KASHMIR: It’s still shaking!

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  • Publish Date: Feb 16 2016 4:10PM
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  • Updated Date: Feb 16 2016 4:10PM
KASHMIR: It’s still shaking!

Kashmir will keep shaking till its politics is reconciled with its geographic placement. It’ll keep shaking till the historic decision its people made centuries back, symbolised by the interaction of Noorani and Hamadani, is respected. Can the Pak-China Corridor, TAPI, and an international requirement to stabilise this region, open up the traditional routes, making it possible for Kashmir’s Muslim society to become a functional member of a larger South-Central Asian Community of Muslims. An interaction that is not oppressively controlled by a sovereign nation state, called India. And where the Rights to Travel and Reside are made subservient to Human Relationships, and facilitated by some International organisation. Let’s begin to unfold.

Beginning with the theme itself.
The broader theme for this issue of Kashmir Ink is, ‘Kashmir problem: Is there a need to review and rethink strategies’. It’s never an uncommon question, must have been raised a million times. It’s so familiar, borders boredom in certain cases. For some, it’s even a reason for a vague unease. And for yet others, it’s enough to feel incited. When this question is asked in a generalised way, it is bound to invoke these psychological responses. And when you raise this question with a degree of seriousness, you will be disappointed to hit this psychological barrier. Because it’s beyond this barrier that the actual working of the question begins.

What are these psychological responses:
Why this question gnaws at us sometimes? Reason, we find in it a conclusive statement, rather than an invitation to fresh thinking. In this case the question is a judgment on the entire political undertaking in the name of Kashmir Problem, hence a statement rather than a question; closure, not an opening. To open it up more, it’s an indictment of the entire politics – for the reasons of identification, call it Resistance Politics - conducted to solve the Kashmir Problem. Now one can easily get it, why such questions are met with disdain, and denial. This way the question does great harm. One, it blocks the chances of upgrading, or renewing, the political responses to Kashmir question, and also consolidates people, and the leadership, in their errors. A negative fallout, indeed.
Another reason this question is not received seriously, is rooted in experience. Those who control a conflicted territory militarily, in case of Kashmir it’s India, always try to unsettle the minds of the people who rise against this military control. One of the easiest, and tried, ways to do it is to raise doubts about the political fundamentals of the conflict, and also present the resistance leadership in as poor a light as possible. It is not uncommon to find such a question – review and rethink - anchored into this operative procedure of controlling structure. In this case, advantage is taken of the accumulated sense of exhaustion among the people of the conflicted territory. In case of Kashmir, it has been decades that people have risen against the alien control, and endured much in the process. But the problem is no where near solution. Hence anyone raising this question finds a large constituency of warm-reception. This also is a psychological response rather than a willingness to accept the question, and get to finding answers. This response has been gently glided by India into raising alternative political platforms that are helpful in stuffing the political spaces that otherwise belong to Resistance politics, or say people’s politics. Here also the question functions negatively.
There is a third psychological response to it. And that is, we just fall for it. The words ‘Review’ and ‘Rethink’ appear so appealing that unmindful of the difficulties this proposition poses, we tend to reject the established thinking just because it has been there for so long, and set out in search of anything new. We confuse thinking with an angry and hasty rejection of the old. This is not just unproductive, but in the end self defeating. It takes away any productive potential from the the effort called rethink.

