Dr. Nyla Ali Khan is renowned Author, writer and dynamic personality. She is Visiting Professor at the University of Oklahoma and former professor at the University of Nebraska-Kearney She is the author of two books, including The Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism and Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir: Between Indian and Pakistan, and several articles that focus heavily on the political issues and strife of her homeland, Jammu and Kashmir. She is the granddaughter of Sheikh Abdullah, noted Political figure in history of Kashmir.
In an exclusive interview with News Kashmir, Nyla Ali Khan talks to Editor-in- Chief Farzana Mumtaz and Rameez Makhdoomi.
Unlike most of the members of your family who have made mark in world of politics , you are scholar first and then anything else. What has defined this reality?
Well, several variables have defined this reality. I trace my origin to the hegemonically defined “Third and First Worlds.” While I am affiliated to the Valley of Kashmir in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, a unit in the Indian Union, I remain affiliated to the restoration of an autonomous Jammu and Kashmir. My move to the Mid-West complicated my already multilayered identity by adding one more layer to it: my affiliation with the South Asian diaspora in the US. I am positioned in relation to my own class and cultural reality; my own history, which is one among many ways of relating to the past; my sensitivity to the slippery terrain of cultural traditions and to the questions and conflicts within them; my own struggle not just with the complicated notions of citizenship, political subjectivity, regionalism, nationalism, but also with the effects of the homogenizing discourses of cultural nationalism; my diasporic position in the West; my position as a Hanifi Sunni Muslim woman; my concept of the political and sociocultural agency of Kashmiri women in contemporary society; and my political interests and ambitions, which are shaped by how I see my past.
I began to analyze in my academic work the issues of autonomy, self-determination, integration, armed insurgency, counter insurgency, and militarization in Kashmir in 2005. That was when I came to realize that it was absolutely necessary for me to look into my consciousness to understand the political and sociocultural perspectives that had been inscribed on it. I grew up in a world in which my parents, Suraiya and Mohammad Ali Matto, were fiercely proud of their cultural and linguistic heritage (despite the onslaught of an enlightenment modernity), and honored their Islamic heritage, faithfully observing religious practices, while maintaining unflagging conviction in a pluralistic polity. My parents, with their reserved dignity, integrity, unassuming pride, and unabated love for Kashmir, have been my role models. They have always explicitly cherished their heritage, while keeping themselves at a distinct distance from those who seek to impose a History on the landscape of Kashmir. Now that I look back with insight, I see that my parents, although well-educated and well-read professionals, did not internalize colonial beliefs about the superiority of European civilization or biased notions about the “degraded” status of Kashmiri Muslims, who had started to come out of the swamp of illiteracy, poverty, and bonded labor in the 1940s. Their unremitting loyalty to the land of their dreams and hopes, Kashmir, despite the post-1989 militarized ethos, rabidity of bigotry, and conscripted existences of those who did not jump on the bandwagon of either statism or ethno religious nationalism has validated my admiration for their integrity and open-mindedness.
Raised in Kashmir in the 1970s and the 1980s, I always knew that I, like my parents, would receive a substantial education and would have a professional life. I instinctively knew that they would protect me from the shackles of restrictive traditions and from the pigeonholes of modernity. My own wariness of statism, perhaps, stems from my Mother’s fraught childhood and youth. Her father, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, reigned as Prime Minister of the State of Jammu and Kashmir from 1948 to 1953.
When the pledge to hold a referendum was not kept by the Government of India, his advocacy of autonomy for the State led to his imprisonment. He was shuttled from one jail to another until 1972 and remained out of power until 1975. Her mother, my maternal grandmother, Begum Akbar Jehan, supported her husband’s struggle and represented Srinagar and Anantnag constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian parliament from 1977 to 1979 and 1984 to 1989, respectively. Akbar Jehan was also the first president of the Jammu and Kashmir Red Cross Society from 1947 to 1951. But during my Grandfather’s incarceration, she had been burdened with the arduous task of raising five children in a politically repressive environment that sought to undo her husband’s mammoth political, cultural, legalistic attempts to restore the faith of Kashmiri society in itself.
