The Future Cannot Be Hostage To The Past Whether In Kashmir Or Elsewhere

The Future Cannot Be Hostage To The Past Whether In Kashmir Or Elsewhere

13 February 2012
The Economic Times
Mythili Bhusnurmath

New Delhi: The occasion: a study-circle organised by a well-known NGO in Delhi; the speaker, Dr Hameeda Nayeem, a prominent woman activist who teaches English in J&K and the topic, Women in Kashmir. As a woman, a citizen concerned about the seemingly endless unrest- violence in the Valley and a new entrant to the NGO world, I was eager to participate and to try and understand. And so I went. Listening to Dr Nayeem for close to two hours was a revelation. I heard a perspective that most of us in the mainstream do not usually get to hear and for that I am grateful. At a human level, one empathised with her as well. Life in the Valley for ordinary citizens, especially women, is not ‘normal’ in the sense that it is for most of us in the rest of the country. But what is the way out? It was there that she and I struck a discordant note. For one, while all of us listened patiently and with a great deal of empathy, especially to recounting of the trials and tribulations of ordinary Kashmiri women, there was no willingness on her side to listen to a different perspective on the troubles in Kashmir. And that is what disheartened me. If we cannot even hear each other out, perhaps to disagree, there can be no dialogue and without dialogue, there can be no way forward. Yes, the Kashmir problem has to be seen in its historical context. But the future cannot be hostage to the past. If that were the case every part of the country could argue that it has a distinct history, a distinct culture. Many were princely states. So no part of the country should be seen save in its historical context and, arguably, warrant a ‘special’ status. But if we were to do that there would be no India as we know it today. Yes, Kashmir is different in that there is a UN resolution on Kashmir but that clearly cannot be implemented unless Pakistan is also willing to participate. Article 370 of the Constitution already gives Kashmir a special status, a ‘special status’ that many other states could regard as giving Kashmir a degree of autonomy denied to them. If, in Dr Nayeem’s eyes, NHPC’s power plant is seen as ’exploitation’ of Kashmir’s water resources then Jharkhand or Bihar or Orissa could equally well see the coal and iron ore mines as ‘exploitation’ of their natural resources. Yes, we need to de-militarise the Valley so that people can go about their everyday life without the heavy presence of the army. But can the people in the valley assure the country there will be no return of infiltration? At the end of the day unless there is a willingness to hear a different perspective, look at any solution as necessarily involving some quid pro quo, including, perhaps, a willingness to merge sub-national identities for a larger national identity that is based on respect for all and acceptance of our differences, there can be no future; only a constant harking back to the past.