Nyla Ali Khan
Tranquility in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has been shattered by the heavy hand of military totalitarianism and militancy in the past, and is now a victim of the fragmentation that is ripping our social fabric to pieces. More than mobocracy, kangaroo courts, lynchings, and panaceas – we need a return to the rule of law and to a process of internal political dialogue.It is all very well to raise slogans of self-determination, autonomy, and self-rule, but it is time to think beyond sloganeering and about the kind of social and political fabric we want to create for younger generations. Sloganeering that is devoid of a clear blueprint for nation-building remains hollow, and, eventually, becomes defunct.In order to prevent further fragmentation of our social fabric, regional political parties must create the pathway to repair the tapestry that Kashmir once was and give the younger generation hope for the future.I wonder if those political players who choose to keep quiet about the fragmentation in our society realise that they are playing into the hands of right-wing elements in mainland India, who look for excuses to label Kashmir a “jihadist” problem? When military, religious or political excesses are not curbed, they can have terrible long term damaging effects. And when religion and politics are conflated, especially when it comes to self-determination that is a problem. If religion and politics are not separated in a movement for self-determination, the world community becomes suspicious. We need to make sure that the political dimension of the movement for self-determination is highlighted. And yes, peace activists can do a lot by highlighting human right violations that occur. As responsible citizens, we need to hold up a mirror to the state government as well as to the federal government. We can do this more easily because they are accountable to us in a democratic setup in a way militant organisations are not. Still, human right violations on both sides need to be highlighted. Cultural nationalism generally challenges and overthrows the hierarchy of ruling ideologies by enhancing unity among all socioeconomic classes in an occupied area, but it has failed to do so in the Kashmir context. This revolutionary stance could eliminate the petty feuds that exist in an area and can replace them with a sanctifed notion of nation.A plethora of opinions on the political future of the conglomerate of Jammu and Kashmir is available. Is Jammu and Kashmir a principality? An autonomous unit within the Indian Union? An integral part of India? A subversive unit within the Indian Union? A bilateral issue between the nation-states of India and Pakistan? Is the mainstream Indian understanding and interpretation of the Kashmir confict the only credible one? Is the mainstream Pakistani under- standing and interpretation of the Kashmir issue the only credible one?Do the people of Kashmir have a voice in the matter? Is there a space within Kashmiri society in which the democratic aspirations of the populace of Kashmir can be nurtured? Is there a critical discourse on Kashmir that foregrounds the views of scholars and lay people from the state, even if that discourse is in opposition to the mainstream one?These questions have caused me irrepressible angst for a while now. Can we break the silence? Can we bring the instability to an end, for our generation and the generations yet to be born?
A large majority of the populace of Jammu and Kashmir is troubled, dispossessed and mocked by the processes of democracy, by United Nations resolutions, by armed insurgency, by counter-insurgency, by militarisation, and by revisionist histories.
The people of the state are yearning for dignity; for the right to live decent lives that are devoid of bestial militarism; the right to work and enable their families to enjoy the basic necessities of life; the right to hold opinions of which others take cognisance; and the right to an existence in which brutalisation, demoralisation, trauma, and rage are a thing of the past.
In addition to the denizens of Jammu and Kashmir, diasporic Kashmiris also suffer from the indelible scars of having lost their homeland.
The cultural identity of the Kashmiri people is damaged by the erosion of their autonomous institutions, by traumas and terrors generated by insurgency and counter insurgency.
The tradition of Rishiism must not be allowed to die in the Valley: it continues to bolster a cultural and religious identity that the militarisation of Kashmir has not been able to do away with. To that end, the vaakhs of Lal-Ded and the shrukhs of Nur-ud-din Wali form a very important part of the vernacular of semi-literate and illiterate people in Kashmir.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, I emphasise that any unitary discourse that claims to encompass the reality of Kashmir would be lop-sided and suspect.
Preventing fragmentation of social fabric
Nyla Ali Khan