Is there choice?

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World’s political and economic history bears witness that power paradigms have been changing and shifting continuously. What used to be seen as the lever of absolute power once — the physical might or the muscle — lost its leverage and appeal to the money, and subsequently to the mind as world evolved towards higher degrees of civilization. Whether it is the first-wave notion of muscle, or the second wave belief in money or for that matter the third wave conviction of mind being the ultimate source of power, it remains a fact that there is only one thing that allows access to and command over all these and whatever other levers of power there are or may be. And it shouldn’t be difficult to understand that it is the person’s ability to master and maneuver these levers which, in the ultimate scheme of things, determines her or his power. It goes without saying that this mastery to wield and utilize all different power levers comes with and through EDUCATION.

It is very pleasant to see Mirwaiz Umar Farooq talking about and eulogizing the virtues of education and its importance for a meaningful life. There is nothing new in whatever Mirwaiz said other day in praise of education and its importance. But what makes his assertions newsworthy is that Mirwaiz himself has for long been part of a political establishment which not only wouldn’t care about the educational losses suffered by the Kashmir’s children and the young population when they would call for frequent strikes and shutdowns, and issue protest calendars for months together owing to which the schools and colleges here remained shut for months together.

So the question worth asking is what has changed now which has made Mirwaiz come around to realize the importance of education for the Kashmir’s wretched lot – the sons and daughters of poor Sulla, Gulla and Rehti – in whose hands they so conveniently replaced the pen and pencil with a stone and a brick?

These lines will certainly not go down well with a certain political class here, but given that the health and well-being of the entire society is at stake, one can’t afford the privilege of silence. How can anyone be mute spectator to the brazen duplicity of political thought and action, which despite being self-inflicting, was clothed in the wraps of morality and touted as the panacea of all ills until yesterday? If education with its proven capacity of being the greatest emancipator and ultimate liberator was haggled for an unarticulated but ‘mystified dream’ until recently, somebody would have to try and articulate the reasons for this sudden change of thought among the puppeteers of yesteryears’ chaos.

All that’s being said here is not intended at anybody’s person; it is basically against the tactics that were used. Basic political science teaches us that “a good tactic is one that your people enjoy”. Now let’s ask ourselves: who are the ones who enjoyed such tactics which ensured closure of schools and colleges for months together during each calendar year?

Holy Prophet (PBUH) has said: “Acquire knowledge, for he who acquires it in the way of Allah performs an act of piety; he who speaks of it, praises the Lord; he who seeks it, adores Allah; he who dispenses instruction in it, bestows alms; and he who imparts it to others, performs an act of devotion to Allah” (recorded in Bukhari, Muslim). History has it that at the battle of Badr, in which Holy Prophet (PBUH) gained victory over his foes, seventy people of the enemy rank were taken to prison. These prisoners were literate people. In order to benefit from their education the Prophet declared that if one prisoner teaches ten Muslim children how to read and write, this will serve as his ransom and he will be set free. So, the first school in the history of Islam was established by the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) himself (and this was it) with all its teachers being non-Muslims. The ‘Sunnah’ of the Prophet (PBUH) shows that education is to be received whatever the risk involved. So, is there a choice in this?

Better late than never! So if Mirwaiz has started talking about the importance of education, it is a welcome thing and let’s hope his other colleagues also realize its merit and pledge to not interrupt it for narrow political considerations.

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