In J&K, like the famous ‘Lal Chowk’ of Srinagar, even Anantnag has a ‘Lal Chowk’ and it has been a symbolic place for many aspects.
Anantnag town draws it’s name from ‘Anant Nag’ meaning uncountable nag (springs) or chasma. It was renamed as ‘Islamabad’ in 17th century by Islam Khan who was the Mughal Governor of Kashmir. The original name of Anantnag was restored during Maharaja Gulab Singh’s rule.
During late 1980s, South Kashmir was severely affected by systematic Pakistani propaganda. Religious/ Political groups like Jamat-e-Islami, People’s League, and even a faction of JKLF (called the Haji group) were openly supporting the Pakistani propaganda machineries.
Anantnag town was the epicenter of all such Pro-Pakistani activities. Slowly the town got to referred as ‘Islamabad’ again, this time more because of the growing love for Pakistan there.
There used to be a hawker, who used to sell ‘Chana’ (chickpeas) in front of the famous Bata shop of the Lal Chowk in Anantnag town. He was also a grassroot level worker for People’s League. Locals and children used to fondly call him “Pudh”. He was know for his punch line promoting his ‘Chana’. The Kashmiri line went like this:
“Pakistans Che Chana,
Panay Yewan Khena.”
Translation: Pakistan’s Chickpeas, Pleasant to Chew.
However the fact is, the ‘Chana’ was not from Pakistan but the idea was.
Moreover, Pudh was not the only one who had come up with such a witty Pro-Pakistan business slogan, many hawkers/salesmen in Anantnag used to do so. Alike Pudh, they all used to sell Indian products wrapped in velvet-soft ‘Pakistan-Dream’.
Effect of those propaganda efforts are so strong that, 80s youth of Anantnag town, now in their 60s, still distinctly remember the sale of “Pakistani Chana” in Lal Chowk and “Pakistan-Dream” in the air. They all have grown up with those. The “Pakistan-Dream” has been a very significant part of their childhood memories and had made strong impression on their hearts and minds.
Now, when we still see radicalisation in South Kashmir and wonder what went wrong, we must a realise that we had allowed the region to grow under the dark clouds of Pakistani propaganda for long and in absence of story tellers with Indian stories. By the time Indian woke up, Anantnag was again famous as ‘Islamabad’.