Kashmiris trapped in deadly politics of grief, must abandon macabre heroism

Looking at the Muslim world’s crisis, it will serve Kashmiris well if we abandon false hope and work towards a dignified exit from the conflict.

Written by Shah Faesal | Updated: December 28, 2016 10:29 am
kashmir, kashmir clashes, kashmir news, kashmir protests, kashmiris, kashmiri news, kashmiri conflict, kashmir conflict, india kashmir, india news An auto rickshaw burnt during the clashes between protesters and security forces, following the encounter of Burhan Wani. (Source: File/Express Photo)

When I thought of “India” as a child, I thought of a distant, stiflingly hot place beyond the hills of my village, from where came cheerful hawkers with cloth-wrapped backpacks, barefoot fortune-tellers with curly hair and unfriendly, uniformed men who stole apples from our orchard.

Rather than being right here, India was somewhere out there. Even in school, when lessons on identity were given, they went well when they were about my village, district, state; the moment it came to my country, the teacher either got tongue-tied or the school bell would chime, class was over and we’d be left guessing. As the conflict intensified, we grew up as confused citizens of a country in the making.

The politics of hope is a dangerous thing because it can trap people into a flawed reading of history. That is exactly what happened to us. There was a cultural backdrop. We spoke with a cadence of Pashto; our faith was Arab; our mornings began with recitals from Sa’adi Shirazi; we ate in Turkish utensils; our bedtime stories had scenes from Shahnameh. It was easy to make us believe that one more nudge and history would witness a dramatic reversal; a transformative cataclysm — azadi — was just round the corner.

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Expectedly, there came a time in Kashmir when bus conductors were asked to prepare route plans to markets across the border. Peshawari prayer rugs started appearing in homes, wrist watches were turned half an hour behind Delhi time, bridges were burnt, so the enemy couldn’t walk over to our side. Most importantly, all men and women whose loyalties were suspect were hung from elm trees. In a complete withdrawal from reality, people gathered around radio sets to listen to official announcements of freedom, reassuring one another that something was about to happen.

Years passed. Thousands of lives were lost. Millions got displaced. In take two, the destruction which the politics of hope brought to Kashmir generated an even deadlier politics of grief. Kashmiris now memorialised the sorrow that was a consequence of the confrontation with a mighty state. Dying became an end in itself. Alienation from the state extended into alienation from one another. An entire generation of Kashmiris sought refuge in the glorification of pain. Rational fear made space for romantic fearlessness. Dissent became more technology-driven and virtual. Growing religious consciousness became a way of life.

Every new agitation in Kashmir has had this familiar tetrad of eruption, hope, bereavement, despair. By the time the first stone was pelted in the July uprising of 2016, the outcome was already known to everyone. It is this predictability which has begun to worry Kashmiris now. Revolution cannot be an annual summer carnival. If today, Kashmir is the most unlikely new nation to enter the world map in the future, the blame is not on India. It is a flaw in the fundamental design of the Kashmir project.

Firstly, all these years, Kashmiris have given conflicting signals to the world. For those who compared Kashmir to Palestine, East Timor, Kosovo, the problem is that it is hard to frame the Kashmiri question properly. Is it separation from India, annexation with Pakistan, the search for an Islamic caliphate or a secular democracy? Has it factored in sub-regional and diverse ethnic aspirations? If it is self-determination, then who are these people queued up outside polling stations? If the slogan is “azadi”, why is the Pakistani flag raised? Is it class-neutral or only a proletariat dream? Is it territory or ideology, economics or politics? Today, in Kashmir, it is hard to ask these questions because there are no answers. And because there are no answers, every such question is seen as a provocation or obfuscation of the truth about Kashmir.

The second problem is using violence as an instrument of grievance redressal. For 30 years, Kashmiris have been trying to explain to the world the difference between militancy and terrorism. The sooner it is understood that in a post-9/11 world, no theory of organised violence can be accepted as good enough for justifying it, the better.

Thirdly, the indiscipline we saw on the streets during 2016’s unrest has the potential to criminalise society forever. It was not the state as much as people to people violence, the humiliation of bystanders, vandalism against schools, damage to public property by misguided teenagers that exhausted Kashmiris, reducing a mass movement to a movement of mass from one corner of the street to the other corner.

