Kashmir and Indo–Pak Relations: Politics of Reconciliation

  0 comments   |     by Dr. Happymon Jacob Columns by Mahmood ur Rehman on January 11 , 2014

Today, Kashmir will see the release of a new anthology – entitled Kashmir and Indo-Pak Relations: Politics of Reconciliation – of Happymon Jacob’s column in the opinion pages of Greater Kashmir. Dr. Jacob teaches International Relations at JNU (University of Jammu in Indian Held Kashmir).This article contains  some thoughts and comments by Mahmood ur Rehman Editor and Columnist, of Greater Kashmir a daily newspaper

Part I: Thinking Kashmir

This subject is not only important to us by way of academics and scholarship, analysis and journalism, but is inescapably crucial to us by way of existence and life. We cannot help but wrestle with this subject. This subject hosts our demon, and the demon must be exorcised to rescue the life. India, Pakistan, Kashmir and then Reconciliation: it sounds like a boundless desert where there are “dunes behind dunes beyond dunes”. You leave behind a million of them, only to find that as many have formed a fresh, ahead. Except some moments of hope, lasting like a flicker, there are expanses of bewilderment and exhaustion.  (Happymon has really done an incredible job by bringing all the four together in the title alone!)

Those who undertake this journey are either crazy, or have some measure of greatness stamped on them. The very thought to see India and Pakistan reconcile is courageous and caring. Courageous, because we know how nastily the two countries are tied to each other in a bond of ever growing animosity. Caring because it involves the fate of one and a half billion human lives. If you know well the level of impossibility, and still strive for it, you must have an extra dose of courage in you. And if you really step out of your person and think of this oceanic population living in the two countries, you are nearly as caring as saints are presumed to be. But only if you ensure clarity on the subject, and sincerity of purpose, are you the right ones to do the job. No measure of walking will exhaust you, and never will the monstrosity of the challenge subdue you.  But remember, there is a word that will test you on every step of this journey. It will test your mind for clarity and your heart for honesty. And that word is Kashmir.

 Your failure on Indo-Pak reconciliation is only because of your failure on Kashmir. Kashmir is the real trial. Before it starts sounding like a boring garrulous prose, here is some funny stuff. Two very short stories from Mulla Nasruddin.  Once Nasruddin bought some meat and on reaching home he asked his wife to prepare some kebabs. His wife did exactly what she was told to do. But while she was preparing the delicacy, she was so charmed by the smell wafting out from the hot Kebabs that she wanted to taste one, before she could make more. She tasted one, then another, another, and another; till she consumed the whole thing. Her temptation didn\\\'t let her rest till the plate was all clear. Now Mulla entered the kitchen expecting the dish to be served. He waited for a minute, but when nothing was placed before him, he could sense that something was wrong. He hurled an inquisitive look at his wife and was stunned when his wife pointed towards a little cat cringed in the corner. “What! You mean this little cat has taken one full Kg of meat.” Mulla was in a state of disbelief. He stood up, and took the cat with himself. He went straight to the butcher\\\'s shop and asked him to weigh the cat. It was exactly one Kg.  Now was the enigma: If this is the cat, where has the meat gone, and if this is the weight of meat, where is the cat. The same Mulla was once seen outside his house. He was keenly searching for something in his yard. Someone passed by and asked Mulla what he was looking for. On being replied that he was looking for his keys, the man joined him in the search. When the two couldn't find the keys and were nearing exhaustion, the man asked Mulla: where exactly did you drop the keys? Mulla answered: \\\'\\\'Inside my house. 'Then why are you looking for them here? Now listen  to what Mulla said: “Because, there is more light here than in my house.

Now coming back to our topic: If this is Kashmir, a land that belongs to its people, why is this hundreds of thousands of troops, all alien, standing over their heads; and if this is India, where is Kashmir? And if the key to reconciliation is dropped in the house called Kashmir, why look for it somewhere else. Why not go into the darkness of the house and endure the difficulty that this search entails?

And that difficulty is to accept the truth and confess the guilt. This is where it all lies. We don't know what new theories of politics are waiting us just round the corner, we don't know what new norms of international relations will establish themselves soon, and we don't know what new formations of power will emerge; all this will inform the writings on international conflicts, including Kashmir. But we know one thing very clearly. Kashmir, and likewise, all other conflicted zones need the same old ways of telling truth. Telling in unambiguous terms that who has committed an armed robbery of land and whose land stands stolen. Who has been wronged by whom? It's an arduous task asking for tremendous effort. It not only needs the quality of effort, but also the bulk of effort.

