Pak Wants To Turn Kashmir Into Another Afghanistan
Says Noam Chomsky (quoted in Rabinow 2010: 6): “It is perfectly possible that we may find ourselves in a situation in which a revolution turns out to be worse than the regime it replaces. Unless we have some fixed and rational standards for judging what constitutes a better society, we will be lost.” For those who don’t know, Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist. I was drawn to this statement by Chomsky again and again. It fits so well on the so-called revolution in Kashmir, which was the brain child of Pakistan. I was born in the midst of militancy in Kashmir. All of my life I have seen protests, people dying, the firing of gunshots. My friends, my cousins, me – all of us tried to live life as normally as we could, in the midst of all the turmoil. Going to school, playing with friends, being with my family. These were our only happy times during our formative years. I would often feel surprised to hear from my mother and father about life before 1990. How peaceful life was. How Kashmir was a favourite destination for Bollywood. My parents would speak of how they would enjoy so much. Shops were open till late. Large families or friends would organize get-togethers which would be times of laughter and happiness. Sometimes the get-togethers would end as late as 2 am, and people would go back home so late. People used to go to the cinemas with their families and friends.
How Would Life Have Been Without Militancy In Kashmir?
I always wonder – if the militancy did not originate in Kashmir, how would life have been? I want to tell Noam Chomsky that speaking about a revolution being worse than the situation earlier, you are right about Kashmir. This statement equally fits Afghanistan. And also Pakistan. The revolution that started in Kashmir was obviously worse than the regime it was trying to replace. Before the militancy, there were no killings, no violence, no breakdown of our social order, no drugs among our youth, a much lower incidence of depressive or suicidal tendencies. Kashmir was a liberal society which believed in the Sufi Islamic culture wherein women were accepted as an equal gender. Take for example the female mystics of Kashmir. They were mystics of a very high order. Many of them were the sister, wife or daughter of saints. It is well-documented by our society that the female mystics were highly respected in Kashmir. They were regarded very highly by the people for their dynamic personalities. Sufism has a tradition of female mystics who were ascetic and illuminated. The tombs of many of these female mystics became pilgrimage sites. A famous example is Sayyida Nafisa’s shrine in Cairo. In Kralpora on the outskirts of Srinagar, there is a modest and completely obscure shrine dedicated to Bibi Baria. Men are prohibited from entering this temple.
In Anatolia, Iran, North Africa, and South Asia, small shrines made for female mystics can be found. Mary or Maryam (the mother of Jesus) and Lal Ded (of the Kashmiri Shivaite tradition) serve as role models for the (female) individual enlightened by the divine. Sham Ded is another Kashmiri female saint. Her shrine is at Poshker village in Budgam district. Along with Hazrat Sheikh Noor-ud-din Noorani and Baba Latif-ud-Din Qazi, she developed her spirituality. Shanga Bibi is also a significant figure among female mystics. Shanga Bibi is buried at Charar-i-Sharief beside Sheikh Nooruddin’s mausoleum. At Nund Rishi’s grave, she was the lone female mystic. Despite the fact that hagiographers disagree on these female saints, their existence in the local Rishi order is undeniable. The society did not regard it as unusual. The existence of female mystics in the Sufi tradition has political and societal ramifications. These legends are a part of everyday life for the women of Kashmir. These mystics followed their own free will and showed audacity, setting an example for future generations of Kashmiri women to follow. The discourses formed around female saints emphasize their role as upholders of society’s honour, the ultimate torchbearers of morality. And it’s still very much a metaphor for Kashmiri women’s daily lives today.
Why Are We Misogynistic Today?
This was our glorious past. But today, the reality is altogether different. Why have we become a society with a misogynistic outlook? Why does our society favour patriarchy? The society wants to confine women to the four walls of her house, strapped to her gender norms. This is so strange for Kashmir, which was known in the whole of South Asia as the seat of scholarship and wisdom.
THE SAD AFGHANISTAN SAGA
Has the revolution in Afghanistan made it a better place for Afghans? If the Taliban takeover is good for Afghanistan, why are Afghanis ready to sell their body organs to get some money to sustain their family or go abroad? Why are Afghani women begging in the streets? Why do the Afghan children have nothing to eat? If the Taliban takeover is good, why are the Afghans fleeing from their country? The Taliban takeover has brought misery to the Afghans. Women have again been made second class citizens with no rights. The situation of Afghan women under Taliban rule is a major issue in every statement made by anyone of value, including the outstanding Afghan novelist Khalid Hosseini. The Taliban are making politically correct claims about the education of women, the right of women to work. They are making these claims to gain acceptance and credibility. But nobody is getting fooled by their claims, because the situation at ground level is exposing the Taliban regime. While discussing the gender situation, the World Bank’s country leader in Afghanistan, Jean Mazurelle, a Frenchman, made a astute observation. He noted that women’s rights are an area where Western aid organisations need to tread carefully. Mazurelle said it would be a disaster if a ‘white’ man told Afghan women that they should seek liberation and throw away their burqas.
“If we do that, we risk appearing to be forcing Western ideals on Afghan women while also attempting to uncover them,” Mazurelle said. He observed that Indian women are present in large numbers in many UN and non-governmental organizations. Mazurelle said the Indian women were in a much better position to make a difference on this front. He was full of praise for his female World Bank colleagues in Delhi, who were then working in Afghanistan. “They are environmentally conscious, yet at the same time, they are aggressive,” Mazurelle stated.
Pakistan’s agenda of turning Kashmir into another Afghanistan
Pakistan wants to turn Kashmir into another Afghanistan. What makes me feel worried is that the people of Kashmir are still gullible to Pakistan’s politics. Pakistan wants to establish an Islamic state in Kashmir. Why? It seems to me that Pakistan’s only purpose is to alienate Kashmir more and more from the larger mainland of secular and democratic India. Misogyny continues to be high in Pakistan. We see and hear reports about it daily. Even the Pakistani judicial system does not provide for equal rights to both genders. The judiciary lacks activism in Pakistan. India, on the other hand, has moved forward with gender equality.
Kashmir Needs More Women In Politics
What Kashmiri women need – rather deserve – is to be empowered. We should try to bring in the tradition of our ancestors – the time when women could follow their dreams and aspirations. A European think tank European Foundation of South Asian Studies (EFSAS) said in its report on Kashmir: “It is of fundamental Importance for Kashmiri women to recognise the existence of alternative paths and solutions that lead to women’s empowerment. One such solution is that of increasing women’s participation in local political processes – a dismal phenomenon in Kashmir so far – which can positively contribute to future aspects of peace building and conflict resolution.” We need more women in politics. We need more women as legislators to help establish healthy laws which support women empowerment. We need women to support other women. We need women who support other women to become empowered and lead us to a better future where our sons and daughters may grow and prosper.
Maybe it’s time for us to stop this mindless revolution which has left us wounded. That is the revolution we should fight for.