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My Tryst with Kashmir and What it means to me

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By Ramnik Mohan

 

News of violence and unrest coming from any part of the country – nay, the world – is disturbing. All the more so if it lasts and continues over long periods of time. And yet there are parts of the country that are special in a special way, and such news coming from there has a qualitatively altogether different effect on us. Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East are two such areas battling this scenario not just over a few months or years but over decades, as we know. Such news from these places affects you in a way news from other places doesn’t, even though one may not have visited them – in my case it is all the more so in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, for sure. I ask myself the question – what is it that makes me feel deeply troubled and hurt to the core with every such piece of news?

 

One possible answer is that more often than not, this has to do with its very nature – sad, unhappy, mind-and-heart numbing, tragic news that only adds to the misfortunes piling up over the decades for the inhabitants there, with no light to be seen at the end of the tunnel, people living as if in a constant zone of battle. The news of the bout of violence just this past week in Kulgam and the shutdown in Srinagar is another such instance.

Another quite obvious reason for deep, troubled concern common to both Kashmir and the North-East is the political aspect of discontent bordering on secessionism, and linked to it the failure of the Indian State to settle these issues to the satisfaction of the people inhabiting these parts of our land. This is, in a way, the ‘nationalist’ concern.

Are these reasons enough, I ponder – and dwell deeper.

Another aspect looms before my eyes – the “exotic” view of a paradise-on-earth land torn asunder by violence – is this what touches the very core of my concern? Is it the deep deep anguish arising out of the despoilment of the natural, awe-inspiring scenic beauty dotted with shikaras and lakes and stately chinars on majestic mountains that troubles our minds?

This too fails to fully convince me as an answer, seeming to be just one more dimension of the issue at hand.

I am gradually led to the real underlying cause of this sense of deep disappointment and hurt : it comes from the stupendous failure, especially on the part of the political dispensation, of not being able to connect to the people who inhabit these lands. What lies at the heart of the tragedy is the alienation that people from these parts of our nation feel, not just from the governments at the Centre but from the rest of us, the people on the ‘mainland’, a process that has now been on for decades. (One recalls the citizen, say, from Manipur living in Delhi, recounting exactly the same sense of alienation as the Kashmiri’s). This, to my mind, is the nub of the whole issue, a sense that is buttressed and strengthened in the light of personal experiences shared by friends and acquaintances from Kashmir. Irony of ironies, this is so in spite of the fact that there is a simultaneous account of the warmth with which guests from outside the state are hosted by Kashmiris – the glorious warmth of the wazwans, the kaftans and the phirans and the kangris reflected in the welcome accorded to visitors from outside in cozy Kashmiri hearths and homes.

It is, then, not just the land that stands blighted – the real issue is of flesh-and-blood human beings alienated and suffering all these years, their lives scarred and bruised, devoid of joy and happiness, including psychologically challenged children who have seen nothing but violence and fear around. This scathingly brutal truth is what brings on the ache with every new bout of violence that visits Kashmir – and the North-East; in this lies the answer to my query, born of an acute sense of longed-for empathy that one ought to be capable of developing for compatriots and fellow human beings.

I have been to Jammu and Kashmir just thrice to date, and that not beyond Jammu and the Vaishno Devi shrine visited more as an opportunity for trekking than for the obeisance. One recalls the happy chance of having witnessed the imposing Sheikh Abdullah addressing an audience at the foothills of the trek up to the shrine.

Never been to the Valley, and yet feeling for it so very deeply!? How did this happen?

As I ponder over this, my mind comes back again to the people of the land – the flesh-and-blood Kashmiris of various hues who became friends: some from afar, others in face-to-face interaction, still others in more tangential ways and forms, especially in terms of sharing a world-view. When you have those you know and care for living in a region such as Kashmir, it is perhaps but natural to feel concerned not just for them but for the land they come from too.