Mother, perhaps unbeknownst to herself, had grown up with the fear of life’s tenuousness and an acceptance of the harsh demands of public life. It took her a while to realize that it is impossible to please everyone all the time, unless one willingly relinquishes one’s individuality. She has found, to her despair, unpalatable motives attributed to her parents and grotesque misinterpretations of their political, religious, and socioeconomic ideologies. So, she has learned that it is naive and detrimental to expect to have everyone comprehend what one says and attribute the right motives to one’s cause. But her faith in the “New Kashmir” that her father’s socialist agenda sought to fashion remains unshaken till date, despite the tribulations and upheavals that she has witnessed. She, like the rest of us, carries the burden of her own history.
After the rumblings and subsequent explosion of armed insurgency and counter insurgency in Kashmir in 1989, a few of those organizations that advocated armed resistance to secure the right of self-determination for the people of Kashmir, in accordance with the United Nations Resolutions of 21 April and 3 June 1948, of 14 March 1950 and 30 March 1951, blamed the leader who had given the clarion call for Kashmiri nationalism, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, for having, purportedly, succumbed to pressures brought on by the Government of India in 1975: putative capitulation to its insistence to relinquish the struggle for autonomy or self-determination. It was a heart-rending period for Mother to see reductive readings of her father’s ideology and the attempted erasure of the political and sociocultural edifice of which he had been the primary architect. In one of those few and far between moments of unburdening herself, Mother recalled that Grandfather had remained clear headed about his political ideology during his time in externment and even until he breathed his last. All that while Grandmother had stood like a rock beside him. Not once had she buckled under pressure or tried to weaken his resolve. Although Mother maintains a tenacious bond with family, friends, and acquaintances, and laments the innocent loss of lives in Kashmir over the past two decades, the rhetoric of revolution spouted in the early 1990s had a different undercurrent for her. Connecting to this rhetoric, for her, entailed a much more complex negotiation than it did for most people in Kashmir at the time.
Father, an ardent believer in the vision of “New Kashmir” as well, has a clarity of thought that I esteem. He has had the satisfaction of knowing that he has lived his convictions. Although after the inception of armed insurgency and counterinsurgency in Kashmir in 1989 my parents were confronted with an uncertain future, in which the political fate of Kashmir was unknowable, they sustained their ideals through those difficult times. Father was raised in a large, traditional family that has always avowedly owed allegiance to my maternal grandfather’s vision of a democratic, progressive Kashmir. That formidable vision caused the dismantling of the safely guarded domain of privilege and power that had disenfranchised the Muslim majority and reinforced the seclusion of Kashmiri women. Father’s family, I observe, espouses an essentialist and unified subjectivity. One layer of my subjectivity is, therefore, constructed within the nexus of gender/ class relations. Father does, occasionally, think critically about my maternal grandfather’s legacy and the handling of that legacy by his successors, but more often than not my parents’ sense of filial duty and kinship ties makes them silent, albeit questioning, observers of a political system that still leaves much to be desired. A lot of the rhetoric around them, statist or reactionary, does not directly speak to their own political dilemmas. However, as I said, my parents have never lost faith in the sustainability of a pluralistic polity nor in the resilience of the Kashmiri people.
It is with a complicated legacy as the backdrop that my own sense of identity as a “diasporic Kashmiri,” an “Indian citizen,” an “American Resident,” and “South Asian” is entangled. It is the politics of upheaval and disruption that frame the lives of those of my generation who grew up in the turbulent gusts of Kashmir. The physical distance hasn’t severed the umbilical cord that tenaciously binds me to the territory, the people, and the sociocultural ethos of Kashmir. Although I live and work in the diaspora, my passionate longing for Kashmir remains unabated; my prayers for a peaceful and conflict free Kashmir in which its people will lead lives of pride, dignity, and liberty remain fervent; my dream of a Kashmir to which my daughter, Iman, can return not with disdain but with a prideful identity, one layer of which is Kashmiri, leaves in me an ache and a pining.
One defining aspect of your work is your use of oral evidence in your research, especially in Islam, Women, and the Violence in Kashmir. How was the experience like?
