‘Is gulistan mein hud se guzarna nahi achha,
Naz bhi kar tu b andaz-e-ranai kar’
Modernity came after all religions on two fundamental postulates. One, that this world is set by evolution and not by design, and the second, that change could be holistic provided the agency of change is state that can build modern institutions and remain within its boundaries as the nation state. The first experiment of such realm of existence and order-making was in 1641 with the emergence of United Kingdom as pacesetter in the modern nation states, followed by US in 1774 and then western European countries. It does not denounce religion as the communists would do, but keeps religion in private sphere and does not intermingle it with public institutions. The modern public institutions are based on the institutional merit that creates its social sphere with boundaries. The social formation has its given boundaries, which is according to culture and according the nature of the state. It is a collective representation with normative acceptance and legitimacy. Since, in Asian countries modernity came as colonial gift, our prerequisites to be a modern civilized nation lost its impetus as culture was fragmented before national integration could be achieved. In case of Europe, it passed first with cultural integration and then only political unification followed. Religion glues in fluidity while culture flows in stability. Partition of India is such a social engineering of cultural fragmentation that it has made Pakistan to search for its new identity. Sometimes it experiments in military adventure, sometimes it finds meaning in sports rivalries and all the time it sees its image in Kashmir turmoil. This problem is not with India. India still remains India even if a part of it is cut in partition. If allowed to remain plural and progressive linear on modern institutions, it will flourish in its organic evolution of historical journey. This was the premise of our fore fathers of the national movement, both Hindus and Muslims who preferred to build India even after partition, after 1947. They knew it well that India is an old society and a new state. The social contradictions would appear because of the processes of development and democratization, but it would get settled through constitutional provisions and representative consensus.
Our leaders in Jammu and Kashmir never allowed it to happen; to look for South Asian organic cultural referent, which Nehru and Abdullah had set for their companionship. Nobody can ignore the contributions or question the unmatched popularity of late Sheikh Mohamed Abdullah but his personality of ‘muddled ideologies…one day a raging nationalist and another day a hardliner communist in another speech’ has been the conundrum of Kashmir. Since his public image was colossus and his Friday sermons at Hazratbal were his prime asset unchallenged, it was seal to the throne of Kashmir. He was a passionate Indian since 1939 to 1953. With the ripening of Cold War and emergence of bipolarity, influenced by US shadow foreign minister Adlai Stevenson, he showed back to Nehru. Qaid Azam and Liqat Ali gone, Pakistan had become client state of United Nations. Abdullah’s ‘exceptional tempers’ reopened a new chapter of mystification of Kashmir on religious lines primarily, co-mingled with history and memory to alienate people from India. A new symbol of green cloth and rock salt thickened the mystification with the unbelievable notions about persons and places across the border. When he changed it, much water had flown through Jhelum. The cultural estrangement that had come to us from centuries did turn into fluidity of mistrust for inward journey and seduction to the confessional referent.
Thus Kashmir, just after 1953, lost direction as well as dialogue. Indian state presumed it to be a case of uneven underdevelopment and Pakistan recognized it a case of religious proximities. The secular crown presumption fitted to the development discourse of India, while religious claim of the valley suited Pakistan to its unfinished agenda of partition. Apparently, both the contending nations had convincing rhetoric to its stand, but in reality the ailment is frozen in social cultural estrangement which has remained unheeded by India and refused by Pakistan till date. The result is that Kashmiris suffered for none of their faults, but were seduced to the illusions fetched to them by strangers. The leaders have not only been insincere to their people but have played games for their hegemonies and interests. This region needs peace and Kashmir yarns for respite from violence. The stake holders should know that Kashmir is not a monolithic whole, but a cultural realm with history and memory of its cultural ingredients. At the moment, it stands fractured. Unless we have internal reconciliation, the external formulations are non-remedial. History is witness how political unification preceding cultural integration has been bloody and walloped with rancor and sufferings. Should our conventional leaders tread the same path and remain muddled in the primordial, when, with the passing of time, there is a huge change in ground realities? The international priorities and collations, along with the social geography, too have undergone alterations. Should our leadership adopt the same methodology to allure disillusioned people from green cloth to red ribbon display in public realms, just to satisfy their hurt egos, at the cost of deprived exhausted people over centuries? Should we have the same wine in the new bottle to make Kashmir again a battle ground to the loss of future generations? Or should they look forward progressively on market lines for a new dawn that history might have created a fresh space, both for the people of Kashmir and the two contending and conflicting states. For the same should hold true for India and Pakistan. There is no key other than working for peace and respite from violence. The solutions will follow. Neither China nor U S is concerned with the joy of Kashmiris or in the prosperity of India and Pakistan. Time has come to be reflective. The big powers have stakes in their own rivalries playing their hegemonies on our nerves, should our leadership allow it happen.
Ashok Kaul is Professor, Department of Sociology, Banaras Hindu University,