What is in a name you might ask? Well everything and nothing. If it was just another town name might have gone unnoticed, but if it is a town in Kashmir by the name of Islamabad it is sure to give ammo for right winged ideologues who despise every mention or resemblance of even a shred of green in Kashmir.
Those who distort history play with the sentiments of the gullible, for whom history may not have been a good scoring subject. But have we not known how distorted and state convenient history comes in modified and adequately parameterized form for the education system in India. Schools often get a rundown, watered down ‘what suits state’ history, most the facts that state considers inconvenient left out. But that is besides the point here.
Islamabad has its own history and a well documented one. In 1763 AD Ismail Khan a Mughal governor in Kashmir laid the foundation stone of a town in south Kashmir named after him ‘Islamabad’. Islamabad also means abode of peace. In his book “The Valley of Kashmir’ Sir Walter Lawrence (1896) calls Khanabal a port of Islamabad.
In another place he writes “The main roads at present connect Srinagar with Islamabad, Vernag and Jammu via the Banihal pass (9,200 feet) with Shupiyon” Please note ‘Shupiyon’ is the original name of present day “Shopian’ that has been modified after the Indian rule in Kashmir. In his book Sir Walter Lawrence mentions “Islamabad’ almost 80 times.
The book “Jammu and Kashmir Territories” by F Drew also has mention of Islamabad town in South Kashmir.
During the Dogra rule Maharaja Hari Singh invited prominent citizens of Islamabad town to the foundation stone laying of SMHS hospital at Srinagar. All the official invitations by the Dogra ruler had addresses of these invitees written as Islamabad. In fact during the rule of Maharaja Ranbhir Singh there were attempts to rename Islamabad town but they did not succeed.
Records of post received in early 1900’s by a noted intellectual of Islamabad town, from Delhi, Punjab and other parts of undivided India and now preserved by his family were all addressed to Islamabad, Kashmir. The postage stamps of that era have postal seals of Islamabad town.
Until 1990’s Islamabad was the de-facto name of this South Kashmir town: that is till insurgency started in Kashmir. During the insurgency melee Indian security forces had been scrambled and posted across the nook and corner of Kashmir. Now during questioning if a commoner would say he was going to Islamabad, CRPF would immediately connect that to the Pakistani Islamabad and beat the pulp out of these poor souls. Suddenly CRPF personnel started firing on the signboards that read Islamabad; any mention of this name was enforced as a taboo. The signboards of buses that had for decades been reading “Islamabad’ had to undergo a sudden transformation. Security forces wanted Islamabad out of the local lexicon and Anantnag in, for which the security forces exerted much of their muscle, stick and gun power. Locals outwitted them by replacing the bus route boards to ‘Khanabal’, which is the closest stop to Islamabad, thus keeping the idea of Islamabad in their mind and heart. Nowadays Islamabad is back to its rightful place on the bus route boards.
While across India many cities may have been reverted to original names, in Kashmir strangely most of the towns have been twisted out their original names and all this under official patronage in the last 6 decades of Indian rule. ‘Shupiyon’ was modified as ‘Shopian’, ‘Pulwom’ was modified as “Pulwama’, Sopur as Sopore, Varmul as Baramulla and the list goes on and on. What wrong if an overwhelming majority of locals want to use the original name of these towns and places? Any crime this?
Meanwhile in India all the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men could not force change CP to Rajiv Chowk. Some things are better in their original form.
You would want to ask what happened to ‘Anantnag’. Well Ananatnag was originally a dwelling borough very much like Mattan (Martand) and Bijebehada, a subset of the bigger town of Islamabad. The name was later incorporated for the district by state governments post Indian rule. Islamabad continued as the name of the town proper.
In case of Islamabad town in Kashmir, the rightist hate comes from its proximity to the name sake capital of Pakistan, ignoring the fact that when the Islamabad of Kashmir was known such, Pakistan was not even conceived and India was even yet to start her Independence struggle. But since all resemblance to Pakistan in Kashmir is hate worthy be it Islamabad town, the green scarf or the rock salt: the ignoramus cry hoarse against Islamabad. What these bigots fail to justify is the existence of Hyderabad both in India and Pakistan, the existence of pre partition Lahori Gate in Delhi. Why does the Hyderabad and Lahori Gate not want them to press for a name change? Just because these places are not in Kashmir hence attempts at portraying rightist valor will not fetch adequate political returns here.
In fact you will find most of these dogmatic chauvinists enjoying “Karachi Halwa’ from Chandni Chowk, Delhi or a Mumbai sweet shop without bothering about the Karachi in it.
What is in a name you had say? Call Islamabad anything you want, but let it be Islamabad ‘the abode of peace’.
(Saadut is a blogger from Kashmir and his blogs can be accessed at saadut.blogspot.com. All views are his personal and do not represent any institution.)