communalism, which had been systematically working for the annihilation of the Hindu minority in Kashmir. He span a wayward theory for justifying the loot and murder of the Hindus, who were equally poor, deprived and bereft. Why loot and murder only the Hindus of Kashmir? Why were not the big sharks among the Muslim landed gentry looted and killed ? Shree Bazaz had his own specific approach to the evaluation of the communal politics in Kashmir7 whjch perhaps fitted in the entire scheme of things he had in mind for Kashmir.
Sheikh Abdullah is recorded to have characterised the communal happenings on 13th July, 1931 as the handiwork of the goons, who stole the occasion for indulgence in loot and murder of the Kashmirian Hindus. His comment came in the wake of the address he made to the Kashmirian Hindus at Sheetalnath for the first time in his political career.8
The Kashrnirian Hindus as the hapless victims of loot, murder and arson demanded an impartial enquiry into the communal incidents. An Enquiry Committee was set up, but it stopped short of launching a thorough probe into the entire gamut of happenings leading to the infliction of worst ever atrocities on the Kashmirian Hindus. Not punishing the guilty, the government ordered the release of those arrested during riots. Enquiry was practically shelved and truce arranged between the government and the communal agitators. The Kashmir Muslim Conference functioning in Lahore did not take kindly to the truce and did everything possible to wreck it with the obvious objective of fuelling the communal fires to engulf the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Muslims operating at Lahore in connivance with the Britishers virtually succeeded in stoking the communal fires in the region of Jammu when the Hindus of Mirpur were subjected to a spree of loot, murder and arson. Its reverberations were sensed in Uri, Baramulla, Srinagar and Anantnag in the region of Kashmir which were convulsed by communal disturbances.
Dr. Iqbal closely associated with the Muslim Conference of Lahore actually worked against the truce between the state government and the communal agitators.l0 His plans were to convert the communal disturbances into an all-out crusade against the Hindu Maharaja and the Kashmirian Hindus. He had even ambitions of becoming the Prime Minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as got revealed by the letter he wrote to Maharaja Hari Singh.l1 Calvin as the Prime Minister of the state was pre-informed of the contents of the letter by intelligence agencies operating in Lahore. Dr. Iqbal was categoric in telling the ruler of the state that his appointment as the Prime Minister of the state would end all strife tearing the state politics.
The 13th July, 1931 disturbances based on Muslim frenzy were generated and led by the Muslim land-lords, shawl tycoons and other richer sections of the Muslim community. The sole motive behind the disturbances was to wrest concessions from the ruler in matters of ‘better positions, social recognition and more gains in economic undertakings’. The loot, murder and arson launched against the Kashmirian Hindus reflected the perennial religious hatred the Muslims have been harbouring against the Hindus of Kashmir. The Muslims worked in complicity with the Britishers, who had smelt a rat in the political activities of the Hindus vying with the nationalists and new wave of mass enthusiasm gaining momentum for freedom from British fetters. The sudden appearance of Qadir, who was employed with an European, testifies beyond doubt that the disturbances were planned and manipulated hy the Britishers in connivance with the Muslim agents working at their beck and call.
The 13th July, 1931 communal orgy was preceded by an outrageous act of kidnapping, wrongfully confining and murdering a Kashmirian Hindu girl, Durgi by name. 12 It sent shock waves in the miniscule minority of the Hindus reminding them of the same type of persecution and torture that they were subjected to throughout the Muslim rule. What was worst that the state police lathi-charged the funeral procession of one thousand Hindus accompanying the dead body of the victim to the cremation ground for last rites. Enraged by the heinous crime committed against an innocent girl, the Hindus in unprecedented numbers got collected in the Raghunath Temple of Srinagar only to adopt two resolutions, one demanding an impartial enquiry into the circumstances leading to the murder of the Kashmirian Hindu girl, the other expressing shock and anguish over the police high-handedness of charging a funeral procession.l3 The government never acted as all its operational capacities were paralysed by the interference of the Britishers in the state affairs.
Dogra Rule (1846-1947 A.D.)