Part II: Writing as Resistance Scholarship is a silent act of rebellion; so know what you are really up to

 Two public intellectuals need a mention here. Eqbal Ahmed and Noam Chomsky. About Eqbal someone has said that he exhibited such a devastating combination of knowledge, eloquence, and passion used with unerring precision to shatter the myths and lies that surrounded America's imperial adventure. We need exactly the same devastating mix of things to cut through the myths and lies that surround the India's military adventure in Kashmir. About Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy writes: “When I first read Noam Chomsky, it occurred to me that his marshalling of evidence, the volume of it, the relentlessness of it, was a little – how shall I put it? - Insane. Even a quarter of the evidence he had compiled would have been enough to convince me.  I used to wonder why he needed to do so much work. But now I understand that the magnitude and the intensity of Chomsky's work is a barometer of the magnitude, scope, and relentlessness of the propaganda machine that he is up against. …. Being an American working in America, writing to convince Americans of his point of view must really be like having to tunnel through hard wood. Chomsky is one of a small band of individuals fighting a whole industry.” So, it needs both: quality of work and magnitude of work.

And what is the kind of work that needs to be done. Foucault comes in to explain what constitutes work. Foucault defines work as this: “that which is susceptible of introducing a significant difference in the field of knowledge, at the cost of a certain difficulty for the author and the reader, with, however, the eventual recompense of a certain pleasure, that is to say of access to another figure of truth.” To arrive at another figure of truth, that would make difference in the field of knowledge, doesn’t come so easily. It entails difficulty. (And in this difficulty is stationed the spirituality of it. Draining out from you all the elements of untruth and self-interest.) And authors and readers can endure that difficulty only when a certain character is exhibited towards approaching problems. Whatever Indian state, and most unfortunately, Indian nationalism (because the problem of Kashmir is rooted in the error-of-imagination, if not corruption-of-imagination, committed by the Indian National Movement) – so whatever has been produced on Kashmir has established a sort of political-episteme. It is under the oppressive weight of this political-episteme that the governments in India can say certain things about Kashmir, and not the others; political parties can talk in a particular fashion and not otherwise, even the independent writers and analysts are limited in more ways than one, and then the Indian national media – here may be even God can't help us.  If silly and ugly have to be explained together, just tune to some Indian national TV channel when they cover Kashmir.

The real task for people like Happymon, and it is a very frightening undertaking, is to dislodge this political-episteme and reverse the scheme; what is easy to say about Kashmir in India today becomes difficult to say tomorrow. And what is impossible for Indian readership, and audience, to think about Kashmir today, becomes most acceptable tomorrow. That is the time when reconciliation will start sounding like a possibility.

For this, the take off point is clarity. What do you think what the problem is: governance, political mishandling, geographical location, religious radicalism, or a denial of the most fundamental human value  - freedom - by dint of placing an armed control over the land and over each of its human head. An armed thuggery. The work of an academic is to dig into the things till he discovers the original shapes to unearth the facts. We can understand that as individuals we are besieged by the compulsions that engender from our positions, as university teaches, as bureaucrats, as professionals working in corporate organizations.

We live, not just ourselves but with our families, in a system, and in many ways with the system, that has dug its claws deep into our body and being. A sudden, violent obfuscation, can\\\'t be a choice for everyone, and always. This is also a part of our truth as living, dependent, beings. May be in some measure, and in some ways, Foucault can help us here. He says: “We need to escape the dilemma of being either for or against. One can after all, be face to face, and upright. One can work and be intransigent at the same time.” 
Nevertheless, writing is an ethical act, and when we do it volitionally it is by itself taking an ethical position. Here you have to make a clean and clear choice.  Here is why I say this when we are discussing Happymon's book:

“Finally, I remain grateful to those Kashmiris who have read, critiqued, encouraged and countered me, but always with a caveat that they are indeed glad to see someone from far South is interested in their political plight. Kashmir and Kashmiris deserve their share of justice from the Indian State and all that I can do to support that demand is to write about it. So I do.” (Though I am hit by a problematic in the expression of justice from the Indian State)
Making Kashmir a subject carries huge ethical challenge. It is morally and ethically taxing, demanding. It means you are out to discover the truth and state it as you found it. And while stating a truth you cannot make everyone happy. Someone has to be seriously unhappy.

I will make Happymon's first lines as my last lines. He dedicates this book to his son, Siddhartha. One can only wish Happymon to be what he hopes his son to turn into one day: A rebel.  Because scholarship is a silent act of rebellion. It is a declaration that you are not convinced with the things as they stand. You are out there to question them. Question not just the things as they are, but the underlying assumptions. That can bring about a transformation, required to bring India and Pakistan into a mode of reconciliation

(Concluding part of the text of the paper read out at KU at the book review function of Kashmir and Indo–Pak Relations: Politics of Reconciliation, compilation of Happymon Jaco\'s columns)

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