Tuesday, 6 December 2016

To whom to Turn?

Interviewing Sheikh-al-Alam(R.A) on Contemporary Politics!

Let us imagine Sheikh-al-Alam visiting Kashmir and people thronging to him for few words in these difficult times.
      First of all I am skeptical of the possibility that any political or religious organization will easily allow a visit by Sheikh-al-Alam to Kashmir, the way Christ is not welcome by clergy in Dostovesky’s The Brothers Karamazarov. We have almost wiped out Reshis and surely wiped Reshi values thanks to “sab ka saath for vikaas” or what is called development hoax. There are religious organizations sans that true piety which welcomes the other including religious other, at least on certain plane. There are political parties that don’t know even ABC of the science and art or “religion” of politics as understood by Greek, Muslim and other Masters across traditions. Hosting Sheikh-al-Alam would be an embarrassment except for majzoobs and those we see on roads oblivious of the world of sun and shade. Reshsis as in-charges of shrines would be, generally speaking, the most embarrassed group if the Sheikh would visit Kashmir. There are hardly any Reshis in fact who would be there to receive him. Beggars we find around shrines are not Reshis. The Sheikh would be a nuisance on marriage parties, in road projects, in offices of DDCs, in streets full of sound and fury signifying little and hatred against the projected other. Both ann and vann are fast disappearing.
      Now anyone who has some  idea of who is Sheik-al-Alam, will not  dare to appear before him, not to speak of asking question or an explanation. Since interview is impossible but we keenly desire to have an Alamdar today, a modern Alamdar – we have been desperately imagining or projecting some as Alamdars or quasi-alamdars or his vicegerents in political sphere – but all of us can agree – and I am sure regarding them as well who have been thus sanctified in public imagination too will agree – that our Saviour is not recognizable in them, we may fulfill the desire by an imaginative attempt of conducting an interview with him to comment upon contemporary politics. But one must be granted license to err in writing the dialogues and begin with an apology for misrepresenting the saint and perhaps even those in Kashmiri politics whom one knows – only partly knows – by words and deeds but not in their hearts. Being conscious of such adages as “Adam basten menz chi sir, raddi khaliyiq chi maqbooli haq, judge not” and convinced that God does work in history and earthly powers are ultimately remote controlled in certain sense – God works through them – one is tempted to avoid  making bland generalizations and pass judgments. However some study of the Alamdar’s poetry allows one to formulate some points.
      I give a question to Sheikh Saheb, one to Geelani Saheb, one to mainstream leadership, a stone pelter and common Kashmiri who identifies partly with all of them and none of them.

#Sheikh Abdullah: 
“I converted Muslim conference to National Conference to be more inclusive of heterogenity in the State. I didn’t believe in two nation theory and considered theocratic State against secular Sufi ethos. I fought against feudal lords who were posing as gods. I tried to win freedom as far as possible, failed in my grand project. I didn’t die a happy man who had no regrets. I too am an erring human. My people feel I have left people on a leaky boat in a storm. Is there a way out for them?
I am not interested in necessarily siding with either Pakistan or India, both products of an ideology called nationalism that is more problematic in itself to begin with and someday people will laugh over it and those who know the expanse of their souls refuse to recognize any LoCs anywhere, least of all those that are drawn on mistrust or hatred of the other. God doesn’t see the world in terms of Muslims and Non-Muslims. God has no political party or chosen leader. My focus is how much one has controlled the self that seeks its empire. I am not asking if you are a Muslim or Hindu (Mo zan Hound ti Musalman) defined in certain limiting exoteric and political terms as God is not worried about it but if one is an Imago Dei. God judges us – the Self judges the soul – by seeing how truly one behaved towards  the demands of our own heart. The rest is only accidental or incidental for God. People have been divided  in their estimate of you but God’s estimate is based on what your own deepest self proclaims. History might judge you differently in different ages, even different decades but you judge yourself. Conscience judges us so clearly after death. I, as a slave of God and so-called 7th Reshi, am not commanded to judge anyone. God judges, history judges. How history has judged you or will judge you is for history and your legacy. I had been too busy watching my own self, my own faults, fearing death’s judgment to afford fault finding or psychoanalysis of my people. I resolutely tried not to seek any personal empire in the world and I hope that I have nothing to hide from my people. I voiced my own faults though people in their generosity attribute them to themselves and not to me. Before the Absolute, all is disequilibrium. Our very existence is a sort of transgression. I gave everything to people, to God’s community and in turn public reveres my memory till date. True freedom is freedom from all labels, all exclusive identities, all attachments and of course attachment to the empire of self/ego. It means to be, in Molvi Rumi’s sense, trackless, pathless.
      Your people, feeling much better after you helped them fight oppressors in feudalist camp, are much mature today than when you left them. They don’t need to be told about many choices now; they have seen who is who and what is what. Their souls have been left wandering by those who should have educated them to find themselves, to be more aware of what is going on in the world, especially in relation to the tumult and chaos in their souls. God isn’t defeated in His purpose. His Mercy reaches even in the deepest darkness of hell to cool it one day. Kashmir has been passing through purgatory of a sort. God sees all things although he might seem to wait. He judges and takes account, in His own wisdom of every betrayal if it indeed qualifies as one. All is ultimately a grand play and we are asked only to act our parts well leaving worrying out of grand design of the play to Him.

#Mainstream politicians:
We have heard that spiritual authorities have given Kashmir to India and that is why we are not part of the Hurriyat camp and wish to serve people in our own way. Our worry is about uncertainty and violence that erupts anytime.
Shaikh-al-Alam: First point, those who know secrets of spiritual sultani don’t divulge them publicly in the sense people can have an axe to grind, taking leave of hard thinking. Spiritually elevated minds also think and decide what appears to be the best course of action. And there can be different opinions. In spiritual empire there are no chosen nations states. There are long term plans for which some political choices might be called forth and proceedings of meetings in the higher world that have a bearing on this world are not published for the profane audience. Some flashes overheard or partly exposed don’t make a clearly formulated ideological position for which one could question or even seek an explanation or perhaps even a clarification from such persons supposed to hold spiritual authority.  All that is aimed by spiritual authorities is better governance within the limits that are imposed within the very order of things. Pro-Pakistan saints or Pro-Azadi spiritual personalities are not unknown either to Kashmiris. Violence that would follow upon certain change in dispensation is also to be taken into account, gains and losses of collective good and the fact that scandals must come or do come as we approach further into future in the last age or Kalyuga is also there that has to be factored in final calculus for judging or understanding  the world.
      Violence in one’s own soul needs to be controlled and then one better knows the answer. Violence with which one pursues political ambitions trumpeting the rights of the fellows and people one claims to represent is to be addressed.

#Syed Ali Geelani: How long shall your people wait and suffer and Tagoot have the say?

