Kashmir under siege: The rebirth of Kashmiri nationalism?

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Srinagar: Kashmir Valley has been under curfew and siege since the past 12 days. 

49 people have lost their lives in the melee of violence and several thousand injured. In a certain sense there is a bit of a déjà vu in the contemporary condition; in the nineties people were subject to prolonged curfews and crackdowns. However, a theme cuts across both: the resilience, spirit and determination of Kashmiris to battle odds successfully. For instance, we have (mercifully) yet to hear of starvation or deaths by deprivation in Kashmir. What this means that there is abundant social capital in Kashmir. The existence of social capital and by extension insaaniyat (humanity) which has been extended to outsiders (including yatris) is cause and reason to celebrate and cherish. Moreover, in an environment and ambiance characterized and made  by an “Us” versus “ them” dialectic, tens of thousands of outsiders working and living in Kashmir have neither been harmed nor threatened despite the stresses and strains on the Kashmiri social and political fabric contemporarily. Again, reasons to celebrate given what it reflects on the nature and character of our society.

Another theme or feature that stands out is the development and crystallization of Kashmiri nationalism during the ongoing crisis. People of all stripes and hues have and are volunteering to help their Kashmiri kinsmen in need- by donating blood, helping through cash or kind and deep concern for the dead and the wounded. This is not the much trotted out and bandied cliché of Kashmiriyat which, in the final analysis is a discourse and appellation on Kashmir colored by power and power political considerations. The reference here is to Kashmiri nationalism which historically has been rather incipient and putative. However, conditions of stress and strain that obtain in Kashmir contemporarily have given rise to self transcending ideas like Qaumiyat or even nationalism. 

Historically, Kashmiri nationalism has entailed the projection of nationalistic ideas and emotions onto personalities especially Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. But this is changing with the passage of time and under a new permutation and combination that obtain in Kashmir. A rather genuine nationalist sentiment and discourse is emerging which reflects a bonding and a community of emotion and passions that is self transcending. The outpouring of grief and an echo chamber of emotions that resonated across the length and breadth of Kashmir post Burhan and the ongoing protests attest to this. Besides the immediate stress and strain on account of the protests and the state’s response, one factor catalyzing incipient Kashmiri nationalism is the inroad of the RSS and its affiliates into Kashmir. Seen from this angle, the protests and the attendant crystallization of Kashmiri nationalism are in the nature of a “pushback” of the RSS and its allied organizations.

While ongoing evolution of inchoate nationalism to a more fuller one fine and well, it must be borne in our collective mind that our nationalism must be an inclusive nationalism and not an exclusive one. This, it needs to be stated here, does not mean subsuming our nationalism into other nationalisms but an expansive and capacious nationalism that includes “others” under its rubric and tent. Another idea that should be noted is that our Qaumiyat should be resilient enough to withstand the current stress and strain and carry on over onto “ normal times”. That is, it should not fritter away once stress is out of the equation. In the meantime, by way of a conclusion, KO salutes all the self less heroes who, with little thought to their own safety, helped those who were in distress and agony.

 

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