Praising the Demon to Survive

Since the last few decades, a few religious identities, new community definitions and the idea of State underwent a significant but drastic shift. A new articulation of ‘we feeling’, Biradari (brotherhood) and engagement of small numbers (radicals)  to prove certain alien ideologies as a new culture for us all, gained momentum and aimed at nothing but the polarization of natives.

Adfar Shah

What is culture? In answer, I always say, what not is a culture. A total way of life that yarns the social fabric and tells us the codes of life while keeping us connected to our past. Culture gives us our identity and tells us of our existing social collective that is so composite and inclusive. Today we are in every mess because we undermine the very culture and adopt all the political models to manipulate the same for vested interests. To build a culture of peace we need interaction (that is so limited) and of course the education (where is that?) that is peace based. The question is how to make our education a critical education? We can make it so, provided it gives due space to our local culture and context and is a quality education (I do not mean at expensive schools). The state craft always fails to see peace through culture for it hardly believes in the culture of the masses (to them always masses are asses), therefore fails to understand the culture for a collective social well being. In turn it forcibly imposes its own brand of culture based on repression and violence. It never bothers to see solutions embedded in the conflict itself but believes in its superficial elite/utopian theories for all solutions (that actually never translate on ground). Culture needs love and a good understanding to build a strong functional social fiber (reverse happening). The very culture if manipulated becomes the matter of contestation (conflict as well). Time has come to move from mere theories of culture to the practice of our own culture because we are yet to see our culture as a uniting factor and have been seeing curriculum/social ideas/media opinions containing everything but values of the society we live in. Unless we are not familiarized with our own (Abhinav Gupt, Lal Ded, Nund Reshi, Allama Iqbal, Nyamih Sahab,Shams Faqir, Wahab Khar, Rusul Mir, famous kings and their rule, history of repression, etc,) cultural roots, we cannot be emancipated. We are today in the leadership crisis purely because of the lack of familiarity of the local culture, its strengths and knowhow of our historical continuities and ruptures.

Culture is not a mere peace agency, but itself a peace (if discovered). Culture manifests solidarity and is an epitome of we feeling among the diverse. It has purely been the power lust that has manipulated the culture historically. The polarization of culture into a plethora of compartmentalized cultures (foreign packets, culture fostered through petro dollars, etc,) every stake holder tried to prove his illusion and it was all for nothing but creating a space and identity in society and finally to shape up a society of violence, intolerant on all lines even syncretic ethos. From Hindu-Buddhist-Muslim-Mughal-Pathan-Sikh-Dogra to the modern era’s illusion of democracy, common masses have always suffered and actually their culture (mostly political) never found the place it deserved. People’s culture has always been demonized by vested interests and culture has been more reduced to a mere political activism (to lure the ignorant).

If we want to understand Kashmir via people’s perspective (not allowed to be available), we need to have the understanding of her regional identity, shared identity and the cultural practices of the land (not merely the imitation of any particular alien faith and the culture associated with).We are foolishly trying to compare alien cultures with our own and try to adopt other cultures for we feel inferior with our own (a state of identity crisis). We also lack a rational civil society and creation of a critical civil society for functional social transformation is important especially in those contexts where religion shapes the society more often (like ours). Religion is a social phenomenon, because it is “woven into the fabric of social life”(said Yinger, a sociologist in l957).

But we turned it to a personal and force phenomenon. In wake of the rising social tensions, perpetual political chaos, uncertainty and instability nothing but our culture that (if truly expressed) could have been a pathway to peace but it was never a priority of the elite to dig out anything from culture itself. We could have found our peaceful Kashmir through our age old practices in our diverse cultural, social and even religious activities but indoctrination and political illiteracy at every level marred the whole scene. We could have recognized and understood our teen agers (youth) and explore in them their dormant intellectual, spiritual, creative and physical  energies for manufacturing peace but that all was possible only by creating a culture of integrity, forgiveness, community understanding and a dignified social collective. We achieved Azadi long back but the Azadi from our rich tradition, sense of we-feeling, culture of tolerance, inter-faith connections, social customs aiming at mutual interaction, rich folklore, love for the neighbour, communal harmony, and respect and  for the elders, etc,. Today they (power elite) mean culture only by arranging the local dance programme for politicians (always for a limited few like Zubin’s show) at big city centres or relishing Wazwa’an in state functions. Kashmiri language as our identity decayed (no one cares) and our thinkers restricted themselves only on to market oriented poetry rather than contributing to richness of Kashmiri literature.

