Before one can dream of independence, one has to deserve to be independent and that can happen only when one is honest and sincere about the goal as well as the movement leading to it in the first instance!
The present mass uprising in Kashmir has crossed 100 days and is still going on. Everything has been virtually at a standstill. The government has disappeared from the seen at least in the valley of Kashmir! The Kashmir valley is bleeding and the Jhelum has virtually turned red! More than 100 persons mostly teenagers have been killed; more than 15,000 injured; more than 1,000 hit in the eyes with pellets of whom over a 200 may lose total eyesight and over10, 000 or may be even more have been arrested and a large number including minors have been detained under the draconian Public Safety Act. Homes of the people have been vandalized all over the valley. Crops have been burnt and apple boxes destroyed in some places. Kashmir is virtually considered enemy territory by the forces. They seem to have been given a green signal to launch the strongest crack down in the history of Kashmir. The government will soon move to the warmer climate of Jammu leaving the valleyites to cold but a bloody winter.
There is an urgent need for all to review our situation before going ahead. “Azadi” for a Kashmiri is the elusive dream of leading a life of dignity and honour which he has been aspiring for over four centuries. However, the first requirement for deserving to be free is to be honest about it. Are we really honest about getting “Azadi”? In fact, one can ask, are we really honest about anything at all? Firstly, do our masses understand the meaning and implications of “Azadi”? The word is being used in a general sense by most of the people. There is confusion in the leadership as to what type of “Azadi” they are talking about? There is one group which wants total independence of the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir. Another group wants merger with Pakistan while some other groups want to keep their options open and ask for the right of self-determination. There has been one visible change among the youth who have been heard saying, “No India, No Pakistan. We want Freedom”!
None of the leaders considers the ground situation that the Hindu majority areas of Jammu and the Buddhist dominated areas of Ladakh do not want any “Azadi”. In fact, these people want stronger merger with India. The people in the Pakistan administered Kashmir are fed up with Pakistan because of the colonial attitude of the Islamabad Government. However, are they ready to leave Pakistan? The Gilgit-Baltistan people are not ready to settle for anything less than a full-fledged provincial status in Pakistan but may not like to leave that country. This leaves only the Kashmiri speaking valley with its peripheral areas of Doda, Kishtwar, Baderwah, Rajouri, Poonch, Muzaffarabad, Karna, Gurez, and Kargil. Most of the time, it is these areas which have been under continuous turmoil.
In ancient times, the name Kashmir was attached to this piece of territory only. It is this unfortunate valley with its periphery which has been the main attraction for colonizers from outside whether these were the Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs or Dogras and in the recent past the two new nations of India and Pakistan. An honest leader would consider all these facts then come out with a definite goal which would truly fulfil the aspirations of the Kashmiri people and would outline the road map for them to reach that goal. No movement can succeed whose goal as well as the road map to reach that goal is confusing! Apart from this the first and foremost requirement for an independent nation is its economic independence. Let us examine how honest we have been in making our land self-reliant?
In earlier times Kashmir used to be fully self-sufficient in most of the agricultural products. The only problems occurred during unprecedented drought or floods. These days we import major portion of our food products. We have the best available agricultural land for growing rice, maize, and all varieties of vegetables. We have some of the best pastures for producing world class mutton. But at present we import third grade mutton from Rajasthan, vegetables from Punjab and Haryana, milk from Gujarat, and even fruit from outside. Even the milk supplied by some of the dairies locally is powdered milk obtained from outside! The tragedy is that a large number of Kashmiris have taken bank loans to start agriculture based industries.However, after taking the subsidy portion they have conveniently forgotten these loans and none of the units have come up. Had we been honest, we would have used our resources and our land to make us at least self-sufficient in food products. We would not have faced the prospect of starvation as happened in 2008 by the economic blockade indulged in by the Hindutva brigade in Jammu. In contrast, we have only two motives. Extreme materialism and an insatiable greed. We have converted our paddy lands into orchards for cash crops to earn more and more money! We are busy constructing thousands of houses, shops, shopping complexes which are mostly dead investments. We are least bothered about our basic infrastructure be it the health care, drinking water, or the power supply. We have mortgaged all our rivers to outsiders.
Every Kashmiri wants a quick buck by hook or crook! We have indiscriminately felled our young lush green forests for a quick buck. We have destroyed our water bodies again by extreme greed and total apathy. The same is the case with our Rivers which used to be our life line just half a century back. The way we have presided over the destruction of our environment makes one wonder what type of independent Kashmir are we aspiring and dreaming about? The Lakes turned into marshes, filthy river, denuded mountainsides, and the garbage filled towns! No doubt we have lost a generation during last couple of decades but a new generation more determined than the previous one is in the field. However, if we lose the environment, it is not going to come back. Apart from this our society has many other ills.Corruption is rampant. J & K has been adjudged as the second most corrupt state. Truth is the first casualty. People have conveniently forgotten to speak the truth. Lying is a normal routine. It does not cause any remorse. People can lie so coolly that one is stunned! No one has ever taken a stand for saving our environment, for abolishing corruption, for making people speak the truth and be honest. Yes, lot of rhetoric but no productive effort.
The most important basic criteria for a nation are its language and history. One need not comment on our honesty in regard to these. Both have been forsaken by us. We feel it below our dignity to speak in our mother tongue to our kids in our homes! English and Urdu are the norm. Unless we are honest in propagating our native language to our newer generations, it is no use fighting for “Azadi” for our children speaking only alien languages. Tragically, even the present rulers are not very comfortable with their native language!Then comes our history the knowledge of which we have deprived our new generations completely and absolutely. Even some of our leaders fighting for our emancipation are not very knowledgeable about our history both the recent one and the ancient one! How many of our people know about Burzahom, the real origin of Kashmiris? Before taking final few steps to achieve the goal which for the first time appears so near, one has to be honest to both one’s own self and to others! Without honesty “Azadi” becomes meaningless! Some would say that the end matters and the means do not matter. But to be honest we have to admit that the corrupt means also corrupt the end itself. If we are honest and sincere, “Azadi” will naturally follow. Let all of us give a serious thought to it!
Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir Email: firstname.lastname@example.org