As I explain in my Preface and Introduction to Islam, Women, and the Violence in Kashmir: Between India and Pakistan,I wanted to emphasize women’s perspectives on issues of nationalist ideologies, religious freedom, democratic participation, militarization, intellectual freedom, judicial and legal structures in a milieu that does not co-opt them into mainstream political and cultural discourses or First-World feminist agendas. So, I employed, particularly in chapters 2 and 5 of my book, self-reflexive and historicized forms, drew on my heritage and kinship in Kashmir in order to explore the construction and employment of gender in secular nationalist, religious nationalist, and ethnonationalist discourses in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
I underlined, at the outset, that the focus in my monograph on Kashmir was on the gendered activism of the women of the Kashmir province in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J & K). The battlefield of armed insurgency and counter insurgency has been the Valley of Kashmir, and the political, economic, and sociocultural dimensions of the conflict have rendered asunder the fabric of that province of J & K, more than the other two parts of the state, which are Jammu and Ladakh. Also, considering my analysis of gendered violence and gendered activism in Kashmir is interwoven with my own personal and intellectual trajectory, I attempted to explore the struggles of a particular ethnic group, Kashmiri Muslim, in the most conflict-ridden part of the State.
Talking to women from different walks of life and different ideological positions, it struck me that although women of Kashmir have been greatly affected by the armed insurgency and counter insurgency in the region, they are largely absent in decision-making bodies at the local, regional, and national levels. I am painfully aware of the fact that although substantive ethnographic work has been done by local and diasporic scholars on the brunt borne by Kashmiri women during the armed conflict as well as on the atrocities inflicted on women by Indian paramilitary forces, the local police, and some militant organizations, Kashmiri women continue to be near absent at the formal level. It would be foolish to turn a blind eye to this gaping lacuna. In my conversations with several women, I recognized the attention paid to gender-based violence in Kashmir by scholars, ethnographers, and NGOs, but not enough attention is given to the political, economic, and social fall-out of the armed conflict for women. Some of my interviewees pointed out that not enough emphasis is laid on how Kashmiri women of different political, religious, ideological, and class orientations can become resource managers and advocates for other women in emergency and crisis situations.
In my interactions with women from Kashmir, I realized that there is a serious lack of a feminist discourse in political/activist roles taken on by women in Kashmir, where the dominant perception still is that, politics and policy-making are the job of the pragmatic, powerful male, not the archetypal malleable, maternal, accommodating woman. As in other political scenarios in South Asia, women politicians are relegated to the “soft areas” of Social Welfare and Family affairs. Although political parties in Kashmir, either mainstream or separatists, have not relinquished paternalistic attitudes toward women, women’s rights and gender issues are secondary to political power. Today in J & K, women constitute a minority, increasing the pressures of high visibility, unease, stereotyping, inability to make substantial change, over-accommodation to the dominant male culture in order to avoid condemnation as “overly soft.” And I’m not sure how effective sloganeering and street protests by women in the recent past have been. That kind of activism has a role to play, but unless it is integrated with institutional mechanisms, it doesn’t have as much impact as it could.
I realized, as did some of my interviewees, that women have not been able to form broad-based coalitions to bring about structural changes that would lead to a simmering and eventual dousing of the violence. Women, unfortunately, have not had a great degree of success in influencing branches of state government responsible for women’s issues and humanitarian assistance. And this is something that those who either glorify the state or romanticize militant resistance don’t talk about.
I have been emphasizing over and over again and have brought this up at various forums, after developing an academic interest in transitional justice mechanisms, that it is absolutely imperative that women actors in collaboration with other civil society actors focus on the rebuilding of a greatly polarized and fragmented social fabric to ensure the redressal of inadequate political participation, insistence on accountability for human rights violations through transitional justice mechanisms, reconstruction of the infrastructure and productive capacity of Kashmir, and resumption of access to basic social services.
Why did theme of Post-colonial literature became your area of interest?
Post-colonial Literature has enabled me to appreciate the various social and historical contexts of writing, reading, and language and empowered me to negotiate the space between the two cultural realities that I straddle—Kashmiri and American. What is it to be a western-educated Kashmiri woman in the U. S.? This has been a difficult struggle. On the one hand, I have refused to create a disharmonious relationship between my culture, religion, social mores, and myself; on the other, I have tried to steer clear of the ever-present temptation to dwell in a mythical past.