With a view to achieve their political ends the Britishers forced and pressurised the Maharaja to constitute a Grievances Commission for a probe into the complaints of the people of Kashmir. The Commission was chaired by B.J. Glancy, who was directly linked with the British Intelligence Department. The Hindu members on the Commission from Jammu resigned when the Muslim members from Jammu and Kashmir demanded a change in the Hindu Personal Law facilitating the fresh converts to Islam to own their hereditary properties even after conversion. The Kashmirian Hindus directed their member, Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz, to withdraw from it, but he did not oblige them and continued to be on the Commission representing none.
The Commission motivated by the sole design of damaging the legitimate interests of the Kashmirian Hindus got exposed by tendering biased recommendations to the ruler. It did not take up for consideration the vital issue of settling the age-long dispute over Kalishree Temple,14 which was forcibly occupied and demolished for erection of the Mir Ali Hamadani Mosque. In its open hostility to the Kashmirian Hindus, the Commission failed to recommend the handing over of the Hari Parbat, Shankaracharya hillocks and the Buddhist sites to the Hindus while it made the recommendation of handing over Pathar Masjid, Bulbul Shah Khanaqah and Dara Shikuh Khanqah to the Muslims. The Hindus were not handed over their properties on the plea that some graves had been dug around the two hillocks. Nor were the Muslims asked to use the bathing ghat of the Kalishree Temple a few yards away from the portion used by the Kashmirian Hindus, who had to witness the detestable Muslim practice of opening their trousers if they would have one on or just throwing the Phiran (a long woollen cloak) up for cleansing their unclean bottoms. The Hindu demand for the construction of a shed at the point of worship on the river ghat only to shelter them from inclement weather was cruelly rejected.
Unfair to the Kashmirian Hindus, the Commission recommended the scaling down of academic merit in favour of the Kashmirian Muslims thereby blocking the entry of the Hindus with high academic merit into the state services. The Maharaja had already embarked upon the policy-path of disregarding the claims of the Kashmirian Hindus to the state services.l5 The Kashmirian Hindus through their representative, Dr. R.K. Bhanl6 M.A. F.R.S had supplied the ruler with the statistical data regarding the severe unemployment prevailing among the highly educated Hindu youth.
The Muslim members on the Glancy Commission demanded that the state police be asked to desist from intervening in matters of fresh converts of Islam. The brazen-faced demand patently demonstrated the Muslim plans for launching upon conversion campaigns despite the fact that the state had a Hindu ruler. There were numerous Muslim agencies operating for fresh converts to Islam. They worked under a well-formulated design and were financially supported by inside and outside agencies. Keeping the police forces at bay the Muslim majority would resort to time-tested weapons of harassment, intimidation, allurement and final hounding out and liquidation of the Kashmirian Hindus.
The Muslim members on the Commission in their note of dissent demanded that the Maharaja be asked not to impose a ban on lhe Muslims of Kashmir and Frontier Districts to have and receive arms. 17 The demand underpinned the motives of arming the Muslims for purposes of launching an armed crusade against the fragile minority of Hindus in Kashmir.
Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz, who had no mandate from the Kashmirian Hindus, in his note of dissent put that the mosque at Idgah with a wall around it be allowed to come up only if rest of the Idgah grounds were left intact and open to all communities for recreational and grazing purposes. 18
The British Resident in pressurising Maharaja Hari Singh to appoint the Glancy Commission was motivated by the sole design of mobilising the Muslims against the Hindu ruler in furtherance of the imperial interests. Many agents working only to further the British designs were enrolled from the Muslim ranks. Sheikh Abdullah himself is alleged to be a British agent, who worked hand in glove with the British masters.19 The recommendations of the Glancy Commission institutionalised communalism dividing the Kashmirian society at large into twain. Capitalizing on the deep rooted hatred of the Muslims against the Hindus, the Britishers only to humble down the Maharaja managed to appease the Muslims through the Glancy Commission. The fact remains that the Commission never upheld the Muslim contention of non-representation of the Muslims in the state services, but rendered an immeasurable damage unto the Kashmirian polity by polarising it on communal grounds.
