(By Abdul Majid Zargar)
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic (Jhon Kennedy). A myth is a story that survives till it is debunked & during the period of its currency it is more portent & powerful than history. Myth is what we call other people’s religion and like a war, very easy to start but difficult to bring to an end. It is this difficult job which author Khalid Bashir has accomplished through his book ‘Kashmir-Exposing the myths behind the narratives’.
When a myth busting book hits stands, questions & doubts are often raised about the intentions, tools & methodology used by the author to contest well established myths in the form of stories & legends as both the manufactures & consumers of such myths are not ready to accept the new but factual positions. In such circumstances, the author is put to extra challenges of acceptability & criticism (often by those who haven’t even read the book) especially at initial stages . Khalid Bashir has been no exception to this initial tirade. The last time a worthwhile myth busting book was published was 2015 when Catherine A. Epstein’s book ‘Nazi Germany: Confronting the Myths’ was published. It faced the same response but ultimately held the ground and today, after a span of less than three years is regarded as a master piece on the subject.
In the Indian subcontinent, Brahaman Hindu Historians , have unfortunately entwined religion & history, producing what one may call a mytho-history based on Sanskrit textual sources. Over a period of time, it has been corrupted and falsified to such an extent, particularly after partition that one particular narrative has gained pre-eminence -that Hindus had once a glorious past which was destroyed by Muslim conquerors- . For such historians having their way, Taj Mahal, the masterpiece of Muslim architecture, built by Mughal emperor Shahjahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal is actually “Tejo Mahalay, a temple dedicated to Hindu deity Lord Shiva.(Hindu Historian P.N.Oak in his book Taj Mahal: The True Story). Similarly these historians would like us to believe that world’s largest minaret in Delhi, Qutab Minar was not built by Qutab din Aibek but rather, it was a Hindu structure known as Dhwaja Sthambha or Vishnu Sthambha. As famous British historian William Dalrymple notes, Hindu supremacists “have found it hard to believe that such a masterpiece was built by the same Muslims they despised”.
Khalid Bashir’s Kashmir: Exposing the Myth Behind the Narrative is an excellent book which puts various issues pertaining to kashmir’s history in proper perspective .It exposes a particular interest or class of interests behind various such issues. It is a common knowledge that post 1990, many new narratives have been created with a particular interest behind these. Since myths have necessarily to be created to give a currency to such narratives, the author exposes such myths with meticulous research, references & cross references. Be it the movement of kashmiris to obtain their political and economic rights during Dogra rule or the migration of Pandits in 1990,the author lays bare the facts to challenge the myths woven around these events to bring the truth & reality to surface.
Khalid’s book is divided in nine chapters. Each chapter is seductive & keeps the reader engrossed with the author’s systematic demolition of the myths & falsehoods created & promoted by biased writers & historians . One of the chapters of Khalid’s book ‘Malice’ revolves around myths of persecution by Muslim rulers woven by Kashmiri pundits since the time of advent of Islam. An instance is that of Sultan Sikander who has been branded as an intolerant tyrant king and an idol breaker (But shikan) by Pandit historians . The fact is that Sultan Sikandar was a benevolent & secular ruler who donated state land as endowment to many temples and installed idols in several of them. One of the instances is recorded in history, when he installed a Shiva lingam in Ganesh temple, popularly known as Ganpatyar Mandir, only half a kilometre away from the famous Lal Chowk. In 1990, Jagmohan the then Governor got the said murti shifted from the Ganpatyar Mandir to Zeshta Devi Mandir in the vicinity of Raj Bhawan after defacement of the important inscription in Pali language which had been documented by none else than famous researcher and former head of the Department of Central Asian Studies, University of Kashmir, GN Bhan, himself a Kashmiri Hindu.(Ajaz Mir-Poineer).Incidentally it may be mentioned that it was suh Bhat, a Kashmiri Pandit and Prime Minster during Sultan Sikander’s rule , who embraced Islam and did damage some temples to quell anger & rebellion within his own community.
One finds a stark similarity in this maligning game of Muslim rulers by Brahmin historians in India. Take for instance Mugal Emperor Aurangzeb. Of all the Muslim rulers who ruled vast territories of India from 712 to 1857 CE, probably no one has received as much condemnation from Brahmin writers as Aurangzeb who was, otherwise one of the pious, scholarly, liberal, tolerant & competent rulers of India . Fortunately, of late few Hindu writers have come out in the open to dispute these falsehoods & rectify the historical wrongs. But a major section of Indian Hindu society has become so intolerant that it didn’t spare even historically acknowledged the most secular Mogul emperor,’Akbar the Great’ whose name has been erased from the streets of Delhi recently by rightwing Hindu Govt. Similarly the name of Mugalsarai Railway station in UP has been changed to ‘Deen Dyal Upadahy station’
In the chapter ‘Migration’, the author has established beyond doubt the forces behind migration of Pandits in 1990. It should serve as an eye-opener for our Indian friends who are continuously fighting the truth to malign & demonize Kashmiri Muslims.
In the chapter ‘Titled Media’, the author establishes how Indian media in Kashmir in past , mostly manned by Kashmiri Pandits, has been partial & biased towards Kashmir in tune with the Indian interests. It has been in service of lies & half truths 24X7.With the passage of time, Kashmiri pundits have been replaced by jingoistic & ultra-patriotic journalists employed by Indian corporates, who in the name of covering the news from Kashmir, cover up everything but the reality.
Not that the book is free from errors. For instance- Number of persons martyered on July 13, 1931 incident has been stated to be 22 instead of well documented 23(Kashmir ki Tehreeki Azadi-Peer Muhammad Afzal Makhdoomi-page 74). Similarly the personal assistant of Nehru has been named as Dwaraka Nath Dhar instead of Kachru. But such errors hardly affect the utility of the book.
This book is well researched with lot of hard work having gone into it. It has a ring of truth & its contents deserve to be well known. It is a valuable addition to Kashmir literature alongside Mirdul Rai’s ‘Hindu rulers-Muslim subjects’ & Chiterlekha Zutshi’s ‘Language of belonging & Kashmir’s contested past’ . undoubtedly this book will go a long way in correcting the one sided & mostly false narratives on Kashmir built over years. The book needed to be written & now needs to be read
Tail Piece: . In history making it is said that Until the lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters.
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)