Kashmiri Ethos: A Futuristic Vision

By K.N. Pandita

We don’t scratch the past: we talk of building healthy, realistic and enduring contours of Kashmiri ethos.

Two decades of militancy and its devastating effects can upset even the most rational mind. Lesser mortals are more exposed to emotional imbalance.

Education is the panacea for stabilizing personality. But our system of formal education falls short of an important pre-requisite. That is political education. We must remember that our country’s heterogeneity demands political awareness of right direction.

The school and college curricula do not encompass political education and frequent debate on current affairs in our system. Its sprinkling may be there but that is only and minimally pedagogical. That does not help. I am reminded of 1950s and 60s. In the buses, was inscribed on the sidelines in bold Urdu “siyasi guftago karma manah hai”. What a moribund mindset? When institutes of the rights of civil society stonewall a healthy political interface, they leave space open for seminaries of conservatism to do the damage.

Communists usually instituted study circles for imparting political education to its adherents. Democracy entrusts this job to free and open debates essentially sponsored and conducted by political leadership.

Vote winning is only the means and not the end of democratic exercise. An elected representative has to be a thinker, a planner and an operator. Our political jockeys do two things: they either adulate their party liberally or denigrate their opposition endlessly. Recent Gujarat election campaigning is a good example.

In this sense, Kashmir political leadership is a culprit of sorts. Drawing room chitchat is different from open door brain- storming debates. Gentle persuasion is the choicest phrase in the lexicon of democracy. Logic should overtake emotion and reason should overcome sentiment. Peoples’ destiny is not an affair of months and years; it is an affair of millennia, of ages of ions.

If political leaders are loath to open a public debate on issues extraordinarily vital to the future of a society, they will be doing a disservice to its ethos

Our geography has inflicted on us long isolation and frightful economic fragility. The twin factors created in us a sense of perennial insecurity and egocentricity. That is true of all societies inhabiting the Himalayan crags and fissures from Bhutan westward to Tibet, Nepal, Himachal, Kashmir and onwards to the Pamirs, the Hindu Kush and Badakhshan locales. Compare this entire region and its people eking out a miserable living to the sedentary life in Indo-Gangetic plains and you will understand the trappings of their ethos. How to wriggle out of it? That is the real question.

This inadequacy is further deepened and made hurtful by the insensitivity of post – independence Indian think tank towards the necessity of replacement of British Indian northern buffer policy by a pragmatic alternative. Thus in the on-going eco-political landscape on our north eastern to north western borderline, Manipur, Meghalaya, Bhutan, Nepal,Tibet, Kashmir, Pamirian and Hindu Kush slopes and valleys westward to Wakhan and Badakhshan, we are only groping in darkens, experimenting one after the other failed option..

Therefore, a re-structured Kashmirian ethos should comprise elements that replace our inherent sense of insecurity and egocentricity with reasonable quantum of economic-political empowerment. But elements must also make a provision that beseeches the masses of people to visualize the risks of losing empowerment if their calculations of futuristic ethos go awry. This then is the job of our political class.

Economic input without political supplement does not help. It is rather counterproductive in a sense. It makes the donor immensely apologetic and the recipient aggressive.

The term aazadi meaning freedom is much misinterpreted. A man does not realize the height of a mountain as long as he stands at its foot. Moreover, light becomes more expressive when juxtaposed to darkness.

Empowerment is the other name of engagement; engaging civil society in nation building process. It is a twin enterprise, political and economic both going together hand in hand to reconstruct the ethos.

Kashmirian ethos bears distinct impress of her geography, history and life pattern. When we talk of new perspective, these elements must be taken into account. I wonder whether we were really wise in giving priority to the building of rail link to the valley over undertaking a mega project of generating abundant and cheap electric power in the state. Our community is waiting to enter the era of industrial and technological revolution. Can it be brought about in absence of mega electric supply network? The longer the youth are made to wait for the revolution, the more will religious extremist seminaries grab space to flourish.

(The author is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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