Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pushravith Chay Wavsi Nao!

A Kashmiri proverb aptly describing the leaderless Kashmiri nation!

For past sometime, the people have been receiving various directives from the leaders for shutdowns and marches. Shutdowns have in the long run harmed common people more than given any nightmares to the authorities in Srinagar and Delhi. The marches as usual have been scuttled by confining people to their homes by imposing “Restrictions” or by the now notorious illegal measure, the “Undeclared Curfew”! This situation is best described by the Kashmiri proverb saying that the boat has been left at the mercy of the winds!
Any boat moving in water be it a river or a lake, needs apart from the oarsmen, someone to hold the rudder and steer it towards a particular destination. The strength and ability of a rudder man is under severe test during a storm. Such a storm has risen by the unprecedented victory of the “Saffron Brigade” in India. If the rudder man of the boat has the grit and cool he can steer it in spite of the lashing winds and take it along with its occupants to the ultimate destination. If the rudder man abandons his boat in a storm, it is then along with the passengers at the mercy of the winds. In such an event, the boat has no chance of either reaching the destination or even being saved from capsizing along with the occupants! This is precisely what is happening to the people of Kashmir at the present juncture. The boat has been left at the mercy of the lashing winds! No one knows where it will go or even whether it will float or capsize?
Before one contemplates the fate of the drifting boat of Kashmir it would be useful to first outline as to what this boat comprises of and who all are in it. Presently Kashmir all over the world is taken to be the erstwhile princely State of Jammu and Kashmir. The word Kashmir embraces all the parts of the state and the people living therein. Various parts of the state are under the administration of three countries. China holds Aksai Chin part of Ladakh through which it has taken a road to connect Tibet with Sinkiang. Pakistan administers the part of Kashmir known as Azad Kashmir and a separate area earlier called Northern Areas and now known as Gilgit-Baltistan. This area is virtually merged into Pakistan as it is directly controlled from Islamabad. India has Jammu, Ladakh and the valley of Kashmir under its administrative control. Thus Kashmir is not a single boat but a full-fledged flotilla.
Most of the individual boats in the flotilla except Kashmir are nearer their goals or have almost reached these. It is practically the valley of Kashmir with its periphery of Kashmiri speaking people, historically called the “Greater Kashmir” which is still adrift. Even though there are plenty of oarsmen ready to row the boat to a particular destination yet the boat is adrift and left on the mercy of winds because there is no one to chart a course and steer it by holding the rudder! A ship without a captain can never reach the destination. The immediate task for a real captain of the Kashmiri ship or the boat is to separate his vessel from a flotilla going in different directions. He has to then confirm the destination where his passengers want to go. After this he must chart a course to reach it and steer the boat accordingly.
Unfortunately, none of the leaders from every side is clear about the ultimate goal and the ways and the means to reach it. Confused leaders are giving confused goals.  Everything is vague. The mainstream leaders give goals for good governance on one hand and at the same time claim to lead the people to the final solution of the political problem. Because of the corrupt system nurtured and headed by them, so far they have miserably failed in achieving both their professed aims. On the other hand, the leaders heading the popular movement seem to be confused about the goal as well as the road to reach it. The first task for them is to define in concrete and lucid terms the goal they want people to reach. Moreover, the goal has to be the one realistically achievable and not a utopian dream! Merely saying that this would be done once the people are given the right to decide their future dispensation is leaving the goal as something vague and shrouded in mystery! After presenting a concrete and achievable goal, one has to show the practical means to reach there and then be a guide to tread the path. A practically achievable goal given by honest and sincere leaders automatically creates an urge among the people to reach it. As the famous poet of the East, Dr. Iqbal has said in the famous couplet, in servitude the swords and strategies do not work. If one has the strength of conviction and the urge, the chains fall off on their own! 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Asking Lotuses from the Lotus Eaters

In response to Arun Jaitley's recent statement about Kashmir

Arun Jaitley, the new Indian Finance and Defence Minister during his recent visit to Kashmir valley while addressing the BJP workers asked them to give him five Lotus Flowers from Kashmir. “Give me at least five Lotus flowers from Kashmir in Assembly polls. This is a land of Saffron and Lotus. I need five flowers from this land”. He probably did not know that Kashmir is also known as the “Land of the Lotus Eaters”! Kashmiris are very fond of the seeds and the roots of the Lotus flower and have been eating these for centuries. Lotus is also the symbol of BJP and Saffron is their colour. Interestingly, Kashmir has been extensively referred in Greek chronicles, the Chinese Annals of the Tang dynasty, and Arabic literature.  From the ancient times, Kashmiris have been connected extensively with the lands in the West and the North. Compared to this there is lamentable lack of exact geographical mention of Kashmir in Sanskrit literature. Judging from the extreme scantiness of the data, it is clear that Kashmir to them was a country foreign and remote in every way. The name Kasmira is mentioned as the designation of the country and its people but in a very vague fashion. The Mahabharata refers in many passages to Kasmiras and their rulers but in a general manner without giving distinct location of the country. The most specific piece of information regarding Kashmir that Sanskrit literature outside the Valley furnishes is in the term Kasmira or Kasmiraja that designates Saffron and Kustha for which it was famous since ancient times. In that regard, Arun Jaitley is very correct. Kashmir for Indians generally denoted the land of Saffron. Lotus does not find any mention as there was no BJP then!
As India is now totally Saffron coloured so they are very keen to own and keep the ancient Land of Saffron. Unfortunately for them, the land is now totally coloured in Green. The transformation took place in the most peaceful way though the most revered saint of Kashmir, Mir Sayed Ali Hamadani popularly known as Shah-i-Hamadan. However, Kashmiris have been so much impressed by the mysticism of these saints that there has been no violence against other religions. It is the most tolerant Islamic Society in the world. Violence whenever it has occurred has been imported and not of Kashmiri origin. The most famous symbol of Kashmir known throughout the world these days is the green Chinar. One fails to understand why everyone from India wants to revive the long past ancient Hindu history of Kashmir rather than accept its present very tolerant Islamic character? Kashmir can only fit in the Indian mosaic if it is allowed to retain its present colour.
Arun Jaitley did not even have the courtesy to ask for the Lotus flowers in humility! He threatened the people with the rod of AFSPA and the Indian Constitution. One cannot expect a person of such stature to be oblivious of the ground situation in Kashmir. It would have been more humble and appropriate if he had paid his homage to the Sufi Saints of Kashmir. He should have as a gentleman declared that his government would definitely honour the wishes and the aspirations of the local people in a non-violent manner. He could have offered a corruption free governance and freedom of expression. Arun Jaitly should have remembered Pandit Kalhana’s saying, “The country of Kashmir may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit, but not by the force of soldiers”!
However, much water has flown down Jhelum during the last couple of decades. The new generation of Kashmiris is totally alienated and refuses to be cowed done by the rod of AFSPA or the Indian Constitution. They have been pelting stones against the bullets. It would be advisable for the Indian Lotus to respect the Kashmir’s natural green colour and not try for the saffronisation of the valley. The valley’s new generation is capable of not only eating the Indian Lotus but its roots also! Who knows the valley may prove the ultimate nemesis for the Indian Lotus?

