In the mosque of Khanqah-e-Mu'alla, looking at almost a dried up bed of the Jhelum, some monstrous apparitions leap to the eye
In the first few days of September 2014, when the rains started lashing all over, Srinagar was one large portrait of suspense. When the phone calls were coming from the South of Kashmir, and the news also was flowing in, about the alarmingly rising levels of water, people could sense that something disastrous was in the store. It was slithering its way fast into the city. The administration and the government must also have had the sense of danger. But despite that anticipation of danger we could not save Srinagar. When it breached the dykes we could only watch, helplessly. The suspense that Srinagar was for some days finally ended, but only to prove the apprehensions right, to even the exaggerated detail. Srinagar fell to the fury of floods. We couldn’t defend Srinagar even when we had sensed the danger a few days earlier. It doesn’t mean that a few days were enough to prepare a defense; not at all. It only suggests that the defenses were not in place that could be moved in swiftly to save the city. The fault doesn’t lie with those three days that we knew something was rushing towards Srinagar menacingly, the fault stationed in those three years when we were told that if preparations were not made in advance Jhelum was bound to burst its banks one day. It happened, and we all know what it did. When it happened, or was about to happen, we might have cried a lot, protested, abused the administration; but did all that help. No, it did not. Because we had committed the mistake, and its consequences had reached a point of no return.
Srinagar, if we take it as the locale of Muslim Kashmir, is once again a dreadful portrait of suspense. This time the suspense is not about a flood that can wash away our belongings we have raised on the ground. This time around the suspense is about a waterless flood that would come, stay, and lay claim to the ground itself. These waters will not roar and then finally recede, they will insist on becoming the new ground. One cringes with fear on imagining what could happen to Kashmir if the monstrous extremism of the Hindu rightwing is not halted.
There is a dreadful thought that resists to leave the precincts of the mind. What will happen to the areas that are part-of-Kashmir and no-part-of-Kashmir, all at once. The areas that flank Kashmir and for the won’t of a better expression we call it Greater Kashmir. Or if we listen to the people of these regions they describe it poignantly; “we are located in the & of Jammu& Kashmir”. The Muslim population of the Chenab Valley and the Pir Panchaal range are directly in the line of threat. No doomsday scenario, but if Hindu extremism has an unhindered progression into the deeper recesses of political power, and into the animated spaces of societal interaction, it won’t be surprising if blood spills. The scene is every pixel filled with fear. I raise my hand, at once held high by hope and pulled down by despair, and silently cry out – God save us. Save us all – Hindus, and Muslims.
But is fear any remedy; is taking fright any solution. A nervous, knee jerk, response to this rising sense of fear is round the corner. Mirwaiz has sounded the alarm, Yasin Malik is panicked and, Geelani is consistently sending the wake up calls. They are all rightfully agitated over the kind of ugly things that are hurled on us from Delhi. In fact, not just them, many others who we place in a different category, are fazed. Er Rashid was seen leading a protest, National Conference and PDP are apparently worried. All of us are in the grip of a shock that is still mounting. But the danger doesn’t seem to go away.
In a state of fear we can either crumble, and do nothing. Else, in a state of acute distress we can act in ways that would be counter productive in the end. Both these responses are recipes for disaster. There is a possibility that an agitation like that of 2010 can happen if BJP doesn’t stop skewing the demographic picture of J&K. The pent up anger can burst anytime. But would that help! Let us assume that people come out and give a stiff resistance in the way they did in 2010. But then the question will again prop up: for how long can we carry on with strikes and protests. And then?
It doesn’t mean that political formations in Kashmir have to look the other way when the devastating waves are surging up, and moving fast, and furiously, to crash the gates. All it means that anxiety has to work to our advantage and not the other way round. We have anticipated the danger, and we need to work hard on how to defend ourselves. It demands courage to accept the Responsibility of where we have gone wrong, an Insight to map the danger with its detail, and an ability to put all this in right Perspective. RIP as Walter Anderson calls it in his book Courage is a three letter word. If we desist from falling into a trap, by allowing the fear to work on us, and allow the anxiety to work for us, we might soon realise that this crisis was finally about an opportunity.
We will go to Khanqah-e-Mu’alla, look into the waters of Jhelum and realise that the phantoms have disappeared.