Table of Contents
   About the Author
   The Abdullah Dynasty
   A Journey into History
   Kashmiri Pandits
   The Myth of Negligence
   Mortgaged Media
   Siege by Scandal
   The 'Inhuman' Rights
   The Valley of Oddity
   This Happened to KPs
   Exaggerated Reporting

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri




The Valley of Oddity

Kashmir has a number of peculiar institutions. One of them is the office of Mirwaiz - which literally means head-sermoniser. It is essentially a Kashmiri concept. Nowhere else in the Islamic world does this institution exist nor does it wield so much clout. It is claimed that the institution is six hundred years old and was established soon after the Muslim rule in the Valley. However, it is not discussed at all in Sir Walter Lawrence's classic The Vale of Kashmir published in 1895.

The Mirwaiz is a religious leader, who also holds a position in the community, which may be described as, in a significant respect, political. The office is hereditary but there would seem to be an appointive element in that the holder is in some manner confirmed by the Government.

The present Mirwaiz - Umar Farooq - was appointed at the tender age of seventeen following the assassination of his father Maulvi Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq in May 1990, at the hands of terrorists owing allegiance to the Jamaat-i-Islami. He claims to be the twelfth in the six-hundred-year-long lineage of the Mirwaiz.

In 1905, the then religious leader of Muslims of the Valley, the Mirwaiz of Kashmir - Maulvi Rasool Shah - founded in Srinagar an association - the Anjuman-i-Nusrat-ul-Islam - with the object of improving the lot of Kashmiri Muslims, especially in education. while at the same time ensuring the spread of pure Islamic doctrine. The Anjuman was not particularly effective but it established a very important precedent which others could and did exploit. In 1920s it was dominated by the Kashmiri Muslim religious leader of the day, the Mirwaiz-i-Kashmir, Maulvi Ahmad Ullah Shah.

At that time, another Muslim religious leader was Mirwaiz Hamadani of the Khanqah-i-Mualla (the shrine sacred to the memory of Mir Syed Ali Hamadani, the saint who had done much to spread Islam in the Valley in the 14th century). He and Maulvi Ahmed Ullah Shah used to be at loggerheads as both used to lay claim to the title of Mirwaiz of Kashmir.

While the Khilafat Movement from 1919 onwards began to play a role in the Muslim nationalist agitation in India, it had little impact in Kashmir. Mirwaiz Ahmad Ullah Shah opposed the movement. He also advised the Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir to arrest the leaders of the agitation in the State.

Mohammad Yusuf Shah succeeded his uncle in March 1931 as the Mirwaiz-i-Kashmir. By that time, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah - a young schoolmaster with a post-graduate degree in Chemistry from Aligarh Muslim University - started emerging on the political scene. In the beginning he was a protégé of Maulvi Yusuf Shah. Both of them served terms in the Maharaja's prisons. In 1932, both of them in tandem with some other youngsters, established the All Jammu & Kashmir Muslim Conference, which became the main platform for opposition to the Maharaja. Soon after, they fell apart and the Muslim Conference faced internal discord.

By the middle of 1932 there developed an active, and at times, violent, political rivalry in Muslim ranks in Srinagar between bands of supporters of Sheikh Abdullah, the Shers or 'Lions' (after Sheikh Abdullah, who used to be referred to by his admirers as the 'Lion of Kashmir'), on the one hand and the followers of Mirwaiz Mohammad Yusuf Shah, the Bakras or 'Goats' (after the beards sported by Islamic clergy), on the other.

In 1939, the Muslim Conference was formally dissolved. It was replaced by the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference, which was a body far more concerned with social and political issues, such as land reform, than with matters of Islamic theology. In 1941, Maulvi Yusuf Shah with other fundamentalists revived the Muslim Conference. In 1946, Sheikh Abdullah's National Conference launched the 'Quit Kashmir' movement. Mirwaiz Yusof Shah opposed it. He supported the Government calling the Maharaja a shadow of God on earth.

Later, with the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India, Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah fled to Pak-occupied Kashmir (Azad Kashmir). He was appointed Education Minister though English was Latin to him. Later, he rose to become the third President of Azad Kashmir.

