Once upon a time we were people, a community. Today we are individuals. Once we were not wasting a grain. Today not wasting food means that you are not a good consumer. Once we ate meat occasionally but were healthy as were our sub-alpine pastures. Today, we are great consumers of protein and calories but are not healthy. Once almost everything used in construction industry was obtained from local materials, waste products or byproducts. Today we are replacing almost every local material with imported one. Once we used to employ local committees to manage most of our local resources, and today we are competing with one another in destroying them.
Once it was unacceptable to more conscious Pir families to buy land. Today they have amassed huge land property. Once we didn’t keep repeating an posh’ teli yeli wan posh’ but preserved forests, and today we outcompete fast developing economies in deforestation drives. Once most medicines were locally available and local hakeems effectively catered to most requirements. Today we have the largest number of medical shops amongst all Indian states, thousands of local registered drug companies and health has become a casualty in the process.
Once we had great water bodies and our wetlands were known to birds from Siberia and today they are shrinking and shrinking fast. Once we grew food and today we grow money, and lose our soul in the process. Once environment counted as a sacred entity, and today it is only taught as a subject in academic institutions. The lessons on environmentalism were once in our hearts and today they are only remembered for the sake of passing in examinations. So, we have become a sad story of degeneration. Let us review our sins regarding environment.
Our sins begin with our embracing the model of development and rejecting the community approach that we had inherited from our forefathers. Sometimes we have not developed either and destroyed environment for peanuts. We have polluted water, dried up springs, affected the water table, encroached upon water bodies and irresponsibly played with ecology of fish and other creatures of water.
Springs in every village were divine gifts and if they dried up local saints were called to revive them. We have degraded our land at most places, thanks to our embracing modern concept of development and modernization of agriculture. Pastures are disappearing. Forests are being used for construction industry, for roads.
We need to remind ourselves that once upon a time we were concerned about the environment, at a time when people had not heard about environmental crisis. The warm earthly religion of mysticism has been always characteristically eco-coconscious. In fact, the Reshi movement in Kashmir has successfully implemented its ecological vision. There could be no such things as environmental crisis in the Kashmir of the Rishis.
The land of Nuruddin is so deeply respectful of every blade of grass, not to speak of forests that we could see Kashmir as a sanctuary. The Reshi’s aversion to causing injury to all animate beings including plants, insects and animals, their concern for conserving forests, dissuading hunters from hunting hangul, personal care of pets, tamed animals and birds is well-known and unfortunately well-forgotten now.
As our patron saint of ecology, or St. Francis of Kashmir, Nuruddin’s Reshi-thought and practice involved such things as vegetarianism, asceticism, planting trees, creating springs, adoring nature, non-violence to all animate things, belief in the divinity of man and sacred character of life, glorification of faqr, economy of sharing, sulhi-kul, attainment of peace within and without, altruism and transcendence of ego principle.
Today we are suffering from environmental crisis caused due to the worldview characterized by violence, both metaphysical and political, and by spiritual aridity, ethical relativism, alienation and loss of centre. Eco-conscious, earthly, “matriarchal”, socially relevant and pragmatic philosophy of Reshiyyat could be advocated as a remedy of so many ills that affect not only Kashmir but also the whole world.
We have heard enough of abstract theoretical discourses, sentimental sermonizing, and lamentation sessions on the problem of eco-degradation. We have seen that these don’t make a significant difference. We need concrete proposals and legislations and measures to see implementation of these legislations. Action, concrete and revolutionary action is what is needed today.
Let us question our development planning from the perspective of the Sheikh. But can we afford it or do it? Or we will be content with some hollow seminars and broadcasts or telecasts about Sheikhul A’lam?