The 306th Night of Memory – 1

Memoirs from Kashmir

Maryam Rajabi
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


The 306th program of Night of Memory of the scared Defense was held in Soureh Hall of the Art Center on Wednesday 26th of September 2019, according to the website of Iranian Oral history. During the show, Ali Seyed Nasseri, soldier Ruhollah Razavi and Mohammad Soroor Rajaee spoke about the influence of Iranian Islamic revolution in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

The host of the 306th program of Night of Memory of the scared Defense, Davood Salehi said in the beginning, "This program revolves around two important issues both of which are beyond Iranian borders. During the attack of Mongols on Iran, a personality named Mir Seyed Ali Hamedani later know as Ali Isfahani left Iran for Kashmir along with 700 Iranian Seyeds (descendants of Prophet Mohammad). This migration and the passage of time changes some things in Kashmir gradually including the language, culture and even its religion. The Kashmiris believe that they were converted to Islam by the Iranians insofar as they recognize Kashmir as the Lesser Iran. The photos of Imam Khomeini (God bless his soul) and Hazrat Agha (Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei) have been installed in one of the villages in Kashmir. There are institutions and schools named after the Iranian martyrs and Imam Khomeini. The common language, common climate, common names, common cuisines and common culture, all of these on one hand and the influence of Iran's Islamic revolution on Kashmir on the other hand which is very considerable. In this show, we deal with those respected people who caused in recent decades that the relation between Iran and Kashmir are preserved; the people such as Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Zakeri. The first narrator of the 306th program of Night of Memory was born in Tehran in 1954. He has been the former employee of the Foreign Ministry in positions such as the First Secretary and diplomat of Islamic Republic of Iran's Embassy in New Delhi. Due to his political position at the embassy, he also traveled to Kashmir for many times. In these trips, he had a good friendship and relation with Mohammad Hussein Zakeri. After retirement and leaving the Foreign Ministry, he began cultural work. The result of this cultural work is a book called "Kashmir; Past, Present, Future" which is a good resource for those who want to research about Kashmir."

Then as the first narrator, Seyed Ali Nasseri said, "I want to say why the issue of Kashmir is of great importance?" what is the importance of the issue for the world of Islam? What is its importance for we the Iranians? What would be the future of Kashmir? How much has been the significance of the work of those who have served there? For answering these questions, I have to say history briefly. The Indian Subcontinent was divided into three countries and Pakistan and Bangladesh were separated. The independence campaign in the region was finally led to Iqbal Lahoori's Two-State Theory. They said that now that we were gaining independence, we should be two independent states; the Muslims and Hindus should have two independent states. After much effort by the Paks, the Muslims were separated and set up the country of Pakistan. One of the regions was Kashmir the majority of which were Muslims but while the divisions were underway, the Indians did not allow the Kashmir region was annexed to Pakistan. This led to three wars between India and Pakistan. Two wars were related to Kashmir and one to Eastern Pakistan which is the same current Bangladesh. The struggles were in the level of armed groups backed by the Pakistanis. The three wars caused the United Nations to issue resolutions for Kashmir including the right of determining destiny for the people of Kashmir; it means that Kashmir is a disputable region internationally and it should be solved one day. The issue of Kashmir is of great importance internationally because it is a disputable region in southern Asia. The world of Islam is sensitive to the issue because most people of the region are Muslims as well as due to their struggles. The Muslims are following the developments in Kashmir. What is the significance of Kashmir for Iranians? As it was mentioned, Islam was spread in Kashmir by the Iranians. We had a meeting with the leader of Kashmir's Hurriyat Party. They said that we were converted to Islam by the Iranians. Our Islam is wearing Iranian clothing.

