Reality & falsity of proverbial accusations against Kashmiris

kashmir weavers

There is a Persian distich “agar kahat ul rijal uftad, azehan uns kamgiri yake  afghan , doyum kamboh, soyam badzaat kashmiri”:   (translation: although there is no dearth of men to be there in the world, yet never cultivate acquaintances with three kinds of people: (1) Afghan, (2) Kamboh & (3) Badzaat Kashmiri) This Persian couplet has, from time immemorial, been associated with the name of great Persian poet of 13thcentury, Sheikh Saadi of Shiraz, who has a recognition as a ‘master of speech’ throughout Western countries, too. Whether Saadi has ever said these hard-lines about Kashmiris or not is not important as they have been in circulation throughout Indian subcontinent since centuries. It has been memorized & handed down from generation to generation. Being in Persian language, reasonable inference that can be is that this couplet has originated from Persian sources either within Indian subcontinent as Persian was an official language of its past Muslim rulers for considerable period of history or it might have emanated from Persia of those times itself. The meaning and message in it has been loud and clear, and since our childhood we have heard & known it.

It has been quoted by many authors in their works, centuries before, which is sufficient to conclude that it does not have a recent birth. To cite one original source only, we may mention of Lewin Bentham Bowring, ex-Commissioner of Mysore and Coorg, who in his book titled “Eastern Experiences”, edition 1871, at page 274, has quoted this Persian distich with translation. None through the ages has ever denied authenticity of this couplet. However, it needs to be mentioned here that some other sources do not warn of Afghan and Kamboh people but that of (1) Sindhi and (2) Jat people while retaining at third place (3) Kashmiris with added bitterness of the word “Badzaat”. Thus, Richard F Burton in Arabian Nights, volume VI page 156, mentions it, accordingly, in these words: ” If folk be scarce as food in dearth, never let three lots come near ye : First Sindi, second Jat, & third a “rascally Kashmeeree”.

However, there are other authors-cum-travelers who had visited Kashmir & who on the score of a number of ill-experiences gained by him while meeting & dealing with native Kashmiris have no good opinions about them.  Sir Walter R Lawrence says that “the Kashmiri bears an evil reputation in the Panjab, and indeed throughout Asia.” (The valley of Kashmir (1895) page 273) Some have gone to the extent of writing that Kashmiris are happy always singing in all directions & that one reason of their being happy is that they “have no consciences. They admit themselves that they are liars & thieves “. (Sir Robert B Powel, Memories of India, (edition 1915) page 156)  Sir William Moorcroft also adds poignant spices to the Kashmiri-psyche by stating that “his transactions are always conducted in a fraudulent spirit…….the vices of the Kashmirian, I cannot help considering,……..In character the Kashmirian is selfish, superstitious, ignorant, supple, intriguing, dishonest and false”. (Travels in the Himalayan Provinces, J & K, Vol II, pages 128-129).

Why there has been such a blatantly harsh & mercilessly negative perception generated about the Kashmiris-character usually in the minds of the writers & travelers who have traveled to, & met the people of, this small part of the world? This is an annoying-question the answer whereof lies very much in the fact that these jarring-unpleasant-opinions about Kashmiris-identity & personality are age-old & not novel revelations. They hit with equal application also the minority segments of the Kashmiri population. The genesis being primitive, we would like to briefly mention of & know if change in times has had edified the collective-conscience & individual-behaviours of Kashmiris or not from last few decades or, they simply carried & carry with them, from generation to generation, “genetic legacy” of treacherous & dishonest people, in the eyes of the world?

I, at the cost of pain, being myself a Kashmiri, have no hypocritical hesitation in admitting that the Persian couplet, corroborated by other negative opinions  of many travelers & authors , depicting  & comparing Kashmiri-character with odds is not a mere historical exaggeration or hyperbole or triviality overstated or overblown with respect to the Kashmiri community. The Persian maxim, which is espoused by other related adverse remarks of many travelers & authors, it may be mentioned, must have been based on first-hand-experience of the person who has first coined it.

