Friday, 2 December 2016

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)?

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