In Kashmir, Maulvi Atiqullah, a protege of Sheikh Abdullah, was appointed as the Mirwaiz. He was the uncie of Maulvi Yusuf Shah. in 1962, Mohammad Farooq was appointed at the age of eighteen as the Mirwaiz by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad - the then Prime Minister of J&K - following the death of his uncle Maulvi Yusuf Shah in the PoK.

The crisis over the theft of the Moe-i-Muqaddas made the young Mirwaiz Farooq a rallying point in Muslim politics in Srinagar. The old feud between the families of Mirwaiz and the Sheikh continued. The young Mirwaiz Farooq, highly ambitious, did not look backward. He was arrested on October 10, l965 when he became vocal in support of plebiscite in Kashmir.

However, his support to one leader or the other, one political group or the other fluctuated from time to time. At one time, he was in the forefront of an agitation for the release of the Sheikh. At another he was opposing the Sheikh's accord with Indira Gandni and accused the former of selling Kashmir for the sake of power. In 1977, Mirwaiz Farooq entered into an alliance with the Janata Party. In fact, his base was continuously eroding which he compensated by a high profile public relations exercise. He was successful in his campaign and became one of the most sought after politician-cum-religious leaders by the visiting Indian newsmen.

In between, he had entered into an alliance with Dr.Farooq Abdullah who inherited power from his father Sheikh Abdullah. The accord, which was a brief one, came to be known as Double-Farooq Accord. He used to wield considerable political and administrative clout.

In February 1986, the Union Government asked the State to register a case against Maulvi Farooq for violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 1986. The Chief Prosccuting Officer, Srinagar, advised that the case be registered as it was a fit case for prosecution. Accordingly, a first information report was registered at the Khanyar police station on July 30, the same year. It took about two-and-a-half years to complete the investigation, though it was quite simple as most of the documentary evidence had to be relied upon. However, even after the completion of the investigation and the finding of the investigating officer that the 'case stood proved' no prosecution was launched and no further action was taken. The last note on the file merely recorded that 'higher authorities had to be kept posted'.

The Mirwaiz, who claimed to be the only religious leader of Kashmiri Muslims, sent his son and daughter to schools run by Christian missionaries, while himself advocated the teaching in 'Madarsas' for Muslims. Once, when this was pointed out, he retorted: "I am a modern Maulvi. I teach Quran and other religious books to my son and daughter at home but do not want to deprive them of modern education." However. he did not care for the extension of this modern education to other sons and daughters of other Muslims in the State.

Every Friday, after noon prayers, he used to deliver 'khutba' - a discourse on current religious and political happenings. He used to breathe brimstone and fire in his discourses but the note in Urdu for the local Press used to be a diluted one, while the tone of the Press note in English, meant for the national wire agencies and the correspondents of national dailies, used to be further diluted in a bid to retain the soft attitude of the Government of India.

Even Qazi Nisar Ahmed of Anantnag in the Valley claims himself as the Mirwaiz of Southern Kashmir. This is an institution which started with Qazi Nisar. However, with the ascendency of the fundamentalist Muslim leadership of the Jamaat-i-Islami, the hold of Mirwaizs over the people is waning.

No wonder, Maulvi Mohammed Farooq was assassinated at the hands of Muslim fundamentalists who suspected his bona-fides.

Though a particular community and residents of a region cannot be generalised as far as the traits in their character are concerned, Kashmiris by and large, are fond of mongering gossip, exaggeration and sychophancy. A typical example of this trait is the river boat procession.

In 1945, when Jawaharlal Nehru along with Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad attended the session of the National Conference at Sapore at the invitation of Sheikh Abdullah, they were taken out in a river boat procession, traditional to Srinagar ceremonials. Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi had also accompanied the Congress leaders.

The colourful procession starts from upstream Jhelum, near the State Guest House. Hundreds of decorated 'shikaras' (Kashmiri boats) are collected for seating the chief guest and other accompanying leaders, forming into rows along and across the stream. The procession goes down the river through the many bridges en route. Standing on the banks of the river and from the windows of the houses, people lustily cheer and greet their guests. Huge 'doonga' boats and carrier boats are anchored midstream with decorative arches raised thereupon throughout the length of the river in the capital city. People are also arranged to shower flowers on the guests from the bridges.

