Raouf Rasool

We’re tolerant people!

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“As a young man in early nineties, most of my actions were, instead of rational thinking or logic, programmed by the adrenaline rush in my body. But today I am different; I have learned to tolerate dissent, and I am tolerant of even the worst of my detractors.”

This is how one of Kashmir’s ‘leaders’ rationalized his personal ‘evolution’. Interestingly, his description of himself could be taken as a sort of mirror, which also reflects how exactly most us are. Years of overly politicized situation have taught all of us many lessons — in very hard way. Needless to say that Kashmir has evolved a great deal in terms of how people understand politics. But it is also true that those who should actually have grown up, whose political growth matters more than that of the common people, are continuously refusing to grow. They lack the grey matter to grasp and understand change, and they deliberately play naïve because status quo suits them. Although majority of people are no longer impressed by the locus classicus of their brand of rhetorical jingoism, yet those specializing in this politics are in no mood to let it go. They have sort of taken it as a given that whether anybody likes them or not, heeds them or not, they would nevertheless sit on people’s heads as ‘leaders’, and refuse to budge.

“Yes I know people no longer share same kind of enthusiasm, but …” and then they will go on concocting reasons to blame everything on the political ‘other’. Instead of acknowledging their own failures, they will blame it on the ‘adversary’. This has all along been an art perfected with great finesse in Kashmir by almost all brands of politics. You would see separatists doing it — blaming both Pakistan as well as New Delhi, and at times international community and of course the “Indian civil society” also, but never ever would they acknowledge their own follies. Even unionists or mainstream parties do it. They blame everything on the Centre and those sitting right of the centre. They blame it on Pakistan. Government blames the Opposition and latter repays it in kind. With almost every party having sounded the bugle for next year’s elections, these blame-games are growing shriller by the day. For the common people, who are way too mature than their ‘leaders’, they  would only wish these mud-slinging games were organized into something like premier leagues, so that people could enjoy watching it on TV while munching on potato chips and popcorn!

As for the evolution, yes it is true that common Kashmiri has over the years evolved into being very tolerant. Indeed this adjective ‘tolerant’ so fittingly describes the common Kashmiri today that one wonders if at all there is another word that could be such a typical fit. We make ‘tolerant’ jokes behind the backs of our fellow people, about their clothes, their complexions, their manners, speech, families and what not. When we do not like most of other people, but we still tolerate them nevertheless. We do not like when someone challenges the very basics of our faith, political or otherwise. But instead of saying so we simply tolerate it because we often confuse expression of dissent with lack of “decent mannerisms”. We know we are being cheated by the politics that is played with us, and on our heads, yet we simply tolerate it, for this is what the state systems, as also those pitted against these systems, expect of us. Status quo suits all. No one wants the apple cart disturbed beyond a point. Everyone wants us to be tolerant of their politics and restive about ‘their’ adversary’s. And we as the very tolerant people who take great pride in this tolerance, have made absolute tolerance such a behavioral trait that we no longer feel like trying to change anything. Everything is just fine for we have learned how to tolerate even the intolerable. Long live tolerance!

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