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Kashmir in Punjabi poetry ever since its sell-out in 1846

By: Shafqat Tanvir Mirza

A number of All Parties Hurriyat Conference leaders visited Azad Kashmir and Pakistan last week and were entertained politically by the Pakistani rulers. They exchanged views on the future of 58-year old controversial issue of Jammu and Kashmir, which pushed both Pakistan and India into battlefields many a time. Each of them believed that one day it would be able to seal the fate of this most beautiful part of the world, which had been remembered by the classical Punjabi poets as a symbol of heavenly beauty. Waris Shah, while singing the beauty of Heer, says:

Kashmir in Punjabi Poetry

Not only Waris Shah but almost all major poets of Punjabi had referred to the valley of Kashmir in the same context. Another major poet of Punjabi, Mian Muhammad Bukhsh (Saiful Muluk fame), himself belonged to Jammu, part of the state in his times. He is now considered as the founding father of Potohari and Pahari poetry. That is one aspect of this paradise on earth, the other aspect i.e. the political and economic conditions of Kashmiris was seldom commented through poetry before the British sold it to the Dogra Gulab Singh in March, 1846, three years before the Punjab was annexed by the former. About that shameful sell-out, Shah Muhammad, a 19th century poet had said:

Kashmir in Punjabi Poetry

The agony of the people of Kashmir started in 1846 and for 99 years, the Dogras, with the support of the British colonialists, let loose hell on the helpless people of this region. During this period hundreds of thousands of families migrated to the adjoining areas of the Punjab, the Frontier and many other parts of the subcontinent, including far-off Bengal.

Before the Dogra Raj, the valley was invaded by the secular Mughal ruler Akbar the Great and this sovereign state was made part of Delhi kingdom. Thus the Kashmiris in their centuries-old history were first time deprived of their independence, language, culture and self-respect. No doubt, the Mughals later did their best to contribute to the cultural, economic and social life of the Kashmiris and the Delhi rulers themselves stayed there. They also married Kashmiri girls and prominent example is that of Raj Bibi or Bai of Rajauri, the wife of Aurangzeb and mother of Shah Alam, successor to Aurangzeb. Even in those good days of great poet of Kashmiri language like Laila Arifa and Nooruddin Rishi, the language was not recognised by the rulers. This happened even after the fall of the Mughals, the Pathans and the Sikhs; all were considered invaders by the Kashmiris, who still cherish the memories of their independent days when Budhan Shah and other Kashmiris were the master of their own land. The poetry of Habba Khatoon is not only remembered as that of a Kashmiri poetess but also coming from their own queen. Habba and Laila Arifa are still the symbols of their unfettered history.

In 1846, the colonialists sold the Kashmir to Dogras of Jammu, who had a different language, culture, religion and style of governance. They had no respect for the majority, who incidentally were the Muslims. The Dogras were given entry into the valley by the British, who also assured the traitor, Gulab Singh, that the rulers of the smaller states of the Punjabi Pahari-speaking areas would be subdued and some of them were withdrawn and granted jagirs in the areas of the Punjab and the Frontier. There are many war poems about the fights between the Dogras and the tribal chiefs of Poonch, Rajauri, Muzaffarabad, and Gilgit areas, who happened to be Muslims. The Dogras devastated these areas time and again to crush the persisting uprisings. Their oppressive rule was indirectly supported by the British government at Delhi. It were the Muslims politicians of the Punjab and the Frontier who initiated an agitation against the Dogra Raj in the thirties which was mainly manned and organised by the Majlis-i-Ahrar, a religious-cum-political party of the lower middle class.

Sialkot, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Jhelum, Amritsar, and Rawalpindi were the major centres of this anti-Dogra movement, which involved the intelligentsia of the Punjab, including Allama Iqbal, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan and Mazhar Ali Azhar. This movement was fully supported by many Punjabi poets including Ustad Karam Amritsari, Dr. Faqir Muhammad Faqir, Abdul Latif Afzal, Hayat Pasruri, Qamar Din Qamar, Ismail Zabeeh, Israel Mahjoor, Abdul Rahim Aajiz, etc.

Ustad Karam Amritsari, a very senior poet, urged the agitators:

Kashmir in Punjabi Poetry

When this agitation was taking a very serious turn, the British rulers came to the help of the Dogras and they offered their services for some sort of compromise. But the general feelings were that there should be no unholy compromise. A poet Abdul Latif said:

Kashmir in Punjabi Poetry

The popular line in those days was:

Kashmir in Punjabi Poetry

To ignite the fire one line ultimately becomes the 'banner slogan' -- like 'Pagri Sambhal Jatta' in peasant movement of the early 20th century. 'Muslim Hay to League Mein Aa', 'Sar Kataney Ki Tamanna Aaj Mairey Dill Mein Hay' in Baghat Singh episode.

It were not only the poets from the central Punjab but also from the southern Punjab from where a poet named Muhammad Anwar Khichi says:

Kashmir in Punjabi Poetry

But the bitterest battle started after the 3rd June Plan of Independence after the Congress under Kashmiri Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru rejected the Cabinet Mission Plan. It gave a very vague option to the princely states to join the new states when Maharaja Hari Singh struck a standstill agreement with the Pakistan government and declared that he would remain independent or neutral. Unfortunately, the Muslim Conference under its second-in-command Chaudhry Hameed Ullah Khan supported the Maharaja Hari Singh. Another blunder was committed by Khan Qayyum and Liaquat Ali Khan when they had sent Pathans from the tribal areas in the state and according to some political analysts the Prime Minister rejected Patel's offer to strike a bargain on Kashmir and Hyderabad. Nehru backed Sheikh Abdullah, who came to terms with the Maharaja and in October 1947 the later declared his allegiance to India.

It is believed that Nehru and Lord Mountbatten were also parties to that conspiracy against Pakistan. Consequently, a Punjabi poet from Rajauri, Nawab Din, said:

Kashmir in Punjabi Poetry

Sheikh Abdullah was also sent to Pakistan by the Indian Congress under the advice of Pandit Nehru and now the Congress Government has sent not only the Hurriyat Conference but also the opposition leader L. K. Advani, once a Hindu extremist, now an enlightened secularist. In the last, lines from the verses of late Altaf Qureshi, who belonged to Kashmir.

Kashmir in Punjabi Poetry


Weekly Independent, June 16-22, 2005 ( By Shafqat Tanvir Mirza )


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