Kashmir: Elusive Spring

March 1846 to March 2018

Dr. Javid Iqbal
Srinagar, Publish Date: Mar 13 2018 11:28PM | Updated Date: Mar 13 2018 11:28PM
Kashmir: Elusive SpringFile Photo

March is the harbinger of spring; the month however has had an ominous setting in Kashmir, down the historical tale. March 2018 dawned with dark clouds hovering over political panorama, as spring remained elusive. The killings in Shopian made it murkier, with a new idiom added to Kashmir’s political lexicon—Over Ground Workers (OGW)’s. The fellow columnist—Ajaz-ul-Haque noted aptly—today we could add one more term to the list of Orwellian euphemism, adding—I am sure Orwell will welcome this inclusion in the list of soft expression for hard facts. Facts indeed! The facts in Kashmir remain contrary to the general run elsewhere. In the wailing vale, the fact remains that FIR’s, investigations are as elusive as the dawn of the spring. The Apex Court verdict is clear; FIR in January Shopian killings may not proceed in investigative trail, given the AFSPA cover armed forces stay protected with in what is called—Line of Duty! Therefore, March killings would do without FIR. Better, save your breath in sounding effusive on FIR’s, investigations and logical conclusions! Voiceless do not matter, the fact stays today as much as it did in March 1846, when Kashmir went through a sale deed, without a stake of its own.

March the 16th 1846 is a dark day in Kashmir’s history. In what is engraved as ‘Bainama Amritsar’ in the soul of Kashmir, East India Company paraded as ‘Company Bhadur’ in the Indian lexicon sold the valley to Gulab Singh of Dogra Raj. Jammu Raja, a tributary of Khalsa Durbar of Lahore overnight became Maharaja of a new political entity—Jammu and Kashmir. The vale of Kashmir remained the prized possession; the Maharaja was often called Maharaja of Kashmir without prefixing Jammu. Gulab Singh worked up his way in Lahore’s Khalsa Durbar from humble beginnings in 1811. He eventually settled his father—Kishore Singh and brothers—Dhayan Singh and Suchet Singh as loyal servants of the Durbar. Winning favours of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, by early 1820’s, Gulab Singh attained Jammu Raj. In 1819, Gulab Singh was instrumental in gaining Kashmir for Khalsa Durbar, hence the reward. 

By 1846, Khalsa Durbar had waned with a series of successions after the death of Ranjit Singh in 1839. In the much-weakened Durbar, however dowager Rani Jinda’n—mother of the Dilip Singh was holding the reins of power. Maharaja Dilip Singh was a minor. She chose Gulab Singh to negotiate with ‘Company Bhadur’ as the siege around Lahore tightened. Gulab Singh however had designs of his own, the company made good use of his leanings. Named the ‘Wily Fox’ by the British, Gulab Singh was not beyond double-crossing his erstwhile benefactors. Sensing a bad bargain, Rani Jinda’n replaced Gulab Singh as her emissary with Lal Singh—a functionary of Lahore Durbar. Lal Singh bargained with Kashmir. On March the 9th, Kashmir handover to ‘Company Bhadur’ was formalized in Treaty of Lahore, as per article 4th of the treaty. In article 12th it was noted that Kashmir is slated to be handed over to Gulab Singh in lieu of his services.  On March 16th, Kashmir was sold to Gulab Singh for 75 lakh Nanak Shahi rupees in Bainama Amritsar; the sale deed holds ten clauses.  

Kashmir continued with Dogra Raj for 101 years, as gory a chapter as the preceding Khalsa Raj (1819-1846) and the Afghan Raj (1751-18419). In 1947, new dominions succeeding British Raj—India and Pakistan became stakeholders as erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was divided with bloodline drawn between the two sides. Initially called ceasefire line, it was termed Line of Control (LoC) in 1972, the fire across however has not ceased, apart from brief periods of lull, as and when it suited the combatants. In March 2018, spring remains elusive, as dark clouds hangover the bloodline, with daily reports of civilian death and repeated reports of displacement of border residents on either side. Obviously political mileage is drawn from keeping the line hot. Kashmir is a pawn in the political game played with amazing regularity. No account is taken of the sufferings of the people, as the rest of world watches with hardly a word of concern. As and when, on rare occasions, a word of concern is expressed on human rights situation; it is drowned in the cacophony of cross border terrorism. India reacted sharply to the statement of UN High Commissioner for human rights—Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on human rights situation in Kashmir by weighing it, yet again with cross border terrorism.

March in Kashmir heralds the start of educational institutions after the hard and harsh winter lay-off. However, the murky political situation, continued killings, some of them unexplained delayed the start of educational institutions by over a week in March 2018. The elusive spring hence did not dawn on the generation next--the young buds. The winter vacation was extended for inexplicable reasons by the state that remains obsessed with security. Maintaining security remains the key word, whatever it might cost. Kashmir situation could hardly be expected to improve overnight; however, it should not be constructed as an alibi for closing educational institutions on slightest pretexts. The onus falls not only on the state, but political formations across the board. Education of generation next is too serious a matter to be fiddled with.  

Kashmir in March 2018 remains despondent despite the change of the season. The physical landmarks associated with spring are not in sync with the psychological state of masses. Almonds might have blossomed, tulips might be in bloom, but deep within the soul of Kashmir hardly registers the spring, as the pall of gloom remains the overriding phenomenon.    

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]


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