Time has come when we need to learn from the strengths of the oppressor and the state craft must know that the failure of the subalterns to rise and grow (gagging the dissent voices)) actually reflects the crisis of the authority. To maintain the power relations or resistance process reflects our perpetual culture of oppression that is actually a strong deterrent to the development culture of the masses (people’s sense of freedom). We are still nothing but a post Chakdari/Dogra (colonial) accumulation and thus have to learn from the native culture and find peace through that only.

Relying upon any Indo-centric or Eurocentric or for that matter Pak-centric models reflects our ideological blindness, intellectual bankruptcy, acute identity crisis, dysfunctional social collective and finally means our unprecedented extinction. Today every Kashmiri laments about the state we are in, but inside the four walls of the house and surprisingly keeps a different fake perception outside his/her home. Everyone knows about the wrongs going on (strong conception of state dominion) but keep praising the demon outside to survive and to continue life among the demons because s/he has to live and survive among the dragons.Today when uncertainty and dilemma is in every mind because the fear of one and all prevails (fear of small numbers-By Appadurai applies).

Well the unknown gunmen (Na-Maloom Bandook Barda’ar)  gunned down thousands of innocents but the culprits could never be turned into known criminals by our massive security apparatus. The state has to ensure the responsibility to protect ((sar)panchs yet to be protected) and do not give any space to military interventions (Gen V.K blames and they quietly subscribe) arbitrarily and not just pursue selfish motives in the name of national interests. The need of the hour is political reconciliation with the oppressed groups and angry/violent communities (the people oppressed and abused in 1987 during and after rigged elections) as well to prevent the further human rights abuse. Kashmir needs the voice of the masses for peace but for that the voice must be free. The irony is that the very free voice (calm maintained through fear always) is artificial and actually subjected to survival. The power regime maintains the order and their order is nothing but a controlled chaos actually. We all though enjoy the freedom but the freedom to be silent and freedom to spend time (life) silently. Such a pathetic plight of the Kashmiris’ reminds me of the venerated poet-Mehjoor who understandingly wrote:

“There is restlessness in every heart,

But no one dare speak out

Afraid that with their free expression

                       Freedom may be annoyed”      (Poem: Azadi)

Still we are in mess for we have failed to contribute to our culture, find peace through it and revive its glory. We ourselves undermine it and follow the elites and alien cultures. Most often we love sycophancy and sub-ordination. Only masses can change this because the battle for excellence for all credentials has to be fought by all common men and women together.

Culture is like flowing water, it means dynamism and always remains in making. Its being composite naturally fetches peace because it makes the people to interact and thus shun the preconceived negative notions and assumptions about one another. Culture makes peace when it is inclusive and the very inclusiveness of culture actually entitles the peripherals (oppressed and marginalized) to exist, who otherwise count nowhere when culture of a few becomes dominant. An inclusive culture of Kashmir means our age old composite culture that is looked as a threat by vested interests and given certain venomous labels. Culture needs to be seen in totality not in packets if we are to manufacture peace through it (I donot mean Karm Kaand that always aims at creating specific and conflicting identities).

Understanding the local ethos with its traditional versions actually means winning the game. Today anybody can make peace in Kashmir provided s/he finds how the binding thread broke and how oppression became the order of the day and simultaneously how the knot can be made to reconnect. Just lamenting upon the existing state of affairs is not enough but stopping the production and reproduction of countercultures (aimed at violence and disharmony) is imperative, and that must be the prime agenda of peace lovers. Also there is a need to deconstruct the existing grid of textual knowledge (most of that is actually distorted) and even to shun the intellectual equipment of peace concepts, theories, categories and principles but a sincere return to masses and reading their aspirations, listening to their outbursts, apologizing for the wrongs did to them, compensating amply and working honestly to return the lost dignity of the common Kashmiri. The rupture between the everyday life and the establishment needs to be abridged and reach out to Awaam made the first priority. Those who can see peace through penetrating into the people’s culture can actually contribute their fair share towards the betterment of human life. Culture through tradition, contextual education, right socialization, skillful parenting and social control (that upholds human dignity) is the best weapon to make peace and cannot be replaced with the rhetoric and culture of elites that aims at alienation, violence and oppression or for that matter with elections or delivering Bijli, Pani and Sadak. Raheem Das beautifully says in Awadhi;

“Rahiman Dekh Bad’en Ko Laghu Na Dijye Daari

Jahan Kaam Aavay Sooyi Kahan Karay Talwaari”

(Adfar Shah is a Delhi based (Kashmiri) Sociologist and belongs to SNCWS, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Views expressed are personal. Reach at

One comment

  1. an illuminating article which not only highlights the reasons of our woes (which we have ourselves created), but also puts forth the way out.

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