What does this proposition mean?   
Away from these negative psychological responses, what should ‘Kashmir problem: Is there a need to review and rethink strategies’ , mean to us. And how should we deal with it. First, it must originate from within. Two, it shouldn’t be a sign of nervousness, but of confidence. Three, we shouldn’t shy away from drawing from other conflict cases. Fourth, we should prepare to unpack our long held political perspectives, historical biases, cultural stereotypes, and even our ideological underpinnings. The bag of presumptions has to be completely unzipped. In a nutshell, a sense of agency, spirit of confidence, and a culture of knowledge should adorn the atmosphere where we take up this question.
Preparing an answer:
Wrestling with this question, I make a slight change in it for myself. Before Review, and Rethink, I believe there is a need to Revisit. This revisiting would not only be preparing for an answer, but also a part of answer. KASHMIR: It’s still shaking; I borrow the title for this essay from Tamim Ansari. Not just title, I begin to look at this subject from his chosen window on the world history. Tamim suggests that Muslim History is not “a subset of some single world history”, but “a whole alternative world history unto itself”. This Muslim World History has suffered disruptions, and it’s by looking through these disruptions that the conflicts, wars and armed clashes, in Muslim lands appear as having an underlying unity; the unity that the Muslim World History itself is. The clashes in different parts of the Muslim world are rooted in an existential fight where each part of this unity denies to severe from its actual body, and forcibly be a part of some other unity.
After the fall of three Muslim empires – Safavid, Ottoman, and Mughal – many Muslim territories were ravaged, and finally divided among the superior world powers. When the time for these superior European powers to vacate the colonies finally came, Muslim lands suffered dismemberment – territorial disruption. In this process of dismemberment we had many Muslim Nation-States carved out from earlier empires. But on the margins, there remained some luckless areas that ended up being parts of non-Muslim Nation-States. From Balkans, through Central Asia, to Kashmir, it is a story of unwilling territorial associations. The force of the underlying unity kept the contest alive. In the words of Tamim:
“ It kept on flowing beneath the surface, like a riptide, and it is flowing down there still. When you chart the hot spots of the world—Kashmir, Iraq, Chechnya, the Balkans, Israel and Palestine, Iraq—you’re staking out the borders of some entity that has vanished from the maps but still thrashes and flails in its effort not to die.”

A Line drawn wrong:
Put simply, the problem is rooted in the wrong drawings on the current world map; Sykes-Picot in the Arab world, and Durand, and Radcliffe in the Sub-Continent. Kashmir is also a case of a Line drawn wrong. If Reviewing and Rethinking means ignoring this Line-Drawn-Wrong, it’s an invitation to shut the minds close. Conflict Resolution that Kashmir needs begins with the opening up of the minds, and not contrary. That is how we can stand in the right direction and think of moving ahead. Tamim again:
“Kashmir, for example, remained in play, for it had a Hindu monarch but a predominantly Muslim population. Which then should it be part of, India or Pakistan? The British decided to wait and see how things shook out. Kashmir is still shaking”.
Now the question. How do we calm it down. How can Kashmir stop shaking. The shortest possible way, and the surest possible route, is India. If India accepts that the Line was drawn wrong, Kashmir will stop shaking before yesterday. But we all know that is not going to happen. Hypothetically, hyperbolic too, even if India would want to do it, it won’t be like rubbing out a line here, and drawing it some yards away. So the Review and Rethink is about imagining a longer route, and also the ways and means to sustain this protracted journey. It would also be about making this journey incrementally productive, and replenish our energies regularly, so that exhaustion doesn’t set in. And how would that happen? Through Knowledge and Ethics. Knowledge of the world we live in, of the layered systems of the International Politics we reside in, and the complex web of Relationships we are located in. Ethics that are universal, and make us a part of one large human gathering. And also the ethics taught to us by our religion, which in many cases are more demanding and constraining than the universal ethics. ( An example of this would be a debate on whether we should opt for violent means of resistance or not. In a universal narrative of Resistance, the world might accept our right to use violent forms of resistance, of course with a rider of human rights and global peace. But our religion has some stricter guidelines, and prophets have exhibited that restrain in the most trying circumstances. So while Armed Resistance, or Stone Pelting can find a justification in a universally accepted political discourse, from a Prophetic Perspective, ethical restriction are rigirous and severe.)

