A book by Avtar Mota
Reviewed by Indu Bhushan Zutshi
Book ‘THE ESSAYS THAT MAY CHANGE YOUR BELIEFS’
Reviewed by Indu Bhushan Zutshi
Author : Avtar Motaz
Published in 2023 by Notion Press , Chennai and available on Amzon and Flipkart worldwide
Pages : 166
Price : Rs. 340/-
“Hamchoo Sabzeh Baarha Roed Imm” …..( Rumi
Like greenery, we keep coming again and again
History be it ancient or recent, can never be a closed topic. It keeps its doors always open for fresh interpretations and newer facts that may crop up from time to time. At all times, the writing of history has been a complex and difficult process. Difficult and complex, I say, because people writing the accounts are bound to be influenced by the tendencies that govern the times when histories are written . Accordingly, history is a subject that keeps on being revisited by authors from time to time. India attained its independence from the foreign rulers in 1947, and our historians started writing and rewriting our history, partly the way they thought it to be true and partly as was required by the policy planners and rulers of the time.
In the process of writing history, some historical accounts, certain events and many facts were either underplayed or not adequately stated. Avtar Mota in his above mentioned book has selected fifteen topics and has restated the truth about them in the light of research and study that he undertook. The details cited
and the arguments brought in defense of his points of view are firm and based on actual facts and events.
Most of the essays discussed in the compilation like one pertaining to King Lalitaditya, Begar in Kashmir , turbulent times of October 1947, devastation of Baramulla at the hands of the Tribal Raiders in 1947, Akbar’s visit to Kashmir, Biju Patnaik’s daring role in Kashmir during October 1947 , Kashmiris contribution in India’s freedom struggle , ,Interview of Captain Diwan Singh, ADC to Maharaja Hari Singh and many more form interesting and unforgettable lessons of Kashmir’s recent history. While some other essays like the contribution of Aurel Stein in setting up Sri Raghunath Temple Sanskrit Manuscript Library ( Jammu ), Kashmir’s connection with Buddhism and a very interesting essay about Ajvika Tribe in Kashmir are some such essays which have not found any or adequate mentions in our history books. The essays on Kashmir’s contribution to Hindi cinema, erotic art in Kashmir are worthwhile additions which dwell on the artistic
Sensibilities of Kashmiri people.
The book starts with the story of Emperor Lalitaditya Muktapaida. In this essay the author lays bare the unfairness with which the historians have treated this great emperor ,whom chronicler, Kalhana called ‘Universal Monarch’ or conqueror of the world. Our historians have all along failed to accord the rightful
place to this great ruler of Kashmir in history. The author here has adequately highlighted Lalitaditya’s role in formation of the state in Kashmir, as also his unparalleled and worthwhile contribution as greatbuilder, promoter of fine arts and tolerant ruler .
Begaar or forced labour is an ancient practice followed by the mighty and the rulers from very ancient times the world over. This practice was also prevailing in Kashmir from ancient times . It was during the ruthless Afghan rule that this practice became brutal in Kashmir. For political exigencies a false and baseless perception has been created that this practice was created and pursued vigorously during Dogra rule . This is contrary to the facts. The author brings in reliable evidence to establish that Dogra rulers brought drastic changes in the Begaar during their rule . They paid it in cash and kind and the Begaar during their rule was mostly undertaken for British troops stationed on frontiers .The ‘Big Central Asian Game’ and the ‘Russian Expansionism’ played a great role in its continuation. The Dogra rulers abolished the Begaar Contrary to popular belief.
Maharaja Partap Singh issued instructions for including Hindus as well in Begaar . And Hindus from Jammu also joined the Begaar labourers . Instances of poor Kashmiri Pandits joining Begaar have also been quoted. The historians have been unfair in painting this unfair practice as a sole creation of Dogra rulers.
One interesting essay of immense political significance in the book is about Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Dogra ruler of the state. Author’s interface session with Capt Diwan Singh, Maharaja’s ADC and most loyal secretary is a piece of revealing information . This talk with Capt Diwan Singh clearly points to
behind the scene goings on between Kashmir’s popular leadership and Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru , which more looked like a conspiracy than a political decision. This behind the scene agreement paved the way for removing Maharaja from the political scene of the state so as to handover complete charge of Kashmir to Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah .Nehru’s role in trusting Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah beyond limits has also become a matter of current political debate . The book under review has many more revealing episodes, anecdotes and informative pieces without which the historical , cultural and political review of Kashmir is incomplete.
Kashmir’s Buddhist connection and its pioneering role in spread of Buddhism across Himalayas is a great saga of our history. The role played by Kashmiri Pandits in salvaging vital Sanskrit and Persian manuscripts of Kashmir also finds mention in one essay of this book. With the support of Kashmiri Brahmins coupled with complete patronage of Maharaja Partap Singh, Aural Stein’s role in creating Sanskrit Manuscript Library in Sri Raghunath Ji Temple is a great event in the cultural history of the state The book also has revealing history to narrate about the presence of erotic art in Kashmir. This art obtained from various archeological sites in Kashmir point to the emancipated levels of thinking of the people during that period . In this connection it will not be out of place to mention the presence of Ajvikas in Kashmir, a tribe who were unorthodox, ate little and wore very few clothes.
The very rarely known episode of valour displayed by Biju Patnaik in flying the first contingent Indian army to Srinagar in October 1947 is a part of this book . This daring act has never been talked about .
Besides all the above chapters the author has also given impressions of his visits to the US, where he happened to meet various immigrants who had made America as their home. The author’s interaction, with a big section of the immigrants is quite interesting and revealing. All these immigrant workers , work to earn some dollars a day so that their progeny lives comfortably. One common thread running in the minds of these people is that they want to revert back to their homeland. Most of them fight to retain their cultural and linguistic roots . Avtar Mota uses V S Naipaul’s style in recording communication verbatim as spoken. That makes this essay highly gripping and absorbing. With such essays , the book makes an engrossing reading. Avtar Mota’s book in short is a reader’s delight
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Indu Bhushan Zutshi can be reached at -email@example.com