We are endlessly talking about this recent past; a past which is vicious will be ceaselessly shared unless it brings us glory. In the very first place religions largely restrain individual freedoms that we are inherently supposed to have in the 21st century. But last few months I have been little apprehensive of how the Kashmir movement which often manifests as periodic and intensifying protests is shockingly molded into disparate narratives. This has to get us thinking.
Some people have been trying to paint the Kashmiri movement for self-determination with a religious brush and a hardcore fundamentalist hue, and hence an attempt to make it dangerously vulnerable to machinations of sectarianism and a politics of communalization. To make it clear, all the people in Kashmir irrespective of their religion or faith, whether a minority, creed, cast, sex, color or race belong to this place and belong to this ‘right’ equally.
Let’s first learn to treat differences with dignity live amongst ourselves as one people. History has left for us numerous lessons and all we need is to learn from them immediately till the conspirators squabble. The Kashmir movement has been majorly efficient in bringing about the pluralistic narrative that has a long history. Large sections of educated Indians need to stay in Kashmir to see that and go back more educated. Between the ideological needs and identity politics practiced by both Pakistan and India, the foremost aspiration of Kashmiris gets overshadowed. The worst was when even the chief minister joined the chorus to say that violence (read protest) in Kashmir was being managed from across the border, largely an attempt to portray the movement as religious radicalism and riding on a certain Islamophobia.
There is nothing wrong with supposing that some things are true and some are false. Even though many accuse absolutists of intolerance, these accusers most likely have a blurred and malformed idea of what tolerance certainly is. They are often oblivious that the idea of tolerance suggests a close bond to truth. Converse to popular definitions, rightful tolerance means ‘putting up with error’ – not ‘being accepting of all views.’ It is because genuine differences exist between people that tolerance becomes necessary and virtuous.
The histories of religions are filled with innumerable movements involving believers who either desired to correct older views or establish new ones. Tension between differing religious ideas has existed all throughout human history. But the need to exercise true tolerance in the contemporary times is accepting differences with dignity and loving each other. Beliefs figure the approach we view the world with and influence how we decode specific facts. This is no small matter. This makes it all the more essential to acutely consider what is suggested by ultimate truth-claims.
All faith systems make truth-claims. Truth-claims by their very nature suggest that contrary assertions are false. It is impossible for two opposite truth-claims to be simultaneously true. This subsection was required to draw a parallel in understanding the dominant faith system in Kashmir. People lived in religious diversity even if they were contradictory and they need to continue with it more beautifully than ever. Islam has taught us how we can establish a just society despite having a range of intellectual differences in social, political and economic matters and world views.
Being a Kashmiri Muslim, I want to make a basic assertion here and that is, if anyone who dies fighting ‘forced slavery’ or ‘forced occupation’ is a martyr, irrespective of her or him being a believer in any religion. Martyrdom to me is not any supernatural contemplation but the emotion of a sacred sacrifice and respect. It is the grace of God and the respect of people which martyrs deserve. Their blood serves as a seed for freedom which will be ultimately realized. Fighting slavery is the biggest realm of value that Prophet (PBUH) showed us to strive in.
Since slavery is downright involuntary, it can never be justified on the face of this earth. ‘Freedom with will’ and ‘to understand that’ is an inherent ‘value’ in humans and that’s what we are born with. If supposedly I have a life span of 60 years, I would not live for these years under slavery. And, if any self-styled mullah says that God has chosen me for this, and then I shall refuse to believe in such God. People make nations, their fortunes, deal with each other, and God is the only judge. And, if people get on to decide what’s better for whom, meaning that if judging is not stopped then the Day of Judgment which is God’s realm will be absolutely irrelevant. Then why should whole Kashmiri brethren not collectively fight this ‘slavery’ and instead of being at odds amongst themselves on religious or sectarian lines just because some forces want to see us remain divided.
Some people are hopping mad and colonial punters are benefitting from the divide. State’s apathy towards people’s political grievances is met militarily. There may be some enjoying ‘colonial perks and bounties’ but larger populace here faces colonial humiliation and excesses. Bureaucratic authoritarianism has become a nuisance in India, and it has assumed another proportion in Kashmir.
The bureaucratic model is at the end of its tether to completely displace the political reality of Kashmir. A Shia friend of mine who writes on Kashmir’s political struggle was told by an officer that ‘what her community would get out of this struggle, as this will benefit Sunnis only’. I was not taken aback because bureaucracy is a colonial tactic to break people and putting them against each other. Bureaucratic rule becomes possible only when people are submissive and not united.
Karl Marx remarkably showed how capitalism ruthlessly exploits despite the fewer capitalists in number and workers in bigger number. He ended the Manifesto by saying, “workers of the world…Unite!” Destruction of the malignant capitalism was possible only after workers unite and overthrew them. What does this analogy bring to Kashmiris is the ‘unity’ to understand what ‘fighting together’ an occupation means. Why can’t we be purposefully democratic, liberal and secular in our politics after having seen nations tried otherwise and failed miserably? We should know that it would be fatal for Kashmiri interests if minority groups are not accommodated into the political space.
What the most Kashmiris believe must be of course true, what the many Kashmiris want must be worth striving for, and necessary, and therefore good. But are we arguing for a monolithic religious state handing down a complete social and moral code, a complete way of life? Of course not! Because that will cause mayhem.
As the Indian writer, Arundhati Roy says, “The Islamic project is as much questioned, in equally dense ways, by Muslims all over the world as Hindutva is questionedby Hindus.’’ The political establishment always tries to justify its subjugation of the subjects. But freedom, liberty is the fundamental right of a man and it’s nobody’s personal concession to anyone. Imperial patrons, monarchs, clerics, religious rulers and oligarchs have always tried to cut back the liberty of man. Islam since its birth has vindicated the right of an individual by proclaiming that the highest right is not might but right itself. We the people of Kashmir must awake to this!
—The writer is pursuing post-graduate studies Political Science at University of Kashmir.