Kashmiris: A Non-Violent, Passive Aggressive People?


An Ola cab driver narrated to me the odyssey of his colleague who was waylaid, at night, by a gang posing as commuters in Delhi. The gang, haile d his car, asked for directions to a certain place, forced themselves into the car and then stabbed the driver.  The gang- an amateur bunch of criminals- drove the car to Rajasthan where the police apprehended them by GPS tracking. The driver survived but is too traumatized to drive at night in Delhi. A top cop once told me that statistically the number of violent crimes that take place in Kashmir approximated roughly to crimes that happened in Delhi in a month. While there may be some variation in these “off the top of the head stats”, these may not be off the mark. 

This comparison is noteworthy given that in Kashmir, especially in public spaces, there is manifestation of latent anger- be it on the streets, expression of road rage, commuting in buses or other general interactions.  Kashmiris extrapolate from these ubiquitous incidents a Kashmiri persona or collective personality that has become aggressive and even violent. The many years of insurgency lend poignancy to this perception. However, in the final analysis, especially in terms of relevant benchmarks, Kashmiris are neither an aggressive nor a violent people.

Rarely do we hear quotidian instances of violent crime of an intensity and volume wherein a pattern can be observed. Even during the hey day of militancy, when car jackings and other related themes were common, we did  hear of shootings or stabbings over these incidents.  Today, the multilayered emotional and psychological complex of Kashmiris recoils at rare incidents of even rarer violent crime. Kashmiris then do not appear to be a violent or violence disposed people. What then explains the perception about Kashmiris by Kashmiris? And what explains our general and collective mood, which gives credence to these perceptions? And, last but not the least, what have we Kashmiris morphed into?

Kashmir is a small isolated locale defined by very limited access to and interaction with the world at large. In this small milieu, people know each other through relatives, friends and what have you. But, importantly, psychosocial sediments of the Kashmiri psyche and the emotional layers around it is that of a placid, gentle and peaceful people. The violent interludes have somewhat jarred against this psyche and emotional world of Kashmiris but have not brutalized us to render us violent. However, what appears to have happened is that there is latent anger within us which manifests itself in certain situations-but only upto a point. The maximum that can , for instance, happen in an extreme case of road rage  or brawl are fisticuffs ,  and verbal abuse till passerby’s intervene and the fight is broken.

There are other manifestations of this anger- sullenness, obstructionism at work, being difficult with people (in business, and at work or even socially , at times), non compliance , procastrination (manifested in the famed “pagah”( tomorrow) when some work needs to be done and other allied behaviors. What all this suggests is that Kashmiris have morphed into “passive-aggressive” people. Our overall behavior and comportment corresponds to being passive- aggressive

According to the Wikipedia, Passive-aggressive behavior was first defined clinically by Colonel WilliamMenninger during World War II in the context of men’s reaction to military compliance. Menninger described soldiers who were not openly defiant but expressed their aggressiveness “by passive measures, such as pouting, stubbornness, procrastination, inefficiency, and passive obstructionism” due to what Menninger saw as an “immaturity” and a reaction to “routine military stress”(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive-aggressive_behavior).

Elaborating on passive aggressive behavior, Murphy and Oberlin also see passive aggression as part of a larger umbrella of hidden anger stemming from ten traits of the angry child or adult. These traits include making one’s own misery, the inability to analyze problems, blaming others, turning bad feelings into angry ones, attacking people, lacking empathy, using anger to gain power, confusing anger with self-esteem, and indulging in negative self-talk(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive-aggressive_behavior).

All these behavioral can be found in Kashmiris contemporarily.  The implications are obvious: we are an angry people on a certain threshold. This threshold precludes us from being overtly violent and this accrues from suppressed feelings and emotions among other things. Why this threshold is not crosses may be due to the pschyo-social- emotional complexes determined by history , nature of Kashmir and above all by our religious sensibilities forged and crafted by Sufi masters of yore. Whilst we are not a violent people but certainly are an angry people, this state or condition is not healthy. We need to come out of this anger laden emotional complex on an exigent basis. The question is how? I cannot answer this question; it is in the domain of specialists steeped in psycho-analysis and psychology. However, what I can say, from a lay perspective, given the convolutions and warped-ness that defines Kashmir, I will rest the case on hope.

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