Ungrateful Nation: How We Are Erasing Our Past

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Srinagar: A nation’s pride lies upon its rich history and heritage but sadly our society has become oblivious to this. Art, culture, heritage are just words in Kashmir which only a few are knowledgeable about. People in Kashmir keep replacing old historically important names by new ones on mere whims. Unfortunately no body, not even our government seems to be concerned about this and it is only a matter of time before our history will be lost forever.

According to Dr. Aziz Hajini, Secretary JK Cultural Academy, “we should be very careful in dealing with the names of particular places, roads or monuments. Whenever a place is renamed, a piece of history is erased because every particular place or a name has a significant history associated with it. Unfortunately a trend has been started where different committees in Kashmir like the Mohalla committee, Masjid committee or other groups for their petty interests change the names of places. This if not stopped will create a hybrid history in the context of Kashmiri society and our rich heritage will no longer be part of our culture and traditions and we will have no cultural identity.”

“The government should take the initiative of preserving our history by erecting memoirs in universities, colleges, schools, roads and other places. We cannot expect the world to know about our art and culture if we ourselves don’t preserve it. Our future generations will not be aware about the great personalities who contributed immensely to our society. There should be an open debate on this, so that people will understand the gravity of this issue.”

“Even though our schools have a prescribed syllabus for different classes on our history, it is seldom taught. Society has a very important role to play in preserving our history and art. I have already made some suggestions regarding this issue to the Central Committee which is headed by the Chief Minister of the state, but unfortunately after the demise of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed this issue too has been put on hold,” he added.

Civil Society activist Professor Hameeda Nayeem, who also heads English Department at the Kashmir University said, “We are living in a colonial system where our heroes have been sidelined to detach us from our own history and culture. Our education system has no place for our own literature. A few years ago foundation was laid for the Institute of Kashmir Studies with much fanfare at KU with the stated aim to carry out research on Kashmir history. However the institute was soon renamed as South Asian Studies Centre and the research there is now only being done on our Buddhist and Hindu past while rest is ignored.”

“Over the past decade political as well as non-political groups have emerged with a core focus on their agendas which they are trying to achieve through different means. One of these means is the distortion of history and culture. I believe certain things are being done to achieve a certain goal which the state government as well as the Central government is well aware of, in Kashmir. If the state machineries are enforcing laws whenever there is a peaceful protest, why are they sleeping when it comes to distortion of our history and culture? The main aim of this is to Indianize Kashmir”, alleges Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman, Mr Yasin Malik.

“Our literary heroes who have influenced and contributed much to our society have been forgotten under a well-planned conspiracy, to keep our future generations from knowing anything about their roots and traditions. Our education system does not have a single book in its curriculum on the great personalities of Kashmir. Our children know nothing about our history and heritage and our so called leaders hardly care about this,” he rued.

The replacing of old historically important names by new names, some even having the potential to spark sectarian bickering in the society, goes on without eliciting any official reaction.

“Perhaps authorities at the helm are happy with it as long as it erases traces of Kashmir’s own heritage and history”, says Syed Zaffar Kazmi an aeronautical engineer.

According to Dr. Altaf Hussain, author of book “Wounded Paradise”: “All of us have distorted our history somehow though the government has played a bigger role in this. For political reasons, our literature and culture has been colonized by the so called social caretakers.”

Columnist and author, Z.G. Muhammad fumes at the wanton destruction of Kashmir’s traditions and history. “We should never change the names like Maharaja Hari Singh even if the name is associated with an infamous ruler because there is still history associated with it. Unfortunately, the government has been utterly non-serious regarding this matter. If we take a look at today’s society, it has a hybrid culture with many misnomers and our identity has evolved from these traits now. Our original history has taken a bottom seat and needs to be revived immediately, so that we don’t lose our identity.”

Zareef Ahmad Zareef, writer and poet says, “It is very unfortunate that we have forgotten our own culture, traditions and more importantly our history. Our children are being taught about the history of the entire worlds except the history of their motherland.” 

“The irony is that our so called rulers are least concerned about this issue. Through ‘Valley Citizen Council’ a civil NGO, I have raised this issue several times before chief ministers like Ghulam Nabi Azad, late Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and top officials like  Asgar Hassan Samoon but nothing substantial has been done about it on ground yet,” he added.

Director School Education, Dr. Shah Faisal admitted that revision of history books was a priority with his department. “It is a priority and J&K Board Of School Education is already working on it. We have already revised history text books of class 5th & 7th and included a rich text on history of J&K and Ladakh region. Text books of other classes are being revised in a phased manner to bring in local flavors into our history books as well,” Faisal told Kashmir Observer. 

Some of the key personalities who have contributed immensely for the welfare of Kashmiri people have not been recognised by us, says, Andleeb Ansari, a business woman. “Amir-e-Kabir Mir Syed Ali Hamdani who gave us everything we today boast off as a nation remains confined to Khanqah-e-Maula. How ungrateful we are. Can’t we have a major road named after him?” 

Dr Samoon took a prompt action when this newspaper suggested a road linking Aali Masjid to Firdaus Cinema in the Shahr-e-Khas, which remains unnamed even after 20 years of its construction, be named after famous governor Ali Mardan Khan who also had built the Ali Masjid.

He directed revenue department and SMC for the necessary action but both these departments have yet to initiate process despite lapse of two years.

Likewise some civil society activists suggested Eidgah ground be named after Ameer-e-Kabir Mir Syed Ali Hamdani, whose son Mir Muhammad had purchased and donated this ground to the public, but authorities have yet to respond to the plea.

Likewise authorities, both state and central, have failed to force Airports Authority of India, to rename Srinagar airport after Sheykh-ul-Alam, the patron saint of Kashmir.

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