It seems that for so long, the mindset has been that in order for peace to prevail, freedom from foreign oppressors would first have to be overcome. What hasn’t been taken into account that there is another hand holding us down, another string keeping us tied– our own reluctance and unwillingness to progress in the face of adversity. Too long have we been denying ourselves this right. It’s time for a reform.
Freedom is what we make of our surroundings, the effort we put into creating a niche of our own. Peace is the quality which we must seek to realize, the glowing light of tranquility that warms us. So what we need is to be mentally free, to find our inner peace. The keys to doing so are simple enough- energy, communication, and education.
Forget what extrinsic members of society may be doing to us. What our real concern should be are the things we are depriving ourselves from knowing and understanding. These are the obstacles we must clear in order to attain felicity. At the heart of most every oppressive regime, there is a mass suppression of the intelligentsia, for these are the individuals who, even amidst the chaos, find ground to stand on. This is the heart of our solution.
Kashmiris of the world must be united in their cause. This is hardly time to fight over who gets what seat and what position, who is more important and who will lead Kashmir in the end to its victory. Internal mismanagement is what keeps us an occupied country. We have individuals laying claims to various parties, with no hope of working together if one group snubs the other. Kashmir doesn’t need any more political factions, but more political awareness.
In this day and age of modern advancements, we’ve still not utilized hydropower to the best of our ability. With all the natural resources available to us, why have we not forged ahead and ensured an unlimited supply of power?
Communication is the bridge without which all of our efforts would be in vain. It connects us to the far flung areas, and boosts our self-worth. We can only move forward once we all move along instep, side by side, with a clear and concise cause fueling our works.
Now, just what do I mean by education? My generation has grown up under the thumb of militias and guerilla warfare. For us, schools would be open only when hartals and curfews weren’t instated. Classes were an occasional affair. Intermittent electricity did nothing to alleviate our frustration. We were at loss as to how to get by, and could only sit back and dream of the day we’d be free of this torture. What we didn’t realize is that our mindset was what was holding us back. The mentality of most seems to be what has happened has happened, and there is precious little that can be done to rectify it. But I’ve some suggestions on how we can break this vicious cycle of backwards thinking.
Step 1: Become more open-minded.
Just because something is different doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong. Trying to see both sides of an issue, thinking before you speak, working for the betterment of man without regard of personal interest– start small. Read, read, READ. From every corner of the world, the classics, philosophies, biographies, all and anything to broaden your horizons. In time you will reap the benefits of this act, and come to see the fruit of your labor. Throw prejudices from you heart, become accepting of others, join hands in the fight, but do not meet fists. The best battles are those fought between minds alone. Never harbor hate. It is a fiendish ghoul that will rotten the purest of minds.
Step 2: Go to school.
Study well, top your classes, and ensure yourself a national seat in a prestigious institution. Attempt to secure any form of a scholarship along the way. Complete your degree, and become an upstanding citizen. Vote. Make yourself heard through your works. Express your thoughts through your hobbies. Get a job in the most competitive fields; infiltrate each and every aspect of Indian life and culture. Speak Hindi or Urdu with clarity, become well-read in the matters of art, history, poetry, and science. Run for a political office. Become the dean of medicine in the finest hospital. Espouse economic reform measures. In short- take advantage of each and every opportunity afforded to you by the world’s largest democracy, but keep strong in your heart the solidarity of your people. Bring forth the wealth of the oppressing regime into your backyard, and let us bring back our former glory.
Step 3: Keep Kashmir clean.
The Vale still holds remnants of the beauty it once was, and if you squint really hard, you can still see the breathtaking sunrise over Dal through all the smog from the city. But pretty soon all of this congestion and lack of proper waste management will get the better of us, and all that’ll be left of our former Heaven will be a heap of trash. What needs to be done is to ensure the establishment of trash receptacles at all major gatherings, at parks, on street corners, and in busy market places, and ensure their usage. There are many environmental woes that can’t be blamed on outsiders. Anchar Lake is history, yet we still talk of Dal. Filth covers our streets, dung fills in the nooks and crevices of our roads, and the ambient fragrance of garbage often greet our nostrils. Washrooms aren’t necessary when walls are abundant. Stagnant waters give life to mosquitoes, and proliferate disease. And who dumps the trash in our lanes in the first place? Who instigated this dangerous chain of events?
