What does Azadi mean?

The idea of Azadi, irrespective of age, gender and political belief, has an electrifying effect on the psychology of Kashmiri masses. In this conflict ridden, deeply divided society, if any thing ...

The idea of Azadi, irrespective of age, gender and political belief, has an electrifying effect on the psychology of Kashmiri masses. In this conflict ridden, deeply divided society, if any thing has the potential to unite the Kashmiri people around one goal, it is their deep desire for Azadi. Idea of Azadi has been pursued vigorously by generation after generation here, in the process incurring enormous costs. The blood-soaked Kashmir bears testimony to the profound desire of the Kashmiri people for Azadi. However even after a prolonged spell of great hardships and sacrifices, Azadi still eludes Kashmir. Why Azadi remains a distant dream?

Although word Azadi stimulates the fading spirits, what does Azadi ultimately mean is yet to be fully defined? Is Azadi an idea of change or simply a struggle for the end of Indian rule in Kashmir? Idea of Azadi excites us, but are we aware of ideals of Azadi also? It seems to be the worst irony that three generations have sacrificed tens of thousands of lives in pursuit of Azadi, we are yet to fully embrace the ideals of Azadi.

Is it freedom from India alone, we seek? Or freedom also means end of, inequality, injustice, hunger and poverty. Will Azadi also harbinger a social revolution bringing to end evils like dishonesty, deceit, hypocrisy, untruthfulness, corruption, egoism, sluggish attitudes and sinful extravagance. Is freedom for us means to end or an end in itself?

Suppose, one fine morning we wake-up and find that all Indian forces have left Kashmir, literally marking the end of Indian rule. Apart from a psychological sense of achievement, what qualitatively would have changed on the ground? Restoration of political rights is itself a huge achievement. But political empowerment alone does not feed empty stomachs; insure speedy justice and above all bring peace and tranquility in the society. For this to happen, society needs institutions and foremost a culture to be able to sustain the processes of change in the society. What comes first, Azadi or institutions? It seems to be a typical egg and hen situation.

Agreed, suppressed cannot create institutions while they struggle for their political rights. But it is also true that, struggling masses imbibe into them the very ideals of change, based upon their ideology. Freedom struggle is a way of life; true revolution is not possible without honest, truthful, sincere and committed cadres. Selflessness, cooperation, fraternity and above all sense of belonging with the people and land are some of the ingrained characteristics of freedom fighters.

But an avowed supporter of Azadi may term this entire discussion about the prospects of change, a bit premature. His counter argument could be– we will also undergo a process of change. First things come first; let there be Azadi, change will follow, subsequently. Accepted, but provided we believe in an idea of Azadi and have also truly adopted ideals of Azadi.

But critics may again (rightly) point out— completely peaceful, harmonious society free from all vices, injustice, hunger and violence is notion of a prefect society. No human society has ever been a prefect society. Day drowns in night and dawn breaks from darkness. Struggle between good and evil is unending, good may prevail, however evil can never be destroyed eternally. Every single human being in a society cannot be truthful, committed, sincere and driven by a cause. Every society has its high and lows; it's a package consisting of good and bad people. Furthermore degeneration of ethics and erosion of value systems is a universal phenomenon; this is not only exceptional to our society.

True every society has its share of heroes and villains but why our society is unique. Why we have very few heroes and many, many villains around? Despite diminishing trend of value systems, societies still are able to maintain a certain degree of sanity and adherers some core values. What are our core values? We may practice lot of lip service, but do we really believe in some values?  We have turned-out to be a sick society.

Leave aside lofty ideals. Even in practical issues, our responses are quiet inadequate, even belying the conventional wisdom.  Freedom movement cannot be visualized without unity, cooperation and sense of belonging with the cause, people and the land.  But separatist leaders here have invariably failed to rise above their self at every critical juncture. Due to ego clashes and personal vested interests, none of the separatist organization is free from factionalism. Hurrayat conference is divided into two, Peoples League into seven or eight, JKLF three or four and Jamat Islami supposedly cadre based disciplined organization is also not free from internal wrangling. We are not divided in politics alone; we are averse to share even grief collectively—Association of Parents of Disappeared has two factions.

There are scores of separatist organizations and dozens of smalltime leaders masquerading as freedom fighters. All these proclaim to be engaged in a freedom struggle. But why there is scarcely any body among them, whom we can emulate and follow with closed eyes. Can we trust any of these leaders?

Why blame political activists, they are also part and parcel of this society. While we do not miss any opportunity to criticize politicians, but our behavior also has been far from satisfactory, on the contrary disastrous.  We may spend millions on marriages and construction of new houses, but widows and orphans of the martyrs continue to suffer, because of our callous attitude. While we are being killed— a doctor, engineer, teacher clerk and trader continue to fleece people. Who are they and who are we, all Kashmiri's. Who is dying—a Kashmiri and who is cheating, a fellow Kashmiri. It is like cutting off our nose to spite our face.

We may take pride for being inhabitant of this beautiful place, but who has destroyed paddy fields, cut forests indiscriminately, and polluted water bodies. A Dull dweller knows, polluting Dull ultimately threatens his very existence; still Dull has been converted into a cesspool. Who is responsible government or our antipathy?  Madness has a method, but our greed is totally illogical. We are best at spoiling and destroying our own habitat and heritage without any remorse or sense of responsibility towards coming generations. We are preparing ourselves for a slow death and collectively digging our graves. This is all sham that we love Kashmir; we do not have any sense of belonging with this place. This may sound to be harsh, but this is an irrefutable fact; we have proved to be morally a bankrupt society.
In the end, we pretend to believe that since occupation is ugly, resistance can't be beautiful. We go on hitting the bechara (helpless) Lamppost endlessly. Beating lamppost will not give us Azadi, putting a searchlight within will. Sooner we understand the better—our iniquitous social behaviors are the main impediments towards the goal of Azadi, not the Indian forces alone.

Whosoever loves Azadi, obviously will struggle for Azadi. At the same time he will have to be truthful. And continue to strive for the eradication of social evils, moral and materiel corruption. He will also have to preserve ecology, environment, protect water bodies and forests. Quest for Azadi should also mean a goal to attain self-reliance. Let us excel in education, attain scientific know how and learn cutting edge technologies. Our endeavor should be to become a knowledge based society.  While doing so we should also guard our paddy fields, orchards, handicrafts and heritage. Orphans and widows are our responsibility, if we are not sincere towards the fallen in the cause; we cannot be committed with the cause itself.

(Feedback at firdoussyed@yahoo.com)

Greater Kashmir