The Autumn Optics

This autumn should impregnate winter for peace, so that fresh white spring shapes our future

Ashok Kaul

‘Hard wav k’aen shechh vaneit gav

Vuzmalav hueth sanz karun

Asman vashluv, tharr tharr nav baharan asina’

Kashmir has four seasons - spring, summer, autumn and winter. Autumn starts from September and closes on November end. It is a different feeling, change in weather and change in aura. It is harvest indeed.

But history’s strides have cast insipid shadows on otherwise nature’s romantic golden good turns, for it has become a cursed land. Its society is fragmented, politics disempowered, and people have lost their own tales that had sustained them over centuries during non-native monarchies. Independence came with thickening of the Cold War, which drenched Kashmiris with a sense of infused inferiority, for their hegemonic leadership were misled to play the game for others.

Thus they wilfully inflicted pain and sufferings to their people in the wasteful years of the past. The weakening of conventional order with the emergence of new power centres and regional alliances have lifted that cover of hidden agendas played during the Cold War Era.

The documents of the Cold War Era significantly are declassified. The demise of the Cold War, revolution in information technology, electronic media have opened out multiple channels of scrutiny and the windows of new substantiation. It is open to all.

The first generation was mystified; the borders were tight between India and Pakistan. The only information would come through radio and print media. Since the day Pakistan’s first Prime Minister was assassinated, Pakistan construed a strategic depth of western alliance against Communist block of then led by Soviet Union; the process of illusion and mystification started in the valley with outside referent. The liberal Pakistan of Jinnah departed in the association of western and US allies. Addle Stevenson then shadow US foreign secretary was successful not only to sway away great Abdullah from Nehru but also complete the connect of Lord Mountbatten on whose directions Nehru was forced to take the Kashmir case to UNSC for bringing a categorical decision. So the first generation was a mystified illusion filled generation about the persons and places. Delusions and bewildered tales were weaved and told about Abdullah superhumanly persona. Misconceptions and disinformation constructed around military might and social geography across the border. We were brought out in such environment where local political elites never tried to deconstruct these narratives.

The second generation had prospered on Apple, Handicrafts and wood industries, besides state sponsored funds and charity contributions from the gulf countries. It had witnessed the birth of Bangladesh. It was an era of demystification about the persons and places. Great Abdullah alarmed by Iranian revolution and demystified with American fluidity reclaimed power in a settlement. Before Kashmir would regain itself, history had another surprise in the collapse of Soviet Union that misbalanced the world order. It was late for Abdullah to change the course in 1975 that he had drawn after 1953. For the emerged neo rich and new middle class had found its articulation in the politics of religious identity, which was constructed in the preceding years of political disempowerment of nativity. The collapse of ideologies and disintegration of Soviet Union gave this impression that religion has capacities to melt the cultures. It brought imagined nationalisms, weakened nation state, fragmented social and comingled politics with religion and culture in in demanding representations. The process of globalization complicated it.

The third generation is a divided generation. It was groomed in violence and witnessed fragmentation of society and dislocation of minorities. Those who are skilled and empowered are individualistic and live in private and personal realms, unmindful of social obligations. The huge chunks of unemployed youth look to social media sites and distant networking channels and so to the state welfare for survival and engagements. Since the state cannot employ all, the non-state agendas in an asymmetrical warfare are their alluring sites for engagement. The state control, cyber surveillances and international affiliations have become ground realities. It needs a visionary leadership that can take these ailing sections of society away from the thickening vulnerabilities of changing world. There is huge expectation and equally imperative on local and central leadership to guide the youth for better life chances. Politics on primordialism, divisive on communal lines and prophesising self-serving interests through seductive power politics will further injure the already wounded people.

It is a fast changing fluid world order. Imagine power discourse shifting from the west to east. China is dictating to the internal politics and governance of neighbouring countries. It is presumed that Afghanistan gets stabilised with interim Taliban governance. A ruling Taliban guided by China would not like to export terrorism to other countries, howsoever propelled by our neighbouring country. China will not gain anything from the instabilities in its neighbourhood. Its OROB is secured enough to debt the states and expand its economic and military muscle. Since Pakistan is pivotal to its interests, it would like to have firm control on Pakistan’s inner political and social dynamics. No wonder it appreciated Prime Minister Imran Khan, but likes and even prefers Shahbaz Sharif to the present political disposition. China has emerged as the world power; it aspires for international leadership as well. Its policy is not hybrid warfare through religious induction. It believes in cultural integration through development and through its model of efficiency and belief in human capabilities with abhorrence for religion and faith. India should understand the regional developments and take leaf that internal strength of interfaith accommodation and encouragement for merit and strengthening of institutions are the delivering mechanisms, rather than relying on fluid international relationships. The irony is that the internal cohesion does not come from erasing our national heroes who were not only the champions of the National Movement but were builders of this country in the formidable years after independence. India has not only withstood the challenges to its balkanization, but also its democratic traditions and nation building institutions have struck roots. The challenges are stiffer in future as well. It is a reality that Partition did divide the country, but India still remains India in its historical continuity. Its pluralism, blended traditions of accommodative faiths and diversities are its sustained historical strengths. Despite Pakistan established on ‘Two Nations Theory’, India did not miss its sustained contents of nationalism, which are on blended traditions of pluralism. The birth of Bangladesh has been problematic for the defining principles of Pakistan. Unless it redefines its nationalism in accordance with its shared history, it has difficulty to find the gluing threads that come from shared cultural traits for its nation building process. It has suffered hugely, for it has refused to move on such lines. In past, specifically since 1970s, Pakistan with US allied support tried hard that India moves towards its conjunction of divisive communal politics to justify its own existence. It failed and is unable to justify its gluing contents on religion, especially when China has taken over as its anchorage. Under China’s tutelage, let us see what path its political and military leadership traces for defining its nationalism. Chinese governing management is highly image conscious leadership. It would not like to see Pakistan to go out of its dependency, but at the same time would not encourage it enough as a client state that would have ramifications for its own interests in international perceptions. The Indian leadership has to move in letter and spirit in the welfare of its people on ‘subka saath subka vikas’ that it has pronounced and it needs to strengthen its public institutions with persons of excellence and integrity. The present dispensation in the valley is trying its hard for political empowerment and enhancing life chances of common people through development and transparency. it is presumed that not before long we will have representative governance. It is imperative that the local visionary leadership needs to make the process of correction, so that when it takes upon itself, the political orientation is on the predictable lines of political empowerment. The local power elite needs to understand that there is no better alternative to the representative democratic governance, it alone can empower nativity. Looking beyond boundaries will only replicate the ruin. The exhausted people of Kashmir hardly can endure that agony, afresh.

This autumn should impregnate winter for peace, so that fresh white spring flowering shapes our future.

The author is an Emeritus professor in sociology at Banaras Hindu University

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