A dirge for Kashmiriyat

By K.N. Pandita

In a commentary on-ground situation in Kashmir relayed from Radio Kashmir on 25 November after evening Urdu news, a litany of veiled accusations against the government and diabolic comments on the ground situation in Kashmir was broadcast. Earlier, the newscast as usual, used most of the time in accusing the administration of many hardships and deprivations caused to the people by imposing strict preventive measures after August 5 but without saying a word or a hit to the necessity and compulsion of the government taking a decision like that. A radio station is primarily expected to take up the task of educating the people. A regular listener well-acquainted with the entire history of Kashmir militancy and also the background of amending Article 370/35-A will say that the freedom of speech is grossly abused because same criticism, same accusations, same shortcomings and same castigating is broadcast with meticulous regularity. The news usually begins with the dirge that “it is the umpteenth day of abnormality in Kashmir, shops are closed, public traffic is off etc. etc.” This squarely contradicts the statements of the Home Minister in and outside the parliament and that of the Lt. Governor that there is normalcy in Kashmir. Why the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is not taking notice of this paradox remains a mystery.

If it is thought advisable to allow the government institution to publicly indulge in self-criticism, then care has to be taken that no scope is left for giving rise to contradiction and confusion. If the purpose is to give the impression that the government would not like interfere in the unbridled freedom of the media, then it becomes incumbent upon the government to unravel and bring to the public domain the confidentialities of Kashmir policy post-August 5 decision of the parliament? It is also unavoidable to tell why a large number of Kashmir leaders and political activists were to be put under house arrest? Why mobile and net services were to be disconnected and why the normal activity of life had to be suspended? Almost everybody knows the answer to these questions but that is not the point. The point is that the government has to formally and through same public media justify its actions through which it so liberally allows criticism of its policies.

Close monitoring of Radio Kashmir Urdu section will bring many surprising revelations to light. One is surprised how history “yeh and culture are subtly subverted with the intention of fixing the seal of legitimacy on illegal distortions. The Urdu news bulletin invariably begins with “ Yeh All? India Radio Srinagar hai” which is grossly incorrect and unusually the only radio station in the country which has replaced the formal nomenclature of “yeh Akashvani ka, Srinagar Kendra, hai.” Why this dichotomy and what problem has the Director Akashwani, Srinagar in directing the newscasters to use the correct format?

In its news bulletins, the place names are changed for no reason. Hari Parbat is replaced with Koh-i-Maran knowing full well that Hari Parbat has a history behind it and Kohi-i-Maran has nothing behind it except the fancy to distort ancient nomenclatures. Similarly, Shankaracharya hillock is called Koh-i-Suleyman. What is the sense in changing the traditional name?

The entire hillock is clearly mentioned in Rajaratarangini as Gopadari hills, from which has been derived Gupkar. Wherefrom does Suleyman suddenly appear on the scene? Suleyman is an imaginary and mythical figure with so many legends attributed to the name in Islamic social history. Poets and antiquarians in Iran have given the sobriquet of Mulk-i-Suleyman and Takhtgah-i-Suleyman to the famous southern city of Shiraz. But Iranians never changed the name of Shiraz with Mulk-i-Suleyman. Why should Akashwani, a government institution allow a historically established nomenclature of a place or site to be changed with a fictitious and mythical name only to cheer up the fancy of a few people in Srinagar station? What kind of fascination is this?

Hundreds of names of villages in Kashmir have been changed ever since the popular government came to power seven decades and three ago. Anantnag is invariably called Islamabad. More than 300 villages were renamed during the stints of Sheikh Abdullah. During the one hundred years of Dogra rule over the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir, not a single place name was changed. They were the ‘autocrats’ so to say. But after the state was wrested from the hands of the Dogras in October 1947, it was passed on to a covetous autocratic Sultan on a platter with no holds barred. Islamization began with the change of place names in Kashmir. This is the contribution of Indian secularism to Kashmir’s social history.

This brings us to another aspect of the discussion. Replacing the ancient and well-recorded place names with a distinct history with new names of Islamic orientation is what Kashmir intellectuals call Kashmiriyat. In other words, what was Kashmir in the pre-Islamic period was not Kashmiriyat and the Kashmiriyat came only with the advent of Islam. Hence to give Kashmiriyat popular acceptance it has become a fashion to change the place names into Islam-oriented names in the name of Kashmiriyat. Therefore, put in simple words Kashmiriyat is the soft face of Islamism and that begins from the date when Islamic rule replaced Hindu rule in Kashmir in 1339 A.D.
We appeal to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry of the NDA government to spare daubing Kashmir with the alchemy of Kashmiriyat. We have had enough of it during the long rule of Congress and NC. Kashmir’s political stalwarts, prominent public functionaries and sections of the intelligentsia have now, at the end of the day, taken the Kashmiriyat to mask off their faces and revealed their imposing and impressive visage of communal proclivities.

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