With the Centre revoking Article 370 which gave special status to J&K, the Kashmir Valley is once again in focus. But Yusuf Shah Chak. the last independent Muslim ruler of the Valley, has remained obscured and unknown for a long time.
Chak is buried in Nalanda and his tomb is in disrepair and unprotected.
Chak was exiled to Bihar by the Mughal emperor Akbar. The area where he had settled along with his family and relatives in Biswak village in Nalanda and also maintained a cavalry force of 500 horses, was later known as Kashmiri Chak. Though the exiled Kashmiri ruler died in Odisha in 1592, his body was brought to Bihar and has been lying buried along with the tombs of his wife, sons and other relatives at the graveyard at Biswak near Kashmiri Chak.
Though his Mazaar is encircled with boundary wall, the land outside this wall at the cemetery is open and has remained prone to encroachments in the past. Some concrete structures and thatched roof hutments too have come up around its periphery.
Earlier, some locals erected a boundary wall around his Mazaar, but the entire area of the cemetery outside this wall is open to encroachment.
Recently, Yasir Iqbal, a descendant of the Chak ruler’s relative, wrote a letter to the Minority Welfare Department, Bihar, drawing the attention towards the increasing threats of encroachments at the site of the cemetery .
He has made an appeal to take steps to stop encroachment and has also requested for the boundary wall at the cemetery. In the letter, Iqbal also made requests to preserve this piece of history and to take initiatives to tap tourism potential of the site.
“The minority welfare department has forwarded the request letter to the department concerned which is responsible for creating the boundary walls at graveyards and has directed to take actions as necessary,” SI Faisal, special secretary cum director, minority welfare department, said.
The site has a great tourism potential and it can be tapped. “But it’s the domain of the tourism department. They should take initiatives in this direction and should develop it,” he said.
Yasir Iqbal said many Kashmiris have been eager to come here to pay tribute to their last ruler. “Many intellectuals have also been coming here, but the place lack even basic infrastructure. Even the road to Kashmiri Chak village was developed in 1977 when Sheikh Abdulla, the prominent leader of Kashmir had arrived to witness Yusuf Shah’s tomb” he said. There is also no place at the village to stay. “You have to find the accommodation whether at Islampur or at Rajgir,” he said.
However, the biggest concern has been encroachment of the land. “The cemetery is spread over five acre land area at Biswak and over one acre land at Kashmiri Chak. But the tombs of Yusuf Shah, his wife and sons for decades remained unknown. There was almost a jungle around it and the tombs were hardly visible. Then we got it constructed a few years ago. But the area outside is still open and is being encroached inch by inch. Some concrete structures and thatched roof hutments have also come up on its border areas,” he said.
Yusuf Shah Chak ruled Kashmir from 1579 to 1586. In 1579 he was deceitfully imprisoned by the Mughal emperor Akbar, but was later released and was exiled to Biswak area of Bihar.
“He had a Mansabdaari of 500 horses. In fact, his love and knowledge of art and literature had impressed Mughal Badshaah and that became the reason for his release. He had married Habba Khatoon, the legendary poetess whose verses are still sung by the locals in Kashmir,” he said.