By M J Aslam —
In the past, in the city of Srinagar, there was an evil system among Kashmiris of disseminating false rumours. Srinagar’s Zaina Kadal, 4th bridge then, 6th bridge now, in a sequence of bridges across Jhelum, was used to be the place where false rumours were hatched, but then the news makers moved to Amira Kadal, 6th bridge, wherefrom they further passed it on to others. Though the wise knew that news from Zaina Kadal , which was locally called Khabar-e-Zain-e-Kadal-e-Chi, was false, the majority were not that wise.
The system of spreading fake news, rumours, mischief, by word of mouth continued among Kashmiris till the beginning of 1960s, albeit spread of news by “word of mouth” had ended in Europe & India centuries before. In view of censorships on the publication of the facts on ground on Press before & after 1947 till establishment of some local independent newspapers in Urdu in Kashmir in late 1950s, people usually believed in & advanced what they had heard from others usually without verification. Just rumours. But, now, with the advent of mass media & multi-media news channels across globe, the scope for hiding facts & spreading lies has diminished almost totally.
The question then remains how these Kashmiri proverbs had originated? “Khabr e Zain e Kadalechi” is an old Kashmirian adage. It is in currency at present also. With freely accessible internet & social media platforms, a good use of this proverb under varying manifestations & frustrations , damn essay & tricky now for mischief mongers, is observable among facebook gossipers & other jugglers. Well that is not my mood to tell you about the captioned proverb. I want to share with you the background of the whole story how it got into prominence in Kashmiri society.
Most of you may be aware of the adage, Zain e Kaddaleh Pethe Gayi Thokh Hoyo or Gayi Ho Gayi Ho Zaine Kadle? Well I trust you all know it. In olden days, it is said that a foreigner had visited Kashmir . He wanted to learn about the inhabitants of Kashmir & know about their common behavioural responses. What he did. He rambled around the city & stood on the Zaina Kadal bridge . He spat into the river & then looked at the spot where his spittle had fallen, and said, ” Where has it gone ? Where has it gone ? ” The passers-by asked the meaning of this. He did not reply, but continued saying, ” Where has it gone ? ” More & more people crowded around him. It grew into large muddle or vast assembly of people . He got apprehensive that the wooden bridge (that time all bridges were wooden) may break which would put lives of all people around him in great danger. He didn’t want that happen. So, he told the crowd: “Look I spate in the river & was checking where my spittle had gone”. On hearing this, the crowd scattered & when he returned to his country he told called his friends & told them what kind of stupid people the Kashmiris were!
So since that time, then we find the proverb “Zain e Kaddaleh Pethe Gayi Thokh Hoyo or Gayi Ho Gayi Ho Zaine Kadle” is usage in spoken Kashmiri language till date.
But our curiosity does not end here. The question is why Zaina Kadal only was chosen for mischief & rumour hatching & spreading. It has a background since Afghan Rulers time. The Durani Rulers of Afghanistan ruled Kashmir for 66 years only (1753-1819) during which they changed 28 Governors of Kashmir. Well, Azad Khan was one of the Afghan Governors of Kashmir (1783-85). He was just 18 years of age when he succeeded his father for the job in Kashmir. He was not addicted to pleasures of harem, wine, hookah, & other vices, but legend says that he was denominated “ Zalim Khan” reported a traveler. That said, there a story, just story, that his wife was about to be delivered of a child but just before her confinement he went to her lying-in room and said, ” If it is a boy that be born, I will give you many presents ; but if it should be a girl, I will slay both you & the child.” A girl was born, and as soon as he heard of it, he slew his wife and threw the infant into a fireplace. He became restless that news of dastardly act within his palace may go out among the inhabitants of the city. To inquire if the news had reached the people, he sent his servant to “Zaina Kadal” bridge to see whether the people had got wind of the news & if possible, the originator be also traced. The servant went and in a little while, he found some four people had assembled on Zaina Kadal Bridge who were chatting or talking to each other. The servant neared them. He eavesdropped them. They lowered the tone of their talk. They whispered in each others’ ears. The servant got suspicious. He caught all of them & asked who had initiated the talk but without further inquiring what was actually talked about between him & his friends on Zaina kadal ? They pointed to the one among them. The servant presumed that man had got the news of the dastardly act of his Master’s home. So he became confident that he had traced the man who spread the news against the ruler. When the man was brought before Azad Khan, he asked him, without inquiring like his servant, how had he got the information? The man was very clever & knew of the ill-temperament of the ruler. He told him that a saint had appeared in his dream who gave him the information of the things within the king’s home/palace. “True, True” said Azad Khan. “The Khabar (news) from Zaina Kadal is correct ….” And, since that time, the legend went unabated in Kashmirian society whatever Khabar was coming from Zaina Kadal , it was believed by simpletons & foolish people correct without inquiring into its truth & any knowledge of things.