The lop-sided and biased recommendations of the Glancy Commission were prominently marked by an appeasement of the Muslim majority of Kashmir. The legitimate rights and interests of the Kashmirian Hindus were ruthlessly sacrificed and trampled upon. Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz was patently blamed and held responsible for the undue concessions showered on the Muslims by the Maharaja in pursuance of the recommendations made by the Glancy Commission. The Kashmirian Hindus sharply reacted and ground was set for fullfledged agitation. Out to clamour for their rightful interests, the Hindus in massive numbers held demonstrations denouncing Glancy and the Government of Maharaja Hari Singh.20 The agitation known as the Roti (bread) Agitation in the history of the Kashmirian Hindus led to the emergence of an astute leadership working under the wise and prudent advice and guidance of Pandit Kashyap Bandhu, who in his autobiography yet to be published has made startling revelations about the Sheikh. With Sheetalnath as the centre stage of the agitational activities, the Hindus highlighted their economic hardships having ensued from the governmental policy of blocking their entry into the state services. Instead of conceding their legitimate demands, the governmcnt let loose a reign of repression against the Hindus. They were lathi-charged, baton charged, arrested and imprisoned and hurt with all sorts of repressive and coercive measures. To cap it all, the Muslims in large numbers assaulted the Kashmirian Hindus only to throttle their voice against the repression inflicted on them. They did everything to disrupt and wreck their movement as a definite nexus had already developed between the Britishers and the Muslims for pushing the Kashmirian Hindus to the wall. Despite the concerted attempts to disrupt the movement by vested interests, it continued with full zest and vigour for more than six months. It was a highly organised and disciplined movement focussing on economic problems. It will be no exaggeration if it be put that the Bread Movement set the tone and tenor for all future movements in the history of Kashmir as it was secular in cuntent highlighting economic demands and was never directed against the Muslims whose major grievance of non-representation in government services was not upheld even by the Glancy Commission.
Toeing the old strategy of grabbing the Hindu places of worship, the Muslims whipped up mass frenzy and let loose their brute force to unlawfull occupy two places of Hindu worship, one at Sahyar and the other at Narparistan in Srinagar. The Narparistan place of worship known as Narishwari Temple was demolished and a grave installed at its sanctum sanctorum. It was done in total violation of civilised canons guiding relations between various communities in a pluralistic society. The Hindus raised a powerful voice against the unjust acts resulting in communal tension. They highlighted the problem with the powers that be, but as usual no positive action for restoration of the two temples to their rightful owners was ever taken. The Muslim onslaught on the Hindus and their places of worship continued even in Dogra times.
In the backdrop of communal tensions leading to loot, murder and arson of the Kashmirian Hindus, the Muslims rallied under the banner of the Muslim Conference espousing sectarian and communal politics. Training their guns against the Hindus, the Muslim politicians in complicity with groups of the same hue operating in Jammu and Lahore under the umbrella of British patronage highlighted non-secular agenda based on narrow-mindedness, religious bigotry and myopia. The Kashmirian Hindus could not think of joining hands with such forces. But, they did not fail the new radical elements, who showed appearance within the ambience of the Muslim Conference for secularising and broadbasing thcir movement directed to the achievement of political and economic emancipation of all components of the Kashmirian populace. The Kashmirian Hindus applied their shoulder to the wheel of Muslim politics investing it with vigour, enthusiasm and more than most new political direction. In appreciable numbers, they participated in all the functions designed to celebrate the Responsible Government Day. They joined the ranks of the labour movement when its gates were thrown open to them. The Kashmirian Hindu intellectuals did not thwart, but aided the flowering of new forces within the Muslim politics.
Credit goes to Sardar Budh Singh, who unfurled banner of revolt against the then moribund system perpetuating forced labour (begaar), unscientific land revenue and land relations and set a new agenda for wholesa!e reforms. In fact, it was he only who conveyed his radical views regarding the politico-economic set-up prevalent in the state to Sheikh Abdullah who till then was wallowing in the quagmire of communal politics shaped by the shawl-barons, Jagirdars and beard-flaunting Molvis.
The Hindu leaders like Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz, Pandit Jia Lal Kilam, Pandit Sham Lal Saraf, Pandit Kashyap Bandhu and Sardar Budh Singh were responsible for forging a new nationalist agenda for all Kashmirians without distinction of caste, creed and religion. In fact, Kashyap Bandhu having come from Lahore in 1930 was the first to suggest the formation of a united front for highlighting common problems of all communities. As a result of inter-action between the leaders of the two communities, a new united front was formed for purposes of highlighting economic and political problems concerning the Kashmirians as a whole. The National Demand issued in August, 1938 was signed among others by Pandit Jia Lal Kilam, Pandit Sham Lal Saraf and Sardar Budh Singh. It is enough to demonstrate that the Kashmirian Hindus joined the ranks of Muslims only when the Muslims thought it expedient to part ways with sectarian politics for forging a new unity among all sections of the Kashmirians.