Shaikh-al-Alam: As long as Tagoot within lives in the form of empire of self, as long as people need to transcend attachments and prejudices and violence within.
      We have countless reasons to thank God for what is the case. We should be able to see God works and is not defeated and that the Devil ultimately is in service of divine economy (“protectors of K'abba can come from idol houses”). If you have been able to make new generation discontented with the stink around that is itself an achievement for which you should be thankful to people. Its new generation, I am informed, is more aware of its sins and transgressions against conscience, of  human side of their leaders, of inherent limitations of all human efforts to construct a Utopia, of inevitability of  dampening of revolutionary fervor and time being out of joint for some reasons not of their making, of gradual working out, sometimes through violence, of contradictions that characterize humanly interpreted texts or ideologies. God is in control, believers believe and seers have witnessed something of the secret of destiny and providence that moves all things towards the Good “however rough hewn we may our ends.”

#Stone Pelters: Your Kashmir – and our souls – have been sold cheap and we think they could be reclaimed by offering our lives and since we don’t have guns we pelt stones to express our outrage.
Shaikh-al-Alam: I  wish to draw your attention to the stony hearts fashioned by deeply entrenched systemic or structural injustice of the world divided into contesting interests of various classes/identities. Try to better comprehend the disease in the soul of the politician, in the worker who is forced to sell his labour and sometimes conscience for his leader, in the person who grabs power and oppresses, in the ignorance that is ultimately the root cause of all ills including the political, in the person who is used for any ideological end and adopts means regardless of being fair and foul. Where are Kashmiris who can claim to be truly in possession of themselves, in being able to claim moral agency in the sense Plato, Muslim hukama and the fraternity of saints want us to be.

#CommonKashmiri:  Yeth wavi haley choung kus zalaey? To whom to turn? What is good politics?
Shaikh-al-Alam: You yourself have to be lights unto yourselves as Buddha put it. What have you done to be better educated yourselves or your children or your neighbours and relatives? Are you good humans or living truly as God’s servants or friends? Judge those who claim to be your leaders after you judge yourself. Who amongst you can claim to be immune to temptations  to build a big house, serve a big lavish feast, declare his/her glory or secure  power and promote relatives? Don’t judge your leaders, introspect your own weaknesses and ask yourself what you could do to spread light or true knowledge (Irfan). To see the way needs “consecrating life to the search for Truth.” And one needs to “tighten the belly to learn (the virtues of) patience/Give up his ego/ Contemplates Him in seclusion” And I ask you “Who longs to live by the sweat of one’s mind/ Who shows fortitude in provocation/Who shares meals with the hungry/Who scorns anger, greed, illusion, arrogance and self conceit”?

At the end I hope someday Kashmiri leadership gets mature enough to learn to conduct dialogue in the Habermasean sense and refrain from calling names or judging their ideological opponents and move forward by accepting moral-spiritual test that is Alamdar and that would be a step towards freedom we all seek in whatever sense we have idealized it or understood it as none is perfectly happy with the contemporary status quo.


Saturday, 3 December 2016

(Im)moral Politics: Politics without Guilt

Camus on the Choice Between Politics and Morality

In these testing times as chaos reigns and people talk about conscience in politics one recalls Albert Camus, one of the towering writers of the 20th century and revered as “moral conscience of his age,”  whose hero said in The Plague ( a novel about pestilence in Oran that one especially recalls living in plagued Kashmir and one can perhaps identify some major  elements and characters  in it and the problem it engages with around us without much difficulty) : “I have no idea what's awaiting me, or what will happen when this all ends. For the moment I know this: there are sick people and they need curing.” Elsewhere he remarks: “I would rather live my life as if there is a god and die to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't and die to find out there is.”
      Those who truly see God acting in history and our lives agree with Camus’ statement “Do not wait for the last judgment. It comes every day.”  He is unsparing in his view of genesis of moral evil: “The evil that is in the world always comes out of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding.”  “On the whole, men are more good than bad; that, however, isn’t the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.” It is ideologies that kill. It is fundamentalisms of all hues that have little hesitation in killing the other. It is ultimately the ignorance regarding the other that makes one bold and consider killing. One can’t kill for belief or ideology or on holier than thou attitude according to the most traditional authorities. Jihad is for making our world safe against forces of injustice/trivialization of life. 
      Despite horrendous evil he saw around, especially during the World War II, he preserved what is best understandable as grace emanating from faith: “And despite the clamors and the violence, we tried to preserve in our hearts the memory of a happy sea, of a remembered hill, the smile of a beloved face. For that matter, this was our best weapon, the one that we shall never put away. For as soon as we lost it we should be as dead as you are.” 

      As one of Camus’s favourite authors, Leo Tolstoy, famously declared, “tranquillity is a dishonesty of the soul,” and, as Sherman notes,  Camus’s “soul” was much too honest to have ever been tranquil. Camus sought to replace politics with morality, grew up, morality itself was not even a part of his vocabulary. He fought against death sentence, Marxist use of violence and other forms of violence in the very attitude of  judging others. He remarks “'People hasten to judge in order not to be judged themselves.” So much back biting we find because we fear we deserve it in our turn. Whose hands  are free of guilt? Can any leader or subject in Kashmir exonerate himself from this guilt?

      Camus’ ethics is summed up in the following statements: “It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.” “When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him.” God is, in the Quranic vocabulary, Al-Hayy (The Living) and it implies all life is grounded in Him. The deepest meaning of faith in Muhammad ur Rasullullah is affirmation of the Principle of Manifestation or Life against death or inexistence. Durood is blessing this spirit or principle of Life. And when life is in danger even sacred law is suspended and one can use haram (unlawful) food to save it. Thus life is supreme and nothing in the whole world can justify killing an innocent person and the latter is equivalent to killing whole of humanity as the Quran says. To be on the side of executioners is a choice one can only make if one refuses one’s own humanity and debases life.

      Those who have been touched by God or ultimate truth become humble and lose tranquillity in order to wipe every tear they can and renounce all possessive claims. “If absolute truth belongs to anyone in this world, it certainly does not belong to the man or party that claims to possess it.” It is given to those who sell everything in the path of Love.  We read in The Plague: “And he knew, also, what the old man was thinking as his tears flowed, and he, Rieux, thought it too: that a loveless world is a dead world, and always there comes an hour when one is weary of prisons, of one's work, and of devotion to duty, and all one craves for is a loved face, the warmth and wonder of a loving heart.”  “When I was young, I asked more of people than they could give:  everlasting friendship, endless feeling. Now I know to ask less of them than they can give:  a straightforward companionship. And their feelings, their friendship, their generous actions seem in my eyes to be wholly miraculous:  a consequence of grace alone.” It is this test that most politicians today fail – they are not loved but feared, they work on the assumption of universal mistrust (what else informs modern war theory or grabbing/sticking to political power at any cost) and no tears flow when they leave the stage of life and nobody remembers them with the suffix rahmatullahi alleh.

      Camus’s ethic converges with the Christian or more precisely mystical ethic. Regardless of theological position taken, our great writers say essentially the same thing when it comes to affirming or living fundamental rhythms of life.  “Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.” It is in the name of this revolt   – “I rebel, therefore I am” – that Camus asks us to choose morality over amoral politics. Politicians too can provide  great examples of ethically grounded action. If today we condemn Nehru for complicity in partition (as Azad testifies)  or condemn Shaikh Abdullah for his role in landing Kashmir into its present predicament or debate Israel’s and US’s policies, it is in the name of an ethic. Ultimately those politicians are remembered as statesman who don’t sell their souls to power but do politics in the sense philosophers from Aristotle to Farabi to Voegelin defined it.

