Incredible! India, a country of billion plus could be made to feel threatened by few slogans? In the age of hyper-nationalism, however, logic seems to be the first causality. Slogans since time immemorial, perhaps from the very moment humans discovered the way to express cogently, have provided a vent to articulate varied emotions, moreover suppressed feelings. In the ongoing cacophony on JNU, three sets of slogans, "Azadi", "Afzal Guru" and reportedly "Bharat ki ……." seem to have triggered a bitter slugfest.
For a common Kashmiri "Hum Kya Chahte….." is an irresistible and profound moving expression of his pent-up feelings. Irrespective of differing political persuasions and affiliations, this sentiment is so deep and engrained in our psyche that it invariably defines our collective urges and aspirations. Every Kashmiri, provided he still believe to be a Kashmiri, is bound to be aroused by such slogans. "Hum Kya Chahte …." notwithstanding how negatively it's being perceived by the 'powers that be' is absolutely a creative, moreover a beautiful expression of the soul. Can there ever be a more profound and sublime expression of soul than a deep desire for freedom? Can there ever be something more creatively stimulating than a desire to be free? Can there ever be something more precious than life itself? Yes, the transcendent desire to be free. In search of dignity man trades his life to be free.
Whether, Azadi connotes an absolute form of independence from the two dominions; India and Pakistan. Whether Azadi implies accession with Pakistan? And whether, Azadi is to be reduced to "Greater Autonomy". Whatever the idealistic belief or pragmatic formulations in any case the slogan "Hum Kya Chahte ….", energies a Kashmiri the most. We, however, are yet to discover a Kashmiri who could find some trust in RSS version with a degree of conviction. The impostors belong to different breed.
The search for Azadi, true to its affirmative and ever-inspiring ideology, should essentially remain to be a peaceful struggle. We, however, are being forced to accept that what that prevails, is Azadi. The real problem begins then and there, only. It's impossible for Azadi and conflict to coexist. If Azadi is already here, why this bloody conflict continues to devour scores of innocent lives? Kashmir will never accept the forced realities; the ongoing conflict in Kashmir is simply the testimony to that. The New Delhi is obstinate enough not to accept the reality of conflict in Kashmir. New Delhi is adamant, Kashmir unwilling to yield. The question, however, remains that can Kashmir be denied its due, forever? Who will decide that Kashmir is India, people of Kashmir, or hegemonic tendencies of India? Azadi slogan triggering such uproar fully suggests how unsure India is vis-à-vis Kashmir.
Whatever the judicial processes, Afzal guru's hanging is perceived as a miscarriage of justice in Kashmir. That will continue to resonate in Kashmir, in one way or other. In the aftermath of JNU controversy Afzal Guru has turned into an issue. The more he is being ridiculed the more he appears to be a symbol. In case of Maqbool Bhat there exists a generational gap. But there is no such disconnect with Afzal Guru, he was sent to gallows, virtually in the very presence of this generation. At the time of his hanging, Afzal was seen by many as just a victim of "collective conscience". That had literally shocked almost everyone in Kashmir. Now Afzal Guru is no more simply a victim, he has metamorphosed into a symbol.
The state oppression almost sucks every Kashmiri. That very well shapes the Kashmiri attitude towards New Delhi. The Azadi sentiment in all its manifestations, however, can never and should never, seek the destruction of India. If anyone here believes that "Bharat ki ….." is what Kashmir is seeking for, we unequivocally and firmly reject that as a diabolical claim. Kashmir believes in freedom, that's not a zero sum game. Seeking freedom can never imply destruction of India. We do have issues to settle with New Delhi. It's pursuit of justice, certainly not of any hostility. Hatred against the other can never be ingrained in freedom sentiment. Freedom and hatred are two distinctive countervailing ideas. Freedom is compassion, hatred is divisive and destructive. Freedom is to seek to heal the historical wrongs. Hatred driven campaign can never unite the people, it's sheer destruction. We are sufficiently clear that we are not seeking destruction of India. Freedom is not only a pursuit for justice and a sustainable peace; it also is to seek a true reconciliation with the worthy people of India. Seeking the destruction of other is morally untenable. The "Bharat ki ….." slogan seems to be a ploy of ill-designs to scare people of India that freedom means destruction of India. If such are the inhibitions of Indian society, will it ever be willing for a just settlement of Kashmir? How can a nation be prepared for its own destruction? Whosoever tends to believe in a divisive agenda of "Bharat ki ……" is true enemy of Kashmir. We need empathy of Indian people and not their entrenched enmity. Our seeking peace is also an endeavour for India to attain a permanent peace. Our struggle for dignity ought to be a harbinger of peace and prosperity for India as well. Justice for Kashmir will essentially usher in an era of peace and reconciliation for India and Pakistan. That's how we need to pursue our struggle. Indeed struggle here should echo a deep desire for peace for India, Pakistan and Kashmir.