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    Exploring the history of Kashmir



    BY PROFESSOR RATTAN 

    LAL HANGLOO

     Exploring the history of Kashmir

    The scholars have studied social, economic, political, technological, environmental, literary and folk aspects of life in Kashmir

    The book titled Kashmir Past and Present puts forward the 

    novel idea how a few bud-ding intellectuals pooled 

    their ideas, intelligence and hard work under the guidance and academic leadership of their senior colleague Professor Mohammad Yusuf Ganai, and became a catalyst for moulding the nature of conduct-ing research in Kashmir’s history. 


    The edited book has 15 chapters by reputed and budding scholars and examines many aspects of Kashmir’s regional history and in the process, diligently explored extensive caches of the diverse early and contempo-rary sources. 

    The result is this cohe-sively articulated volume. Through various sections and subsections, these scholars have studied social, economic, political, technological, environmental, literary and folk aspects and very prominent issues pertaining to religious life, litera-ture, popular culture, religion and village life in Kashmir.

    The tone of this edited book is grasped by the very introduction which demonstrates its quality by articulating varied theoretical per-spectives, and connects the same to the study of the Kashmir region. 

    The timing of this volume is also of great importance. We are living in a time when Kashmir has been badly trampled by political ramifi cations that are no less than an ongoing war, where individual freedom has been overrun by variety of brutalities. 

    In such circumstances, the expression of this volume is a signifi cant exten-sion of our horizons beyond the ques-tions of personality, of confl ict, and of religious division—which loom so large on the region and beyond. 

    Importantly, this book is an eye opener for our region’s intellectual community, policy makers and intel-ligentsia. Professor Ganai’s work is subtle in bringing a more convincing relief for the region’s academics, public, and for the sense of region’s cul-ture. 

    In the introduction, he states, “Being linked with the neighbouring regions, it is distinct from them, with at least a segment of its resident’s conscious of belonging to the region and articulating this consciousness.” 


    Avoiding setting the discussion into any particular political mould, Professor Ganai has marshalled an impressive array of examples, with classifi ed evidence and allowed it to speak for itself in all its complexity. 


    According to Professor Ganai, “A rounded study of region required an interdisciplinary approach, taking note of the peculiarities of its his-torical experience, complexities of life in various sub regions and plu-rality of the regional culture.” 

    He is content to endorse that when people are powerless legally or peaceably to remove their hurdles in restoring regions identity, they can also try to improve their lot by strengthening 

    their intellectual moorings till other alternatives open up.

    The fi rst chapter of the book is titled ‘Regional Manifestation of Kushan Rule in Kashmir’, and is written by Dr. A. R. Lone. The central question that Dr Lone poses regard-ing the necessity of exploring Kushan history is an important one that needs to be grappled by scholars in future too, i.e., “within the corpus of literature available on socio-cultural and political history of the empire, some regions are over emphasized while others (such as Kashmir) are sparsely represented”. It would be useful to know, about the exact con-tribution of Kushans in facilitating the relationships between various communities, their social, cultural religious and political life. From his essay, it should be deduced that this is immensely stimulating, founded in extensive bedrock of documentary and archaeological sources. Histori-ans concerned with ancient past of India and Kashmir owe a consider-able debt to Dr lone for this substan-tial and scholarly contribution.


    Elegantly written and presented in typically modest fashion, is the essay on ‘Natural History of Kash-mir: Mughal Tryst with Regions Fauna (1586-1925)’ by Dr. Mehraj-u-din. It deserves to be widely read. Dr. Mehraj-u-din states, “What is more creditable about these royal natural-ists (Mughals) is that they do not rely on mere hearsay, but make a clear distinction in their writings between personal observations and what has been reported to them by others” It would be mistake to regard this essay simply as Mughal History. Dr. 

    Mehraj-u-din has thoroughly exam-ined the subject and his work is more solid than inspired and is bound to be descriptive rather than analytical. This is a novel contribution to the study of natural history.


    ‘Masnavi Tradition in Kashmir’ by Dr. Sajad Ahmad Darzi, will cer-tainly encourage number of further studies. This concisely written and well produced essay will always be regarded as pioneering and indis-pensable research into this fi eld of literature. Dr. Darzi explains, “it is erroneous to think that Kashmiri poets totally subscribed to literary tradition that was followed by the col-laborative poets of tyrannous rule”. 