I recall the time of the earthquake that devastated parts of Kashmir on both sides of the border in 2005 – and the funds collected by school-going children in a city in Haryana, sent to the good doctor in Srinagar whose contact I got from Vinod Raina (alas, no longer with us) and her so very warm response appreciating this effort and assuring us that the amount will reach those it was meant for. This bond of humanity and common concern was, so far as I can recall, my first real contact with the Kashmir I had never been to – and have still not been to.

I recall also, just about three years later, the bitterness and anger with which a lady – Kashmiri Pandit – recalled those terrifying days of having to abandon their hearths and homes in the 1990s in the wake of the violence they faced – and sharply in contrast, her father, calm and cool and collected even in that moment of recalling the horrors recounted by his daughter, with not a trace of bitterness in him. He, even though much much older, became a friend of sorts as did his grand-daughter with whom I still remain in touch.

Further down the memory lane of time come three youngsters, two of whom had bitter memories to share right from their childhoods affected by the violence back home, and the travails and tribulations they had to face in the ‘mainland’ India where they had come for studies and job. The third, a Kashmiri Pandit, has the empathy for what her homeland – not just Jammu but Kashmir too – is going through. She has the deep human concern that cuts across and transcends all barriers of region and religion and keeps alive the flame of the syncretic Kashmiri ethos.

But what I recall the most every time there is disturbing news from Kashmir is a group-interaction we had with one of these three youngsters – an intelligent young girl from Kashmir sharing her experience of living in Haryana where she had come for her studies. There was an element of pain, at times even of distress, in the experiences she shared of her memories from her home-state. The pain extended to the injustice she felt in not being considered Indian enough even though her grandfather had been in the Indian army. Yet she was, broadly speaking, refreshingly positive and fairly appreciative of the time spent in Haryana in spite of the oddities she faced here and there. This, at that point of time, was a comforting thought, for that sharing happened somewhere around the time of the unrest in Kashmir following the killing of Burhan Wani. The fact that we had gathered to listen to her, and heard her out as she recounted the unhappy and bitter experiences of growing up under the shadow of the guns of the security forces that in actual fact increased a sense of insecurity rather than security, was something that she appreciated no end.

She too is a friend that Kashmir has given me.

I cannot but mention a few more sets of friends, tangential friends one feels so close to in thought – the rafoogars (darners) and dry-cleaners from Kashmir just a street down my house whose ever so cheerful demeanour welcomes me on every visit for the dry-cleaning or to get a torn clothing darned; the politician of the class of Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, the only CPI (M) MLA from Kashmir whose impassioned pleas for Kashmiriyat and a humanitarian view of things cannot but convince you of the rightness of what he so passionately says; journalists like the late Messrs. Balraj Puri, Ved Bhasin and the so tragically shot dead Shujaat Bukhari ; secular, people’s artistes, educationists and writers like M.K.Raina (who has worked in the state on theatre and culture even in the most adverse circumstances), Vinod Raina, Badri Raina and Rahman Rahi; and the Lal Deds and Nund Rishis (aka Sheikh Nur ud-Din Wali) whose deep springs of mysticism and spirituality are the cherished heritage of what the real Kashmir is. One may not have met any of them in person, and yet they are friends, for they occupy the same mind-space in terms of the society and nation one aspires for. These are just a few names the mind readily recalls, though there would be many more one fails to mention due to constraints of space.

An interaction with a Kashmiri actually boils down to how Kashmir is located in our consciousness. What is of significance is how we negotiate this terrain. One needs to look at it not as an issue purely related to the possession of a piece of land, a territory, but with consideration for the human beings who populate that territory, trying to understand their aspirations and desires and wishes, and the travails they have gone through. The same would apply to our friends from the North-East, entailing a sensitive and sensible understanding of how and why they are ‘different’, what their cultural ethos is, and how this difference is what makes India the beautiful country it is.

