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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 20 New Delhi May 5, 2018

In Search of a New Paradigm in Kashmir

Being forced to chip in where those who matter should have taken the lead

Saturday 5 May 2018

by M.A. Sofi

In this completely one-sided and asymmetrical war where you can’t even boast of the minimal war preparedness to stand up to the awesome firepower of your adversary, there is clearly a case for rethinking the strategy. Your adversary can and does take on you to devastating effect, invariably with effortless ease and with minimal collateral damage being caused to life and morale in his camp. It is in the light of these hard facts that the need arises for an urgent effort at stock-taking that would necessitate fresh thinking on the part of those who matter or those who have been in the line of fire all these past three decades in order to deal with the colossal humanitarian disaster that is already taking its toll, especially upon our youth. Come to think of it, in the middle of the games being played out and the accompanying mayhem being unleashed in Kashmir, we are fast losing our Gen Next to gratuitous violence in the name of national solidarity and ‘service to the nation’!

The question, therefore, arises regarding the choice of the best option to stop the enemy in its tracks. The simple logic is to avoid at all costs a resort to the practices/actions/tactics that would bring smile to one’s detractors and happiness to the enemy camp. In the present scenario when an all-out campaign is under-way to demonise, dehamanise, eliminate, insult and humiliate certain sections of the society by those who stand to gain by resorting to these devious tactics, the crying need is for those at the receiving end of this malicious campaign not to fall prey to the usual habits of mind which have all along been the stock-in-trade responses by them in such situations. In the light of what may still be in store for them in the run-up to the 2019 elections, I have come to the conclusion that in their supreme interest to preserve their life, honour, heritage, dignity and property, they would do well—at least for the time being—to ensure that certain precautions are exercised so that those feting themselves on the faultlines of the community are denied the privilege of milking these flaws to their advantage, and obviously at the cost of the community itself. It is possible that there are those who may look at these (gratuitous) exhortations as a climb-down, a departure from the culture of self-assertion that has been the hallmark over a long period of time, at least of large sections of the community.

However, let me emphasise that these are no exhortations but merely cogitations expressed in words, a case of loud thinking if you like, by someone who—as everyone else around—is deeply pained and disgusted by the recent chain of excruciating events in the Valley which have led to massive death and destruction all around us. I will be happy if there are those who may happen to be on the same page as I so far as the issues as broached in these lines are concerned. However, I shall gleefully deny myself the luxury to be judgemental in respect of those who may have other own ideas about how to deal with a situation that is increasingly getting hopeless by the day. It’s my understanding that these thoughts and observations apply as much to those who are on the receiving end of state repression in the Kashmir Valley as to the vast Muslim community which is currently under threat in mainland India.

In such circumstances, the revised strategy would entail the necessity of ensuring that your tormentor is denied the privilege of justifying its campaign of ‘catch and kill’ by your willingness to avoid reference to the ongoing resistance being inspired by a zeal for khilafat for the establishment of Islamic shariat in Kashmir. Raising slogans in praise of the ISIS or displaying banners to suggest allegiance to the latter’s cause are sure recipes for self-annihilation. The fact remains that the cause for a life of honour and dignity based, as it already is, on the right to self-determination is already too noble and honourable a cause to be frittered away in espousing an “idea that is not in sync with the raison d’etre of the resistance movement. Besides the futility of this idea as the inspiration for a mass movement, your enemy would have a ready-made excuse to unleash its ferocity upon you while justifying its action as genuine and lawful. And the ease of justifying its action would have to be understood in the context of the groundswell of opinion involving the fear of an emerging islamic world order that has been shaped by certain developments having come about during the past couple of decades in different parts of the world.

