Behardin sahib was a respected supervisor in Mechanical Engineering Department in 70,80s, in IIT Banaras Hindu University. He was a decent sophisticated person speaking flowering Urdu and had knowledge of Homeopath medicines as well. All our senior faculty of social sciences would be his contacts. My PhD supervisor and HOD Sociology was his close friend. We would greet him on occasions of Eid. He would every year visit Kashmir, since 1960s until mid 80s.
He had tales to say about Kashmiris. Some of his narratives would amuse me, some even would embarrass me. It was a mix of ridicule and admiration. His observation was that Kashmiris act in many layers of their world view. One set for outsiders and another one for themselves.
And within Kashmir also, they have assumed outlooks; for home, a different than for neighbours. Similarly with outside Muslims too, they had a stratified world view of closeness and coldness. They would perceive it on social geography. He included Pandits also in his assessment.
My critics to my chagrin would cherish his assessment. One of his complaints was that Kashmiri's prayer is lengthened prayer, for their dua is more than their Nimaz. They would leave nothing for us, for other Muslims.
They do not leave any wish unasked. Wishes after prayers are double timed, unusually more and loud. His second observation was that Kashmiris mince words so easily without any remorse or guilt, even whilst proved wrong.
Truth is often causality and reality is made stretchable. Since, he would make these comments openly, along with other observations of our intelligence, hospitability and ability to adjust; nevertheless, it would make me feel awkward. I would ponder over it, for I was the sole Kashmiri student in my Faculty of Social sciences, then.
The post 90s Kashmir has been a different era. It is now beyond comprehension to understand what we lost. The decent distances between older and youngsters, relationships beyond nuclear families and the respect beyond materiality and value of work-ship, have become stories of bygone years. Is it culture of poverty or poverty of our culture?
Although, our historical memories are distinct supported by exceptional philosophy and rich range of poetry right after 7th century till dat, yet we remain a complex community and difficult to be understood. Essentially our organic continuum in historical episteme is suppressed. Kashmir has given unique philosophy of Kashmiri Saivism to the world, which remains partially explored. It has given ‘reformed’ Buddhism to the world. Mahayanists gained a position superior to that of the Hinayanists.
Later, the Buddhist missionaries established Kashmir centre to spread Buddhism beyond boundaries to acclaim its place among world religions. Islam retained its uniqueness in the traditions of Reshis, a different streak than Sufism, the blending tradition of Trika Philosophy, now being talked about at micro levels in the Islamic world. Our historical memory is holistic and continuous, but subjugations of kings, and dynasties altered it, made it fractured memory.
After King Bud shah, we had short history of 1935 to 1945, a phase of history, when our culture, and language were invoked for reinventing our identity formation. It was a partial reformation in the emergence of charismatic Abdullah. The period gives us the poetry of Mehjoor, Nadim, Raz, Senior Nazki and Azad: the blending of pure traditions.
Their poetry goes well with the classics and moves with the progressive lines of linearity. It is hope and vision. We had a chance to make it as the mainstream prideful culture. This too got shadowed or unheeded after independence, when native leadership drew away from its agenda. Our memory became caged in distant nationalism. We lost big chance in the wilderness of Abdullah.
The literature after 2000 is so vital and enormous to let us know that how our subjectivities and world views were thickened on insecurity syndrome and poverty of culture. Kashmiri language was degraded or neglected in the curriculum. The mass spoken language was stratified in its phonetics. This created huge social chasm between village and urban social space. Social relationships were based on city centric esteem.
The conjugal relationships away from social spaces were not many. Normally, it would be highly educated boy preferred for city girl and in rare cases, city daughters would be married in towns. Civil facilities including educating institutions were mainly in the city. During 1960s, colleges and schools in abundance came to the towns and villages, till then it would be through these relationships, boys from the rural backgrounds would go to the city for their education.
They would face the language stigmas of non-urban pronunciations in their new setting. A south Kashmiri dialect was further different than north Kashmir speaking Kashmiri. The language stratification syndrome was a continuous stigma for social mobility.
One would trace its origins in power sharing of city influential class with nonnative power elites. The language of this native class became the referent and standard Kashmiri language, a language of power and esteem that could be stratified from general multitude living in the towns and in villages.
The declassified literatures have given us many interpretations of the chequered past that we had seen in the lenses of political dispute of UN Resolutions. It was a scripted history, where Abdullah had little choice, but to go with the international politics of the Cold War.
The aftermath of World War11, American-English apprehensions about Soviet Union expands, Jinnah’s unforgiving hitch to Abdullah, Liaqat Ali Khan’s assassination and Adlai Stevenson’s long meeting with Abdullah (in May 1953) infused insecurities and changed the political, social and economic trajectory of Kashmir.
The political environment and security concerns infused a mindset that only made our culture disempowered. Urdu came to us not as a literary sweet language, but as the political exigency for our leaders for disempowering Kashmiri language. Kashmiri language and its culture were deliberately demeaned.
Since tacit loyalties to distant nationalism in a mystified political arena created schism in private and public discourses, it made our political elites morally weak, produced a lack of gratitude in centre state relationships.
This insecurity and political vulnerability generated pretense in our moral fiber. Privately our political elites did not own our place, our people, our culture and our language; but looked towards nationalism beyond boundaries to shape our world view. Why would our children speak in their mother tongue, when it was not sought after language, like mother tongues in other states of India? They are not sure which dialect streak in Kashmiri is valued one? Why should they read it, when they do not know what literature is brilliant literature in Kashmiri? A Kashmiri migrant to overseas, if happens to be from a village originally, pretends that he has forgotten his Kashmiri and prefers to speak in English in his communication, even when talking to unlettered city relative.
Our retentive identity is mismatch with our historical memory. We could bask in the glory of our Reship Tradition and make it continuous historical tradition, with its vivid memory; so that it becomes our prideful choice. The time is ripe to have our retrospection.
Kashmir is becoming economically and geo graphically a uniform entity. The developmental works are so connective that rural urban disconnect during winter months is no longer as huge, as it used to be.
The fluxes of internal migration to the city and in the towns on one hand, and on the other, the outer workforce in the homes and fields have generated a new social geography with new dialect of Kashmiri vernacular. It is time to standardize it in the primary basic schools. Winter is no longer as close, as it used to be. Its power to wean stories and infuse mystic fear of uncertainties during the dark nights and gloomy days has lost its role.
The homes are sites where individuals are glued to their mobile sets and computer tables. Unlike past, winter no longer connects with structured traditional reminiscences. This is new Kashmiri, connected with the outer world and disconnected with the social home. Nothing like now is of Dadi Maa stories, which would be a source of continuity to our historical memory.
Nothing is left to imaginative mindset connected with the perceived past. It is open to exploration with new facts and new understanding, acquired through the digital world. It is here that the leadership should morally feel the pulse of youth and work for citizenry welfare.
Political questions might be old aged syndrome and hangover of perceived mind set, but increased generation lag with new challenges is also a reality. The leaders have to accept it for their own understanding. Nobody can reverse the social changes ushered by new technologies. Change is what should be the ethics of care for our young children. It should come as priority in the political discourses.
The old political cassette played and replayed will only take us to primordial well. Market and technology combined together have exhausted the old Kashmiri representation, the one that Kh. Bahardin sahib perceived about us. A new Kashmiri identity is in making.
Retired Emeritus professor of Banaras Hindu University