Between myth and reality
The recently concluded conference at the Islamic University of Science and Technology, Kashmir, has been in many ways an opportunity to be abreast of new realities of a different Kashmir.
The changes are subtle. The manifestations could be fluid, yet discernible. Nevertheless, the perceptions are melting and the mind-set-subjectivity, first time appears mutable.
The credit goes to the people friendly LG, who seems to have welfare priorities more than a political agenda.
He is a patient listener to a common person, interacting with groups, and perhaps more than that he has been able to delink the chain that was the source of wildness and subjectivity of ailment.
It might be premature to draw inferences; nevertheless, the mood in the campus, where the conference was held was not nostalgic but relating both, hope and despair.
Unlike 2010, my last visit before the present one, on the invitation of Late Professor Dabla, my lectures, though tacitly appreciated drew blank responses and showed uncertain expressions.
One of the colleagues then told me that if Pakistan had no muscle, why it let us go on ruinous path, which led India to be more or less a security state. Since then twelve hard years have gone by, much water has flown in Jhelum.
The perceptible changes seem to be futuristic rather than primordial, if the state and citizenry could streamline the gains, it might be a new morning for yearning future generation. There are indications. The autumn has cast its shadows, but in no uncertain terms revealing its upcoming formations. The towns and villages are in continuum with the city, Srinagar.
The children are mobile, keen to do well, career conscious and market oriented. The affluence is visible; consumerism and constructions around are at its slot, competing in its exhibitionism. People have money, middle class has expanded and affluence has changed the whole perception about life styles.
There are now more questions than answers before the new generation, especially, those born in this century. The previous generation of fifty’s onwards seem to be disillusioned and clueless about the shaping up of the social formations.
They lived in a uniform created mind-set and were caged in it, throughout their lives. The clock has gradually come to its full circle, since the disempowerment of our politics in 1953.
In the preceding decades, we delinked politics from power. The problems were local and solutions were seen beyond us. We were in a democratic set up to make our nativity empowered, but our hegemonic leadership fixed us to the referent beyond nation-state.
We looked across the border for elucidations, hence problems we faced were mystified to the extent that political power lost its potential to give it a direction and solution. It was a process of religious mystification of a distant illusion.
It gave us death and displacement, fractured our nativity and impoverished our culture. We lost dialogue and direction too. The abolition of Article 370, gave a very hard punch to the political stagnation.
While the elites were left to disbelief, the educated middle class had a chance to revisit the different discourses of decades, including one generated by ‘Kashmir Files’.
The conference deliberations, formal and informal threw beams on these dissertations. The boys and girls were ready to open up to explore the answers to these hard questions generated by different narratives. It was clear that each one desired peace and prosperity.
The sufferings of the people inside the valley or out from the valley are akin. No one seems to be at its place and each one has tears in eyes and sadness in heart. The affluence and conflict have ended up in confluence for defaced ‘common social’.
The number of unmarried girls has risen to an alarming figure giving rise to moral insolvency and disintegration of families. The old are helpless and youth is in dilemma of formalism and pragmatism. The conflict not only displaced minority but also took heavy toll of majority.
There are scarcity of boys; and those who are, are hardly interested in domestic work and in their agricultural activities. Hence labour force is from outside. They are mostly poor, low esteem non-native Muslims of different parts of the country. A cursory look and you find them in the fields, in constructions and working as house servants.
They have been their over the years and now ready to emerge as one more strata of a Kashmiri society. It is a structural alteration, wilfully done but collectively despised. The hegemonic leadership in past has not made it an issue, perhaps presuming it a demographic leverage without understanding its ramifications.
There is simmering discontentment about it, at all levels. The educated middle class intellectual perceives it as social and cultural decadence.
Kashmir has become a rich pocket of affluence where preachers in mosques sanction incoming of that populace of same religion that serves it in fields, constructions and homes, as employees of natives.
The irony is in populist discourse it negates the flow of rich non-native settlements, including flow of capital. But actually, at ground level its ethnic core is fractured beyond measure, wilfully.
Time is not far away when these ground changes, wilfully sought by religious and political elite would change the societal composition and very character of masses that Indian state could not do through its policies.
Kashmir of its own will turns to be a non-homogenised society. In a couple of generations henceforth, non-native Muslim elites would replace native elitisms with different social consequences.
Pandit population has already undergone this social heterogeneity forced by displacement and by different political dispensations. It is a concern that new generation of both KP and KM have to face, mother tongue already stigmatised and gone, then it would be time to mourn what their leaders have done to them.
The social decadence wilfully at grassroots level has broken the native social structure. The matches are difficult to find.
Even if boys and girls are available, it is hard to come in terms for mutual esteem and compatibility. The drugs and depression have found route in private spaces.
Youth is inquisitive. Their belonging to their place has met incredulity. The emerging realities around the neighbourhood and in the globe have disillusioned them with those convictions that their parents held dear. They live in individual and private realms, glued and absorbed to social media and to the digital world.
They are in a race to move out for education and career in Indian and western universities. Little interest in politics, drug with consumerism has entered into schools and colleges. There is no intrinsic moral policing. Institutional policies of punish and discipline are mitigated with money and political muscle.
The Kashmir Muslim educated class has expanded to face similar dilemma as Pandit Middle class had experienced some decades ago. Similarly, scepticism in both the communities is akin.
The repentance and ruin are writ large. While Pandits have become affluent class across the globe, the Muslims of Kashmir too are on the path of prosperity. But then, economic affluence does not mean social rooting and collective happiness. It thrives from cultural and social capital that comes from own evolved organic historic roots. The violence and conflict have played havoc with its evolution.
Both the communities, Pandits and Muslims are sad and have a deep sense of deprivation. It is essentially cultural and social estrangement. It needs retelling. Novels like ‘Nativity Reclaimed’ and ‘Undercover in Bandipore’ are read, but not openly appreciated.
The holistic consensus narrative has not yet emerged. If ‘Curfewed Night’ has not portrayed Pandit misery, Kashmir Files has not shown suffering of those who were not driven out. Both the communities have suffered enormously, culturally as well as socially.
Kashmir stands at crossroads. At least to the credit of present dispensation, the simmering intellectual discourses are finding outlets. Unlike yesteryears, the contested literature urges for consensus narratives, where both the communities could live in peace and dignity.
Tacitly, it is avowed that first step to happy future has to be a settlement between Kashmiri Muslim and Kashmiri Pandit then has to be peace between India and Pakistan and finally its endorsement by the international community.
Unless fractured core finds happiness of both the parts, there hardly would be any gratification and composure to our ‘ Mouj Kashir’, Musalman and Bata are her two eyes.
Author Is an Emeritus professor in sociology at Banaras Hindu university
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.