Raouf Rasool

Extolling courage, resolve, and sacrifice

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If there is a thing all the different political leaders and formations here are unanimous about – it is the SACRIFICE. This is why word ‘sacrifice’ has become a flag-post of the entire political discourse here, with both mainstream and separatist parties claiming its ownership, so much so that past experiences as well as future hopes and possibilities are weighed in reference to the sacrifices of the people. “People have sacrificed so much for …!”

Now this is indeed very impressive! No one could dispute the significance of ‘sacrifices’ for the success of any political movement. However, in Kashmir context, this term has been relegated to mere cliché that so impressively dots the political speeches but in reality means nothing for those using it without fail. NC and PDP stake claim to people’s leadership on the back and basis of the sacrifices of their leaders and cadres. Separatists and their militant counterparts say they are the representatives and guardians of the people’s sacrifices. But nobody bothers to tell us as to what has been the net gain for the ordinary mortals of this place who are tactually the ones whose sacrifices are owned and appropriated by political actors of all hues.

“Freedom”, whatever it means to different sets of people in different political settings,  is no doubt a cherished dream and ultimate aim of the ordinary, the have-nots. But it is certainly not a priority of the political haves in both camps. They are already better-off — free, enjoying unmatched economic freedoms with which they can, and they do buy and ensure all other freedoms. Anyone on top of the political and economic ladder would certainly doesn’t want to come down. Common political sense has it that the status-quo suits them and they are enjoying best of both worlds, and then indulging in hollow rhetorical jingoism once in a while to ensure they don’t fall short of a certain minimum of professed popular support.

It is unfortunate that those who claim to be leaders here have over the years become habitual of glorifying death and destruction, people’s physical and mental trauma as if it were popular achievements. This is why words like sacrifice find increased coinage in their vocabulary. Someone is seen exalting martyrs’ just to claim that he and his group is the ‘real representative’ and ‘Tarjuman’ (spokesperson) of the “martyrs’ blood” and the other is seeking more sacrifices from people and yet others pledging that sacrifices won’t be undermined or betrayed… This is what has been going on endlessly here for the past nearly three decades.

By the way, a little bit of research into the world ‘sacrifice’ reveals that it means offering of something, animate or inanimate, in a ritual procedure which establishes, or mobilizes, a relationship of mutuality between the one who sacrifices (whether individual or group) and the recipient — who may be human but more often is of another order – God. But in any case, howsoever one prefers to define it, there is always an element of voluntarism in the act of sacrifice, a voluntary act of deliberately following a course of action that has a high risk or certainty of suffering, personal loss or death. No wonder the world-wide-web suggests you must also look up ‘victimize’ when searching the meaning of sacrifice. Having said this, one may ask if all those common sufferings of Kashmiri people, their deaths, tortures, rapes, bombings, even being caught in cross-fire – all that are counted as ‘sacrifices’ today, were actually the voluntary acts?

Ayn Rand, in her “Virtue of Selfishness” explains the term ‘sacrifice’ as the exchanging of that which is valued highly, for that which is valued less, or not at all. Obviously, the logic then says that during sacrifice one gives up something “less valued” in exchange of something “more valuable”. As is true in the Kashmir’s political context, this logic simply trivializes the value of human life and dignity. And in her philosophical thought, ‘Objectivism’, based on the principle that the “highest good is the pursuit of one’s own rational self-interest”, Rand’s logic says that “rational self interest” will never ever allow anyone to devalue self-life, which according to her is “irrational”. She says acts that are irrationally and egotistically motivated and not considered sacrifice.

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