Finally where is Kashmir after almost three month long uprising? Some say, nowhere. Some, very near. These are two extreme, and impulsive responses. Any meaningful discussion on this question would begin by a consent to move out of such unthinking rut. Putting this anxiety into a dispassionate question can bring some ease to atmosphere. Let us then put it this way: what is the geometry of today's Kashmir in terms of its distance and direction from a political goal? A political goal that is tied to very existence of human in Kashmir. Well, depends how you draw lines and where you make the sketch.
A frank, fearless, and informed discussion can help us sketch Kashmir as it is. This discussion has to guard itself against two perennial pitfalls. One, Cynicism. Two, Euphoria.
The seeds of this cynicism were sown long back and has now grown into a wild weed. For the sake of identification, we can put a date to this practice of cultivating cynicism in Kashmir. It was immediately after 1931 that the lands were prepared for such a cultivation; interestingly, in this political farming both land and tiller were gone. What later nurtured this cynicism was an elaborate mix of disinformation, and fear psychosis carried out by Delhi and its collaborative cast in Srinagar. Kashmiri Muslims were made to believe that India is a big country – a large democracy, a growing economy – and we must thank our stars to be part of such a country. On the other hand, Pakistan and the larger Muslim world are poor, petty, and pugnacious. So thank God, 'tribals' were pushed back. ( In the context of Kashmir, making of images and imaginations is an interesting topic for reflection, and can go a long way in revealing the depths of occupation that Kashmir is facing.) What also contributed to this cynicism is the inadequacy, and resultant failure of counter-formations. Those who resisted India could not produce a leadership, an intellectual content, and a socio-economic conduct that could match the task. That could strike a degree of parity with the historic examples and prevalent global standards. The result of all this is an emaciation, nearing extinction, of the belief that there can be a future-Kashmir without present-India.
The second pitfall, euphoria. At certain times our emotions run amok to make us believe that if we sleep in the evening as slaves, we will rise up the next morning as free people. Like we behaved at the start of 1990s. In such a state of collective ecstasy it becomes difficult to initiate any well meaning talk on the whereabouts of Kashmir as one people. This euphoria finally contributes to the imposed cynicism, because when things don't turn out as imagined in the state of euphoria, we tend to lose hope and go into disarray. This is what we witnessed in 2008, then 2010, and there is every likelihood it might happen at an escalated note in 2016, if the joint Resistance leadership doesn't take a decision on this, without waiting for things to settle down on its own. This way the euphoria does an own goal. It accentuates the imposed cynicism. The idea that it's impossible to have a future of Kashmir without the present Indian state, looks real. Though that too proves a temporary state of affairs, but it does great damage to us collectively, in the long run.
Away from these two pitfalls, if a discussion happens and we participate in it gently, and honestly, it will be a major note of success struck. Since this discussion has to happen at the level of present leadership, the new found energies, and the deeper recesses of our societal mind, it is helpful if we adorn the stage with some optimistic signs. India hits dead end in Kashmir when it has to drop all its trappings, and stand naked. 2016 has stripped India bare to bones. The amount of force used to crush people, and terrify those who are in the lead role this time, leaves little to be even discussed about any future of Kashmir with India. Even some rumblings about within India now hints at grotesque. This makes 2016 a moment of clarity.
This moment didn't come from nowhere, and must not disappear into nowhere. If question arises about What-After, and we are pressed into thinking about possible answers, another half of exploration is about What-Before. That completes the job and saves us from anxieties-in-isolation. Will it yield anything substantial?! For how long can we continue in this sate of protest?! To what limit can our businesses bear this loss?! What can become of the education of our children, career of our professionals, and ventures of entrepreneurs?! All these question, even if asked in a manner that tries patience, are real concerns. But they can yield wrong conclusions, and strengthen erroneous assumptions, if left alone. If we ask them, as part of our own initiative to reclaim agency, it will generate positive energy – a step away from euphoria. But if such questions are received without being mindful of the psychological assaults mounted by the Indian state and its apparatus in Srinagar, it's bound to frustrate us. We will soon accuse ourselves for our sufferings – remember cynicism. The source of trouble will again walk into hiding. And it's this hiding that has worked against us all these years.
I don't think Geelani, Mirwaiz, or Yasin is happy to see our shops shut, our education halted, and our routine suspended. I don't think the trade bodies, who actually are the core sufferers in this, are not waiting for the day when markets again buzz with people. I don't think people who participate in this public mobilisation are not worried about the future of children. If there is anyone who can derive pleasure from this state of affairs, it is the tormentor sitting in Delhi.
If any confusions about what India is in Kashmir are dispelled and the matter comes straight as an unencumbered fact, it is a political feat. It is like Einstein himself teaching our children relativity. Now you cannot get closer to a subject than this. In a nutshell, if we really want to benefit form this moment of clarity – Einstein in the relativity class– it's time time to take a grand step ahead. Take a decision, reclaim agency, and let the societal energies now unleash in different directions to achieve that one single political goal. Holding them for too long in this state of complete shut down is bringing expiry date nearer. Time for the joint Resistance leadership, and associated groups and individuals to move beyond weekly calendars, and lay down yearly plans: Prepare people for a significant shift to defeat cynicism, and drop euphoria. But this can happen only when routine resumes.