Afshana comments on changes that have set in Kashmir during the last 20 years
(Ms. Syeda Afshana, 35, was born in Srinagar. She attended the Vishwa Bharti High School in Rainawari, Srinagar, and the Government Women’s College in Srinagar where she received a B.Sc. degree. She completed her Master’s degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 1999 and was the Gold Medallist (first position holder) in her graduating class. She is currently a Lecturer in the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University and pursuing her doctorate on the role of internet after 9/11.)
Kashmir in Transition
Any society develops because of certain intrinsic traits. However, the external factors also contribute in the cerebral growth of individuals in a society. And, if a society is going through an abnormal situation, then the reasons for growth are ample. The population grappling with a conflict has many more chances to evolve. Being in the state of continuous tussle, they look out for gateways to sustain themselves intellectually and meaningfully. It turns mandatory for them to create a breathing space for rearranging or reminding their commitments. Otherwise, they may get stifled and start stinking.
Kashmir makes an interesting study in this backdrop. The people’s capacity of living through a gory conflict has become its hallmark. Some of the inherent behavioral qualities supplied the people of this place with the peculiar staying power. Their grit and guts to face the worst, and survive the rough weather cannot be overlooked. Events that were not predictable and yet happened, made a greater impact and called for major re-orientation without advance preparation. As people here may look back upon the past wistful 20 years, they can recall some of the horrible losses which they experienced with a sense of strength.
Today, Kashmir has reached a point where the thinking is on how much the present circumstances can influence the pervasive nostalgia of last 20 years and the anticipation of future crises or transitions. There are some surprises in response.
First, with a kind of current political dispensation in Kashmir, where politicians from both mainstream and separatist camps are trying to locate their positions and stakes, by a round of interactions or conversations, the approaching departure from the earlier stands suggests the shift of emphasis. Of course, all this is going to constitute a difficult time for all of them. Already many of them are in a mood of desperation. Through their doublespeak at various talking shops, it has become quite evident.
As such, the expectations, influences, and roles available to present youth of Kashmir vary enormously with its political and social history and the pace and nature of change set in during last 20 years. The current history has moved faster, throwing up the huge differences between the role-models offered by political and intellectual leaders and those valued by the rest of the people.
Nonetheless, this kind of situation can make our youth learn about consistency and inconsistency of personalities and personal styles, and about stagnation and regression of minds. This can be one of the ways to transition. Getting into the mode of cerebral growth, where self-concepts get framed by outer events.
Second, there is a truism, more often applied to our institutions, as getting more transformed into just talking shops. Another transition. Contemporary Kashmir is witness to no-holds-barred verbomania. The chatty culture has engaged thinkers in a rambling discourse. From endless conferences, seminars to workshops, the deliberations are usually directionless and the results are regretful. Had talking shops succored any nation, this hapless land would have been salvaged so far. Perhaps, peace cannot be sought in conference halls, swathed in repetitive research, and delinked and detached from grassroots action. It may be dubbed as cynical but the fact is that such exercises, at the end of the day, foster only individual or group interest.
Third, the talking shops have started showing spillover effect. This verbal overrun is seeping in social circles as well. People are heard talking preposterous plans and theories about the conflict resolution. Weaving odd and strange comparison and conspiracy logics, they are unwittingly turning into self-styled experts and analysts. This in a way is a good sign of Kashmir Mind being alive at least, but that it is a fatigue reaction to a deadly deadlock in which the Kashmir Mind finds itself, cannot also be ignored.
Fourth, the Kashmiri writer or commentator on Kashmir, has become a colorless creature. He has lost his effective say on the matters because of his ever-changing tones. His inability to recognize conflicting messages from his inner-self and the outer world, and between the two, is the first indicator of his being complex and contradictory. That’s why he feels like caught up between the devil and the deep sea, while in actuality he is meshed up in his own ambiguity. Intelligentsia in Kashmir was never as contradictory as it is now. It appears distracted and unsettled. It is criminally contributing in the prolongation of the problem by being ambiguous, hypocritical, and painfully, saleable. What else can be a big misfortune than this?!!
As Kashmir is known for beautifully getting modified to seasonal colors, from white snow to amber leaves, the same cannot be claimed in terms of its political landscape. The color riot in this area remains unpredictable as well as unpleasant. The intrinsic histrionics mixed with a bit of historical hysteria, cannot spare it.
There is more to see. There is lot in store. Kashmir continues to change. For good or bad? There can be no painless answers.