    This description is admirable and engaging. Certainly those pursuing research into this aspect will fi nd this essay of considerable value. 

    ‘Beyond the Fine Texture of Silk: The Development of Industry and its Labour’ by Dr. Shiraz Ahmad Dar is a detailed essay. It throws light on the predicament of Kashmir’s silk indus-try and its linkages with the region’s economy. The study is obviously helpful to economic historians too. It would be unfair and unrealistic to expect the author to have answered every question; inquiries underway will doubtlessly elucidate several of 

    them including the essential aspect of the deplorable conditions of work-ers. Dr. Dar explains, “The Srinagar silk factory also remained closed for two to three months in a year for which no wages were given to work-

    ers’’. 

    His distinguished presentation in this essay is evidence of author’s mastery of the subject.Dr. Abdul Waheed Bhat’s essay on ‘Rice Cultivation in Kashmir’ presents many useful insights. The technical detail is of high density but it does not obstruct the fl ow of text which is skilfully constructed to combine narrative description interlinked in variety of ways. Dr. Bhat explains, “Rice related agri-cultural activities are so connected & contemporaneous that one feels handicapped to draw a clear cut line between one activity and the other”. The analysis of all aspects is sup-ported by well designed arguments. Dr Bhat’s enthusiasm for history of technology seems to be considerable. To be fair, this study does represent a serious attempt to explain the pat-tern of cultivation. It is a brilliantly structured study with rare original-ity and often interesting, informative and occasionally stimulating analy-sis. 

    It is a combination of scholarship and imaginative interpretation from wholly a new perspective.The chapter on ‘Colonialism and Political Restructuring in India: 


    Punjab Crises and the Making of Jammu and Kashmir State’ is writ-ten by Dr. Sadaf Sanaullah and Dr. Javed ul Aziz. It provides much needed dossier on the history of evo-lution of modern Jammu and Kash-mir State. Importantly, the scholars have successfully blended a fascinat-ing variety of opinions, and causes, and analyzed them in relation to his basic theme, demonstrating along the way both substantial research and imaginative use of disparate materials. They explain, “It was also expected that the state of Jammu and Kashmir, along with what remained of Sikh kingdom, would act as a bul-wark against the Afghans prevent-ing them to extend their infl uence beyond Indus.’’ 

    At a time of increased public interest and apathy of gov-ernment to address it only through disproportionate coercion, the essay offers invaluable material on the subject and does succeed in varying measure in providing illumination. Both the scholars have intelligent grasp of this period and have build their narrative critically with a new source base.


    ‘Villages in Kashmir History: A Case Study of Audsoo (1846-2018)’ is written by Professor M. Y. Ganai himself. It is a clear and well docu-mented essay on a bewilderingly complex and profound social issue. 


    There is much in the study of history of this village including their plight as represented here to appeal to pro-fessional historians. He explains, “It was owing to extreme poverty in vil-lages that the villagers used to have seasonal migrations to the plains of punjab in search of livelihood”. 

    It is an important exercise in new cul-tural and social history of Kashmir, rendered for the fi rst time in region’s history by any intellectual. Concise, fresh and lucid, Professor Ganai’s essay adds weight to the aspirations of scholars who have great appetite for new emerging ideas in Kashmir and outside. His brilliant pattern, and the organization of this village study, has implications that go far beyond the history of Kashmir. The presentation of ‘Agenda of Reform in Muslim Community: Secu-lar and Sacred Education in Kashmir’ by Dr. Younis Rashid and Dr. Javed Ahmad Dar is based on meticulous and diffi cult research. It is both rich in detail and comprehensive in scope. 


    It provides answers to several highly important questions being debated in Muslim society today. “They attempt to evaluate the present by negotiating with past through their ideological moorings.” Without strikingly contra-dicting the opinions of scholars who worked in this fi eld, such as Moham-mad Yusuf Abbas, Abdul Fida Felahi, S.A.A Maududi and others, the essay establishes its fundamental impor-

    tance and is a subtle contribution. 

    The analysis provides much clear 

    view than some of the previous works 

    on the subject.

    It is gratifying to know that in 

    Kashmir’s history-writing, the genre 

    of poetry is given its space by Ms. 

