Building virtual bridges

The cyber space discussions are good enough to understand the past and the future of our relationship

TALKING OUT

KALPANA TIKKU

You are welcome here.
We invite you with open arms
Welcome?
Why should I need an invitation to come to my home?
It was all Jag Mohan’s fault.
Jag Mohan did not come knocking at our doors.
I have not heard anything like this happening here.
So I am lying? How old were you then?
Welcome to the typical conversation between a Kashmiri Pundit and a Kashmiri Muslim on any forum you may randomly browse through on Facebook. After completing your chores for the day, finally it is time to log on to Facebook and click on your favorite one,  among the numerous forums meant for reconciliation between the two Kashmiri communities. It has become akin to prime time television except that here you get to interact live. You have drama, romance, suspense, comedy, fights, all under one show They are all, more or less the same and one would find the same set of people on any such forum you choose to have a peek at. Conversations are mostly similar, the bickering is similar, the pattern of arguments is similar and it’s the same set of people carrying their grudges from one forum to the other. It is interesting to note that you would also find the presence of people who are not Kashmiris, playing a vital role in such forums and many a time masquerading as experts on the Kashmir conflict with their half-baked knowledge. Non Kashmiris often have a tendency to take sides. One would rarely find them neutral to the already volatile relations between the two communities.  Why are so many forums needed? Simple! If one gets removed from a group by the admin who may not be in agreement with him/her or if the defendant is not in the good books of the admins or part of the admins’ coterie, then he, in defiance, creates his own group. There are animated conversations in these groups and the exchanges are always the same. Each community trying to justify ‘my pain is bigger than yours’. If you scroll back into the archives of these forums, you would see that nothing much has changed over time. Mind sets are the same; arguments are the same, the same set of enemies and the same set of friends. Tags like ‘separatists’, ‘azaadi mongers’, ‘collaborators’, ‘traitors’ , ‘agents’ are abundantly used.   Perhaps, all that has changed is that people have started talking in more civilized tones. Yet, the intolerance levels remain the same for people one dislikes. It is difficult at times to understand whether people are trying to reach out to each other or belittle and corner each other. Ironically, it is people who are most vocal against the snatching away of the freedom of speech, be it the Pundits pre-migration or the Muslims post-migration, who do not think twice before asserting their rights of control and denying it to others whose opinions may not be in alignment with theirs.  People can unceremoniously be thrown out from these forums, mass exoduses take place in solidarity with some of them and the remaining members are left debating their decisions. Some are bothered and demand inquiries into reasons why certain people were removed while others could care less. One could be a friend today and a foe the next day just on the basis of ideologies. So much in the name of reconciliation and new found friendships on internet! Members are often looked at through prisms, preconceived notions determine people’s attitude towards each other and relationships of convenience are formed. Each usually vies for the maximum number of likes on ones comment and that determines one’s position on the popularity charts.  Is this a race to win some award or are we genuinely trying to reach out and understand each other? Because if the latter is important, then we need to listen to each other without trying to run each other down.
If you are only talking to people who are already listening to you or in agreement with you, then where is the reconciliation?  What exactly does reconciliation mean? To forgive one another and be good within. To forgive all that has harmed us and be their friend. The amusing part is that the forgiving is not happening. Brushing the main causes of disparity between the two communities under the carpet and avoiding uncomfortable conversations, since they flare up tempers and bring forth once again the anger simmering within, to the forefront, a superficial conduct of bonhomie can surely be achieved but that certainly is not what reconciling means. To reconcile means to accept, to apologize, to be aware of other’s pain and unconditionally embrace the other. It means you can still have ideological differences, political differences, own affiliations and yet respect each other. When you can sit together and have conversations, unmindful of which religion you follow, when you can have arguments with the other community and speak your mind fearlessly without the apprehension of being judged according  to your perceptions, when you form such close bonds with the other that he would be the first person you think of in distress, when they are the first people who come to mind when you think of fun times, when you know you can trust yourself with them with eyes shut, when you know that they will never let you down when you need them, when you know that it is with them you are most comfortable with even in most uncomfortable situations, when you miss them if you have not spoken to them in a week, when you know that no one else would understand you better, it’s then that you know you have reconciled with each other. Not when you have to mind your language, not when you are scared to displease, not when you are under pressure to be politically correct at all times, not when you want to be the “good” one, not when you weigh your words and certainly not when you try and appease. People are not drawn to you if you are questioning their ethics and morals, branding them into certain slots and cornering them all the time.  You need freedom in speech, in thought and spirit to feel at ease with the other. Your relationship should not be so shaky and feeble to let political differences shatter it. If I speak for myself, I may not be in agreement with the political ideologies of many of my closest friends but that has never made any difference to the closely knit bond we share. All because that was never the foundation of our relationship. Kashmiris are an emotional lot and are ruled by passions. We find it difficult to accept a sense of defeat.
I have seen Kashmiri Pundits longing to get back, their souls always here. I recollect asking a migrant Pundit gentleman once, “When did you leave Kashmir?” He replied, “I never did”. That answer spoke volumes. The excitement on a Kashmiri’s face is visible  in Delhi, when in a crowded market place, he looks around desperately when his ears hear something said in Kashmiri, trying to spot someone familiar. It is time we accepted we cannot live without each other and yet, find it difficult to come to terms with present conditions. A lot has flown under the bridge but yet, sometimes unspoken words convey much more than those spoken aloud. The commonalities between us are far more than our differences. We need to give ourselves another chance to relive our shared glorious past, our pride and our heritage.

The writer is the Managing Trustee of ARNIMAAL a voluntary Organization working in the valley and can be reached  at kalpana.w@hotmail.com

Lastupdate on : Tue, 4 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 4 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 5 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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