I end, again, with our interaction with the young, sensitive girl from Kashmir. For her, the peace in Haryana was in sharp contrast to the unrest and violence in her home-state. So, the pain she felt was palpable as she recounted the experience of witnessing her fellow-students transformed into divided caste-identities during the violent Jat reservation stir of early 2016. And yet, she retains the vivaciousness of youth even as one also recalls her poignant remark to the effect that this vivaciousness is perhaps an attempt at regaining what was lost of it in her childhood! She is now back to her birthplace, in a hard-earned job, and this dost of hers awaits the day he will partake of the warmth of Kashmir, she a host to this ‘guest’.

(Courtesy: countercurrents.org)

 


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Opinion

Roots of Social Darwinism

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By Amir Suhail Wani

August Comte, the forefather of modern sociology divided human history into three stages, “the theological stage, when events of the universe are interpreted in terms of divine powers, the metaphysical stage in which we find no mention of specific Gods (Although external forces are still referred to in order to explain events)and the stage of positivism, where events are explained in terms of common laws deduced from observation and calculation without having recourse to spirit, God or external power’’. Positivist philosophy is a technical term applied by Comte to his view of the world. He believed that human mind should confine itself to actual facts or phenomenon. Comte’s central thrust was to apply scientific methods to the study of society. Positivism, therefore says Patrick “really amounts to this: Science is the final stage of human thought” Comte’s positivism thus amounts to epiphenomenalism, restraining humans to abstain to look behind the phenomenon into their root causes. Such an approach shifted the gaze of man from metaphysical causes to mere physical events.

Time and again the slogan was raised that “All knowledge that is factual is connected with experiences, in such a way that verification or direct or indirect confirmation is possible”. Such a view had long lasting ramifications on almost all subjects of human interest and it provided a new matrix for the re-synthesis of human thought. One of the most important emergent consequences of this doctrine was the mechanical interpretation of life. The first step in this direction was taken by Charles Darwin, who posited that all living species evolved from a single cell that emerged on the earth 3.8 million years ago. Organic evolutionists believe that the study of animal life shows higher and lower species exist, which range from unicellular to multicellular organisms. When these observations are linked with the fossils preserved in different layers of earth’s crust, it is revealed (to evolutionists) that higher forms of life have actually emerged from the lower forms. Thus it deems man as the decedent of apes, which apart from its biological aspects has some serious philosophical consequences. We shall not go into the details of evolution, neither its acceptance nor rejection; however, we shall see that how it has led to the downfall of human values and created a podium for what can be called as the descent of man68.But the spontaneous origin of life governed by laws of probability is something which no rational being can accept. Thus Prof. Leslie Orgel, an evolutionist of repute from the University of San Diego confesses in 1994 issue of Scientific American magazine confesses that:-

 

“It is extremely improbable that proteins and nucleic acids both of which are structurally complex arose spontaneously in the same place at the same time. Yet it also seems impossible to have one without the other. And so, at first glance, one might have to conclude that life could never, in fact, have originated by chemical means.

The philosophical ramifications of the theory of evolution are still far reaching. We can approach it in two directions, either as an ascent of man or as the descent of man, the former being positive approach while the latter being negative Darwinian approach. For, to say that man emerged from lower forms of life implies a rhetoric degeneration of the pedestal that man occupies. It can also be said that man is the climax of process of evolution and occupies the highest place in the hierarchy of creation. Even if it is assumed, for time being that the theory of evolution has some credibility, even then it has no scope either to deny the existence of creator nor to demote man from his pedestal. In former case, can be argued that if evolution is correct then the God works like this and evolution is one among his many means to bring existence out of naught. In argument to second statement, it can be exampled that the origin of things hardly matters when it comes to its real ends. As an example, stars are created out of miniscule and unworthy atoms of hydrogen and helium, but when it comes to their purposive nature, the stars lit the entire universe. It is pertinent to quote Allama lqbal in this regard, who said:-