India’s claim on Kashmir may be politically correct for some of its leaders (and some Kashmiri leaders) but whether it is morally correct is the question. And if it isn’t, it means it has to pay the price if history is ultimately in the hands of God or it is actualization of Absolute Spirit or man is a moral being and history is constituted by actions of men. “God sees the truth but waits” as Tolstoy illustrated in one of his great stories and He waits because people need to ripen, to be purged, to serve other higher causes of which they mayn’t be conscious. Kashmir is waiting for God’s judgment that, in its own subtle way, is happening every day.  Camus  cautions us regarding inhumanity of every political choice that uses people as means and opts for violence. Territories may be captured by violence but loyalty can’t. India has failed to trust Kashmiris because it knows deep down it doesn’t deserve it and can’t trust even if the other party may trust it. This is the tragedy of all Kashmiris including its leaders.  India has created a hell for itself that shows through ‘failure of its gaze being returned’ from Kashmiris. There are no lovers, no friends for India in Kashmir now. It is only feared or used. Although India’s (or more precisely pre-partition India’s)  great spiritual and cultural heritage is revered and its metaphysics is the heart of its Sufi worldview but its present political dispensation is judged in terms of its own avowed categories of insainiyat and jumhooriat and dharma to be a moral and political failure that invites mistrust. Hearts and minds aren’t won by those who seem to have lost both. However there is faith in Indian people, its intellectuals, its genuine spiritual leadership with whom there are many indissoluble bonds. It is hoped politics willn’t supplant or trample ethics.


Friday, 2 December 2016

Freedom Struggle as Test Match

Mainstream leaders are in a strange predicament; they have stakes with both the sides and they clap for both of them.

Philosophy, art and religion all have taught us the importance of the metaphor and reality of play or game and all second Shakespearean view of life as a stage and our role as actors. Art is in fact premised on seeing life as play. The world is God’s play (lila) and the best answer given by traditions to the question why God created the world is that it is free activity (play) of  the Divine. All things have to be done artistically, with an eye on beauty or perfection (ihsan) and that is all we are called for Sports have been our prized activity, akin to artistic and religious activity and its ultimate rationale/end is spiritual or celebrating the glory and freedom of Spirit which has been likened to a child. Worship involving rituals also plays on the elements of repetition, self forgetfulness through rapt attention on activity and attuning with the deeper rhythms of life that are characteristic of play and the best prayer is one in which no other motivation than pure free play of spirit, the joy of praying occurs. A child plays and that is enjoying life to its hilt. We are here on a really serious mission of playing our role in life with true spirit of a player, an actor. Kashmiris have been for past many decades involved in playing the role of seeking freedom or its paler images like autonomy.  Let us attempt to explore the analogy of test match to Kashmir’s freedom struggle and see how we fare in the game.
      Kashmir’s freedom struggle is more like an open ended test match (and not T20 or one day match that end quickly and usually decisively) with multiple innings that might seem to  probably inconclusively proceed though one can’t say it is drawn or would be drawn. The latest match is 70 years long with long periods of rather dull or boring interlude. It tests patience, changes roles of the players who defend (bowl) and attack (bat) alternatively. Its essence, more than winning and losing, lies in playing well and getting into a position where one can declare. To get into such a commanding position, we have to save wickets (prevent loss of life, retired hurt) and not play wild shorts or get tempted to come out of crease (resort to violence) and perfect the art of leaving certain deliveries unplayed. However, it appears that we are playing the game not on our terms but on other’s terms; we react, we fumble, we hesitate, we play too many wild shorts, we risk wickets and our body language has only occasionally phases of enthusiasm to win – or play well. We have anxiety to conclude it before Providence’s scheduled time. Post-Burhan is the session of mostly loose and wild deliveries from India on which maximum runs could be secured.
      Pakistan has been a noisy spectator who uses all means to cheer up certain moves that Kashmiris make against the other that is mostly India and sometimes certain indigenous elements and could even be certain imagined abstractions that are hero’s untamed unconscious or distractions. The hero is the soul of Kashmir held captive by thousand headed Ravans who are often misidentified as consisting primarily or exclusively of the imagined other and are really both within and without. However we focus today mostly on the Ravan as projected by Kashmiri imagination and assume it to be real without forgetting that ultimately Ramayana of the soul is fought within and egos of leaders and desires or ambitions of oppressors that prevent encounter with the Truth and thus delay deliverance. If Nehru were Gandhi he wouldn’t have waited till death to resolve Kashmir. If there were no possessive desire for water and beauty and other things of the bride called Kashmir, we wouldn’t have had thousand ships launched for it – I mean against it as the bride sees it.   
      But life as play implies that we don’t forget essentially human ties that bind all mortals. One hugs the opponent after the game is over but those who know the secret of life as play better would not mind hugging during water breaks or even during the play. The other is and remains God expressing Him in the guise of majesty or rigour. We should have no grudge against the other actors in the play as they too have been hurled unasked into the cauldron of the game that respects no sentiments or wishes of any of actors or it could also be a case of willed or unwilled blindness on their part.
      The deepest philosophy and art in play is not to worry about results though one does play for winning with all seriousness. Mainstream leaders are in a strange predicament; they have stakes with both the sides and they clap for both of them and deep in their being they have perhaps transcended attachment with winning or losing of the team (that explains how they can dramatically change sides in supporting one or the other side) but remain committed to winning their individual points. They are  to be pitied or sympathesized with as they have no team on their side (or are suspect for both sides)  and play on ambivalence of both sides in moments of doubt and  have been denied  the thrill of playing well, playing on their own terms, striking long majestic handsome sixes and taking wickets  in style. They are living life on a low pitch and that is hardly a life and that doesn’t know the depths and heights of spirit that plays. And for those who are mere spectators – who watch only from a distance, maintaining neutrality, playing too safe one can be sure, as is said, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for them as they are for those who maintain neutrality at the time of moral conflict. We must be either on ground or actively involved in cheering the players to boost them and thus participate in the thrill that life is as play. But most of us are mere commentators or have some ambivalence regarding identifying the sides (power interests poison everything including our ground for playing) or are justifiably worried about too many bad shorts or deliveries.
      Life’s play never ends, not even with death (barzakh involves another life and then on who knows the sojourns of the spirit?). Let us not forget our stature as beings that play (Homo ludens) and keep playing with dignity even in prison as far as it is possible while continuing to fight for the birthright to play freely. None can predict when freedom visits us. Till then we must play the game well, passionately but detachedly with regard to results whose precise nature is  difficult to foresee and that have something to do with the secret of providence.

      Let us not forget that not all roles are equivalent or chosen by decent people. We all would ideally identify with the role of the hero and not the villain. We seek beauty and joy and grandeur and perfection and that involves struggling with the villains of all kinds as the great stories of Yusuf (A.S) and Odyssey and some great epics illustrate. Scandals must come – villainous roles are to be played – but woe to those through whose hands they come as the Bible states.

