Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Culture Neutral: Persian Archives Meet (Almost) the Same Fate as Sanskrit Archives

Iqbal finds that after Sanskrit was replaced by Persian in the late 14th century, Kashmiri Sultans did not do much for preserving Persian documents either. Now, the situation is even more pressing: who will archive the material?

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 48, was born in Parigam Chek, Kulgam. He is a graduate with Diploma in Numastics, Archaeology and Heritage. He is an archaeologist, writer, and a cultural historian. Mr. Iqbal Ahmad has published 12 reference books on Kashmir archaeology and heritage.)

Neglected Persian records of Kashmir

Apart from Sanskrit records of Kashmir which have been neglected and are decaying in various manuscript collections, our Persian documents and manuscripts too have not been given any special or deserving treatment. As a result, most of them are facing a similar crisis.

Most of these manuscripts are still undescribed and un-translated. Resultantly, many of the manuscript collections are un-catalogued and undocumented.

Like Sanskrit works, these Persian documents have also become an outdated literature which have got very few scholars who can decipher and explain the meaning of these works to the common reader. For a layman it is better to know what is Persian and what does it really mean? Perhaps, very few people may be aware of Persians glorious heritage. While for the rest of our educated youth Persian is no more than an Iranian language.

No doubt when we define Persian in simple terms we can say that it is an Iranian dialect which is still prevalent there. But for Persian scholars and historians, it significance in context of Kashmiri culture and history is very much established. Since the decline of Sanskrit, it was Persian who filled a literary gap here. Historically speaking, Persian evolved here in late 14th century AD when Shahmiri Sultans founded Muslim Sultanate in Kashmir.

Since the 14th Century to 20th Century, Persian found a strong base in the whole of Kashmir. It served as the official language of the people here for centuries together; besides it was also taught formerly in local madarrases. It was in the period of NC’s founder and former Kashmir prime minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah that a new education policy was formulated and Persian was introduced as one of the languages for school education.

Kashmiri Pandits had also learned this language and their contribution to its promotion was very much outstanding. Persian originally emerged from Persian present Iran but it got cultivated in Kashmir. Of its religious significance, most of religious scripts for Muslims where available in this script. It was much earlier than Arabic. It was also language of Muslim missionaries who introduced it in Kashmiri Khanqah’s and Madarassas.

Just like Arabic, it was obligatory for every Muslim of the sub-continent to learn it. In fact the contribution of Muslims to promotion of this Iranian dialect was well understood. Because they then needed it to learn so as to understand their religious teachings. What was more significant and surprising, obviously, was the role which Pandits played in development of this language and its literature.

Among Kashmiri Pandits, the name of Munshi Bhawanidas Kachru stands pre-eminently among Persian writers and poets. The original style of his Bahri-tavil is held in high esteem. Pandit Taba Ram Turki, Satram Baqaya, Daya Kachru, Aftab Bhan, Gobind Koul, Kailash Dhar and a number of other Pandits’ contributions to development of Persian literature are well mentioned in several Persian accounts of this land.

When we classify our written and official languages, we know that Prakrit was the earliest dialect of northern India, it was followed by Sanskrit. When Sanskrit discontinued it was Persian which took over Sanskrit learning in this part of the world. Thousands of books were written in this language which covered almost all the fields of education and literature.

Those were the glorious periods for Persian language and literature. However, things changed, Persian could not stand the new cultural and literary invasions. A time reached when this script became outdated. Consequently, it was dropped from the school curriculum. The Urdu and English languages filled the official language vacuum. Notwithstanding the fact that Persian is still taught in few government universities and colleges, but it is totally abandoned from local Muslim madarassas; which in fact is shocking.

Despite its religious and literary significance and background, Persian should never have got such a punishment from the Muslim Darasgahs. Why the present Darasgahs dropped it from their curriculum? No one knows better than the management of these religious institutions. They may have some logic in neglect of this Iranian dialect.

To promote Persian as a language is not my point, my concern is about its neglected heritage. Like Sanskrit manuscripts, the Persian manuscripts are scattered in a number of collections, which are mostly unidentified and undescribed.

Its translations have not been taken up so seriously. At most of these places, the manuscripts are neither documented nor catalogued. Although we know that we cannot revive and restore back its pristine glory, still we could have made an effort to accord it a better treatment.

We need to bring its scattered manuscripts and documents under one umbrella and preserve those for future generations. To understand the philosophy, history, culture and moral values hidden in these Persian manuscripts, we could have encouraged its systematic translation into new and prevalent languages of this land.

Almost all the sufic philosophic traditions and rituals are preserved in this language. Let us not again wait for Kashmiri Pandits to undertake the documentation of these manuscripts and free ourselves from this moral responsibility. The job is ours. Lets do it.

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