Thursday, June 5, 2014



Part-time freedom fighters!

Kashmir’s leaders now appear to be fighting for freedom on part-time basis

If one takes 1931 as the real starting year of the freedom movement in Kashmir then the struggle has been going on now for almost 83 years ! This movement has seen many ups and downs, twists and turns. A few generations have passed since the start of the movement. However, the ultimate goal still appears distant. There have been many upheavals, some very bloody during the course of this movement. The decade of nineties was probably the bloodiest in the entire struggle when over a hundred thousand people were killed. Thousands disappeared without a trace and are still unaccounted for. Dozens of mass graves of unknown people are scattered all over the valley. In spite of all the turns and twists, the sentiment of “Azadi” continues to be very strong among one and all. “Azadi” may not seem to be round the corner but it continues to be the cherished dream of every freedom loving Kashmiri. There is a deceptive perception that Kashmiris have reconciled to the status quo. The reality is totally different from the appearance. As a British author has said, a Kashmiri never opens his heart to an outsider and no one can truly know what is really in his heart! One has also to concede that a Kashmiri is a very intelligent person. Centuries of oppressive rule have taught him many ways of survival in the most difficult conditions. His newest strategy is to keep the sentiment alive and at the same time continue to survive against all odds.
Kashmiris have often been given the label of the “Lotus Eaters” in a derogatory sense for their apathy and very stoical behaviour. However, history of the freedom movement makes them the “Lotus Eaters” of a different kind. They behave like a sleeping giant who wakes up from time to time to claim his basic rights and then goes back to deep sleep! Even if Kashmiris behave as periodic lotus eaters yet no one can deny the fact that they are great survivors. Any other nation in their place would have vanished after centuries of extreme oppression. However, their main misfortune has been their leadership. They have been sold and resold by their own so called leaders. It has always been the deprived class which has been exploited by these so called leaders. The upper classes from all sides have been the beneficiaries. The situation has been compounded at present by the leaders, who are themselves confused about the goals they ask their followers to pursue! Some of them professing to follow the so called mainstream promise the people improvement in governance and living conditions but end by leaving them on the road side in the worst conditions than they were earlier. Some others promise total emancipation where they will live with dignity and self-respect but fail to define exactly in what type of a political status that would be possible and how to attain that. Confused leaders with confused goals!
The Kashmiri elite have one point programme of making money and getting material possessions. They do cherish the sentiment of “Azadi” but at the same time want good living. In last two decades more than a couple of lakh new houses have been built all over the valley. The city of Srinagar has expanded more than 30 kilometres across. Paddy lands have been wantonly converted into orchards or utilised for constructing houses and shops. Some of the new houses must have cost crores of rupees to build especially with all imported fittings, furnishing and so on. All this has been dead investment especially with over half a million unemployed youth. Every year Kashmir imports over rupees 500 crores worth cars of all makes! This money could have been utilised in productive investment in agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and animal husbandry providing many employment opportunities. All this freely available money has turned us into morons shunning manual labour for which we have imported almost a million outsiders. We have workers both skilled and unskilled from Bihar, Jharkhand, Bengal, Assam, and Punjab. There are also some from Orissa and some other states. These people apart from working as domestic help work in paddy fields, on construction sites and so on. They work as carpenters, plumbers, mechanics and even as bakers and sweet/pudding sellers at different shrines. In winter some of these outsiders especially Biharis work in harissa shops! Even Kashmir’s traditional cooks Wazas are employing Biharis as additional hands. The way the leaders are now fighting for freedom on part time basis, a day is not far off when we may outsource this movement also! In fact, there has been loud talk sometime back about Taliban coming to Kashmir after American exit from Afghanistan. Kashmiris have always been secretly harbouring a wish that someone else preferably from outside may get them emancipated! They had been banking upon for a long time on Pakistan to do the needful but now they have given up this hope because that state itself is in doldrums. There is so much bleeding going on within their own country that they have forgotten the jugular vein! Some have even been wishing USA to bail out Kashmir.
So, if Kashmiris want “Azadi”, they have to first make up their mind and convert their wish into an urge! One does not need to be a violent militant to be a freedom fighter. If one develops the urge, the chains fall off on their own!