To hammer home my point, let me hark back to the oft-repeated cliché that action is supposed to speak louder than words. In the conditions of today’s India, it is no longer wise to keep shouting from the rooftops—something that used to be said not long ago and in fact, continues to be blurted out from the pulpits of mosques and elsewhere even today—“Fakhr sey kaho, hum Mussalman hain (take pride in declaring aloud that I am a Muslim)”. Nothing suits the electoral calculus of the spin doctors, the strategists and the ideologues of the current political dispensation more than the display of raw emotion towards their faith by the Muslim community which is projected as a symbol of self-assertion but all the same, insinuated as a threat to the majority community. The tragedy of the ‘new India’ has been the easy capitulation of the vast sections of society in India, including the so-called educated Indians, to the web of lies being weaved by these spin doctors and in the process projecting the minorities, especially the Muslims, as villains of the piece and as a threat to the former’s existence. The escalation of state-sponsored violence in Kashmir, demonisation of Pakistan, Muslim bashing in India, renewed efforts on the construction of Ram temple at the exact site of the demolished Babri Masjid and undue cacophony on Triple Talaaq may be viewed against the backdrop of these strategies being employed by them as part of a bigger plan aimed at marginalising the Muslim community and to reap electoral dividends, into the bargain.

The need is therefore to desist from succumbing to what are at best misplaced notions of supremacy of a particular faith, ideology or religious identity being accorded the status of a recipe for providing a model of a polity based on its principles. It is on the basis of this understanding of the undesirability of an ecumenical world order that the forces representing the ISIS and its idea of Khlafat have to be opposed and fought with the same zeal and verve as those rooting for a Hindutva model of society in India. A small but an important component of this effort would entail a conscious effort not to wear one’s faith/religious affinity on one’s sleeves, of course beyond what is unavoidably necessary. Besides, it would also help matters if it is sought to avoid to the extent possible, at least in the weeks and months preceding the 2019 elections, the display of cultural/ritual/traditional/religious symbols that would distinguish a particular group of people from the rest of the society as belonging to a certain community/sect or segment of the society. It would also go some way if it is sought to rein in the propensity to publicly criticise those who are on a mission to demonise you as the chief culprit, the chief architect for all that has gone wrong with this country and so, as a desh drohi. And a willingness to do that is absolutely essential as in that case, those standing to benefit from such public display of angst against their politics would have nothing to show for their ‘enemy’ who would have thus vanished into the thin air, as it were, and who would be no longer there to be identified in flesh and blood and to be used as a punching bag. They will perforce have to invent a new enemy as part of their time tested political/electoral strategy!

All that has been said above makes a strong case, at least as part of a tactical move, to not allow yourself being consumed by the passion for martyrdom in search of a life of honour and dignity, even as your martyrdom is celebrated by your tormentor as the greatest achievement of the state and sold to the rest of the country as a victory of ‘nationalism’ over forces who are inimical to the “idea of India”. This is not to deny that the extent of brutality and repression being visited upon the hapless Kashmiris day in and day out has been all-pervasive and ubiquitous. But the passion for laying down your precious life—which you are in no doubt being offered for a just and noble cause—amounts to throwing yourself to the blood thirsty wolves, if only one were to reckon that you are not sufficiently trained for combat to take on the professionally trained forces. By avoiding the eagerness to be consumed in the bottomless pit of death and destruction having been laid out for you, you will have denied them the space to exploit your martyrdom as the “death of a terrorist who deserved this end for having the gall to stand up to the authority”. The saddest and the most tragic part of the saga is that there no longer are saner voices across mainland India, except for what now remains a tiny fraction of them, who would occasionally raise their voice against such acts of brutality by the state, and would come forward to commiserate with our plight. In this situation marked as it is by awfully disproportionate firepower being employed by the warring groups against each other, it is time to counsel restraint and save your energy and resources, both human and otherwise, to invest them in more meaningful and constructive ways to build a better tomorrow and then deal with your adversary, predictably on your terms and conditions.

Finally, without allowing yourself to lower your guard and without compromising on your

cherished principles for the creation of a just and equitable society, it is still possible to concentrate on how to improve the quality of your life through honesty, hard work and above all through education which is the panacea for most of the ills afflicting a society or a community. When sought with love and passion, knowledge is akin to ibada’t and in that sense, would come across as the most potent and powerful weapon to enrich and empower your lives. The miracle of the Jews raising themselves from the dust as it were, in the aftermath of the Holocaust and having perched themselves in a position of near invincibility has to be explained in terms of their quest for knowledge, a trait over which they have never compromised.

Prof M.A. Sofi is Professor Emeritus, Department of Mathematics, Kashmir University, Sringar.

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