“The fact that the higher emerges out of the lower does not rob the higher of its worth and dignity. It is not the origin of a thing that matters, it is the capacity, the significance and the final reach of the emergent that matter- indeed the evolution of life shows that though in the beginning, the mental is dominated by the physical, the mental, as it grows in power, tends to dominate the physical and may eventually rise to a position of complete independence”

There are other versions of evolution like that of spiritual evolution, cosmic evolution, which believes that evolution means the adoption of life to the energy patterns of universe or in other words to harmonize oneself with the laws of nature. In Islamic lexicon, this is termed as “Submitting to Shariah or divine law”. It also believes that things have to have some causes before they start assuming phenomenal form and since man strives for higher values these values must exist. Thus this evolution doesn’t stop at man, but takes entire cosmos into its fold, while simultaneously striving towards never ending vistas. The second part of this vision deals with the evolution of universe tracing back its origin to big bang and investigating its time evolution through different cosmic time scales’. There is also another version of evolution called creative evolution, to which we will come after a while. Thus on the whole we have seen that the evolutionary picture of man, as interpreted by Darwinists reduces man to an amoral biped with no sense of higher values. Such an interpretation of Evolution has often brought it into strong clash with the religion and the doctrine has been refuted, not merely on dogmatic but on sound rational basis.

The formulation of the theory of evolution was a turning point in the evolution of human thought. The way, this theory was interpreted removed God from the cosmic screen. Thus Julian Huxley, in his book Religion without revelation remarked that “Newton showed that God did not control the movement of the planets. Laplace in his famous aphorism affirmed that astronomy had no need of God hypothesis; Darwin and Pasteur between them did the same for biology”. Such interpretations paved the ground for materialists and deprived humans of the spiritual element which had been an inspiring factor in evolution of civilizations. This materialistic doctrine took different forms in different sectors of life. In physical sciences it came to be concluded that the universal phenomenon are governed by strict and immutable laws of physics, with no intervention of creator. In biology, as shown above it was precluded that life emerged from De novo without the intervention of creator. So much of determinism, it was concluded that even the realms of human free will are subject to laws of mechanics (Laplace). This was the picture of philosophy and the framework of human understanding that existed in and prior to 1860.

The philosophy was further reinforced by Karl Marx, via his famous doctrines of capitalism and Marxism. It is said of Marx that he gave to history what Darwin gave to biology. Marx claimed that he had discovered the laws of social evolution which govern our present, past and future of our social dynamics as the laws of physics govern the overall history of physical phenomenon. In other words, he established social and physical sciences on same stand. As the laws of physical universe are immutable to any human intervention, so are the laws of social evolution unchangeable and follow a definite course on their own, without any active participation of man. Further he professed that all social phenomenon are a consequence of class conflict. As Manifesto of the communist party puts it, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles .

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstruction of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.” Apart from his views on social history or economic system, which remain a subject of controversy, Marx presented a picture of man that deserves special mention. Marx referred to humans as Gattungswesen, translated as “species essence” By this Marx meant that humans are capable of making or shaping their own nature to a great extent. As Erich Fromm notes “For Marx’s philosophy, which has found its most articulate expression in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, the central issue is that of the existence of the real individual man, who is what he does, and whose “nature” unfolds and reveals itself in history. But in contrast to Kierkegaard and others, Marx sees man in his full concreteness as a member of a given society and of a given class, aided in his development by society, and at the same times its captive. The full realization of man’s humanity and his emancipation from the social forces that imprison him is bound up, for Marx, with the recognition of these forces, and with social change based on this recognition.

(The author is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought. He contributes a weekly column for this newspaper that appears every Monday. He can be reached at: amirkas2016@gmail.com)

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RESPECT YOURSELF

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BY Shabbir Aariz

Respect is more valuable than praise and we are told ‘respect others and you will be respected’. Not bad but because of this, one is likely to become obsessed with pleasing everyone else, ignoring one’s own self for having been guided to a thinking that any importance if accorded to one’s own self, is something wrong to do. But everything in your life depends on how you treat yourself as the self-respect is at the root of everything that you will ever do, how you treat yourself and allow everyone else to treat you and it is always important not put yourself last.

