One may wonder whether it is a coincidence or an irony of fate that all those saints, Sufis, and proponents of peace and harmony, those lovers of beauty, art, poetry, music and culture have become a part of our dead heritage instead of an inspiration in this era of turmoil and turbulence in the valley of Kashmir. Around thirteen years of persistent violence, almost fifty-five years of cold war, preceded by centuries of external occupation, tyranny and exploitation have led the “Paradise” to the doorstep of doom. Let us admit that we were always a poor, wretched and exploited people, in need of a real “leader”, a true representative. It is a pity, of course, but there seems to be no doubt about it.
When in the midst of the “tribal invasion” of October 1947, the “rebel” Kashmiris had emerged as a ‘war’ council for “liberating the rest of the State of Jammu and Kashmir” from the Indian regime, (the status of “Azad Kashmir” has never been legally defined in international terms: it is neither a ‘sovereign state’ nor a ‘province’ of Pakistan), while Muslims of Jammu, Poonch and Mirpur (presently in Pakistan) had supported the Muslim Conference, those of the valley had no representation to speak on their behalf for the fact that the Valley Muslims, from 1930’s and 1940’s onwards, had tended to support Sheikh Abdullah’s (more or less) “secular” National Conference (which ought not to be compared to the present National Conference). When did they change their preferences: that is a question to be answered!
While we continue digging into our past mistakes and pursuing the process of revenge as an endless game, the world asks of us what do we want? What can be a possible “solution”? Do we have an answer? Accession to Pakistan: No way! Independence: Can we afford that? While we may make a lot of noise, the fact of the matter is that there is no understanding, no communication. Poor India and Pakistan, and our self-represented “representatives” have left no stone unturned in their efforts for building a “conducive atmosphere” for talks. Let us talk, folks! It hardly matters what we talk as long as we talk. Come on, let us talk! Oops! Talks have failed! But excuse me…………What were we talking about? Of course, “national pride”, “Kashmir conflict”, “Kashmir- the integral part of India”, “sentiments of the people of Kashmir”, “Jammu and Kashmir”, “Kashmir and Kashmir”, “Ladakh”, “referendum”, “respect for the people’s wishes (found in plethora in Pak Watan)”, azadi, jehad, “peace”, “truce”, bla, bla, bla………Sorry for the interruption! Commercial break!
Some of the dramatic instances of “bilateralism” between the two countries, with their “diagonally opposite” viewpoints on Kashmir, are obvious from the battlefields of 1947-8, 1965, 1971 and 1999. “All the Kashmiris should sit and discuss what will be the future of the State” is what one of our “representatives” once had to say about a possible “solution”. The reverend Maulana perhaps was too sentimental and excited at the spur of moment – but, let us excuse him for his fledgling experience and wish him good luck in gathering “all Kashmiris” together and make them “sit” and then discuss the “future” of the State.
Who will talk on behalf of Kashmiris? The so-called, self-imposed representative “conglomerate” of a bunch of irresponsible figure-heads; the hired non-Kashmiri hooligans whom our “representatives” would honor as “our brothers”, “our welcomed guests”; or the confused Kashmiri population? The idea of an “Independent State of Jammu and Kashmir” sounds quite very romantic albeit absolutely impractical and unrealistic. What about accession to Pakistan? After all they are our “good old friends”, our “brothers”, and we too are demanding an “Islamic State”? So, let us break it into some more pieces – Muslims, Pandits, Dogras, Buddhists, so on and so forth, as many as possible, and annihilate it! Objective – “the unification of the State of Jammu and Kashmir…………..Unification with Pakistan………….Independence!” Halt! The status of Jammu and Kashmir “has not yet been finalized”. Each of India and Pakistan should have a “substantial” portion of the Valley (while neither of them would accept the fact for the other)! We will “employ peaceful methods” to settle our differences but neither of us should “seek to alter the status quo in Kashmir”.
While the headless heads of India and Pakistan engage themselves in flexing their muscles, let the state of disorder and confusion prevail, and let the political parties take their time in pursuing their disorganizational efforts. Who cares about the bankrupt economy, deteriorated living conditions of the people, crippled educational system, and corrupted cultural and historical heritage?
Beware of mischief makers, my dear fellow Kashmiris!
© Sadaf Munshi
(This article appeared in the daily Kashmir Observer, 2003)