ISSN 2330-717X

Sensing Kashmir Seriously – OpEd


There is a dire need to understand the theoretical significance of (Indian) Kashmir as a social reality, as a conflict prototype, as a conscious society, as a vulnerable zone, as a social collective of sensitive human beings and as a prolonged conflict hit region.

An idealized image for Kashmir assuming the people (particularly the Muslims) there as less informed, less intellectual, less conscious, more violent, terrorist aides, chaos loving and so on and so forth is still in the minds of many analysts and agencies who are conceptualizing Kashmir through different prisms. Similarly an idealized image for India, (for majority community) viewing the whole nation as oppressive, undemocratic and tyrant has spoiled a plethora of minds of Kashmir that needs a serious perception management for the social reality of torture and scars of mishandlings have led to a cocoon mentality and vision of hatred. This indicates that gap between the Kashmiri and the outsider is widening instead of getting abridged despite many efforts/initiatives of peace building (reveals the ground level observation). Further amid the range of self fulfilling prophecies and theory building by leaders of diverse groups and myriad of conflicting perspectives by pseudo K-Experts, it has been forgotten that resolving Kashmir or making a difference in the valley does not merely mean the redressing of the state’s economic disruptions or political waywardness but purely repairing the damaged social tissue (that almost lies untouched). Such a project (Kashmir in conflict) has now remained less political but more social, thereby inviting the attention of rehabilitation work, social planning or social engineering. The dominant clusters thus far have though propagated their dominant narratives and to succeed have created specific labels and stereotypes even for the poor victims (not to talk of dissenting/sensitive youth) and with their frivolous arm chair ideologies have been trying to justify their unjust diktats and power laws however masses know it all (yeh jo public hai-yeh sab janti hai). They even oppress by impoverishing the masses of their economic, social and psychological capital (by their slogans for vested interests). On the contrary, strategists claim that ‘work is in progress’, however, I say that ‘just work’ but no progress.

Kashmir has currently become the world’s laboratory for (experiments) theory building where policy makers, power elite, social scientists and analysts have continued bombardment with their ideologies but the fact remains that except the assumed progress, the tangible progress and increased magnititude of trust and faith in the system is still not satisfactory. Even they refute the ideas/narratives of the locals who have literally lived the conflict (white man’s burden) and that is why, the fact remains that even a lay man today will not fail to notice to see the limitations in the current understanding of Kashmir by outsiders, security apparatus, NGO’s, ideological state apparatus, etc, for there are still a plethora of inadequacies in the existing socio-political atmosphere, institutional forms, socio-legal practices, locating the real violence and putting that in a proper perspective, etc,. The decline in quality strategies on peace building in Kashmir with scores of dysfunctional deviations and paradoxes have more excited rather bemused the masses, who feel lost in the whole conflict and conflict resolution game. Kashmir as of now gives an open platform to refine the existing theories of terror, security actions, positive interventions like giving boost to educational infrastructure, tackling insurgency and conflict within, but that needs a strong political will that is still not much visible. Therefore, there is a dire need to build a new knowledge on Kashmir and ‘thinking Kashmir seriously’ must become a priority theme at all the levels of research on Kashmir both in and outside the valley so that something worth comes out to work upon to make a tangible difference. There must be a nationwide provoking for an economically sound Kashmir, there must be a common slogan of zero tolerance on HR abuses by one and all, there must be a stress on good governance, love for justice, a new vision for justice, and a patch work for peace, there must be much commonality in the thoughts and goals of common masses and police or armed forces, etc,. It all could have happened but somewhere we have missed the beat. Though so much of the water has flown under the bridge (of strategy) but a uniform way of countering the peace deficit is yet to be explored.

Kashmir does not need too much of the work to be done on peace front but less work that can penetrate too deep (reaching out to peripherals) and casts a positive effect. People of the power have to be clear about what do they mean by Kashmir, peace for Kashmir, justice for Kashmir and how do they define the actions for peace by armed forces, statecraft, civil society, youth, women and others. Justice does not merely mean legal based actions but how to decrease the graph between the victim and the justice, needs a new thinking, a serious thinking indeed, that is still lacking. When it is Kashmir, there must be a separate and unique justice manifesto developed by all the significant stake holders be that police, army, local government, media with a distinct vision of justice. Centre, state and armed forces need to ensure the delivery of justice in all the circumstances (like the recent decision of court martial’s against erring army men). There has to be a basic foot work for accomplishing the ‘visual component of peace’ and for that we need to go beyond the regular slogans, beyond the political aspect of the issue, ahead of our tried and tested methods and back to the drawing board because we have to bear in mind that Kashmir is not just an event happening out there but a tragedy, a collective suffering and a political tsunami.

After all the drawing room conversations, TV shows, hundreds of round tables and mere interlocutions, we have still not reached an understanding on Kashmir. We are yet to know about how to define youth and how to define the power of youth there in the valley. They (power elite) even say that a storm of peace is coming but practically a few waves flow sometimes and subside and there remains nothing but a blank noise.

Kashmir can be amply linked with the current social churning undergoing in the country especially in the national capital (rise of AAP). If we aspire change, we have to embrace bigger and risky actions or experiments (even referendum can be an option to measure our success). Because better than the analysts common masses have best theorized the economic, social, and political vulnerabilities well before the time.

