Enigma of identity
11 October, 2006
By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu
Reaction of an individual to an event that may happen in heavens, or in the society he belongs to depends on the nature and magnitude of his involvement, and also on his ability to think and feel conventionally or differently. For example, while talking about a contracting universe and its end — all will burn to nothingness — may provide exciting material to the authors who write science fiction; but to a concerned scientist this idea of big demolition is unbearable. An event that might happen after fifteen billion years or more is enough to pain him now.
A concerned individual goes through a greater agony, when he feels that the society of which he is a part, has problems, which if not solved will ultimately cause irreversible damage. The fatal problems of societies remain unresolved because the people who matter prefer not to search the real causes due to interests and also due to ignorance. To search and reach the real reasons, however, is a painful experience, because to have that the crusader has to de-link himself from societal norms, illusions, obsessions and dreams; and finally when he arrives at conclusions and solutions that can work, he is not even listened to and if somehow he is, he is rejected: Thus, like the worried scientist he too gets shattered. Yes, absolute impartiality and break with romanticism while discussing disturbing problems breaks the concerned into pieces if he fails to get response.
Problems of Pakistan, Punjab, Palestine and Kashmir are so disturbing that to debate them without prejudice and to arrive at a point as to how to solve them shakes your existence. Not due to the fear of state or reprisal of society, but due to the fact that the more you become acquainted with the sufferings of the people, the deeper you sink in the well of depression; and on finding that there is no immediate solution, bottom of the well remains the only place that shelters.
Being an Indian Muslim and Kashmiri by birth, Pakistani by migration, Punjabi by choice, all in one, makes you part of the most optimistic community in the world, which lives more on illusions and less on realities. The problem is that this optimism fails or tends to fail too often. However, to keep you engaged to it, the elite feeds you daily with a dose of hope and asks you to wait, and it somehow makes you believe that the good days would come soon.
Living with the optimism is baseless solace and not the solution. And to find solution, you need to assess the problems. If you do so being a commoner, you are banging on a permanently closed door. And if you are from a small dissenting elite, you are abhorred and condemned, because dissent from within is taken as treason, and as such is not tolerated. However, since the world has become more open, the people have started talking fearlessly and they have found the reacting listeners as well. Perhaps it is the beginning of search for solutions.
Shouldn't you, the all in one, also refuse to take solace in daily doses of escapist optimism, which is actually harming the ignorant and innocent Pakistanis, Punjabis, Kashmiris, and Muslims in general and Palestinians in particular? Don't you sincerely feel that they need to know the truth so that they put their weight against the rigid elite to make it believe that the change is needed? Yes, we all need to talk and we all need to know that if we do not initiate a kind of change, now, which the Europeans started a millennium back, we will remain millennia behind. Thinking about that kind of backwardness takes you directly to the bottom of well of depression: Yet, the only way to escape the well is to discuss problem of the Muslim majority world, Pakistan, Punjab and Kashmir with absolute impartiality, to invoke the reaction and wrath of the listeners in the hope that a day may come when action would replace reaction and reality would replace illusions.
Thank God, world does not stand divided on religious bases. There are no unions of Christian or Buddhist or Hindu sates. There is only one organization that is religion related. It is Organization of Islamic Countries but its existence is more symbolic than significant. If religion has not become a base of unity, there is nothing strange in that. Because it is symmetry of identical interests that creates effective unions. And in this material and real world 'interests' are defined by economy and security, only. To make the point more clear let us look at World Wars II and I, which were fought between the Christians. About 80 million people lost their lives in these wars and most of them were Christian. The wars between Iraq and Kuwait and between Iran and Iraq are examples from recent Muslim history. And about the old history all of us know that no two countries whatever their religion, same or different, never had a peaceful relationship except for short intervals.
Suppose we become successful in uniting Ummah (Muslims of the world) under one flag; then where do we stand? In comparison small state of France will be much stronger economically, academically and militarily. Comparing the united Ummah with the United States or Russia will be more depressing. We must not take humanity as a divided entity, and if we cannot resist, we should postpone the union of Ummah till any of the Muslim majority countries makes a single nut or bolt entirely on its own (without west's help). In fact illusions and realities make no match at all.
Problem of Palestine should be addressed keeping in view the facts cited above and also due to the everlasting logic that the good neighbors make life pleasant for each other, and earn enormous advantages, through friendship, if they can acquire it. One more reality must be kept in mind that a militarily powerful Israel with the passing of time is also bound to emerge as a super industrial giant. But for that it would definitely require the help of Palestinians, who are the most educated and technical people around due to the know-how that they received while studying and working abroad and also in Israeli universities and factories. Thus peace and peaceful coexistence would benefit both of them and they must turn to that by solving their conflicts. However, the Israelis are at the giving end and they should exercise restraint and apply additional wisdom to engage their neighbors. Conflict-less Israel and Palestine will definitely become source of inspiration and strength to each other; and doing so will make them achieve what oil rich countries cannot.
They will become self-sufficient and will move to the categories of most developed countries, much earlier than one could imagine. Though much of the responsibility lies with the Israelis to make the relationship work, yet, the Palestinians on their part should also turn to pragmatism and display prudence to compel the Israelis, to act wisely.
