For almost four and a half centuries now Kashmiris have been under external bondage. After loss of sovereignty to Mughals in 1586, the Kashmiris have not been able to regain it so far. However, in all the external bondages, it is the local collaborators who put the entire nation in bondage. Historically, Kashmir as a Kingdom was not only known all over the world but some of the Kings conquered many surrounding areas and annexed these to the Kingdom of Kashmir. In fact, one of the Kings Laltaditya Muktapid who could be called the Alexandre of Kashmir went as far as Tibet and his entire army perished in the blizzards during this campaign.
There are two Kashmiri proverbs which vividly describe this character of ours. One is about the sowing of nettle and the other is about the splitting of a log. The nettle proverb is, “Anim soai, wuvem soi, lajim soi pansi”! (I brought the nettle, sowed the nettle, and got bitten by it myself). This is typical story in all these external interventions in Kashmir. Most of the time the interventions were sought by Kashmiris themselves because of the violent internecine tussle within Kashmir. Prior to Mughal intervention, Kashmir was experiencing the worst kind of sectarian violence. Yaqub Sarfi and Baba Daud Khaki requested Akbar to save Kashmir menaced by sectarian crises. Mughals captured Kashmir through treachery by trapping and arresting Yousuf Shah Chak, the last ruler of the independent Kashmir. The Mughals drained out every bit of chivalry from the blood of Kashmiris and turned them into demeaning serfs. Kashmir became their pleasure garden, a “Paradise on Earth” for them only!
Similarly, the Afghans too had local invitation and facilitation in making Kashmir a part of their kingdom.The Afghan rule in Kashmir was a nightmarish experience. Kashmiris had hoped that the Afghans would bring order and treat them generously. However, they got what Dr. Ahad calls a “Culture Shock”! The Afghan experience has been summed up in a Persian couplet. “When the poet asked the gardener, who laid waste this garden? With a deep sigh he replied, ‘it was the Afghan’!”
The end of Afghan rule came by the Kashmiris yet again soliciting an external saviour. There occurred yet another terrible famine in 1814. There was a shortfall in the tax collection and the Afghan Governor Azim Khan held Birbal Dhar, his tax collector responsible. Fearing retribution, he fled from the valley and landed in the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh whom he persuaded to invade the valley. Maharaja dispatched an army of 30,000 soldiers who after two battles routed the Afghans and brought Kashmir under the Sikh rule in 1819. Even though the rule lasted for only 27 years, yet it is supposed to have been the worst of all. This period is generally known as the “Bebuj Raj” in Kashmiri, a term coined by Hameedullah in his Bebujnama, an eyewitness account of the happenings during this period.
Finally, Kashmiris were sold lock, stock and barrel by the British to Dogra Maharaja Gulab Singh for rupees seventy five lakhs. Dogras ruled Kashmir for 100 years. The end of the British rule over the Indian sub-continent instead of freeing Kashmiris landed them in the worst logjam in their entire history.Before the partition, the Kashmiris had woken up from their slumber and were very near the goal of freedom but then the second weakness in our character came into play. This is the scourge of collaborators depicted by the proverb, the log and the peg. The proverb goes as, “Darrow kamew phatvuk, punnni paun!” O, log of wood who split you in pieces? A wedge made from my own wood! This is exactly what has been happening to Kashmiris for last more than 60 years. The collaborators from among their own kith and kin have been splitting them and keeping them in bondage. All the Chief Ministers have been used as the wedges by Delhi to split the solid log of Kashmiris into pieces. They have been very successful in this endeavor so far.
Kashmiris are traditionally and historically reputed to be very tolerant and non-communal people. However, recently there have been concerted attempts to introduce a communal element in the Kashmiri discourse facilitated by a local “wedge”! These fascist elements could have never imagined an entry into the valley had not a Kashmiri facilitated it. The burning of a truck driver on the excuse of eating beef which resulted in massive protests was a stark example of this communal frenzy being slowly fueled by external elements with local collaboration. These elements are playing with fire which may engulf not only the state but the whole sub-continent. Bihar elections and the celebrations on Modi’s defeat in Kashmir and across the border should make these “pegs” think about their future! For a change, the log which has been hardened over the years, instead of getting split, may blunt the “wedge” itself and render it useless. It is time for these local “wedges” to ponder about their ultimate fate!