OPINION

Between black and white, more than 50 shades of gray!

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By: Imran Khan

It just takes a humane heart to condemn, raise voice or feel empathetic with regard to the pain and suffering experienced by the people of Kashmir since ages, more specifically the mayhem that occurred quite recently in Kulgam Kashmir where 7 civilians lost their lives and around 50 were injured. It is almost impossible to express the pain and loss in words that the families of injured and deceased may be having. May we not witness anything like that again- Aamin.

However prayers minus initiatives will probably produce no results at all. We as humans and also citizens of Jammu and Kashmir should make every effort to stop and prevent anything like that to happen again. In the words of Howard Zinn “…….And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future”. If we want resolution of Kashmir issue, formation of a social justice system and peace, not just in Kashmir but in entire south Asia, we have to act, in however small a way.

Now the million dollar question which arises here is what can and should we do? While discussing the same equation with my intellectual friends and colleagues, I was amazed, once again, with the nature of human cognitions. Moreover, I, yet again, appreciated the knowledge uncovered by cognitive psychologists. For example Aaron Beck a famous cognitive Psychologist identified numerous specific human cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions refer to our errors in thinking that lead to faulty assumptions and misconceptions and that can distort objective reality.  Further these cognitive distortions are categories of automatic thinking, and must be distinguished from logical fallacies. He came up with 7 types of cognitive distortions including “Dichotomous thinking”. That is, thinking in “black and white” terms rather than “shades of gray.”  Such thinking refers to evaluating the self, as well as events in life, in extreme terms. It’s either all good or all bad, either black or white, nothing in between.

Now what I was able to understand out of many informal public discourses and also the strategy of resistance leadership with regard to Kashmir conflict and our response to it, is like that of “Dichotomous thinking”: Either to be completely mute with regard to what is happening around or to take an extreme step, either business as usual or simply a strike call. But we must understand that between the two extremes there is a lot of space. It is not necessary to take any of the extremes to bring about some change or to help restore peace and resolve Kashmir, but we can exploit the options in the between, surely. And those options can be anything and need to be explored. Now I don’t mean to say that we are totally naïve or our leadership is incapable, however what result can we expect by continuously pushing a door which may require a pull at times.

What I am suggesting is that we can take small and varied non- violent baby steps towards conflict resolution and peace.  Our responses can be creative, non-violent, peaceful and yet very effective, without changing the cause. For example we have traditionally also used folk drama called ‘band-e pather’ to convey the atrocities faced by common people. And quite recently as well, many youth have used creative art, music and poetry etc to raise their voice against the suffering of people as a result of violent conflict in Kashmir.

Similarly our resistance leadership also needs to think out of box. For example instead of a day long strike, peaceful prayers in absentia can be offered everywhere as a symbol of protest or 10% of the days earning from employees and businessmen can be contributed towards the victims of violence.  Similarly hoardings can also be placed in every market and on roadsides of Kashmir displaying UN resolutions with regard to Kashmir issue. We can also register our protest by putting black flags on vehicles and shops following violent killings. We must also conduct Seminars and debates on ways of peaceful resolutions of Kashmir conflict in colleges and universities. Regular articles in newspapers are yet another option. Organizing sports events like cricket tournaments or run for conflict resolution and peace can also be done.  We can also make use of social networking cites for registering our protest, organize prayer in mosques, schools, colleges and universities etc for peace. We can also initiate dialogue within Kashmir, with all the political parties with regard to the ways of conflict resolution and restoration of peace.

Now my suggestions may not be ultimate or absolute or devoid of logical fallacies or even not tried earlier, but what I am trying say is that there may be more than 50 shades of grey between black and white.

The writer is pursuing M. Phil in Psychology from University of Kashmir.

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