Clichéd interpretations contribute little to mitigating discord; they merely reinforce traditional ideological positions, make for sensational news-bites and heart-rending narratives; ditto the Kashmir dispute. Its intractability stems not from want of effort, but from a myopic, black and white postulation that casts the Indian government as the “big bad wolf” in this real-life fairy tale and Kashmiris as hapless victims of a brutal authoritarian establishment.
This lopsided equation that throws the entire onus of conflict resolution on the Indian government, needs to be replaced with a more equitable and realistic formula. Blind empathy or an over-indulgent parent-child relationship that pardons egregious transgressions and frank, corrective input is a recipe for failure. Pointed remediation is warranted. The growing number of Wahhabis in Kashmir must be made to realise that their ostensibly pristine call for self-determination is a flawed concept riddled with glaring fault lines that actually corrupt their true identity, instead of enhancing it. For one it is historically incongruous, second it celebrates violence and third it condones and perpetuates the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits—attributes at odds with the traditional concept of “Kashmiriyat”. Yes, your shining “moon has blood clots” (to use the title of Rahul Pandita’s book on the Kashmiri Pandit exodus) and Kashmiris must be told that in no uncertain terms to puncture the divisive fundamentalist separatist agenda. Only then will tide of separatism ebb from the valley.
The Wahhabi cry for separatism stems from a narrow interpretation of their identity; a notion that strips away 5,000 years of a rich cultural heritage and focuses on but one facet—their current religious affiliation, a trait intrinsic to barely 700 years of their 5,000 years of recorded existence. The yearly pilgrimage of thousands of Hindus from all over India to Amarnath and the endless line of devotees flocking to Vaishno Devi is a standing testimony to the ancient and inseparable bond between Kashmir and India that the separatists wish to rupture. Ironically, the separatism that they crave for will be the death knell of the syncretic culture of Hindu Saivism and Sufi mysticism that defines Kashmiryat.
Those who cry themselves hoarse about Indian Army atrocities need to be reminded that the cycle of violence was not initiated by the Indian government. It is a quagmire of their own making: the consequence of embracing violence as a strategy. In 1990, Kashmiri Muslims tacitly endorsed militant violence that resulted in Kashmiri Pandits fleeing the Valley in droves; the Indian Army had to step in to restore law and order.
Violence continues to be the guiding mantra in the form of mobocracy that runs rampant in the valley. And the very fact that Burhan Wani, who made no bones of carrying a gun, is the poster boy for the current spate of street violence, cements this charge. On the flip side, the large number of casualties of security personnel negates the propaganda of one-sided brutality.
Lastly, Kashmiri Wahhabis are guilty of a serious ethical violation: the ethnic cleansing of over 250,000 Hindu Kashmiri Pandits; an atrocity which in itself is sufficient to damn a movement into unacceptability. Wahhabis cannot absolve themselves by pointing to militants. They are equally to blame.
Recently a Kashmiri IAS officer Shah Faesal pontificated: “……. when a state kills and maims its own citizens, it is self-injury and self-decimation of the worst sort. ”
To him I respond: “When a people maim, murder and drive away their own (Kashmiri Pandits) it is savagery at its worst.” Moreover, it denotes a collective human failure of gargantuan moral proportions that dwarfs state failure. Collective human attitudes are both the first and last frontier of state facilitated law and order, both of which have fallen in Kashmir.
To regain credibility Kashmiris must rectify this wrong. Unfortunately, attempts to relocate the Pandits have met with stiff resistance suggesting a lack of remorse.
It takes two to tango. The Indian government has been more than magnanimous; now Kashmiris need to do their bit. They need to introspect, celebrate both their past and present and graciously acknowledge Wahhabi wrongdoings— that, in short, is the panacea.