Self-respect is neither to be confused with an inflated ego or self-esteem or over confidence. One can have little self-respect while acting with self esteem by conducting himself in the manner that makes him very successful. If one has a bad day, one falls an easy prey to blame, guilt, depression, despair and stress and with that the self-esteem also is at a risk of disappearance that once had inflated one’s ego, given also the feeling of being very special and important. Respecting oneself is not all about that. Respecting one’s own self is nothing to do with being conceited or self centered and egoist….. in fact it does the quite opposite. Self-respect is all about discovering one’s worth and having its deep sense and showing the worthiness of giving and receiving love and respect. It is a belief about one’s own worth and value. One needs to admit and acknowledge to oneself that one deserves not to be treated poorly but with respect and have the courage to stand up for oneself while being treated in a manner that is less than what one really deserves. It is an ability to adjust one’s life after knowing one’s worth on one’s own terms and isolating people treating one poorly. It is being able to never saying ‘yes’ while wanting to say ‘no’ and letting others know the same. It never makes a person bad but respectable and strong. It has to do with feelings people experience that come from their sense of worthiness or unworthiness. It is about having the ability to put a halt to any attempt that is aimed at taking one for granted.

 

When one learns to love oneself and treat others with respect that gives one an amazing inner satisfaction. It is not ego which would mean only to respect yourself. Self-respect means to be able to sacrificing personal interest for greater good. In one’s relationship with anyone, respect is an important quality and there is no exception when it comes to one’s relationship to oneself. It is about having a sense of honor and dignity about yourself, your choices, decisions and your life. It is about treating others well and knowing that by doing so, others will treat you well in return. It keeps us on track in our lives. It is really interesting to teach others how to treat us.

It has to be viewed differently than self esteem which is the feeling of knowing we can conduct ourselves well out there in the world. We can be good at our job and know that our families are thriving due to our leadership. Outwardly we are successful in at least some of the ways our society defines success. But it is very possible to experience self esteem without any self-respect. It is that deeper, inner feeling about ourselves. Self esteem is earned undoubtedly by proving ourselves that we can achieve positive results in our various life tasks. Self-respect is also earned……. It is an inside job that nobody can do for us. It can neither be bought nor can another person bestow it upon us. It is not until we truly love and respect ourselves, that we can begin to believe that we are worthy of another person’s love and respect. It is the most important thing we either have it or don’t have, because it forms the keystone of how we treat ourselves and how we allow others to treat us. The only thing we can change already resides within us—such as our preferences, our attitudes towards ourselves and life in general—-we can come out of our feelings of ‘victim’ by acknowledging that we do actually have enough control over many aspects of our lives. No one can make you feel badly about yourself without your permission. Don’t say yes while you want to say no and if you do so, you teach others to take you for granted and treat you poorly. With this faith and conviction, you are neither arrogant, nor an egoist or selfish but a giver of love, care, compassion and respect because you equally want to amass all that in return.

(A leading lawyer and eminent poet, author contributes a weekly column. He can be reached at: vaklishabir@gmail.com)

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Women in our society

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By Irshad Ahmed Bhat & Zahid Sultan Magray

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a women”.
Simone De Beauvoir.

Discrimination against women and girls is a pervasive and long running phenomenon that characterizes society at large. Beyond economic figures and financial abstractions a particularly heinous manifestation of toxic patriarchal society is violence against women; rape is undoubtedly one such horrible crime.

 

Rape happens everywhere: it happens inside homes, families, in education institutions, in neighbourhood, in police stations, in towns, villages and its incidence is increasing in India after every passing day. In fact, in India, rape is fourth most common crime against women. Gender equality performance of India like other south Asian countries is dismal. World economic forum Global Gender Gap report 2018 ranked India at 142 out of 149 countries on economic participation and opportunity gap.