Following the Sheikh-Indira Gandhi accord in 1975, which saw the return of Sheikh Abdullah to power, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India made a State visit to Srinagar. Accompanied by her two sons - Rajiv and Sanjay and their wives - she was treated to a traditional boat procession through the Jhelum river. Also giving them company were Sheikh Abdullah and Governor L. K. Jha, and their spouses. The gaudily-painted boat in which Indira Gandhi was seated, was propelled majestically by thirty-two red-turbaned oarsmen. The lined-up spectators shouted slogans praising her as a worthy daughter of Kashmir.

A similar welcome had earlier been given to Bulganin and Khrushchev - Soviet leaders - during their visit to Srinagar in 1955. Soon after the 1983 Assembly elections in which Dr. Farooq emerged victorious, a grand river boat procession meandered along the Jhelum in the summer capital city to mark the occasion.

Even Morarji Desai, who became the Prime Minister of India following the victory of the Janata Party in 1977 Lok Sabha elections, was enamoured by a welcome at the residence of Maulvi Mirwaiz Farooq, during his visit to the State in connection with the approaching Assembly elections. A good number of women sang welcome songs in his honour. One of the songs in Kashmiri said: "The Ghazi (victor) from Pakistan is welcome." It seems that none explained the meaning of the song to Desai who anyway did not believe in nonsense.

In tune with their typical character, Kashmiri leaders speak the same thing in three different manners. One is for the local audience where the Centre (Govt. of India) is the whipping boy for each and every ill afflicting the State. As soon as leaders cross the Banihal Pass to enter the Jammu region, the Centre-bashing becomes subtle while in New Delhi the same leaders do not lag behind each other in praising the Central and Congress leaders.

Commenting on the politics of deception and duplicity, Jagmohan said, "To the flaws that were inbuilt in the soft and permissive attitude were added the flaws inherent in the politics of duplicity and deception which became a characteristic feature of the Jammu & Kashmir scene. Around every basic principle, insincerely and inconsistency were woven. Whether it is the issue of secularism, autonomy or democracy, different postures could be adopted at different times or at different places by the same leader. Of Sheikh Abdullah, for instance, it was said that he could be 'a Communalist in Kashmir, a Communist in Jammu and a nationalist in New Delhi."

"Most of the Kashmiri politicians were adept in speaking with two voices. They could be secular as well as communal, democratic as well as dictatorial, accessionist as well as pro-Pakistan. The underlying motivation was not principles but power - power for the person and for the coterie around. If the Central leaders allowed the Kashmiri leaders to rule the State in whatever manner they liked, whether or not it was in the interest of the country as a whole or even in the interest of the State, they swore by principles of democracy, socialism and secularism, and accession to India was declared as final. If, on the other hand, any question was raised in regard to the exercise of authority, or any personal ambition was checked, accession became temporary and issues of autonomy, or identity and of the personality of Kashmir were raised, and communal feelings aroused."

Following leaders such as Sheikh Abdullah, who benefited by exploiting religion for political purposes, terrorist outfits, particularly those which were extension of the fundamentalist platforms, launched a crusade for veiling Muslim women in the Valley as early as June 1989. In a sense, it was the beginning of the current phase of terrorism in the Valley.

A call by the ' Hizb-i-Islami' - an underground fundamentalist oulfit of terrorists - to the Muslim womenfolk in the Valley to wear veils or face dire consequences achieved what a sustained spate of bomb blasts could not.

The women were asked to move about with their heads covered in accordance with the Islamic code. They were also forbidden from viewing televisions and going to cinema halls. They were forewarned that defiance of the 'Islamic code' would entail punishment. Simultaneously, Hindu women were asked to wear 'tika' on their foreheads to prove their identity.

Muslim women in rural areas of the Valley - constituting the major component of agricultural labour - do not have any tradition of 'purdah' which has also gradually disappeared in urban areas with the spread of education and liberalisation.

