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Zakhmoo Ki Zabani

Commented upon by Prof. M.L. Koul

Author: Pandit Rishidev, Zanipora, Anantnag

Pages: 256      Price : Rs. 100/-

Pandit Rishidev who is a native of Zainpora, tehsil Shopian, Kashmir has remained a political activist of long standing. The Muslim communalists were as cruel to him as to Kashmiri Pandits in general even though he had been deeply wedded to the cause of peasant welfare and upliftment. Rishidev’s role in the initiation and implementation of purposeful schemes and projects directly related to agricultural operations for increased yield has been widely acclaimed even by his adversaries with communal motivations. Like all Kashmiri Pandits he was driven out of his home and hearth and as a consequence has been wallowing in exile for the past eleven years. His house at Zainapora has been blazed by vandals drawing support from the local Muslim population. In his 155-paged book titled as ‘Zakhmoo Ki Zabani’, essentially a memoir, he has delved in the repertoire of his political experiences with an attempt to put it in perspective. It is pertinent to put that Rishidev in his political career spanning five decades, has had affiliations with National Conference, Indian National Congress, Communist Party of India, Democratic National Conference and Kashmiri Pandit organisations.

The ferocious loot, plunder and murder of Kashmiri Pandits in 1931 has found many proponents who have invented the spurious thesis of ‘political and economic oppression of Muslims by the ruling class and their henchmen’ and justified the loot as the struggle of enslaved people against the despotic rule, despite its aggressively communal complexion in its outward form. To cover up the role of marauders a researcher in his thesis has shifted the scene of bigotry and belligerence from Kashmir to Punjab with a view to tracing its communal hue and motivation. In his vivid account of 1931 happenings Rishidev has debunked the text-book formulations of ‘political and economic oppression’, ‘victimized and enslaved people’ and ‘despotic rule’ and has focussed on the communally tainted pathological mind that has been ruling roost in Kashmir seeking satiation in infliction of atrocities of loot, arson and murder on Kashmiri Pandit minority.

But, sad as it is, Rishidev, though having a bias for Marxist ideology, has not put the 1931 loot in its proper perspective by probing the role of political and communal forces that planned and executed the loot and murder. He has spared the Reading Room Party which had forged links and alliances with the British Political Department Ahmadiyas. The loot of Kashmiri Pandits was part of a bigger game. The Britishers wanted the Maharaja to abdicate his sovereignty over Gilgit which had emerged as a strategic point on the chess-board of British politics in the region. Through  loot Kashmiri Pandits were punished for the expression of their patriotic sentiment when they made a bonfire of foreign goods. The correspondence between BJ Glanay, L.E. Lang and other British spies and Sheikh Abdullah was first splashed by the Blitz issued from Bombay and found detailed analysis in the ‘Tragedy of Kashmir’, a book authored by H.L. Sexena and banned by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. Ahmadiyas though hated and shunned as deviants from Islam had clandestine links with the leader of the Reading Room Party. Punjab being their main operational base they spent fabulous sums to fan out in Kashmir.

Despite giving some details about the horrendous loot of 1931, Rishidev has not probed the vicious role of Qadeer, a man from Peshawar and a waiter in the employ of an English army officer. His sudden appearance in the mosque of Mir Ali Hamdani, where Muslims had collected in considerable numbers for a political act of choosing their representatives for an audience with the Maharaja was not and could not be accidental. In fact, the whole game plan was pre-thought and pre-planned. Qadeer’s venomous oratory which M.J Akbar lauds ignited the communal trigger resulting in the loot, arson and murder of Kashmiri Pandits throughout the Valley. To be more precise, Qadeer was an Ahmadiya plant and the same was corroborated by Molvi Yousuf Shah, Mirwaiz of Kashmir, who was interviewed by Ghulam Hasan Khan, an author on post-1931 political developments in Kashmir.

