Iqbal and Kashmir Freedom Movement

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Fateh Muhammad Malik

Kashmir freedom movement was launched as an integral part of the movement for the creation of Pakistan. The leading light of the Kashmir struggle is none other than the spiritual father of Pakistan, Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938). In his last public speech Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah recalled: “Iqbal at the beginning of this century visited Kashmir, when ignorance and poverty was everywhere. He prayed to God to ignite the flame of revolution and it was this time in my life that my mind changed into a fire of sacrifice and struggle.” 1
The prayer to which a mention has been made here is contained in the following concluding lines of Saqi Nama, composed by Iqbal in Nishat Bagh, during his first visit to the valley in 1921:

“The Kashmiri is imprisoned by bonds of servitude,
Chisels the gravestone for his own grave,
Is without inspiration of ideals,
Has no self-respect,
His master wears silken robes through the labour of his slave,
Whose own body is clothed in tattered rage,
He sees no future for himself,
In his heart he nurses no ambition,
But the time will come when a spark will ignite
And he will burst forth into revolt within him”2

Iqbal’s active concern for the miserable plight of the Kashmiris under Dogra despotism dates back to his student days in Lahore. He became the General-Secretary of the Anjuman-e-Kashmiri Musalmanan-e-Lahore and contributed regularly his signed as well as anonymous writings to the Kashmir Magazine. In one of his poems he called upon the Kashmiris to unite themselves “like the letters (k, sh, m, and r) of the word Kashmir”, and in another he observed:

“The clutches of tyranny and ignorance has humbled us,
By clipping our wings and pinions, like a pair of scissors,
O Lord! break the hand of tyranny
That has crushed the spirit of freedom in Kashmir.”

The diction of the poem may be faulty because of the juxtaposition of dast-e-sitamkaish and paamaal, but the insight of the young poet-philosopher into the socio-economic and politico-spiritual ailments of the Kashmiri society is very deep. The slavery of a heartless slave dynasty had degenerated the average Kashmiri into passive sufferer of dehumanizing poverty and indignity. Pointing out some of the factors which have contributed to this degeneration a British Settlement Commissioner of the State had observed in 1895: “A man who can be beaten and robbed by anyone with a vestige of authority soon ceases to respect himself and his fellow-men and it is useless to look for the virtues of a free people among the Kashmiris. The Kashmiri is what his rulers have made him.”3
Today it may sound incredible that during the rule of Maharaja Pratap Singh (September 1885-December 1925), the penalty of killing a cow was death by burning; an old Muslim and seventeen members of his family, including children, were burnt alive in the presence of the Governor for being suspected of cow killing. In 1924 in a village in Tehsil Pulwama a child broke one branch from a mulberry tree and thus became the cause of his father’s death by severe beating and head injuries. 4

Iqbal’s poetry ignited the fire of resistance to revolt against this soulless despotism. Commenting upon the role of Iqbal in the awakening and the transformation of Kashmir, Maulana Abdullah Qureshi stated in an interview: “It was because of Iqbal’s emotional involvement in the movement for the uplift of the Muslims of Kashmir and because he had written special progressive poems to be recited at the meetings of the Kashmiri Anjumans which he attended that had made a great impression on Sheikh Abdullah, from the first time of meeting Iqbal in Lahore in 1925, as a student of Islamia College. Iqbal used to address the annual sessions of the Anjuman-e-Himayat-i-Islam and Sheikh Abdullah attended all the meetings and used to meet Iqbal in Lahore at that time.”5
Highlighting the dynamic world-view of Iqbal, Sheikh Abdullah wrote in a personal letter to Khawaja Ghulam-ud-Din Wani: “I am very much attached to him spiritually and he impresses me very much because as a Poet of the East all his predictions have proved correct.”6 Iqbal inspired Kashmir freedom movement as a creative genius as well as a political activist. After the July 1931 uprising when curfew and martial law was imposed in Srinagar, Iqbal became the spear-head of Kashmir struggle. Only a few months before the beginning of this popular revolt, Iqbal had formally presented the ideal of separate Muslim homelands based on the ideology of a separate Muslim nationhood in British India. He immediately took the initiative from the All India Kashmir Committee and was elected its Secretary General. According to Abdullah Qureshi: “Iqbal supported the Kashmir movement not only politically but financially and morally. He wrote many letters to affluent people in India to help the cause of the Kashmiris. This is the only time in his life that he asked for money for the Kashmir cause. There are many letters in his book in which he has made this appeal. He arranged for advocates from Punjab, Bihar and Patna to help conduct the cases of political prisoners in the Kashmir movement of 1931-33.”7