    Zameerah in her chapter on ‘Progres-

    sive Poetry and Freedom Struggle 

    in Kashmir’. Ms. Zameerah’s contri-

    bution is unique because it pertains 

    to an important aspect that has fol-

    lowed a serious neglect in Kashmir’s 

    history writing. Inspite of the intro-

    ductory nature of this theme, there is 

    much to recommend that this essay 

    is a great scholarly achievement. It 

    demonstrates that Zameerah’s learn-

    ing is immense and her knowledge 

    of literature on freedom struggle is 

    huge which is commensurate with 

    the herculean efforts she has made 

    to relate both the aspects of poetry 

    and freedom struggle. She explains, 

    “For the better appreciation and re-

    enactment of past, the symphony of 

    history and poetry must go together. 

    However, the poetic assertions must 

    be corroborated by privileged sourc-

    es of history”. It makes a signifi cant 

    contribution to history of freedom 

    struggle and is a real asset that will 

    be as a useful supplement to other 

    works in the fi eld.

    ‘Exploring the Role of Hamdard: 

    A Study of its Agenda and Working 

    (1935-1947)’ by Dr. M. Ibrahim Wani, 

    has extended our general under-

    standing and highlighted the need 

    for research in such areas. Dr Ibra-

    him has drawn much evidence by 

    monitoring the real contents of this 

    newspaper rather than depending on 

    the bland and less immediate views 

    expressed by writers about the paper. 

    He explains, “The newspaper (Ham-

    dard) not only dealt with the local, 

    national and international politics 

    but was also focussed on issues con-

    nected to public welfare, economic 

    emancipation and cultural prog-

    ress”. This in itself is a substantial 

    contribution and provides a wealth 

    of detail after cautious scrutiny. This 

    interesting study deserves serious 

    attention.

    ‘History, Memory and Protest: 

    Debating Nationalism in Kashmir’ 

    by Dr. Farukh Faheem is a fascinat-

    ing essay with wealth of detail. His 

    arguments are convincing. To quote 

    from the chapter, “We want to join 

    India without any kind of mental 

    reservations, but how can we do 

    it as long as we are not convinced 

    about the complete elimination of 

    communalism in India”. What is 

    remarkable in this essay is the way 

    the author has tried to introduce the 

    concept of nationalism in historical 

    context of Kashmir by helping to set 

    the framework within which discus-

    sions will take place in future too. He 

    has indeed accomplished a consider-

    able task, despite the limitations of 

    his sources.

    The chapter on ‘Mapping Mah-

    joor’s Desire for New’ by Dr. Aamir 

    Sadiq reassures us to fi nd that sig-

    nifi cant contribution of the great 

    poet has everlasting fragrance of his-

    tory. It is a welcome addition to his-

    tory and literature written with cool 

    lucidity and contains much that will 

    repay the study of attentive scholars. 

    Therefore, this conjunctional factor 

    - disillusionment with the long time 

    dominant mode of mysticism and 

    metaphysics and disillusionment 

    with the decades old hegemony and 

    colonial suppression of Kashmir - saw 

    new literary spaces and movements 

    emerging. Mahjoor was undoubtedly 

    a leading light of this new literary 

    site. Dr. Aamir Sadiq has done exten-

    sive research and well utilized the 

    sources for reconstructing his major 

    points. It is a brilliant essay about 

    ideas and a history of people’s lives 

    in early 20th century and how these 

    were laudably infl uenced by the new 

    social and economic developments. 

    He explains, “It was only under the 

    influence of progressive thought 

    that many leading writers, including 

    Mahjoor switched over from Urdu to 

    Kashmiri for forceful articulation of 

    feelings and expression”. The major 

    strength of this essay is its exhaustive 

    and detailed research as a historian 

    that gives the reader a comprehensive 

    understanding without interrupting 

    fl ow of his discussion.

