Kashmir has a long history of its own. The history dates back to pre-historic Paleolithic and Neolithic eras. Despite having earliest recorded classical sources as compared to other parts of the sub-continent predominant portion of the Kashmiri population has received a raw deal at the hands of those who have contributed to the historiography of Kashmir.
Rajthrangni remains counterpart of the Firdausi’s Shahnama, the author is more concerned about language rather than authenticity of history. He Indianises every historical event and person to suit Sanskrit linguistic flavor. Nilmat Purana is more oriented towards religion. Travelers of classical times Hiuen tSang, Marco Polo and Al-Beruni too project a hazy view of Kashmir. Medieval historians, be they Pandits like Shiriwar or biographers like Jahangir remain more focused on rulers rather than the population. The missionaries like Vigne and Biscoe too projected a negative view of the natives. Same remains true about Civil servants like Lawrence. Problem with these historians has been that they remained in close proximity and relied upon briefs of those who traditionally monopolized white collar jobs of Kashmir and always became willing collaborators of every tormentor of the majority. Unfortunately, the ones involved in hospitality of these foreigners depicted a character that was perceived to be embodiment of Kashmiri population in general and as a confirmation of maligned versions of Kashmiri character communicated to them by the translators.
Attempts of Kashmiri historians too were influenced by the distortions made by native Pandits and others under their influence. This situation demanded a re-appraisal of Kashmir history from Muslim perspective. Though the job was done to some extent by GMD Sofi and Mohammad Din Fauq their works remain old and bereft of inputs made through recent researches. A valuable effort towards it has also been made by Prof. Abdul Ahad. The job demands a paradigm shift. Professor Muzzaffar Khan has precisely done this in his monumental work “Kashmiri Muslims.” The book comprises two volumes of more than five hundred pages each.
The book is a treasure not only in terms of its content but also in context of its sources. The author not only relies on sources of Kashmir history but also history of its vicinities to explore material for his research. The work should have been done by the history departments of Kashmir University. The department however seems to be pre-occupied with Sufism and its impact upon Kashmiri life rather than developing new paradigms in the realm of history writing. In this respect the department didn’t proceed beyond Kashmir under sultans of Professor Muheeb-Ul-Hassan.
Professor Muzzaffar Khan has looked at Muslim history of Kashmir from anthropological, linguistic, religious and cultural angles. He has deconstructed various myths that had been created as a result of state sponsored biased history. The myth that Kashmiris prior to advent of Islam were adherents of Hindu faith, happened to be Brahmans and natives had all together vanished has effectively been exposed by the learned author. The author then proceeds to analyze situation of the Muslims during the rule of various dynasties, whether these remained local Sultans, Mughals, Pathans, Sikhs or Dogras. The author has effectively depicted the fact that so called periods of oppression of the minority communities was results of feuds between the exploiting classes of which the minority remained a part and had nothing to do with the majority community. The author has highlighted the misrule of Chaks and the reasons that led Kashmiris to seek support from Mughals in order to get rid of the despotism to which Chaks subjected them. The exploitation and plunder to which Kashmiris were subjected during Sikh and Dogra rule and role of local collaborates in this pursuit too has been highlighted.
Second volume of this monumental work concentrates on certain thematic issues confronting the Muslim majority of Kashmir. Apart from their struggle against oppression in post and prior 1931 eras it includes an in-depth portrayal of Shia- Sunni, Muslims-Hindus relations and exposition of mismanagement to which Muslims have been subjected during the periods of democratic despotism which Kashmir has witnessed after 1947.The concoctions like Kashmiryat and the myth of Jesus in Kashmir too have been analysed. The book along with recent interpretation of the poetry of Sheikh-Ul-Alam by Professor Ghulam Muhammad Shaad should be viewed as path breaking attempts aimed at projection of the subject from the Muslim point of view. These attempts need to be applauded in view of the fact that every aspect of our life remains target of state sponsored manipulations. The author however seems to have been unable to deconstruct the projected notions in two aspects.
First pertains to portrayal of Reshis as vegetarians and the ones who remained secluded from social life. This narrative may be true about few Reshis but remains concoction so far as the leading Reshi order is concerned. Non vegetarian dishes are offered, relished and consumed on shrines of Sheikh Noor-Ud-Din, Sheikh Zain-Ud-Din and Sheikh Pyaam-Ud-Din and their poetry depicts a different connotation than that has been continuously propagated.
Grimut chenus dodh gave khenas, maaz desheth loubh keazi henas, batun huind soochar dreint kate aav
The second important area where the author has failed to depart from the older constructs remains projection of magnitude of prostitution in Kashmir. The exaggerated versions are nothing but impressions prepared by non-natives under the influence of those who have been always looking for avenues of maligning Kashmiri Muslim majority. The book otherwise remains a great work which deserve publication from a well established international publishing house and inclusion within prescribed texts at masters level. The book needs to be published on other side of Line of control as well so that it serves the needs of researchers and students there.