A new elitist discourse on freedom is hurting the Kashmir cause more than helping it
Many in Kashmir would agree with Carlyle’s famous maxim that “the history of the world is but the biography of great men”. They also believe that the discourse of Azadi, or freedom, in Kashmir is written and verbalized in such a fashion where most of the attention is focused on a few luminaries who are like elephants in the parlor, while those who have really created the discourse of Azadi and have explicated its meaning remain anonymous. Today, the discourse of Azadi in Kashmir has got reduced to an aristocratic pseudo-intellectualism business whereby a few English Speaking and nonresident Kashmiri “intellectuals” have created a new dialogue on Kashmir ignoring the quintessence of the conflict itself.
This new wave of Azadi writing with elite colors is not only undermining the real contributors but is also eulogizing wrong heads and hands. Those who deserve to be the subjects and objects of our history are ignored as if they never matter. No one has ever bended the stick to other direction to hear the voiceless masses or to appreciate the real, local discourse. These new romantic narratives of Azadi won’t serve any purpose unless the actual, people’s narrative is not restored to its rightful place. The contributions made by our socially subordinate, illiterate and subaltern people have unfortunately not left the paper trail that these new writers customarily depend on for evidence. They rather use the paradigm of English novels and other fiction, and never bother to reexamine the reality or look for the literature written in vernacular languages. The jargons of western philosophy are used to obfuscate our simpler demands. People who even have the solutions for the present morass are frenziedly relegated. The folk wisdom and the lore of these illiterate, rural people is considered inferior compared to whatever is reflected in English.
This new discourse is exactly following the pattern of writing the gentlemen’s history whereby the power relations determine the agenda of writing. Continuous attempts are made by these elite writers to overlook the reality and are attempting to reinforce their status in order to set themselves above the herd of ordinary men.
Can we afford ignoring the writers who were burnt alive in a brick kiln for contributing to a tabloid named Zarb-e-Kaleem?
We read hundreds of reviews of books written in English, but why doesn’t anyone write about Operation Eagle or Operation Catch and Kill? Why does no one talk about the reputed editor of Azan, Dr Ghulam Qadir,a PhD from the reputed Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi who lost his life on November 4, 1998 advocating the cause for Kashmir? Can we afford ignoring Munawarul Haq Shaheen, Dr Haji Shabir, and Ghulam Hassan, who are among the writers who were burnt alive in a brick kiln for contributing to a tabloid named Zarb-e-Kaleem? Jaleel Andrabi is a recent victim of state oppression.
In short, a new discourse on the Kashmir conflict is being developed in which a cult of new posterboys is creating more problems rather than solving any. Condensing the whole discourse to these few “men of enlightenment” and branding them the only “intellectuals” in the town would qualify as grossly exclusivist, and has the potential of alienating a common Kashmiri from his own cause for which he has suffered immeasurably.
Now the question here is why these new writers’ voice possesses more power of penetration than the majority of Kashmiris. The answer seems simple – the social and economic capital they have accumulated over the years essentially empowers them. This new culture of telling stories has made the common man’s demands and aspirations look esoteric.
In order to show how an ordinary Kashmiri has more powerful ideas about his political future, some “ordinary writers” of Kashmir should come forward to scrutinize this new elite Azadi discourse. They should rather show the way by revisiting and documenting the history not only of the people but for the people of Kashmir as well. We should bring back those people to the stage whose contributions are enormous but are nowhere mentioned in the new elite discourse, except in birth and death certificates.
The author is pursuing a PhD at the Centre for Studies in Science Policy at the School of Social Sciences at JNU, New Delhi.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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