With fresh wounds in the 70th year of J&K’s accession to India, Kashmiris have no choice but to go back to the drawing board and see what went wrong. India is an emerging superpower — it is there to stay. Looking at the crisis in the Muslim world, it will serve us well if we help ourselves out of the time warp we are stuck in, abandon false hope and macabre heroism and work towards a dignified exit from the conflict. One possibility is to accept that in spite of all its infirmities, India is the only country in the world with which a culturally diverse and politically disparate entity like Jammu and Kashmir can find anchor.

The author is a Kashmiri civil servant and writer

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  1. P
    Pooja
    Jan 2, 2017 at 5:19 am
    Very well said. Always believed Kashmir is an integral part of India, not just in geographical sense, it the people, their culture, cuisine, language, handicrafts, art which makes JandK a part of India and enhances her diversity..
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      arshad hussain
      Dec 29, 2016 at 1:32 pm
      Post your opinion... A Bunch Of Replies To Dr.Shahfaisal Sir!lt;br/gt;Politics Of Hope Or Treachery!lt;br/gt;MUF was the politics of hope, but the rigging, jailing and choking brewed hopelessness, humiliation and frustration. We did not have any cultural backdrop but rather a historical background. We were anno by Mughals, bullied by Afghans, humiliated by Sikhs, to burn the unburned part we started wrestling with India. lt;br/gt;And it was arrogance of India which spilled the blood of thousand lives, displaced millions of people. We did not glorify pain, but afflicted pain became our part of life, we counted pain as the normal feature of Kashmiri life.lt;br/gt;It is not the romantic fearlessness but the fearfulness of like a cat when it turns its face towards the chasing dogs as a last resort to frighten them off out of its extreme fearfulness.lt;br/gt;Dissent is wisdom drawn but treading the virtual path probably avoiding to land in PAPA 2 , Cargo and other torture chambers.lt;br/gt;We have tetrad of eruption, hope, bereavement and despair within the context of beseiged life, as normal as prison uprising already knowing that we cannot get freedom, but the love of freedom transcends rationalism. lt;br/gt;We did not gave conflicting signals to the world let us reach to the freedom square. We will then decide shall we tread the path of caliphate, merging with stan or secular democracy.lt;br/gt;This is neither cl neutral nor a proletariat dream but a dividing line between conscientiousness and unconscientiousness.lt;br/gt;Burning down of schools, vandalism to bystanders, damaging public property even if understood as the part and parcel of current uprising, if these acts can out-value the value laden life of more than 100 lives and in worth more than the vision of blinded eyes. Then it is true that people perpetrated violence more than state.lt;br/gt;Muslim world is in chaos not because of Islam but with the imported and enforced ideology of nationalism, liberal democracy. It was in utter peace under ottoman empire, when they ceased to be Turkish, Persian, Arab, but identified themselves as Muslims. So our co-religionists are not in chaos because of religion but out of other factors and that will not make us to believe that we too are prone to chaos and confusion merely for sharing a religion with the problematic people.lt;br/gt;It had been now 70 years with multiple economic packages, organized violence, choking dissents, Ikhwani terror, rapes and tortures and yet we did not anchor in this wild storm probably peaceful to you.lt;br/gt;And for God's sake what dignified exit! What dignity is left there we will walk with that, fake encounters, Kunan-pushpora rape victims, Asiya, neelofar lt;br/gt;And many more unrecorded and unaccounted wounds.
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        Ash
        Dec 28, 2016 at 1:38 pm
        "Nehru and Indira were of a Muslim lineage", where you got this lie from?
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          Ash
          Dec 28, 2016 at 1:32 pm
          ?? Not clear enough
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            Ash
            Dec 28, 2016 at 1:49 pm
            The failure of Kashmiri's so called azad is because of the slogan "Kashmir mein rahna tho Allah ho Akbar kahna".lt;br/gt;By doing ethnic cleansing they try to made Kashmir means Muslims which is not acceptable to non-Muslims and we must defend to core.lt;br/gt;All the Kashmiri Muslims who feel for stan should move to stani side of Kashmir, infact this is how India stan divided where Sikhs and Hindus left their birth places and moved to India.
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              Ash
              Dec 28, 2016 at 1:27 pm
              Well written, thanks.
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              1. J
                Jay
                Dec 28, 2016 at 4:24 pm
                One of the best and sensible article ever written on Kashmir issue. Very Well Written
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                  Purushotham
                  Dec 28, 2016 at 6:36 am
                  Very realistic and from the heart. Covers all aspects meaningfully in few sentences. Author is an excellent scholar
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                  1. J
                    Jim
                    Dec 28, 2016 at 6:25 am
                    Finally someone in Kashmir talking sense. We were getting worried
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                    1. J
                      Jim
                      Dec 28, 2016 at 7:30 am
                      Trifurcate Kashmir. Isolate cancer in Kashmir. Use radiation therapy
