Continuing place discourse
By Dileep Kumar Kaul
The importance of a place varies from person to person. Some individuals seem more likely to develop place attachment but we still cannot classify “place people” as a distinct personality type. But all Kashmiri Pandits have some sort of attachment with Kashmir. They love its Landscape, at least, and keep photographs of it in their rooms. These photographs give them a sense of ownership to that place. Ownership, not in the legal sense but in the psychological sense that we have some special relationship with that particular setting. Place centered attitudes may be personal but they are religious and spiritual as well and this aspect I have touched in my previous articles. Almost every Kashmiri Pandit home has some book related with cultural or any other aspect of Kashmir which is another aspect of place attachment. After so many years of separation from Kashmir, KPs in general have more appreciation of Kashmir as a place.
Is separation from a place necessary for the appreciation of it? I think it is, because there must be some distance between the self and the object to appreciate it. And if this distance is enforced as has happened to us, several attitudes towards the place are likely to develop. One very common and easy attitude is that the distance from our place Kashmir has been enforced upon us several times throughout our history. Let us live in peace outside it. We do not want to go back. Another attitude is of ascertaining Kashmir as our place, owning it at least psychologically and announcing our meanings of it as a place. The former one is a path of no resistance. The later is psychological resistance that emphasizes our discourses of our place. There is a third attitude as well which a Panun Kashmir document explained as “sickness of slavery” and the Kashmiri Pandit community in general condemned it. A sickness that may be called, but let us see how this type of phenomenon works. Here we take into consideration two instances of such sickness.
A prominent Kashmiri Pandit Physician and an advocate of a separate homeland for Kashmiri Pandits was speaking on an occasion where Dr. Farooq Abdullah was (what else could he be) the chief guest. The physician (Kashmiri Pandit), was addressing the gathering and said that he could not be ShriyaBhat, (the saviour of Kashmiri Pandits) who also was a physician but it was possible for Farooq Abdullah to be Badshah (Badshah had rehabilitated KPs in Kashmir).
Another instance is of a prominent retired Kashmiri Pandit bureaucrat. In a gathering he had said that no Kashmiri Pandit can become a leader unless given acceptance by Kashmiri Muslims (just understand the similarity – Badshah brought us back). This statement had angered Kashmiri Pandits.
Let us examine the discourse of Shriyabhat and Badshah. Badshah is considered the inspiration behind the so called hollow concept of Kashmiriyat. But Shriya Bhatt is nowhere in this discourse. It was he who had treated Badshah’s boil and had demanded nothing for himself but return of Kashmiri Pandit’s, persecuted by Muslim marauders. And Badshah was dubbed as a secular king. Few people know that Badshah had not abolished Jazia but only lessened it to half, so much he was under the influence of Muslim Ulema. Nobody tries to understand that Shriyabhatt was just one talented KP and why and by whom such a talented community was persecuted and thrown out of Kashmir? That persecution was on before Badshah, became milder during his period and continued after him into our times. And the Muslim rulers of Kashmir in contemporary times are following the same policy, trying to make all atrocities look milder through every possible discourse. The rule of Muslims is marked by such a mindset.
But we are trying to examine the psychology of that KP physician and KP bureaucrat. They are stagnantly rooted in a milieu in which Muslim rulers of the state have been trying to conceal their machinations of usurping the state through discourses like Kashmiriyat. Still their place of habitation is the Kashmir of that milieu. This rootedness is an unreflective state of being in which their personalities have merged with the milieu. This is totally contrary to the sense of place which involves human intentionality.
This rootedness to some extent was the sickness of all of us. It is an outcome of an urge to associate with our place. The above mentioned physician and bureaucrat are trying to associate with their place. But psychologically they are dwelling in Kashmir which as a place is characterized by Badshah and Shriyabhat(which the physician of our times said that he could not be but a Muslim ruler could always be Badshah which means that he himself has given himself and Shriyabhat a backseat). The physician while saying this is unmindful of the fact that he is devaluing his place (Kashmir), its continuity and present change through which we are living.
It is within the sphere of this rootedness in their milieu that the thinking of such people works. There is total insensitivity towards the flow of time which has brought us to this point where we, from a distance, can see and understand our place which is Kashmir. It was within the same discourses that we visualized Kashmir but most of us have transcended that mindset now. This attitude of stagnant rootedness in place, in fact, erodes the place. This mindset, in fact is the opposite of Panun Kashmir because Panun Kashmir is the product of the mindset of a community that was uprooted and is aimed at maintenance of a sense of place. It is sensitive towards the flow of time and that is why the idea of Panun Kashmir is not a stagnant entity. It is an evolving continuity that has successfully countered the discourses that facilitate the mindset of rootedness in a period of time.
The insensitivity towards the flow of time needs to be understood when we discuss rootedness. Nature and history both are changing entities. Kashmir is primarily a natural entity though that aspect of it has been repeatedly used to conceal the machinations of majority Muslim politics. The whole thing is made equal to one fact i.e. whether Kashmir is fit for tourism or not and anything possible is done to maintain it like that. Statement by Kashmiri Hoteliers and other people associated with tourism are shown on television that how they have suffered because of terrorism. And if they are doing their business without any hindrances everything is okay. The equation is Kashmir=tourism. Everything else is very conveniently brushed under the carpet. In the whole thing there is no sense of flow of time. Examine the statement by the physician——He is unable to be Badshah but Dr. Farooq Abdullah should be Badshah. No sense of flow of time, the point of time in which he is uttering these words; no understanding of the fact that history has changed a lot since Badshah and since Badshah was used as the base matter to illuminate the dark idea of Kashmiriyat. History and nature both are changing entities and with these our perception of place, our sense of it as well, is constantly refreshed. That is a truth of our lives. It is through such stagnant concepts that our thinking is being filled because if our history is talked about, the flow of time is talked about it will be embarrassing for the majority Muslim community.
Shriyabhatt was our ancestor. Ancestors are the foundations of a place. The physician used him as a manipulative rhetoric and reduced him to a mere political situation. That makes it clear that the mindset of rootedness tends to reduce everything to a single unimportant facet. It is a dangerous falsity that distracts our attention from Kashmir as a place its history and its future. We have to look for the traces of this mindset of rootedness in our thinking and eradicate them. The battles are to be won within ourselves.
*(The author is o poet and a prolific writer)