duniyā ne tajrubāt o havādis kī shakl meñ
jo kuchh mujhe diyā hai vo lauTā rahā huuñ maiñ
his couplet by Sahir Ludhianvi is the opening line of the book Aur Jhelum Behta Raha authored by Khaliq Parvez. The tajrubāt o havādis (The experiences and the misfortunes) that Parvez’s life has witnessed would interest anyone who gets a chance to know his life history ever.
Born in Baramulla town of Kashmir valley in an era that witnessed the communally antagonistic rule of Dogras at its peak, Parvez witnessed the major political developments in the state with his bare eyes. He joined the Kashmir Political Conference (KPC, founded 1953) and got elevated to the position of the Secretary of the organisation’s Baramulla unit. KPC was one of the earliest organisations in the state to stand against the official narrative of the state’s accession to India, started by the ‘hero’ of the Quit Kashmir Movement (1946) and the ‘organisational backbone’ of the National Conference, Ghulam Mohiuddin Karra. The stated aim of the organisation was Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan.
Parvez’s involvement in such harsh political events of the state paid him heavily. He was forcibly banished to Pakistan at a very tender age in 1957, along with the KPC Chief Organiser, and remained in exile for around a decade, only to return to his homeland once the valley witnessed greater political changes in the backdrop of the Moi-e-Muqaddas Tehreek in early 1964. “If the snowy mountains of Kashmir valley leave you alive, you would be much welcome to your Nazriyāti Riyāsat—Pakistan,” stated Ghulam Qadir Ganderbali, the notorious police official who forced Parvez’s way into Pakistan through the deadly snow-led passes of Uri in North Kashmir, in later days of January 1957. Parvez remembers Ganderbali as the ‘Dracula of Kashmir’.
His life in exile is a thrilling tale that would concern anyone interested in the political history of Jammu and Kashmir. His memories with Maqbool Butt and others in Pakistan who were toiling hard for the solution of the Kashmir imbroglio are fascinating. All these find a detailed description in the two-volume autobiography of Parvez titled Jila-i-Watan (Banished to Exile; Mir Sons Publications Baramulla). The author looks courageous, audacious and naughty since his early childhood and describes the numerous acts from his childhood to his exile to Pakistan and thenceforth his days into Azad Kashmir and Rawalpindi, where he worked as a scriptwriter for Radio Pakistan.
Parvez’s idea of differentiating between Kashmir’s ‘merger’ with and ‘accession’ to Pakistan, in the light of the program of KPC, is of great academic merit. So is his dialogue with Maqbool Butt. It is very fascinating to read how Parvez disproved Maqbool Butt’s theory of Independent Kashmir in a single stroke. He details the dialogue between him and Maqbool on the latter’s first visit to Kashmir in the mid-sixties of the last century.
It is natural that while scripting an autobiography if the author misses any of the significant episodes of his life, it keeps him restless till he does not add those events to the edition or bring them into another volume that describes his life to the full. So is the case with Parvez. After the publication of the two-volume Jila-i-Watan, Parvez got to receive several comments about the various episodes which were missing in his work but formed a significant part of the overall history of the region and his political life as well. Aur Jhelum Behta Raha, published by Al Qalam Publishers Baramulla in April this year, is the result of these comments which discusses the missing events and episodes and also details the various aspects of Kashmir from the late Dogra period to the very beginning of 2021. “Whatever I have witnessed in my entire life, this work is the reflection of only that… It discusses politics, the evolution of the Kashmiri society, progresses in the religious beliefs, traditions, psychology, and everything that happened around me”, recounts Parvez in the introduction of the work (p. 5).
Aur Jhelum Behta Raha gives one a taste of an autobiography. However, on occasions, it gives a sense of a memoir, and at times that of a bildungsroman. This work is an interesting read and conglomerates the genre of autobiography, travelogue and history. The discussions into the life experiences of Parvez, the politics surrounding the imbroglio of Kashmir, and the social and psychological evolution of Kashmir and Kashmiris form the major themes of this work.
This book has significant details about the various aspects of the freedom struggle against Dogras. While discussing the people’s struggle against Dogras before 1931, Parvez brings in the description of Freacz Ded, a poor old woman from Baramulla’s old town (pp. 18-19). Freacz was a poor woman who would transport firewood from forests in Baramulla to sell in the local market. That was the sole source of her livelihood. Once, when public demonstrations were going against the regime of Hari Singh at Baramulla, Freacz turned to the marketplace with a piece of forest wood in her hands and joined the stone-throwers, injuring around a half dozen Dogra forces. It was here that Dogra forces fired at Freacz at point-blank range, killing her on the spot. Thus, to Parvez, Freacz became the first woman martyr of Kashmir, painting the pages of Kashmir’s nationalist struggle with red.