Reading Shamim Ahmed Shamim on Azadi II

Let us note that he matured as a writer-statesman at a time when Pakistan was split and indigenous political movement had lost hope.
The most important question Kashmiris face today, it would appear, is to choose between autonomy and azadi. Mainstream leadership and India could settle for autonomy (or its other versions) but Kashmiri resistance leadership and masses demand azadi. So there appears a deadlock. The solution, it might be argued, is to re-conceive autonomy (or self rule) in a manner that it would be a concrete content of what appears to many an abstraction called azadi. So far mainstream leadership (or “pro-Indian” mind) has failed to do so. So the choice is straightforward: azadi. But the idea of azadi is resisted  by force. Despite all the moral, political and other arguments against India for denying self determinism, the first and the last response is force, brute force. And in this world our arguments amount to little more than a consolation for our sufferings. They don’t change history or geography. Perhaps in Europe there would be little resistance to an idea of referendum but India isn’t Europe. Europe has a long history of democracy and it doesn’t feel threatened by desecration of flags or protests or public expression of dissent. So what can be done against an emerging democracy that is India that would take decades to understand the grammar of insinayat and jumhooriat as this requires saying no to party politics, to eye on markets, to violence, to imagined community called India? Keeping this in view, how do we move forward and expand the realm of our political choices? An argument that some of our poets also buttress is that now or never is the opportunity to force a settlement towards azadi. One might agree but could suggest in turn that now or never is the time to think, to interrogate received discourses, to examine binaries that conceal violence to the other – to ask the right questions. And the task of thinking is to show how all great thinkers think the same inexhaustible truth as Heidegger said and we agree in essentials and differ only in understanding certain applications or details of the principle in question. All Kashmiris agree (and India also de facto if not de jure as well does) that Kashmir needs resolution – and thus it is a dispute of a sort. All agree that the best means for achieving the end isn’t violence but democratic. All can agree that any resolution including the one involving plebiscite isn’t incompatible with Indian constitution as it has been through this constitution that so many statements and resolutions for plebiscite were affirmed. Now we make certain points and raise certain questions regarding autonomy and if these are genuine, addressing them might bridge the imagined distance between autonomy and azadi and we all see opening of a new path that transcends the sharp binary of autonomy vs. azadi
      To seek autonomy or azadi is the question right now or the real question – and solution – transcends this binary? What are we scripting in 2016? What of the burden of history and imperatives to move forward?
      “Always historicize”. “What is real is rational and what is rational is real.” It is time to see, in light of these two highly useful mantras of post-Hegelian philosophy (that themselves call for historicization, however!) juxtaposed with the faith in what Iqbal calls higher fatalism (God/Being/Providence is in control always, in every detail of every event according to world religions, including Islam), how autonomy discourse got its seductive power as a substitute for azadi and why it has consistently failed to move Kashmiris but stayed nevertheless for mainstream political class. It is time to appreciate how and why the Spirit as Azadi might be unfolding through this even if one doesn’t like it. History moves through struggles, contradictions and illusions. Even Prophets including Joseph, Moses and Muhammad (SAW) had to work through the logic of the other (getting reared in alien courts and negotiating “problematic” deals that they saw as instruments for unfolding their objectives) to get their – God’s – work done. Kashmir long ago decided to wait and long for azadi while settling for imposed encroached autonomy. Love never dies till death/ martyrdom or union. And Qais is destined or “condemned” to seek Layla and today he is doing this with renewed energy and exemplary valour amidst the rain of stones and pellets.
      Appreciating what is valuable in the dictum “always historicize” that Shamim often employed, let us note that  he matured as a writer-statesman at a time when Pakistan was split and indigenous resistance had been crushed, or it had lost hope. What is important to note is that he didn’t talk about integration or merger but autonomy, the ill-fitting cloak that the sentiment of freedom could wear at the time. And this too was a consolation, a compulsion rather than his desired ideal. He did dream of azadi of a sort though he had no name for it or was short of ideas how to get it or sustain it. How far we have moved towards theorization of post-freedom Kashmir is known to us all. Shamim gives us tough questions to solve and in changed conditions as countries are learning to disown aggressive border centrism and Fascistic nationalism and as we note how globalization and environmental crises are making allies of foes, we find it easier to approach towards a solution of them. The autonomy he sought could be a stepping stone to another end.  In turn Shamim invites questions that Kashmiris ask in 2016 loudly, clearly and eloquently.
      Questions to Shamim and new advocates of autonomy:
  • Do we have any authority to invent a new frame of resolving Kashmir conflict and think that our future generations will accept it? The genesis of the problem and the frame of its resolution is well known. All that we can manoeuvre is to approximate to the ideal through less ideal paths, taking the later as CBMs rather than as ends. Kashmiris can’t renounce azadi because they inherit right and passion for it, adore it, love it, “worship” it and can die for it. What they can renounce is identification of azadi with merger with Pakistan or severance of all ties with India. In their quest for azadi, India could well be an ally, as Pakistan is already, and the best interests of Kashmir could gel with the best interests of India and Pakistan if we have larger end in view and relationships of insaniyyat and jumhooriat. All can be friends or parts of a virtual federation. No passport regime for any citizen of India, Pakistan and Kashmir. This is possible and what is preventing it is myopic vision and hardened hearts of leadership or money power of war/conflict industry.
  • If it is indeed the case that as a community or state, Kashmiri people have been wronged, betrayed and humiliated how do they format memory of the same without losing something essential to their very definition as a human community?  Can the proposed autonomy take care of this? How do we accommodate the aspirations, dreams, collective cry for justice and the “ghost” of history asking for clearing the debt? 
  • Isn’t it the fact  that mainstream leadership has always pleaded – though not at the cost of their rule – for resolving Kashmir and Shaikh M Abdullah died with a heavy sense of guilt according to those who have met him before death – and some have claimed meeting his soul after death as well and reporting his stranded soul because of stranded Kashmir? In this context, isn’t it possible – even mandatory – to pursue azadi as a symbol, as an ideal, as a “transcendent” horizon of political activity  to give Kashmiris a sense of purpose and boost their creativity and make them better inheritors of their great heritage and thus lead to better contribution to world culture and all this could be done without necessarily taking to violence?  
  • If it is the case that today new generation of Kashmiris has been effectively  denied access to its language, literature, history, many aspects of culture, philosophical and art traditions and even knowledge of distinctive religious identity  thanks to political uncertainty and despite Sheikh Saheb and his onetime aides running the state for decades, how come any informed Kashmiri can afford disengagement with the discourse of azadi that takes cognisance of this aspect of the problem? 
  • Isn’t it possible to learn from the experience of Jews who have survived as unit because they kept looking for a promised land for millennia?  And Kashmir has yet to complete a century of internal exile from its homeland.
  • Is it wisdom to disown  the fact  that for the marginalized, insulted and humiliated, the idea/ideal/dream of azadi inspires and unites and gives a reason to live at a higher plane?
  • If, as Derrida says, Justice is never done but must be ever approximated – or, as Sufis say, union with the Beloved is ever approximated but never achieved  and as Whitehead defines religion as “hopeless quest yet the most palpable of the present facts” – but we must, as humans, struggle to move closer to Justice/Beloved/Object of religion, how do you think we move closer to what we have collectively dreamt and constitutes a mandala or archetypal image in our unconscious  that can’t be wished away? Autonomy is like religion without love and people can’t worship it or dance before it and so far it has failed to move either the common people or most of the intellectual elite. However the challenge remains of Ijtihad in resistance leadership and evolving a win-win situation like separated brothers opting for nuclear families but without dividing love and respect in their hearts for each other or with their “parents” or parents-in-law. As it stands today Kashmiris have no (perhaps little?) love for India and their new generation doesn’t seem even to tolerate the idea of tolerating India for too long. Despite all the reasons including great number of spaces of shared culture, art, philosophy, religion, mysticism besides new political and socio-economic challenges in a globalized world that has transformed the meaning of sovereignty to consider for less isolationist  and less aggressively othering attitude towards India and Pakistan, the flame of azadi burns. And this flame burns India and Kashmir and Pakistan. And it is fanned by waves that hearts find irresistible. So what can be done? Or it is worthy object to be undone for its sake? 
  • History of man is largely a history of pursuit of dreams – all poetry, nostalgia for childhood and wilderness and omnipresent fascination for both  romanticism in all culture  and revolution in many modern states are evidence. Politicians need to be realistic but men have to be both realists and romanticists and the genius is to combine the two. Shamim Saheb, you too had great love of literature and romance. How do you suggest that while we mayn’t easily win the case of divorce from imposed arranged “marriage” we had with India but still maintain an affair with azadi without any costs to family life or conscience? Is it possible to isolate the fact from symbol or educate hearts  so that they don’t long for the distant imagined bride?
Isn’t it the case that Kashmiris don’t want freedom per se ( to be precise, most of them want right to self determination  as a means to resolving Kashmir problem and the end is not necessarily changing geography or boundaries but ending their association with the denial of their sense of agency and destiny besides imposed objectification that has been the key argument against colonialism by freedom fighters everywhere?) We conclude therefore that the status quo is unacceptable and autonomy can’t be a final solution though it, if more creatively interpreted and open ended, can be a CBM that would create an environment for final resolution. We needn’t be framed by our political other to accept one or the other term of the binary of Indian/Pakistani vs. Kashmiri nationalism. There is a need to deepen or broaden the notion of azadi  that transcends but not negates what is living in the notions of autonomy (and self rule) in keeping with irremediably changed fate of the ideas of nation state and sovereignty to transcend its narrowly framed political meaning and keep its larger existential and metaphysical connotations alive that ultimately feed this wild longing for it at political plane. What would Shamim think today is the question as the autonomy he defended in Indian Parliament around four decades back is talked only when it is crisis or slogans for azadi are chanted, to distract attention or as antipyretic while the heart  of Kashmir burns with that old heart burn? Or there is indeed a bride called azadi who has autonomy as a loyal messenger and not  a  disguised raqeeb (rival)?

