Views from Srinagar
Z G Mohammad
MY playmates, siblings and I never knew it, ‘we are inheritors of the history that has made us’ and given us an identity – a distinct identity. Climbing the Koh-i-Maran, walking through the crumbling monuments, whistling and singing through the lanes and by-lanes we never knew that our township was a history incarnate.
Nonetheless, there were some symbols of the resistance movement that unfolded before us the struggle and sufferings of our fathers and grandfathers as the images inside the bioscope. These totems of chiseled lime and polished black stones rostrums and stages, in the Muslim Park, at the Mujahid Manzil, at Hazratbal and Khanaqh-e-Moula where from the rebels and the leaders of the yore had challenged the most powerful were our immediate connect to the recent history of the land, cascading with sacrifices and chivalry.
Some time back, during a visit to Khanqah-e- Moula, I realized as a nation we have not only lost sense of history but have also been insulting the totems of our resistance by desecrating them. The wild growth of all sorts of thorn bushes- nettle, Datura on the crumbling limestone stage in the precincts of the most revered place took me down the memory lane and set me brooding.
My playmates, Bashir, and Deena and I, when we were barely eight or nine with our tiny school bags hanging from our shoulders and swinging takhtis during summers at recess often visited Khanaqah, for having a dip in the Jhelum. For Being a non-swimmer, for dipping in the river, I preferred the floating bathroom permanently anchored by massive iron chains in front of the of the historic hospice. It was during one of those summer jaunts; we saw for the first time a towering leader at the peak of his eloquence addressing a mammoth public gathering and challenging the mighty from this the stage. That, in fact, was our first introduction to this totem of resistance.
Those days whether sitting under the canopy of the Chinar trees in the Jami Masjid or squatting on the limestone ‘suu’fa’ (prayer-place) in front of Khanqah, elders loved to share their memories of the resistance movement with the children. In Khanqah-e-Moula, elders often turned nostalgic about the day when Qadeer had asked the people to rise against the autocratic rulers. Some elders not only remembered his speech verbatim but also mimicked him, pointing towards the Sher Garhi Palace they would repeat his words, “Iss Mahal ki eeint say eeint bjaa dou.” I remember, one day in New York Ambassador Yusuf Buch also turned nostalgic about the day and told me, that he was ‘eight when along with his two brothers M. Amin, G.Naqahband and his father he heard Qadeer at Khanaqah, Buch Sahib lived in Kalaspora. Many elders at Khanqah turned nostalgic about the day when in October 1924 scores of people had greeted the river procession of the Viceroy of India, Lord Reading with black flags and protested against the misrule of the Maharaja. Even in the late fifties, sixties and early seventies, that is our boyhood and youth, all important resolutions regarding the resistance movement were passed from this stage.
Having lost, the biggest historical chiseled limestone stage in the Muslim Park that had seen one of the greatest South Asian leader Quaid-e-Azam at the peak of his eloquence to the shanty and ugly slum market let us not lose other totems of our resistance movement. Let us preserve, the first stage of the resistance movement for the posterity and fix a plaque to it.
[Z.G Muhammad is veteran journalist/writer based in Srinagar]