Dogra Raj and the struggle for freedom in Kashmir 1932 to 1947

Tags: Muslim Conference, Kashmir, Kashmiri Pandits, economic conditions, economic condition, Kashmir freedom movement, Shaikh Muhammad Abdullah, Aziz Ganai, proprietary rights, freedom movement, Hassan Ganai, Ibrahim Ganai, Prem Nath Bazaz, Muslim majority, Kisan Mazdoor Conference, Kashmir Socialist Party, Hamdard, Socialist alliance, National Conference, revenue officials, Jagan Nath Sathu
Content: APPENDIX - A Interview with Kh. Afzal Jalali, R/o Hawal, Srinagar, in November, 1991. Mr. Jalali is a well known freedom fighter and belongs to a ckakdar family of our period of study. He is eighty five years old. Q. Since you had been yourself a chakdar, could you tell us how the produce of the chak land was divided between the chakdar and his kashtkar. Ans. First from the gross produce of paddy two traks (trak is equal to 5 kgs.) per kharwar (kharwar is equal to 80 kgs.) were taken by the chakdar. Then paddy and grass was divided into two equal parts. One was taken by the chakdar and the other by his kashtkar. Since because of the absence of modem fertilizers and high yielding crops, the yield per unit of area of land was very less, therefore, a very small quantity of paddy was left with the peasant after he parted with a major share of his produce with his lord. Ans. In this context it may also be noted that the peasant had also to pay his village landless brethren like barber, carpenter, cowherd, shepherd, ironsmith etc. who served him in different ways, in terms of fixed quantity of paddy called talab. Therefore, what was left with the poor peasant, hardly sufficed his two or three months basic food needs. Q Did the chakdar exact rasum from the peasants? Ans. Yes, definitely. The poor peasants used to bring every kind of rasum, wood, grass etc. from their respective villages to the chakdar who generally belonged 404
to Srinagar. They carried the loads of rasum by boats and from the ghats to chakdars hawaili (mansion) on their backs. The chakdars treated them worst than animals. The chakdar did not allow them to spend the night in his mansion, instead they were asked to stay in some mosque where they shivered with cold. Q. How the chakdar evicted his peasant? Ans. Before the passage of Tenancy Act (1933) the chakdar ejected his kashtkar at his sweet will, but after the Tenancy Act was passed the chakdar had to request the Tehsildar in this regard. Q. On what grounds the kashtkars were evicted? Ans. There were two reasons: One, if the kashtkar failed to cultivate the land. Two, if he was not prompt in paying rasum. Q. Did chakdar exact any kind of begar from his kashtkar. Ans. Yes, if the chakdar had to construct his house, he employed his kashtkar for this purpose and that without any remuneration. Once my father, Syed Shah Jalali took two boats of earthen pots to Bamroo Gadakhud situated in Tehsil Sonawari and in lieu of it got a wall constructed around 1700 kanals of land. This incident also speaks of the pathetic condition of kashtkars. 405
APPENDIX- B Interview with Gh. Hassan Ganai, R/o Audsoo, Tehsil and District Anantnag. Age 95, profession peasant-cum-Numbardar (Nambardari hereditary profession). Q. Could a chakdar evict a peasant around 1930? When were proprietary rights in land given to peasants working in chak lands? Ans. Yes. Why not? In 1930 my father, Aziz Ganai who was also a Nambardar was ejected by his chakdar Nath Ram. Evictions were common. It was immediately after 1947 that the Government of Shaikh Muhammad Abdullah stopped the eviction powers of the chakdars. The chakdar of the Dogra period found no problem in evicting his peasant. It was only after the passage of Tenancy Act (1933) that the chakdar had also to seek the consent of the Tehsildar in this context. Q. How the chakdar realized his share and what was its magnitude? Did he realize any other legal or illegal tax? Ans. When the harvest season approached, the chakdar used to arrive the village of his estate with his entourage and stayed for days together in advance till his share would be brought safely to the place he would order to kashtkars to carry it. During the period of his stay in the village he was fed by his kashtkars. Rice, oil, poultry and other eatables which the kashtkars were supposed to provide to the chakdar was known as ras. 406
It was necessary to harvest and thresh the crops in presence of the chakdar. If any kashtkar by chance, harvested the crop, in the absence of chakdar, he had to pay to the chakdar the same quantity as was paid by him in the preceding year. I remember that when a kashtkar of our village, Ibrahim Ganai shifted the paddy crop from one place to another without the consent of the chakdar, he was mercilessly beaten by his landlord named Nath Ram, the resident of Rainawari, Srinagar. I am witness to different kinds of begar exacted by chakdars from their peasants. For example if the chakdar had to construct a house, he employed his kashtkars for the purpose and did not pay them any thing in return. If any kashtkar hesitated in responding to the orders of his lord, he was evicted from the land. In the presence of chakdar the produce was divided into two equal parts, one would go to chakdar and another to his kashtkar. In addition to this, two traks per kharwar of the gross produce were taken by the chakdar. This was known as trakee. Q. What was the condition of common peasantry?. Ans. The peasants (generally known in Kashmir as Zimindars were living in an extremely chronic poverty. There used to be a few families in a village which fulfilled their bearest necessities out of their land produce, which was left to them after paying mujwaza (payment of land revenue in kind). The common peasantry exhausted the produce, that was left to them after forcing them to pay mujwaza, within two or three months after they harvested their staple crop 407
