Kashmir In search of Subhan Hajam

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Why liquor shops are being given a licence is a matter of grave concern

Nayeema Ahmed Mahjoor

HISTORY bears witness to the fact that colonial powers employed various ploys to undermine the cultural identity of their colonies. By creating a threat perception, this was chiefly aimed at diluting their identity, grabbing their properties and weakening their social cohesion. Be it Crusades, end of Ottoman Empire or the Partition of India, Muslims have been the worst victims of such ploys. In order to distract them from concentrating on challenging issues, the powers that be introduced vices of sorts among their subjects thereby jeopardising their cultural uniqueness. Corrupting young minds by introducing immorality was another such tactic.

In order to thwart the advances of the moral degradation, the population would rely on the teachings of Sufis and other saints. Religious scriptures such as Quran and Hadith provided the much needed guidance but at times the Muslim societies, on account of their greed and promiscuity, fell more and more into an abyss of despair.

Kashmir remained largely peaceful during the partition of India by defeating the forces inimical to peace. Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs lived in absolute harmony while the rest of the country continued to burn in the fires of communal tensions. We owe a debt of gratitude to those whose untiring efforts kept the flame of communal harmony burning.

Robert Thorpe, an English historian, records mental torture as one of the tools employed by the Dogra regime to inflict atrocities among the members of the Muslim majority who opposed moral degradation. While prostitution was given an official patronage, Muslim girls were sent to different parts, such as Punjab and Bombay, to indulge in flesh trade. Poverty and hunger led to the worst form of slavery when Muslims were engaged in the inhuman practice of bonded labour. Nobody dared to raise a voice.

In the midst of this impoverishment and dilapidation, a barber named Muhammad Subhan Hajam, who lived in Lalchowk, started a modest campaign against the prostitution which soon evolved into a public movement leading to the demand of political rights.  Braving Maharaja’s army, Hajam campaigned secretly sometimes by going underground. He would write pamphlets and leaflets by hand and distribute them among those who could read and write. His campaign to put an end to the act did not succeed but it had raised enough awareness among the people and they wouldn’t let their daughters be used for prostitution any more. Pimps and flesh traders were cast aside.

The conspiracies enjoying official patronage were aimed at driving a wedge between Hindus and Muslims when, for example, the Dogra Maharaja was counselled to issue a ban on selling beef on Tuesdays even as Muslims, on their own, stayed away from doing so. It has a mention in Walter Lawrence’s Valley of Kashmir who regarded it a great tradition of Kashmiri secular character.

Why liquor shops are being given a licence is a matter of grave concern. It amounts to interfering with the religious sentiments of the majority community given the fact that alcohol consumption is forbidden in Islam. Drug addiction is another major concern. Our youth are lured into it under a well thought out plan. According to Nighat Bashir, an athlete, a large network of drug pedlars exists in Kashmir which enjoys official protection.

Kashmiris, who are ready to sacrifice anything to uphold the moral values, have become conscious about the welfare of their children. While one Subhan Hajam rose against the diktat of the Dogra ruler, today Kashmir is ready with hundreds of them to nip such nefarious policies in the bud.

  •  Writer is a former BBC presenter and columnist with the Independent Urdu. 

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