B y SHABNUM SHAH : How am I supposed to respond to the calls made for bands and protests? What am I supposed to do when I see my children losing their destiny and going no where? How do I make my home safe when I hear of the attack on the life of a Sarpanch or Panch whom I voted for and elected so that he can take care of my woes? Whom do I complain to when I see so much corruption and government servant not doing their job? What should be my approach to future when I hear of an innocent hotel boy getting killed for nothing else than being from a state which has nurtured terrorism? From whom do I seek the remedy for schools not functioning, offices not processing files and babus not acting on the issues without warming their pockets? Toe the line, tailor my opinions, ignore the anomalies, confront them or challenge them. You may suggest that if I cant conform to one of these options, then I must to conform to the others. And this should not be just on the face of it or superficially but it should be from my hert and mind, even if it is against my conscience. Well, it may be ok for you but the trouble with me is that I cant live like that. Nobody should live like that.
Often Democracy has been defined as the politics of conscience: integrity, honesty, completeness, justice, creditability, innovation, judgment, inspiration, talent, vision, perception and above all, absolute dedication to the welfare of the common people. But how do we pack so many synonyms into the democracy of ours which has to accommodate so many diversities, so many confusions, so many unethical issues that may relate to coalition politics particularly in a state like ours where we have so many party lines to follow simultaneously. Even in states where all institutions are intact and are not suffering from the contradictions such as Right to Self Determination, Azadi of so many kinds, diktats of Hurriyat, political dramas, dreams shown by Pakistan for an Azad Kashmir on a Kashmir completely integrated with India. The management of politics turns into a comedy of errors if there is no determined leadership and complete application of principles of democracy. So what do we do with J&K, our beloved state in general and Kashmir in particular. All these contradictions combined with over two decads of militancy have turned it a step beyond the comedy of errors, that is into the “comedy of terrors”. So if under these circumstances, if we do not apply our conscience, what are we going to make out of the already precarious present-day Kashmir.
The ruling class, the opposition, the Hurriyat leadership, the religious leaders and the intellectuals in the state have completely ignored the philosophical and moral dimensions of social and democratic management just because it suits them to blatantly remain involved in the business they are pursuing. Ominous assaults on Sarpanchs, burning of shrines, desecration of Holy Quran, paralysis of the lives and commerce, criticism of every sign of peace and harmony, shunning of all the opportunities that come our way in forms such as tourism, condemnation of construction of tunnel to improve connectivity and questioning the visit of various business leaders to Valley to explore possibilities of employment are the perfect examples of an outrage against the people of Kashmir. But who other than us, the people, are perpetrating this outrage. By not challenging all these negativities or accepting to live with them is a simple demonstration of lack of conscience. We will be responsible for the tragic end of the remnant of our rich heritage just because we did not bother to listen to our inner voice.
Though we have come far from the tsunami of 90s to the rough waters of today, but this change would have brought cheers on our faces and confidence in our eyes if all this was by our choice and by our own initiatives to shun militancy. Just because it was brought about by the heavy hands of security forces, we can afford t behave like aliens in this peaceful condition. When we look at the mirror, we find our selves either doubting the peace or we say that it is superficial or we say that there is no peace at all. Is it lack of confidence, deficiency of self belief or absence of conscience – may be a fair mix of all of it. Despite having suffered for over two decades nothing seems to be changing in Kashmir. Nothing has changed in the political dispensation, nothing except differences has changed in the Hurriyat amagam and nothing has changed in our psyche. Imagine, we can resort to bandhs and stone pelting on pettiest of reasons without bothering about lives of those who survive on small little business that they have or for closure of schools of our children for days together. We keep debating for months on every immature statement made by a politician in Kashmir or Pakistan. Just like our acts, the politicians too take split second decisions on matters impacting our lives without even thinking for a while. Then we blame them and they blame us. Unfortunately, this will carry on because we all have ignored our conscience. We are getting into a sinkhole destined to endure the inefficient and indifferent conduct of our affairs yet we will be displaying self-aggrandisement because we have grown to become like that. Kashmir is confronted with a total suspension of empathy: empathy for the next generation, empathy for a turbulence free life and empathy for leading a successful life.
We need to carry out an in-depth introspection of our thoughts, our mindset, our conscience, our true desires, our frustration against violence and outrageous acts by youth, our concept of security and our approach towards the future of Kashmir. Our true freedom from the evils of poverty, the prices of basic commodities, the gas and power dilemma, education, health and nearly all vital national services and the security situation lies not in blaming the government or security agencies, but it lies in listening to our conscience and doing what we must. We have successfully gone past the war of two decades of militancy, but we are yet to win the battle of our conscience. Our conscience is calling, we just have to lend our ears to it and take a call on it. We deserve to live by our conscience once, and time is now. The question is: like me, is it equally important for you too to listen to your conscience? I would be interested, if you have a positive answer.