paddy. For the remaining nine months they lived on vegetables, fruits, etc. During winter they left for Punjab where they worked as wage labourers. Q. Who were the revenue officials and what was their attitude towards peasantry? Ans. The revenue officials were Zaildars, Tehsildars, Girdawars, Patwaris and Numberdars. They often employed the peasants in their lands without any remuneration. Besides, they also forced the peasants to share with them grass, poultry, blankets, ghee, fowl and other items which a peasant produced domestically. The exaction of these requisites was collectively known as rasum. If any peasant hesitated in paying rasum, he was not only severely beaten but also persecuted in different ways by these officials. The peasant had no access to the highest officials to whom he would make a complaint. And for that matter all the officials from top to bottom were in league with one another. It is only after the formation of Muslim Conference that some sense of confidence started developing among the peasantry here and there. There are Individual Cases where the peasants objected to harsh treatment meted out to them by revenue and other officials. 408
APPENDIX - C An interview with Mr. Jagan Nath Sathu, an outstanding journalist of Kashmir was held on 22-08-1999. Bom in 1924 at Batapora, Shopian (Kashmir), Mr. Sathu had joined Prem Nath Bazaz's Urdu daily, Hamdard, as its city reporter in 1942, and continued to work for the said organ upto 1947, when it was censored. Ideologically Mr. Sathu belonged to Kashmir Socialist Party and had been one among the colleagues of Prem Nath Bazaz - a front-ranking leader of Kashmir freedom movement: Q. May you please summarize the economic and political conditions of Kashmir during the Dogra rule? Ans. The political system was autocratic and economic conditions were deplorable. But the economic condition of the Muslims was more deplorable in comparison to Kashmiri pandits. Q. Why the freedom movement of Kashmir was initiated by the Kashmiri Muslims despite the fact that Kashmiri Pandits were educationally advanced than the former. Ans. The Kashmiri Pandits by and large belonged to the privileged class and therefore, were not ready to initiate any move that would go against the system. 409
Q. Why the freedom struggle of Kashmir started very late in comparison to freedom movement of India? Ans. Because of the non-availability of the leadership. The socio-economic conditions of British India were relatively better than Princely States. Q. There had been a propaganda that the Kashmir movement was a foreign engineered movement. What is your opinion? Ans. I do not agree with it as the freedom movement of Kashmir was indigenous in origin and nature. Q. Do you find any role of the Punjabi Muslim leaders in the formation of Muslim Conference in 1932? Ans. Obviously. They played an important role in disseminating the political consciousness among the Kashmiri Muslims which ultimately culminated in the formation of Muslim Conference (1932). Q. What was the role of Muslim Conference during its seven years life viz. 19321939? Ans. The Conference played a remarkable role in emancipating the political, economic and social conditions of the State masses. Q. What were the objectives for which the Muslims Conference was converted into National Conference in 1939? 410
Ans. The fundamental objective underlying the conversion of Muslim Conference into National Conference was to woo the support and sympathy of the communities other than Muslims in order to organise a common platform with a broad-based programme. Q. Generally the Kashmiri Pandits did not join the cadres of National Conference as was expected by the Nationalist leaders. What were the reasons? Ans. Doubts and fears. By and large the Kashmiri Pandits did not want to be ruled by the Muslim majority. Q. To my opinion National Conference could not succeed in organising a joint platform of various communities during the freedom struggle. What is your opinion? Ans. I fully substantiate your views. Q. What could be the most important reason leading to parting of ways between S. M. Abdullah and P. N. Bazaz? Ans To quote my contemporary and colleague Mr. P. N. Bazaz "Shaikh was authoritarian in approach" . Q. What was the role of Hamdard in disseminating the political, social and economic consciousness among the people of Kashmir? 411
Ans. The role of Hamdard was manifold. It was not only a socio-economic and political harbinger but also the real representative of all the ideological streams of the State. Q- Hamdard used to publish poems in Kashmiri critical of Nationalist politics. Who was the composer of such poems? Ans. Yes, of course. Besides others, one person I vividly remember was Abdul Aziz Mir, a young socialist leader belonging to Muslim Conference (1940-1947). Q. In 1946 an alliance was formed between the leaders of Kisan Mazdoor Conference and Kashmir Socialist Party. What were the fundamental principles of this historical alliance? Ans. The crux of the Kisan - Socialist alliance was to free the Kashmiri masses from the shackles of the alien autocratic regime and to lay down the socio economic foundations of our society on an egalitarian basis. Q- In 1947 the leaders of three ideological entities that is Muslim Conference, Kisan Mazdoor Conference and the Kashmir Socialist Party did leave the valley. What were the reasons which made them to leave their home-land once for all? Ans. As soon as the Nationalists assumed power, the stalwarts of all the three parties were arrested. Their release was made conditional to their permanent exile. 412
Q. Why P. N. Bazaz did not return to Kashmir to re-organise the defunct cadres of the Kisan - Socialist alliance? Ans. His entry into the State was banned. Q. Who was the ideologue of the Kashmir Socialist Party and what was the theme of its manifesto ? Ans. Its ideologue was M. N. Roy, the well-known Communist leader of the Indian subcontinent. The programme and manifesto of our party was based on radical and progressive lines. Q. What was the nature of the resolutions which were passed in a joint convention of Kisan Mazdoor Conference and Kashmir Socialist Party in 1946 at Kabamarg (Anantnag), and subsequently published in the daily Hamdard. Ans. All these resolutions were progressive and revolutionary in nature. 413

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