India was under heavy international pressure, so it announced a transparency plan that would allow any foreign diplomat to go to Kashmir and see the situation there. The plan caused many people found their place in Kashmir. We even held the anniversary of the demise of Imam Khomeini (God bless his soul) in Kashmir Valley. Srinagar is the capital of Kashmir. We were invited there to deliver a speech before the sermons of Friday prayer. One of our colleagues at the embassy delivered a speech. When we were boarding the plane, both American and Iranian diplomats were present. When we got off the plane, we saw that all the English-language and Urdu-language newspapers had reported that the Iran-US war had reached Kashmir. We delivered a speech in the city of Jammu. The Kashmiri leaders said that we do not allow anyone to take part in our circles except you and they were referring to Americans. And this is the effect of the Islamic revolution on Kashmir. The tendency toward Iran and Farsi language in Kashmir the people of which have been converted to Islam by the Iranians had cause the Farsi language to the official language there for many years as it had been in India. Another important issue there during the period we were there was the influence of the Islamic revolution. Until then, there were armed struggles backed by Pakistan mainly. But since 1989, they realized that the armed conflict was not the solution to Kashmir, because those who fought militarily said eventually that this part of Kashmir should join Pakistan and because in the first war between Pakistan and India, they seized part of Kashmir, now known as Free Kashmir, and is in Pakistan. The current that followed was a popular and intifada one. They said that if we want to achieve our rights, we have to go ahead with the way with which Imam Khomeini triumphed his revolution. In general, new conditions were created in Kashmir. When the Kashmir issue was at its height, the Imam said that the Kashmiri planes could land at our airport. It was very sweet to them that the Islamic Revolution supported the right of the Kashmiri people to defend it.   

When I say Kashmir, basically I mean Kashmir Valley and Srinagar. It has another part named Jammu and Kashmir. The people of Jammu are mainly Hindus. Another part is called Kargil which is surrounded by mountains. The people in this area live hard. Its weather is very dry. They do not have access to Srinagar for six months due to snowfall. The people are very poor economically and culturally. Pakistan-backed groups tried to influence in Kargil too. The move by Sheikh Hussein Zakeri was that he did not allow the Kashmiri youths to join Pakistani groups. They had a campaign council called Hurriyat which had seven main leaders. One of them was Shia. His name was Sheikh Abbas Ansari. He was a combatant and was active in the Indian revolution for many years. He was arrested continuously, going and coming. Sheikh Hussein Zakeri was trying to coordinate with Sheikh Abbas Ansari and the Shiites in Kashmir so that if a referendum was held in the future on whether Kashmir would join Pakistan, or stay within India or become independent, the Kargil people and Shiites along with the Shiites in Srinagar and Kashmir Valley could have a common stance together and see which people's interests are best served. Mr. Zakeri was active in educational issues and the level of children’s education. He also tried a lot to save Kargil’s people for poverty. Although the Muslims have separated from India and established the country of Pakistan, the biggest minority in India are Muslims who are scattered. The social level of Muslims in India is low for two reasons; one economic issues and the other cultural issues and literacy. Mr. Zakeri started work (in these fields) in Kargil. We tried to being a number of Kashmiri young students to Imam Khomeini University in Qazvin in order to study there; they were interviewed at the embassy. At present, a number of them are engineers and doctors. All of them came to Iran and got familiar with our culture and then came back to the Lesser Iran. Some of them believe that the job done by Mir Seyed Ali Hamedani at that time, the Islamic Republic in this period. At that time, we wanted to select students; Kargil had several youths whose diploma grades were so low that we could not select for our university. Thanks to the hardships Mr. Zakeri has suffered, a large number of Kargilis are studying in the universities in India and other countries. Due to historical and political issues in India related to Kashmir, they had not been allowed to invest in big businesses. They even transferred the Kargil Airport set up by the government to another area due to protests by Buddhists. They are very poor in terms developmental works. Mr. Zakeri's character was that he did not strive for himself and that everything he did was for the pride of the Kargil people. Sheikh Hussein Zakari's focus was on two issues: the level of education and education of the children and the second was to save the people from the poverty they were struggling with. Although he had no official position in India, he did his best. When Mr. Zakeri passed away, people really went to town on his funeral."


 ... To be continued              

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