Owing allegiance to communist politics Rishidev could be one of those Kashmiri Pandit political activists who ideologically believed in the efficacy of land reforms and liquidation of rural debts as twin measures for retrieval of peasantry from economic backwardness. That was how D.P. Dhar who rose to be a central minister was the first to surrender his lands to the Muslim tenants without any consideration. Jia Lal Taimiri who was known for his proverbial honesty and kept a vigilant eye on the corruption and kitties of National Conference leaders and hence detested had also surrendered his lands to the tenants much before the land grab had started. Taimiri was a socialist by conviction. The Muslim leaders of National Conference vintage never emulated or appreciated the extra-ordinary precedent set by the two prominent leaders of Kashmiri Pandits. Instead what they did was to project the Kashmiri Pandits as a community of exploiters.. The fact was that Kashmiri Pandits, not all, but some of them like Muslims, were petty chakdars who had sold their precious assets and ornaments to purchase land. In Mirpur the land was owned by the Muslim land-lords who had been more cruel to their co-religionist tenants than their counter-parts elsewhere. Curiously they were not projected as exploiters of Muslims. Instead Hindu Mahajans pursuing the indigenous system of banking were focussed as the ‘target group’ and ruthlessly harassed and looted by the ‘Jathas’ (groups) despatched from the Punjab by the Ahrars who had pretensions to secularism and deserted the Congress ranks in the wake of the formation of Muslim League for the avowed objective of a separate land for Muslims.

The Kashmiri Pandit communists and radical humanists as the innovators of land reforms in terms of an ideograph never controverted the malicious disinformation unleashed by the Muslim leadership of National Conference against Pandit minority in general. The fact is that they were rootless people mired in the quagmire of fantasy leagues away from any commitment to the weal and welfare of the community. Unthinkingly and myopically they pandered the politics of Muslim majoritarianism wedded to the idea of entrenching itself in the state power in perpetuity. Sad as it is, they were completely ignorant of their past history of gore and blood and failed to learn lessons from history with a view to shaping their reasonable responses to the challenges emerging for them as a vulnerable community. It was absolutely bad politics as to have lent unqualified support to the forces of Muslim sub-nationalism unfolding under an elusive facade of left-oriented programmes and sham slogans. As is known to all and sundry consistency was never a virtue of Sheikh Abdullah. He tried to draw maximum support from local communists and communist leadership at national level when he told such elements that he was following their road-map and implementing their cardinal programmes. In his meeting with Loy Handerson he allayed his fears about his radicalism when he told him that he implemented land reforms just to appease communists within National Conference.

It was not for nothing that Sheikh Abdullah divulged the land reforms plan in toto from the pulpit of National Conference much before it was put in practice. The purpose was to tip off in advance all the Muslim land-lords to negotiate with their Muslim tenants for showing their land-holdings under self-cultivation or distributing the lands in excess of standard ceiling among family kins. In the process religious affinities were exploited to the hilt. Kashmiri Pandits were at a disadvantage as they subscribed to a different faith. As a matter of prudence a Kashmiri Pandit land-lord had distributed his broad acres among his family kins much before land reforms gained momentum to dispossess a small minority. Later on the mutations attested by the competent revenue authorities were ordered cancelled on the intervention of Revenue Minister who was brazen in his religious prejudices.

The Land Reforms Committee nominated in April, 1948 was stuffed with members who were  rubber stamps. There was not a single member equipped with thorough knowledge of all the contemporary models that had been under experimentation in various countries of the world. Nor were the services of a reputed economist borrowed to make the exercise rational, fair, meaningful and purposeful. Why were not the Soviet-type co-operative and collective farms accepted as a model? Why were not the Brazilian and the Chinese models considered for implementation? In fact, no studies were made on scientific lines. No blue-print was spelt out. No long ranging discussions were held with respect to the whole exercise. The communists made a ridiculous suggestion to involve ‘peasant committees’ for the stipulated grab. The nominated members felt proud to mouth panegyrics to the new age lord donning the authority of the chairman of the committee. Dissent if any was dubbed as treachery. The chairman alone knew the contours and shades of the plan and  modalities of its execution. The members getting Rs 200/- p.m. were required to repose full faith in the omniscience of the chairman. The Pandits on the committee were silently told that in view of the plebiscite being held under UN supervision mass of peasants had to be won over for India and giving them land on a platter could be the best bait. This was how Pandit resistance if any to the absurdities of the executive fiat was eliminated.