Way back in 1920s, Sir William Moorcroft, in his extensive travel accounts of Himalayan Provinces including J&K has assigned the cause of Kashmiri treacherous and untrustworthy nature to “the effects of his political condition, rather than his nature…” (Moorcroft ibid) So, it implies that it is political condition in which he has been unwillingly coerced by outsiders to live in that has turned him into false and fraud. Conversely put, if his “political condition” of age old enslavement was removed, then, he “has great ingenuity as a mechanic and a decided genius for manufactures and commerce… would not be difficult to transform him into a very different being…..”.  (Ibid)

It is a fact that Kashmiris have, over the centuries, miserably suffered at the hands of outside rulers and it is quite possible that it has gone deep into the shaping & making of their psyche to be somewhat dishonest & liars. Wickedness which they are accused of till date, some say, is also due to the persecution, harassment, injustices, tyrannies, torture, killings, suppression , death & destruction caused to them over seven decades now.

Here I beg to differ with the protagonists of this last view. The unspeakable miseries inflicted on the Kashmiri community by the “real” as well as “unreal” rulers of Delhi & Kashmir, respectively, over decades is a truth worldwide known which only chauvinists & collaborators can dare deny. But, frankly speaking, there are many “painful”   living-realities attending Kashmiri society, as a whole, over eight decades now, that cannot be lost sight of by any right thinking man while attributing the “cause” of their behavioral-problems & collective-blunders only to the rulers & their known-tyranny.  Tyranny should molten the hardness & obstinacy in behavioural patterns of the people- tyrannized. Centuries-old-enslavement should be enough to guide a community enslaved to throw off the pillory of curse with a breath of freedom when occasion arises in history to opt for it. No majority community in modern history has, to my knowledge, consensually allowed themselves to get transformed into a minority under others’ subjugation. In 1939, [Muslim] Kashmiri community laid the first foundation of self-destruction of majority status in JK which is what “democracy” is all about [rule by majority]. “Secularism” which they politically preferred by changing MC to NC made them to “keep away” their coreligionists, and in return to the political bid, we know, less than a dozen non-Muslims joined hands with NC leadership but only in their “personal” capacities & not as representatives of their communities. Ultimately, that decision saw Indian troopers entering their land in 1947. In 1947, they rose against the tide & threw the vessel of their community in the direction of never-ending-“hurricane”. Then, followed a chain of local proxy-rulers only to crush the “genuine cries of drowning” in the ocean of oppression that continues till date.

Apart from the repeated political blunders committed by Kashmiris, of which a small reference has been made above, they in good numbers have been making their fortunes at the cost of their fellow community members who have “suffered & continue suffer” in overwhelming members , paying “huge cost” for sins of others.

Over the last seven decades in general & three decades in particular, we see lots of new evils having crept up among the Kashmiri community & main avatars in which they have emerged are of myriad types. It has virtually become a multi-mafia community. There is mushroom growth of land grabbers & encroachers, corrupt officials, executives & bureaucrats invariably in all departments & organisations, power hungry leaders & politicians, fraudulent businessmen, religious-exploiters, chaotic & unruly transporters & drivers, deceitful professionals & businessmen, traders & sellers, and farce competitors.

It is heartbreaking to say that the colossal sacrifices given by Kashmiris over decades for a just “cause” are , often, overshadowed by their own wrong characters which they display in public & private including staggering avarice which impels them to indulge in  politically, socially & legally unacceptable behaviours reference to some of which has been made already.  It is these appalling characters & behaviours which they have adopted & which have earned them bad names & negative idioms from foreign observers. In the present socio-political scenario of Kashmir, most of their bahavioural & attitudinal actions, customs & practices, are undoubtedly wrong & cannot be justified by any standard of common sense, fellow-sensitivity, logic & ethics. They shall have to self-edify to guide & instruct themselves, individually & collectively as a community, to create a positive perception among the people of the world that they are not what they have been tagged with over centuries. I may end on the note that by shutting eyes in daytime, reality of day doesn’t get changed, so, all afore-discussed needs a reality check by those who love & care for Kashmir & Kashmiris.

M J Aslam is Author, academics, story-teller & freelance columnist.Presently, AVP in J&K Bank.


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