Intellectually superior, Crafty, Cunning: How Writers Down The Ages Have Referred To Kashmiris

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Intellectually superior, Crafty, Cunning: How Writers Down The Ages Have Referred To Kashmiris

Sushil Kumar Kaul, Arazbegi

Kashmiri character has been a subject matter of research and discussion among various scholars and writers of the region for centuries.
A community character generally represents easily identifiable or predominant personality traits of any community which are inadvertently acquired by them over many generations or centuries. These traits could be both positive and negative in today’s context – but these are essentially there for others to see as our normal social behaviour.
All communities in India (or even globally) – be they Punjabis, Marwari’s, Gujratis, South Indians, etc etc. have their well defined community character traits – which in any case has no negative bearing on their present individual behaviour or character. Despite our voluntary willingness to accept or deny these traits – the fact remains that the people in general from other communities perceive us or these communities in the way which the past researchers of human behavior have proclaimed them to be. For me it relates to each communities historical heritage (our important link with past). Shying away from it or pushing it under the carpet for fear of redicule or reprisal is not a solution.

How My Kolkata Friend Teased Me

One of my classmates at Jadavpur, Kolkata – Syed Mohammad Najimuddin, a Muslim of Egyptian descent and settled in India, always used to quote a Persian verse to me and taunt me for my Kashmiri ancestry. The verse was “Agar kahat ul rijal uftad, azehan uns kamgiri – yake afghan, doyum kamboh, soyam badzaat Kashmiri” (meaning in English as – although there is no dearth of men to be there in the world, yet never cultivate acquaintances with three kinds of people: (1) Afghan, (2) Kamboh (from Kamboj in old Punjab) and (3) Badzaat Kashmiri).
While searching for the above Persian couplet on the internet I came across an article written on the subject by one Mr. M J Aslam, a Kashmiri author.
In his articles he explained that – this Persian couplet has, from time immemorial, been associated with the name of great Persian poet of 13th century, Sheikh Saadi of Shiraz. The meaning and message in it has been loud and clear and since our childhood we have heard and known it.
However, he clarifies that some other sources do not warn of Afghan and Kamboh people but that of (1) Sindhi and (2) Jat people while retaining at third place (3) Kashmiris with added bitterness of the word “Badzath”.

Reference From Arabian Nights And Other Writers

Richard F Burton in Arabian Nights volume VI page 156, mentions it accordingly in these words: ” If folk be scarce as food in dearth, never let three lots come near ye, first Sindi, second Jat, and third a rascally Kashmeeree.”
One characteristic of the Kashmiris, Musalman and Hindus alike, was their conceit. The Kashmiri used to bear an evil reputation in Punjab and indeed throughout Asia. Proverbs liken him to a snake in his morals and to a fowl in his manners, and men were warned against admitting a Kashmiri to their friendship.
Moorcroft reportedly wrote of the Kashmiri in this way: ‘Selfish, superstitious, ignorant, supple, intriguing, dishonest and false, he has great ingenuity as a mechanic and a decided genius for manufactures and commerce; but his transactions are always conducted in a fraudulent spirit, equalled only by the effrontery with which he faces detection. They are false tongued ready with a lie and given to various forms of deceit.’
The vices of the Kashmiris were not innate, but were probably believed to be due to the government under which they lived. The natives of Kashmir have always been considered as amongst the most lively and ingenious people of Asia, and deservedly so. With a liberal and wise government they might have assumed an equally high scale as a moral and intellectual people, but as of then a more degraded race did not exist.

What Rajtarangini Said
The theory held by the then Kashmiris themselves was that they were once an honourable, brave people and that they were reduced to their present abject state by continued foreign oppression. The Rajtarangini however seems to say that, long before the days of foreign conquest and oppression, the Kashmiris were noted for their cunning and dishonesty.
In a country where there was practically no justice, the only weapon in the hands of the weak was lying or subterfuge. The Kashmiris, in their dealings with state officials, did not strictly adhere to the truth.
Owing to the peculiar system prevalent at the time, the government encouraged a most elaborate scheme of espionage. The Kashmiris as a consequence doubted and hated one another. The old men attribute all its misery to two leading features of the national character – lying and envy or malice.
It is said that a Kashmiri cannot bear to see any one getting on in life and the elevation of a villager or an underprivileged to a higher office. The Kashmiri is also very loud and voluble.

Always Valued And Respected For Intellect
The Kashmiris in terms of intellect were simultaneously believed to be perhaps more superior to the natives who resided in other parts of India. They were very quick in argument and they would never abandon a case unless they were convinced that it is hopeless and they always insisted on knowing the grounds of a decision. Much of the quickness and readiness of wit in a Kashmiri, particularly Pandits, was attributed to the fact that they were widely travelled.
The Kashmiris who in the old days settled down in the plains of the Punjab and other parts of India for a century or more did lose a great deal of this character and as time passed on they all became just like all other natives of the plains. To summarise, these observations about Kashmiri character have been there for centuries. Despite that nobody hated us or shunned us totally, as a community, till now. Kashmiri Pandits on the contrary were employed by most monarchs in north India in their important administrative positions. Kashmiris never suffered any ridicule or discrimination. Community character traits can certainly be overcome over a period of time by decent and right individual behaviour. People in the final analysis tend to remember individuals more than the community they belong to.

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