Of History and Pakistan

Kashmiri youth wave Pakistani flag at Nowhatta, Srinagar

Umair Gul makes a case for Pakistan sentiment in Kashmir, its historicity and its large following among masses in context of the recent essays published in Wande Magazine.

Can we deny history? Yes, we can. History is written by those who have hanged heroes. Not necessary though! The authors of three essays that appeared in Wande Magazine have hanged none but each other. Who are we in history? The myth of living the past essentially will determine what we make of it. Who uses history?  Dominant, powerful, weak, oppressed and powerless. The dominant uses history to justify his power as a direct consequence of the past and powerless use history to either gain power or breakaway from existing structures by creating a mythical glorious past or a tale of victimhood. The idea of history as a discipline stems from a clash between inherited classicism and modernism, the debate on what is knowledge and where do we get it.

As the author of History as Politics: On Writing Past has criticized the two Jamia scholars for their use of “anonymous poetic sloganeering”, we need to tell him that it is these slogans that will be analyzed and reproduced essentially after decades by historians to produce historical knowledge. While as it is true that using the present to study past is detrimental to the academic discipline, it also holds true that denying the present by dwelling in past manufactures defected knowledge. The debate that whether Sheikh Abdullah had two eggs for breakfast or was empty stomach on the day Indian state took over Jammu and Kashmir will not implicate or absolve him of Jammu massacre. But if unnecessary intellectualization that has become part of academic history is to be believed then the multiplicity of narratives about eggs and breakfast will always start a discourse that will often end up absolving or implicating Sheikh Abdullah.

All manifestos are essentially slogans, all promises are hollow and all leaders are loudspeakers. However, sentiments and emotions whether manufactured or innate go beyond the “symptom of the idea, ideology and academic history”.

The role of the Pakistani state in Kashmir can be debated tirelessly by academic historians. The sentiment for the idea and existence of Pakistan can, however, be denied by no one in present and past. The fact that electoral politics in Kashmir valley has been dictated largely by Green symbolism debunks the myth that “on one curfew morning in 1990, suddenly all people woke up drenched in green colour as Pakistanis”. In 1977 state Assembly elections, after Sheikh Abdullah had entered into an accord with Indira Gandhi, Sheikh and National conference feared for their popularity and only the use of some ‘symbolism’ could save them in certain assembly segments where people’s alienation against India and Shiekh was manifold. In election rallies, Sheikh and his deputy thus displayed rock-salt in green handkerchiefs. Rock-salt, which was locally known as Pakistani-salt owing to the historical trade route via Lahore, paved its way into Kashmir valley and its politics. The display of rock-salt in a green handkerchief thus signified strong secessionist symbolic positioning and posturing even after the accord for gaining electoral victory. Thus, the sentiment for Pakistan dictated electoral politics in Kashmir even at Sheikh’s time.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that was formed in 1999 and came to power in 2002 elections used this “Green Symbolism” to its advantage by deliberately using the colour green for its party flag and posters. More recently in 2014 assembly elections Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), that was targeting forty-four plus seats to gain a simple majority for the first time in Jammu and Kashmir elections, used Zindagi TV to reach to Kashmiri voters. Zindagi TV had become popular in 2014 in Kashmir for broadcasting Pakistani serials and Kashmiri Muslims after having been deprived of Pakistan National Television (PTV) identified with Zindagi TV serials thus contributing to its popularity and BJP in order to woo the Kashmiri Muslim voters made use of Zindagi TV as a Green symbol to enter into Kashmiri homes.

Further as has been the trend, the support for Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) as an armed group is de-facto taken as the weight of anti-Pakistan sentiment. This, however, is an exaggerated analysis. It is worth mentioning that the support for JKLF as an ideology couldn’t be estimated or interpolated by its initial popularity as people didn’t have an alternative option and Kashmir armed struggle and JKLF were bound to be taken by people initially as synonymous. We can also argue that the first batch of boys that crossed over into Azad Kashmir were not JKLF but gradually became JKLF. Also, there has been a raging debate as to who crossed over first? Thus JKLF had with it what could be termed as “beginners charm or luck”. It thus would be an exaggeration to see cadres of JKLF as ideological statues or epitomes of liberation ideology that is anti-Pakistan or anti-India in equal measures; they always had propensities towards Pakistan and subconsciously displayed Pro-Pakistan leanings in their slogans, honouring Pakistani anthem and other mannerisms. However, these symbolisms could be deliberate also to cater to the wide ideological base of Pro-Pakistan elements within and outside. The use of Kashmiri word “Apour” for Pakistan and “Nebhar” for India is one such sub-conscious lingual preference. While “Apour” means a locale within reach, ownership and belonging, “Nebhur” necessarily means foreign, alien and out of reach. The growing concern for us-paar without honouring sentiments of iss-paar is the result of too much weight given to half-baked Indian liberals, who on any given day would love equating India and Pakistan. Surprisingly this narrative has surfaced in a new form whereby Nationalism and Pakistani deep state are criticised by religious rhetoric transcending boundaries. So when one infers the evolution of JKLF from the division of erstwhile Muslim Conference, they essentially mean the transfer of ideological baggage, which certainly has happened in many movements across the world. So if the periphery of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after being oppressed coalesced under the banner of Al Qaeda, condemning its nemesis as well, so did JKLF essentially sprout out from divisions that had started four decades ago, and perhaps the new global jihadist discourse in Kashmir is the new mitotic product of the same. Thus, it is not entirely laughable to trace the genesis of one movement into the failure or division of nemesis.

Tail Piece

When Red blood cells are replaced by green Chloroplasts; When blood is replaced by chlorophyll; When Coke Studio becomes sacred; When you watch Saeed Anwar’s innings of 194 vs. India, every time you are down and out; When Azhar Ali is cause of your depression; When you are exploited and you know it; When your Eid crescent appears somewhere else; When you are killed; You know it is love! Unconditional love. Sometimes madness. ♦

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Wande Magazine.

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