With and against everybody

K.N. Pandita

Question-answer session in a press conference of late Bakhshi Ghulam Muhamamd, the former chief minister of J&K, went like this:

  • Q: Sir how many people are with you?
    A: Bakhshi: 40 lakh
  • Q: How many with the Shiekh?
    A: Bakhshi: 40 lakh
  • Q: How many with Sadiq?
    A: Bakhshi: 40 lakh

The population of Kashmir was forty lakh at that time. And Bakhshi was the only Kashmiri leader who understood subtle nuances of Kashmiri psyche, and reacted to it befittingly. And he was also the only Kashmiri leader who endeared himself to the people of Jammu region in true sense of the term because he was a nationalist, a secularist and a pragmatist to the hilt. And that is why he was the most successful chief minster we ever had. Those who destroyed him have made the nation pay through its nose.  His name and work have been suppressed most callously; one more brazen attempt of disfiguring current Kashmir history.     

The report of the Institute of Research in Indian and International Studies (IRIIS), an autonomous NGO, was released last month at a formal function in New Delhi.  Recently it held its second session in Srinagar with Governor N.N. Vohra in the chair. Report on the study made under the banner line Impact of Media on Kashmiri Youth, it has, among other things, focused on aspects of Kashmirian character like “mastery in adaptability”, “diversity of the Kashmiri sentiment”, “lack of perseverance and resoluteness”, “ art and acumen of adaptability”, etc. It claims that from these traits of character stem contradictory and conflicting reactions that often vacillate between the sublime and ridicule. It moulds the dynamics of their idiom vis-à-vis utterances like “go India go”, “azaadi”, “oppression and suppression”, “custodial killing”: “army’s highhandedness”  “Kashmiriayat” etc.

The report robustly substantiates inferences it has drawn with a plethora of historical material that can hardly be disputed even by rabid skeptics and cynics. Put in forthright idiom, the report is disposed to attribute Kashmir crisis of all hues to the capriciousness and whimsicality of her people. “If 10 lakh Kashmiris participated in an Azaadi rally, drawn from all corners of the Valley to UNMOGIP headquarters at Sonwar, Srinagar in January-March 1990, no less was the number of mourners in Shiekh’s funeral procession in September 1982. Few years earlier, Srinagar witnessed historic festivity when the Kashmiris decorated Prime Minister Morarji Desai as “Pakistan’s Ghazi” at Mirwaiz Manzil and later gathered for a red-carpet welcome and colourful boat rally on The Jhelum in honour of President of India, Giani Zail Singh. It was at this occasion that Singh upgraded Sher-i-Kashmir’s sobriquet to Sheri-i-Bharat”, says the report.

The report says that when the slogan of azaadi – a slogan that has sustained the separatist movement for two decades or more in the past – is anatomized, it yields bizarre definitions like azaadi from India, azaadi from corruption, azaadi from unemployment. Quite naturally such varying definitions and approaches reflected in interviews with the youth have led policy planners to concentrate on economic and developmental packages in one form or the other, and special schemes that provide opportunities to the youth of the valley like the Prime Minster’s special economic package etc. According to assessors even Ali Shah Geelani, the separatist supremo, whose calls for strikes are recurrent, too, had his nightmare and had to shed tears on “his nation’s faithlessness”.

Undoubtedly, the IRIIS research team has conducted an insightful study of the impact of media on Kashmiri youth. Its findings and inferences are unique as had never been approached before. As such, the report should stand policy planners in good stead to formulate pragmatic policy of tackling Kashmir situation in broad national interests. It is important to point out that though the study is deeply insightful and brings out indisputable conclusion, yet it makes no attempt to go along the path of causation. Why does the Kashmiri psyche behave in a unique and unusual way and what are its implications, are vital questions that should have become essential part of this dispassionate research study. An answer to these questions entails microscopic study and understanding of Kashmir’s political and social history beginning with the significant social transformation in the 14th century. We will also need to bring into focus the scant agro-pastoral oriented economy of the peoples along the Himalayan foot-lands from Bhutan right along the Himalayan line to the Hindu Kush in the west. Kashmir is included in this geographical entity. This study should go further back into the times of ancient Hindu Kingdom of Kashmir. Only then shall we be able to build a coherent story about the impact of geographical, economic and environmental factors on the construct of Kashmirian psyche. Let us remember that owing to harsh climatic conditions, geographical inaccessibility, unremitting natural calamities and recurring famines more owing to floods than draughts, Kashmiri psyche was cast in a special mould that appears to us whimsical and petulant.  One should try to understand that for thousands of years, a Kashmiri household was used to storing ration, firewood, salt, woolens and eatables like dry vegetables and fish for longish winter months to ensure that the family did not starve. This life style is bound to have its deep impress on the mind. No doubt times have changed drastically, but old habits die hard.

Times and conditions have changed altogether for Kashmiris. All forbidding obstacles that petrified life are being overcome. But transition from millennia-old psyche to a new, open and progressive vision takes its time. Even this study which we have brought under focus is sufficiently reflective of change, and change is the only thing that is lasting in this world. Positive impact of the report shall have to be monitored. In doing so, we must abjure anger and discomfiture and learn to be patient with big and meaningful social changes. Kashmiris are struggling hard with the forces of change, and we must appreciate their struggle. Forces that will help Kashmirian society wriggle out of the bondage of psychological servility are coming together in their economic, social and political manifestations. The stain of “with and against everybody” is dissoluble.

Link: Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad on en.wikipedia.

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