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Reading Shamim Ahmed Shamim on Azadi - I

Ideal and Reality of Kashmir’s Azadi

Love is more otherworldly than this worldly phenomenon. It is a currency recognized by poets, thinkers, saints and  lovers, especially youth. Worldly wise people, politicians, traders etc. hardly count it. To live under its sacred ambience calls for nothing short of metanoai of which only few individuals are capable and not larger communities. Man lives for it and by it but more as a vision, as a noble dream, as a distant horizon of his imagination and an object of contemplation  that pulls one higher and higher. It owes its terrible beauty to the freedom it evokes. It postulates a Republic that is not necessarily this worldly state. With Eric Voegelin who has been described as modern Plato, we need to note that Plato’s Republic was written as “a dramatic dialogue about human existence in society and  history and not a policy paper for reform or an ideological tract calling for apocalyptic revolution.” Its heart is the vision of the Good. Plato refuses to claim that his ideal Republic of Freedom is certain of realization or that there is any possible plan for concerted human action to achieve it.
      However, for Plato “the paradigm . . . is a standard by which things can be measured; and the reliability of the measure is not diminished if things fall short of it, or if we have no means to bring them closer to it.”  When Kashmir loves Azadi it has its celestial archetype in view. Kashmiris have imagined a Republic or Divine City and its architects are poets and saints and thinkers.  Its earthly images are valuable and sought but they are not the essence of it. Azadi is a symbol, a myth in Platonic sense which is akin to faith which can move mountains. Unfortunately both its lovers and critics often confound its essence with concrete historical project linked to certain history and politics. The latter is not all that is to it or even its essential meaning. It is only a form that may well change while the supraformal essence will continue to inspire even after achieving self determination.  Politics can be fought but not the power of the myth. It is the myth Kashmiris live by.
      Granting that love affair with Azadi, as a species of classic love affair or quest for perfection, has a tragic dimension because it mayn’t probably  be consummated in the way imagined or sought as was argued  in previous column, the idea and symbolism of it has remained pivotal – and seductive – in Kashmiri consciousness. Although it continues to inspire mass consciousness and resistance leadership and in its paler versions is the life blood of such ideas as autonomy and self rule, arguments against concrete historical possibility  or even desirability of it have been echoed by all the mainstream leaders, some well  known political scientists and public intellectuals. In fact most Kashmiris who say we want freedom also have doubts regarding getting it. Some Hurriyat leaders who especially talk of dialogue really talk of something less than the moon as they think, with Sajad Lone, that only a semblance of it is achievable. Today we attempt to engage with one of the more influential formulations of this argument in the writings of Shamim Ahmed Shamim.
      Shamim proceeds towards a step wise deconstruction of what he sees as rhetoric rather than argument for Azadi given by pro-azadi camp:
  • First how can India and Pakistan be forced to leave Kashmiris on both sides of the border alone? I am reminded of Prof. Mujeeb’s remark: armies don’t leave any territory unless they are defeated in war. How can Kashmiris evict these two countries? It implies Kashmiris have to take arms against both the countries to work for Azadi. He asked  a pro-Azadi Mirpori person how come 22 lac Kashmiris overpower 60 crore Indians and Pakistanis? And came the reply: “Nigahi mardi mumin sae badel jati hae taqdeereae/Jo ho zouqi yaqeen paida, to ket jati hae jinjeeraeen” Shamim says he isn’t brave enough to recite Iqbal’s poetry and fight joint might of India and Pakistan and deems it Quixotic project or “Shaikh Chilli’s  palaw.”
  • Another possibility that both Indian and Pakistani leadership renounce their claim on Kashmir and leave us in peace he ridicules as impossible conversion given moral record of leaders.
  • Even granting that Azadi visits Kashmir, how come this heterogeneous State remain as a unit. Ladakh and Jammu people don’t want Azadi but further cementing of ties and in fact total merger with India. So after Azadi, they will seek separation. Thus Azadi will be meaningful for Kashmir valley only.
  • Granting Kashmir valley is granted freedom, how come such a small valley survive on economic and political fronts? The suggestion from some quarters that there are many countries of smaller size that are happy alone as sovereign states and thus Kashmir valley can sustain is dismissed by pointing out that geographic and historical realities have to be considered. Kashmir’s borders touch not only India and Pakistan but Russia and China as well.  And given its beauty – and strategic importance – all the four will have an eye on it. Is it possible that all the four countries defend our borders out of the sense of duty and goodwill?  
  • Granting even this state of affairs of joint defence from all the neighbours, would it not oblige Kashmir to come upto their divergent or conflicting expectations or interests in international treaties and other issues?
  • Some cherish the illusion that China will come to Kashmir’s help. Shamim points out that China will not shed a drop of blood for others as their non-intervention policy in Vietnam war and in Pakistan in 1971 shows. Chinese are the most merciless realists. He concludes that the dream of Azadi is beautiful  but its realization is ghastly. Kashmir could become an international flash point or battle ground. Azadi can’t come and if it comes, it will be a nightmare.
      This devastating logic can’t be ignored by Azadi camp which must reinvent or creatively rethink the notion of Azadi (making distinction between letter and spirit) to keep it relevant. Shamim was a passionate defender of constitutional autonomy of J &K. He thought that this is what is worth fighting and defending now of what remains of the grand ideal of Azadi. The current discourse on autonomy and self rule and achievable nationhood is, in many respects, an echo of his position. Although many Kashmiris today are sceptical of realization of their dream of Azadi, at least in their lifetime, they aren’t ready to relinquish either the dream or the ideal or at least the symbolism of Azadi discourse. Perhaps Shamim had little time (he died 43) to develop a more open ended view of the problem that has been, irrevocably, linked to the spirit and soul of Kashmiris. The sentiment for Azadi can’t be wished away. The question is: How do we integrate this sentiment with hard reality without succumbing to compromises that betray our commitment to the depths of our own selves, individual and collective? During Shamim’s time the question of Azadi didn’t pose itself in such terms as it would a decade later. We can only imagine how he would have responded today to the mess he would have encountered today. Next time we try to attend more carefully to what Shamim invites us and seek clarification of some of his theses for  taking home lessons for Kashmir today and ask some questions to him.
Contesting the thesis that the notion of Azadi is mere abstraction or fantasy or merely private opinion of some political leader/dreamer, one may note, that it is better understood as Platonic Idea about which Voegelin remarks that “when it leaves the polis, does not leave man. It goes on to live, in individuals and small groups, in the mania of the erotic soul.” So the Idea will have its seekers or embodiment and will live as long as Kashmiris live, even after political Azadi if it ever visits us. It will be loved, contemplated in the depths of Kashmiri being or consciousness and partly realized in history as greater autonomy, as self rule or something that transcends both and ceaselessly dialectically negates all ideological formulations of it and moves closer an closer to the earthly reflection of divine Idea.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Freedom, as Beloved

