Kashmir : Trauma of an Indian Childhood

Dr Madhu Mangal Chaturvedi
Like many of my generation, born in the first half of the eighties, I grew up in socially, politically and economically interesting times. We witnessed assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, Manmohan Singh’s liberalization, Mandal Commission, rise of pro caste politics, Babri Mosque Demolition, and Bombay bomb blasts, but at the same time woke up to the broken dream of unified India, with the problem of separatist demand in the two geographically, historically and politically connected states of India, viz. Punjab and Kashmir. We were always taught, India means land from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. But demand for khalistan in Punjab and terrorism in Kashmir with the rise of separatist forces such as Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, dented that dream of unified India. I was sensitive enough to feel the trauma of terrorism in both the regions, which was then and still supposed to be supported by our neighbour.
Although watching Doordarshan was no less traumatic experience, as a child growing in the nineties, it was the source of information on both the problems. It gave me a graphic detail about these problems through its news and serials. There were serials depicting the problem of Punjab and Kashmir and news about terrorist attacks and murders. I believe terrorism in Punjab was more shocking to me as I did not believe Sikkhism to be a very different religion from Hinduism; rather we had grown up listening to the stories of valor and sacrifices of Sikkh Gurus. I felt under attack. I would think that there are some bad people who are fighting against my nation, my country. I did not understand much about their perspective back then. However, the problem of Kashmir still remains unresolved, even though, Punjab is peaceful.
Kahsmir still continues to burn and traumatizes me. I do not understand the mindless killings, violence or stone pelting, in the name of separate Kashmir. Terrorism, home grown or not, is terrorism nonetheless, and its use as in instrument to achieve idea of freedom by mixing it with religion is not a very healthy state in the long run. Now I understand the Kashmiri demand better and I acknowledge the betrayal by the state and central governments to Kashmiri people. It is true that the central government was blackmailed by the state leadership, again elected by the Kashmiris themselves. However, I still live in disbelief that there has to be such a demand, when culturally Kashmir is like brain/head of India.
We are aware of the problem. What we need is a viable solution. I write not as an expert on the issue but as a child traumatized by experiencing a mini war being fought within the borders of his country among its own people, government or terrorists, whatever we call them, use of common nouns cannot conceal the fact that there is a person being killed somewhere. May be what I write as my suggestions to resolve the conflict sound childish or day dreams. But, nonetheless, it is better to understand the problem and look for its solution rather than just beat around the bush.
The turmoil and tragedy should end, but how? I wonder if we can suspend judgments on the issue for a moment and just look at the problem as it is present rather than judging it from historical, political, economic, international relations perspective, or just to place the issue between nationalism-anti-nationalism debate. We might be able to see through the mist of misery rampant in the Kashmir valley. However, being an Indian it is incredible for me to think that Kashmir should cease to be part of India and I am caught up between patriotism and liberal romanticism. On the one hand I feel that Kashmir is an integral part of India and those who are trying to take it by force are waging a war against my country and this war, covert and overt, should be fought ruthlessly. However, being an Indian I also believe in “sarvebhavantusukhinah” (may all be happy) and “vasudhaivakutumbakam” (universal familyhood) which makes any violence laden tactics towards anyone, let alone Kashmiris, an immoral proposition.
They ask for referendum to allow the Kashmiris to express their choice democratically. Either you want to remain with India, or should beome independent, or merge with homo-religious adjacent neighbour. The present state is the first option, already soaked in blood of Indians, Kashmiri and Non-Kashmiri alike. The problem with the other two options does not look less bloody. However, in order that there is a referendum in Kashmir, should the central government have referendum in the rest of India on the issue? Ultimately, it is a political game. So no Central Government could take such a bold decision which is seen as treason if advocated by an individual. Hence, there should be a referendum asking people of India to express their choice on Kashmir. After all they are also sufferers in the process. However, the people from rest of India should have a more balanced, and sympathetic attitude towards the Kashmiri people and their demands, instead of living in denial acceptance is better.
First of all, being a border region, and like all the other border regions, they deserve more support. After all, they face the enemy fire directly. Second, they should vote more carefully in parliamentary elections and elect those who are willing to resolve the problem rather than just take ad hoc measures. In fact, the voting in the parliamentary elections should be based on a national common minimum program of voters. Such common minimum program, like the common minimum program of coalition Governments, will ensure that voting is informed and contributes to a constructive parliament. In the common minimum program, voters should include Kashmir issues among other important ones like employment, agriculture, defense and so on. While voting, the voters should have clear idea about the policy and plan to resolve the Kashmir issue by the prospective parliamentarian and her political party from their constituency. In short, voters should ask what your stand is.
But the Kashmiris should try to come out of cycle of violence. If the problem with them is an identity crisis in that they have difficulty with identifying themselves as an Indian living in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and therefore do not feel free. They should think the idea of freedom thoroughly. What is that freedom they are after? What are they going to do with that freedom? If they happen to be an independent state, how are they going to maintain their identity and sovereignty in presence of giant neighbours surrounding them?
I believe that they should start doing those great things that they will definitely do after gaining the so called “aazaadi”. Perhaps, they should focus on improving social, political and economical condition of Kashmir and establish it as a responsible, flourishing state. To start an armed struggle for a romantic ideal like freedom does not require much but some courage and passion. However, the transition from a culture of violence to peace is not easy. Once they have tasted the blood at the tip of the gun and smell of power coming from it, it would not be easy to avoid more fratricides.
The fear is not that they will lose their aazaadi without the armed struggle, but that with all the bloodshed, Kashmiriat and Insaaniyat might be lost forever.
(The author is Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Culture at School of Philosophy and Culture Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University Sub-Post Office Katra, J&K)


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