Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bebooj Raj

(Kashmiris have faced difficult periods in the past. The worst of all have been the Sikh and Afghan rule. However, the happenings of the last sixty years seem to exceed all earlier bad spells!) Any student of history would be quite familiar with the word “Sikhashahi”. It was the total anarchy and the untold oppression which Kashmiris faced during the Sikh rule. Hameed-ullah Shahabadi called this period as “Sher-i-Napursan” (the neglected city) which Dr. Abdul Ahad has rendered as the “Bebooj Raj” (Unaccountable Rule), an era of unforgettable brazen savagery! The value of a Kashmiri during Sikh rule was twenty five rupees! Any Sikh who would kill a Kashmiri would be fined twenty five rupees. Out of this, sixteen rupees would be paid to the next of kin if a Hindu and four rupees if a Muslim. The balance would go to the government treasury. If a Kashmiri would kill a Sikh, he would be hanged! Kashmiris everywhere were taken for unpaid forced labour called “Begaar”. During Sikh rule many mosques including the Jama Masjid, were closed for worship and the famous Pathar Masjid was turned into a store. In fact, one of the Sikh governors fixed cannon near Mujahid Manzil to blast the shrine of Shah-i-Hamadan on the opposite bank of Jhelum. It was only the intervention of Birbal Dhar, an advisor to Sikh governor that the mosque was saved. There were many other atrocities committed during this period. During the Afghan rule, Kashmiris had to pay a number of taxes such as Zari-i-Askhas (Protection tax); Zari-i-habubut (land tax); Zar-i-Dood (smoke tax). The smoke tax, Zari-i-Dood was imposed on Pandit community as punishment for evading taxes. Haji Karim Dad, the Afghan governor gathered prominent members of the community and suffocated them with cow dung smoke. To escape they agreed to pay the tax which was called Zari-i-Dood or smoke tax. There was a tax on shawls called the dagh-i-shawl (stamp tax on shawls). Even the marriages were taxed through Zari-i-nikah! During the Afghan rule, Kashmir witnessed some of the cruellest governors. Jabbar Khan changed the date for observance of Shivratri by Hindus. On being told that it invariably snows on this occasion, he ordered celebration of this festival in early autumn instead of mid-winter. Lo and behold!, it snowed on that day in autumn which gave rise to a Kashmiri saying, “ Wooch taun ih Jabbar Jandeh, haarus te korun wandeh!” Look at this Jabbar wretch, he turned autumn into winter! Among Muslims, Afghan rule gave rise to child marriages as the Afghans would not touch a married woman. Another self-inflicted ironic cruelty is the bringing of Kakkar Khan from Kabul by Kashmiris themselves as the governor of Kashmir. A delegation from Kashmir went to Kabul to plead for a gentle and soft governor. The King asked them to choose from among his courtiers. They choose the most pious and gentle looking Kakkar Khan. When they were crossing Baramulla with the governor, a funeral procession passed by. He asked them to stop and descended from the palanquin. Kashmiris thought he is going to offer fateh. However, he asked them to open the coffin and bit the ear of the corpse and shouted, “Tell the dead that Kakkar Khan is in Kashmir!” One could imagine the fate of the living! The fate of Kashmiris for last 60 years or so has been worse. They have suffered continuously innumerable atrocities and upheavals. Thousands have been killed in various uprisings and conflicts including the three wars fought by our neighbours since 1947. For last couple of decades there has been no real peace. In fact, the present turmoil which started in 1990 has created such a situation of uncertainty and unaccountability that one can compare it with the “Bebooj Raj”. There is absolutely no accountability in every sphere of life. Rather the very right to life is suspended. There are thousands of widows and orphans. Over a hundred thousand people mostly youth have been killed. Thousands have been maimed. Thousands have disappeared without trace. In earlier bad periods there was some discipline and accountability among the forces. Those days there was no AFSPA, PSA or DDA. Soldiers were answerable for their actions. There were no fake encounters, mass graves, and disappearances without trace. Since 1990, the situation in regard to human rights especially the right to life is scary! As regards other spheres of daily life, the less said, the better. Corruption is at the peak. Accountability from top to bottom is virtually zero. People having committed serious human rights violations brazenly are protected by the state. All these events make one ponder whether those old times were really the worst times? No one knows what future holds for Kashmiris in view of the situation in our neighbourhood? Ironically, in those earlier bad times most of the exactions were done by outsiders on the bidding of their local advisors. This holds good even in the present times. It is described best in the Kashmiri proverb, “Daro kumyu phatwuk, panni peun!” (O log of wood who split you, my own peg!). Thus the logs would go on splitting as long as the pegs from their own wood get used to do the job and the “Bebooj Raj” would continue to be the fate of poor Kashmiris! *************************************** Comments at:

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