Tracing Missing History in Kashmir’s Abridged Archives

2014 deluge damage apart, Kashmir’s plagued and prosecuted past in official libraries exist with missing chapters and details. In this story, a young journalist’s exploratory trip to different official archive addresses in Srinagar reveals a condensed and curtailed nature of Kashmir history.

Fuelled by his grandfather’s homeland history lessons, Tawqeer recently decided to visit some renowned libraries to unravel the valley’s remorseless past. The 22-year-old journalist was told that the archival data about Kashmir’s chequered history calibrated itself among the richest in the world.

It was the crispy cold morning of October 19 and the first stop for the millennial was the Allama Iqbal Library located in the foothills of the Zabarwan Mountains surrounded by the still surfaced beauty of the Dal-Lake.

Allama Iqbal Library

With the end of the Chak dynasty’s “generous” reign in Kashmir and with the dawn of the Mughal rule in the valley, the chroniclers write, the history of Kashmir transformed into a decades-long conflict and carnage. Kashmir never witnessed a “peaceful reign” after the imprisonment of Yusuf Shah Chak- the last Kashmiri Badshah of Shah Chak dynasty- by Akbar in 1586 AD.

As Tawqeer stepped into the library, the smell of books and outdoor placed archived photos were enough to coerce the young boy to hasten towards the capacitated premises of the library. The millennial’s eyes were all set to dig up the historical documentation on Dogra reign in Kashmir. He found only four books in the sea of paper.

After perusing the index of all the four, the only information Tawqeer could perceive was the commerce sector under the Dogra rule.

Notably, the archives on Laws, treatment of Kashmiris, and punishments for crimes were still unfound. Once again the impassioned boy’s hasten search for archives flared up.

Except for four books nothing else was available.

Fervent Tawqeer searched every “nook and corner” of the most prestigious library in Srinagar, but the only archive of the Dogra rule were these books with a very limited amount of information engraved in them.

The budding journo was in disdain, but the desire to read about Kashmir’s persecuted past and its vicious laws wouldn’t let him relinquish. After reaching the Library help desk, the salty faced receptionist asked him to see another official of the library-who in return asked him to meet the Librarian-who in return had asked him to meet the Head of the Histories department.

The boy soon realized that the majority of archives on Kashmir’s history had no sign of visibility in the Library or anywhere in the histories department and the officials of the library had no answer to the queries of this young book reader.

“No nation can move forward while destroying their own history,” says Tawqeer while reading the “Hindu Rulers and Muslim Subjects”, a book based on the persecution of Kashmir’s local population by the Dogra rulers.

Disappointed Tawqeer had to leave the library premises in a hysteric manner. While his eagerness had no end, the only place Tawqeer could think of was the SPS Library located on the brink of swarmed M.A. road Srinagar, a road that once catered to a number of Sheikh Abdullah’s child militia-who drilled with the wooden rifles towards the famous Ghanta Ghar during the Pathan Tribesmen invasion period in the fall of 1947.

 SPS Library

As Tawqeer accelerated towards the main entrance of the library, the newly constructed interiors of the building were astonishing for him. After a long disappointing day for the young book lover, there was finally something to cherish his mood up. The receptionist insisted him to have Nun-Chai (Salt tea), that he had brought from his home while the young enthusiast was waiting for the library official who could have briefed him on his prerequisites.

A young female library official invited Tawqeer to the library office where he learned a dismaying truth. The libraries’ archival data was just 2 decades old and the content available was already known to the young lad.

The youthful enthusiast was in shock as the only two libraries where the availability of Kashmir’s archival data was the highest had nothing but disappointment to offer for the zealous history lover.

“Our valley isn’t just known for its nature but also for the historical events that our ancestors witnessed and engraved but unfortunately we’ve already concealed the path for our future generations to know about our Kashmiri history,” says Tawqeer with a sigh of distress and agony.

Tawqeer’s extensive “To get” list of archival data once again remains hushed on the side shelf of his bedroom with no form of archival data available that could have enhanced his knowledge about his roots and their life during the diabolical Dogra and the Mughal reign.

Many officials in the Directorate of Archives are continuously in denial, asserting that archives on Kashmir are still available in bulk in many of the valley’s prominent official libraries but archive fanatics like Tawqeer have still not been able to find any trace of these precious specifics.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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