No wonder then that, even after three years of the first attempt to veil Muslim women by force, the movement has failed to register much progress. The acrimonious debate among the various terrorist outfits has surfaced in Srinagar newspapers. In a full page paid advertisement in Srinagar papers on June 27, 1992, the Dukhtaran-i-Millat (a banned fundamentalist women terrorist outfit) asked Kashmiri Muslim women to observe the Islamic code of conduct. Muslim women were asked to (1) Use Makina (an Iranian dress) to cover their heads and bodies; (2) Abstain strictly from plucking eyebrows; (3) Not to use any make-up on their faces; (4) Not to use nail polish and (5) Not to exhibit any ornament or jewellery. The same day, Afaq - another Srinagar newspaper - carried a statement, issued by the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, which stated: "It extended its support to the movement of purdah only to the motivational extent. There should be no compulsion or coercion in it, as Allah Tigers, Dukhtaran-i-Millat or any other militant organisation do not enjoy the right of imposing Islam, but can only motivate people towards Islam. We believe that as women are advised to use the Islamic dress laid down by Sharia, men, too, should be motivated to use such a dress. Brashness or immodesty is not only one way traffic. It would look odd that women would be in 'burqa' and men going round in western dress."

A day earlier, Srinagar Times had carried a statement, purported to be from the Islami Jamait-i-Tulba, which held that the purdah movement for women was going beyond the limits prescribed under Islam. Some unscrupulous young men bereft of Islamic ways of life have sneaked into the ranks of the movement. In its issue of June 27, 1992, Srinagar Times carried a news item which stated that the Students United Front has said that some militants are trying to violate the sanctity of the university after throwing colour on some girl students to force them to use ' burqa' within the university campus. Some girl students fainted due to the humiliation heaped upon them. The Union warned that gun-totters would not be allowed to interfere in the internal affairs of the university, and in case they threaten any student on the campus, their guns would be snatched to be handed over to their mentors.

However, after two days, Srinagar Times carried another statement of the Al-Umar Mujahideen which stated: "Kashmir University female students are found on the campus bare-headed and without a 'burqa'. The university is a citadel of knowledge, and by observing the rules of Islamic Sharia in the university, these girls can set an example for the rest of the girls living in society . . . We do not stand for coercion in the matter of 'Din' (faith). However, it is our duty to motivate Muslims towards faith. In order to set right a society which has been spoilt by the Government, we will not hesitate to apply pressure."

Kashmiri Muslims have reacted differently at different times and that too en-masse. Their alienation from one leader or the other has always been total but periodic. They expressed their hostility to Jinnah, the mentor of the two-nation theory in the late forties when the 'Qaaid-i- Azam' was greeted with pants down by them. They displayed their alienation with the Sheikh in 1953 and joined the Bakshi's bandwagon when he later replaced the former as the Chief Minister of Kashmir.

Sheikh Abdullah was arrested on August 9,1953 at Gulmarg. He had earlier been dismissed as the Chief Minister of J&K State by Dr. Karan Singh, the then Sadr-i-Riyasat. He was succeeded by his deputy Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed. The news of his dismissal and subsequent arrest spread like wild fire and the entire Muslim population of the Valley was out on the streets, defying prohibitory orders including curfew, to lodge protest against the 'unceremonious removal of the Sheikh'.

The successor of the Sheikh was not able to move out of his heavily guarded official residence at Maulana Abdul Kalam Road. He was aware that Kashmiri Muslims were despising him in the wake of new political developments but he also understood the psyche of Kashmiris. He maintained his cool and bided his time in the fond expectations of a miracle. His hopes were not belied. Barely after six days, on August 15, India's Independence Day, only three neighbours of Bakshi ventured to take out a pro-Bakshi and pro-New Delhi procession from Safa Kadal, a downtown locality where Bakshi had his ancestral house. They started proceeding towards the official residence of Bakshi. More and more people joined the procession en route and by the time it reached Polo Ground, it was a few thousands strong. The slogans, raised by the processionists, could be heard from quite a distance, sending shivers down the spine of the security guards of Bakshi.

