Moments and Movements
In the life of movements certain moments decisively test the responsibility and wisdom of leaders; of people as well.
Imagine a people waking up to the disappearance of all meaning. Nothing stands for anything and anything could be stretched to everything; could there be a catastrophe bigger than this! It is an imaginary situation, though not completely unreal. There are times when people fail to communicate between themselves, because words either are divested of all meaning or else invested with confusing complexity of meanings. There is another situation akin to this; words retain meaning, but people prefer silence. The communication between them, as a people, with a definite national and societal shape, ceases. Right now Kashmir fits both. At one level there is an absence of meaning, and at the other there is a tightlipped silence. This silence either has to break or else it will break Kashmir. And the breaking of this silence should announce the restoration of meaning. With this inauguration, perhaps slightly dense, some straight talk.
Some months back none could have imagined things turning so difficult for India, in Kashmir. What began as occasional, yet disconnected, protests turned into a full blown political mobilization with an exemplary public involvement. Though every thing still stays at its place, but the calm-of-placement is definitely gone. Popular spaces are filled with the talk that this time around status-quo must break. One of the extreme, but overwhelming, expressions being - India must go. With an over two month long strike, continuous protests in every part of Kashmir, and unremitting loss of life, things have reached almost a crescendo. There are unequivocal denials from people to yield, yet undercurrents of anxiety about what is to follow accentuating by the day.
It’s exactly at this point that the leadership faces the test of times. It has to discern the situation and refuse to act, neither inadvertently nor coercively, in ways that contribute to the timely management-of-crisis discrepant to the larger framework of the problem. Equally important, if not more, is the responsibility to reflect over the questions and difficulties that this situation has thrown up. It’s is an ethical responsibility and the real political challenge for the people of Kashmir, in general, and the political leadership, in particular.
The talk that we don’t listen to anyone, and it’s now in the hands of teens and twenties, may depict the deep sense of anger and desperation, but in its ramifications it can be unsettling. It can open up the flood gates of chaos. True, when a political leadership fails to deliver it invokes rejection and furious questioning in the streets. One explanation why the younger generation, as is being said, have taken it in their hands comes from the consistent failure of leadership; but it is unwise to accrue from it the dispensability of leadership.
If, after having given his entire life to Kashmir politics, Geelani Sahab is nudged out of the frame by a teenager, it’s ominous for us as a people. Not just him, the entire band of resistance faces that Kashmir is all acquainted with, despite their inadequacies have a place in Kashmir politics. It cannot be denied to them. Even the other shades of leadership cannot be simply wished away. Unfortunately, some of the leaders themselves contribute to this dispensing-of-leadership. In order to present the difficulty of situation before India they are giving an impression that it has now gone out of everyone’s hands. But by saying that if they want to add a degree of difficulty to India, they are adding a degree and a half to themselves. It’s mindless. First thing to do is to dismount this silly, and disastrous, rhetoric. Getting the act together, this is the time to think over the crisis, as is expected of leadership.
This goes without saying that the movement for restoration of fundamental political right – the right to determine the political status of a nation- belongs to people, as people. It’s rooted in the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir. ‘Quit Jammu & Kashmir Movement’ and ‘Civil Disobedience Program’ is an expression of this popular urge. Connecting it to some ‘instigation’ is an act of refusal to listen to people.
Whatever is happening in Kashmir, its urge is absolutely indigenous, real and essential. It fully belongs to the people of Kashmir. The problem has a different shape. Its execution and conduct, at times, are at one level spontaneous-chaotic, and on another level controlled-removed. And in neither case it’s referred to people in ways that a civilized, conscious and informed society would prefer to do. Both chaos and control create sometimes a situation that is too exciting and momentarily hides the corrosive effect that the twin trends have on the larger fabric of a people’s movement. The real test of the leadership lies in its ability to discern in these surging waves what they bring along.
