Questioning The Urban, Mainstream Perception Of Kashmir

  0 comments   |     by Suraj Kumar Thube

The Kashmir unrest refuses to show any signs of decline. Innocent Kashmiris are getting caught unawares to the incessant sprinkling of pellets toward them. The hyper patriot news channels look all but certain to mobilize people to attack the numero uno rogue State of South Asia. And in response, the equally genuflecting audience for this baying-for-the-others-blood journalism is gearing up to launch their pent up anger against the perpetual marauders since partition. This is separation of powers tendency at its ruthless best. The only difference being that the neat division of reactions is a complete negation of  democratic principles and not one that augments it.

It is hard to believe the profound ignorance at display in the country at the moment. Seen from the perspective of an average urban Indian, who gets easily swayed by popular, moving imagery of our bombastic TV news channels, the outcome is pathetically hilarious. The irony of making loud, towering claims in the midst of the self enclosed cocoons  is a sorry picture of the existing reality. Yes, the political class including all the parties and politicians that have ruled over Jammu and Kashmir since independence have made a sumptuous political meal out of every incident of unrest and turmoil. Does this mean that we as a society should not yearn for any political, intellectual and moral churning at the civil society level? The state apparatus has wronged countless, nameless Kashmiris. At the same time, isn’t it our societal obligation to try and understand the reasons for failing to douse these menacing political flames that continue to create havoc even after 70 years of our much celebrated  independence?

We need to ask some basic questions to ourselves about how much we exactly know about not just the unrest but also about the multiple facets of a Kashmiri life. What does it mean to be a Kashmiri Indian citizen in the 21st century? How exactly does she perceive her life surrounded by the crass masculine framing of the entire episode? How  is a life in Kashmir different for a youngster as compared to an octogenarian who has lived through this hell all her life? What do we exactly know about a normal, everyday Kashmiri life? Its economy? Its culture?  How is Kashmiriyat, as a way of life, mark its presence in shaping an everyday identity? This of course is intricately related to the whole urban fetish of castigating Kashmiri Islam for all the wrong that happens in the valley. Are we helping them in anyway by mindlessly juxtaposing this form of Islam with wahhabi or Salafi Islam? There is a virtual outpour of  urban, literate people clamouring for safeguarding India’s national interest and nipping these mushrooming zealots in the bud. Do we even make an effort to try and get familiar with dynamism of this unrest for the past 70 years? Some intellectuals even like to take the debate of aazaadi to the 16th century.  Nobody is making a case for donning the hat of a researcher  to unravel the historical conundrums.  An honest internalising of tapping on to motley anecdotes, assumptions and analyses coming from across the population profile of the valley is what is needed. However, this fails to happen as we are fixated with the idea of solutions. Are we ever going to realize the act of questioning itself  being a critical facet of the solution?

But of course, an urban mind having had wilfully embraced a lifestyle characterised by speed and efficiency is seldom going to take such laborious efforts for finding the devil in the details. It is high time  we realise that we are a bunch of people who are pretty content and satisfied with newspaper headlines. The multi-layered process behind it is rendered useless and redundant for the debate. We like taking sides. We never like to be the one who breaks through this false world of cringe worthy binaries. You are either with us or against us is the small, shallow world in which we thrive. It’s good business. It’s economically prudent. Creating a ruckus makes one feel that there is something happening. The only problem is, that ‘something’ is nothing but our moral degradation.

People say we need to be talking about the here and the now. Sure we need to do that. But we don’t talk, we bark. We don’t communicate. A sense of hubris engulfs us after completing a series of ad hominem attacks. A debate, if it happens at all, becomes a space for settling old scores. A search for a new ground of enquiry and new avenues of possible solutions for the hostile valley is deemed worthless and insignificant. We all like to play the game. It’s remunerative. Pointing fingers is our national pass time. Just when are we going to find the ‘WE’ in the valley? For normalcy to dawn on these people’s lives, it’s imperative we challenge our own ignorance first. For getting things back to the negotiation table, we need to purge our romanticization, hypocrisy, double standards and most importantly, the stereotyping of the valley and its people.

Suraj Kumar Thube is currently pursuing his MA in Political Science from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He is interested in Indian politics and Indian political thought. He spends most of his time reading books, playing football and listening to Hindustani classical music.

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