Powerful speeches were made, and commemorative pieces occupied space in newspapers; TV channels devoted prime time to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
This time the anniversary was read with the return of the Taliban with all ferocity for which it is known since 1990s. All along, Jammu and Kashmir was mulling where it stands in the whole geo-political scenario that has changed drastically because of the rapid developments that have taken place in Afghanistan.
The parallels were being drawn between Jammu and Kashmir and Afghanistan. These were far-fetched, but those doing so had a sinister motive to pollute the atmosphere of Kashmir.
Of course, the military commanders and the strategists had to do their job and which they are doing to keep Jammu and Kashmir free of the influences likely to travel to this part of the Himalayan territory, but what is being forgotten that this place and its people have their own inbuilt strong points.
Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the Valley which is projected as a conflict, has inbuilt strength to resist the extremism that the Taliban represents. It is a misplaced concept that the Taliban represents any liberation force or messiah for the Muslims. America, or for that matter, other foreign powers, weighed down by their strategic compulsions, may shake hands with the new ruthless rulers of Afghanistan, but the fact is that Taliban is unchanged and so are its ways.
There are three major factors in Kashmir that need to be taken into consideration.
First of all, Kashmir’s cult is rooted in Sufism. Most of the tales of Lal Ded and Nund Rishi have not been told to the new generation in adequate measure. The time of the bed time stories has been consumed by social media. Neither the younger generation has patience to listen to all these stories that shaped Kashmir and the elders have lost interest in talking to the impatient youngsters. But the shrines remind everyone in Kashmir that what the Valley stands for.
It is a misplaced concept that Sufi cult of Kashmir has to be used to counter the radical forces or the propaganda that lands on smart phones. Sufism has its own standing. Even those who have a different idea about it appreciate its spirit. Even during the peak of militancy, when a grenade was thrown at a CRPF bunker killing four personnel, a group of youth passing by Budshah Chowk area in Srinagar wondered: “why these innocents had to be killed”, though there was a sole voice of dissent that charged the forces with doing all this to the people.
The whole of Kashmir had cried and many sobbed for days together when the shrine of Charar-e-Sharif was burnt down in May 1995. These were the days of Eid festival. The celebrations were muted. This should not have happened was the common refrain.
Second, Kashmir can weave its own narrative provided the political leaders of al hues are allowed to say what they want to say. Their political ideas have takers among their supporters. And what are they talking about? They are talking of elections and the statehood. There is nothing wrong in this. Election is their democratic right. It has become all the more important in the aftermath of the successful District Development Council polls last year. The Assembly election in J&K is not merely a democratic exercise but also a strategic necessity given the sensitive nature of the territory.
Once the elections are announced, it will galvanize the people who think and believe that political leaders will be able to fulfil their responsibility better if they are in the elected institutions. Luckily, for Kashmir, there are leaders who have seen the events since 1947 and who know what they are talking about and how can they steer the place out of the situation. Taliban is a situation in the current situation.
They have seen what had happened in late 1980s and early 1990s. No one can match their experience and astuteness in dealing with the difficult situation. There are others who have come up with new ideas who want to shape J&K in a positive fashion based on realism that has dawned onto the place. They are engaged in a struggle to make realism acceptable in the wider political discourse.
The DDC elections were a very important step in bringing in the grassroots democracy, but the Assembly elections have their own value. The Delimitation Commission should have completed its work by now.
If rest of the work is going on, what has made the commission to adopt a laid-back approach and not delineate the constituencies by this time. Any further delay in its work and completion of the report would be read in a different prism and I won’t be surprised if this delay become part of the negative narrative.
At the same time, the process of engagement should be undertaken at all levels. The engagement is byword for the connect with the people. Sitting across the table and sorting out issues is more important than statistics of the development. These statistics need the ownership. The engagement and the ownership will build a relationship that will boost the forces of peace and keep new emerging threats to security at bay. And the best thing is that it doesn’t cost anything.