A fresh conversation

This week South Kashmir went for the second round of polling for its lone Parliamentary seat. The voter turn out was extremely low. This static, and the news stories pegged around it, consolidate the already settled image of the South Kashmir. But the story that South is, and tells, is bigger, and different, than this.

Our fellow colleagues who went there on the day of polling came back with many insights. In a casual conversation at the Press Club Kashmir, some of my journalist friends shared their experience of talking to the youngsters in the villages and towns of South Kashmir.     

One of them, a known journalist and a commentator, made it straight and simple. “All apart, there is a generation shift, and this is unmistakable”. As I understood him, and others in the discussion,  the younger generation is not interested in any nuanced, or ‘intellectualised’, approach to this situation. Not at all. They look at this situation for what it is, and as it is. The embellishments of finer analysis don’t interest them. Call them naive, or simplistic, they understand it all as something tangible, and glaring. To them it is a situation where they are oppressed, manipulated, and finally destroyed. You strike a conversation with them and they point towards the elephant in the room.  Since the elephant is there, the discussion ends, before it could begin.

This clarity that the situation has brought to the younger generation is a moment of grave concern for the older ones. Our challenge is to take the discussion beyond, without putting a veil on the situation. The discussion must happen in the full nakedness of the situation. There is no need to blur the image of the elephant, but there is need to sharpen the mind. Eye is an insufficient defence when there is an elephant in the room, and shutting the eye is a sure disaster.  

This young generation poses a question: how do we employ this clarity to deepen our defences, diminish our vulnerabilities, and consolidate our position. Put openly, how do we save ourselves from the violence travelling from, and towards, the elephant. Put more openly, how can this raw energy be channelled through politics, a non-violent collective action. If politics comes across to them only as electoral process, and they find in it an inbuilt deception, what forms of politics can catch these energies. If the generation shift means that all the older forms of politics have run their course, what is then in the stock for us. Does it mean it is only violence that serves as an alternative?

This brings us to the second story. There is a nagging fear that our youth might be pushed to newer forms of violence, hiding the possibilities of non-violent collective action from them. The news story was published in The Tribune ( tribuneindia.com). It says that the Indian “intelligence agencies have sent a report to the government indicating that Pakistan’s ISI is now targeting those Jammu and Kashmir students who have gone to Turkey on scholarship.” How true, or untrue, this story is, the danger in it is too obvious to miss. The international networking of violence through state and no-state channels is now a long running enterprise. If the Kashmiri students fall into this trap, or are made to sleepwalk into it, it will severely hit the prospect of Kashmiri students  going to the universities abroad.

In 1990s Kashmiri students in good numbers moved out to continue higher studies in various universities in India.  This had an amazing effect on the overall collective consciousness of the then future generation.  It also saved a good amount of energy from getting wasted in the violent situation. The rise of extremist tendencies in India has already diminished the prospect of our boys to study in the Indian universities.  If the road to universities abroad is also blocked it means more darkness accumulating back home. This news story must set the alarm bells ringing not just in the minds of the parents whose children are studying in Turkey, but all of us.  Someone wants our youth to get consumed in immediate and endless violence, while as this is the energy that is needed for a long term, enduring, and productive political movement.  The means, methods, and ends of the violence are all in someone else’s control. This point is no less glaring than the elephant in the room, hence the third story. 

The most explosive news story of the week. The UN Security Council finally declared Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. India declares it as a diplomatic victory. Pakistan celebrates that  India’s attempts to link Kashmir with terrorism were defeated. China says that lifting its objections on the matter has nothing to do with its stance on Kashmir. India again says that there was no deal with China on this matter. In this diplomatic blabber all talk simultaneously, and all are happy. This  is business as usual, and the partners to these diplomatic deals have always ensured an ease of business for each other. The point for us is that the control of violence totally rests with state, and all the non-state forces are finally at the mercy of one or the other state. When it comes to its own interest states can dispense with even the most cherished non-state actors. Peoples’ movement commits suicide the day its leaders settle down to play the role of a non-state actor. Violence is the stage where this drama is played.

This generation shift, if accompanied by this enduring wisdom, is a fit start for a new beginning. A non-violent political movement that employs the young energies to secure the room to its right-full owner. Corner by corner, inch by inch. But are there any guiding lights to tell us how to do it. Yes, there are. Maududi’s non-violent, transparent political action, Ghannoushi’s National Reconciliation, and Ghamidi’s Counter Narrative.