Now generalities apart, the most pressing concern for the people as well the Resistance leadership is how to ensure present mobilization not going waste. On the one hand the resilience of people is exemplary; on the other the situation is getting frighteningly discomfiting. Despite such a huge protest from people government has not identified, let alone punish, even a single killer. Leave aside this it even doesn’t clearly talk about removing AFSPA. If it has done anything, it’s dropping threats to its ‘own’ people. (When this is the behavior of government the responsibility of the situation actually squarely perches on its shoulders.) That is one side of it. The other is how to face the frustrating effects of this behavior of the government. Any large scale public mobilization cannot go on endlessly. It has a limit to its stamina and exhaustion hits it sooner or later. That is one thing all of us know. It is no discovery. Why then are things always pushed on a steep to trundle down all by themselves! No doubt, easier said than done, but we do have examples in the history of public struggles where imbricated political mobilizations, with each fold aimed at one particular demand, complete the pattern. If the current mobilization is considered as a part of some larger political demand, and is directed towards getting some definite change in politico-legal status of Kashmir, besides restoring the dignity of daily life, it can make it more time bound and pointed. Remember 2008 when people rose in rebellion against the decision of the transfer of land to Amarnath Shrine Board, it had paid off. It was only later that things took an ugly turn and Kashmir could not handle it properly. Otherwise it was a moment of triumph, that ultimately left Kashmir with a lasting impression of despair and distraught.
What comes in the way of intelligent and fruitful politics in Kashmir? Of course the biggest impediment is India herself. The way New Delhi has been behaving in Kashmir, right from the days of Nehru, singularly suffices in making the politics of Kashmir hollow. Not just hollow, but afterwards stuffed with all the hideous elements. It is not only the State-of-India, but the very Politics-of-India that comes in the way of Kashmir. That is one side of it.
The other side belongs to Kashmir. But before it is discussed, a caveat. By saying that Kashmir too has a share in making its own politics a problem, the responsibility of India doesn’t lessen. It is not an act of balancing. India’s responsibility is complete in its place. The other side that belongs to Kashmir is actually a separate subject. So every idea of justice demands that India’s culpability be considered as full and final.
Now the other side; other subject. Kashmir is not a battle between Good and Evil or Belief and Disbelief, in a classical philosophico-theological idiom. It is a case of political disaster and its aftermath. Unfortunately the symbolism and content of resistance politics, drawn heavily from the Muslim culture and ethos of Kashmir, are presented and promoted in a language that entirely belonged to the divine interventions in the history of mankind, represented by prophets. The understanding, and consequent application, of scripture and the Prophet’s work are the areas that need speedy and prescient appraisal. The Muslim intellectual tradition spread over hundreds of years cannot be subsumed into a person, an ideological framework, or a particular phase of Muslim history. Besides, there have been parallel intellectual developments in the history of mankind, and it only enhances the understanding of former if the latter is read and understood from its own sources. Developing the idea of self in isolation and understanding the other on the basis of stereotypes engendered in, and by, that isolation give birth to a language that not just proves an inadequate tool of communication, but becomes a barrier in itself. This is an affliction that has seized most of the Muslim societies, disallowing them to engage with the rest of the world. Kashmir too suffers this affliction.
Here the role of Geelani Sahab is very crucial. He belongs to a party, and an ideology, which have Qur’an and Prophet at the centre of things. Why Geelani Sahab has remained such a relentless and unyielding personality in the face of wicked and cruel politics unleashed by India has to largely do with his ideological background. But it comes with its set of difficulties. The textual application of scripture and literal treatment of the Prophet’s life, make it almost impossible to develop a thinking on how to deal with a problem that is rooted in a political development with its time and space. When the two ideas, struggle for Azadi and establishing of an Islamic order are inalienably, and in an absolutist manner, mixed, it feeds the difficulties of both. It also comes in language that confuses both – Islam and Azadi. An intellectual enterprise, with an honest public communication, is desperately needed to draw the distinction between the task that was assigned to prophets and the problems which Muslim lands face as an aftermath of some political developments. If Geelani Sahab does it for Kashmir, he will pioneer a politics that will change the whole complexion of things in this region. It will make things less difficult, and more result oriented, for Kashmir.
