They forget their history by

 

They forget their history by *Arif M. Khan

 

The Kashmir Valley people seems to have sacrified their unique culture at

the altar of separatism*

 

*Kaabe mein budkade mein hai yeksan teri zia*

*Mein imtiaze dero haram mein phansa raha*

 

(The divine light equally illuminates the Kaaba and the house of idols

(temple), but woe to me that I remained obsessed with the differences and

distinctions between the two)

 

 

(Allana Iqbal)

 

Jonaraja, the 15th century chronicler of Rajatarangini, has recorded an

interesting dialogue between Sultan Shihabuddin (1354-73) of Kashmir and his

Minister, Udaysri. The Minister had suggested to the King to melt a grand

brass image of the Buddha and use the metal for minting coins. The

infuriated Sultan remarked: “The past generations have set up images to

obtain fame and even merit, and you propose to demolish them. Some have

obtained renown by setting up images of Gods, others by worshipping them,

some by duly maintaining them and some by demolishing them. How great is the

enormity of such a deed.”

 

The words were the Sultan’s, but it was the soul of Kashmir speaking through

him. It is a soul that is steeped in the ethos and morality of the Rishi

Movement. Kashmiris, regardless of their religious affiliation, revere

Lalleshwari (Lall Ded), the wandering Saivaite mystic woman, and Nund Rishi,

(Sheikh Nuruddin) the Muslim saint. This Guru — disciple duo of the 14th

century have deeply impressed the collective Kashmiri psyche. Their sayings

in simple Kashmiri language are short, sweet, inspiring and laden with moral

and spiritual insights and are described as the ‘pearls of Kashmiri

literature’. Two small couplets could help us appreciate their life-long

mission and the humanism they instilled in Kashmiris.

 

Lall Ded said:

 

*Shiva abides in all that is, everywhere*

*Then discriminate not between a Hindu and Muslim.*

 

Nund Rishi said:

 

*We belong to the same parents*

*Then why this difference*

*Let Hindus and Muslims worship God alone*

*We came to this world like partners*

*We should share our joys and sorrows together.*

 

This is the glorious heritage of Kashmir; a heritage rooted in the concept

of fellowship of adherents of various religious traditions. It is true that

the history of Kashmir mentions about the excesses of Suha Bhatt, an

overzealous neo-Muslim minister of Sultan Sikandar, but same accounts show

that Rishi Nuruddin boldly stood against ‘forced conversions and orthodoxy’.

Till date, the name of Rishi Nuruddin commands respect and inspires

Kashmiris, whereas Suha Bhatt has been relegated to the dustbin of history.

 

The recent blooper by the J&K Government in the case of the Amarnath shrine,

when viewed in historic perspective, clearly shows a stark contrast between

the inanities of government and the sanity of public mind. The Muslim family

of Buta Malik has been guarding the Shrine of Amarnath since 1850 and

looking after the devout pilgrims. But the government of the state charged

with the responsibility to look after the welfare of any visitor not just

the pilgrims shamefully abdicated its duty in the face of threat from the

divisive and separatist elements.

 

On behalf of the outgoing government it has been asserted that the order

diverting land to the SASB was revoked “because of mischievous propaganda.”

Further, it has been asserted that “while revoking it, the Cabinet gave an

equally good order which should have been hailed by the Hindu community. As

per the Cabinet decision, the Government made full commitment to discharge

all responsibilities of undertaking the creation of required infrastructure

and facilitating the welfare, safety and security of pilgrims during the

entire period of the Yatra.”

 

The issue at stake is not about some facilities for the pilgrims or lack of

it. In fact the mindset of pilgrims is such that they equate physical

discomfort with religious merit. But the crucial question is whether the

governments will take their decisions on merit or vacillate whenever faced

with communal and separatist threats. To dub these threats as ‘mischievous

propaganda’ is itself mischief and an attempt at diverting attention from

the real aim and object of forces inimical to the unity and integrity of

India. Secondly if those who were at the helm of affairs knew that the

opposition to the ‘land order’ was nothing but ‘mischievous propaganda’,

then they should have exposed the mischief by firmly enforcing their

decision. It defies all logic that the government should revoke its decision

under their pressure and thus vest them with enhanced credibility and

respectability.

 

George Santayan has said that “progress far from consisting in change,

depends on retentiveness. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned

to repeat it.” If there is one basic lesson that we can learn from our

recent history is that you cannot ensure peace and harmony by accommodating

the demands of communal and separatist forces. All through the first half of

twentieth century we were given a choice between accommodation and

separatism, we kept making accommodation and finally we had accept full

blown separatism in the form of partition of the country.

 

Similarly, in 1986 when the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Shah Bano

was opposed, the government succumbed to the pressure and decided to bring a

new legislation to render the court judgment ineffective. On that occasion

it was worth noting that every Minister of the Government who stood up to

speak in Parliament defended not the new measure on merit, but talked about

intelligence reports and apprehended threats to the security. The result is

for everyone to see, the threats have increased multifold, the politics has

become totally communalized and Congress that had more than 400 seats in Lok

Sabha has never recovered since then. The present imbroglio created by the

Jammu and Kashmir government is another Shah Bano in the making and can have

very serious and unpredictable consequences for the country if corrective

measures are not taken at the earliest.

 

Finally it must be said that the common man should not be made to suffer on

account of the follies of politics and politicians. It cannot be accepted

that the good commonsense of Indians has come to an end. India is gifted

with the quality of producing right man at the darkest hour to retrieve the

situation. The situation is grim but there is no reason to give up hope and

confidence that we shall come out of this mess and shall emerge as a nation

more united and integrated.

 

As far as Kashmir is concerned, the eclectic and syncretic teachings of the

Kashmiri Rishis had produced a tremendous social, moral and spiritual

movement and fashioned a distinct Kashmiri way of life, that was almost

totally free from any communal hatred or violence. It was not just the

physical beauty but the peaceful Kashmiri way of life that Kashmir gained

the reputation of being paradise on earth. The last two decades of violence

and terrorism have caused a temporary setback to centuries old Kashmiri

values of peace, harmony and goodwill, but again there is every reason to

believe that the ever living influence of the Rishis shall reassert itself

to claim the paradise back to its old way of life.

 

–*The writer is a former Union Minister*

 

* *

 

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