We impede our nation’s progress. If anything, thanks in part to the persistent efforts of a good many in our society, we are slowly slipping back to days long forgotten by industrialized nations. Shame fills me when I see tourists in the streets perusing the wares of Lal Chowk amidst filth, dung, and a penetrating odor of urine. One is more likely to collide with livestock driving the roads than with another vehicle. Trash is dropped as though a trail beckoning Alice to the rabbit hole. Hospitals are breeding grounds for fatal illnesses. Dogs rule the streets.
Step 4: Solidify our identity.
What is the image we wish to project via the media or social networks? Who are the Kashmiri people? What do they believe in, what do they want, and what are they willing to do in order to attain it? We need a common slogan, banner, idea wherein we may band together and work towards a common goal. A flag to flutter behind us, an anthem to bring tears to our eyes, and burning passion to incite us to wrought change. What is the Koshur identity? Saffron fields and tulip gardens, mountain peaks and sparkling lakes, coal-filled kangris and woolen pherans. Why are we allowing this all to be forgotten? Tomorrow’s child will only know of their existence in fanciful stories told by arthritic grandparents. We’re all in this mad rush to become rich, famous, and successful. Who has time to stay in touch with their roots? The future is progress– this speck on the map is getting nowhere, so why stick around? We must ask ourselves: What makes me a Kashmiri? Books dating from the British rule talk of our tight-knit communities, the language, the cuisine. But where has all of that been lost? Castes split us, foreign tongues replace our own, and nothing’s better than a steaming slice of pizza. So what is our differentiating factor, what sets us apart? It is essential for us to reestablish our priorities. There is no room for the creation of ‘Muslim’ parties, ‘Hindu’ parties, or ‘Sikh’ parties– we are all joined by the ties of Kashmiriyat as children of the Valley.
Kashmir was a melting pot of different cultures and beliefs, thanks largely to the Silk Route that provided wealth to the people, as well as a place for many weary travelers to settle down. Tajiks, Turks, Afghans, Balochis, Chinese, the list goes on and on. These races indispensably make up the ethnic background of the Kashmiri people, and our current leaders need to wake up and realize that they should ascertain the feelings of the people in order to make the best decision for all of us. Otherwise what we end up with is some news crew or visiting head of state that will talk to the residents of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh and come out with three different ideas as to what should be done. Confusion is hardly what we need right now. So let’s take a clear stance, a Kashmiri stance, and understand what the Kashmiri nation wants.
Step 5: Be patient.
The old adage of patient being a virtue seems to be something we’ve come to forget. The common situation we tend to encounter in regards to impatience is a two-way intersection with one guy forcing his way into the lane of his choice, paying the least attention to the other guy who is attempting to get out the very same way. Then we have another fellow inching his way around the first person, and naturally we must throw in a few autos, bicycles, and gawking by-standers. Or how about the horning maniac who is behind you in traffic, his needs naturally more important that yours, as he tries to edge around you and get in front, regardless that it may cause you to careen into a pole. And if ever a fender bender is to occur, you’re the one at fault, no matter that the guy rammed into you because of an illegal turn he took. Even if you say nothing to him, he’ll make sure you know that it was your mistake in the first place. Frustration quickly turns to anger in this gilded cage.
Take your time when you set out to do something. See the sites along the way, and pause to enjoy the fragrances that greet you. It seems that we’ve grown so accustomed to having everything at our fingertips that even the slightest pause, a fraction of an instant, causes us dismay. To top it off, P’s and Q’s are a thing of the past. I’m fairly certain my generation hasn’t the slightest clue as to what ‘thank you’ or ‘please’ truly mean.