Thus Iqbal struggled on several fronts as a pragmatic visionary to shape the destiny of Kashmir as organically linked with the final destiny of the future Muslim homeland that he had unfolded a few months earlier in Allahabad.
Muslim members of Indian delegation in the London Round Table Conference discussed the question of Kashmir with the permanent Under Secretary of State for India on November 9, 1931. During the course of discussion Iqbal demanded that the Maharaja should be deposed:
“We do not care at all if the Mussalmans of Kashmir do not find any employment under the state, we do not care at all if they are not educated, we do not care at all if military education is not given to them, we do not care at all if they pay heavy taxes, although in fact they have been paying for the last sixty years 2 rupees 7 annas as compared with 3 annas per year which is paid by the Hindus. We do not care about all these things, but we do care and we want you to care about justice being done to the people of Kashmir, to the women and to the children and to the young and old men who have been mercilessly killed by the military of Kashmir. We want you to inquire into the matter immediately and to depose the Maharaja, if necessary. That is what our demand is and I want to put it to you as plainly as possible.
I think I shall have opportunities to speak on this subject in the near future and I want to bring the whole affairs before the British public, because these things have been allowed to go on for at least one hundred years. Perhaps the British people do not know anything about Kashmir. They sold the country for 75 lakhs of rupees – about 50,000 pounds. It is a sale which no modern jurisprudence would recognise and a sale which no modern conscience would recognise. Two years after the sale, the then Governor General of India declared that this transaction would not be made the instrument of injustice. Well we see it is now being made and has been made for the last one hundred years an instrument of the greatest injustice. If, as a result of the inquiry, it is found that the Maharaja is to blame, he should be deposed, as a matter of fact, we know he is to blame to this extent, that he is ultimately responsible for his administration, and therefore, we ought to get rid of him. If this is not done, I can tell you that there are some members present in this Delegation who feel they cannot honestly co-operate with the British, if the demands of the people of Kashmir are not met.
Mr. Shaukat Ali: I am of those who are personal friends of His Highness the Maharaja, and I think he is a good man.
Iqbal: He is not. Do not bring in your private relations, you are here to represent the Mussalmans of India”8
This veiled threat of non-cooperation became loud and clear within a couple of years. Responding to repeated appeals by Mr. Bailey, the British Resident in Kashmir, the Chief Secretary to the Government of the Punjab, c.c. Garbett “warned Sir Iqbal generally to keep his hands off Kashmir”. Iqbal reacted to this warning in a defiant manner:
“Conditions in Kashmir are anything but satisfactory. A movement for ‘Hijrat’ is already afoot and a civil disobedience campaign is also contemplated. This is sufficiently alarming and may disturb the equanimity of the Muslims of the rest of India. At present neither I nor any other member of the committee is contemplating to visit Kashmir. If however, the situation deteriorates to the extent of disturbing the Muslims outside Kashmir I cannot anticipate the action which the Kashmir Committee may decide to take. “9
This was the time when a very strict watch was being kept on the activities of Iqbal. He had become the main target of the confidential Lahore daily diary, as is evident from the CID report dated August 1, 1933 signed by Dhain Singh:
“Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal, President, All-India Kashmir Committee has sent a circular letter (a copy attached) to 5 hundred big Muslims of India. Since the formation of the new All-India Kashmir Committee, it has received so far Rs. one thousand as subscription from different persons.
Sir Iqbal has written separate letters to big Kashmiris in the Punjab requesting them to form committees of Kashmiri Muslims, collect Rs. 3 from each Kashmiri house and send the collections to the All India Kashmir Committee. The Kashmiris of Lahore and Amritsar have begun this work. 200 members of the committee have been enlisted in different Provinces. Sir Iqbal had decided to make the committee a permanent body and to get it registered.
All India Kashmir Conference will be held at Amritsar after two months, about which decision will be made in the next meeting of the working committee. It has received a proposal recommending Sir Iqbal as the President of the Conference.
A circular letter printed in Urdu issued by Sir Iqbal refers to the new All-India Kashmir Committee, and points out that the Kashmir Movement is now passing through very critical stages, that the Kashmir question has special significance for the Muslims of Northern India in particular and Indian public in general, and that the future of the Muslims of Kashmir depends on the attainment of their political rights and their protection. In the circumstances, the letter appeals for special attention to the affairs and aims of the committee, requesting the addresses to open its branches in their respective cities, to enlist members and realise Rs. 3 annual subscriptions from them and send the same to the Head Office of the Committee as soon as possible.”10
Even a casual scanning of the records of the Secret Department reveals that all attempts at preventing Iqbal to act as the friend, philosopher and guide of the Kashmir agitation against Dogra persecution of the Muslims proved to be a total failure. Messengers from Srinagar continued to frequent Iqbal’s residence to seek advice and to carry back “objectionable” posters published by Iqbal, Mohsin Shah and Malik Barkat Ali.
The functionaries of the British Indian Empire got particularly alarmed at the emerging Pan-Islamic dimensions of the Kashmir agitation. The following confidential letter of the Prime Minister of Kashmir is an expression of their utter helplessness in the face of Iqbal’s inspirational leadership:

