A 7 part essay on Kashmir titled ‘The Kashmir Contention’ precedes this writeup. In the series, I tried to address the Kashmir issue with a historic angle to it. I used a number of sources to make a picture out of the distorted mesh that is the narrative spread across the two nations today. In response to the columns, many people opinioned their versions of history to me. I do thank them for that. I cannot claim that what I wrote was the ultimate truth afterall even truth is subjective. However, history is an important means of story-telling, blending in shades of emotions into long gone events that continue to hold importance to these beholders.
The aim of the series besides bringing in a historical touch to the issue, was an attempt to encourage a moving forward of sorts. The two countries have lost much in this ‘forced’ war. I know the gravity of this claim and let me emphasize, I do not take this term lightly. The war, I do certainly believe, has been forced. This does infact imply that partition as well was forced. While this might not be true for all, certain divided families and friends who are now stranded beyond the border would indeed agree with this claim. Partition must have made sense at that time and in many ways, it still does. However, as insisted in another previous column, the movement was lost to a fate it had not hoped for. In that manner, the Pakistan of today is not the country its founders wanted it to be. Yes, we got a geography and we celebrate this geography every 14 August but the nation was never really achieved.
If we are to believe the likes of K.K. Aziz, Ayesha Jalal, Ardeshir Cowasjee and Tariq Ali, the country Jinnah wanted was to be secular. It was supposed to be a miniature India, one with simply a muslim majority population. Other religions were to live here independently just as they generally do in the India of today. There was a strong cultural cohesion, wrapped into layers of traditions that even the religious differences could not overcome. The combined India was indeed a population which found a lot of common traits within itself. The separation hence was even more hurtful. This hurt hence, the ‘dissection of Holy India’, as it was insisted then, was ripe for exploitation of vengeful obsessions and fixations. The two countries with their conflicts are a sad outgrowth of this vengeance.
But I have said all this before, have I not? As much as I want, I cannot put in anything new in this discussion. I have expressed my fantastical hopes of peace more than a couple of times now. The bureaucracy of these countries, the politicians and indeed the uniforms do not agree with me.
So how does one move on? It’s simple. One has to embrace the reality and the reality is this: the common people matter. Movements and revolutionaries have shown us that. Economic and political models have emphasized that. The individual is a powerful entity, one held back only by his/her naivety. The Aman Ki Asha initiative remains a landmark achievement. The facebook community has brought people together. There are talks of visits, planning of trips, clearing of ambiguities and indeed representing a positive side of oneself as well as the other to the audience that are the members. A simple scrolling across the community’s timeline gives one hope. Hope is important. In most cases, hope is all that really matters.
And yet, there will be many who would insist that these people are, as they would suggest I myself am, a keyboard warrior. Nothing material will come out of this for the opinions take birth in drawing room discussions and end in their cyber interpretations and debates. The internet is a ‘soft’ version of the discourse and as is understood by the term, the soft cannot be taken seriously.
And yet, here I insist quite forcefully that it does. The power of internet is beyond any blessed blessing. For example it has allowed introverts to speak out, to shun away their hard shells of nervousness and instead reveal their potential. The common man has found strength to voice his opinion and while doing this, find people who share his opinions. The world of internet is, to some extent, a less lonely world. It’s a more receptive world. And, as has been shown by revolutions of the like of the Arab spring, the world of internet is a powerful world.
In this world, the cyber initiatives like aman ki asha do not remain limited to their cyber confinements. They are more than words on computer screen. They are exhibitions of a philosophy that has been forced to remain quiet by the ‘powerfuls’ of the two nations. The people are speaking now and they are finding similar people both living with them and indeed living across the border. There is commonality again. This, if nothing else, is a praise worthy achievement of these ‘keyboard warriors’.
Power to the individual.