Peep deep into the heart of Kashmiris and see the image of the beloved being worshipped. No guesses.
  Lovers choose to die and don’t listen to pleas for abandoning “infatuation” or juvenile romantic fantasies. Death dance they indulge is a perceived by them – and by many great tragedians – as a ritual of healing. Souls are healed and what happens to the bodies and other this-worldly businesses is not important in their view. And there are at least bouts of such “infatuation”  if not fully involved love affair in almost every Kashmiri. And occasionally this passion asserts and burns everything on its way. And that is precisely what is happening post-Burhan. Peep deep into the heart of Kashmiris and see the image of the beloved being worshipped. No guesses. All these unmistakably point to a diagnosis of affliction of love. And it doesn’t matter what the object of love is or how rational it is or what possibility of consummation of such a relationship is. For them Tolstoy expressed it so well: “Put reason into life and life is gone.” So Kashmir is a case of love in which spirit is involved not just psyche. So psychologists/psychoanalysts can’t help in treating it but only in diagnosing. Not least the politicians. Never military. And love is its own reward; its own salvation. It is idle to ask when will Kashmir get its coveted object. Living with this passion is itself an Azadi – a freedom that is life of spirit – that arm chair Kashmir experts and cool political commentators on talk shows can’t even imagine. So Kashmiris don’t really want anything – we love only inexistent things as Ibn Arabi has argued so convincingly and every great writer and lover testifies and we know none of the traditionally treasured seven love stories are consummated on earth – and cherishing this love is, though painful as long as separation from the beloved. If you have to pray for Kashmir don’t pray for Azadi as ordinarily understood as it might turn into a drab and thus disillusioning matter. Great love ever approximates but never  that Kashmiri story tellers narrate unites with the Beloved. Love ever burns and this is such a sweet burning that all religion and mysticism and art are valued precisely for feeding this flame. So like heaven of the mystic that is not in some future time but in the timeless now he accesses here and now, Kashmiris have won. Whose fault is it that there is bluish – or greenish – blood running in both arteries and veins of Kashmiris? They are perfectly cut for tragedy where only red blood runs properly.
      Kashmiris may have many reasons now to consider or reconsider this or that political choice, to hate Pakistan or see through the “illusion” of Azadi but the fact remains that they feel irresistible pull for something that we can call for want of a better term, to be themselves, authentically themselves and to care for this they need to reject  what Heidegger calls “they-self” (inauthentic conformist death fearing cowardly self). According to Heidegger, man  is a "being toward death."  And to understand this without any blinkers is a requirement for authentic existence. To court martyrdom is the greatest adventure from Heideggerian point of view and what we are seeing in the form of willing protestors inviting bullets is probably tasting this adventure and the freedom this very act brings. Man is supremely himself when he can dare death and there is no argument on earth against such a man. It brackets off all politics, all calculations of instrumental technological rationality that has so far been employed to handle Kashmir. A Kashmiri youth - rightly guided or misguided  it doesn’t matter– in love with death is the last and conclusive argument against all status quoist ideologies.
      Although the frenzy of love of death might pass but once tasted it becomes malignant for the whole society and no therapy can cure it permanently. Thanatos (death instinct) also rules  with iron hand as Freud showed and sometimes it outsmarts eros. Against instincts no force is ultimately victorious. Repression fails to subdue it. It asserts with a vehemence.  From Indian point of view, according to many analysts that insiders in Kashmir find closer to their own felt reality, Kashmir is now like an advanced stage cancer patient whose death very costly (in moral terms) pellet and bullet therapies can only delay to some extent.
      It is not that one fights for certain reasons – good or bad – for one’s position as Hume long back argued and he has been echoed by many modern psychoanalysts and philosophers. One first loves something and then rationalizes or invents reasons in the defense of that passion. Kashmiris loved – at least dreamt of – Pakistan long before UN resolutions or Nehru’s statements in favour of plebiscite came into the picture (pictures of Jinah and Iqbal were craze here those days). These post hoc reasons aren’t to be dismissed thereby however but what is to be emphasized is that love has the first word and the last word as far as man is a man and not an animal in bondage or angel in perpetual prayer.
      Poets and scientists especially psychoanalysts should now be consulted to illuminate Kashmir problem that politicians failed to solve for 69 years (and created in the first place). Vajpayee’s “Insaniyat kae daryae mein” is the poet’s word that unfortunately is only sold rather than meant by politicians when short of ideas for responding to crisis situation.
      India didn’t lose Kashmir in 1953 or on any other date. No lion or tiger could hunt or prey  on  freedom of people that defines their subjectivity and grounds the reign of conscience and give it to some earthly Master. India had never possessed it. In fact you can’t possess humans who are defined by freedom to  make their own choices and who accept only slavery of Love  and that is, in any case, freedom. Kashmir has never been India’s object of love (and vice versa was never the case either). So it was bound to be lost from the very first day it had a lustful eye on it. Man lives for love or worships the object of love.