I seek to reinterpret the repressive framework of colonialism, ultra right-wing nationalism, patriarchy, and universalism that that essentialize the identities of postcolonial and transnational subjects. The linguistic and cultural dislocation generated by the experience of migration can become part of the process of achieving control because as the displaced group is assimilated its native language and culture become devalued. The schism created by this dislocation is bridged when formerly repressed voices from the non-European world are raised in order to foreground the cultural and historical perspectives external to Europe. One of the ways of including this perspective is to encourage a rewriting of history that incorporates profound cultural and linguistic differences into the text, and narrates the history of the nationalist struggle in a form which negates colonial historiography. This kind of radical politics of postcolonialism seeks to bridge the schism created by the vast experience of place and the cultural perspective and language available to it.
The recognition that all historical and social events can be understood within more than one explanatory framework has given me the critical tools with which to expound on the variability of spaces that I, as a postcolonial subject, occupy.
Kashmiri intellectuals are accused of being detached from pain of masses and only seen serving sermons to masses, Is this fact or facade?
Kashmiri intellectuals would think twice before distorting history and asking the masses to wallow in a state of perpetual mourning.
We, as a people, need to consider the revival and reinvigoration of civil society institutions that could initiate collective action around shared interests, values, and interests. In the Indian subcontinent, however, civil society activism has its limitations. Our intellectuals need to realize that the translation of a political and social vision into reality requires an efficacious administrative set-up and vibrant educational institutions (not just intellectualizing), which produce dynamic citizens while remaining aware of the exigencies of the present. Stalwart politicians who were unable to understand that the changing nature of a struggle required a new vision and pioneering spirit ended up becoming marginalized. A political movement that pays insufficient attention to the welfare of the populace, good governance, and rebuilding democratic institutions ends up leaving irreparable destruction in its wake. An insurgency or militant nationalist movement that lacks such a vision is bound to falter. The electoral process and establishment of a government are not ultimate goals or ends in themselves but are means to nation-building and societal reconstruction. Even religious and political rhetoric remains simply rhetorical without a stable and representative government.
The development of Kashmiri nationalism, prior to the independence of India and creation of Pakistan in 1947 and its further evolution in later years, has not been adequately recognized or accommodated by some Kashmiri intellectuals, and such people are doing a huge disservice to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. A point that I have made several times and at various forums is that the foundation of Kashmiri nationalism was laid in 1931, and this nationalism recognized the heterogeneity of the nation. It was not constructed around a common language, religion, culture, and an ethnically pure majority. This process of Kashmiri nationalist self-imagining is conveniently ignored in the statist versions of the histories of India and Pakistan. Here, I would also like to point out that there are some purportedly “subaltern” versions of the history of Kashmir which, in their ardent attempts to be deconstructionist, insidiously obliterate the process of nation-building in Kashmir in the early to mid-decades of the twentieth century, inadvertently feeding off statist and oftentimes right-wing versions of history. In romanticizing militant resistance in Kashmir, such versions fail to take into account the tremendously difficult task of restoring the selfhood of a degraded people, and also the harsh fact that a political movement which does not highlight the issues of governance, social welfare, and the resuscitation of democratic institutions ends up becoming obscurantist. In trying to espouse anti-establishment positions, some of us tend to ignore the dangers of obscurantism and the growth of a conflict economy, in which some state and well as non-state actors are heavily invested.
Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah once praised by everyone , but why after turmoil majority seems to have turned his harsh critics , what are the reasons ?
Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, reigned as Prime Minister of the State of Jammu and Kashmir from 1948 to 1953. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, for better or worse, was a large presence on the political landscape of India for fifty years. In a fragmented sociopolitical and religious ethos, he represented the pluralism that would bind the people of Jammu and Kashmir together for a long time. Such personages leave indelible marks of their work and contributions on societies for which they have tirelessly worked, and their work, for the most part, traverses religious, class, and party fault lines. To associate such personages with just one political party or one religious group amounts to an inexcusable trivialization. Given the militarization and rabid fragmentation of Kashmiri society, it becomes necessary to evoke the man who symbolized Kashmiriyator pluralism in the face of divisive politics. It also becomes necessary for federal countries to reassess and reevaluate their policies vis-à-vis border states.
