Islamic States (IS) chief, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, has been reportedly killed in a US airstrike. While there have been no genuine or substantive confirmations of what amounts to a potential decapitation of the militant group and reports of his death have floated around in the past, what is interesting in terms of Kashmir is the almost zero reaction to the news- even if it is a rumour or planted news. Various news outlets and even the Government of India has in the past highlighted the potential of IS presence in Kashmir. In both hindsight , retrospect and prospect, especially given the muted reaction to Baghdadis alleged death, these fears or the bogey of IS in Kashmir appear to have been bloated for either self serving reasons or sheer paranoia.
The self serving premise of IS presence in Kashmir may have been motivated by retaining troop presence in Kashmir and draconian laws like the AFSPA. To repeat, the zero reaction to IS chiefs alleged death, gives short shrift to this bogey. Another reason may have been to portray Kashmiris as intolerant zealots to give credence to the Us versus them mentality that appears to be taking hold in India. In this schema, attempts are being made to create an alternate Idea of India where Muslims are the Other in India. This Othering can be potentially instrumentalized by far right forces in India to validate its Idea of India and further their agenda by creating a scapegoat and a foil against which to define and reify this agenda.
Kashmir, given that it is a Muslim dominated region, becomes axiomatically central to it. But Kashmir or Kashmiris have defied this narrative by forswearing extremes like the IS ideology as the reaction to Baghdadis alleged killing illustrates. The question is why?
By its very nature, Islam in Kashmir is defined by the Sufi ethos-conceptually, psychically and spiritually. Sufism brooks no extremes and unity of Creation is one of the defining ideas of Sufism. The Sufi ethos is indelibly etched to the ideational, psychological and spiritual consciousness of Kashmiris. The super and sub structure of our consciousness has a clear cut ingress of Sufism and this cannot be wished away. Yes, Kashmir is a conflict zone and the conflict in and over Kashmir has created pressures and even incentives towards extremes but such is the intensity and path dependence of our Sufi ethos that Kashmiris remain a peaceful and tolerant people despite or in spite of the conflict.
The key question is: Can this hold and endure?
KO would put its money where its mouth is, so to speak, and assert that Kashmiris Sufi inspired consciousness and the world view stemming from it will endure. Our consciousness is institutionalized over centuries and it would take immense stress and structural reasons to disturb this paradigm. But a caveat is in order here. Social or socio religious systems and the consciousness emanating from these can mutate- of course under conditions of duress when people seek alternate pathways to seek redress to political injustices- perceived or real. In this sense, IS or the ideology it espouses can become a surrogate for peoples aspirations and the lack of conflict resolution in and over Kashmir. To put this assertion into perspective, While IS will never become a dominant reality in Kashmir because of obvious reasons, it can be an echo through the process of negative sublimation or projection of frustrations with the dead lock on the conflict in and over Kashmir. It is this scenario- however distant, which needs to be pre-empted. The most prudent and effective way is to resolve the conflict in a win win paradigm. If this does not concentrate minds, nothing ever will.
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