                      Reply
                      1. J
                        Jdsofi
                        Dec 28, 2016 at 10:15 am
                        Good article. Keep it up
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                          Outraged Indian
                          Dec 28, 2016 at 7:42 am
                          Man,are you really from Kashmir? Surprising to read a rational writing about Kashmir situation...
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                            Bushan
                            Dec 28, 2016 at 11:58 am
                            So prudently written at least the educated people would do well to understand this reality and give a new hope of living in peace and prosperity.More such introspection among well meaning individuals should give altogether a new leadership to the Kashmiri mes towards a greater future for the coming generations.
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                              PPrasad78
                              Dec 28, 2016 at 7:38 am
                              The Kashmir Issue is fundamentally a religious issue ! India will Not allow Secession based on religion (or for any other reason) - come what may !lt;br/gt;If Kashmiri Muslims apply cold logic and reasoning to their situation they will quickly realize that their future, destiny and prosperity is linked with multi-cultural , multi-ethnic , multi-linguistic , immensely diverse Republic of India.lt;br/gt;They need to embrace the idea of India and Indians, and Indians will definitely embrace them 10 times more !
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                                Piyush
                                Dec 28, 2016 at 12:10 pm
                                Y not a line about kashmiri pandits??lt;br/gt;Write it in bold.."terrorism won't win"
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                                  Rex
                                  Dec 28, 2016 at 2:03 pm
                                  Kashmiri Muslims bought this destruction upon themselves when that took to the gun culture in late eighties, that thought freedom will be served to them by the stani stooges in platter . but Alas that couldn't see beyond this dream, beyond their own lives and how it will affect their future. There is still time to make amends.
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                                    Rajat
                                    Dec 28, 2016 at 3:17 am
                                    The problem in Kashmir is not about politics but about religion? Kashmiris want independence. From what? It is what is perceived as a 'Hindu Rule' of New Delhi. Secular sane voices are muzzled. Kashmiris have been let down further by the separatists and the political leadership. Look at farooq abduallah, sings and dances in Indian parties but when out of power in Kashmir riles against India. Two faced snakes most of them,
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                                      K SHESHU
                                      Dec 28, 2016 at 1:56 pm
                                      As long as dissent and desires of Kashmiris are not addressed, the conflict may continue even if the Indian state represses the people
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                                      1. Z
                                        zeed
                                        Dec 28, 2016 at 11:57 am
                                        Bold and courageous article from this obviously very enlightened gentleman. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;This is why a lot a Kashmiris identify with the Shah Faesal thought process. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;I personally agree with the last statement made. The timing of any process will be key. The current Hindu-talibanisation of public discourse in India has made such public discourse punishable by public lynching. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;For every such article you will have many DSPs or Digital Stone Pelters. This is the age of Zee "nanogps" News where truth is only seen in whatsapp forwards. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;The idea of India needs implementation. A lot of it is in books and articles.
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                                        1. Z
                                          zeed
                                          Dec 29, 2016 at 12:26 am
                                          It easy to blame the author for advocating sensibility. lt;br/gt;However the current P----M blasted M--ufti in open stage. Told him "I don't need anyone's advice on Kashmir. " lt;br/gt;M-ufti was left watching his face. lt;br/gt;P--M went ahead to say he wants peace in Kashmir so that (drum roll... wait for it ) people can again enjoy tourism like in old days!!!!!!!!!!lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;The sheer stupidity. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;M-ufti would go on to die of heartbreak. Mehb-00ba would cry for days. She knew exactly what happened. She went on to embrace the devil full monty. Hoping either the public has short memory or she will get even with her fathers tormentor. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Anyway I digress. But M0-di just verbalized the g Indian plan.
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                                          1. Z
                                            zeed
                                            Dec 28, 2016 at 11:59 am
                                            No he's right ... KP are part of the w. lt;br/gt;Not the w
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