When Kanger became graveyard of reputation in Kashmir

Following Hyderpora civilian killings, Kashmiri relegated unionists hinted at the ‘graveyard of reputation’ cliché of the valley’s politics and thus unwittingly revived the rebel Kanger of sixties that created change overnight.

Many in Srinagar still recall how the BBC of sixties would notoriously play out almost daily with the backing of the subsidiary-driven throne.

But following the dreadful decade that saw the crown crusaders unleashing a reign of terror on commoners, the spectacle ended quite suddenly—one miffed winter day—when a fiery kanger was slammed on the head of a roughneck banking on his brother’s clout.

That music of muscle and money—Bakshi Brothers Corporation or BBC—had taken roots in the valley soon after Sheikh Abdullah’s arrest in 1953 and takeover by his man Friday, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad.

With that sudden shift, it seemed the throne is inexorable from its new ‘man in charge’ whose “blood brothers” would become the default city lords.

Pundits who understand the political pulse of the valley assert that the uncertain complexion of Kashmir’s political arena has always been an inevitable facet that even the ‘tallest yet controversial’ leader couldn’t caper from.

But before Bakshi met his Waterloo, the uncommon stop of Khankah-e-Sokhta at Srinagar’s Safa Kadal was the place wherefrom shots were being called.

“Boebb Seb, wife of National Conference’s General Secretary and Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad’s cousin Rashid Bakshi was in charge of the nerve centre at Doudddmutt Khankah (scalded sanctum),” recalls Zareef A. Zareef.

“That lady was no less than a governor unto herself.”

Rashid was seen as the ringleader of the crown cabal and coterie. Tasked to ‘smell rats’, his ramrod stature would mostly shadow and scare commoners of the city.

“Rashid was Qadir Ganderbel clone,” the poet chronicler of the city and the witness of its turbulent times says.

Zareef mentions how a Kangir on his head at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk turned Rashid and the PM’s throne upside down.

He had shown up driving his jeep that freezing day of December in early sixties.

Prime Minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad.

At Srinagar’s historic Lal Chowk that earned its name from left-wing activists inspired from the Russian Revolution to fight Dogra rule, the horse stables and bus stands and small vegetable carts remained the main view.

“Rashid’s jeep in which he had arrived at Lal Chowk that day and Bakshi’s 11 years long rule both vanished and became history in a jiffy,” Zareef says.

The perception of uncertainty in the political paradigm of Kashmir, veteran editor Zafar Meraj says, reflects in recent history as well.

“Bakshi was a giant who retained Abdullah storm,” Zafar says. “Yet it took only a kanger to bring him down from the chair of the Prime Minister.”

The contemporary history has proven many examples of such small incidents and switch in the situations accordingly.

“From the holy relic movement of 1960s to 2016 unrest, we’ve seen it all how suddenly things can flip in Kashmir,” Meraj says.

This uncertainty in the Kashmir politics is beyond people’s reputations maintained by New Delhi’s support, argues Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a senior political analyst.

“Since 1947, New Delhi’s blessings have only remained with its chosen pawns till they were to serve the supposed interests,” he says.

“From abrogating elements of J&K’s promised autonomy one after another, to downgrading the post of PM to CM or Sadr-e-Riyasat to Governor, New Delhi kept switching on its favorite picks to serve the purpose.”

This politics of attrition, the analyst says, has always created ground for a sudden change.

“In his autobiography Aatish-e-Chinar, Sheikh Abdullah clearly says that New Delhi only cradled him till it needs his presence in its interest,” Prof. Noor A. Baba, a political scientist explains how Delhi responds to this change in Kashmir.

“And same happened with those who followed.”

Bakshi with Vallabhbhai Patel and Sheikh Abdullah.

Dr. Showkat sees the same script being followed by New Delhi on administrative and military fronts—where many officers and war veterans were brought in to serve different tasks. “But such measures only worsened the ground situation,” he says.

Kashmir, argues chronicler Zareef, has seen the time of forced labour and barbaric time of the Dogra regime “but they all pass, and we hold the ground”.

Perhaps mindful of this polemic past, the Kashmiri unionists—currently facing the BBC of “Naya Kashmir”—resurfaced to seek some relevance recently.


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