History is a science, of not only knowing the past but also man’s extreme urge in deciphering and creating his identity as per the contemporary times. It is not restricted to being a narration of a broken chain of events only, but history is a process, which creates narratives. Narratives, which tell and retell, why a particular people, are on a certain course of action or struggle.
The history of Kashmir starts with a mythological account presented to us by a series of hymns called the Nilamatapurana, the effects of the remnants of which are even found in the work of Sub-continent’s first chronicler, a Kashmiri pandit named Kalhana. Kalhan’s Rajtarangini becomes the base of historiography about Kashmir, the account which could not escape mythological leanings.
The written record of Kashmir’s history starts with the Hindu period, then proceeds to a great tussle between Buddhism and Hinduism, in which Hinduism appears to dominate in the latter half of antiquity. Then we have the influx and emergence of Islam in the valley from Central Asian corridors which changed the strategic and geo-political landscape of Kashmir altogether.
The Kashmiri historical narrative remains to be a confused and weak narrative as it’s a mixture of many intricate complexities and narrations which do not match and hence fail to form a chain of the historical process. Most recent writers of Kashmir follow a line drawn in a hurry to make us realize our great past and hence try to make and unmake things towards a wrong trajectory, where the Buddhist conference held in Kashmir is made an event of honor and historical greatness for Kashmiris and at the same time, the efforts and work of Shah-e-Hamdan (RA) are also thrown in the same line, without mentioning the vast ideological and thoughtful incompatibility between the two events. The practice of deriving instances from Hindu, Buddhist and other periods which do not suit the current realities and search for identities, demarcates the very idea of Kashmiriyat.
Kashmiris are yet to see a local indigenous reign of their own, as the first recorded king who ruled Kashmir named Gonanda 1 is not established to be an indigenous ruler. After him, till the Dogras took Kashmir, all the kingdoms and empires were the work of foreigners whether with the sword or political gimmicking.
Picking up heroes and events from any period of the history of Kashmir and placing them wherever desired has become a practice of many so-called historians. Ironically, just to install misfits in order to create a narrative, the main purpose of whose adventures, struggles or actions and the results henceforth are not even mentioned or given a wrong direction. For example, Sultan Shahmir, a man of Afghan origin, who came from Swat and his dynastic rule, is made an indigenous dynasty, while Afghans who added Kashmir to the Durrani Empire are said to be invaders and foreigners. In the same narrative, Chaks of Turkish origin are made to be indigenous, and Mughals of the Turkish – Mongolian descent are termed foreign invaders and looters, even if Chaks persecuted Kashmiris and enforced their school of thought by the dint of sword. In that case, while at one instance Sheikh Humza Makhdoom (RA), is bestowed with the title of being the kingmaker of Kashmir, on the other hand, his invitation to Akbar to fight the Chaks and end their reign is not discussed or termed as an invasion.
Attempts as such are replete with more instances like trying to make Robert Thorpe as the first martyr of Kashmiri resistance against the Dogras, not mentioning that Thorpe’s loyalty was to the British who sent him on a diplomatic mission to Kashmir in the shape of a fact-finding mission to frame reports of misgovernance against the Dogra Maharaja so that the there was a pretext for the British to directly interfere in Kashmir.
‘Robert Thorpe did not provide detailed accounts of the misgovernance in Kashmir because he was worried about Kashmiris, but for providing a justification for the British to Intervene. The book titled ‘cashmere mis-governance’ was a product of his commitment to the expansion of the British Empire. He wanted them to take control of the state directly’, writes Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a professor, and political analyst.
Dr. Sheikh further adds that’ there have been attempts of the portrayal of Robert Thorpe as a martyr of Kashmir, in spite of the fact that his death remains a mystery and his loyalties were to none other than British imperialism.’
Distorting history, and creating narratives like such, which are confused and not well researched, fire up just confusion and frustration among most of the people, as everybody is not a student or scholar of history and hence people are misled to believe in something that was not there. It must be well realized that history is merciless to both its readers and its creators, on one instance it teaches us to realize past greatness based on realistic approaches and on the other it teaches us that mere emotional whining leads people nowhere, but just to weakness and dissolution into bigger power structures.
History judges a people by their performance, and hence narratives emerge, not by quoting singled out and particular events. The people who stand the test of time and become dynamic can only reinterpret their historical narratives and create identities. The people who try to escape from the reality of their failures by attributing the cause to others stand stagnant and are hence in danger of perishing. We Kashmiris are yet to create our own proper historical narrative, which is factual and could be reinterpreted suiting the contemporary times.
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Author is an independent researcher, journalist from Kashmir and is currently Senior Editor at Qatar University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org