THE PLACE VALUE
Panun Kashmir, Place and Oppositionism
By Dileep Kumar Kaul
Human beings do not get angry with others only. They get angry with their own selves as well. Courage is given to others and to one’s own self also. Compromises are made with ones own self and almost every action we perform towards others is performed with one’s own self as well. This is the way in which we deal with the world as persons and as community. This acting towards own self enables us to indicate to ourselves the things in our surroundings.
How is this done? We take out a thing from surroundings, hold it apart and then give it a meaning. Then that thing assumes importance for us and becomes an object. This leads us to the fact that we are not surrounded with pre existing objects that make our environment. The objects get meaning through our activity. In every action of ourselves we are indicating different objects to ourselves and giving them meaning. In the process we understand the usefulness of these objects, whether these suit our actions or not. This is how objects are interpreted as symbols that enable us to decide our actions. During the course of any action we are constantly indicating things to ourselves and interpreting in what way these things can be significant for our future actions. This process of indicating things to self exists in its own right. (Just watch all your actions from morning till evening). Any conscious action is constructed through this process.
If we consider the concept of the interactional past of a place that consists of the past experiences or memories associated with a site there can be communities that do not fit into that interactional past. Past experiences contain abstract objects like moral and philosophical principals that when indicated by a community towards themselves, find no significance for their contemporary actions that may be governed by some other source. Unable to take the significance of those objects as a continuum, that community tends to reject that past, or oppose it. Same is the case with Kashmiri Muslims. The interactional past of Kashmir is full of rich cultural and spiritual experiences. Problem is created by ancientness of these experiences and their association with the Hindu line of thought the legacy of which is carried by Kashmiri Pandits. Several methods have been employed to solve this problem. One way has been to work backwards and build a narrative around the cultural symbols of Kashmir, and colour those narratives with Islam. This sounds easy but as it solves one problem it creates bigger ones. How far can one go in the interactional past of the Kashmir? There are too many pre-Islamic objects in that past and the interaction of those in that past cannot be termed as uncivilized or contrary to modern progressive discourses. Kashmiri Pandits were killed and hounded out. But many like us escaped and what could we be without talking about our interactional past.
Being misfit in the interactional past of a place always becomes a problem for the people who do not understand the importance of attachment with a place and the power of its interactional past. This kind of thinking leads automatically to a situation where all the happenings of the past are isolated from the present. In other words past is severed off. Time and history are separated. There is just a chronology of events. This happens because many events in history which are meaningful otherwise loose meaning because the new faith does not require them. The faithful do not want to carry the effect of those events into the future. It needs to be emphasized here that chronology of events and history are two different things. Chronology means when events succeed each other but are isolated from one another. History means when an event in the present has taken something from the past and there is a scope for it to be carried into future. Here time and history are one and an integral part of the activity of the people who carry forward the process of social life.
But there have been Muslims like Ahad Zargar, Abdul Ahad Azad and Mehjoor, who have owned the interactional past of Kashmir. In my previous write up I underlined how the politics followed by the majority social group, through linguistic violence and other means, has distorted our interactional past to create a cultural neurosis. But hounding out Kashmiri Pandits too could not solve the problem of the past. Throwing out Kashmiri Pandits means telling them that we do not want any interaction with you and this place has no interactive potential with you. But this is also to be understood that when a community or a section of it commits atrocities on another community symbols are created during that process as well. What is 14th September? It is the day on which the first Kashmiri Pandit was killed. And what is 19th January? Every Kashmiri Pandit understands the meaning of these days as the symbols of the holocaust. It is through these symbols that Kashmiri Pandits have offered resistance and asserted their right on their Homeland.
But Muslims, despite being Muslims, can be perfectly in tune with their interactional past that is totally contrary to their faith. Indonesia is the best example of this fact. The Indonesian Muslims have owned their Hindu past and given meaning to their present through it. They have visualized history as a process, inseparable from the process of social activity. Ramayana and Mahabharata find such an important place in Indonesian society that many houses in the capital city of Jakarta are named after Ramayana. Hotels are named after Ramayana and even the cycle rickshaws called Trishaws bear the name of Ramayana. Even today the main river of central Java is known as “Serayu (after the river ‘Sarayu’ associated with Ayodhya in Ramayana).” The first international Ramayana Festival in the world was organized in Aug. –Sept. 1971, by the Ministry of Information and Culture of Muslim majority country i.e. Indonesia. So deeply ingrained is Ramayana in the Social life of Indonesia. Indonesians as Muslims have given meaning to the symbols from their interactional past and do not feel alienated from it. Neither have they found themselves misfit with their Hindu past nor is that past misfit with their Muslim present. This arrangement strengthens the interactional potential of Indonesia as a nation and as a place.
