Reply to a friend

Our value system is being made subservient to political demagoguery
Representational Pic
Representational Pic

My dear Sid,

A much belated thank you for writing to me on the 13th ofMarch, 2018. It has been exactly a year since. Your open letter made my day ona day when it just wasn't my day! It was a lovely piece of writing; profoundnot pedantic; and personal yet not patronising and sympathetic but notsermonising. If you recall, in our long association, I always urged you towrite more and more frequently.

I don't remember when we last met. You, one of the fewfriends I have!  Was it in Mumbai? OrSrinagar?  Worse still, I didn't miss youenough to make an effort to meet with you. Sad but true. I do know the reasonsfor you not making an effort to meet me all this while; a principled publicintellectual that you are, engaging with "ideologically compromisedpoliticians" is anathema!

What I don't know is why I didn't seek you out. That shouldtell you about me in the last four years or so. High on power?! Busy with thetrivialities of managing public money?! Collaborating with the right wing ultranationalist parties to strengthen their stranglehold on J&K? Take yourpick! It is all there in public domain.

Now that I have rediscovered the need to think, I would behappy if it was any one of these reasons. It would have at least been normal.Least complicated. Unfortunately, between friends, none of these is true.  Far from it. Then what gives?

I think I just got bored. No, not bored of you. You may notexactly be scintillating company but I respect and enjoy it for the maturity ofthought and the ideology of intellectualism. The two together have allowed youto retain a certain innocence of idealism even at relatively advanced age! Tome it is an endearing quality especially in Kashmir where cynicism should nowbe declared our national past time.

Even though it was Edward Said who got us together whilewaiting for a delayed flight at the Srinagar airport in the winter of 1993, hisapproach didn't seem to have guided us. Instead, sitting on the perch ofpunditry, we would be very Musilian; debate, explain, analyse, occasionallywrite and then do nothing about it. I remember your two favourite words,"observe and analyze"! 

Come to think of it, that is not entirely correct though.You gave up a cushy job in the corporate sector to do something in the Vale.You did try to make a difference; be it at a school in Ladakh, or as a memberof the Auqaf Board, the Gulab Singh Chair in the Jammu University, member ofthe election commission of Hurriyat Conference and at a Centre in the KashmirUniversity.

You finally found your calling as the founder Vice Chancellor of the Islamic University of Science and Technology. The name is a contribution in itself. It has the potential to change mind set.

Very few people associate "Islam" with "Science and Technology" notwithstanding Ibn Khaldun (you named a Centre for comparative civilisations on him), Al Zahrawi, Al Khwarizmi and many many others. To have the Rinchen Shah Centre for West Himalayan Cultures is a stroke of genius.

It is an outstanding example of how to institutionalise religious sensibilities, shared cultural values, and professional exactitude. For all this and more, you were left out to dry at Pampore; not even accorded the dignity of removal or reappointment! But that doesn't really matter.

Would you regret any of yours forays? I don't think youshould. It might surprise you, nor do I.

And yes! How could I forget! You and I are bound together byYasin Malik as having been associated with the JKLF. I don't remember theparticular meeting he publicly referred to (you apparently took me in an autorickshaw to meet him in Delhi), but I do remember many meetings with himincluding some at your residence in Delhi. 

From being declared as having been a part of the JKLF to becoming in your opinion "the face and substance of the PDP's plunge into the den of India's fascist agenda-making", is quite a journey. If the former is a perception, the latter is propaganda.

The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between. Of all the hats that we wore, we never were activists. Perhaps, under the influence of Said, we tried being "the outsider, the amateur, and the disturber of status quo". We didn't resist. At best we tried to promote a sense of resistance.  This went on for almost two decades. 

I have always found you to be in a state of enlightened detachment and calm; a nirvana of sorts which I subconsciously attributed to your ethnicity. Or should I be politically correct and say sub-ethnicity, if there is such a term. I may not have articulated it in as many words earlier, but for me, you were a Ladakhi first and a Muslim later. May be that is how I grew up; a Kashmiri before a Muslim.

I would never say this in public for the risk of being misunderstood but with you my friend, I can speak freely. I am sure it is your affiliation to the Shadhili silsila of Sufism along with the close association of your family, Radhu, with the Dalai Lama that gives you the halo of calm. 

As against this, as you rightly observe, I am more oftenthan not, "prone to rushes of the adrenalin". Is it unusual for aKashmiri? For three decades and more now, we have been living in such pervasivedysfunctionality, cause by politics, that the entire social edifice has beenmutated. It has taken a huge toll; we have become a society of sceptics, acommunity of cynics and nation of nihilists. My hostility was not per se to"those who are muddled thinking, illogical in criticism and inarticulatein expression", as you wrote. It was more a reaction to the context ofsocietal transformation underlies such thinking. 

For me the need to become interventionist intensified when Ifelt that our value system is being made subservient to political demagoguery.The result of this is that even a "political gain" becomes a socialliability, quite apart from being a human tragedy. The way in which it has beenframed, every political victory is based on a personal loss.

This is a crisis like none else that we have faced. I reckonthat the activity of intellectuals like you will be more effective if itinterlinks to intellectual needs of the complicated current reality rather thanam ideological position based on a historical perfidy. To harmonise ideologywith informed knowledge was my effort; may be a failed one. Perhaps even aflawed one.

The lesson that you want me to learn from my short buteventful stint in politics is that the "sincerity of heart and arroganceof method can be a deadly combination". So pray Sid, tell me, what shouldI give up? Sincerity of purpose or the arrogance of method? I invoke one of thegreatest masters to speak for me:

                                Aql hai teri sipar, ishq hai shamsheer teri,

                                meray darvesh khilafat hai jahangir teri.

The shield cannot but be sincere, it is an existentialtrait. The sword represents the pinnacle of form and function; pure beauty. Andbeing a man of the world, you would doubtless know that it comes with a whiffof arrogance! 

 I completely agreewith your diagnosis that "In your sincerity of intent and confidence inmethod you allowed your heart to rule over prudence". Till such time as wemeet and engage on this matter of head and heart, I will leave you with thiscouplet of Allama to absorb;                      

                                Accha hai dil kay saath rahay pasbanay akl,

                                Lekin kabhi kabhi isay tanha be choad day

best wishes,

(This is a reply to an open letter to me by Prof Siddiq Wahid, Former Vice Chancellor, IUST)).

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