As Kashmiris’ we need to have a more clear perception of our socio-political landscape for we are highly sensitive on social, cultural, religious and historical matters. We also need to have a more pluralistic vision when solving our core social, political and other sensitive issues and our solving tactics must not be based upon maintaining the age old hegemony but based on egalitarian principles, so that the equally important sections (Pandits, Gujjars, Pahadi’s, Ladakhi’s, Jammuties, other ethnic groups) do not feel excluded. We have to know our cut parts better, understand their woes, feel their pain and for that make a healthy and friendly reconnect with the Kashmir diasporas thereby understanding the migration issues, return possibilities and for that a sustained interaction is the key. We also need the preservation of our rich cultural heritage and rich historical legacies connecting us with our rich past so that we can find peace via non-violent measures. But today we know more emotions and less rational arguments. We follow violence schools rather than brainstorming about peaceful ways of achieving our collective and practical objectives.

Who can make the difference in building a new Kashmir? Obviously, activists, sane voices, NGO’s, business leaders, journalists, researchers and scholars and above all the general public but that needs a ground work. Also establishing a culture of debates and discussions has to be promoted so that we can express our voices freely and set our goals for a collective peace building. We have to stress upon the need for balancing of economic, social, environmental priorities and for that we need a relentless engagement with various groups including youth to actualize a functional transformation to rebuttal the rhetoric and rumour mills (not confrontation on the issues of development like making amaranth yatra pilgrim friendly). The refusal of Kashmiri’s of being labeled as terrorists, suspects, etc, highlights their acute awareness of the politics of labeling and the very branding becomes the factor of resisting the state craft and their imposed policies and actions, which needs an immediate rethink (branding has to go). This criterion of Kashmir’s (with all labeling, suffering, torture, social exclusion, governance problems) belonging to India needs a rethink in case we are serious on strategy front. There has to be an ABC (active, beautiful and clean Kashmir) approach for integrating Kashmir to peace, love, safety, harmony and brotherhood.

Last Word

Time has come when Kashmir should enrich itself intellectually so that we are able to develop our own social theorizing, methodologies to deal with our social woes and injustice, and building concepts that reflect our total social matrix. Time has come to fight a book with a book, argument with a counter argument and rhetoric with reality. Thus fight for justice and peace building can become a revolution rather a counter revolution against the evil mongers. As writers, when we write on Kashmir, the aim must not be just to inform but transform and to develop a reflective critical consciousness. We need to see things in inclusivity and use of a wide variety of methodological approaches aimed at people’s understanding. There has to be a serious effort to investigate the questions at the centre of the common man’s life (centralising the mass issues and decentralizing the power).Meaning and feeling of being an oppressed and dumbfounded Kashmiri can only be realized by understanding Kashmir from a common man’s perspective that can be collected by interacting the common man only (not K-Experts exclusively, Who is meeting a university teacher or a post man in Kashmir to have his view?). The relevance of Kashmiriyat as a discourse in conflict resolution has to be located properly and correctly as it has been badly manipulated and exploited mostly in the political cadres. There has to be efforts to understand a Kashmiri who is non-traditional, up to date, sensitive to happenings around, progressive, peace loving but scared. For Kashmir understanding we need to go for the Kashmiri version analysis and that can be achieved through a complex field study, investigating about the traditional aspects and changes and not by our own biases, arrogance, intellectual grin, illusion of experience in Kashmir, etc,. Further understanding the social tensions within, institutions and political structures and the new great game will help to locate the various issues and challenges that are beset to us in Kashmir. There is certainly not one obstacle that can be easily removed or resolved and that is why there needs to be a continuous dialogue between the security apparatus, civil society and the common people. The political and military leaders have to understand the new situations and embrace the new policy shifts and security mindset to enhance the peace efforts and thus become a party in the peace building process without much ado and mere philosophizing the simpler issues. Also there must be an end to the culture of creating a security dilemma in Kashmir as time has come when we should say good bye to AFSPA for the sake of spreading goodwill in Kashmir. We have to believe in our positivity and inner power without caring much about the small numbers or chaos lovers. Goodwill will prevail even if lots of negative energy will be around. It needs peace keepers and a sincere heart, says my mentor

Rahim Das beautifully says,

‘Jo Rahim Uttam Prakrti Kaa Karsakt Kusang
Chandan Vish Vyapatt Nahi Lipte Rahatt Bujang’

[A thousand snakes may be coiled around the sandalwood tree but the fragrance of the sandalwood remain as sweet as ever. Similarly, people who have a strong character remain unaffected by bad company]

Dr. Adfer Shah

Dr. Adfer Shah, (Adfer Rashid Shah, PhD) is a New Delhi-based Sociologist and Social and Political analyst.He writes his columns for various reputed international and national media groups. He has been writing on South Asia's Socio-political realities especially on Kashmir sociology and Conflict Situation at Eurasia Review since 2012, where he is a Special Correspondent for South Asia Affairs and Associate Editor since January 2014. His recent publications include his three books (1)"Kashmir-Yearning for Peace: A Socio-Political history of Uncertainty and Chaos,2016" (ISSN: 978-3-659-55971-6), (2)'Social Science Research in Conflict Zones,2017' (ISBN: 978-620-2-47937- 0) and (3)'Tibetan Refugees in India: Struggle to Survive,2018' ( ISBN 81-8324-919-1)]..

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