The Palladium Cinema in downtown Srinagar is the subject of a new programme in the BBC radio series, The Museum of Lost Objects. The programme is presented by Kanishk Tharoor and produced by Maryam Maruf. It looks at the changing use of the building: cinema, political rallying point, interrogation centre, security forces bunker. Here's the link to the audio:
Indian Front was a communist-aligned journal published by Indian students and ex-pats in England in the 1930s - it had earlier been known as Bharat and then as New Bharat.
This brief but conspicuously well informed and written piece on Kashmir appeared in the issue for March 1934. 'The truth is that the people of Kashmir are exceedingly poor and that they have been cruelly exploited ...', the article asserts. 'They are in almost permanent rebellion against this exploitation.'
The forty-four page New Kashmir manifesto adopted by Sheikh Abdullah's National Conference in 1944 has been described by the political scientist Sumantra Bose as 'the most important political document in modern Kashmir's history'. It was a radical document - indeed Abdullah described it as a 'revolutionary document' - in the form of a draft constitution for (then princely-ruled) Jammu and Kashmir ... drafted by communists and based largely on the Soviet constitution.
The content is remarkable - but let's focus for the moment on the cover design of New Kashmir when issued in English as a booklet. It's not dated, but is certainly from the 1940s - and probably the mid-1940s. The design is striking - the colour, the lettering, the image, all suggest a radical and progressive approach to politics. It is not a staid, old-fashioned type of political manifesto.
It's noteworthy that a woman was chosen as the sole person to appear in the design. She is not drawn with any great distinction. Her head is covered, and she appears to be wearing a pheran, the cloak-style garment which is a hallmark of Kashmiri dress. She is wielding the National Conference flag adopted a few years earlier - a white plough on a red background. As the British communist Rajani Palme Dutt once commented, it has more than a passing similarity to the traditional communist 'hammer and sickle' flag (the one below is the emblem of a small Indian far left party).
In terms of derivation, the New Kashmir cover design carries an echo of Marianne, the symbol of the French Republican tradition.
Her most famous representation is in
Eugene Delacroix's renowned 1830 painting, 'Liberty Leading the People'. You can see the similarities between the two images of flag-wielding women. Did the designer of the New Kashmir cover have Marianne in mind?
This is the report of the remarkable interview which Sheikh Abdullah gave to a British journalist in 1949 in which he spoke of the option of an independent Kashmir. According to H.L Saxena (in The Tragedy of Kashmir, published in 1975), the Times of India spotted the story and wrote it up, which in turn prompted an angry Sardar Patel to upbraid Sheikh Abdullah. But it's also an indication that Sheikh Abdullah's interest in independence had been germinating for some years prior to his dismissal as Jammu and Kashmir's prime minister and arrest in August 1953.
The interview was conducted by Michael Davidson, who worked mainly for the Observer - though this article appeared in the Scotsman of 14 April 1949. It is a hugely interesting interview - for Sheikh Abdullah's comments about independence, neutrality and communist influence.
The page lay-out means that a few lines have, in the image above, been missed off both columns. For the record, the first column concludes with these additional words:
'autocracy: our sympathies went to the Indian Congress, because Congress supported the struggle of the peoples of the States against Princely autocracy. Jinnah's Moslem League didn't - its leaders backed the rulers of Hyderabad and Bhopal against the people's democratic movement, because these Princes were communally-minded and, therefore, Pakistan's greatest supporters.'
The second column concludes:
'they do not say so publicly) are resigned to the principle of partition - so is India. A neutral Vale of Kashmir would remove the [illegible] of those leaders, like Nehru, with vision and genuine concern for the welfare of the common people, are likely to examine the plan objectively and without rancour.'
For those interested in Kashmir's history, here are some resources which will be of interest and value ... and please offer documents, images, photographs.