Even thirty-two years after his death, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah remains the most idolized as well the most reviled political personage of Kashmir. My article on this phenomenon appeared in a few newspapers a couple of weeks ago. As I observed in that article, I am still amazed to see how much the intelligence agencies of India and Pakistan, which act covertly to influence the outcome of events, continue to invest in trying to erase the name, ideology, and work of one Kashmiri nationalist, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Several state and non-state actors in Kashmir can and have been coopted, mellowed, and made to toe the line of the powers that be. Yet, the unfinished business of the powers to be on both sides of the Line of Control (India and Pakistan) to ride roughshod over the history of Kashmiri nationalism and the evolution of a political consciousness in Kashmir, which began much before 1989, continues unabated. It’s interesting that the organization founded by him, the National Conference, bandies his name before every assembly election, but otherwise, conveniently, forgets his politics.
My detractors, as I painstakingly acknowledge in the above mentioned article, level the allegation that I “eulogize” Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, but I believe, with the force of my conviction, that he, with all his contradictions, was a force to reckon with. He sought to find a practical solution to the deadlock that would enable preservation of peace in the Indian subcontinent, while maintaining the honor of everyone concerned. He succeeded in making the politics of mass mobilization credible by merging it with the institutional politics of democracy.
Prior to 1947, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and his political organization fought tooth and nail against Dogra autocracy and demanded that monarchical rule be ousted. He described the Dogra monarchy as a microcosm of colonial brutality and the Quit Kashmir movement, led by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s National Conference, as a ramification of the larger Indian struggle for independence. In May 1946 The Sheikh was sentenced to nine years in prison for having led the seditious Quit Kashmir movement against the monarch’s regime. Initially, the Indian National Congress supported the Quit Kashmir movement and reinforced the position of the Sheikh Abdullah-led National Conference on plebiscite. Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League was not supportive of the Quit Kashmir Movement and recognized the Dogra monarch as the legitimate sovereign of Jammu and Kashmir with the authority to determine the fate of his subjects, which was not a people-friendly move. As opposed to that, the Indian National Congress advised the monarch, right up to 1947, to gauge the public mood and accordingly accede to either India or Pakistan. The sense of selfhood and dignity, which had begun to blossom in Kashmir, particularly in the Kashmiri Muslim populace, was not a reality for Jinnah’s Muslim League, and as later events and political shenanigans proved, ceased to be a reality for India as well. The political movement against the Dogra monarch enabled the evolution of a Kashmiri nationalism, a distinct entity, which couldn’t be clubbed with the burgeoning nationalism in the rest of the Indian subcontinent. The argument of Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of independent India, that Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim state, was required to validate the secular credentials of India was a later development. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, first Governor-General of Pakistan, refuted the notion that Pakistan required Kashmir to vindicate its theocratic status and did not make an argument for the inclusion of Kashmir in the new dominion of Pakistan right up to the eve of partition in 1947. And just before the monarch of Jammu and Kashmir accessed to India, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah sent his emissaries to Pakistan in order to negotiate the terms of accession with the government of the newly created dominion, but as I said earlier, the only official whose authority Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Governor-General of Pakistan, recognized was the monarch; he did not recognize the authority of the people’s representatives, which was highly problematic for a polity with democratic aspirations. So, I understand the compulsions, the geopolitical realities, and the context within which certain political decisions were made in 1947. Unfortunately, those compulsions and political realities often get overlooked in official historiographies of India and Pakistan.
Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, MirzaAfzalBeigh, and their trusted colleagues established the historical foundations for pluralist democracy in Jammu and Kashmir by revolutionary actions during the 1950s. Land was taken from exploitative landlords without compensation and distributed to formerly indentured tillers of the land. This metamorphosis of the agrarian economy had groundbreaking political consequences in a previously feudal economy, greatly empowering a hitherto disempowered people, which was a significantly tough road to hoe. These measures were tremendously progressive and enfranchised farmers. These revolutionary measures were supported by the Indian National Congress at the time. It would have been nigh impossible to implement these reforms in feudally-dominated Pakistan, in which the radicalness and rigor of such measures would not have been appreciated. Even his staunchest critics would be hard-pressed to deny that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was the architect of the economic and political emancipation of Kashmir.
Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah returned to a different world in 1975 after years of imprisonment and externment. The military and political superiority of the India nation-state was well-established after the further division of the Pakistani nation-state into Pakistan and Bangladesh, exacerbating the decay in the body politic of Pakistan. The conventional and brutal war between India and Pakistan in 1971 had resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. This new reality caused a shifting of alliances and a shifting of balance of power. This consummate victory of the Indian military bolstered Indira Gandhi’s position as premier of India, and she dealt with the demand for plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir with a heavy hand. She declared that the Sheikh’s insistence on restoring the pre-1953 constitutional relationship between Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian Union, which afforded greater autonomy and freedoms to the state, was inconceivable because, “the clock could not be put back in this manner” (Statement of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on Jammu and Kashmir in the Parliament of India, New Delhi, February 24, 1975). I have tried to delve into events subsequent to my Grandfather’s return to the state in my forthcoming book.
History has borne witness to the inability of several stalwarts to achieve their ideals, because they took rigid and inflexible stands. In order to achieve the larger objective, they have had to make compromises, sometimes unpalatable ones. Although there are times when I think that by ratifying the 1975 Indira-Abdullah Accord, the Sheikh committed political hara-kiri, I have reason to believe that he never lost sight of his political goal, which was the well-being of the Kashmiri people and the credibility of their political voice, which had been, unapologetically, stifled since 1953. I talked about the 1975 Indira-Abdullah Accord during my interaction with students and faculty at Portland Community College. By evoking the moral consciousness of a nation, he appealed to the best in human nature.
I would like to believe that my opinions have evolved during the course of my research. And, in all honesty, I find Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s politics relevant even today. He, like the rest of us, had his flaws and shortcomings, but that doesn’t take away from his commitment to Kashmir. I believe, without a shred of doubt, that in civilized societies, political dissent is not curbed and national integrity is not maintained by military interventions. I have said this earlier on other public platforms, and I am reiterating it because it is a viable conclusion to my response to this question. I reiterate that the more military officials get involved in issues of politics, governance, and national interest, the more blurred the line between national interest and hawkish national security becomes. Contrary to what the Indian military establishment is doing in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast and what the Pakistani military establishment is doing in Balochistan, people must learn to work together across ethnic and ideological divides and insist that everyone be included in democratic decision-making. It is an egregious mistake and one that has severe ramifications to allow the military of a nation-state to bludgeon its democratic processes. And I cannot emphasize this point enough.
I discuss this issue in the classes that I teach and I wrote about this in my article on “Military Interventions in Democratic Spaces” as well. Instead of deterring the growth of democracy and depoliticizing the people, the goal should be to empower the populace of Jammu and Kashmir sufficiently to induce satisfaction with the Kashmir constituency’s role within current geopolitical realities such that a dis-empowered populace does not succumb to ministrations of destructive political ideologies. In addition to addressing the political aspect of democracy, it is important to take cognizance of its economic aspect as well, which is exactly what Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, a man far ahead of his time, did. The dominant perception of Kashmir as just an insurgent state within the Indian Union and not as a political unit with legitimate regional aspirations might benefit security hawks but will not do any long term good.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is so geographically located that it depends for its economic growth on an unhindered flow of trade to both countries. Kashmiri arts and crafts have found flourishing markets in India for decades. At the same time, the rivers and roads of Kashmir stretch into Pakistan. Prior to 1947, Rawalpindi used to be Kashmir’s railhead, and Kashmiri traders would use Karachi as the sea-port for overseas trade. The welfare of the people of the state can be guaranteed by securing the goodwill of the political establishments of both India and Pakistan, and by the display of military discipline and efficiency at the borders. Thanks to my research and productive interactions with people who understand Kashmir, I make these assertions with an earned confidence.