The political class amongst Kashmiri Muslims has spent a good amount of its energy in establishing that their present is not a part of the interactional past of the place i.e Kashmir. They have always taken oppositionist stand against it. The hounding out the Kashmiri Pandits, who carried the legacy of that past, was the climax of their project. Their present too is a protest against a Hindu India. The slogan ‘Indian Dogs go back’ was accompanied with ‘Ai Kafiro Ai Zalimo Kashmir Hamara Chchod do’. The sacred place of Chrare Sharief, revered by Hindus and Muslims both was burnt to ashes by Mast gul and the slogan was ‘chrar bani gari gari, Mast gul kati bani.’
Under such circumstances when oppositionism has become the central moral object of the society, what can happen to the interactional potential of the place that is Kashmir? Kashmiri Muslims will continue to visualize Kashmir as a potential singularly Islamic place which they have been able to achieve to a remarkable extent, and this place will have the opposition as a central activity, towards India, the very country that supplies resources for its survival. This idealized Islamic place is not self-sufficient but it will feel no responsibility towards the resources it gets from India. No place, in fact can be self-sufficient in the contemporary world. We depend on other places for ecological and material support. But Kashmir as an oppositionist place and Kashmiri Muslims as an oppositionist community will continue to show utter disregard for India. This is the interactional potential Kashmir can have.
Panun Kashmir has shown resistance against this oppositionism. How can a place be established when it is being eroded that too when the dominant community does not want to hold the community that is attached with that place? The only way is by building a place and the place is built by collective, interactive consciousness. Panun Kashmir is that kind of response against the oppositionism that has characterized Kashmir and has been intensely expressed for about last two decades. The idea of Panun Kashmir emerged at a time when all the possibilities of the interactional potential of Kashmir for Kashmiri Pandits were closed. The situations were such that no KP could visualize a future life in Kashmir. Panun Kashmir visualized a future life over there. They visualized a possibility where we could take the symbols from our interactional past through our present into a future to ensure the continuity of meaning that would establish our own place, our own Kashmir.
But a place is inseparable from the physical site where it becomes possible. The resistance against the oppositionist mindset of the majority community could not but be a political battle and the resistance against the erosion of our place could be given a solid shape through a landscape only. Landscape is where our bodies dwell and exist. We move within a landscape from place to place without being conscious of a boundary. The mental views of a place that constitute a place change as we move from one point to the other. Places exist within a landscape at different points. As there are no boundaries of a place some features of a landscape can be used as boundaries. Panun Kashmir used the sacred river Vitasta to mark the boundary between the oppositionist Kashmir and Panun Kashmir. Panun Kashmir would exist north east of river Vitasta. On this side of the river all our important sacred places exist. This is a sacred landscape. Our ancestors have lived there and left there something of themselves. Their lives and times enfold in this landscape. To see this landscape is not just a political or measuring act. It is an act of remembrance. It perceives an environment that contains our interactional past in it. That way it is more appropriate to call it what anthropologists refer to as taskscape. The existence of sacred elements, our important shrines in the landscape of Panun Kashmir presupposes this. In a taskscape people live and act back on the taskscape as it acts on them. The presence of shrines send to mind the existence of an activity that involves nature also. There must be flowers and water. Mother Vitasta and water sources are present there. The Panun Kashmir taskscape is a domain of interactivity and aims at the historicization of place. That way it is the only resistance against the dehistoricization of Kashmir being done by the oppositionalist dominant community.
We do not act upon the world and change it. We go along with it. World transforms itself of which our actions are a part. Lalded says to Shiva that when you are everything what should I offer as oblation. This one thought can transform our thinking. We have to go along with our world in which Panun Kashmir has come as a transformation.
*(The author is a prolific writer and poet).