Don’t distort Kashmir history

K.N. Pandita

Ali Shah Geelani, the pro-Pak Kashmiri hardliner’s recent (April 23. 2007) assertion in a public rally in Srinagar that Shaykhu’l-Alam Nooru’d-Din Noorani (Nund Rishi) was not a saint/rishi but a zealous Islamic missionary of early 14th century who propagated orthodox Islam has decimated the myth of Kashmir being an example of religious tolerance and harmony. It also repudiates the belief that there was any synthesizing movement in Kashmir after the advent of Islam in A.D. 1339

Earlier also, some well-informed scholars have presented the same views based on historical evidence. They have strongly questioned the fecundity of Kashmiriyat, which now very rightly appears a manipulated but too hollow a slogan. Those deliberately distorting mediaeval Kashmir history are serving their political interests. By secularising the “Rishis” and Sufis arbitrarily, they want to dilute the bigotry and religious zeal with which the early Islamic missionaries and their local followers propagated faith in Kashmir and forced conversion on the Hindus.

Lending unqualified support to a fallacy like the one exposed by Geelani, the so – called Indian idealists tried to derive political mileage out of it by presenting Kashmir as the model of Indian secularism. In doing so they severely put to peril the security and safety of the minuscule religious minority of the Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits). The events of 1990 have amply proved it.

Scholars with access to the Persian histories of mediaeval Kashmir, have no confusion whatsoever in regard to the absence of secularist propensities among the Kashmiri majority community. Geelani has made a true presentation of historical fact.

The Rishi Nameh, a versified biographical account of the prominent “rishis” of Kashmir authored by one Bahaud-Din Matto around the first quarter of the 19th century and published by the J&K Cultural Academy (official organ of J&K Government) some years ago, gives a graphic description of forced conversion of Hindu priests at the hands of the mendicants including Shaykhu’l-Alam Nooru’d-din Noorani in the case of the Bomzov temple near Mattan. The high priest of the temple named Bhima Swami was given the name of Bamu’d-Din after Nooru’d-Din converted him to Islam, says Bahau’d =Din Mattu the biographer of the Shaykh.

For too long the true history of Kashmir has been distorted in order to serve narrow and shortsighted purpose of some segments that aspire for political power and ascendancy. Geelani has exploded the myth and politicians dealing with Kashmir at home and abroad ought to take a very serious note of this reality. It has not to be taken as a conflicting point between the radical Islamists and the followers of rishi/sufi cult in Kashmir. It is a matter of history and historical truth. This also explains the right decision of the small Pandit minority to leave Kashmir under the threat of militancy in January 1990 when the elected state government threw down the towel and ran away into hiding.

Geelani’s statement will have come a rude shock to those who benefited from orchestrating the feigned secularist tendency of Kashmiri Islam. In fact Geelani has done a great service to the philosophy of history by calling the spade by its proper name. One can imagine the harassment his statement has cussed to the pseudo-secularists in our country.

There are other fallacies crept into mediaeval Kashmir history like the one to which Geelani has alluded and these also need to be corrected. Honest historians have a moral responsibility to rise to the occasion. (The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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