I have brought up this idea in my presentation at a couple of conferences, and I reinforce that perhaps it is time to seriously consider a new regional order which would be capable of producing cross-economic, political, and cultural interests among the people of the region. I believe that women in civic associations and in government can lead the way toward a peaceful pluralistic democracy and support international negotiations for a sustainable peace in the region. All these opinions, by the way, were formed during the course of my research which, at times, entailed painful reappraisals.
What role women Activists Can Help Jammu and Kashmir Make Progress in Democracy, Resolution and peace ?
Women in my homeland are gaining new rights and increasingly asserting themselves in politics – and this momentous shift in traditional gender relationships opens up new possibilities for the pursuit of democracy and regional peace. Women in civic associations and in government can lead the way toward a peaceful pluralistic democracy and support international negotiations for a sustainable peace in the region.
Not just in Jammu and Kashmir, but in many parts of the world, women can play an important role in establishing a more inclusive democracy and new forums for citizen cooperation. Female leaders can lead the way by offering new ideas, building broad-based political coalitions, and working to bridge organizational divides. Women active in politics must aim not just to improve the position of their particular organizations but also to forge connections between the group’s agendas for conflict resolution and reconstruction of society with the strategies and agendas of other groups in the population, who have also suffered from ongoing conflicts. In this way, women’s groups can thus pave the way for sustainable peace, universal human rights, and security from violent threats of all kinds.
You have stated compromise is must for Kashmir resolution, What can be the likely shape of this compromise?
Democracy is not a panacea, but promises rule of law, a return to the process of internal political dialogue, negotiations, and, in this day and age, political accommodation. I would like to emphasize that insisting on the rigidity of one’s stance which doesn’t allow political accommodation encourages political paralysis and helps the nation-states of India and Pakistan to maintain the status quo, which works in the interests of some of the actors, state as well as nonstate, on both sides of the LOC.
Sadly, the Kashmir conflict is no longer just about establishing the pristine legitimacy of the right of self-determination of the people of J & K, the former princely state. Rather, prolonging the conflictual situation works in the interests of some of the actors, state as well as nonstate, on both sides of the LOC. Some civil and military officials––Indian, Pakistani, and Kashmiri––have been beneficiaries of the militarization of Kashmir and the business of the “war on terror.” Also, some militants, armed and unarmed, have cashed in on the political instability in the state to establish lucrative careers. For such individuals and groups self-determination and autonomy work well as hollow slogans stripped of any substantive content. The dismal truth is that the wish to establish the legitimacy of self-determination or autonomy vis-à-vis J & K is not universal. The current political discourse in the state has strayed far from home.
The yearning with which our current breed of politicians awaits “positive signals” from Delhi and Islamabad does not bode well for those of us who were hoping for a well-orchestrated fight for an autonomous Jammu and Kashmir, and a sincere attempt to protect “Kashmiriyat.” Has a veil been drawn over the wishes and aspiration of the people of the state? The process of nationalist self-imagining is likely to remain in a nebulous state so long as the destiny of mainstream and separatist Kashmiri politicians is etched by the pen of the calligrapher in New Delhi and Islamabad, and determined by maneuvers in the murky den of subcontinental politics.
The political logic of autonomy was necessitated by the need to bring about socioeconomic transformations, and so needs to be retained in its original form. Until then, opening up of trade across the LOC, which still has a lot of loopholes, and enabling limited travel would be cosmetic confidence building measures. Until the restoration of autonomy as a beginning, even the people oriented approach adopted by the then Vajpayee-led NDA government and Musharraf’s four-point formula would remain merely notional. A strong and prosperous India is a guarantee to peace in our region, but a strong and prosperous Pakistan would strengthen that guarantee. The goal should be to find a practical solution to the deadlock that would enable preservation of peace in the Indian subcontinent, while maintaining the honor of everyone concerned.
Your hopes from younger generation of Kashmir ?
The younger generation of Kashmir has witnessed the militarization of the Valley and has grown up in a traumatized environment, but when I interact with young people at various academic institutions in the Valley, I realize that they have tremendous potential. I hope the right opportunities are created for them, not just in academia and the government sector, but in the private sector as well. I pray that our young people tap into the potential they have in order to play a constructive role in our society and polity and move forward with a clear vision to pave a path that shows all of us the light at the end of the tunnel. They deserve the best, and I wish them well!