Table of Contents
   Index
   About the Author
   Preface
   Foreword
 KASHMIR: PAST
   Kashmiri Hindus: Origin ...
   Sultan Zain-ul-abidin
   The Sayyids as Oppressors
   Chak Fanatics
   The Mughals
   The Afghans
   Sikh Rule
   Dogra Rule
 KASHMIR: PRESENT
   Post-1947 Scenario
   Jammu and Ladakh ...
   Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad
   Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq
   Sayyed Mir Qasim
   Sheikh Abdullah Sows Seeds ...
   Farooq Abdullah ...
   Ghulam Mohammad Shah ...
   Rajiv-Farooq Accord
   Proxy War Declared
   Muslim Fundamentalism
   Terrible Plight of Minorities 
   13th November, 1991
   Epilogue
   Appendix
   Download Book 

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

Milchar

Symbol of Unity

 
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CHAPTER SEVEN

Sikh Rule

(1819- 1846)

The Sikh period of Kashmir history has been generally painted black by the chroniclers, who have definite sectarian overtones in their assessment of the period. But, the fact remains that the Sikhs gave Kashmir a better government than the Afghans. Records Young Husband, "The Sikhs who succeeded the Arghans were not so barbarically cruel, but they were hard and tough masters.''1

Invested with Hindu set of beliefs and credos, they in their objective actions were not religious bigots and intolerant the same way as the Sayyids and other Muslim rulers were. Sikhs were aware of the plight Or lhe Kashmirian Hindus, who all through the beginnings of Muslim rule in Kashmir, were subjected to atrocious barbarities and cruelties. They were equally acquainted with the circumstances leading to the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur, who had fallen a prey to the forces of hate and fanaticism. The Sikhs have been in the vanguard of the glorious battle against religious tyrants and hate-mongers. They have a revealing history of tolerance, good sense and accommodation. Had Sikhs not been tolerant, they would have demolished the mosques built over the temple plinths and structures and also outrageously looted, plundered and killed men of other religions. But there are sufficient historical records available which establish that the Sikhs were more humane than the holiest of other religions and were far from inflicting afflictions and agonies on people of other faiths. They, no doubt, were harsh, but were not cruel; they were tough, but were not merciless; they were religious, but were not bigots.

That Dewan Moti Ram, the Sikh Governor, closed the Jama Masjid for prayers has been exploited to the hilt by the Hindu and Sikh baiters. But they assiduously hide the fact that the Sikh Governor was forced to undertake the measure only when the reports poured in that the Muslims and their religious leaders in complicity with some outside Muslim elements were conspiring against the Sikh rule. It was not an act of bigotry on part of Sikhs, but only a measure to stop the use of a religious place for unholy activities. Had the Sikhs been bigots, they would have demolished the mosque actually built on the debris of a vandalized Buddhist church the same way as the Muslims in their frenzy dismantled numerous temples of the Hindus in Kashmir.

Phula Singh, a Sikh commander, is said to have trained his guns on the Mir Ali Hamadani Mosque to destroy it. 3 Be it said that the Sikh commander was within his rights to demolish the mosque as it was built only after destroying the temple of Kalishree. As is wellknown tolerance has been the guiding star of the Hindus and their cultural model. Alarmed at the sight of the guns trained at the said mosque, the Muslim notables knocked at the doors of Birbal Dhar, who interceded on their behalf with the Sikh rulers to save the mosque from destruction. This Hindu endowed with generations of education, imbued with an ample fund of understanding and invested with a tolerant view of men and their affairs set a masterly precedent of establishing social and religious cohesion and harmony, which otherwise was torn to shreds by the Muslim zealots. Could it be asked who among the Sayyids interceded with Sikandar, the iconoclast, to stop the genocide of the Kashmirian Hindus? Could it again be asked who among the Muslims made even a slight attempt to deter the proselytisers from inflicting woes, miseries and privations on the Hindus only to convert them or decimate them? Could it be asked why the Hindus of Kashmir marched out of their land of genesis four times tiil the Afghan rule suffered a decline? Did the Muslims forming the majority segment of total population ever rally for saving them from the traumatic experiences of leaving their homes and hearths under pressures from the religious bigots? Sikhs and many Hindus in corridors of power proved highly tolerant by not persecuting and torturing Muslims for re-conversion and also by not demolishing a single mosque.

Highly appreciative of Birbal Dhar's role in saving the mosque from getting vandalised, Sufi records, "It is to the lasting credit of Birbal Dhar that when a deputation of Muslims headed by Sayyid Hassan Shah Qadiri Khanyari approached him to dissuade the Sikhs from destruction of the Khanaqah, he moved in the matter, used his influence and saved this historic structure from vandalism."4

That the Sikh commander declared Pathar Masjid as the property of the state has been blown out of proportion only to discredit the Sikh rule.5 It was just a mild retaliatory step to remind the Muslim zealots that they also could be made to suffer religious persecution. The crimes of the Muslims in terms of destroying and vandalising the historic structures of the Hindus are far greater in dimension than the declaration of Pather Masjid as the property of the state. Sikandar established a government department to burn and destroy the Temple of Martand, a marvel of Hindu architecture.6 Shihab-ud-din looted and destroyed the temple of Vijayesvara and with its materials erected a hospice. Ali Shah and Malik Saif-ud- din were the criminals responsible for destroying all temple structures in every town and village, city and hamlet.7 The Muslim fanatics engaged in the unholy task of extirpating infidelity from Kashmir have been and are even now vandalising and destroying the temples of the Hindus with impunity.

It is a fact of Kashmir history that the Sikhs continued with the practice of begaar or forced labour.8 But it does not make them tyrants. Begaar in absence of modern means of transport had been in vogue in Kashmir from the times of Sankerverman, who employed villagers for carrying various supplies to his army.9 It continued even under the Sultans, who obviously were followers of Islam. They not only continued with the practice, but developed it into a fullfledged institution. Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin continued the practice of Begaar.10 The Mughal rulers in their visits to Kashmir had a huge retinue of unpaid labourers only to carry their goods and other supplies for the journey.l1 The Afghans were highly unscrupulous in the employment of forced labour. The Sikhs, no doubt, did not abolish the practice, but made it continue the same way as all Muslim rulers continued with it. Begaar was certainly an evil and it should have been done away with. To malign Sikhs it is trumpeted quite loudly that they employed forced labour for purposes of carriage of goods and materials from one place to another.l7 If the Sikhs were tyrants, Zain-ul-Abidin and all other Muslim rulers and Sayyids who continued with the practice were equally tyrants deserving all condemnation and castigation.

Notes and References  

l. Younghusband, Kashmir  2. Jonraj, Rajtarangini; Hasan, Tarikh-i-Kashnlir.  3. P.N.K. Bamzai, History of Kashmir.  4. G.M.D. Sufi, Kashir  5. Altaf, Paradise Wounded  6. Jonraj, Rajtarangini  7. Ibid.  8. Altaf, Paradise Wounded.  9. Kalhan, Rajtarangini.  10. P.N.K. Bamzai, History of Kashmir.  11. Ibid.  12. Altaf, Paradise Wounded.

Kashmir: Past and Present

 

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