Reflections in the social mirror

This split in thought and deed is manifested in discord between engagement and attachment
Representational Image
Representational ImageFile/GK

Existential dilemma deepens when past prime. It is difficult to retain that righteousness, after the shocks of futile teenage idealism and dying lustful adolescence and pointless career bound material mid age. When retired, you get chastened with the questions that are hard to find meaning.

Ultimately, it is falling in the realm of loneliness and uncertainties. Failed marriages, fluid transactions and breaking relations and disintegrating families that is the price we pay for the estrangement with our cultural moorings.

Our blending culture, lived religion and democratic pluralism are akin with modernity. The new experiments with adventurism in uncertain realms prompted by globalisation, migration and changed social geography have broken that relationship with organic linearity. This split of thought and deed is manifested in discord between engagement and attachment, freedom and security and moral and material.

Monarchies and colonization have made structural changes to our society; nevertheless it has not been able to finish that subdued stream of culture that has sustained us in the past. That was inner organic evolutionary, passing through generation to generation in oral traditions and strengthened through ziyarats and pilgrimages, rituals and social repertoires.

We were collectively bound to the anchor and individually accommodating with the impositions of forced culture. Collectively we had stories tales and connecting social threads of geographical common universe. We would move in a bond and come back to the fold. The notion of minority and majority was not numerical perception, but it was on institutional merit in public systems or seniority in age in social institutions.

The one who was capable of leading would command respect. Since social formations are made up of political economy, elitism percolate with the mode of production. Even in monarchies or in colonisation, the wash off effect of social engineering would benefit the section of locals to gain that status in power and positions, by virtue of their functionality. That stratum becomes a transforming agency.

It is historical overarching and similar mechanisation we find in different historical junctions. It is now different. The imagined nationalisms have done that loss to the repertoire of cultural social capital. The tragedy is that making of Kashmiri’s narrative history could never find articulation deconstructed from political discourse. During the times of non-native kingdoms, the political economy would rest on shawl, shrine and shally.

Its appropriations would form the power elites and social linkages to those who benefited from the indigenous mode of education or from the colonial education policy after 1857. At the time of Quit Kashmir movement, there was clear-cut distinction between native and non-native elites.

Non-natives were mainly Punjabi Muslims and monarchy kinship, while natives were mix of Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri pandits. The divide created by the political economy over the centuries had social underpinning between natives and non-natives. Native culture was a blending culture, but deprived.

And non-native had power base of centuries. It would ridicule native culture as low culture. Therefore, popular poetry at mass level was of agony, pain and estrangement. Zoon and Arnimal are its well-known illustrations. Its second shade was mimicry, satire and parody for the release of pain and mocking of powerful non-native elites. Bandpether and Ladishah are its patterns.

The serious native poetry, philosophical or classic, was with a few. Not popular, ignored by power elite. It emerges when age ripens and its gradual unfolding is ever fresh. The poetry of Souch Kral, Paramanand, Raz, Lala Argami and Naem Saeb, Wahab Khar, Azad, Gh Rasool Nazki, Zinda Koul and scores go on discovering value. Had there not been functional educated middle class in late 19th and early 20th century, there could have not been reform movements in India.

Those native elites influenced by early reformation could lead India subsequently into National Movement that had bearing on the Quit Kashmir Movement as well. In Kashmir reformative movement did not precede political movement, instead political discourse dominated reformation. Kashmir had more than ninety six present illiteracy and most among them were Muslims. Pandits were the functional educated middle along with a section of city Muslims.

Therefore, reformative movement in Punjab produced its social linkages in Kashmir reformation among Pandits. Pandits had substantial reformation in dress, rituals and religious conservatism through Kashp Bandu, motivated by Arya Samaj.

While Muslim reformation initiated by Abdullah was thrown away by Ahrar discourse, blaming Abdullah of being inclined towards Ahmadia influence. Despite Ahrar discourse, Abdullah’s emergence as a native Muslim qualified leader was a phenomenal rise. He was a gifted orator. Beginning with Quranic verses, he would mix his nativeness with religion.

Multitudes from towns and villages would die to see his glimpse. Nehru named him Lion of Kashmir, a voice against monarchy. His predicament was discernible right after the start of Quit Kashmir Movement. The native strength was functional educated middle class, the Kashmiri pandits and support from Nehru’s unbending backing against monarchy. Siding with Muslim League would mean handing over leadership to Ahrar politics and renouncing of identity. He opted for nativity and thereby, a quiescent backup of Pandit support was an imperative prerequisite. His masses were illiterate and poor.

He needed an agency for its social transformation and with Nehru’s patronage it was possible, and it could happen. Imagine, had there not been Kashmiri Pandit middle class, the ninety six persons with unlettered illiteracy would have become a tribal community of swat valley neglected and absorbed in religiosity. It is not coincidental, when Qaid e Azam Jinnah came to Kashmir in 1944, he was first greeted by National Conference.

His welcome address was read by Pandit Jialal Kilam. His instant response to it was, ‘even kings can feel proud at the warmth of welcome you have given me’. His second welcome was given at Drugjan by Muslim Conference. This dismayed him and he found it eruditely sub-standard. Without mincing his words, he had communicated that Kashmir Muslim leadership needed Pandits to succeed.

Besides political reasons, the sociological observations would tell us that the naïve illiterate subjugated majority needed the agency for transformation. Pandits played that role.

And by 1960 the native Muslims had already generated new classes; including a well spread middle class across the valley. They no longer needed pandits. Therefore, the discourse on Pandits changed from functionality to liability.

It was perceived a competitive threat to resources. Imagine the present times. Pandits displaced, Kashmiri educated Muslim class is a functional agency for social transformation for a new non-native working class. They are Muslims from the plains, serving in homes and shops and irreplaceable in skilled jobs.

A couple of generations down, when their children would grow in education and incomes, they would demand share in resources and claim wash off effect of development. The present native Muslim middle class then cease to be properties for them and would be looked down the other, the suppressers. It would not take time to form the superstructure for the rationale.

A readymade conspiracy theory with new born myths round pure/impure religious dichotomy discourse could be harnessed to show that miseries were flaunted by native elites on these working pure dutiful sections of the society. We have its precedence in the past when Mr Bhutto was hanged and Kashmiris wept and protested for him. They were declared by then non-native power dispensation from across the boundary as ‘Brahminzade’. This is how the moral culture is constructed in power discourse to camouflage the reality.

Till 1960s, shawl, shali and shrine were replaced by fruit, forest and tourism, besides state sponsored measures as political economy that generated a new affluent class that saw Pandits as pariah. Its source was non-native religious referent. The histories of last three decades have been a history of causalities, displacements and loss of social with a sense of fractured identity.

Affluence without work and abundant resources from social and symbolic capital has promoted survival beyond institutions. It is where the new educated native Muslim class is following their traditional Pandit educated class. Globalisation, immigration and consumer culture have swallowed the traditional institutions and taken off the gleam of trust from it. While native Muslims are disillusioned, the native pandits have accepted it as fait accompli.

Nevertheless, that wilful or forced trajectory of Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits might perceive it as accomplishment of affluence and economic security. In actuality, it is at the loss of social cultural invisible capital and a process of aeration of its source.

This generation from fifteen to early thirty’s might perceive it a process of continual unsettlement for the career accomplishment. Their older generation has started lamenting it and the succeeding generations will sense the loss and miss the substance.

Ashok Kaul, Professor Emeritus 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.

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