In an overly politicized atmosphere here ordinary Kashmiris have been given to believe that ‘they are the best’ in terms of talent, competence, and almost everything else. Without going into the specifics, the statement itself is finding increasing resonance both in public as well as private discourse. Beginning from the natural beauty of the place people usually end up doing a lot of self-sycophancy. Even as doubting these assertions in entirety would come at the peril of one’s own objectivity, however, certain reservations are certainly there to the generality of the standard statement. There are obviously very good, honest and sincere people around in Kashmir, but once it comes to defining the character of the collective – a society or a nation – the definition is drawn from the general behavioral trends of its people. It is exactly here that all the self-praise and adoration gets relegated to mere narcissism without any substantive evidence to prove what is being said about our collective behaviour.
Had it not been so, obviously then Kashmir would not have been what it is today. It would not have been topping the list of most corrupt states. Its hill and dale wouldn’t have denuded the way it has. Dal Lake, Wullar and Manasbal lakes wouldn’t be on the verge of death. Jehlum wouldn’t have become a massive sever. Forests wouldn’t have disappeared the way they have and are still continuing to. Kashmir’s hospitals wouldn’t have become like death chambers where people die painful death for want of medical attention and care they deserve. Land mafia would not have got a free hand to transform fertile agrarian land into concrete jungles. Transporters wouldn’t have turned roads and streets into death traps where people lose their life or limb without fail day-in and day-out…
Can anyone actually cite a single government or semi-government or for that matter even a private agency here which is not plagued with corruption, both moral and material? We all may no doubt take pride in talking a great deal about the rule of law, but may one dare and ask if the agencies meant to uphold and implement the rule of law actually operate within the ambit of law; do they themselves abide by, and obey laws? While all the shortcomings in our individual as well as collective behavior are hidden to none, yet we all have the cheek to praise ourselves. It is ridiculous! Indeed this is wherefrom springs all the evils that have become somewhat a characteristic feature of our popular culture. Culture, as many believe is not confined to ‘Pheran’ or ‘Kangri’ or ‘Wazwan’ alone; culture is what people do, how they live their lives, eat, breathe and sleep. Honestly seen we are very bad in all these activities and yet we so falsely think and make others believe that we are the best. Sorry to say it – we are not.
As long as we continue to live in this kind of make-believe world where everything is prefixed with glorifying superlatives, we may not be able to look at all the shortcomings that define us as collective. Any worthwhile change in this mindset will start only once we acknowledge and confess our wrongs, for then only we could muster will and vision to set things right. Our roads and streets are, for instance, a very sorry reflection of our collective behaviour where we see everyone jostling by pushing and shoving others out to grab their spaces. Here the footpaths and sidewalks meant for the common pedestrians remain under the forced occupation of shopkeepers and roadside vendors, forcing the latter to walk on roads meant for the vehicular traffic. And buses and cars and auto-rickshaws and scooters and motorcycles too remain in an ever-competing mode slugging it out among themselves as well as with the pedestrians to move ahead with none showing any regard for the road rules or even for the human life. All this will have to change. And this change would start unfolding only once each of us starts acknowledging and appreciating the other by respecting their rights while securing our very own as well. This calls for a massive reformation movement – reformation of the self.