Relearning Kashmir

Adfar Shah

Kashmir needs the inculcation of lucid and methodical thinking, so that the knowledge which is the foundation of a sound belief can be systematically built to yield clarity of purpose. For want of a systematic and logical method of approaching an issue as critical as the roots and causes of the Kashmir conflict, a huge void has developed in the understanding of the Kashmir issue, over six decades of independence. Notwithstanding the change in times, the change in realities and the change in the needs of the problem, fixating the context, resulted in stagnating the very minds that are expected to evolve the solutions. Skewed percepts of the analysts, coupled with the disconnect with people, made the Kashmiri narrative drift far away from the core issues of the Kashmiri society. When the opinion makers from within the society themselves got so far removed from the quintessential yearnings of the Kashmiri people, why would the outside world not join in the chorus? As a result of this, the vital needs and interests of the Kashmiris started becoming submerged in the flood of research literature based on absurd assumptions, ill intentioned questionnaires, manipulated statistics and unscientific methodologies.

Most of the research works on the on-going Kashmir conflict had pre-decided outcomes and the data were fabricated to suit the practice of generalization, distorting every truth to the core. This trap of generality (our biggest problem in Kashmir) has further complicated the K-issue and deepened the sufferings of the people. Another aspect that marred the prospects of  forging peace in Kashmir, was the imitation of the foreign models or whole sale borrowing of the tactics for taking the movement forward. How could a model, reflecting the ways of Kashmiris, possibly have matched those models that were meant for implementation and application in diametrically opposite contexts such as Palestine, Egypt or Syria? But they were forced on us because we neither created our own specific context nor did we discover our very own theoretical constructs. This led to complete alteration of the empirical realities of the Kashmiri society, be it the idea of peace, secession, volatility, criminality, instability, uncertainty, dissent or perpetual chaos. Kashmir needed intellectual investment in terms of innovative and unique (exclusive) mass based techniques to evolve a scientific compendium of the ideas and outputs based on genuine field work, authentic data and true research. Since the conflict was youth dependent, the empirical data too should have been related to the youth and should have been studied in the backdrop of the socio-historical developments.  Since none of this happened, the only way out is to re-study the records of all those events that continue to comprise significant the milestones of Kashmir’s history. Agreements, disagreements, commissions, incidents of HR abuse, killings, disappearances, tortures and many more have shaped a psychological construct that cannot be erased but it can be overwritten by the real. Unless we want to perpetuate an unreal DNA of Kashmir conflict and arrive at a solution that does not relate to the problem, we must de-mystify the past and re-learn the very concept of Kashmir, its facts, biases and prejudices, in order to put our analysis in the local perspective. Moreover, the very social realities and good that is so deep seated in our inherent characteristics, has to emerge as the basis of the understanding. Where ever it is difficult to determine the actual, for the sake of future generations,   it is just appropriate that we start from the assumed good. No doubt, new realities coupled with the new intricacies will emerge as we go along, however the scientific study of Kashmir and Kashmiris are bound to lead to new horizons of hope, success and knowledge about the very context. We need to understand the ideas of migration, adaptation to the new environment and the new development arenas. We need to keep abreast of the issues of continuity and change in tradition, social tensions and dissent. We need to ponder over the ideas painted in Islamic/other or religious contexts and understand the new realities of intolerance and newly emerging social but conflicting frameworks of we and them. We must not treat the innately political conflict merely as an outcome of historical timelines, events or accidents but understand them through profound philosophical, psychological and social principles, with a scientific approach, so as to reach some feasible and functional solution. We need to define the causes and effects of events to evolve distinctive ideas on Kashmir. We also need to factor in, the change and developments in the very idea of the conflict or the society in conflict.

A society that invested so heavily in guns, needs its social scientists to wake up from the slumber of fear and lethargy and apply themselves to unravel the complexities and realities of various social groups rather than only being preoccupied or concerned in executing the funded projects. They need to study the Kashmir situation seriously and understand it through a multi-pronged approach and put forward their recommendations for the resolution of the social conflict, which is increasing palpably. There is still ample scope for social mapping, achieving objectivity rather than seeing the problem barely from the victim’s perspective, re-analyzing the analysis already done, increasing face to face interaction, etc.  Also, all the institutions, ranging from the security forces to the civil society must show tolerance and resilience to the views that emerge during the discussions and debates on K-issue. Since there is no cut and dry solution to the conflict, so we should keep experimenting rather than freezing our educational, social and cultural growth. There has to be an effective cultural communication among the people to foster the sense of indigenous ethos. Further, all the efforts of peace building should aim at keeping the people’s identity intact and involving them in every intervention. Also, cultural interactions in the form of theatre fests, melas and exhibitions will provide for a soft way of disseminating the idea of peace. More than anything else, these activities will forge better people to people connections.

The common masses cannot afford to be just a tool in the hands of the power elite who always act as their guide (Mai Baap) but need to make their own stand, voice their own opinions and carve a significant public forum to speak for themselves and from where their voices would be heard loud and clear! Kashmir and its social collective, needs a common man’s approach to arrive at a people centric solution to the conflict. Amid the flood of fallacious approaches and mishandling of people and situations, the common man has lost his/her space. There is also a need to give to the youth their rightful place and to empower them. Despondency must change into hope and aspirations into realities.

Allama Iqbal aptly says,

Andaz-e-Byan Gharche Bohat Shaukh Nahin Hai
Shaid Ke Utar Jaye Tere Dil Mein Meri Baat

[Though I have little of the rhetorician’s art, Maybe these words will sink into your heart].

Adfar Shah is a Delhi based (Kashmiri) Sociologist and Fellow at SAISA. His columns appear in eminent national and international media groups. Reach at

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