Kashmir: I Love Freedom

And politicians are not trained to consider the affairs of the heart, the logic of the impossible.
The heart of Kashmir problem is incurable and apparently inconsolable, and thus tragic – but gracefully redemptively tragic –  love affair with Azadi. This is like the love of the impossible in the sense loving God is impossible for John Caputo. And politicians are not trained to consider the affairs of the heart, the logic of the impossible. Many great political battles in history had some association with love affairs or pursuit of great beauty all of which are parasitic on the idea of transcendence which grounds the notion of freedom. Kashmir issue is better understood in this light. Let  me  explain.
      Since Kashmir’s heart yearns for a home/beloved that it feels isn’t in sight in present dispensation though its head might advise it to resign to status quo or opt for this or that particular ideological or pragmatic solution for fulfilling economic, political and other goals, and since it is ultimately heart that informs/constitutes our deepest aspirations or motivations or unconscious drives, we find a tragic division between mind and heart and it can’t be resolved if we adopt Shaykh Abdullah’s logic he used while defending accession by dubbing heart’s yearning as leading to irrational action and thus worth ignoring. He ignored Dil hae ki manta nahi and didn’t take note of great Pascal’s dictum, “Heart has its own reasons which reason doesn’t know.”
We can’t repress our soul that has something other than Indian map shaped hole in it, our great heritage that has always attempted to maintain specifically Kashmiri colouring (this applies to our unique Saivist scriptural and philosophical identity that could never get merged or fully integrated in mainstream Indian scriptural and philosophical tradition, Reshi-Sufis identity that is also not subsumable within well known mainstream Sufi silsilahas, Kashmiri version of both Indian and Islamic prehistory that speaks of certain anxiety to maintain distinct identity or mark on even the almost irretrievable past), our more affirmative understanding of transcendence and more aesthetically and esoterically – and thus somewhat inclined to “transgressive” or antinomian – oriented religious culture,  our collective unconscious  manifested in our dreams that often are tinged with green and blue colours, our sighs and tears  and our wild longings  for greener pastures that are imagined or perceived to lie elsewhere than this side of line of control. All these points imply that the sentiment for Azadi, if not for Pakistan as well that is, however, retreating now into unconscious though too easily retrieved by conscious self at the time of cricket or in prayers, can’t be wished away even if Kashmiris themselves want or learn to “come of age” and learn to be “grounded” in hard facts. Like the cry for mother that is spontaneously uttered when one is in crisis, the cry for Azadi spontaneously resonates and reverberates in the depths of Kashmiri being when any distressful situation arises. India, it seems, may be/is admired or feared or reasonably tolerated by some Kashmiris but never loved; it is a question of arranged marriage with a wife who one never really accepted as a partner, not to speak of loving her. Every argument could be skewed by smarter or cunning politics or diplomacy in India’s favour but all this tumbles down before the verdict of the heart which says “sorry I don’t love you.” No force, no argument or reason or package can drive away the image of Joseph in  the heart of Zuliekha. Solving Kashmir issue is resolving the problem of this image of Joseph that haunts Zuliekha day in and day out, in dreams and in temples and everywhere. It is solving a harder problem of love tangle, not just a border issue. It is not winning minds but hearts. And hearts can’t be won if they are already slaves of the tresses that are intoxicatingly captivating. Kashmiris can’t be disloyal to love and they can be to those with whom they have only lustful relationship.
      Although a few Kashmiris have taken money from India and have played the role of collaborators, they haven’t changed their basic attitude or orientation which is controlled by heart. Other than Indian State is their first love. With India it is a lustful affair as fitting reciprocation to lustful adventure in 1947. And we know the difference between love and lust. They have used India for their benefits but they haven’t given up their faith and loyalty and passion for other than India for which they can sacrifice everything. Even if one curses Kashmiris for thousand years, it doesn’t seem that they are going to renounce love for lust or spirit for soul or heart for mind. Barring probably a small political-bureaucratic elite (though it is difficult to be sure regarding any particular individual amongst this group) who have experienced little of that sacred passion called love, the Kashmiri heart beats and laments for an imagined Beloved. Unfortunately for India and many victims of conflict there is no heart replacement surgery possible. Kashmir today evokes classic Greek tragedy that pits noble but fallible individual against the Fate but there is some problem with the hero’s aspiration – his heart is attuned to other sounds. It results in both death and spiritual ripening or what Keats called soul making. This love affair as far as it is sincere to the idea of love (which is transcendental and not to be identified with this or that object) does save lovers as all love has saving power. Many Kashmiris have won their salvation and others are getting closer to it in the current purgatorial situation. This salvation may get translated or filtered in political level as well but waiting for it is important. Godot mayn’t come. No issues. Kashmiris are learning the art of waiting. And God is waiting, “attention without distraction,” loyalty to the human spirit of enduring suffering with all “the wretched of the earth.”  Their mantra is again Beckettian: “Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better” and “I can't go on, I'll go on.” And their mistakes are their life as Beckett’s another character would say. Truckloads of suffering don’t deter them as hey have learnt to “represent worthily for one the foul brood” to which fate  has consigned them  and now feel that “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.”
      Since it is not really Joseph (or any physical geographical entity) that is the real object of true love but inexistent thing or hidden transcendent Divinity and we find Zuliekha hardly interested in marrying Joseph when he offers at the time she has discovered that what she really loved is not Joseph but the beloved of Joseph or God, Kashmiris too will discover when offered what they aspire for that what they really loved isn’t that enchanting thing for which they sacrificed so much and they might find India no longer a dreaded other. They might ask them to defend parts of its borders for a hefty sum. Indians should have no doubt about this if they believe in Upanisads which state that all things are dear for the sake of Self and not per se. And this Self is nondifferent from Atman within and thus in a way inexistent outside. In the ultimate analysis Kashmir issue springs from heart’s desire for the Infinite and the idea of Azadi evokes something of this infinitude and since these are materialistic and nihilistic times this is framed in economic or purely political terms and accompanied by violence that nihilism almost necessarily nurtures.
      If India wants to take revenge against infidelity of Kashmiris it should give them Azadi as that would be a poor substitute for Transcendence that is currently pulling them and making them martyrs for that passion. Delaying Azadi can make only Heathcliffs out of Kashmiris and any obstruction in the way of Cathy the beloved will be dealt with not only stones and guns but also derision, jokes that kill, slangs that mankind has not known and indulging in countless other sadistic pleasures to which frustrated lovers are vulnerable. These lovers then know only ragdo ragdo and if you deny them they have more physical means of revenge, they become more creative – in their imagination and art and we are witnessing that as well today.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Thinking Kashmir?