The first secretary of the Land Reforms Committee, a Kashmir, a senior-most Revenue officer, took no time to resign from the committee when he was apprised of the content and methodology of the land reforms as the exercise was officially trotted out. He shocked the chairman of the committee by candidly telling him that he could not be a party to an act which prima facie was illegal. The Muslim policy as it was then, so it is now was to involve a Kashmiri Pandit for implementation of the executive fiat of a sensitive nature. A frantic hunt was launched and the man picked up was a mere matriculate, pliant and senile, career conscious and myopic. He slavishly followed the dictates of his new found masters. When he was asked to bend, he went whole hog for genuflection. The way land reforms were implemented, it virtually ended in the wresting away of land from Hindus and its transfer to the Muslims. To have his own pound of flesh, he meekly approached the powers that be for his elevation to the position and status of the Financial Commissioner. A vehement ‘no’ from the then Prime Minister of the state sent a chill down his spine. The Kashmiri Pandit, perhaps, was ignorant of the resolution of the Muslim Conference submitted to the Maharaja in which among other things it was clearly spell out that no Kashmiri Pandit should be appointed to the key-positions in the state administrative apparatus.

The Emergency Administration and the Interim Government lost no time in embarking upon the loot of the landed properties. Both were headed by Sheikh Abdullah who chose himself for the echelon and people were afforded no chance to express their pleasure or displeasure. The land grab process started when there was no elected legislature,  no supervening constitution spelling out a forum for redressal or restoration of basic rights if encroached upon. It was a total vacuum which was fraudulently exploited to snatch away landed properties that were either purchased or legally inherited. The new bosses having been appointed to the positions at the helm had yet to establish their representative character under a constitutionally spell-out democratic process. The loot of landed properties was nearly complete till 1952 when the constituent assembly was constituted under a facade of elections which did not grant any political space to the opposition groups present in the state. The bankruptcy of the political leadership in the country became evident when the list of fundamental rights as incorporated in the Republican Constitution was not allowed full-scale application to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir with a view to facilitate the processes of loot being perpetrated on the bonafide citizens of the country. The State High Court as appointed by the highly detested ruler of the state dithered in establishing rule of law under a fear psychosis generated by the Emergency and Interim Government lineage-lords. In fact, the accession issue was used, as a weapon of blackmail to weaken the resolve of the Central government to establish the full-dimensional sovereignty of the Republican Constitution over the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The then Indian leadership was shaken in their roots when the five members of the J&K state refused to bring the state under the purview of the Republican Constitution. One of the five members was a Hindu from Jammu.

Rishidev is reticent on many issues which have been raised from time to time in relation to the content and methodology of the land reforms. He does not confess that the Land Reforms Committee as constituted under an executive fiat was a mere eye-wash. He does not even dilate upon the differences that had divided the leadership of the National Conference on some of the basic issues relating the land reforms. He does not even tell us that the will of the chairman of the Land Reforms Committee was the ultimate arbiter. He is silent on the issue of the standard ceiling which was fixed at 182 kanals of land and does not convey as to why and how it was kept open for future tamperings to destabilize a vulnerable minority. He does not seem to be aware of the fact that soon after the abolition of the Big Estates Act of 1952 no fewer than 10,000 Kashmiri Pandits bid adieu to their land of genesis in search for a pittance elsewhere.

There are some more vital issues which Rishidev has failed to ponder and clarify for guidance of the posterity. How was it that the ceiling was fixed With an individual as a unit of cultivation, not a family? Did he know its implications? It meant that a family was allowed to have as many times the amount of ceiling land as the number of sons in the family and their father. It also meant that they could possess as many times the portions of  exempted lands like bedzars, safedzars et al. It cumulatively meant that a family was deliberately allowed to own a big landed estate. Rishidev, Dr NN Raina, Moti Lal Misri, DP Dhar, Shyam Lal Saraf and those Kashmiri Pandits who declared.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

  

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