Notes on the Self Flagellating and Self Defeating Stereotypes of Kashmiris

Notes on the Self Flagellating and Self Defeating Stereotypes of Kashmiris

By Junaid Ashraf

The failure to live a fuller and dignified life in the 20th century has led Kashmiris to believe or have been made to believe that this race is a damned and a cursed race. Be it a university professor or a school teacher; a bureaucrat or a doctor; a columnist or a preacher at the pulpit , all are in one way or the other not just ardent believers of this “fact” but it is in the nature of a 24X7 free of cost self propelled machine of propaganda as well. Whether or not marriage ceremonies are adorned with songs of joy, but certainly the tragic melancholic “songs” demonising the Kashmiri self-individual and collective and character are a part of the menu. There is not a single shop, a single bus, a single schoo, a single office, a single crop field, where such ragas of Tansen are not sung and people around are not in a state of trance.
What has motivated people to this madness? They say because the “tallest leader” dropped the entire nation from such a height that standing up on its own feet became difficult. If the act of one “tall leader” is enough to demonize the entire nation then we will have to demonize the entire Syrian nation whose university students in the 20th century would recite the slogans of atheism and socialism with the zeal of the Kalima (because such criticism often comes in religious undertones if not through religious vocal cords). Or, the Palestinians who chose to side with British to gain “independence from the Ottomans”. Or , the Sharifs and Sauds of Makkah for being so notorious in Islamic history, which, obiter dictum , was a reason for Allama Iqbal’s tears. Or, the young people of the time believing in the natural sciences designed in the laboratories of the Europe, that uprooted the very basis of Muslim internationalism. Or, the neo Egyptian pharaohs or Habib Bourghiba of Tunisia who banned fasting in the month of Ramadan because he needed healthier fresher and energetic bodies for national development.
The person who opened the gates of Delhi in 1857 was not a Kashmiri nor was he who collaborated with the British to kill Tipu sultan nor where they the the ones who let British in Bengal or the ones who invented a religion in the plains of Punjab. If thousands of coup plotters who collaborated with the west cannot define the Turkish nation , how can one tall leader be so tall that even after decades , he continues to be a defining image of the Kashmiri character and psyche?
One is what he believes he is. People don’t teach realism in schools because if it is taught that people are actually selfish they will actually start behaving selfishly. It will be a self fulfilling prophecy. One argument against Huntington’s clash of civilization was the same: That this theory will usher the world into actual clash of civilizations. Telling the masses that Kashmiri are bad actually pushes them to be bad.
In the movie “Chronicles of Narnia 2” ,when Lucy returns to Narnia and sees a bear, a good citizen of Narnia and wishes to hug it but when she steps forward to hug, the bear comes to actually attack kill and eat her. Why? “ The bear must have been hungry” , The other person consoles Lucy. On a deeper level this is what denial of a fuller life and dignity does. Narnia had been occupied. Occupation puts chains around your heart mind and body in such way that you don’t even understand that there are any chains actually. It makes a human pass through the vicious cycles and turns him into a hungry bear!
In Algeria Frantz Fanon documented and analyzed cases that showed the disastrous effects on a persons morals due to occupation. Moses saw an Israeli and an Egyptian fighting and the Israeli called for help. Moses gave a mighty blow to the Egyptian and he died. Next day when he saw the same person fighting and told him that he certainly was a misguided person, the Israeli shot back , calling others and crying that wouldl he kill me as well the way he killed the person previous night. Moses understood the opportunistic self serving rude hostile ungrateful character of the person but had he called the entire Israeli nation badzaat on this basis and purely on the basis of his analysis , he would have found very little motivation in purifying them, educating them with law and wisdom putting the foundations of a society so strong that it ultimately evolved in the kingdoms of David and Solomon.
All cultures have problems. They find means to deal with them. During the Second World war , the American nation was called a nation of playboys by their enemies. One Hollywood movie “Pearl harbour” tries to tell the tale of the same era. But, both the protagonists of the movie are depicted to possess not just quality of bravery in the battlefield but also the “un-playboyish” virtues of sacrifice and love and patience, even though its enemies would love to call it a nation of playboys. It is because movies are not the reflection of a society but society is the reflection of movies. Art, said, Tolstoy raises humans to a feeling and it is art that pounds the society to a state what it was not. How strange and different is this when one Kashmiri writer explained the very basis of Kashmiri misery on the basis of dubious Kashmiri character in a movie?
Dulat said that Kashmiri’s were the most gentle and nicest people but they don’t trust one another. One western traveller wrote that Palestinians were the warmest people but when you entered Israel they were the rudest! Are we an Israeli nation? Rather than beating ourselves with the hunters of destructive criticism, isn’t it plausible to say that we have been denied a fuller life of dignity and self worth for centuries and attaining this should mean constructive creative efforts for the collective spiritual, moral, intellectual and material development of the nation. This is for the revolution, but as of now, there is a need for some evolution.

—The author can be reached at: junaidashraf2025@gmail.com