Now let us talk about Pakistan. Since its inception it is facing persistent uncertainty: Is it due to others or due to our own doings? Did the outsiders advise us to concentrate economic, military and political power in three cities only? Did Israel or India force illiteracy and poverty on us? Did Americans tell us Martial laws are superior to democracy, and even if they told us so, why did we oblige? Could America force on us Afghan war if we were not willing and why didn't we visualize the after effects? Is Israel or India asking us to promote orthodoxy and invent strange devolutionary systems that will ultimately turn to divisionary systems? And who advised us to live under emergency since the beginning by spending the most on defense? If we find ourselves totally responsible for all of our failures, why can't we behave responsible to achieve success? Time has come for the concerned to break with the partiality. Pakistan is in a situation that demands emotional as well as intellectual intervention. We must talk and make those who matter, listen. Had Bengalis and the concerned West Pakistanis talked, the rulers and the rules would have been different but together we would have lived forever.
Though talking about Pakistan means talking about Punjab, yet, there is a need to talk about Punjab directly. Possessed by the tragic events of partition that had a basis in minority-majority rejection, gripped by fears of landlocked-ness and loaded with sense of superiority due to its number and also due to its numerical presence in civil-military establishment, the elite of Punjab, to keep state together, opted means that had no relevance with the times of today. They used Mughal methodology, not knowing that it had eventually failed to give centrality to India; moreover when it was practiced to marginal success, the times were different.
To the elite unity of nation depended on strength of center: To others it was an instrument that would perpetuate the hold of Punjab, and would weaken the federation. The Illusions and realities lived, however, together and no one tried to separate them till East Pakistan was separated. To strengthen remaining Pakistan, all that the ruling elite can do, now, is to revise its thinking and actions. The easiest way to keep things moving is that, whatever, poverty or prosperity, is available should be shared with all other provinces. Condemning the regional leaders will not help. And the elite of Punjab should know that in case of further loss; the upper Punjab, Sahiwal to Potohar will become the loser forever, because even if outsiders would connect, they would connect with Multan and Southwards, only.
Let us now turn to the subject of Kashmir, which is most puzzling and complex of all. What Kashmiris are fighting for: is it India, Pakistan or Azadi (Freedom)? And if it is Azadi, then they need to clear themselves first on the definition, because Azadi is a term that carries different meaning to same people at different times. In fact, Azadi is a relative phenomenon.
To the Protestants of Northern Ireland it meant living within the UK and to the Catholics to join Ireland. In India before partition almost all Muslims wanted and a separate homeland ( Pakistan). To those who did not migrate and stayed behind, willingly or unwillingly, Azadi now means living as patriotic Indians. To East Bengalis Azadi in 1947 meant making of Pakistan, and in 1971 breaking away from Pakistan to make Bangladesh. In economic milieu, to billions of people of the world, Azadi (Freedom) means migrating to the rich west and America. To Kashmiri pundits, Muslim Kashmiri nationalists of valley and Kashmiris of Ladakh and Jammu, Azadi means living within India. To a large Muslim population of valley Azadi means a defiance of Indian rule. To the people of princely states ruled by the Muslim and Hindu dynasties Azadi meant rule of the British. They would sign and send requests, one after another, to Delhi asking for British Viceroy's urgent help to rescue them from their despotic rulers. To the ruling Mughal elite it meant being superior to the others. "We have no grudge against you, but in your courts we and our subjects are treated equal" that was told to the English judge by one of the stalwarts of 1857 rebellion.
From 1857 onwards both the British and the Indians lived much more in agreement and quite less in discord though; movements for Azadi (Freedom) were running to capacity crowds in parks and streets. The elite created by the British used to lead the crowds but it would also sit with the British to negotiate temporary and permanent deals. That was how the Indian leaders acted during the struggle. They were true to their aims but were more prudent than the Azadi (Freedom) seekers of today. To them compromise was part of struggle and they waited for the right moment to strike and that came when the World War II started: and the British had to concede to their demand of freedom. Meanwhile the Indians achieved through the British rule, what they could not have done on their own.
Failure of 1857 rebellion taught them that the British couldn't be ousted through force. Hence, they waited and turned to politics, and used it as instrument of struggle; and ultimately succeeded. Had they continued with the rebellion, they would have failed; and so would have India in achieving modernity and centrality. It may not be out of place to mention here that the elders of India had amongst them towering personalities like Jinnah and Gandhi who advocated peaceful struggle and won their cases without involving the matter called blood.
Should Kashmiris wait and behave like the elders of India and Pakistan or should they continue with the struggle in a way, they are doing now? First of all they must realize that they are representing at the most majority of Muslims of valley only and the Kashmiris of all other areas such as Jammu and Ladakh are not with them in whatever they are struggling for. Even within the valley there is Muslim and minority support for India and that may be small but it matters. Hence, freedom fighters before moving ahead will have to evolve a consensus from within, first, on the achievable objectives such as self rule or autonomy within the present geography, and that can be achieved only through peace, patience and persuasion; and by leaving their guns or by keeping them silent. In nutshell, they must turn to politics and use it the way, the elders of India and Pakistan did. Their present expression of militancy is acting against them; not that they are gradually losing heart but they are losing the unique wisdom that they have, and which makes them different than the others in the subcontinent.
The tragedy that death brings is mourned and like the dead it gets buried, somewhere, in the memory with the passing of time, but the cycle of life does not stop. However, if wisdom is lost it may never come back and if at all it returns it will be a kind of wisdom that may not have relevance with the prevailing realities. Afghanistan is one such example. Kashmiris should not produce the other.
If Kashmiris are acting impulsively, then the Muslims and Pakistanis in general, and elite of Punjab in particular must think as to how to save them from having an Afghanistan like environment? And the only way out is to stress on them is to struggle peacefully and for achievable targets only. If somehow we embrace this thinking honestly, and make it reach Kashmiris, then to find solution to Pakistan's problems will become much easier. And Kashmiris would also be saved from physical as well as intellectual annihilation.
(This article was written six years ago. It saddens that not much has changed since. Rather, things are worse now)