Dapaan – a pregnant word, a prefix to most of our conversations, the word used by rumour mongers, in hushed tones of gossip or inquisitive natters; this magical mantra of our language acts as a double-edged metaphorical sword which is used to mean or demean conveniently.
The idea to be discussed is not plain lying. Well, lying is a universal absolute, a human weakness and must not be presented as region specific. What drives this proposition is a marked inherent tendency in Kashmir to create and appreciate hyperbole, have blind-faith in rumors and word of mouth. A behavioral pattern which has made the difference and the ability to differentiate reality and myth extremely weak.
An inadequate institutional setup, minimal working/business hours, and demotivating work environment_____precisely; the lazy work culture in Kashmir makes for a lot of free time for people. Add hartals and other byproducts of the conflict and Kashmiris could well be pictured 'thriving' in the ecstasies of nothing-to-do-ingness. With no apparent activity and restricted mobility, we plunge headlong into this pool of tale bearing, gossiping, and rumor mongering ad nauseaum. And more often than not, these talks end up in hopeless criticism of almost everything and everyone relating to Kashmir. The quality of criticism in Kashmir, as my father often says is fast degrading to the standards of tanqeed baraaye tanqeed—Criticism for the sake of criticism.
In the present times when days and nights are alternating between arbitrary bursting of clouds and grenades, all kinds of exaggerations are being accorded undue importance. From stories of our misdeeds going to soon lead us towards an apocalypse- a mythological Maha-pralay (Great flood) to useless conjectures regarding the frustrated politics in our state. I am not dismissing the importance of healthy public debates on issues at stake. Solution-oriented discourses have always been ranked among the practices that keep a society pulsating. But our 'dapaan-ha' talks; sadly, border on pessimism, political mud-slinging and a xeno-centric negation of our own culture.
This behavioral propensity has had its negative implications on our society as a whole and it is very important to understand how it leads to enflame the public mind in various sensitive situations. Call to mind 2010 and the years that followed. The years that marked a lot of political hullaballoo and recurrent genocide on the streets of Kashmir. It is relevant to recall the ban on sms, gagging of the press, stifling of internet services and other curbs on communication channels. Viewed from a pedestrian perspective, these checks on the free flow of information appear unnecessary and suffocating in a society swarmed by commercial and media clutter.
But then objectivity demands a balanced approach in dealing with the issue. We are all aware of how diverse media platforms were and are used to incite passions, concoct stories, fabricate rumors about events that never happened and create a parallel false impression of the happenings taking place. This has had ruinous consequences for the youth who are too gullible and innocent to verify the authenticity of the information. And then a corpus of political literature (mostly provocative) freely accessible on social media has led to intellectual degeneration and radicalization of our youth. As a consequence, one is compelled to appreciate the administrative rationality of the states'
decision to withdraw vulnerable information flow during days of turmoil.
It's been almost a year since the waters of death and destruction ravaged Kashmir. Rumors of all hue and color were doing rounds during those days of mayhem. It continues to remain a traumatizing experience for most of us. With almost all communications terminated, people had to deal with information most of which was word of mouth. Rumor-mongers and story bearers had a field day then. Stories about who all are alive and who all drowned, whose house is standing and whose razed was so profusely and insensitively spread that one found it difficult to sieve realities from fabrications. This added to the apprehensions and multiplied the problems of hundreds of those homeless families who in the very least needed a sense of tranquil and calm till the waters receded. Yet another ugly spinoff of this social malpractice is that it has led to no holds barred slander and character assassination of people ranging from a common man to a distinguished public figure. It won't be an exaggeration to state that both business and personal relations have suffered because of this. Scandal mongering has suffocated the space, be it our offices or our households.
An ordinary Kashmiri mauled by all kinds of adversities whether they be man-made or natural tries hard to gasp for peace or at least some likeness of it. The ill-practices of rumor and gossip mongering make a casualty of that much sought-after peace and sense of calm. We as a nation are in dire need of a systemic social reform that makes better thinkers of us than mere believers.