Part 1 Lest We Forget

Dated: 24th Jan, 2017

On 26th January we shall begin another year as a Democratic Republic, apprehensive yet holding out to the non-stop aggression, now open now veiled. The problem of terrorism has remained intractable because our enemy is focussed. The celebrity politics out of power is licking its wounds. The proletarian one is trying to come to terms with the jigsaw puzzle that governance at the centre has become. The enemy is active in Kashmir. But its foot prints are also visible in Bengal now. One need not widen the aperture to notice that the state is in terminal decline. The state is in retreat. The space thus yielded is quickly being occupied by non-state actors. That the enemy is holding out doesn’t mean that he is strong. The enemy is being helped by our political enthusiasts who talk politics without studying it. Politics and entertainment have become synonymous now. Main stream media panders to morals while renouncing the neutral ground. Muslim clergy is merrily exploiting the constitutional guarantees to the detriment of the Republic. Even our Prime Minister is being threatened and challenged. Karl Liebknecht’s words sum up the scene. “The main enemy is at home!”

The constitutional freedom is a road to achieving natural decency. Freedom is wealth of body and soul. It is respect for human dignity. Freedom includes respecting the freedom and privacy of others. It is no retreat from sanity. Freedom means exercising restraint. Freedom of speech ends where domain of abuse starts. We are supposed to exercise as much freedom of expression in streets as is granted to us in our homes. Don’t raise your voice! Don’t abuse! Mind your manners! Freedom is a chance to better our lives. Freedom is not to become slave of our desires. It is to seek discipline for discovering liberty. Lest we forget!

Pakistan served us with a notice in Oct ‘47 by unleashing armed tribes to clear the road for Pak Army in Kashmir. Later on her Army took over from the irregulars. Apart from civilian casualties mostly Sikhs and Pandits, 1947-48 war claimed the lives of1,103 soldiers. In the rough and tumble of Kashmir narrative we forget to remember the sacrifice offered by the great son of Kashmir Mohd Maqbool Sherwani. He kept his cool in a dangerous situation and showed exemplary courage and wisdom to slow down the march of the raiders. His exemplary courage earned much needed time for the Indian Army to secure the airfield and start the offensive against them. Unmatched against Achilles, he stood his ground like a rock- human spirit challenging the sword of the evil. He was crucified by the raiders. Lest we forget!

 Afterwards in ’62, 1,521 soldiers, ill equipped and ill clad, lost their lives. In ’65 about 2,902; in ’71 3,603; in ’87-’90 in Sri Lanka 1,157 soldiers; in ’99 in Kargil more than 400 soldiers sacrificed their lives. The 26 year continuous attrition in Kashmir has claimed more lives. And there seems no end to the long tunnel in which we are trapped. Kashmir is to India what main doors are to our homes. Lest we forget!

The terrorism in Kashmir started on 14th Sep 1989 when a prominent Pandit leader Tika Lal Taploo was shot dead. On this day the Pandits were served the notice. What happened next was a repeat of what had happened to the Pandits in the forgotten past. A new tragedy was born. The Muslims of Kashmir abused their freedom. Next militants abused their privacy while running away from the police. The police then abused the privacy of hundreds of homes in search of the hiding militant. “The evil that men do lives after them.” Lest we forget!

On 14th Sep 1993, the displaced Pandits assembled and collectively paid obeisance at Sis Ganj Gurdwara to invoke the blessings of the dearest son of India- Guru Teg Bahadur who had sacrificed his life in the cause of the Pandits 318 years ago. They also placed a plaint addressed to the great Guru which in itself was a quiet reminder to the nation. The plaint says,“……..O, abode of virtue! With the type of short sighted politics prevailing in the country, destructive forces of religion has hounded the entire Pandit community from their home land, threatening their very existence. There is darkness that we see all around us. Dust of insensitive time has gathered on the county’s soul. There is no one who seems concerned about us. This country of ours has strayed from its high values and its goal of world peace……”

The supreme sacrifice offered by Guru Teg Bahadur at a crucial period in the life of Indian cultural empire, is not an accident of history. It was not only to show solidarity with a threatened community in Kashmir in a dark age, but the realisation that Indian culture was gasping for breath- was terminally ill. It is this realisation which made him to make the ultimate sacrifice. His assignment was to awaken a passive population to stand up and fight the oppressor. Aurangzeb seems to have been provoked more by the gentleness of the victims than by the desire to swell the ranks of the Muslims in India. He lived a full life as if protected by the mana of his crimes, which were impressive.