Step 6: Stop playing the blame game.
Everything is not always someone else’s fault. The sooner we come to terms with our own mistakes, the quicker we’ll set out to rectify them. Simply complaining as to how one thing or another isn’t as it should be, or that the building of some structure has come a standstill is pointless. Don’t just sit there and chew the fat. Do something.
Take our politics for instance. The individuals who are currently playing the political field waste our time by talking about what the other guy isn’t doing, and what they will do- but no one ever seems to get around to making a difference. There are set political parties who have a handbook on how to deal with us, and rope us along, generation after generation, with half truths and whole lies. After a couple of decades, they refresh their staff with younger faces, but they’re still spewing the same nonsense.
And, of late, what improvements have been made? The days pass in darkness, the nights in agony. We fret about in search of a figurehead to repair the damage done to you, but get nowhere due to our lack of faith. Now this faith need not arise out of a belief of a Higher Being. The faith of which I speak goes beyond the tenets that so oft separate those whom we should embrace as brothers. Simply stated, a deep-seated want, desire, thirst for change at all costs- this is what we lack. We have what it takes to bring about a renewed land, a Valley with progressive ideals, concrete morals, and a solid basis for the future. But our apathy is what holds us back. We should herald in the new light of prosperity, and bring back to the Vale forgotten desires, hopes, and aspirations.
Every day we have different leaders tell us what is a ‘must for the resolution of Kashmir’. Things that they find fault with in the opposition, or perhaps in the government, or maybe even with Parliament. But are there not major issues which we ourselves can easily resolve within our communities which are also a ‘must for the resolution of Kashmir’? Why do we not embark on the easier endeavor before attempting to scale a higher peak? It would be prudent to then do away with sheltered ideals and clichéd methodology that has gotten us nowhere these past sixty years.
Step 7: Create change.
Plant trees, cultivate flowers, recycle, greet others with a smile, and most important of all, go about all of your tasks with full conviction and dedication. Throw yourself into all that you do. Give old buildings a fresh coat of paint, be courteous to others, and hold open doors for the elderly. It’s the little things that count, the encounters that can change a person’s mood and significantly brighten their day.
Our movement should concentrate on setting up institutions that students from far and wide would wish to attend, schools free of bribery and corrupt internal affairs, libraries where a plethora of study material is available, parks that are clean, roads that are paved, consistent electricity, a healthy environment for our children, and most of all, a peace of mind.
Step 8: Protest with a purpose.
Don’t just take to the streets without any reason. More oft than not you see young children and teenagers filling the lanes, shouting slogans and slinging stones, but to what end? If you object to something, then vocalize your dissension in a coordinated manner. Wanton battery and bludgeoning of our already frail infrastructure is counterproductive.
Where others would use the internet to their advantage, to tell the world of what’s really happening, we set up pages that attack other groups with Kashmir agendas. When will we grow up? Who cares which leader is behind one support page or another? We get nowhere with our internal strife. When will the progeny of Kashmir come to the frank realization that in order for our country to stand up and walk on its own, it must first utilize both feet? External forces tie our laces together, and our hands slap at each other to be the first to undo the harm. We punish ourselves when we choose to pull rank, pass judgment, and petulantly respond to situations. Why do we sacrifice our well-being over trivial matters when there is much more to be concerned about?
So outlined above is the recipe for a well-deserved azaadi to a nation of self-reliant and proactive people, a blanket of sukoon to be draped on tired shoulders. These are the measures to be taken and instilled in our community in order to be done with the flailing foundation we’ve attempted to build upon these decades past, and in its stead institute a secure basis for growth. We should all strive in our respective fields, and as one garner the admiration of the world over. But what must be kept in mind is that articles written, documentaries made, and speeches expounded upon do precious little in the long run. Behind these works must stand a legion of willing individuals who all put their shoulders to the wheel and press on. Talk only goes so far. Get out there and have an effect on society.
(This article was a featured article on Kashmir Awareness on the 18th of November, 2012, and can be found here.)