LALLESHWARI, also known as Lalla Arifa, was a 14th-century woman mystic poet from Kashmir. Her poetry is believed to be among the earliest verses in Kashmiri language.

Aside from her mystic thoughts, she once wrote of her motherland Kashmir and what she said can roughly be translated as:

We were here and shall remain, The sun may keep rising and setting, But we shall remain and shall engulf the times.

Quoting these lines in his editorial, Dr Zafar Husain Zafar, chief editor of Arqam, has put them in perspective of today’s Kashmir: deprived of special status and rights but steadfast and determined to take it back. Dr Zafar says that though Kashmiris have been suffering for centuries at the hands of marauders but beneath the ashes the embers of freedom never died, nor will they now after India’s 2019 revocation of Article 370.

Arqam is an Urdu language literary journal published from Rawlakot, Azad Kashmir. Launched in 2007, the journal has been struggling all along but has been kept afloat by a team of determined editors. The current issue, dated June 2022, is a special one on Kashmir. It has been published against the backdrop of what India did in 2019.

On August 15, 2019, Articles 370 and 35a of Indian constitution were revoked, dealing a fatal blow to basic rights of millions of Kashmiris. The Article 370 of Indian constitution grants the state of Jammu and Kashmir a special autonomous status within the Indian Union. As a result of this constitutional provision, Jammu and Kashmir had its own constitution, enacted in 1956.

The Article 35a of Indian constitution allowed the state of Jammu and Kashmir to define and decide the ‘permanent residents’ of the state. Some special rights and privileges were attached to ‘permanent residency’. These privileges included employment, scholarship and right to own and buy property in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

BBC, while reporting the controversial step of revoking these constitutional Articles, said on its website on August 5, 2019, that “Top leaders have been put under house arrest, public meetings have been banned and reports say mobile networks and internet have been restricted”.

The current issue of Arqam is an endeavour to draw the attention of powers that be to the mass violation of human rights in Indian occupied Kashmir and to highlight the history, culture, language and literature of Kashmir.

There are seven sections and they deal with: Kashmir’s history, the freedom movement, language and literature, tourism and culture. Remaining two sections include letters of some well-known personalities that discuss Kashmir.

In this section some letters by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, addressed to well-known Kashmiris have also been included. The last section offers book reviews and one of the pieces in this portion retells the history of Shiraza, a magazine launched by Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, Srinagar, in 1964. It is published in several languages including Kashmir’s local languages.

Some of the articles included in Arqam proffer some profound understanding and insight on Kashmir, its history and culture.

For instance, on history of Kashmir, articles by Ilmuddin Salik, Masood Ahmed Khan, Dr Mumtaz Ahmed and some others tell us how Kashmir was taken over by different powers in different eras and what has happened in the region over the centuries, providing the readers with necessary knowledge to understand the Kashmir issue that has been a bone of contention between Pakistan and India since the independence in 1947.

The journal’s portion on Kashmiris’ struggle and movement for freedom also offers some valuable articles. For instance, Irshad Mahmood in his article has narrated the whole story of Jammu and Kashmir conflict through the years 1947 to 1990. Dr Rafiuddin Hashmi’s article pays tribute to Syed Ali Gilani, who never forgot, says Dr Hashmi, Pakistan and Islam in his struggle for Kashmir’s freedom.

Interestingly, the portion on tourism offers some scholarly pieces on travels to Kashmir taken in distant and recent by some well-known figures, such as Mian Muhammad Bakhsh, Munshi Ameen Chand and Maulana Ghulam Rasool Mehr.

A team of editors — that includes Fayyaz Naqi, Ejaz Naqi and Muhammad Saeed, headed by Dr Zafar Husain Zafar — deserves kudos for bringing out a compact issue on Kashmir.

Their message is: Kashmiris will survive and remain forever, as said Lalleshwari, the sun may set on occupying forces but Kashmiris will rise and take the reign of time in their hands, for you can imprison the bodies but cannot suppress the soul.

drraufparekh@yahoo.com

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2022

Opinion

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