Three generations of disagreement in Kashmir
By F. Ahmed Aug 28, 2007, 3:01 GMT
Hygam (Baramulla), Aug 28 (IANS) Under the soothing shade of an old Chinar tree in this north Kashmir village, three peasants are discussing the prospects of their paddy crop, and the political future of troubled Jammu and Kashmir.
Interestingly, the peasants represent three generations of Kashmiris, their experiences and perceptions of history varying from one another.
Abdul Satar, 82, has seen the autocratic rule of the Dogra Maharaja, Hari Singh. He has been witness to the political glory of the National Conference founder, the late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, who rose like a Messiah of the downtrodden Kashmiris in the 1930s when he fought against the autocratic rule.
Satar adored the late Abdullah in his youth but became suspicious of his loyalty to the Sheikh towards the sunset of his life.
Somehow the idealism of the old man got crumbled with age. Even then, Satar believes that Kashmir has failed to produce a more charismatic leader so far.
'You don't know what Sheikh (Abdullah) could do. He ruled the hearts and minds of the entire people here. His speeches still echo in my mind,' Satar argues with 18-year-old Qaiser.
Qaiser has not seen the late Abdullah. He is not ready to accept the larger than life image of the leader.
Instead, he seriously believes Abdullah was myopic in his political vision.
'He (Abdullah) acceded to India in 1947 and in just six years got disgruntled with his own decision and demanded plebiscite in the state. What vision do you attribute to him?' he asks Satar.
The third Kashmiri watching the heated discussion between the youth and the octogenarian local is Mohammed Ramzan, 48.
Ramzan has an overview of both peace and violence in the valley.
'You cannot dismiss the contributions of Sheikh (Abdullah) and his party just like that. Yes, I don't agree with the blind faith Satar Kaka (uncle) had in his leader. Still volumes can be written about what Sheikh did for us.
'The land we are tilling today did not belong to us. It belonged to the landlords and Sheikh (Abdullah) gave it us. You could not go to the school had he not made education compulsory and free,' Ramzan argues, as Qaiser looks at him with impatience.
Qaiser is not convinced.
'You have seen good days. I have seen bad guns. I have struggled hard to avoid the suspicion of both the militants and the military,' he says.
'I have to explain my movements even when I visit my paddy field during the day. When I go to meet my relatives in the city I have to show my identity card at 10 places. After I complete my education, what future do I have?' he asks angrily.
Satar has an explanation. 'It was your generation that resorted to violence and made everybody hostage to it. You are now talking in terms of peace. I didn't tell anyone to resort to violence for political reasons,' he says candidly.
Ramzan intervenes: 'Why, then, did you people support Abdullah when he spoke of plebiscite which implied independence from India?
'It is people of the older generation who fed us with the Abdullah's idea of an independent Kashmir which he finally bartered away for political power in 1975 when he became the chief minister,' Ramzan supports Qaiser against the old man.
Satar keeps up his tirade against militancy.
'Where has violence taken our youth? They are now unsure of their future. So many of them have died. What change did you bring about other than destruction?' Satar asks, getting up to drain water from his paddy field.
As the old man leaves the comfort of the Chinar shade, Ramzan and Qaiser look at each other.
They exchange meaningful glances, which indicate their partial agreement with the old man.
'We can blame nobody for what is happening here. It was our destiny and it is time Allah took mercy on us and delivered us from this suffering,' Ramzan tells Qaiser as a Muezzin from a nearby mosque calls for the afternoon prayers.
The discussion remains inconclusive as the three Kashmiris leave to offer the Namaz.
(F. Ahmed can be contacted at email@example.com)
© 2007 Indo-Asian News Service