Naeem Akhtar's letter addressed to SAS Geelani (GK Ed page: 11.10.16) may or may not evoke response from the concerned quarter, where it is addressed. However, since it touches matters that concern a cross section of society, it deserves a response, a rejoinder on the issues raised. There could hardly be a dissenting voice as far as the role and importance of education in national building is concerned. Naeem Akhtar has rightly quoted Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) as the harbinger of an educative process in deserts of Arabia, where ignorance and illiteracy reigned. And, as per an account, barely seventeen persons could read and write at the advent of Islam. Following the battle of Badr, Prophet (pbuh) recruited teachers from enemy ranks; they were spared the trial and trail of POW's. In relating the event and its purpose, Naeem Akhtar cannot be faulted. However, he would have done justice to his narrative of parables and the tale of the condemned man in relating events following Badr. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) worked for creating avenues for a political process that would herald a period of peace. Following the historical 'Treaty of Hudaibiyah' Arabia got a breather, a decade of peace, where it became possible to pursue education and development in the Medinite republic.
Peace eludes Kashmir, as Kashmir dispute remains unresolved. And, in the present phase largely due to the fault lines created by the political dispensation of which Naeem Akhtar is one of the principal motivators. And, lest we forget, the chief spokesman! An unholy alliance was foisted on the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in the name of a doctrine that sought to link North Pole with South Pole. And, in the name of an 'Agenda of Alliance (AoA)' an eyewash was apparent, as nothing in this agenda has seen the light of the day from return of power projects to reaching out to separatists (in essence the resistance forces) and Pakistan. The very idea of reaching out to Pakistan was rebuffed on November, the 7th 2015, when PM Modi gave the shut up call by relating that he needed no advice. So called Mufti doctrine aborted. Barring the semantics, the substance of AoA was laid to rest on that day. Instead what the state witnessed was the hyperbole on sanik colonies, settlements for migrant population, and cluster colonies for Kashmiri Pandit brethren. AoA proved to be divisive agenda. Instead of a self-advertised doctrine making it to be a unifying agenda for people living across Pir Panchal, it let loose communal and divisive forces.
The divisive agenda is sensed by pelleted eyes—totally or partially blind. By the pelleted eyes especially, victims of a state narrative, which is at variance with the dominant sentiment, and directly in contention with it? It could be asked whether the unfolding state narrative across the length and breadth of Kashmir is conductive to peaceful pursuit of education with over ninety killed, thousands maimed, an equal number arrested, and with more or less a thousand pelleted eyes? The harsh message of the state narrative could hardly be minimized by addressing letters couched in language of victimhood, while the harsh message is being widely conveyed on a daily basis by night raids on hamlets across Kashmir to arrest protesters, by burning crops, and making mess of horticulture produce.
Naeem Akhtar in a bid to keep his narrative on an even kneel wishes every child of Kashmir to outperform his well-placed children. I would rather join him in his prayer, as my children thank heavens are well-placed too, settled abroad not by choice but by force of circumstances. However, the argument that education saved them and many others from the fate of Insha and Junaid is incomprehensible. Insha and Junaid were pursuing education as many others albeit with a temporary break, when unrestrained forces struck the fatal blow, while they were within their family quarters, and in no way a part of the protesting crowd. Naeem Akhtar's argument is not only incomprehensible, but unsustainable too. Fate of Insha and Junaid is archetypal of the level of violence generated by the state to counter protests against prevailing political dispensing, supporting status quo.
Naeem Akhtar's letter is addressed to SAS Geelani, with all its parables and the projected victimhood of man, calling himself condemned. The person addressed is incidentally a victim of state narrative, which is intolerant of dissent. For years confined to house arrest, unable to interact with other resistance leaders and public at large, it could be asked—does he have the avenues open to debate and discuss an alternative discourse to carry on the resistance agenda, an agenda that seeks a peaceful and lasting solution of Kashmir dispute? While the state narrative shapes to suppress dissent of any sort by force, extreme responses could be expected, which may further inflame a charged political scenario.
True, all right thinking people would favour educational institutions to remain open—the questions remains however—is it possible in circumstances, where life and limb is threatened and no space is provided for political dissent? Education is synonymous with free flow of ideas; it cannot be fostered, where stifling alternative ideas and narratives remains the rule of the thumb. There is much more to education than Naeem Akhtar takes into account.
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]
(Author is doctor in medicine, a social activist, and a senior columnist)