The beautiful valley of Kashmir had been calm for a few months. However it is in the grip of trouble once more. The BJP has announced plans to unfurl the national flag at Lal Chowk. It brings one to the question as to what repercussions such a move might have. This action has divided the nation to two parts. A large section of the population believes that it is the right of every Indian to unfurl the national flag; in any place of their choice. On the other hand a minute section of the population believes that the whole issue needs a more guarded and calmer response.
As the media goes about in its usual frenzy of organising debates and “face-offs” we must understand the internal dynamics of the situation. In the spring of 2010 many Kashmiris had believed that 2008 was the worst violence that the valley had seen and now the road lay in reconciliation. There were buoyant hopes, talk about a brighter future and a better Kashmir tomorrow. Happiness was in the air for the average Kashmiri the tourist season looked bright and everywhere there was a sense of renewed hope. It was one of those fine days; that an untoward incident happened and dark days descended upon the valley again. Soon the people of India in general and Kashmir in particular realized that the ghost of 2008 was anything but over. Young people once more took to the streets protesting against the establishment. The ghost of 1989 returned to haunts the valley once more as chances emerged of another generation getting radicalized. So in light of such a delicate and troubled phase; a move which is seen as a deliberate display of power may destabilize the valley once more.
Opponents to the above theory argue why shouldn’t the national flag be displayed? It is the moral right of every Indian to respect the national flag. This brings us to the perpetual question of the concept of “India”. The concept of India lies not in its geographical boundaries but the hearts of its people. Nations do not make people, it is the people who make a nation. Nation is not merely a geographical entity but a feeling of togetherness that binds people together. Surendranath Banerjee had once famously quoted that “India is a nation in making”. It is still true. If anything but the experience in North East has shown that the national feeling did not grow exactly as the clock struck 12; on 15 august 1947. It has taken time to evolve to grow integrating people on its way. In the North East at one point of time people had refused to identify themselves as Indians. However as time progressed there was a general feeling among the people to accommodate their unique identity as well accept and integrate themselves in the national milieu. This was also one of the primary reasons why secessionist forces lost the ground in North East. The people of Kashmir have a long and troubled history. There has been a loss of trust between the people of Kashmir and the successive governments in Delhi. Most of the times the people of Kashmir have felt betrayed by their own leaders those who are sitting in Srinagar. All this warrants for a new kind of approach while dealing with the Kashmir scenario.
As the debate over the flag hoisting issue rages on; the self appointed chest-thumpers of nationalism indulge in a brazen display of their own brand of patriotism. In doing so; they completely ignore the “Azadi” sentiments that are prevalent among the Kashmiri people; especially the youth. Such postures would hardly go in demystifying grievances of the Kashmir people against the Indian establishment. So often people blame the Centre for the crisis it has out Kashmir in but the people are equally responsible. The people in other parts of India rarely concern themselves with news about the valley. They act as if the is the usual dose of violence available on television every night. There is no effort to understand the problems of the average Kashmiris. Topics like Maoism, corruption, farmer’s suicide are widely discussed and debated on various national platforms. While I don’t deny the importance of these topics yet what restrains us from discussing the problems of the average Kashmiri. The people of Kashmir are as much important in the national milieu as the farmers of Vidarbha are. Yet the only issues that are discussed about Kashmir are the security concerns and fallout of the “K” word during visits of foreign dignitaries. In this theatre of power politics there is no scope for discussion of the sociological problems plaguing the Kashmiris people the Kashmiri society. There is no effort to understand the social dynamics of the Kashmiri society. There were innumerable stone pelters during the Kashmir protest however in those same areas large number of youths turned up when the police organised police recruitment rallies. In schools and colleges across Kashmir there are talks that “Azadi” will be achieved at the end of this year. And yet the Indian population chooses to ignore and debate on these issues and instead chose to display their own brand of patriotism which is entirely meaningless in the present context. The road to reconciliation is a painstakingly long process one which requires deft handling of that matter. We cannot evaluate one's nationalism on the basis of hoisting a flag. However if we do it, then it will seem like a desperate move to push nationalism and unity up their throat. This will result in adverse reactions and will give further plank for the separatists to forward their cause.
So what lies in the road to salvation? There are always talks of Track 2 diplomacy among nations. Why isn’t there a Track 2 dialogue with the Kashmiri people? A yearly expedition to Kashmir in Class 9 and vice versa does not solve the fault lines that run across the valley. A more cohesive and pragmatic approach is required while dealing with the Kashmir problem. Industry captains, cultural resource persons and people from various walks of civil society must engage the general public of Kashmir. For example the industry captains can choose to train entrepreneurs of the valley which will offer them a chance to better the economy of their own region. Efforts must be made to engage the cultural section of the valley and offer them help and support in their efforts to take their cultural legacy to the nation and the rest of the world. There must be efforts to enhance the capabilities of the various NGO’s that are working in the Kashmir valley. Sportspersons from the valley must be encouraged to take part in national sports events. Organisation like SAI must be encouraged to establish their academies in the valley. The people must be educated about their own rights and capabilities that the constitution has to offer. The Kashmir people have never felt a part of this nation and that is the truth. It is time they are given a shot at understanding not at what the nation has to offer but as to how they can contribute to the nation. All this is challenging given the current security scenario in Kashmir, however one has to think beyond the obvious questions and answers. At the end let the Kashmiri people be the judge of what they actually want and give them what they deserve instead of their two minutes shame on prime time television where they are brazenly accused of being anything but anti-national; as if their entire life is defined by what is anti-Indian.
So often the talks of “Azadi” centre on the concept of Kashmiriyat one which binds each Kashmir to the ground. Efforts must be made by the civil society to understand the meaning of the term Kashmiriyat and offer the Kashmiri help and support to enhance their own capabilities and bring forward the Kashmiri sentiments in the hope that it can integrate in the national arena in its own timeframe. Wikipedia defines Kashmiriyat as the ethno-national and social consciousness and cultural values of the Kashmiri people. Emerging approximately around the 16th century, it is characterized by religious and cultural harmony, patriotism and pride for their mountainous homeland of Kashmir. It is time the nation integrates the feeling of Kashmiriyat in the national arena. There have been instances when such thoughts have run parallel to nationalistic feelings. We must give the Kashmiri people a chance to explore these options as well. There must be untiring efforts to understand the nature of Kashmir and stop perceiving it the way we do it today.
If the BJP had wanted it could have indulged itself in some other activity like organising an ethnic food festival in Kashmir or holding a traditional song and dance competition among the school kids. It could have gone and visited the orphans and offered them sweets without any talks of patriotism or some song and dance of 26 January. Such little gestures would have gone a long way in earning goodwill of the people. But as politicians are and will be, there are always efforts to think in terms of short term election oriented goals. The onus is on the civil society now to behave in a manner which will actually testify the greatness of this nation one-one whose core belief is in its ideology of tolerance and compassion.