As I continue to wade through the mounting TB (terabyte/s) of data in my possession, I am close to establishing a pattern of categories.
I am also spending some of my god-given time to approach 'fresh' members of the public, to acquaint them with my work (for them) and enquire on how they can possibly assist me. I am almost at the stage of being able to put up a monthly income/expenditure chart, which will provide further insights into what's missing in our rights struggle.
This is all in aid of improvising a solution for AJK's ambiguous status.
Meanwhile, let me take you back to a piece of writing written by Khalid Hasan, more than a decade ago. He may have spent a lot of his life working for Pakistani institutions but his sense of patriotism for J & K is visible in a sample of his writing below:
Mirpur, the vanished city
The Mangla Dam was built because of the obligations that Pakistan accepted by signing the Indus Basin Waters Treaty. This monstrous manmade wall that played havoc with the topography and environment of the area was built on territory over which Pakistan had no legal or constitutional right since it was a part of the old state of Jammu and Kashmir, whose future, Pakistan otherwise maintains, remains to be decided in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of its people.
As was to be expected and as has consistently been the case, the people over whose land this giant dam was built were the very ones never consulted. Mum’s the word when it comes to determining the extent to which the construction of Mangla has affected Pakistan’s case on Kashmir. After the transfer of some territory to China in Kashmir’s northern regions, again without consultation with the people of the state, this was the second major assault on the state’s territory. However, the saving grace of this treaty is a clause that in the event of a change of status, the treaty would be renegotiated with the controlling entity. The Northern Areas are to this day administered from Islamabad and the so-called Northern Areas Council has no powers. But that is a tale for another day.
Recently, there has been talk of raising the Mangla Dam, a decision that only Barrister Sultan Mahmood, following in the footsteps of his father Chaudhri Noor Hussain, to his great credit opposed on the ground it would bring vast tracts of Mirpur lands under water, do violence to the environment and uproot the people who still have not forgotten or recovered from their forcible eviction from their homes so that the monstrosity called Mangla could be built. Forty years later, there remain many Mangla affectees, their claims for due compensation unresolved. Many were settled in areas far from their homes, such as Thal. Few of them stayed there but there was nothing to come back to because what were once their homes were now under water. What benefits Mangla has brought to Pakistan, it is for its government to list, but it has done little for Azad Kashmir or its people. The royalties that they should have been paid have always been in dispute and always in arrears. Unfortunately, there was no Arundhati Roy in Pakistan when Mangla was being built. I wonder if our own Arundhati Roy, the admirable Asma Jehangir, can be persuaded to join those who are opposing the raising of the dam.
The people of Mirpur are settled in large numbers in Britain and it is their innate hardiness and their Spartan spirit that has enabled them to become one of the most prosperous and organised communities of expatriates in the West. They also remain the sole torchbearers for the Kashmir cause in that land, which seems now all but lost, given the recent declaration from Islamabad that the problem can be resolved in “one day”. Very little has been written about Mirpur as it was before the Mangla deluge and even less about its pre-1947 days. In 1995, one Mirpuri, Syed Sultan Ali Shah, published a book about Mirpur, containing his reminiscences of the city as it was before the partition of India, its people and its vanished landmarks. He had plans to produce a revised edition covering post-1947 Mirpur but, sadly, he did not live long to complete that labour of love.
During the maharaja’s time, Mirpur was the headquarter of the district, which was known by the same name, and which included the three tehsils of Niabat, Bhimbar and Kotli. The administration was headed by a state official called Wazir-e-Wazarat and the magistracy was independent of the administration. Sardar Ibrahim Khan, who was a barrister-at-law from London, served as public prosecutor at Mirpur for a time, so did M Yusuf Buch as a young member of the Kashmir Civil Service. The valleys that lay between the hills had different settlements, some of them dating back to pre-Mughal times and peopled by different tribal and ethnic groups. There were 64 villages in Mirpur that were classified as jagirs and 336 others, both with Muslim majorities. There was an uprising against the Maharaja in 1931 in Mirpur and British troops had to be called in to restore order. This became a turning point in the struggle of the Muslims for their rights and the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference was founded a year later by Chaudhri Ghulam Abbas and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah (who formed his own party later – an event that marks the beginning of Muslim misfortunes in the state). The most revolutionary of young Mirpuris was Ilahi Bux who physically stopped the area’s police chief from disturbing a meeting inside the Jamia Masjid. He was overpowered ultimately and jailed, but the people of Mirpur from that day on only knew him as Ghazi Ilahi Bux.
My journalist friend from London, Habibur Rehman, a true Mirpuri if there was one, remembers the city where he grew up and went to school, a city now under water. No Mirpuri can visit the graves of his forefathers because every graveyard is now buried in a larger graveyard called the Mangla lake. One of the most revered saints of the area, Ghazi Shah Pir Qalandar, also rests in that watery grave. The people of Mirpur may have been poor but they were always defiant and never took things lying down. There was no electricity in Mirpur for several years after the establishment of Pakistan and Habibur Rehman remembers that as a child, he and his classmates would go and stand in the evening on a hillock to watch the lights of the city of Jhelum twinkling like glow-worms in the dark. One of the promises made to the people of Mirpur was that since Mangla had been built on their homes and hearths, they would be provided with free electricity when it started generating power. That turned out to be another unfulfilled promise. If the government of Pakistan would only pay what it truly owes in royalties, the face of that part of Azad Kashmir can be transformed.
One blessing of Mangla to have come the way of the Mirpuris was that they were encouraged to go abroad. In those days, it was extremely difficult to obtain a passport. However, to induce the people to leave, the government issued thousands of passports in the 1960s and since immigration restrictions, as we know them today, did not quite exist then, the Mirpuris travelled to England where there already was a scattered population of Mirpuris, most of them having jumped ship. One such man was the later Chaudhri Zaman Ali, Sitara-e-Khidmat, the elder statesman of the Mirpuri people in Britain. When a huge demonstration was organised in London’s Hyde Park to protest the execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Chaudhri Zaman, even though he was a very old man then, brought several busloads of people from the Midlands to join a huge crowd that included both Murtaza and Shahnawaz Bhutto. I recall Chaudhri Zaman Ali being lifted by the boys on top of a car from where he addressed the crowd. He always wore a turban with a Peshawari kullah and though he had lived in England for decades, he spoke no more than a couple of words of English. He was a great Mirpuri and was most helpful to early immigrants from his homeland.
Syed Sultan Shah never got over the destruction of his city. In his words: “With my own eyes, I have seen not the wrath of God but aggression committed by men erase what our ancestors had left behind to remind us of them. Our historical monuments, our mosques, our shrines, even our graveyards were obliterated. It was as if they never were. Our people were uprooted from their homes to wander the world. Many went into exile.” One can only hope that this sad history will not be repeated, although one fears that, once again, the last thing on the rulers’ agenda will be the people whose lands, no less than their lives, are to be inundated and consigned to oblivion.
Khalid Hasan died in 2009 and the archives of his prolific writing which were available previously at http://khalidhasan.net are no longer so. This is yet another aspect of the tragedy that is Jammu & Kashmir.
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