Decades have passed but we still carry this attribute. Strange!
Kashmir has the privilege of having a recorded history spread over many thousand years. And most of these historic chronicles are full of oppression and exploitation with few patches of prosperity and peace. Under the influence of unbridled power most rulers, their cronies and some travelers have created a myth around the character and virtues of common Kashmiri. François Bernier the French physician and on records the first European to visit Kashmir in 1665 along with Mughal emperor Aurangzeb set the trend of documenting Kashmir and its people in an detailed manner. They described the enchanting beauty of Kashmir in most eloquent way but were much conservative and myopic in describing its people and their character. William Moorcroft the English explorer and a veterinarian with East India Company described Kashmiries as selfish, superstitious, ignorant, supple, intriguing, dishonest and false. Charles Von Hugel the Austrian explorer/traveler had nothing positive to say about character and disposition of Kashmiri people. Frederic Drew in his account called Kashmiris false tongued, ready with a lie and given to various forms of deceit. Obviously the rumor mongering being the least discernible and detrimental vice had found less space in their documentation. These blemished insinuations about Kashmiri people were dispelled by Sir Walter Lawrence in few but powerful and rational words. Walter Lawrence in his book ‘The Valley of Kashmir’ has precisely tried to rectify and possibly himself desisted from this subjective trend of opinion making about Kashmiri people, by saying “It is not reasonable to look for virtues among an oppressed people, nor is it fair to descant on their vices”. While describing the character and disposition of the people of Kashmir in general and the cultivators (rural Kashmir) in particular Lawrence has been careful and very objective, when he writes, “That many of the opinions regarding the Kashmiris are based on observations of the Srinagar people (Shahr-bash) and the boatmen and the principle of the ex uno disce omens is often at the bottom of the whole condemnation of the people of the valley”.
Later on In 1908 Francis Younghusband in his book ‘Kashmir as it was’ while giving the most vivid account of beauty of Kashmir had tried to disparage the character of Kashmiri people when he wrote “They will patiently endure and suffer, but they will not fight and they are very careful of the truth that they very seldom use it”. But, by then much water had flown down the river Jhelum and the tarnished image and evil reputation of Kashmiri people had improved not only in the chronicles of successive foreign explorers and travelers but even in the plains particularly in Punjab the image of Kashmiri people had improved considerably.
Rumors and rumor mongering was always attributed to Kashmir and its people and the much talked about ‘Khabri Zainakadal’ even now lies in the back of every Kashmiri’s mind. This imaginary trait ascribed to people of Kashmir has no valid evidence and seems to be fiction of sic mindset of our rulers. Again, this whole story of rumor mongering in Kashmir seems to be the offshoot of the oppressed and abject situation of governance Kashmiris were pushed into for centuries. Exploiting Kashmiris by dubbing them as rumor mongers is a ploy as old as the oppression in Kashmir. Autocratic rulers in Kashmir exploited this tool to the best of their ability and even after the abolition of autocracy the ‘Khabri Zainakadal’ was reluctantly inculcated into the Kashmiri psyche so as to use it as and when required as a tool for suppression. The recent outburst of one of the senior most politicians, dubbing Kashmiris as traditional rumor mongers was not in a good taste. The learned politician before venturing into political mine fields had an honour to be one of the learned teachers having a deep eye and great knowledge about Kashmir, its socio-political aspects and particularly that of its people , their character and disposition. He has the distinction of rising from the humble background with exposure to most of the sufferings experienced by the common Kashmiri even in recent past. Any insinuation or phony attribution from a leader of noticeable stature about his people does not gel with the political doctrine pursued by the contemporary sociopolitical dispensation. We Kashmiris in no way are rumor mongers; instead rumors are thrust upon us by the devious elements to suit their ulterior motives. This proves right by quoting Lawrence, he said “The Kashmiri is what his rulers have made him, but I believe and hope that two generations of a just and strong rule will transform him into a useful, intelligent, and fairly honest man”. Unfortunately, even after almost two generations of rule since Lawrence used these kind words for people of Kashmir we are nowhere close to just and strong rule. Alas! Instead we are passed on as a nation of professional rumor mongers.