There is a vivid description of the happenings of the partition in the book. The author gives an eyewitness account of the Tribal Raid of 1947. He significantly makes that only three Hindus were killed by the tribals and that too for their irate behaviour. “They only shouted one thing. We want the head of Sheikh Abdullah,” recounts Parvez (p. 31).
There is a succession of moods while going through Pervez’s book, as it is in the works of John Donne. While the author details the happenings of 1947 and constructs the poignant tales of partition and the post-partition trauma, he brings in the episodes of the era that makes one laugh aloud. He recounts that while the Indian Air Force was making airstrikes against the tribals who had headquartered at the Saint Joseph’s School of Baramulla, he along with his cousin Haneef, both in their teens, paid a visit to the tribal headquarters at the school. It was there that the butcher, who happened to be their neighbour, handed Haneef a sacrificed animal’s internal parts like lungs for the supper at home. While Haneef was yet to move out of the school premises with the stuff for the dinner, the airstrikes began on and the civilian areas around. With Haneef’s shirt sodden in animal blood, running towards his home with animal lungs in his hands, the whole town started running after them, confounding the duo to be victims of the airstrikes. Haneef’s mother, like many others in the town, mistook the animal lungs for those of Haneef and fell unconscious, only to be told later that his son was fine and had brought the stuff for supper from the headquarters (pp. 29-31).
Besides politics, the book has a lot to offer about the spirituality of earlier times. Parvez recounts an incident when his wife had lost all hopes of life, and Waliullah Shah, a famous scholar of Islam from the town, cured her with his spiritual powers by reciting Qur’an over a glass of water and blowing into it. Also, there is a significant event wherein a person died and while he was been given the last bath before his burial, his soul returned to the body and later told people the details of the post-death events. Interestingly, in Baramulla, one of the ‘spiritual’ leaders was Ghulam Mohammad Sufi alias Mama Sufi. Mama most of the time used to remain high on weed. Another such person was Rusul Saeb who always remained busy smoking cannabis. It was he who prophesied the birth of and later named Mufti Abdul Rahim and Professor A R Geelani, now two known personalities of Baramulla town. (pp. 161-62)
This book has great academic merit. Ever since the emergence of the Kashmir imbroglio, when Kashmir entered the global forums like the United Nations, other than reaping the political benefits of the global involvement, it invited a greater scholarship about the history of Kashmir. Nevertheless, much of the focus of such a scholarship remained on a few of the significant episodes of the history of Jammu and Kashmir like the establishment of the state under Dogras and their communally antagonistic rule, the Balkanisation of Kashmir in 1947, the emergence of the National Conference to the position of influence in the region, and, later, the development of the movement for the right of self-determination in the state which finally culminated into the mass-level insurgent movement in the state. With such a great focus on these events, there were certain and significant developments that lapsed into oblivion or received insufficient attention. Aur Jhelum Behta Raha highlights some of the overlooked developments and constructs the history from below. This work does not focus on Sheikh, Bakshi, Sadiq and Qasim, but talks about the common man. It talks about people’s lives. It highlights the common Kashmiris’ struggle with destiny. People’s late-night combats with the bedbugs even. The non-communal behaviour of the Kashmiri Muslims and much more. It makes us laugh in one breath and weep in the next.
However, pertinent to make here would be that Parvez yields to the readers most, but not all. His works, from Jila-i-Watan to Aur Jhelum Behta Raha, do not inform us about many of the significant episodes one expects from a fertile mind like that of Khaliq Parvez. What was the response of people in Baramulla to the tribal raiders? How did they respond to the dismissal and the detention of Sheikh in 1953? What was their overall response to the groups like KPC which he was the leader of? These and similar political developments in Kashmir have been debated to their minimum in the work. One can argue that Parvez has authored his autobiography and not a textbook of history and thus these things had not to be debated at length. But Parvez is not significant as a common man; he has been a political leader. A mature Kashmiri who responded to the various episodes of the history; thus people would surely be interested more in understanding these events through his life history than many other details in the work.
Overall the book is a significant read and must be read by all. I would suggest so, with the greatest of my sincerity.