August 17, 1933, No. P.B. 534-C/D/O

My Dear Bailey, (Lt. Col. F.M. Bailey, Resident in Kashmir)
The enclosure to your confidential letter of 12th August about the activities of Sir Muhammad Iqbal is very interesting and His Highness’ Government are grateful to you for sending it to them. I do not know where your information emanated from, but I would like to draw your special attention to the words “The Kashmir has special significance for the Muslims of Northern India in particular”. I cannot but read into this the idea which has been frequently mooted a Pan-Islamic State stretching from the North Western Frontier to the borders of the South East of Punjab, to the attainment of which Kashmir has been regarded as a stumbling block.
It is impossible not to feel, in view of the fact that Glancy Commission recommendations have been almost entirely been carried out (cf. my two communiqués) that the desire to keep alive the agitation in Kashmir which is evinced in Sir Mohammed Iqbal’s letter is due very largely to the ideal of Pan-Islamic State.
His Highness’ Government would be very grateful if you would bring this point of view for what it is worth to the notice of the Government of India.
Yours sincerely,
The resurgence of Islamic identity in Kashmir soon became an active concern for both the Maharaja and the British government. In order to combat this danger, they encouraged Hindu revivalists and Congress leftists simultaneously to enter into Kashmiri politics. Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS) established its branch in Kashmir and slowly and gradually Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was won over by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. He succeeded to create a splinter group of Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, which adopted the name of National Conference on June 24, 1938. This happened just a couple of months after the death of Allama Mohammad Iqbal whom the Sheikh recalls as his greatest benefactor: “Iqbal has dreamt of a new Kashmir, when we were still infants. Whenever we sought advice about our movement, he gave us gems of wisdom. His poetry is regarded as the archangel’s trumpet for the people of Kashmir.”12
It is worthwhile to note that exactly this was the time when Iqbal was busy composing his magnum opus, the Javed Namah (the Pilgrimage of Eternity), that was to become a classic within a few years of its publication. In his spiritual journey from earth to beyond the spheres and to the Presence of God, he laments for the people of Kashmir in the presence of Shah-i-Hamadan.
Ali Hamadani is universally acknowledged as the major influence in the definite establishment of Islam as well as Hamadaniyya branch of the Kubrawiyya Sufi order in Kashmir. Poet, mystic, scholar and statesman, Syed Ali Hamadani was born in 1314 at Hamadan, Iran. His father Syed Shahab-ud-Din was the governor of Hamadan province. His family had the rare distinction of combining worldly power with spiritual pre-eminence. He was educated under the loving guidance of his maternal uncle, Syed Ala-ud-Daula Simnani, who was one of the most prominent members of a vast circle of Sufi saints. After completion of his formal education, Syed Ali Hamadani was initiated into the Kubrawiyya order, founded by Najmuddin Kubra (1145-1221) in Central Asia around 1185. Kubra had rejected the offer of Genghis Khan, at the time of the sack of Khwarezmia, to move away in safety and had preferred, instead, to be martyred along with six hundred thousand citizens of the metropolis. One hundred and sixty years laters, Ali Hamadani’s response to Temur’s nomadic depotism was almost identical.
Syed Ali Hamadani travelled far and wide throughout Muslim world for a period of twenty-one years. Thereafter he came back to Hamadan and spent the next two decades in scholarly activities and spiritual guidance of his disciples. He composed deeply moving poetry and authoured more than one hundred works in Persian and Arabic, ranging from theosophy to politics. Zakhiratul Maluk, a guide to good governance, is one of the few universally admired books on the subject. The key concepts of Hamadani’s political philosophy are justice and benevolence. His advice to kings is to follow the Prophet and the rightly-guided Caliphs by exercising the might of the ruler with the grace of a Sufi dervish. Such demands from the rulers, inevitably brought him in conflict with Timur Lang: citing Nuruddin Badakshi’s Khulasa-tul-Manaqib Muhammad Riaz narrates:
“Timur had been informed that Syed Ali Hamadani would always sit facing the Kaaba. At the time of asking the Syed to present himself in the court, Temur intentionally arranged a seat for the Syed which faced the king. When Syed Ali Hamadani sat, Timur in a taunting attitude asked him: How is it that today you sit facing me and not the Kaaba? The Syed replied: Certainly anyone who faces you, his back would be towards the Kaaba. Then Timur said: I have heard that you are trying to take over power and government in your hands? Syed Ali Hamadani replied: I am not allured of this mortal world, nor its riches; I only seek what comes from Allah. As regards the kingship, I saw it being swallowed by a lame dog; it is said that only dogs are after this world. On hearing this Temur told the Syed that under such circumstances there was no place from him to stay in his dominion.”13
Thus, Ali Hamadani was forced to leave Iran. Travelling through Samarkand and Bukhara, he reached Kashmir in 1381 alongwith hundreds of his followers. The ruler of Kashmir, Sultan Qutub-ud-Din (1394) came out of the city alongwith the most prominent members of nobility to receive him. The Sultan requested Ali Hamadani to stay with him in the Royal Palace but he preferred to lay his camp in a deserted mosque on the banks of the river Jhelum.
Under the impact of this worldly Sufi way of life of Syed Ali Hamadani emerged the Muslim identity of Kashmir. Iqbal transformed the historical personality of Syed Ali Hamadani into a powerful metaphor of reawakening of the people of Kashmir. Iqbal has depicted him as a symbol of the reconstruction of Kashmiri society. Iqbal laments for the people of Kashmir in the presence of Shah-e-Hamadan.

