“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Sajjad bares open the cupboard hiding Kashmiri traits

(Mr. Sajjad Bazaz, 44, was born in Srinagar. He attended the Khalsa high school and the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar. He received his bachelor’s degree in Media and his master’s degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir. Mr. Bazaz has over two decades of experience in journalism (both print & electronic), and he is author of the book “Bankwatch” which is about a financial scenario with particular reference to the J&K state. He is currently incharge of corporate communications department in a leaduing financial instution in J&K. Mr. Bazaz likes to spend leisure time watching movies and enjoying company of his friends.)

Gossip mongering, exaggeration and sycophancy

Healthy voting percentage in two phases of assembly elections, so far, is nothing but an exhibition of typical Kashmiri trait. The separatist groups deserve to be in a state of shock. Their election-boycott call seems to have been receiving a tough resistance and almost overpowered by ‘boycott the election-boycott’ call. Interestingly, the shut down calls on election day are being more strictly ensured from the government side and very less from the separatist cadres.

Before venturing into the typical Kashmiri traits, we have some interesting figures regarding of shutdowns where Kashmir has created its own history in this aspect too. After the eruption of armed resistance movement in 1989, shutdown calls have been so frequent that the valley witnessed loss of over 1500 working days in almost two decades of turmoil. Official figures suggest that in 1991, Kashmir witnessed. However, the number of strike calls came down and was recorded as low as 18 in 2005. But the year 2008 is going to beat the previous record, as shutdowns have been very frequent at the fag end of the year.

Even the neutral observers world over have lost their art of analysis in discussing Kashmir imbroglio, when they saw the footage of Kashmiris this time thronging the polling booths in large numbers. Basically, tremendous fall out of events since the fall of Congress-PDP coalition government over Amarnath land row have left people in dilemma. It was public consciousness in India, which received a rude shock when mass demonstrations erupted first in the entire state. For a public fed with accounts of a peace process, talks with separatists and a declining trend in militancy related incidents, this return to a 1989-like situation was unexpected enough to be incomprehensible. Some political commentators pessimistically at that time had suggested India ‘to let Kashmir go’.

Our state is full of special breed of people who resort to a discourse on religious and political happenings just trying to keep themselves in limelight. They breathe fire in their discourses but have different tones at different places. They speak anti-establishment and anti-India locally, but leave no stone unturned to project themselves as Indian patriots when they move out of their home territory.

In other words, Kashmiri leaders speak the same thing in three different manners. One is for the local audience where they whip Government of India for each and every ill making life of the state subjects miserable. As soon as leaders cross the Banihal Pass to enter the Jammu region, their center-bashing mood faints while in Delhi Darbar and even do not lag behind each other in praising the Government of India leaders’ stand Kashmir. Precisely, whether it is the issue of freedom, secularism, autonomy or democracy, Kashmiri leaders have mastered the art of adopting different postures at different times or at different places.

True, we cannot generalize a particular community or class of people as far as the traits in their character are concerned, but Kashmiris by and large, are fond of mongering gossip, exaggeration and sycophancy. An overview of history reveals that Kashmiris have left no stone unturned to give a grand reception to Jawaharlal Nehru (architect of ‘Kashmir’s accession’ to India), Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai and the like. Memorable welcome given to Bulganin and Khrushchev – Soviet leaders – during their visit to Srinagar in 1955 is till fresh in the minds of the people.

Most of them continue to be skillful in speaking with two voices. They know when to act as secular and communal, democratic and dictatorial, and pro-India as well as pro-Pakistan. The underlying motivation is lust for power. They swear by the principles of Indian democracy, style of socialism and secularism when allowed by the Government of India to rule the state in their own style. But take U-turn whenever the Central government questions their authority. Then they lose no time to call the Kashmir’s accession to the union of India as temporary.

It is also a hard fact that Kashmiris have reacted differently at different times and that too en-masse. Their total alienation from one leader or the other has always been periodic. There is a famous saying of Ghulam Mohammad Bakshi, which describes a common Kashmir trait. Once at a press conference in 1958, addressed by Bakshi, a foreign newsman shot a straight question, “Mr. Bakshi, how many people are with you?” Without batting an eyelid, Bakshi replied, “Forty lakhs.” The newsman retorted, “But that is the total population of the State.” “Yes, I know,” said Bakshi. “Do you mean that the Sheikh does not have any following at all in the State?” asked the newsman. “No, I did not say so,” was the cool reply from Bakshi who added, “Sheikh sahib commands a following of forty lakhs.” “But how?” the newsman threw up his arms. Eruditely, Bakshi calmed the newsman down and said, “Even Sadiq sahib has a following of forty lakhs.”

The newsman was at a loss to understand this jugglery of figures and his confusion was worse confounded. He was not aware of the trait in the character of the Kashmiri who does not believe in annoying anyone, particularly those who are in power or are in waiting. The same population turned against Bakshi during the Moe-i-Muqaddas crisis, which surfaced in Srinagar on December 27, 1963.

Now, the point is that Kashmiris have so grown in this state of uncertainty, that they have started to accept it as part of their lives. Today, death of a near one doesn’t come as a shocking surprise to him. I remember, when it all started back in 90s’, a death of a youth was mourned by all. The grief was so deep, that it could loom on for weeks together. But nothing of such sort happens now, because Kashmiris have accepted it as part of their life.