The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mythology being an essential facet of the Indian cultural identity, the propagation of myths is naturally a national pastime. And so it has been over centuries of servitude, as well as the decades of freedom. This trait — that of propagating myths — permeates all aspects of national life. Logic and an acceptance of reality are then forfeited for a mindset that rests on ignorance and relies on emotions.

A disturbing aspect of this peculiarity is the propensity to mythicize events. This encourages a fossilization of thought. And since the breaking of temples, temporal of course, is not yet acceptable in our society, fossilized thinking gathers a momentum of its own. One that is as far removed from the reality prevailing on the ground as are the many myths inherited over the years.

This aspect is most apparent in the case of Jammu and Kashmir and the forthcoming elections there. The five-decade old dispute with Pakistan, terrorist violence dating back more than a decade, the prolonged political alienation of the state’s populace and the widespread ignorance on both sides of the Pir Panjal have all conspired to produce an environment conducive to the propagation of a set of myths. If there is to be progress on the question of Jammu and Kashmir then a systematic demolition of these temples of fossilized judgment will have to be undertaken. A reality check has to be initiated, and for that the first stone needs to be cast on the amorphous entity called “the Kashmiri mood”.

Fantastic stories have come to be written about this “mood”. An expertise has grown around this “mood” ever since it was first detected as an ailment. And these experts too have got into the business of projecting the myth. But to return to the demolition of this “mood”, one essential characteristic of the Kashmiri psyche has to be kept in mind. And this relates to only the Kashmir valley, a sliver of land compared to the vast state.

The violent opposition to being a part of the Indian Union was born out of the desire of the Kashmiri Muslims to destroy the monopoly of the state and Centre over power and thought. Until 1989, Srinagar and New Delhi had behaved like all monopolies do — arrogant, ignorant and unchanging. And like all monopolies they floundered in the face of competition, particularly one that was based on a new mechanism for dispute settlement — the AK-47.

Pakistan, then newly liberated from jihad duties in Afghanistan, grabbed the opportunity to do the same across the line of control as it had done across the Durand Line. Only a country devoid of a historical sense can make such a mistake as Pakistan did. The hashashin of Persia were such a terror that they inspired whispered conversations between travellers, but they passed into the history books. Their modern day Pakistani parallels are also certain to meet with the same fate. And it would not just be the pressure from security forces that ensures this, but actually a fluidity that is essential to all moods.

Decayed by more than a decade of terrorism, the Kashmiri Muslim “mood” is today divided between two conflicting organizations. Both represent the Kashmiri Muslim, with the dispute centring over the percentages of that division. For these two are the only organizations that exist in every Kashmiri hamlet. Willy-nilly, Pakistan has pushed both organizations onto the same path, and it is one where there isn’t even a refuelling stop called Islamabad.

Whatever its warts, the National Conference today does represent an important section of the Kashmiri Muslim opinion. Efforts aimed at its decimation have come to naught for precisely one reason — there is an appreciation amongst Kashmiris of the value of the vote. And the vote is of course an entity that is beyond Pakistan’s comprehension. The gun having outlived its machismo, the Kashmiri has returned to valuing the vote, and whatever be the result at the hustings, the National Conference will continue to attract support. Which then leaves the Kashmiri with an opposing organization.

During the course of a violent decade, the Hizbul Mujahideen has come to represent a strand of public opinion that is opposed as much to the National Conference and India as it is to the total independence advocated by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. The JKLF is no more, buried under the weight of Indian and Pakistani bullets. The latter were fired almost entirely by the Hizbul Mujahideen. In those days it represented merger with Pakistan, but then, Islamabad’s ignorance of history got the better of its strategy. And it began to despatch its modern-day hashashin across the LoC, firm in its belief that as with the jihad across the Durand Line so with the imagined contour on a map etched by war.

For its survival as an organization and for the sake of the Kashmiri people, the Hizbul Mujahideen declared a ceasefire in July 2000 — a landmark in Kashmir. Retrieve the file, dust it off and refresh the memory of that historical statement of Majid Dar, the salaar aala (chief commander) of the Hizbul Mujahideen. “It is a fact that without the assistance of Pakistan, it was not possible to sustain the movement. But we are sons of this soil and no other person can understand the sufferings we are undergoing…The fact is that this is an indigenous movement and all the mujahedin commanders with me are locals…We conducted grassroots surveys for two and a half months before taking this decision and we have the consent of the local people.”

“Local people” then determined a dramatic shift in the outlook of the most established militant organization in Jammu and Kashmir. That, then, is the “mood” and there is nothing to suggest any shift in the ground reality since. If anything, the shift is further away from the latter-day hashashin of Muridke.

The writing is on the wall. Only those who should be reading it continue to function from a world made up of myths and temples of fossilized thinking. There is no better example of that than the continued courtship of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference as if its sanction was all it would take for the value of the vote to be appreciated. In Kashmir nothing could be further from the truth; in Jammu and Ladakh it doesn’t even exist as a post office box number. A Shah topped with a designer grey cannot win a municipal ward, let alone represent an opinion and an ideology.

A monopoly has been destroyed, and all that New Delhi has to do is ensure that another does not appear, and the old too does not make a reappearance. This is the Kashmiri “mood”, and it can be verified by a reality check. Time to cast the first stone — destroy, in order to reconstruct.

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