Preaching peace, practicing violence

History is replete with examples of how the culture of violence has either consumed its perpetuators or ruined the community
“At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love"
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

While addressing the gathering at Bait-ul-Muqaram mosque in Baramulla last Friday, Hurriyat Conference (G) Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani made an impassioned speech asking the Pakistani leadership to stick to its ‘principled stand’ on Kashmir. Geelani Sahib also said, “We do not have resources to fight a power like India but we can continue our struggle through peaceful and democratic means,” and went on to warn how New Delhi’s policy makers were trying to distort and damage the peoples’ culture in the State through many schemes- one of them being co-education!

What Geelani Sahib said seemed nothing unusual and given the time available to us for reading newspapers, this news item would have never have caught my attention. However, since it went on to say that once Geelani Sahib had left, the crowd suddenly turned violent and resorted to stone pelting, I was surprised. I could not fathom as to how, after a commitment by our revered leader to carry forward the struggle in a ‘peaceful and democratic way’ the congregation suddenly turned both violent and undemocratic? And this made me scour the news item once again. And it was then that I found the ‘catch’. What had escaped my notice was that Geelani Sahib while advocating ‘peaceful and democratic’ means, had also stated that he did not consider ‘Use of force for achieving freedom improper, but Kashmiris did not have the resources for such means of struggle’.

 I could not but help introspecting how these ambiguous statements would be perceived by the listeners.  Was the stone pelting the result of a section of the audience which wanted to prove Geelani sahib’s statement that, ‘Kashmiris did not have the resources for such means of struggle’ wrong? I will admit that while I may not agree with his views that call for ‘dumping mobile phones in the Chenab’ or doing away with co-education, I have always admired Geelani sahib for his dedication towards the Kashmir cause. Therefore,  I was surprised that the same Geelani sahib who had in August last year declared that since ‘stone pelting only brings harm to Kashmiris’, the youth should refrain from it and keep the “freedom movement completely peaceful”, had suddenly stated that he did not consider ‘Use of force for achieving freedom improper’!

I will deviate from the ideological or political issues of ‘azadi’ or the ‘right to self determination’, because a lot has been said on these issues. Instead, I will dwell on how in pursuance of these elusive objectives, our social and cultural fabric is being devastated. Violence, which till yesterday was alien to our society and culture, is today threatening to become its distinctive characteristic. And if this is what people understand from Geelani Sahib’s plea of continuing “our struggle through peaceful and democratic means,” then there is a major flaw in what is being conveyed by our leaders and what is being perceived by the people. This is something really serious which the Hurriyat must immediately remedy.

Violence has an uncanny habit of spiraling out of control. One has to just recall how those whom General Musharraf hailed as the ‘good militants’ became the ones who are now attacking the same army which nurtured it. In Kashmir too, the cult of violence is showing signs of fissiparous tendencies and my mind goes back to the occasion in December last year, when the Mirwaz’s motorcade was pelted with stones in Sopore- the stones meant to be cast at ‘occupational’ forces instead found a ‘target’ in one of our own leaders-this is exactly how the cult of violence works!

History is replete with examples of how the culture of violence has either consumed its perpetuators or ruined the community. Once violence becomes a community trait, then there is no way that it can be eradicated. No father ever encourages his children to be violent. On the contrary, he teaches them the virtue of tolerance and compassion so that they abjure the use of force even when tormented. Our leaders are like our fathers and need to consider the dangerous effects of indirectly encouraging violence by either maintaining complete silence or at best giving half hearted responses- like the one when a shopkeeper of Nowhatta was bludgeoned to death in December last year, merely since he refused to shut his shop in response to a hartal call.

Ask any psychologist, or for that matter any elder and they will tell you that the moral ethics a child does not acquire during the impressionable stage of his life, can never be drummed into him later on. Similarly, a child cannot be made to renounce the negative traits what he picks up at this stage. Therefore, it is important that we do not allow our unique cultural trait of peaceful character be infested with the virus of violence. Because, would it be really worth to get ‘azadi’ at the cost of inheriting a society where violence prevails over humanity and where might is considered right?

Author resides at New Delhi and can be mailed at