They along with the family members and the staff of Bakshi could not believe their ears when they heard pro-Bakshi and pro-India slogans as the slogans became audible with processionists advancing towards their destination - Bakshi's residence. Looking from behind the window-panes of his sitting room on the first floor, Bakshi recognised his neighbours and supporters in the vanguard of the procession. He lost no time in opening the window. He waved at the processionists and gesticulated them to come inside his fortified residence. The people gate- crashed into the house, notwithstanding the protest of the security staff and celebrated independence Day. This development was only the beginning.

Within the next one year or two, Kashmiri Muslims seemed to have forgotten their hero - the Sheikh. When Bulganin and Khrushchev, the Soviet leaders, visited Srinagar in December 1955, newsmen, particularly from the western countries could not believe their eyes when they saw the entire population of Kashmir flocking to welcome the visiting leaders, braving the cold wind for hours together. Newsmen were amazed to see Kashmiri Muslims missing their Friday prayers to greet the proclaimed atheists.

In January, 1958, the Government of India decided to release the Sheikh from the Special Jail at Kud on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway (Banihal Cart Road). Once again the element of surprise was in store for national and international newsmen who flew to cover the event. A sea of humanity turned out on the roads to welcome the Sheikh and that too once again braving the bitter mid-winter cold. Newsmen were convinced that the Sheikh was the only leader in the Valley and what they had seen during the last few years was only an aberration.

The Sheikh was soon re-arrested for his indiscretion. Within a few days of the re-arrest of the Sheikh, Bakshi undertook an extensive tour of the countryside in the Valley. The ever-enthusiastic Kashmiri crowds were on roadsides to sing folklores, amended suitably to praise Bakshi. The hectic tour programme culminated at Lal Chowk, Srinagar, where Bakshi addressed a big rally. The Sheikh, before his re-arrest, had also addressed another rally at the same place. The gathering at Bakshi's rally was not less impressive (if not more) than the Sheikh. Newsmen were once again in a predicament as they had written off Bakshi as the mass leader only a few days ago.

At a Press conference, addressed by Bakshi, a foreign newsman shot a straight question, "Mr. Bakshi, how many people are with you?" Without batting an eyelid, Bakshi replied, "Forty lakhs." The newsman retorted, "But that is the total population of the State." "Yes, I know," said Bakshi. "Do you mean that the Sheikh does not have any following at all in the State?" asked the newsman. "No, I did not say so," was the cool reply from Bakshi who added, "Sheikh sahib commands a following of forty lakhs." "But how?" the newsman threw up his arms. Eruditely, Bakshi calmed the newsman down and said, "Even Sadiq sahib has a following of forty lakhs." G. M. Sadiq had deserted Bakshi and the National Conference to form the Democratic National Conference, another political party, some time ago and was attracting impressive crowds during his public meetings.) The newsman was at a loss to understard this jugglery of figures and his confusion was worse confounded. He was not aware of the trait in the character of the Kashmiri who does not believe in annoying anyone, particularly those who are in power or are in waiting. The same population turned against Bakshi during the Moe-i-Muqaddas crisis which erupted in Srinagar on December 27, 1963.

The 'alienation' is a myth concocted by the media and pseudo- secularists. Such myths were also coined earlier with different nomenclatures such as 'liberalization process' during the reign of G. M. Sadiq was more or less equated with alienation.

Similar is the case with newsmen and columnists who talk about the total alienation of Kashmiri muslims. While the visiting newsmen, often guided by local correspondents and sympathetic 'human rights' activists get the picture of total alienation of the population from the government and the state terrorism, the politicians in power are invariably told by the people that the residents in the Valley have been caught between the deep sea and the devil. They allege on the one hand, they have to face the gun-wielding terrorists who roam scot-free while on the other hand, they have to face the ire of the security forces.

It is the story of Kashmir valley where the 'jehad' with mullas, as leaders in league with vested interests, continues to loom large over the secular traditions of India, maintained since the Independence of the country way back in 1947, notwithstanding threats to them from time to time by fissiparous tendencies. It is not realized by mullas in Kashmir and their mentors that if Jammu & Kashmir State (the only state in India with Muslim majority population) opts out of India, the Hindu chauvinistic forces in the rest of India would get an impetus and secular traditions would be endangered.

Crescent over Kashmir



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World Kashmiri Pandit Conference 1993 Panun Kashmir
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