By Muzaffar Ali
The stone pelter is one of the most condemned characters in the recent history of Kashmir. While the armed militant has once for all been dubbed as a terrorist, the stone pelter’s tragedy sees no end. He is dubbed as a hooligan, a client-separatist, a proxy on payroll and what not. Seldom have we tried to go beyond the flourishing rhetoric perpetuated by the politician, police and the propagandist regarding the stone pelter. Have we as a society dared to ask ourselves the question regarding what does a stone pelter stand for? Is the stone in his hand only meant for secession without having any deeper meaning to convey? Have we ever pondered on the significance of a stone pelter’s presence in our society? Can there be any alternative explanation of him which goes above and beyond the flourishing rhetoric? I am of the belief that there definitely is an alternative explanation and we desperately need to ponder over it.
The stone pelter, I think, holds a great philosophical value and can be considered as a real critique of our society. There are critiques in academic disciplines. A literary critique evaluates literary narratives. A cultural critique questions the presence or absence of cultures in a given society. A film critique evaluates the frame of a film to see beyond it and so on. The master critique among all is the philosopher who ponders over everything with a suspicious eye. Philosophers, it can be said do not even trust their own words. What a philosopher argues today is revised by him later on and most often the revision is a work in progress of acquiring a precision which can never be attained. The stone pelter akin to the philosopher is a critique of our collective past as well as the present.
A peculiar critique of its kind he creates a critical space where the events of stone pelting can be understood as a “critique in action” of our society. He is in no need to weave narratives and write opinion pieces as he finds the complexities of our existence ineffable through language. The pen and the poem can in no way help him convey what he wants to convey. As an alternative to the pen and poem, he attempts to turn the event of stone pelting into a critical event itself where the past, present and the prospective of our society is assessed in one throw. The stone in his hand may be empirically thrown on the policeman or the paramilitary personnel. But in reality, neither of them is the target. The target, if there is any, is our society and the events of stone pelting reflect a sustained axiological critique of Kashmiri society. Being a critique of our society the stone pelter pelts stones at himself as well as the society at large. Alas! we are only able to see him pelting stones at himself—and in turn, destroying his career/life— while missing the larger picture.
The Greek philosopher Socrates can help us in understanding the critical value of a stone pelter. Socrates never wrote anything. Maybe, he also suspected the power of the pen in conveying things with precision. Yet, he was condemned and persecuted by the Greek society for his actions. All he did was that he made an attempt to critique Greek society of his time. The stone pelter´s actions share the Socratic value of a critique of the present which unfortunately none of us are able to comprehend. His actions also share with Socrates the quest for an alternative where neither Socrates nor the stone pelter are clear on what that alternative would be. The Socratic dialogues as presented to us by his disciple Plato culminate in aporias (impasse). Same is the case with the events of stone pelting as well. The conclusion is an insoluble impasse. What is clear though is the critique. The stone is a critique of our past where the different sellouts by mainstream political leaders are put on trial and hanged on the stone. The stone is a critique of our present where the promises made by current politicians and their failures are tattered. On one hand, it critiques the mainstream politicians while on the other hand, it reminds us of the fractured partnerships of separatist leaders. The stone is a critique of our future which is as distorted as the moving stone itself. For what can be our future according to one group is a sellout according to the other. The theories of self-rule, achievable nationhood, autonomy, complete accession or be it even azaadi are so exclusive of each other that the youth turned stone pelter finds it better to stone them on the street. The confusion is such that only the language of stone pelting can encompass its complexity. It is time that we as a collective make sure to understand what the stone pelter wants to convey. We need to understand that he is pelting these stones at us and not the policeman and the paramilitary personnel on duty. He is ready to put himself through pain, embrace death like Socrates, and get incarcerated to convey the pathology of our society. I hope that we end up not becoming the Greeks who lost Socrates to their inertia and insouciance! The stone pelter needs to be properly understood before it gets late.
The author is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at SavitribaiPhule Pune University. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org