Having taken birth from the debris of Muslim Conference, the National Conference enthused all segments of the Kashmirian population. Its secular credentials set a new pace for the politics of Kashmir. The Kashmirian Hindus declared their parent organisation of All Kashmiri Pandit Yuvak Sabha as a socio-cultural body devoting itself to the objectives of reforming their society and preserving their cultural heritage. National Conference, they declared, was their political forum for achieving all objectives as were graphicnlly outlined in the Testament of New Kashmir.
It was the cream of the Kashmirian Hindu society that was directly responsible for formulating the ‘New Kashmir’ manifesto only to invest the struggle with a definite direction. A brilliant group of young communists under the leadership of Dr. N. N. Raina 22 was operating within the National Conference spear-heading a new agenda. Those youngmen mostly hailing from middle-class Hindus families were motivated and enthused by the Marxist ideology pointing to new destinations of establishing an exploitation-free social order in sharp contrast to capitalist mode of social and political structure. They were mostly responsible for introducing the nationalist movement to the concept of socialist pattern of society based on equality, democracy and free from exploitation. The Communists of Kashmir had direct links with the Communist Party of India, which has played a glorious role in anti-Imperialist struggle waged by the Indian masses. Dr. Raina was widely known and shown high esteem as a high-calibre Communist intellectual of Kashmir. Among others, two prominent Communists from the Punjab, Mr. B.P.L. Bedi and Mrs. Freda Bedi, late Moti Lal Misri, late D.P. Dhar and Dr. N.N. Raina were the persons, who were associated with drafting the ‘New Kashmir’ manifesto for the Kashmirians with the sole objective of concretising the goals they were supposed to achieve through the struggle. The Communists organised study circles for imparting political education to the rank and file of National Conference only to save the movement from going lumponic. But Sheikh Abdullah got the study circles stopped from functioning on the plea that the organisers were propagating communism among the Muslim youth.23
Even after re-christening the Muslim Conference as National Conference, the spectre of communalism continued to haunt the leadership, which had a track record of communal and sectarian politics. Sheikh Abdullah, the tallest of the Muslim leaders, did not abandon the Hazratbal Shrine as the focal point of his political activities, clinging firmly to the Muslim concept of combining religion with politics, the Sheikh was always found lacing his political orations with the religious history of Islam. In his moments of utter despair ensuing from his political failures and inconsistencies, he often bradished the stick of Islam to quieten and quench opposition and dissent. Suspecting a dip in his popularity graph, he would more often than not jaunt about the streets of Srinagar either exhorting the Muslims to observe fasts during the month of Ramadan or collecting funds for erecting a mosque. His characterisation of the Hindu minority of Kashmir as ammanat (trust) was co-terminus with the status of Zimmies as defined in the Islamic texts. Not that the Hindus were equal participants in a democratic order, but were subservient to the Muslim canons which were more obeyed in their non-observance than observance.
Sheikh Abdullah’s commitment to secular outlook in spirit and deed became all the more suspect when he used the secular platform of National Conference for celebrating Id-i-Milad on 24th April, 1940. In his characteristic oration, he launched a vituperative tirade against the Hindu society, contemptuously derided the religion of the Hindus and to cap it all made an unwise remark that Islam was the sun and other religions were stars underpinning that when the sun appears, other stars get eclipsed.
The Sheikh’s utterances regarding the comparative greatness of Islam 24 were not favourably relished by the Hindu leaders of National Conference. In protest, they climbed down the dias. On 28th of April, 1940, the Hindu members of National Conference raised the issue with the Sheikh, who having lost his cool thundered that he was a Muslim first and a Muslim last.25 It generated tremendous bitterness leading to the resignation of Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz, Pandit Jia Lal Kilam and Pandit Kashyap Bandhu from the Working Committee of National Conference. It was only through the good offices of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru that the yawning gulf was stemmed from widening thereby saving the organisation from tearing apart.
