Anantnag (Islamabad)

Historically, Anantnag is one of most ancient settlement or towns of the Kashmir Valley. Comprising two words Anant + Nag, it means a land where there are countless (anant) springs.
Of course, one of the most famous springs is the district is Verinag. It  is considered the origin of river Jhelum which drains the entire Kashmir Valley and meanders its way all through.
Mattan is the spring around which the famous Hindu shrine of the same name exists. It is here that Hindus from all over the Valley, and beyond, from all areas of Jammu region arrive after the death of anyone in the family.
The place is unique in that “Pandas” here keep record of genealogy of several generations. They can tell a visitor in a matter of minutes who in the family had visited the place, and when.
These “Pandas” used to visit the homes of “yazmaan” till about half a century ago. This tradition of visits by “Pandas” is dying, if not dead already. The prime purpose and vocation of these hereditary “Pandas” had been to conduct religious rituals on behalf of their “yazmaan” (clients).
In fact, the word “client” here is not very appropriate as it does not correctly reflect the relationship between a “Panda” and his “yazmaan”. This tradition of conducting religious rituals in memory of ancestors are becoming rarer in Mattan.
Besides these two, there are dozens of streams all through the area which comprises the district of Anantnag.
For some years now, particularly since the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits after 1989, there has been a growing tradition of referring to Anantnag as “Islamabad”. Literally a land of Islam.
Officially, the name of the district remains Anantnag. But tendency is to call it Islamabad. Why? To show that it had been “cleansed” of Hindus? Or is it something else?
The vehicles playing between Srinagar city and Anantnag have signboards declaring their destination as “Islamabad”. There is hardly any vehicle, perhaps none operated by private operators, which will have the old signboard of Anantnag.
This raises heckles among intelligentsia in Kashmiri Hindus. They see it as a sign of increasing radicalization of Kashmir. And an attempt to erase all signs of Sanskrit that flourished in these parts once. And to impose Islamic names.
A couple of years ago, Peerzada Manzoor Hussain, a legislator of the PDP, had said that he wanted Anantnag renamed as “Islamabad”. He had then said that he will move a Private Member’s Bill to make it a law. To effect the name change.
His action was seen as “politically motivated” and as an attempt to garner support among his predominantly Muslim voters. He dropped the plans later.
He is considered very close to the Muftis and was a very close confidant of late Mufti Mohammed Sayeed when he became the CM in 2002 for the first time. He is close to Mehbooba Mufti also who became Chief Minister in April 2016. After her father’s demise in January 2016.
Interestingly, not a word was spoken by Mr Peerzada after the PDP formed a coalition government with the BJP in March 2015. Till date.
His plans to move a Private Member’s Bill earlier were “an attempt to undermine National Conference (NC)”. By putting them in an unviable position where they could not have apparently opposed the Bill openly. Nor could they have supported the Bill because this would have created divisions within the government headed by NC’s Omar Abdullah.
Omar Abdullah ran a government in coalition with the Congress which had many Hindu MLAs. And most of these MLAs hailed from Jammu where such a move to rename Anantnag into “Islamabad” could have led to a strong backlash.