Then there are long term questions. Raising them in public, particularly at a time when atmosphere is surcharged, may not be such a good idea. But once time and situation allow, getting actuated into that domain is inescapably important. If things here are left undefined, they will prove damningly disastrous in the end. These questions are about our political choices, and challenges thereof. Here are some allusions. How many options do we have- broadly three:
Engagement with New Delhi:
The power equation between India and Pakistan, and the over all rhythm of international power politics, backs up the political possibility that Kashmir in near future might have to think about an engagement between Srinagar and New Delhi; elaborate and varied. Should that happen, and if things suck us into that direction leaving no other option, how should that happen? It was tried by Sheikh Abdullah, but except a series of failures and deceptions he didn’t earn anything. Even moderates and mainstream parties wanted to strike a deal with Delhi. None has as yet achieved anything. It has become a convenient tool for India to discredit people in Kashmir and make ‘lions’ mew. Nevertheless, New Delhi is a reality that cannot be dealt with only by wishing it away.
Here it must be made clear that engagement with New Delhi doesn’t necessarily, and only, mean cutting a deal with Delhi, like Sheikh Abdullah did in the form of Delhi Agreement and Kashmir Accord, to earn a seat in power. Never. It actually means how to ensure the safety of the political urge of people in spite of the paradoxes in its path. How the people’s politics makes consistent gains over a period of time, without inviting fate. The cost-of-confrontation and timely purpose of a public mobilization, are two important areas of deliberation in this regard. Similarly, the subjects of electoral politics and the safeguard of our resources may need a meaningful and perpetual inclusion in the Resistance politics.
There is another area of engagement with India. It’s the people of this vast land who have been fed on vicious notions of religion and nationalism. The disastrous contestation runs deep into past in the language of religion, and stretches into future as the rhetoric of a nationalism. The political urge of Kashmir has always found itself tossed against such paradoxes of regional politics. The relationship between Srinagar and New Delhi is guided by the ironies that closely accompanied the political urge of Kashmir, when 1947 happened. But over the period of six decades the paradox fixed to the political urge of Kashmir has grown into a parallel urge of a population that far outnumbers Kashmiri Muslims. Though it has been done with a sinister design and has actually no real foundation, but that unless explained to the people who have been stuffed with a particular variant of nationalism and religious past, stationed on a flawed reading of history, stands as a great threat. Kashmir cannot afford seeing itself pitted against another population. Though Resistance leadership has time and again made it clear that Kashmir holds nothing against the people of India, but that does not suffice. There is a need to diffuse the false tensions that can anytime conflagrate the fires of communalism by entering into a serious and continuous dialogue with the people of India. Here too, the problem of language has to be taken into account.
It’s a response, and a very valid one, to what Kashmir has experienced from without, but least of all a reflection that engenders from within. However, it is a political option that if Kashmir finds herself finally agreeing to, should be worked out in the full light of prospects and problems. The absence of content and the type of politics that proposes it are the areas of aching concern. It’s like a Mona Lisa painting who everyone likes to talk about but less than a few really reflect over. And like the Lady’s smile it’s enchantingly deceptive. When most of the people in their private discussions, and also when they get a chance to express themselves, speak about their choice of Independent Kashmir, they are inadequately sensitive about what it politically means, not to speak of what it entails. It’s more about the expression of desire, much like the one we seen in the slogans, Yehaan Kya Chale Ga, and Azadi Ka Matlab Kya. It’s the address of our self which we otherwise feel subsuming in the more powerful neighborhood of sovereignties. But it’s a not-so-worked-on idea. Nevertheless, the underlying urge for expression should be worked out by enunciating on the Being of a Kashmiri. This can give depth and profundity to the political struggle of Kashmir. Right now this idea is enchanting, and that is not enough.
