Let's Talk to Ourselves
That is how we can fight the bias within
INTROSPECTION BY B. L. SARAF
November 16th is marked by UNESCO as the International Day of Tolerance. The occasion is dedicated to universal value. Let it be a realty check to us to see how far we have adhered to it at the societal level and in public governance. What does ‘tolerance’ mean for us-the Kashmiris? We need to examine its value as the world has shrunk on account of globalization. The unfortunate events of the last two decades have, besides inflicting tragedies of enormous proportion on the populace, affected our intellectual propensity too. Our intellect seems to have been selectively half paralyzed. So much so, that no two intellectuals presently living on either side of the Bannihal tunnel can talk about the prevailing sorry state of affairs in Kashmir without coming to total disagreement as to all the premises. They think and deliberate conveniently, in utter disregard to the objectivity. No room is left for a united reiteration of what once was the hallmark of Kashmir. There are a variety of issues whereon convergence is possible. There are, however, certain matters where we can't experience anything but divergence. The tug of war between convergence and divergence has, almost, destroyed the social fabric of the Kashmiri society. Kashmiri Pandits have lost their home and suffer in wilderness. The Kashmiri Muslims complain of excesses and usurpation of their basic rights. Jammuites and Ladakhis have their own set of genuine grievances.The situation, though, is not irretrievable.
Kashmiris have centuries-old tolerant value regime. Our resolve in this regard may have come under a strain lately, but the system has not wilted. The reason is we have lived aloof for too long. How well said “when two people don’t mix, ideas don’t get sparked, friendships don’t get forged, stereotypes don’t get broken, collaboration does not happen and trust does not get built.” We must promote tolerance. At the same time the violators of human values, wherever they are, should be brought to book. Today the need to talk among themselves is imperative as never before. Dialogue recognizes the seriousness of the problem. If for some reasons talking to one another is not possible for a while let silence have the virtue. It will be profitable for all of us to recall what Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams said on the role Christian Church in plural religious terms, “….We cannot pray publicly together for many reasons. Prayer follows conviction. But sometimes we can keep silence together.”
Intelligence means one may have an argument but at the same time one is obliged to find an understanding. Here is an argument: “Kashmir is a disputed matter.” Then there is the counter argument : “ Kashmir is not a dispute”. To come to an understanding our intellectuals could agree upon one statement that “Nature of dispute is a fact.” This approach may facilitate a dispassionate and a reasonable debate rather than a shrill rhetoric. We may listen to President Obama, “Let there be tribe of fresh scrubbed agents of political change.” For the Kashmir academia “authentic” sources to negate the fact of tribal raid on Kashmir in 1947 and the document of accession are: Muhammod Yousuf Buch, Stanley Wolpert and Victoria Schofield -- eminent persons indeed. They propound the theory that Pakistan never aided the tribals nor did that country ever raid Kashmir. According to them there was no reason for Indian Army to intervene in Kashmir. They see a design in the visits of Nehru and Gandhi to Kashmir close to the 15th of August 1947, and rely on Victoria Schofield to say that the Maharaja’s right to sign the instrument of accession was suspect. These eminent persons challenge the very existence of this instrument. This indeed is a very extreme view. The intellectuals living in plains across the Banihal rely on the literature that explains the fact of the Kashmiri’s access ion to India and the powers of Maharaja to execute it. Academic discourse has to be freed from the shackles of preconceived ideas, biases and the prejudices. In the system where leaders have failed us intellectuals are sought after.
The separatists in Kashmir want that the Kashmiris should be given a right to self–determination. Well, Kashmir is part of the state of Jammu & Kashmir—including Ladakh. It cannot be taken in exclusion of other two parts. Nor is the Valley a homogenous unit, population -wise. Therefore, it will be too pretentious to believe that the “Kashmiri Nation” has a unified ‘self’ or ‘will’. A well- known columnist, Rohini Hensman brings out the dilemmas of Right of Self – Determination in the latest write up. The learned columnist writes, “By pretending that the ‘nation’ has a unified ‘will’, proponents of the doctrine of ‘right of nations to self –determination’ privilege the leaders of the most powerful group in the prospective nation, ignoring or disempowering others, and in some cases even encouraging the most powerful group to annihilate or evict the others, as happened in Sri Lanka….” The writer suggests a process of discussion and negotiation between all the diverse sections of the people in Kashmir. Therefore, to say that the ‘majority narrative' on Kashmir is uninterruptedly for ‘Azadi’ and the interlocutors move to listen to ‘other shades of people’ is an attempt to preserve status quo goes against the grain of the right buttressed by the separatists to advance their claim. Besides, this argument mocks at the spirit of democracy. Democracy has to be concerned with both the majority rule and the minority rights. It is an exercise of public reason. Surely it is not ‘that few can be legitimately sacrificed to many’.
One may not trust the result of the interlocutors’ exercise. If not for any thing else, the interlocutors’ presence can be appreciated for keeping the issue in focus for the quarters concerned to address it to the satisfaction of all sections of the state’s populace. Therefore, it will not be wise to dismiss the interlocution lock, stock and barrel.
One big leap may not bridge the two –decades- old gap. Let it be in increments. We have no faith in our leaders - mainstream or sectarian. Better leave them to their manipulative past times. However, those in government may do us a favour. Let them stick to the fair rules of governance and not be party to the lawlessness witnessed in the Valley. The government is, certainly, in a position to do something to prevent the violation of human rights. The recognition of human rights is an insistence that everyone who is in a position to prevent any violation must rise to help. There is a reasonable case for placing elimination of fear of terrorism within the concerns of human rights. J&K’s civil society must be concerned with general climate of fear –created both by the security forces and the militants – and do all that is within its capability to clear the air. Let us talk to ourselves and not at ourselves. Preferably, not talk separately.
(B. L. Saraf is Former Principal District & Session Judge. Feedback at email@example.com)
Lastupdate on : Sat, 27 Nov 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 27 Nov 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 28 Nov 2010 00:00:00 IST
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