The fact of history is that Sheikh Abdullah led a powerful mass movement for founding a new political and economic order in Kashmir and other parts of Jammu region inhabited by various ethnic groups. He rejected the two nation theory of the Muslim League, yet he upheld and subscribed to the idea that the Muslims were a ‘qaum’. The posture of the Shiekh unto the Treaty of Amritsar purporting the sale of Kashmir and other adjoining areas to Maharaja Gulab Singh for a sum of 75 lac rupees (Nanakshahi) smacked of pan-Islamism emphasising that the Kashmirian Muslims alone were purchased and sold for a few paise each, ignoring that the Kashmirian Hindus, Sikhs and the Ladakhi Buddhists were equally purchased and sold for a few coins. Pan-Islamism with its fountain-head in Dr. Iqbal 26 had its reverberations in the utterances of Sheikh dilating on the total annulment of the Treaty of Amritsar as an imperative condition for freeing the Muslims of Kashmir essentially from the thraldom of the Maharaja, obviously a Hindu ruler. How the Sheikh would have posed himself unto the said-Treaty if the state had a Muslim ruler, a Nawab, is a moot issue for political guess-work and speculation?
The ruler of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as per the India Independence Act of 1947 and the India Act of 1935 was vested with the sole right to accede to either of the two dominions of India and Pakistan having come into being as an outcome of the partition plan promulgated on 3rd June, 1947. Maharaja Hari Singh and his Prime Minister, Pandit Ramchandra Kak, took their own time and prevaricated in the exercise of the options. As can be gleaned from available tomes dilating on the period, it is authentic to put that the Maharaja was interested in maintaining the independence of his state and only as a prelude to it had entered into a stand-still agreement with the two nascent dominions. If the Maharaja was for independence of his state, why did the Sheikh as the top leader of National Conference oppose his intentional move? The only logical position would have been to lend him all out support and succour in putting his intentions into practice. The tenability of the argument gets established by the fact of Sheikh toying with the idea of independence soon after many miles on the highway to accession were traversed. Ram Chandra Kak as the Prime Minister of the ruler was taken for an agent provocateur of Pakistan 27. If the Kashmirians for their own reasons were keen to get annexed to Pakistan, why did they lag behind in strengthening the hands of Mr. Kak, who as per them devotedly worked for the fulfilment of Pak-strategies in Kashmir? Instead, he was handcuffed, spat at and shown all disrespect and contumely by the Sheikh and the Muslims of Kashmir. The golden opportunity of vying with the ruler only to goad him to exercise his illegal options for declaring his state as independent of the two nascent dominions or annexing it to Pakistan as provided by the Act were practically wasted by the Sheikh and the Muslim masses of Kashmir.
The Muslim leaders of National Conference were actually caught in the cleft of a stick whcn they were squarely confronted with the vexatious and thorny question of accession. Thwarting the Maharaja from exercising his legal options, Sheikh Abdullah yelled, “If four million people living in Jammu and Kashmir state were bypassed and the Maharaja declared accession to India or Pakistan, I will raise the banner of revolt and launch a do or die struggle.”28 If politics can be termed as a battle for capturing political power, the Sheikh desired the Maharaja to transfer the reins of government to him along with the onerous responsibility of deciding the question of accession.
The Working Committee of National Conference comprising predominantly the Muslims was sharply divided on the issue of accession. Fearing physical annihilation in Pakistan owing to his track record of anti-Jinnah and anti-Muslim Conference postures, the Sheikh motivated with the design of mending fences with the Muslim League leadership in Pakistan and also clearing the thick-set cobwebs of misunderstanding looming sky-high there in Pakistan political circles, despatched his two lieutenants, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq to Pakistan with the patent mission of conveying to M.A. Jinnah that the options for accession were all open. But to their utter dismay, the two emissaries of the Sheikh were totally cold-shouldered by the top-notch politicians of Pakistan. However, the message of Sheikh was conveyed when Bakshi and Sadiq held inconclusive discussions with Feroz Khan Noor, Mian Mamtaz Daulatna and Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar,29 a second tier leadership of the Muslim League in Pakistan.