    Professor Majrooh Rashid’s chap-

    ter ‘Changing Colours of Kashmiri 

    Culture’ gives a highly readable 

    account of Kashmiri culture. The 

    author seems to opt for a view that 

    tends to see the Kashmiri culture 

    as a primary force in the regions 

    multi-cultural life. He explains, “Our 

    concept of charity and oblation are 

    almost the same as they have been 

    in our recent and ancient past. The 

    impact of the indigenous ways of 

    thinking, with regard to God and 

    his worship is quite visible in our 

    religious practices. The religious 

    psyche of Kashmiri Hindus and 

    Kashmiri Muslims are in tune with 

    each other’’. Effective organiza-

    tion, coherent treatment of sources 

    and elegant formulation of analysis 

    are the attractive qualities of this 

    essay. The essay has successfully 

    achieved its purpose for generating 

    wider interest of scholars. Professor 

    Rashid, a senior academic, has effec-

    tively created an agenda for further 

    research. It is an essay of consider-

    able merit.

    The chapter on ‘Historicism and 

    Wisdom in Kashmiri Folk Sayings’ 

    by Mr. Mohsin, emerges to grow in 

    stature both in history of folk culture 

    and history of events. The reading of 

    this essay will be rewarding for all 

    those historians who want to gain 

    knowledge about the critical condi-

    tions in which this aspect of Kash-

    mir’s folk culture grew. Mr. Mohsin 

    explains, “it was the spirit of live and 

    let live that made the rural society 

    survive.” By any standard, this is an 

    exciting essay which would claim an 

    appropriate place in historical litera-

    ture, when pursued further. All the 

    sources are very elaborately exam-

    ined with authentic detail, and are 

    more faithful to the text in lending 

    credence to the arguments. 

    The chapter on ‘Marriage Pay-

    ments among Shia Muslims in 

    Kashmir: Continuity and Change’ 

    is written by Dr. Humaira Showkat. 

    She has good deal to say about this 

    sect of Muslim society, and explains, 

    “Marriage customs among Muslims 

    in general and Shias in particular 

    are directly or indirectly linked 

    with traits of old culture, which has 

    become a part of cultural heritage, 

    an important dimension of social 

    structure and an inseparable aspect 

    of social life.” It makes illuminat-

    ing connections between the events 

    described and the society in which 

    they take place. Though differing 

    slightly in historical approach, it 

    is certainly a valuable presentation 

    because the entire description is 

    vivid, authoritative and insightful. 

    The description is successful on its 

    own terms and the author has suc-

    ceeded admirably in meeting the 

    objectives of useful surveys of schol-

    arship in socio- religious history.

    It is diffi cult to assess this volume 

    as a whole and to deal fairly and ade-

    quately with a work of this kind in 

    a brief review or to list all authors 

    of fi fteen contributions including 

    introduction elaborately. Clearly, 

    the aim of this volume is to provide 

    information and to provoke discus-

    sion. They essays presented are 

    balanced in length, presentation 

    and coverage. The structure of the 

    study reveals that the treatment is 

    not symmetrical but some major 

    themes emerge and recur. A couple 

    of papers are little more relevant in 

    substance than methodology. The 

    volume would have been strength-

    ened by an extensive bibliography 

    for usefulness of readers, although 

    this lacuna does not tend to obscure 

    the variety of its merits. However, 

    these points should not be seen to 

    detract from excellent work. Per-

    haps, the most important question 

    that arises relates to the nature of 

    results achieved. The volume clear-

    ly illustrates that research of high 

    quality is being done on topics which 

    happen geographically to fall within 

    the territorial limits of Kashmir. 

    What has emerged from this meet-

    ing of minds is that there are many 

    areas in Kashmir’s history that need 

    our attention even if we have to con-

    stantly revise and revisit our views.

    By and large, this monumental 

    study is rich in sources, deep in 

    detail, and exhaustive in scope. It 

    is a regional history built on layer 

    upon layer of micro and macro study 

    observations of scores of brewing 

    ideas that can take Kashmir’s thirst 

    for new academics forward. It is a 

    sound monograph and a painstak-

    ing investigation. The most striking 

    feature of this work is how persis-

    tent its historical pattern has been in 

    addressing the issues that take place 

    in serious history writing in particu-

    lar, and social science research in 

    general.

    (R Rattan Lal Hangloo is Former Vice Chancellor, University of Kalyani and University of Allahabad. Before this, he was a Professor (History) at Hyderabad Central University. 

    He is originally from Hangalgund, Kokernag, Kashmir. At present, he is Honorary 

    Chancellor, Nobel International University, 

    Toronto, Canada.)

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