Mahatma Gandhi in Kashmir
If one were to go by news reports, then all that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been waiting for these past decades is the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi.
'The Story of My Experiments with Truth' is being translated in Kashmiri. Of course, since it is not just about any state, there is always a message. And according to the managing trustee of Navjivan Trust Vivek Desai:
"Gandhi's life would offer a solution to the problem of terrorism to the locals. We hope it helps trigger a mental thirst for peace through non-violence."
Take any of the initiatives of Gandhian ahimsa and there is underlying violence, perhaps self-destructive. If the freedom fighters of India took the lathi blows of the British, then the Kashmiris have had to deal with such blows and arrests from security forces. Whether it was Gandhi's 'jail bharo' andolan or the Dandi March, the consequence was violence.
Kashmiris too can claim that their protests at Lal Chowk qualify as legitimate dissent. The youth taking to stone pelting might be deemed as a soft stance to make a point. What makes the publishers believe that the people do not want peace? They just do not want to be bulldozed, and the Constitution grants them that right.
His role in Kashmir is dicey and he was most certainly not beloved of the king, let alone the people. Campbell Johnson in 'Mission with Mountbatten' wrote, “Both Nehru and Gandhi have been very anxious that the maharaja of Kashmir should make no declaration of independence."
Besides that, the Mahatma who happily went along with Hitler's forces during the World War can hardly be seen as a paragon of peace to find a solution to terrorism. Wasn't there much sniggering when JKLF leader Yasin Malik said that he was Gandhian?
The paths are not black and white about what is good and bad. In fact, Gandhi used a religious paradigm to deal with many problems, and much of his decision-making was driven by his conscience. It really was about one man's inner voice that colonised a large part of the independence movement.
If at all, his life story is one of struggling with his own flaws. It is essentially a Biblical thesis on how to cope with moral dilemmas. In a land where so much blood has been shed, a book is not going to teach them anything.
The Kashmiris, even its separatist leaders, do not suffer from this sort of humble arrogance where they can afford to decide on what people want. There are checks in the form of the Central and State governments, oppostion parties, security forces, outside forces — mainly Pakistani insurgents as well as the government — and many militant outfits.
In some ways, this is democracy even if there are weapons that talk.
Mahatma Gandhi did not get crushed in the stampede or under British boots. He sat with a charkha, spinning yarns, with a White woman as one of his devotees.
Let a Kashmiri try emulating this and he will be rounded up for suspicious activities. The people live the truth. They do not need to experiment with it.
End note: What if Kashmiris clamoured for Shaheed Bhagat Singh's works? Think about it.
© Farzana Versey