“Each of us is guilty before everyone for everyone, and I more than
the others,” writes Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov.” This statement expresses the quintessence of traditional ethics as developed by mystics and in modern times by Dostovesky and Levinas. Sufi ethics is an elaboration of this theme. This great idea of answerability or responsibility is a response to Ivan, the famous character in the same novel who says: “If there is no God, all is permitted.” In Kashmir we behave as if there is no God and all is permitted and none is guilty. Let us analyze the question of responsibility in the particular case of scenario of water bodies in Kashmir.
Our water bodies are fast becoming history. Most of the springs are gone. The Dal is politicized to death. Anchaar story is getting repeated in the Wular as it is dying a silent spectacular death. Glaciers are melting. Pure water in streams or rivers is becoming a fiction. We have to pay for water bottle and business of water purifiers is on the rise. It could not be imagined by our forefathers few decades back that water would be sold for Rs 15/litre or so in the market, that we will first pollute our sources of water and then employ machines to purify it and use plastic to distribute it and continue this circle of destruction and dependence. We have been gifted with water resources and we have proved unworthy of this blessing. But pollution or dwindling water resources is neither part of election agenda, nor an issue in question hour, nor of any leadership or even civil society groups. A few environmentalist voices in the wilderness, a lot many NGOs selling the issue and nothing concrete on ground at the end of the day for the poor Kashmiri who had at least water and air though previously some food as well as something to bank upon in a world that taxes everything except air.
One hardly cares to think that pesticide, weedicides, fertilizers and other problematic components that ultimately go to pollute water need to be regulated if not banned. One never asks for a moment ethicality of having an attached bath for almost every room in our houses.
You and me are culprits. We have hardly any qualms in encroaching water bodies. We have never protested for the rights of water bodies. We have never started any movement to de-pollute water. We have never hitches in using water packed in plastic bottles. We hardly mind taking Rani juice, for instance, despite knowing that it is packed in a manner that no conscientious environmentalist can accept. We have totally avoidable huge expenditure of Coca Cola and other drinks in all kinds of parties. We haven’t made it a point to reclaim our springs. We are hardly pushing for any policy reforms to reclaim our glaciers. We are, generally speaking, consuming three times more water than recommended for routine ablutions/bathing. The Prophet of Islam (SAW) has been extremely frugal in consuming water. So much so that it appeared that every drop was measured.
The story of Anchaar is forgotten now. I am afraid the same will happen to the Wular. Even the Dal will not be able to avert the fate if we go by the current trend. Today we have the problem of commercial and residential enterprises in the Dal. So much money has been spent for regulating or removing encroachments but results are woefully inadequate. It is clearly felt by experts that we can’t remove encroachments as long as it is seen as a vote bank. I think the best course is to deny voting rights to Dal dwellers or shift their voting constituency to motivate the leaders to take effective action.
None asks what God had ordained because all is permissible. As a Muslim, one can’t spit into water, throw wastes into it. One can’t use it as dumping ground for anything. One can’t harvest it in a manner that denies others access to it. One can’t snatch it from posterity. But collectively we are all willingly or unwillingly complicit in the project of wanton destruction of water resources. I wonder if the government can take some imaginative measures to halt the crisis of water resources. It appears that civil society based initiatives are not going to make big impact for certain reasons that Kashmiris are well aware of. Let us acknowledge our guilt at least and perhaps someday we could then think of doing something concrete. Let us redefine Model Villages as those that are not guilty of polluting water or overusing it. Let us make it a point to link scores of students to such activities as planting trees or doing anything to save water resources at individual level. Let us prepare at least a document for distribution to every educated citizen to diffuse awareness about what is going on and how all of us are complicit in the process of destruction.