Ghulam Ahmad Ashai, also spelled Ghulam Ahmad Asha’i and Khwaja Ghulam Ahmad Ashai. He was a Kashmiri bureaucrat and political leader. Spencer Lavan tells us that he was an Ahmadi in 1931, Lavan reports that Asha’i was on the Glancy Commission of 1931 (See page 150 and 152). However, he seems to have quit Ahmadiyya soon thereafter, since none of his children were Ahmadi and the Ahmadiyya movement has never mentioned him as a member. He might have also been an undercover Ahmadi working in Kashmir, there were so many in these days. At the end of the Glancy Commission, Ghulam Ahmad Ashai refused to sign the paperwork (see Ian Copland, 245).
He was the grandson of Rayees-ul-Waqt Hajji Mukhthar Shah Ashai. The ‘Ashai Bagh Bridge’ over Nigeen Lake and Dal Lake is named after Ashai’s ancestors. Before moving to suburban Srinagar, the Ashais lived at the ‘Ashai Kocha’ in Fateh Kadal, Srinagar. The historic Ashai mansion now hosts a Girl’s high school. Ashai’s hut in Raj Bagh has been converted into a hotel. Popularly known as Ashai Sahib by his colleagues, political contemporaries and subordinates, Ghulam Ahmad Ashai was the first Kashmiri Muslim to attain a bachelor’s degree. Ashai secured first class in the B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) examination of the Punjab University with the distinction of topping the list of candidates in 1915. He then gained his M.A. (Master of Arts) in Persian from Calcutta University. He obtained first division and was awarded His Excellency the Chancellor’s Gold Medal and the highest cash prize of Rs.200. He gained his B.T. (Bachelor of Teaching) from the Punjab University. He also passed the Munshi Fazil Examination from the same university which earned him an additional degree of M.O.L. (Master of Oriental Languages). He successfully competed for the Senior Forest Service of the State of Jammu and Kashmir with distinction but opted out of it.
Sheikh Abdullah and his colleagues were greatly influenced by the lectures of a Kashmiri polymath and lawyer Molvi Muhammad Abdullah. Molvi Abdullah‘s son Molvi Abdul Rahim, Abdullah Sheikh and Ghulam Nabi Gilkar were the first three educated Kashmiri youth to be arrested during the public agitation of 1931. He seems to have been an Ahmadi in 1931, as his biographer tells us, see page 68. He was also reported by a Britisher who was living in Kashmir at the time as part of a group of Qadiani’s (see Spencer Lavan). This Britisher was the whistle-blower who broke the story.
1931, August 15th
Muslim representatives gave an address to the Maharajah on 15 August. These representatives included Mirwaiz Moulvi Mohammed Yousuf Shah, Mirwaiz Hamadani, Syed Hussain Shah Jalali, Saad-ud-din Shawl, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, Ghulam Ahmad Ashai, Yaqub Ali, Munshi Shahab-ud-Din, Ghulam Abbas and Gauhar Rehman. The Government ordered the release of some Kashmir Leaders. They, however, impressed upon the Government that unless their demands were accepted, there was no sense in releasing them. The Government thereupon allowed them to present a memorandum of their grievances to the Maharaja. The initial draft was prepared by Ghulam Ahmad Ashai (Qadiani). It was carried to Lahore by A.R. Dard to be shown to the AIKC. It was still under scrutiny when Abdullah was arrested on 21 September. A public meeting was held in Srinagar and a ‘War Council’ was formed to carry out the agitation.
Sheikh Abdullah with other leaders of the 1931 agitation.
Sitting R to L: Sardar Gohar Rehman, Mistri Yaqoob Ali, Sheikh Abdullah, Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas. Standing. R:Molvi AbdurRahim, L:Ghulam Nabi Gilkar
Kashmir’s first political party the Kashmir Muslim Conference with Abdullah Sheikh as President, Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas as general secretary, and Molvi Abdul Rahim as Secretary was formed on 16 October 1932. In his presidential address Abdullah Sheikh categorically stated that the Muslim Conference had come into existence to struggle for the rights of all oppressed sections of the society and not Muslims alone. It was not a communal party and would struggle for the rights of the oppressed, whether Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, with the same fervor. He reasserted that the struggle of Kashmiris was not a communal struggle.
Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah appointed Ghulam Ahmad Ashai as the first Registrar of the University of Kashmir, both for academic and administrative matters. He led the first convocation of the University of Kashmir at Sher-e-Kashmir (Lion of Kashmir) Park and was followed by a distinguished panel including the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru and the Pro-Indian Sheikh Abdullah. Ashai’s involvement with Kashmir University started when he was appointed as the Special Officer assigned with the responsibility of starting Kashmir’s first university. Ashai spent the next two years touring universities across India building up strategic ties and relations with renowned and established universities.
Ghulam Ahmad Ashai was married to Jana Begum, the only daughter of Khwaja Amir Shah of Varmul, a wealthy Kashmiri nobleman. Ahmad and Jana had ten children; four sons and six daughters. It doesn’t seem like these people are Ahmadi’s.
Links and Related Essays
Copland, Ian, “Islam and Political Mobilization in Kashmir, 1931-34”, which was published in an academic journal entitled: “PACIFIC AFFAIRS”, Vol. 54, No. 2 (Summer, 1981), pp. 228-259 (32 pages), Published by: Pacific Affairs, University of British Columbia
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