We are a unique people. Our culture, our history, our civilisation and our way of living – everything we have is different. As Kashmiris our identity, like our status, is special. (With or without 35-A) ours is a remarkable achievement – which no nation (living or dead) on the planet can dream of. Believe it or not, we are the only blessed human species to have a recorded history of five thousand years.
One of the most self-deluding theories we encounter is this theory of uniqueness. Some of us guard it as an article of faith or (if faith doesn’t work) they prove it as a scientific truth. Before you decide which side of the `uniqueness plebiscite’, you are on, may I ask what makes us unique? Why my features as a Kashmiri are distinct from others? How does my history make me special? What extraordinary stuff has gone into my making? Yes, the only distinction I have is the distinction that everyone has. Being human. Ideology may set me apart from others, but biology flattens my existence. Biologically I am a biped with all sensory motors my fellow bipeds share with me.
Now for history, I have not produced sufis and saints only, I have produced thugs and scoundrels in equal measure. Now which part should introduce me depends on the case I am pleading.
We are unique because we are uniform. The very myth of uniqueness has an automatic origin in the very evolution of human beings. Like our finger prints – which forensic scientists believe – are singularly different from each other, each nation, each culture is a story different from the rest. Cultures dissolve into societies, societies into communities, communities into regions, regions to countries, countries to continents and continents make a world. This chain is natural and logical.
If people start demanding separate homelands on the basis of a manufactured `uniqueness’, then we will have independent republics in each district. We will have separate prime ministers for separate streets. Because each street is unique in its own right.
Five-thousand-year-old-history is an old story. Nations have prospered without history and America is a blazing example. Well that never means we denounce our past, that means we look ahead to make a better future. Our uniqueness theory has been hijacked by a dangerous colonial politics. It has been sold to us as a treasure we shouldn’t part with. Sub-cultures, sub-ethnicities, sub-divisions of nation and race have made us subjects of an oppressive thought.
The idea of religion is not necessarily an idea of God, but an idea of a group of people brought under a common religious denominator. They co-exist with their own sub-religious practices but still make a part of a bigger whole. Why then Hindus sink their peripheral identities in a bigger political power structure. They are not Punjabis, Biharis, Bengalis and they don’t demand countries.
They are Hindus whose regional identities are protected under the big banner of Hindu-stan. Their case works on the logic of democracy, not ethnicity. Their understanding of Hindu-stan is not a coercive regime of Hindus where Punjab, Bihar and Bengal have no place. They are happy being the constituents of a big picture called Hindustan. But with us the case is different. We have been fed with a dead theory of uniqueness which makes us the denizens of a fool’s paradise where we sing the songs of uniqueness to the tune of our colonial gods.
We are Homo sapiens with a special sub-species called kashmiris. God has made us on the eighth day of the week (when He was done with the rest of the world).