What the two comrades-in-arms of the Sheikh gathered in Pakistan was that the Muslim League leadership did not lend any credence to National Conference as the authentic voice of Kashmir and if at all it recognised any organisation, it was only Muslim Conference of Kashmir, which factually at that point of Kashmir politics was relegated to backwaters, though not totally extinct. As the new political developments were unfolding in quick succession, the two emissaries of the Sheikh having reached Srinagar post-haste, entering into serious confabulations with Muslim members of the National Conference Working Committee without taking the Hindu members into confidence mooted the idea of reviving the Muslim Conference with a view to arrive at a thorough understanding with the Pak-leadership on the moot issue of accession. The entire prospect of new developments ensuring from the stand-point of reviving the Muslim Conference got snuffed out when the hordes of tribesmen launched an unprecedented invasion on the soil of Jammu and Kashmir with the sole objective of forcibly annexing the territory to Pakistan. The kaleidoscope of political change moved so swift and fast that what was quite unpredictable became predictable. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru took the blank cheque out of the left pocket of Mr. Jinnah and to his consternation signed it confidently for India. The die was cast and history was made with the State of Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India.
The wholesale aggression of the region of Kashmir and other adjoining territories proved calamitous for the peace-loving Hindus of Kashmir and other regions. Mahatma Gandhi saw a ray of hope in the skies of Kashmir, but there was much more to it than could be met by his eyes. Complexities of situation were to surface engulfing the Kashmirian Hindus in a vortex of loot, murder and arson. More than 26,000 Hindus including 15,000 Kashmirian Hindus and 3500 Sikhs became the target of the tribal invaders. The areas they inhabited were Poonch, Rajouri, Mirpur, Munawar, Bhimher, Kotli, Noushera, Muzaferabad, Uri, Baramullah, Sopore, Handawara, Kupwara, Bandipora, Pattan, Tangamarg, and Badgam. The tribals set fire to their thousands of houses, cow-sheds, shops and other standing structures. Hundreds of women and girls were kidnapped and their innocence violated. The property of the Hindus worth crores was looted and pillaged. Countless women committed suicide by taking poison or jumping into the Jehlum and Kishenganga rivers or deep wells.
During raids, the tribal invaders took many Hindus as prisoners subjecting them to untold torture. Capturing the police-posts and police-stations in all the territories under their avalanche, the raiders killed 390 policemen, who were all Hindus.30 Numbers beyond record were mercilessly slaughtered and hundreds declared missing and untraceable. Sikhs were the main targets of the brutalities of the tribals as they have a track record of meeting and fighting Muslim repression and persecution. Their women-folk killed themselves by plunging into rivers in countless numbers. There were numberless cases of Sikhs putting their womenfolk and young budding girls to bullets only to save them from the ignominies of the Muslim tribals verging on barbarity.
The tribals in complicity with the local fanatics granted reprieve to the Hindus who got converted to the faith of Islam. The process of conversion was an essential part of the whole storm of aggression ravaging the Hindus of Kashmir and other regions. The Hindu places of worship were destroyed wholehog. Even the mission edifice of St. Joseph’s Convent was ravaged, ransacked and then put to flames. In their utter religious frenzy and fury, the tribals ruthlessly killed the Assistant Mother Superior, three nuns and a British officer’s spouse. The Mother and nuns had rendered invaluable services to the Muslim residents of the Baramullah district by providing them both medicare and education. In the Islamic fashion, the invaders were merciless to all and sundry falling outside the pale of Islam. A young patriot, Maqbool Sherwani, accused of aiding and shielding the infidels, was brutally butchered. He was fastened to a post in the midst of Baramulla town, nails driven into his body and finally bullets were pumped into him. His killing was a sheer barbarity. Eleven members of a Hindu family in Bandipore, Baramulla were ruthlessly slaughtered only to satiate their thirst for the blood of infidels (kafirs).
