Azadi from Egos


Azadi could well be described as the word most battered in Kashmir over the past few years, and Ego the most active. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, ego is ones opinion of oneself, especially ones feeling about ones importance and ability. In psychoanalysis, it is that part of a person’s mind that tries to match hidden desires (wishes) of the id (part of the unconscious mind) with the demands of the real world. It is an established fact that before a person is physically free, he or she has to achieve mental freedom and emancipation.

Kashmiris have been egoists from the very dawn of history. ‘Having an ego’ is natural human behaviour, but creates problems when it goes out of control.  And Kashmiris appear to be genetically blessed with bloated egos. It seems to be embedded in our DNA.


Internecine wars have been a part of Kashmir’s history from ancient times. People have always followed personalities rather than principles. One has only to open any chapter of Kalhana’s Rajatarangni, the earliest book of history in the subcontinent, and out pop continuous wars of succession among Kashmir’s royal families. The Damaras, the barons of ancient Kashmir, were the kingmakers. They would put anyone they liked on the throne, and dethrone anyone they disliked.

Another pronounced trait causing damage throughout is our predisposition towards personality cults reinforced by dynastic succession. And, as noted by foreign writers, we also have the trait of extreme jealousy, and cannot bear to see a fellow Kashmiri doing well.

Kashmiris are fond of being ruled by kings and queens. It is true of the entire human civilization that a leader with a charismatic personality comes to hold sway over the masses, but such figures generally lose self-control, their egos get inflated, and cause their fall. The Lion of Kashmir is a vivid example. It was his bloated ego that landed Kashmiris in the mess from which they see no escape.

Kashmiris have been aspiring for freedom, popularly known as Azadi, for a long time. They have had an umpteen number of leaders offering to lead them to their cherished goal. But, unfortunately, most of these leaders have painted a utopian picture of that ultimate emancipation without bothering to give it a concrete and a precise shape.

Some of them have been changing both the ultimate goal and the road leading to it from time to time. It is because of these changing stances that people at present feel confused and lost. Several intellectuals within Kashmir as well as from outside often ask why have so many parties led by so many leaders when the goal of all is the same. The answer is simple: personality cults and bloated egos.

Every Kashmiri leader feels he is not only the right leader but also the best leader to lead the masses to achieve their goal. Unfortunately, no Kashmiri leader seems to be sure of what that goal is.

Freedom movements which have seen fruition anywhere in the world have invariably had a single leader, and mostly one party led by that leader. Kashmir must be the only place in the world to have the unique distinction of having more than a couple of dozen parties led by an equal number of leaders struggling to achieve the goal of freedom.

This infighting among local leaders has undone Kashmir throughout the past four centuries of its history. Outsiders have made the most of this internecine warfare in capturing Kashmir and keeping it under their tutelage.

In the present context, agencies have been working overtime with deadly success in motivating these leaders to be at each other’s throats rather than facing the real oppressor. In fact, agencies from both sides work overtime to unite as well as to disunite these people from time to time. While agencies from the other side try to unite those people toeing their line, agencies on this side try to dismantle that initiative by engineering split after split.

This will go on endlessly until we are prepared to deflate our bloated egos and come down to earth to face reality. The ground reality is that the two sides of Kashmir have virtually been merged by the two neighbouring countries and the merger is physically guarded by huge armies, and politically supported by their lackeys. The status will not change by seminars, sermons and press notes.

The change can occur only if there is an indomitable urge among the people for a change. At the present moment, no one has been able to create that urge, and people go along with the status quo quietly. The only hope is the younger generation seething with a new urge that may burst forth anytime. Thus there is no need to get disheartened by yet another split in the conglomerate claiming to lead Kashmiris to the ultimate goal of total freedom.

Incidentally, some members of the conglomerate are being guarded by the very same people against whom they claim to be struggling! People living on past glory rarely change the course of history. In the long run, it will be the bubbling youth led by convictions and ideology rather than the past glory of a few individuals that will change the course of history and usher in the glorious dawn all of us have been aspiring for. Kashmiris have survived on hope for centuries, and will continue to do so in the future as well.

-the writer, a former IAS officer, retired as Director General J and K Tourism Department