Waters in Kashmir’s historic flood of September 2014 were deep indeed, but deeper still is the mystery pertaining to the Valley’s selectively censorious pulpit masters (the more prominent among them being political overseers too) who have suddenly fallen silent on bey pardagi, bey hayayee, bey rahravi, ghair islami, ghair ikhlaqi, all of which they attribute to cultural aggression by you-know-who. Obviously they are too hard put to find time between directing massive relief efforts and reading up the latest on the Scottish vote to issue thundering denunciations against ‘immorality and promiscuity’ being deliberately promoted to turn the Abode of Saints into a 21st century Sodom and Gomorrah to achieve certain ends.
For reasons best known to them, they have refrained from striking when the iron is red hot, and declaiming that Kashmir’s calamity is the result of the deeds of agents hell-bent on altering Kashmir’s denominational character and the misdeeds of those taken in by them – jinko sheeshey mein utara hai. Particularly effective would be the argument that the innocent have suffered for the doings of the sinful – the word sinful, in Kashmir, having acquired a chameleon-like and need-based predisposition to morph meanings from scriptural to, say, political. (The disconcerting thought here is that while comeuppance for scriptural sin is usually deferred till Judgement Day, and may even be got commuted through penance and penitence, delivery of justice for political sin is swift and summary, and brooks no intercession).
Lest the drift be lost, recourse must be taken of the take-off point in these columns previously – qahr-e-khuda – presuming, of course, that Scripture is neither myth nor an old wives’ tale but a source of furqan (discrimination between right and wrong) andburhan (sound judgement and inference). The sticking point is that Scripture suffers the same misuse by its defenders as the deeply human act of rescuing flood victims does by the most potent arm of the State – it is used, quoted and done selectively. Otherwise, there would have been a lot less railing about bey pardagi and a lot more reasoned discussion of the virtues of thrift, modest living, simplicity, duty, and upright and fair business and professional practices. But in Kashmir, where the most prominent figures in the ulama class are an embodiment of the very antithesis of such values, discourse and life woven around them is already a lost cause.