Social metamorphosis in Kashmir

The changes have been rapid and qualitative
"At ziyarats, the traditional ‘tahri’ is replaced by puddings and addition of birayani in the wazwan. Barbers, masons, workers in fields and constructions all are non locals. Their settlements have come up in every town in good numbers." [Representational Image]
"At ziyarats, the traditional ‘tahri’ is replaced by puddings and addition of birayani in the wazwan. Barbers, masons, workers in fields and constructions all are non locals. Their settlements have come up in every town in good numbers." [Representational Image] GK Photo

Thirty years ago, Kashmir was different. Who could have imagined this social metamorphosis, so massive and so abrupt?  Until recent past, the political discourse was paramount. It is now about social concerns that have become overriding to other issues. The credit goes to the present dispensation that it could come to surface, as a new reality.

It has exposed each realm of functioning of traditional power elite of our society. The subtleties of corruption and casualness in governance, strengthening access to power and money by a few vested sections, through the refuge of emotional identity, which so far were not known to commoners, are unreservedly available.

Politicians cannot misguide now. They have to be careful about what they could  provide to their cadres. The traditional mystification has no coat to thicken it. There is amazing grassroots level awareness about the details, which remained unknown and unsaid in the past. Politics has been empowered, through three tier system.

Transparency in administration through PS Guarantee Act is a break with the past. It is creditable, if the land record digitization, when complete, will be available in Hindi, English and Urdu versions for public scrutiny; it would be path breaking measures in creating public awareness and dispersing correct information.

It is measured value addition to the governance with honesty and transparency. This credibility and visibility in public realm will further demystify people of their mindsets. 

Half truths and half lies had been the history of past that has led to this state of art, where mystification, glorification and tacit approval of political and religious elite produced the moment of 1990, a requiem to the old Kashmir.               

The changes have been rapid and qualitative. Dissent has gone to silence. No doubt, there is a deep rooted initiation of individualization in young boys and girls. It is one dimensional generation. Our generation that is in their late 60s and beyond has witnessed many livening of different worlds in one life.

While the young age group has contempt for them, the older generation is a disillusioned lot. The past has been years of waste and wonder. Both Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits indeed economically are revival communities, but socially they are dissolved. 

Six out of ten Pandit marriages are out of the community, while the number of unmarried educated Muslim girls are on rise. Individualization in the families is so severe that each one is a wanderer.  Jobs are taken and changed, like change of clothes.

The old priorities of taking care of needy and elderly have come to halt. The affluent children, without their personal touches, from a far manage their older people through the money power, while poor are left to their providence. Look at the empty Kashmiri houses in Jammu. Each year, these houses are growing in numbers.

Time is in continuum. ‘Work from Home’ and online jobs have robbed our children their control over time. Night is no privacy, anytime a call could come from office for supply of information or updating in the job given. Unsettlement is settlement.

It is where our new generation is located in non-places. Relationships are fluid. Having nothing in common, communications are wired from personal to private; there is no giving out. Neither tears nor smiles to share, only black expressions with wonderment and self condemnation.

Their earning goes into two days marketing in malls and year end Charismas festivity of invitations and greetings. This is the world we are living in; all are wanderers, nowhere to go from one corner to another.               

Imagine, lakhs of migrant workers since 1990 have been welcome by natives, for the local youth has refused to do the ground working jobs. No native is barber.

They have switched over to driving jobs, domestic servants are from outside, different type of bakery is replacing the traditional breads, in good measure. Other than roof setting, all construction work is in the hands of non natives, living from decades now.

Their compositions are diverse, from ‘anywhere’, but named Beharis to suit the arrival of 1990s. Lamenting to it, a professor friend replied, ‘We drove out cultural cousins and received religious cousins. Those who were waiters in our hotels in 1970s, 80s are owners of chain of hotels and native are their waiters in these hotels’.