Thinking Through:
Here is one overarching proposition we need to take up for review and rethink: Is our struggle a by product of some architectonic Islamic Ideology, to attain a defined goal that is non-negotiable, or is it a movement to settle a political dispute, or both. I believe the two have got mixed up in Kashmir, and it needs a clinically clean slicing, a peaceful and a productive parting away. There are confusing, and conflicting overlaps, having debilitating effects.
When Tehreek-e-Hurriyat was formed under the headship of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, it was an arrangement of sorts with the parent body, Jamat-e-Islami. Since JI wanted to snap the armed underground ties, it consequently had to stay safely removed from directly getting into the politics of Kashmir conflict. Hence another platform, where the political investment of JI could be secured, and utilising those energies a leadership grounded in JI ideological matrix emerged. This could have been a point of departure, but unfortunately couldn’t. May be JI and TH, did not think through the potential benefits of this decision, and it was done only to steer clear off the consequences of the decision made by JI, under the headship of GM Bhat. It was like conducting a surgery on a conjoined twins. In its content and conduct, JI and TH are not so different from each other, leading to duplication of effort. The twins are acting in unitary ways.
The experiments done in Turkey, Egypt, and Tunisia could be a guid for JI and TH in Kashmir. Why can’t there be a purely political party to work for the resolution of Kashmir conflict, using an idiom that is universally political, producing content that is manifestly political, and train its manpower in the universally accepted political ways of thinking and doing. For this JI and TH has to look beyond the ideological literature and benefit from the political understanding at a more universal level. For JI, it would be worthwhile to think of concentrating more on education and economy of Kashmir, and may be rethink about the utility, or otherwise, of the Ministry of Politics ( Shoiba e Siyasiyat). Here an opening up of JI mind is crucial, and this can be done by visiting the intellectual territories beyond the very narrow confines of JI ideological literature.
The second crucial question is to fix the mental frame of our movement. Is it a struggle where we can either defeat the opponent, or get defeated, or a political contest where there are multiple parties, and we all need to search for ways that lead to its resolution. If it’s former, it means the lines are permanently drawn and the victory will come only when we have more power than our enemy. J&K is a geographical unit, as we rhetorically and repeatedly underline, and we can sacrifice our lives for having it all to us. Or J&K must get one particular solution, and not any other. This Either/Or, Victory/Defeat frame has its own implications and we all need to think, in a cool and composed state of mind, about those implications. It’s not like saying “ be realistic”, as an interrogator would yell out in a torture cell. It’s only to make ourselves mindful of the calculus of this either/or binary. In this binary there are also some ethical and practical contradictions, we need to think about resolving them also.
it is later, is it prudent to insist for a final conflict resolution right away, or it entails a process of conflict transformation, that is oriented towards resolution and not the perpetuation of status quo. Here comes the Indo-Pak engagement and the overall interaction of global powers in this region. Here also comes the question of the presence, or absence, of the required socio-political structures, and a general, and realistic, assessment of our collective capabilities. The recent Indo-Pak engagement, like all the previous ones, are a reflection of the global atmosphere in which nation-states work. India and Pakistan, being part of this International System, will always respond to it. We need not be emotional about it, and censure the state of Pakistan, and undermine the larger society of Pakistan, if this man-made country acts rationally. When we look at Kashmir as a case of political conflict, our job is to derive maximum benefits from such an engagement without eroding the foundations on which our political future rests. If, God forbid, Pakistan, as nation-state, feels too much pressured under the demands of International System, it can have devastating consequences for us as Kashmiri Muslims. Balancing reason and emotion, we need to properly appropriate Pakistan in the overall scheme of conflict transformation. Here, the Resistance leadership, and the broader base of Resistance in the civil society of Kashmir, need to update itself about the unfolding corporate business interest in this region. Pakistan-China corridor, TAPI Pipeline, and Japan heavily investing in India, has a potential of creating another reality in the sub-continent. Kashmir question as a reality must not clash with this impending reality. On the contrary, we can align our social and political prospect with this new reality in a productive way. A positive transcendence.

Last Lines:   
If Kashmir is a case of Line gone wrong, may be we can begin by overcoming the debilitating effects of this Line gone wrong. The world powers, for their own reasons, are focusing on this Line again. Why not benefit from this global attention. Not in a state of euphoria, but in presence of mind. Not naively, but creatively.