Apathetic masses in between shameless elite and uninspiring resistance

Khaufzad Kashur

An unguided mass of people, stricken with unemployment, cultural delirium and dependence on supplies for survival, works as ballast for the stability of the military occupation.

People of Kashmir, the atomized masses appear to be in a race among themselves for becoming good consumers of everything ranging from news to materialistic ideas they do not produce themselves. Today, after decades of having mounted a fight to liberate themselves from subjugation, powerlessness and indignity, Kashmiris seem unequal to the challenge they have given themselves – notwithstanding the fact that the overwhelming forces they are pitted against emanate from a world order that is made up of military muscle and markets, not conscientious nations.

Historically, the Kashmiri elite have almost always embraced power (or provided unconscionable service to it) and they form the political client class together with those who collaborate with occupational structures of the day for their desire of achieving elite-hood. But the elite, and those inspired by them, often forget that their access to foreign structures of power owes itself to the undeniable mass aspiration of breaking free from the same repressive structures they embrace. Periodic elections held in Kashmir also bring forth the same maxim.

As I see it, the source of the local Kashmiri elite’s relevance lies in the mass aspiration of freedom from the structures that the elite service; as well as in some Kashmiris’ voting in the elections. The petty power enjoyed by the ‘mainstreamed’ Kashmiri elite over the common masses then is a testimony to the average Kashmiris struggle for comprehensive freedom and ownership of their future.

But the question is why the ship is static, and even apparently sinking?

Those who have assumed the role of resistance for guiding the masses to liberty appear frozen in their politics of positions, howsoever laudable and steeped in history those positions may be. They seem divorced from the need for evolving popular tools for or ways of grass-root level resistance. Such tools can only be crafted by imagining a transition: always a difficult and perhaps long period!

One of the big failures of Kashmiri resistance movement, for example, has been an utter inability or unwillingness of the existing leadership to connect resistance and common livelihoods. Today it is difficult to imagine a section of the Kashmiri society exclusively sustained by Kashmiri resources. What if the race for expanding orchards for more cash was converted into a movement for cultivating more vegetables, rearing more sheep and producing more milk? A hell of a lot can be achieved by mobilizing substantial and still “unoccupied” Kashmiri resources. Just think of the possibilities of less dependence.

Such ideas might sound isolationist today, but a degree of self-sustainability will guide the people to the doorsteps of an unavoidable and essential transition, one that will make meaningful resistance and finally freedom from India possible and real.

An unguided mass of people, stricken with unemployment and dependence on supplies for survival, works as ballast for the stability of the military occupation. The culture of consumption must be proportionately complimented with a culture of production and innovation of a social kind, one in which fundamental needs for survival and dignity are met by mutual solidarity with each other and austere lifestyles. Kashmir has had a long tradition of austerity, which the resistance must once again tap into. A one-way traffic of cash, culture and commodity makes the strongest chains for subjugation!

As much as the Kashmiri resistance leadership must inspire and inform possible and innovative ways for it, every single aspirant of freedom and dignified existence in Kashmir must choose to dismantle the chain-links of subjugation. Apathy will only keep the chains strong, glittering and clanking.

Yet, intellectual apathy is what seems to rule the day! Don’t blame it on the leader if you choose the available over what must be chosen consciously, even if the price is personal suffering. The failure to do so has created opportunities (and perhaps respectability as well) for even those ‘intellectuals’ to join hands with the structures of occupation who failed in their own roles to inform meaningful resistance when they ostensibly intended to, or believed in fighting the aggressor rather than joining it.

Twenty-five years after the people of Kashmir declared an open rebellion against foreign will, today there is more space, opportunity and experience available than ever before for making lifestyle choices that may foster a culture of resistance. But general apathy, and perhaps some loss of self-respect, makes a desolation of the Kashmiri landscape of resistance, and political turncoats tentatively respectable.

Who has the moral strength or latitude to hold accountable the intellectual turncoats and the politically naïve joining the occupation juggernaut in their droves now a days?

Could it be the resistance leaders who have not succeeded yet, or are consumed by just surviving? Or, is it those who have paid such a price fighting the occupation that they don’t populate the Kashmir memory anymore? Is it the heirs of those who have been sent six feet under or behind bars? Or, is it those who have borne the brunt of a brutal military campaign and have never complained a whimper about it? Is it those one-out-of-every-five-Kashmiris who has survived torture? Or, those who vanished in thin year or their families they left behind? Is it the women of Kunan Poshpora or the people of Chhattisinghpora? Who? Just who, I ask?

Perhaps none of them may like invoking political morality anymore! They may have the moral gumption, but they may be done! Perhaps those who are in a position to, and may choose to live for more than themselves and their kin. Or those, who may someday bring themselves to understand the importance of living independent lives before dreaming of being free. Or even those who may find the courage to stop living like just a consuming statistic.

All these could be you and me, the constituents of Qoum, if we have the courage to choose, consciously.

Qoum, ya kisi renegade intellectual ki tanqeed karnay ke saath saath apnay girebaan mein bhi jhaank ke zaroor dekhiye!     

 Khaufzad Kashur is based in Kashmir and writes whenever inspiration strikes.

Leave a Comment