The noise of demographic change, an alarm made after the abrogation of Article 370, have no sense, when Kashmir before that had willfully changed its social landscape. The flow of easy money, militancy and incursion to drugs have made Kashmiris lethargic for physical work. Those who are educated, choose career in software work.

They prefer to go to anywhere outside the valley for education and enjoyment.  Kashmiri society has undergone social transmutation. It is a digital world; social media and information technology have come into rooms.

It is a different youth, fluid in relationships and living in liquid times. Emotionalism and belongingness, they may speak, but do not believe the way, their older generations wasted lives for distant mystifications and hearsay stories.

The youth of present times are not to be shadowed in fake media clamor. They strive for instant material welfare and security, as well. These generations after 1990 hardly are concerned with the primary group relationships.

Cultural cousins, they cannot value nor are they are interested in them. Past remains defaced for them. Religious cousins appreciated, but only so long they serve them and are functional, economically.

Prior to 1990s, Kashmir had definable social structure with tacit stratifications. Despite different religion, Pandits and Muslims had blending traditions of lived religion that would provide esteem and mutual affection, for one another.

Dress differentiation between the two communities had subtle silent delineation that no outsider could ever mark it different. Imams and Pujaris were local. Babas and Molvis were visitors, from distant places. The prayers were individual, its mode was common and spaces were sacred. Living together in same public worldview was shared.

Crime was unheard of. Public institutions had credibility. Only politics was fluid made twisted with religion that led Kashmiri language disempowered, rather stigmatized in backward forward stratification. The mode of production was defined.

Apple, forests, tourism with specificity and public sector services had created educated middle class and new rich class in towns. However, the social esteem was ranked traditionally. Downtown pandits or Muslims were point of referent. Migration from town to city was selective that could match or overcome linguistic variations or adapt gradually to the new norms of phonic dispensation.

Hindu-Muslim or Shia-Sunni conflict was not evident. It was mutually accepted in esteem and its being different was celebrated. For traditionally their roles were acclaimed positive to the grooming of masses in continuity and change. The teaching in schools was holistic.

It would enrich the cherished family values adhered by the educated families of esteem and respect. Pandit teacher would make it a point to bring family values into public institutions. This was the reason that high class Muslim families in their homes had pandit private teachers for their girls. Family trust was paramount.

Local products had local customers. Their innovations would go with ecology and environment. Pandits would need and use clay appliances, for 'vatak puja’ Shivratri festival. A local potter had esteem in his work. Pottery was socially bonded not marketed in evaluation.

Its annual production in villages and towns was huge, akin with social world and life world realms. Bond of the communities was inseparable based on spiritual affinity and temperamental adjustment.

Down three decades, social core has further shrunk. The social uniformity of urbane has changed. The new stratification based on diversities is ranked. Most of the Imams are non locals.

At ziyarats, the traditional ‘tahri’ is replaced by puddings and addition of birayani in the wazwan. Barbers, masons, workers in fields and constructions all are non locals. Their settlements have come up in every town in good numbers.

They have picked up Kashmiri language with phonic distinction. This deviation is ranked low in esteem. Amidst downtown a settlement of migrant workers has come up.

The traditional Kashmiri referent of downtown is maimed. While rural elites have migrated to the city, their spaces in the villages have been taken up by migrant workers or  elites of upper ridges.

What is left from tradition has become contested present. It is the spoiled memory or erased history with new impositions of dress, food habits and distinct styles, beard and hair prominence. Youth glued to their mobiles, while parents remain worried of their security and career.

Exhibitionism in rituals and festivals are noticeable through expressive consumerism.  

Professional courses, like Medical and Engineering are preferred, it has generated a depressive category of excluded students by these sever competitive choices.

The new educated middle class, especially in towns and urbane are passing through same disillusionments, as did pandits in 1960, onwards. Future and security of the children are to be searched beyond the valley, no to primordial trajectory, but allowing them to live in the presentism.

Ashok Kaul is a 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.

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