A new dawn and a new Kashmir
Surprising it may seems but irony is that in today’s tumultuous world, when a deadly pandemic is ravaging the world, the countries too are facing some different kind of serious challenges too. There is a brewing political drama happening in the United States of America after President Trump’s loss in presidential elections and closer home, there is a massive and growing farmers agitation happening in India and the ongoing dominance of feudal and tribal religious radical forces happening in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, Bangladesh is the unexpected bacon of peace, stability and hope in an otherwise chaotic world.
The Muslim majority but moderate and secular Bangladesh is continuing to make great strides economically. Bangladesh has been helped by the inherently secular nature of a Bengali Muslim, which has by and large ensured that Bangladesh remains on the path of secularism, democracy and economic progress despite many challenges faced by formerly overpopulated and impoverished Muslim nation.
Fortunately back home, Kashmir Valley, with a bloody, violent and unstable political history is emerging as an oasis of calm and optimism. Kashmir has been the victim of its history that has made the image of a Kashmiri Muslim – a violent, blood thirsty, religiously radical and intolerant block within the broader global Muslim community. There have been incidents in the past which have cumulatively fueled this perception. What has unfortunately remained buried in the battle of perception is the inherently intellectual, thoughtful and pensive nature of a Kashmiri Muslim, which the world had largely forgotten. And just when everyone expected Kashmir valley to burn to ashes with relentless violence and spilling of blood in the aftermath of the abolition of important constitutional provisions that effectively gave the former state of Jammu & Kashmir – a semi-autonomous political status within Union of India, the people of Kashmir valley and its majority Muslim inhabitants actually showed a mature restraint in not letting the Kashmir be further pushed into flames of the fire of death and destruction.
The successful holding of DDC elections in Kashmir valley and enthusiastic participation of Kashmiri Muslims in these elections at a time, when the world is grappling with coronavirus pandemic, political chaos in the USA and the aggressive and prospectively politically destabilizing farmer agitation in India, has come as a surprise to many political analysts who claim to understand Kashmir. The fact is that only a Kashmiri can truly understand a fellow Kashmiri and therefore non-Kashmiri political analysts are taken aback, when Kashmir and Kashmiri people often go against the prevailing political tide. This has happened many times in the past and it has happened now too.
Despite the recent rise of religious extremism in Kashmir valley and outwardly conservative behavior of Kashmiri Muslim population to eyes of the outside community, the Kashmiri Muslim just like a Bengali Muslim remains inherently secular, moderate, pragmatic and forward looking. There is a lot more than that what meets the eyes in understanding the psychology of a Kashmiri Muslim. In participating enthusiastically in recently held DDC elections, ordinary Kashmiri people have given a message that they are not rigid and fixated in their approach towards their political future. While the dignity and honor remain paramount, Kashmiri is not dogmatic. Kashmir valley and Kashmiri people including both Muslims and Hindu Pundits have been the victims of international and geopolitics, but they have not shunned their political maturity. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi praised the people of Kashmir valley for their restraint and clam when the entire British India was burning in the calamity of communal partition.
Everyone knows the modern history of Kashmir valley and its eventual destabilization and near destruction in last three decades. The segregation of cultural Kashmir from a Kashmiri Muslim has led to his distorted image and therefore the peaceful conduct of DDC elections in Kashmir valley has come as a surprise to many, when each municipal, panchayat and MLA election in most parts of India are increasingly being marred by politically motivated violence.
This is in fact a golden chance for not only creating a new, sustainable and peaceful Kashmir but the people of Kashmir can take a lead in the restoration of peace and order in entire South Asia. The need of the hour is for the central government to now proactively engage with the people of Kashmir valley by restoring their honor and dignity and the restoration of the statehood can be a good start. Kashmiri people are among the most educated and intellectual communities of South Asia and they have collectively created a rich, secular, dynamic and vibrant culture of music, dance, poetry, literature, science and technology and routinely added to the intellectual pool of South Asia. The contemporary Kashmiri Muslim and Kashmiri Pundit community is among the most enterprising South Asian diaspora ethnic groups that have influence all over the world including Gulf nations, Western Europe and the United States.
It is high time that Kashmiris reclaim their lost glory and make up for the lost time by taking the lead as a forward-looking community that emerges out of the ashes of pessimism and destruction and thereby setting a positive example for entire world.
- The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org