Clues from Heidegger’s What is Called Thinking?
“The most thought-provoking thing about our thought-provoking age is that we are still not thinking,”______Martin

“The wasteland grows and woe to him who hides the wasteland within.” ______Friedrich Nietzsche
While both Nietzsche and Heidegger said the words quoted in the beginning in somewhat different though not quite unrelated context, one recalls them readily when trying to “think” Kashmir in the context of proliferating debate on Kashmir (I don’t presume to apply Heidegger on thinking to Kashmir – this I leave to Heidegger scholars and thinkers – but only to underscore the difficulty of the task of engaging with Kashmir in the manner talk shows, conferences, political parties, gossip parties seek to do). Heidegger’s problem or objective is not to provide a map for resolving political issues but to help us attend to the deeper issues that underlie political issues. The tragedy is that one is only asked to give opinion or better strategy to handle Kashmir – and not think – and its crises that escalate anytime reminding everyone that a deadly cancer is in the body politic that can consume those who pride on calling it integral part as this is malignant. Therapies given haven’t eradicated the virus. Habba Khatoon’s individual tragedy expressed in “Waerwen seeth wari ches no/Charih kertou ma’leuno ho” (I am not well with husband’s home/ Resolve my problem O my maternal home) is our collective tragedy, not only of our women but all Kashmiris. However our tragedy is more acute as there doesn’t seem to be a ma’leun or maternal home to whom to turn to. So the question of turning to God or what Heidegger would call Being isn’t irrelevant. However these are “destitute times” for Kashmiris and many other similarly afflicted people across the world when the Being seems to have withdrawn or hidden and doesn’t seem to heed the call of beings thrown into hell. But the question that we have to ask is: If Being calls us are we ready to listen or how do we decode the meaning of its withdrawl? Is it a state of contraction (qabz) of which Sufis talk about in which travellers on the path are visited by gloom and darkness and there is no illumination or expansion of heart despite one’s attempt to pray, fast and maintain night vigils? To learn listening also calls for thinking. Now a few words about this thinking that is not done in conferences or talk shows or newspapers columns including this one. One can here only invite for thinking and recall that even Heidegger had no claim that he thinks as thinking is a calling so few can indeed take in these God-abandoned times. But this is needed if we want to first understand the situation before we could try to change it or redeem it.
      What is it that Heidegger does call thinking? We need to first note what he does not call thinking. It is not having an opinion or a notion or an idea about something or state of affairs. It is not representing it either. Then what is it for Heidegger? As Glenn Gray paraphrases Heidegger in his introduction to What is Called Thinking?, "thinking is a response on our part to a call which issues from the nature of things, from Being itself. To be able to think does not wholly depend on our will and wish, though much does depend on whether prepare ourselves to hear that call to think it comes and respond to it in the appropriate manner. Thinking is determined by that which is to be thought as well as by him who thinks. It involves not only man’s receptivity to Being but also Being’s receptivity to man. The history and situation of man in a given age often covers up the nature of reality and renders it impossible to receive the message of Being. Only the thinking that is truly involved, patient, and disciplined by long practice can come to know either the hidden or disclosed character of truth. Thinking is questioning and putting ourselves in question as much as the cherished opinions and inherited doctrines have long taken for granted.”
      Almost all of us now see how the received discourses on Kashmir somehow fail to capture the essence and “There is always a struggle to advance a new way of seeing things because customary ways and preconceptions about it stand in the way” how do we move forward in such a quest. In fact the situation “is similar to learning a foreign language : forgetting our mother tongue is the chief difficulty.”
      We can’t outsource thinking to experts, panellists on talk shows or package it into posters and pamphlets and sermons. “We come to know what thinking means when we ourselves try to think.”
      Heidegger calls Socrates the purest thinker of the West. What we all need to learn from Socrates is how to listen to the other, how to talk to each other before we expect to talk to the “other.” It is not to regurgitate someone’s agenda or opinions and package them for mass consumption. I have in vain sought two persons talking the way Socrates and his great admirer Kierkegaard would teach us. We need to learn the art of conversation. Dialogue in the sense demanded comes later.
      Heidegger greatly admired Lao Tzu. His masterpiece Tao Te Ching should be read by everyone, especially those who think they have been charged to lead or speak or think for others. It can be easily downloaded and one can finish reading it in two hours only (but don’t forget that it will take a lifetime to assimilate). Admitting the problem, admitting that our leaders, our sacrifices, our prayers all haven’t yet been accepted we need to pray to be granted something of that holy confusion of which Lao Tzu speaks. We need this because we are too sure about our proposals and absurdity or ideological complicity of others. We don’t appreciate why and how of the obscurity in the other, worship ourselves and our opinions and dread doubt or cross examination and mostly keep indulging in regurgitating accusations of betrayals against our forefathers and all leaders from Shaykh Saheb to Geelani Saheb other living and dead leaders and forget that we can find some moral or intellectual or political failing retrospectively in even the greatest leaders of history.
      For Heidegger it is from the poets that we can learn in our quest for thinking. He identified Tao with poetic thinking. Here in Kashmir we also have poets who can be of help in such an enterprise. Do our leaders read them or heed them or just label them and demand bland political statements from them? I conclude by quoting from Lao Tzu:
  • “How wide and without end is the range of questions asking to be discussed.”
  • “My mind is that of a stupid man and I am in a state of chaos
    Ordinary men look bright and intelligent
    While I alone look benighted
    They look full of discrimination
    While I alone am dull and confused
    Multitude of men have enough and to spare
    I alone seem to have lost everything
    I alone am different from other men
    But I value the nursing mother, the Tao.”
      Kashmir is also passing through nihilism and K issue along with violent reactions can be read as consequences of our nihilistic times.It calls for thinking to overcome it. Focus on community spaces and other marginalized cultural practices would make us better receptive to the call of the Being and this could help in overcoming the political framing of our destiny without letting go of the political space that itself is a site of revelation of Being and needs clearing by overcoming attempts to represent it, manage it, package it, use it, sell it, fight it. Kashmir calls for home, for dwelling poetically in the Heaven it is. If Kashmir is not to be an object, a news, a tool, a career but a matter of thought and brought back to unconcealment out of oblivion due to bad metaphysics called politics around it, we need to underscore the necessity of thinking Kashmir. Who is ready to think Kashmir? “The greatest adversary of thinking is reason,” said Heidegger and we see plenty of reason coming into play that focuses on “mob” control, managing alienation, winning hearts and minds, dividing, confounding, seducing people accused of inauthentic – “dictated” – choices. Reason is also deployed to projects sects, manufacture new narratives, glorify means good or bad for supposedly noble ends, manufacture ghosts of abstractions and teach lessons in event management. We see wasteland growing and while we can hope for April showers as the God that can indeed save us doesn’t wait too long even though He seems to have withdrawn because we aren’t ready for the thunder and lightning that accompanies authentic appropriation, the question for all of us – Indians, Pakistanis, Kashmiris – is when will we begin to take note of our human prerogative to think and abandon “politics” – a politics that no thinker worthy of note knows as it has long been that we have seen God being abandoned for power, happiness for pleasure, virtue for moralism, heart for mind, intellect for reason, Kashmiris for imagined Kashmir in the map of “our“ world’s nation states. To think Kashmir requires understanding what is thinking and that requires giving at least some consideration to thinkers like Heidegger and What is Called Thinking? And we should not forget that even Heidegger can commit great blunders when it comes to taking concrete political decision. (He did when he joined Nazis). Kashmir calls for attention by thinkers not politicians ( to be distinguished from statesmen who can indeed think) - a meditative, poetic thinking that can be done only by no hired think tanks.
 Post Script:
If we have to see what is not called thinking, watch most of the anchors and their guest “thinkers” shouting, reacting instead of listening, name calling , point scoring, threatening and sloganeering on Indian talk shows.