Merger with Pakistan:
Kashmir’s relationship with Pakistan is not just an outcome of some political developments before and after 1947. It has deep historic and futuristic underpinnings. Unfortunately, yet as a matter of fact, present day Pakistan has turned into something that in the first instance frightens; and in the final only frightens more. The consolidation of Pakistan into what it has become right now has profound lessons. The consistent and violent denial of the centrist Pakistan to the federal politics has a dampening impact. Further Pakistan’s trajectory on mishandling Muslim sentiment is as unsightly as it can be. However, the relation with Pakistan remains a valid political question. But in our understanding of this political choice there is one inclusion that needs attention. Pakistan might be intimately connected to our being as Muslim but is it really a religious imperative! If that becomes a point of departure, inclusion of Pakistan can enrich the politics of Kashmir, instead of complicating it. It can also save us a division that has already done good amount of damage.
Further, the option of merger with Pakistan can be broadened to become a question of our relationship with the Muslim world. Two-Nation theory had a context and a timing; it propped up in presence of a particular kind of politics and leadership. Whatever its historical and intellectual content be, there was a negativity stationed well at its centre. It was grounded in suspicion, denial, and rejection of histories and communities. Any reference to that is always bound to create divisions and invite the contingents of hatred from either side to tighten up the girdles, and descend down to the battle ground. Compared to this the question of how Kashmir being a Muslim dominated place, with a rich Muslim ethos, can build up relations with the Muslim world, without undermining its other geographical, political, historic, and economic connects, is a positive urge. Besides, our relationship with the Muslim world cannot be monolithic. It is bound to be varied, in measure as well as kind. History, culture, economy, language, and geography are always there to shape up the complexity of this relation.
All the above options need intellectual inputs and political practice. The theoretical and statistical contributions can flow more effectively only if the questions are democratically opened for wider appraisal. If an atmosphere is created where more people can participate in building up a response on all the above options, better politics can take roots in Kashmir. It’s always a painstaking job that calls for utmost patience and discipline. The capacity to accommodate difference respectfully and a preparedness to perpetually revisit the premises and conclusions of the theoretical constructs have been the necessary components of great movements. It makes larger enterprises more responsible.
Can a beginning be made by disinvesting the not-so-required elements from all the propositions and possibilities! Onwards a debate can ensue to disabuse our people from some fantastic notions that dangerously drive them in the intense times. May be the changes in the world can play a role in getting a better political deal for us. Further, if it’s not going to happen so immediately why no long term initiatives. Of course it is a state power that has snatched lives from us, but at least isn’t it worth asking: how can we disallow the beast to run its claws deep into our body.
An ability to live less harmfully with a transitory political phase in each of more permanent conditions that entail all the possible options is always an advantage with the people confronting an entrenched conflict. Since the collective human endeavors are primarily rooted in life, the methods adopted are least expected to be oblivious of that primordial urge. If the ordinary and complex of life is removed, even the huge political enterprises, and fantastic ideologies, risk failure. Public mobilization to larger political ends or for ideological purposes is nothing new to history, Kashmir being no exception. But history, remote and recent, has more to offer in the form of how many threatening concerns it brings in its wake. People cannot shun the responsibility of looking straight into the eye of the concerns that are associated to life. In the time of crises it is all the more important for people that they delve into the repositories of courage and composure to avert the pitfalls. The greatest contribution of the leadership is to make timely interventions and guide people in the moments of grinding crisis.
Of course in full light of knowledge, and with probity and fortitude.
(Feedback at email@example.com)
Lastupdate on : Sun, 5 Sep 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 5 Sep 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 6 Sep 2010 00:00:00 IST
- MORE FROM OP-ED
Srinagar, Sept 5: Central Kashmir’s cholera hit Budgam district is facing a major threat, as authorities have detected that hundreds of laborers from outside the state working in brick kilns More
Strict guidelines take toll on subscribers
BSNL DE-ACTIVATES 4.11 LAKH, AIRTEL 1.5 LAKH CONNECTIONS
RAJEEV SHARMAJammu, Sept 5: Telecom service providers are reluctant to issue fresh pre-paid mobile connections to customers in Jammu and Kashmir following the Home Ministry’s “stringent” formalities and More