Why am I now a Kashmiri Nationalist?

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My wanderings and education in many parts of the West had rendered me into more or less a cosmopolitan person. I deemed and held myself to be a ‘rootless’ cosmopolitan with no real attachment to any nation or country — a citizen of the world. This did not mean or imply irresponsibility but more or less a commitment to humanity and the human condition. This was lent poignancy given that my formative years were spent in Kashmir at a time when Kashmir was in the throes of conflict and insurgency.

Tremendous psychical conflict gripped me and my existential travails made me into a wanderer. While this meant that I did not ‘settle’ down in some place, the concomitant of the extended wandering cycle or spree meant that my conflicted psyche attained a degree of closure: I was neither of here nor there but of everywhere, so to speak.

My wandering cycle was broken by my father’s injury; he broke his back in 2011. I had to return to Kashmir.

Fast forward to 2015.

While the military dimension of the conflict in and over Kashmir has been contained, the vale, as it stands now, is on the threshold of deep and pervasive uncertainty. This uncertainty is overlain by what seems like a multi-pronged assault on the vale and its people, Kashmiris. Like perhaps every Kashmiri, I am not immune from the gale of this assault and what can be deemed political conspiracies to alter the ideational, ideological and the political super, and substructure of Kashmir. I relate to and am affected by this.

I can philosophise about the human condition and what have you, but in the final analysis, my ‘objective reality’ at this moment is that I am in Kashmir and I am a Kashmiri. Their heightened and poignant sense of feeling and being Kashmiri has been catalysed by the political forces that appear to be arrayed against Kashmir: the BJP and its allied organisations or the Sangh Parivar. My post-Western ‘imagined identity’ may have been that of a rootless cosmopolitan but hostile political forces tell me and validate for me my Kashmiri-ness. What does my re-imagined and re-conceived self mean here?

Nothing really.

The story that I tell myself is that I am Kashmiri.

This has political connotations. What kind?

The political implications of the identity that has been ‘thrust’ upon me are that I will think of and assert myself as Kashmiri. Disaggregated, this means that I will be sensitive to what is dished out to me politically; I will feel more acutely the pain and anguish of Kashmiris caught in the vortex and crucible of the conflict in and over Kashmir. It will mean that both corporeally and psychically , I will be one with fellow Kashmiris. It will perhaps even mean activism to protect my identity and sense of being Kashmiri.

Having said this, I know and understand that all identities are constructed and even imagined ones.

But this will not deter me from wearing my Kashmiri-ness on my sleeve as a badge of pride. At the same time, all this will not mean that I will be chauvinistic or aggressive or assert cultural superiority. This will be the legacy or more accurately the residual legacy of my cosmopolitan self. If I do the maths, so to speak, do I stand enriched from the convoluted journey back to my roots? Or do I stand pauperised?

Enriched I would say.

My cosmopolitan odysseys have left an indelible and enduring imprint on my personality. This wont be erased but I am reminded by events and contemporary politics who I really am. The rediscovery is both a joy and a matter of pride but of course, not prejudice.

Who do I thank for this? The BJP, of course.

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