Protest whether in physical or virtual space against such crimes is important because it shakes the conscience of society, brings people close to change, makes them feel part of the change. And there is certainly good chance that widely held wave of protests in wake of three year old Sumbal minor ‘ s rape case will lead to some expected results after widespread Outrage. But what is need is to ask ourselves; why did rape of female child, college going daughters, girls at working places or married mother’s occur cutting across age differences? It is important to protest but it is not something that occurs by itself. It is a part of continuing & embedded violence in society that targets women on daily basis that needs to be looked upon. Selective sex abortions, female infanticide , male child preference , dowry related case , workplace sexual harassment , physical violence, physiological violence , intimate partner violence , sexual violence and structural violence against women are what makes such crimes a normalcy. It is this culture that leads to such violence against women & pervasive sexism.

Modern women still encounter widespread gender inequality and often internalise conservative attitudes towards women’s social role. Society at large is stagnating under the veneer of modernity which further internalised these behaviours among women. Famous feminist Simon de Beauvoir said, “one is not born, but rather becomes, a women”. She was referring to the notion of social construction of a person as a women. In the second sex, De Beauvoir sketches a kind of existential history of a women’s life. A story of a women’s attitudes her body and bodily functions changes over years, and of how society influences this attitude. Here De Beauvoir raises the core question of female embodiment; are the supposed disadvantages of the female body actual disadvantages which exist objectively in all societies, or are they merely judged to be disadvantaged by our society? Paul Sartre observed that whatever we perceive, including other people, is rendered as an “object” to our gaze and is defined by us. De Beauvoir takes up this idea of Paul Sartre and applies it to men’s perception of women. The very concept of women, argues De Beauvoir, is a male concept. Women is always, ‘other’ because male is the ‘seer’: he is subject and she is the object. The meaning of what it is to be a women is given by man. This timelessness observation is all relevant and holds good in our society without an iota of doubt.

Similarly, Masculinity is also related to the notion of becoming a man in a sexists, misogynist world. It is a stereotype or social construct. Not all men are violent or aggressive .it is the pursuit of power that public consciousness is being moulded to uphold the notion of destructive, brutal or aggressive aspect of manhood. The industrialization has also created a havoc by bringing into the cult of exploitation, exclusion and stratification while creating straight Jacket role for being a man or women through inflexible sexual racial division of labour. Vulgar depiction of male dominance and focus on male privileges & entitlements is creating a culture of misogyny.

Addressing a crime like rape needed a comprehensive holistic approach to maintain and support gender equality at interpersonal, family, society, country or at global level by combating domestic violence against women, ensuring progressive institutional & legal procedures, imparting Education on gender equity from primary to university level in collaboration with religious community, structural reforms to end bias towards women. A vibrant grassroots women’s network is needed to push policy makers and communities to step up actions on gender equality, to ensure accountability on legislation addressing violence against women. Similarly, In Muslim society, The Quranic command for ensuring women right and their protection, fair and equal treatment needs to be rejuvenated and emphasized, and Muslim mainstream scholarship must address such pressing issues

What makes judiciary in India hesitant to intrude by criminalising marital rape or rapes in general, it is here that structure of caste, and culture and sexuality inhabit women’s freedom with fatal consequences. To seek justice (Punitive) for rape victims in such a culture is little more than melodrama. More importantly, the real task is to shift attitudes towards sexual violence, not just to victims’ post-facto but more importantly to accept that rapists are a product of a society to which we all as a society are responsible in one or other way.

It is about a society, how it creates, perpetuates and sustains the mind-set that leads to rape like crimes and how such privileges intensify this centuries old violence. Women do not choose to think about their bodies and bodily processes negatively. Rather they are being forced to do so as a result of being embedded in a toxic patriarchal society. And half of the descendants of Eva are deprived and marginalized by rest male fellows of their legitimate share.
(Feedback at: bhatirshad@gmail.com)

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