Stoned Immaculate*

The new-found Kashmiri talent for chucking stones at Indian forces is raising the bar for foreign policy, political gamesmanship, civil society activism and even sport. So is this the Kashmiri’s new weapon of mass distraction? Or are we too stoned to register?

The latest round of stone pelting in Kashmir has a lot of people in the establishment ducking for cover. The Omar Abdullah administration seems to be making one mistake after the other while he himself runs about like headless chicken. Sociologists have taken out their notebooks and are excitedly jotting down what they see as the altered psyche of the youth, while politicians note the change of tactics. Between indications that these are orchestrated campaigns with logistical and moral assistance from a friendly neighbour, there is also the sea of women that comes out religiously in force after Friday prayers emboldened by the Mirwaiz’s taqreer which convinces some of our columnists to come to the conclusion that this time its different.

Chuck De!

Foreign media is quick on the uptake and immediately starts reminiscing almost nostalgically about the intifada movement and the Palestinian modus operandi of about two decades back. They forget to connect the dots: the youth of Kashmir is merely replaying the images they saw on Pakistan TV in those days. Welcome back to the future. The wheel comes full circle, what begins ends and what ends begins anew. Between all the excitement of a bored and generally frustrated generation’s angst and the casualties they feed the cause, most of us shake our heads gravely and underline the Kashmir issue and a major headache for the country. There starts the downward spiral of mistaken steps and more mistaken steps until what we have is the perpetual problem of Kashmir, now new and improved.

Kashmir is not a problem. There are two easy corners to take in this ring: in one corner, the Pakistan induced subterranean subterfuge with all its manifestations and the other, the nimble-footed but permanently defensive strategy of the Indians. Between these two sparring parties, we have the occasional umpire’s whistle and the perpetually dazed spectators who can’t ever seem to make up their mind which side they are on.

In a recent paper by Alpana Kishore titled, ‘Nationality and Identity Shift in Jammu & Kashmir’s Armed Conflict’ the author argues that there is a middle ground, read the moderate view, that has been cowering for lack of any support from the Indian establishment to the advantage of the vociferous minority. In amore damning verdict, the author points out the floundering of the Indian state in articulating a logical argument in favour of the choices that have in fact insured Kashmir from the devastation that Pakistan and most of the western tract beyond it convulses with at the drop of a, well, veil.

Jai Hind-sight!

In all this harried back and forth of solutions and suggestions it is repeatedly missed that in spite of the frequent attempts to drive a wedge between the tendencies of the people of Kashmir and their natural adhesion with the traditional temper of this land and its people, the promise of the other side has never converted into a sizeable public opinion that had the capacity to turn history around.

Irrespective of what may be said of the role of the army, the truth is that no Kashmiri worth his salt will accept an existence within Pakistan because of deep and implicit suspicion and antagonism between his aggressive Punjabi speaking neighbour and his own far more subtle and staid personality. That in spite of such a strategic advantage we find ourselves tied up in knots and running around in circles looks patently amateurish. And yet, those who castigate India continually for its role in the valley are in danger of exhibiting tendencies of autism unless they can clearly say what they would offer as hard-nosed options. Mere genuflection to established ideas and elbow indications or breezy and romantic insinuations will hardly do against a count of dead bodies that goes up even as this piece is being written.

Similarly, talk of winning hearts and minds or of employment for youth in this environment is hardly the statesmanship the moment requires. The price of peace in Kashmir is the price we must be willing to pay in terms of a single minded pursuit of re-integration of the region into mainstream nationality. And no, it’s not going to happen with outsourced leadership to family friends and their kids. And it’s not going to happen by acting like a bully or a kitten either. It will take all the talents of statecraft, it will call for a general’s strategy and it will demand an iron fisted policy that is sheathed in silken gloves and it will be, above all, pursued as an act of brotherhood with the people. For those who find within that exposition the glare of contradiction, remember that all balance requires the negotiation of opposing forces.

Kaash-mir!

An even handed approach, a fair administration where a man feels he can trust his government, a benevolent rule, a firm and no-nonsense approach, a practical outlook and decisive actions – these are what Kashmir needs. Kashmiris are not difficult to govern as a rule: nothing explains this better than the history of repetitive foreign rulers who seamlessly assigned themselves as rulers, but they are unused to weak or pusillanimous leadership; and that is what India, read the Congress leadership, has repeatedly thrown at them due to an abnormal and imagined linkage with the question of Muslims in India with vote catching as a backdrop.

Truth be told, the Kashmiri cares not a bit for the Indian Muslim and likewise for the Pakistani. His consummate skill has been to stay within the perimeter of his simple existence, withdrawing when threatened and seeking no more than nature gave him. If this present generation is exhibiting characteristics unlike those of before, read into that an explosion of conveniently arranged angst which takes care to blow up only in the balmy season of summer but withdraws in the harshness of the winters. Stone throwing is not an art form. It is a crudely put together armour of self respect for a generation of kids who have been bred on ideas of grandeur and the greatness of their situation when in fact the have hardly any reason for such claims. Much like the emperor’s new robe, the Kashmiri’s self image is a chimera; a strange mismatch between who his is and what he thinks he is and of his importance to the world. Any perceptive person will realize that the Kashmiri identity is a myth and even more, a matter of math, for he has finessed the ability to manipulate his worth against the political climate of the moment. This shrewdness and guile comes repeatedly to the Kashmiri’s rescue while dealing with people who care neither to understand his character, or his make up or his mentality.

Kashmir is not the problem. The problem is that we have allowed Kashmir to stay a question mark for far too long. But we’d know that, if we hadn’t been stoned out of our wits.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………..

*With apologies to Jim Morrison

**Nationality & Identity Shifts in Jammu & Kashmir’s Armed Conflict by Alpana Kishore. Published by WISCOMP. [www.wiscomp.org]

Picture credit: www.foreignpolicyjournal.com

An edited version of this post has appeared in The Pioneer of 14th August, 2010 under a different headline.

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