“Under the heavens man devovers man, nation grazes another nation.
My soul burns like rue for the people of the vale;
Cries of anguish mount from my heart,
They are a nation clever, perceptive, handsome, their dexterity is proverbial,
Yet their cup rolls in their own blood;
the lament in my flute is on their behalf.
Since they have lost their share of selfhood
They have become strangers in their own land;
Their wages are in the hands of others,
the fish of their river in otherman’s nets.
The caravans move step by step to the goal;
but still their work is ill-done, unformed and immature.
Through servitude their aspirations have died,
the fire in the veins of their vine in quenched.”14

Having painted such a grim picture, the poet sounds an optimistic note underlining new signs of awakening:

“Your cry is a bell urging the caravans;
why then do you despair of the dwellers in the vale?
Their hearts are not dead in their breasts,
their embers are not extinguished under the ice;
Wait till you see, without the sound of the Trumpet,
a nation rising out of the dust of the tome.”15

This caravan bell continued to ring till the very last moments of his life. Iqbal created an imaginary religio-political hero of Kashmir, the Lion of Lolab (Mulla Zaighum Lolabi) and transmitted his vitalist philosophy of khudi (selfhood) in the local setting and contemporary perspective of Kashmir from the lips of the poet philosopher of the valley of Lolab. Iqbal’s spontaneous outpourings on the questions of central importance to the material and spiritual emancipation of Kashmiri society are contained in a series of 19 short illuminating Urdu poems, posthumously published in his last collection of poems, under the title: Mullah Zada Zaighum Lolabi ka Biaz:
“The Mullah’s eye is without the light of divine wisdom
and the Sufi’s wine-shop has the wine devoid of divine ecstasy.
O’ valley of Lolab!
When sermons and prayers cease to be the
source of a permanent revolution
Religion becomes either death or slumber for the God intoxicated persons,
O’ valley of Lolab!”16

The tyrannical rule of the Maharaja coupled with the so-called spiritual preaching, from the pulpit, of silent fatalistic surrender to the forces of status quo resulted into such a sordid state of affairs that the poet laments:

“Known once on polished lips as Little Persia,
Downtrodden and penniless is Kashmir now;
A burning sigh breaks from the heaven, to see their children crouch in awe of tyrant Lords
Telling the story of the heartless times,
An old pleasant’s home of misery under the hill
Ah! this fine nation, fertile of hand and brain!
Where is your judgment-day, oh God of ages?”17

The poet channels such soul-stirring laments into a cry for revolution. He calls upon the Sufi to discard the gown of monasticism, to come out in open revolt against despotism and to hold fast to the sword of freedom:
“Come out of the monasteries and perform the
– ritual of Hussain, the martyr
Monasticism is nothing but woes, worries
and pessimism
Self-determination, self-respect and the symphony of Anal Haq (I am the truth) are no doubt, the stations of the wayfarer to God, provided he is free”.18

Iqbal’s poetry transformed the docile slaves into fearless freedom fighters. Chanting selected verses from Iqbal became a regular feature of the public rallies and mass meetings. Iqbal’s revolutionary ideas were incorporated into the New Kashmir manifesto adopted in 1944.

The writer is an eminent scholar and has served as the former Rector of International Islamic University, Islamabad. He frequently writes for newspapers and other print media.

Courtesy: Hilal

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