Enter Locution

Language is always a crucial factor in solving a dispute   

                                                                                                 In a TV documentary on Middle East an Arab girl was asked to comment on how she felt about a certain thing in Israel. The moment word Israel was uttered by the questioner it invoked a sharp reaction from that Arab girl. She almost instinctually retorted- Palestine. This small encounter with the Arab girl sums up the whole story of a conflict that has affected millions not only in the Arab lands, but all around the globe. Two words that stay at the centre of the problem, Palestine-Israel, say it all. They weigh more than a hefty tome describing the nuances and niceties of the politics developed around the question of Palestine.

This summer’s massive public mobilization and the consequent crippling of the state compelled everyone to talk about Kashmir. The force of this situation is so immense that left, right, centre, liberal, radical – everyone is willfully or compulsively talking Kashmir. And in doing so the clarity, ingenuity and confusion of speakers, all is getting duly exposed. Stated positions, jingoistic noises, militaristic mindset, academic complexities, political chicanery, petty interests, ideological aggression, opinionated voices, and revolutionary remarks – we have heard it all. From state to ‘sedition’ everything has happened to Kashmir in a pronounced way during these months.

Out of this verbal crisscross the mind of Kashmir is trying to restore a narrative of the problem that is its own. It wants to reassert a language that explains its own experiences. India, Pakistan, Military, Occupation, Secession, Azadi, Dispute, Accession, Merger, Integral Part …… Kashmir is in a mood of absorbing some and throwing up others.

The day Geelani set the ball rolling by putting it as a condition to acknowledge Kashmir an “international dispute” the factor of language started becoming prominent. After Geelani, Arundhati Roy has brought the focus on the usage of language. That Kashmir is “not an integral part” of India and the people of Kashmir are facing “worst military occupation” are not merely bold statements; they open up the windows to past and present. They bring us closer to ground and also guide us through history. The language used by interlocutors also invokes interest. Kashmir is a “dispute” and Pakistan is a “party” to it. This is what was said, repeated and defended by the group.

Geelani, Roy, and interestingly the group of interlocutors also, have come in for a stringent attack from the rightwing groups that insist on an entirely different package of language. The rightwing language goes even beyond the position taken by the state of India on Kashmir. There needs to be sufficient change in the situation that induces a transformation in the rightwing language; that can mark the beginning of change on ground. Though it doesn’t seem to be happening right now, and the fact that politics of vote bank will always come in the way of corrections over Kashmir discourse, it is an area that needs relentless attention. The way political leadership in India talks to the people of India about Kashmir will determine the course of opinion that Indian parliament can move along.

If the citizens of India are really informed about what their leaders have done to Kashmir telling lies would become very difficult. Before such politicians raise the noise over ‘seditious’ comments their own people would heckle them down as liars. Because when they lie about Kashmir they commit a crime against not only a billion people in this state but over 100 billion in India. They are the murderers of a trust that an ordinary citizen of India reposes in them. They pave the way for people getting killed in the streets of India and on the borders.  They are the enemies of their own nation. They put populations in this region to the risk of war. They allow violence to become self perpetuating. They justify the worst crimes.

Establishing committees, conducting meetings, appointing interlocutors, doing security assessments – nothing is ultimately going to solve this problem. Until the mind that produces a corrupt and diabolical language over the subject of Kashmir is not changed no significant change can happen on ground. Because it’s from the language itself that the factor of legitimacy is produced. An act becomes a crime against or a service to humanity the way it is presented.

It will be interesting to watch how this contestation of language over Kashmir develops in India. If writers, journalists and various political forces stand the assault mounted by Hindu right, the change is bound to take place. After all what is being projected as sedition is as plain a remark as saying that sun is hot. For how long can the minds of ordinary people be blocked to understand this simple truth!

For those who talk about Kashmir within Kashmir, it is time to refresh the usage of language over Kashmir. No doubt the big brother’s watchful eyes hardly miss anything ‘seditious’ but truth has to be told. After all language works on minds. And if the minds remain unchanged we are permanently stuck.

Tailpiece: In the early years of 1990s when people were subjected to frisking at multiple points public transport plying between Islamabad and Srinagar would face a threatening problem. Once asked where the bus is headed, the passengers would simply say, “Islamabad” – as is the practice. This was enough to invite the wrath. Under force the bus owners were made to change the plaques that displayed this name. It was to be replaced by ‘Anantnag’. Owners knew that they cannot do anything about it, but they still resisted to force.  What they did is very instructive; they changed the plaques to ‘Khannabal’, a stop just before the final destination. Everyone knew that Khannabal actually meant Islamabad.

{Feedback at mrvaid@greaterkashmir.com}