After Baramulla was cleared of the barbarous tribals, as many as 1178 Hindu women and girls were recovered as had been kidnapped and kept in captivity, 32 thousands were converted to Islam and married by the local Muslims. As per the report of the New York Times, three thousand townsmen including four Europeans, a retired British army officer and his pregnant wife were mercilessly massacred.33
The tribal invasion launched upon Jammu and Kashmir State resulted in the displacement of 26,000 people, who were only Hindus and Sikhs. Not exceeding 6000 of them were re-settled in the areas of Uri and Baramulla. Many refugees returned to their native towns and villages only to take to their normal daily chores.34 They were not assisted by any government agency in the processes of re-settlement. Those refugees, who were provided with free rations in the city of Srinagar, did not exceed 3,600, mostly orphans, destitutes, disabled and widows. 35
West Punjab engulfed in worst-even communal carnage got denuded of Hindu population leading to their influx in mighty waves into the region of Jammu. By 1949-50, 20,000 families of such refugees were registered out of which 1823 families comprising 9115 persons were rehabilitated 36. The influx proved so mighty that Jammu soil harbours not fewer than 1.25 lack refugees, still hanging in balance. The refugees have yet to be politically rehabilitated by way of conferment of voting rights as guarnnteed by the Constitution of India. The Muslim political leaders out to maintain their political hegemony have been opposing the conferment of political rights on such refugees as have migrated from West Punjab. The rosy scenario drawn about the 1947 developments in the Valley of Kashmir was tinged murky. The tribal invasion unleashed in the name of Islam had all the ingredients of a crusade- loot, rape, murder, arson and conversion.
Without being dishonest to history, it is extremely pertinent to put that rest of the valley not marauded by the tribals, remained calm and peaceful. Sheikh Abdullah’s role in this behalf was laudable as he raised a loud voice for communal peace and harmony. Despite the forces of sabotage, no discernible damage was inflicted on the seemingly monolith of varied communities welded together for the achievement of political and economic emancipation under a democratic dispensation. To mount vigilance, local militia was raised by recruiting zealous patriots of all hues entrusted with the paramount task of keeping the saboteurs at bay. A flash of spark had the potential of blowing up the entire monolith to bits of splinters. So slender was the thread.
Notes and References
1. J.L. Nehru, Discovery of India, P267. 2. Interview with Pandit Shyam Lal Saraf, a veteran freedom fighter of Kashmir, broadcast from All India Radio, Srinagar, Kashmir 3. Hari Singh Papers. 4. Administrative Reports. 1928-29-30-31-32. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid 6. Ibid. 7. P.N. Bazaz, Inside Kashmir. 8. Martand File. 9. Administrative Reports, 1928-29-30-31-32 10. P.N.K. Bamzai, History of Kashmir. 11. Interview with Dr. Kartar Singh. 12. Administrative Reports, 1928-29-30-31. 13. Administrative Reports, 1928-29-30-31. 14. The Kashmirian Hindus had submitted a memorandum to Mahatma Gandhi regarding the Kalishree Temple dispute in 1924. 15. The representation made to Maharaja Hari Singh by the Kashmirian Hindus through Dr. R.K. Bhan. 16. Dr. R.K. Bhan was the secretary of the Association for the Upliftment of the Kashmirian Hindus. It was he who had supplied the ruler with the data of matriculates, intermediates, graduates and post-graduates without jobs and employment. At the behest of the ruler, the representative of the Kashmirian Hindus collected the data of the Hindus employed in private sector and the same was supplied and furnished to him. 17. Clancy Commission Report. 18. Ibid. 19. Saxena, Tragedy in Kashmir pp 4-9. 20. Administrative Reports 1931-32-33. 21. It was a Mother Goddess Temple located at Narayan-Sthan, now known as Naraparistan. 22. Dr. N.N. Raina retired as Head of the Department of Physics from the University of Kashmir. His book on imperialist conspiracy in Kashmir has won a lot of applause. Others who owed allegiance to the Communist Party of Kashmir were P.N. Jalali, M.L. Misri, Brij Lal Koul, H.N. Durani, O.N. Trisal, P.N. Kachru and many others. All Hindu communists despite their glorious role were left in wilderness and languished in poverty. 23. Aatish-e-Chinar by Sheikh.Abdullah. 24. P.N. Bazaz, Freedom Struggle in Kashmir, P 180. 25. Ibid. 26. Dr. Iqbal’s poem lamenting the lot of the Kashmirian Muslims who had been sold for few coins. 27. Sheikh Abdullah, Aatish-e-Chinar. 28. Sheikh’s speech at Hazuri Bagh soon after he was released from jail by the Maharaja. 29. Sheikh Abdullah, Aatish-e-Chinar. 30. Administrative Report, 1948-49. 31. P.N.K. Bamzai, History of Kashmir. 32. Ibid. 33. Administrative Report, 1948-49. 34. P.N.K. Bamzai, History of Kashmir. 35. Administrative Report, 1949-50. 36. lbid, 1950-51.
by ashok koul