Friday, 9 December 2016

Reading Alternatives

None can claim to frame Kashmir, to understand it in its entirety. Not even India and Pakistan.

Much of the current debate on the need to rest the unrest in Burhan’s Kashmir misses many a point that can’t be ignored. These points include:

  • Reasons for what is done or undone are difficult to find – or needless or besides the point – for Kashmiris because Kashmiri genius is more aesthetic than cognitive, more cultural than political and contains multitudes and therefore, in Whitmanian fashion, reserves the right to contradict. A Kashmiri looks at life in more poetic and playful than rational calculative terms. His faith is solid but human, all-too-human and not incompatible with occasional flirting with idols though repentance also follows and of course its breaking as well.
  • Kashmir’s  movement for azadi is not a grand narrative  with a clear set of binaries and both moral and religious frames to buttress its various phases and methodologies don’t unproblematically fit or illuminate the problem.
  • That azadi is not a sort of  heaven or special mystical experience that  can be bought by begging, by sloganeering,  by demanding, by self flagellating, by rituals of any kind  including strikes and protest although  they could be the means sometimes. When means become end they lose value. Every passing day ads more rust to the nail of strike and there is a danger of self hurting beyond a point of time and it becoming auto-immune disorder. Strikes are like knives that can cut the throat of the other but beyond a point one’s own hand. And if one can electrocute why use knives? Electrocuting devices include winning minds and hearts for a cause by education which isn’t brainwashing. 
  • That we aren’t in a position to dictate terms even at the cost of collective suicide but can at best respond to opportunities that partly we can create or present themselves.
  • Kashmir is unpredictable the way the weather is because too many factors have to be factored in for solving the equation called Kashmir conflict. Chaos theory could perhaps illuminate it partly. None can claim to frame Kashmir, to understand it in its entirety. Not even India and Pakistan.
  • Kashmir has existential, religious, cultural, psychological and even metaphysical dimensions that are too complex and subtle to allow  very accurate political analysis. Kashmiris love the ideal of freedom but have been rather shy to look too closely at this bride. There is a difference between demanding/wanting and loving. Love doesn’t listen to calculative pragmatic rationality; it sacrifices and consumes itself and its salvation lies in not getting its object but eternally beholding it from certain distance or ever approximating it. 2016 lifted  a rather thick veil over this bride but it has too many veils for you and me to be able to see it. Burqa upon burqa and lowered gaze of this bride forces us to guess how she looks and sometimes even one may suspect her to be a sort of Kali, more painted than real, not quite immaculate or Lucy like but profaned by the gaze of hawks.
  • There is no such thing as conscience of world fraternity that can be coerced to act for Kashmir.
  • Kashmiris have been co-opted, divided, played against one another, organized and even manufactured in such a way, by the interests of power, that it is impossible to be organized as a unit, to listen to any captain if there is one, to ward off doubts regarding conspiracy theories that do explain certain things better than rival theories, to convince all that we are in safe hands or destined for greener pastures through this or that way.

      Keeping all these points in mind and noting that Kashmiris are back in the game post-Burhan it appears to be an opportune time for declaration of innings. Although stunning  results in terms of consciousness raising have already been achieved, some still ask what has been achieved. It is clear to those who understand history and politics that what could have been achieved has largely been achieved. However  there are certain legitimate fears with regard to the meaning of the signal that declaration might send to the opposition. Wars may need strategic withdrawal. And it isn’t difficult to conceive of alternatives to continuous strikes that can’t be taken as betrayal of people’s resolve to continue resistance till the end. For instance, one of my friends and teachers suggested, invoking the idea of “Abolition of work” as well, that it would be better for people if Hurriyat declares four days week till K resolution and calls for strikes from Friday 2p.m to Sunday evening. Since six days week is gross human rights violation (even 5 days week is not humane enough) we must strive, for the sake of many a contemplative or lazy or gossipy Kashmiris to get 4 days week and work for longer hours during these days and reschedule employee’s work in a way that they could do part of it at least in home or during strike days, especially during late autumn and winter.
       So far I have been analyzing the ground situation that is affecting us all. My personal take, if one could take it, is abandon conventional strike calendars as a policy. Let people spontaneously do what they feel fit to do and let any imposition by force of any shutdown  be  renounced as it is contrary to human dignity and sustainable resistance. To the question  what is an alternative mode of protest I would reply, strikes in the original sense of the term according to which one should work more on strike days to produce more goods that would cost less to consumer and thus help the people though not the corporate of which one is an employee. One may, badly of course (as strikes aren’t designed for resistance struggles in the first place) translate this into Kashmir context by asking people to refuse to buy/consume Indian goods/boycott Indian companies on strike days – or better strike months/seasons (Kashmiris are mostly retailers only and strikes would affect manufactures more than consumers) or re-invent Shaikh Saheb’s  plea for eating potatoes or work harder on strike days by rising early for tahajjud, reading a new book or an article/listen to a great talk/or watch a documentary/conduct debate on political and other questions that affect us all. If people become more aware they can prove a better resource for any movement and will behave less as a mob. Leaders could receive better feedback from people and they would consciously follow good programmes for solving problems. And as has been well said “education is the great liberating force” and one gets closer to the ideal by better education. If leadership from 1930 had invested in educating people, they wouldn’t have been so  gullible or na├»ve to heed ideological slogans and divisive politics. So many people believed "La ilaha illallah Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah” or "alle keri wangen keri bab keri" and leafs having inscribed the Lion’s name  or couldn’t appreciate wisdom of taking potatoes as stones against occupation and  see through Bakshi’s rice bomb or fateful genesis of militancy in mishandled electoral politics or politics of shift from JKLF to HM or why schools were burnt as a policy and how shares of  privatization and dral business have increased post militancy or have a better grasp of forces and class question feeding radicalization of religion. One of our well known political analysts told me that we suffer from deficit of thinking when it comes to engage with Kashmir and he would invest in the same to help resolve our problem including the problems in conduct of resistance. For the most important questions we have less clear, even contradictory answers from those who matter. It calls for more serious work.
      Leisure is treasured more by those who overwork. Otherwise work is worship and a great blessing. Jails are so dreadful because one is denied work. So prepare Kashmir for more work but eliminate alienated labour from which over 90% population is suffering. Let all who care for Kashmir work on this front. On all strike days there should be innovative programmes like cleaning schools and lanes (eliminate post of sweepers everywhere to restore dignity to labour and such a “demeaning” job), felling overgrown populars on roads, collecting fallen wood from forests that is decaying for want of some taker and distributing it to community, help our spouses off domestic work for a day, conduct counseling of elders and stressed people, work for some NGOs or community enterprises like community farms, learn new skills, hold poetry sessions etc. The work and sales that can be done in six days can be done in five, even four if we choose to and enjoy the rest of time pursuing higher things in life like art, philosophy, travel or strengthening relationships or community. So convert strikes into a work of art. And if this is done the reasons for strike will gradually disappear and one day we have a Kashmir that breathes  perfection of style for which it has been famous. All work becomes kar-i-abdaal ( selfless work of saints)  and we convert work into a craft that is one’s zikr, one’s initiation, one’s salvation.

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