Kashmir is boasting of having 1000 years of recorded history. While that is debatable, the larger issue that nobody is concerned with is that it is one of the most unfortunate spots of globe that lacks access to its historical and archeological resources. That is why perhaps the historic accounts being produced within the state are too modest. Sources to history of Kashmir are actually scattered worldwide. Aurel Stein, whose contribution to certain aspects of Kashmir history is phenomenal, is recorded to have employed boatmen to purchase manuscripts in his era. And people were there to sell. Most of these documents were exported and are now part of the treasures of different universities across the globe.Then there were politicians like Pandit Nehru who was more eager to preserve the Gilgit manuscripts at a time when Kashmir was fighting it’s yet another battle for survival in 1947. After sixty years, a full-fledged area of research is based on those treasures in Delhi and elsewhere.
Most of the documents of the British-Dogra era and even Mughal, Sikh and Pathan reigns are missing from the libraries in J&K. Off late, there are cold wars being fought between Jammu and Kashmir regions over retaining and maintaining some of the documents of recent history of a state that was cobbled by Ranbir Singh after he purchased the estate.
Sites of historic significance are being erased in Kashmir. The worst instance is the Guriyal, located in the karewas of Zewan belt which are considered to be carrying answers to a riddle about the last apocalypse in which most of the living species became extinct. There are thousands of 260 million-year-old pre-dinosaur fossils embedded in it. But Kashmir has sold it to quarrying sector that sells it for Rs 600 a truckload. It has the potential of actually becoming a goldmine but the state lacks vision.
Post partition, the division of state was not limited to territory only. It involved division of historic documents also. Most of the pre-partition history is one of the major colonial era collections of the British India Office Library and Kashmir lacks resources to have access to it.
The larger tragedy is that whatever was left out, apparently by chance, was not preserved well. The Museum in Srinagar is a speaking institution about the capacity of Kashmir in not-doing-things. We collected things and marketed them to build castles in the uptown and end up lecturing about the “contributions I made”. There were upheavals in which people took liberties with the resources they owned. It happened in 1989 to a section of populace and then again in last 20 years when retaining something in Urdu became a liability.
Last week, there were reports about some discovery in old city while laying sewerage pipes. More than 23 ft underground, there were finished rooms, tunnels, ponds and green-courtyards. A government has taken almost a week and is still indecisive. Protect history for us.