The greatness of the Guru Sahib also lies in the fact that he had realized that the Pandits were no parasites. His assessment that they were originators was proved once again correct. Even as refugees, the Pandits were running so to say, a parallel foreign office. In order to counterbalance the propaganda war, unleashed by the enemy they conducted seminars and street protests and made the partisan West and the Islamic world to have a glimpse of the other side of the Kashmir narrative. Out of many million Indians living in America, how many could organise resistance when foreign funded terrorism was ravaging the Punjab? It was a matter of great satisfaction that a handful of Pandits organised resistance against Pak sponsored terrorism, in the West- not yielding before the evil, the impulse to fight back in their genes precipitating like conditioned reflexes.

Lest we forget that Guru Tegh Bahadur offered his sacrifice at the same spot, in Chandni Chowk, at which the Gurdwara is situated, which gives solace to pilgrims who sit there with bowed heads.

The tumult and shouting dies/ The captains and Kings depart/ Still stands time ancient sacrifice/ An humble and a contrite heart. –Rudyard Kipling

No scholarship is required to understand that reason can be fought with reason, an idea with another idea. But how can we fight unreason? The population explosion is one such unreason. It is freedom consuming her own vitals. It is democracy pulling down its own parliament. It is a violation of ordinary ethics. The pressure on the judiciary is increasing because crime rate is directly proportional to the population count. And the regimentation in the civil society as is going on in the wake of capturing the state power by warring contenders is creating favourable conditions for the growth of criminality. An illiterate population silences a literate minority.

Lest we forget that in recent past a decade of double power centre was created by contenders of the state power and acquiesced by those who had inherited the legacy of constitutional development of the Indian Republic. Power corrupts! The wilful retreat from the sacred oath by men and women in power has now put an avoidable burden on our under staffed judiciary.

It is estimated that about 50 million people were displaced from their habitats since Noor Mohd Taraki assumed power in Afghanistan in 1979. The greatness of the Indian culture and State lies in the fact that it provided material and moral support to my displaced community. It gave us an opportunity to rebuild our lives. None of our children became a rag picker, thank God! Living now in comfort zones let us not forget to serve our country and her people in ways more than one, if only to repay our gratitude if not debts.

 Should the Kashmiris be ungrateful to the magnanimous help extended by our country during the days when starvation, misery and early death stalked us? I don’t think so. For 30 years, till Sheikh Abdullah withdrew the subsidy, adequate food grains against nominal price was uninterruptedly distributed through PDS to the beneficiaries. At a time when half of India would go to sleep with hungry bellies, although PL 480 had come to her rescue our childhood was made comfortable by the magnanimous Indian state. It is this support at the grass root level that made Kashmir what it is today. The gift of free education made us skilful enough to get gainfully employed. A very long day of peace, basking in a handful of sunshine is indelibly imprinted in my memory. I am obliged! I recalled the past to make the people of Kashmir remember, for they have forgotten from where we started our journey when freedom knocked at our doors.

The people in politics weave confusion to hide the simple truth that the social problems are solvable but only to an extent. They promise the moon but fail to deliver an electric bulb. They operate from a position which is less than strong. On the other hand people in academia operating from a position of strength weave confusion to remain on the right side of the political ideology. It hardly matters whether that ideology is socially good or counterproductive. The truth is that prosperity is the reward of statesmanship. The intellectual capital of a society needs to openly meet twice a year and conduct their own parliament where problems of politics, education and economics can be discussed. The institutions should function, if they to, honestly. The institutions should never lower guard for law of entropy is ever present to strike.

“A free society is ripe for infiltration and once infiltrated the changes do not stop until that society is remade into another image.” The contemporary Kashmir has become like yellowing pages of a newspaper. Frayed and fragile! Lest we forget!