Recently a columnist friend wrote that the popular movement in Kashmir is suffering from a fatigue syndrome. It is the fatigue among some of its prominent leaders. The fatigue syndrome according to the columnist is supposed to have afflicted even the sub-continent’s most famous and popular leaders like Gandhi and Jinnah during the Indian Freedom Movement. According to him, this onset of fatigue among Kashmir’s present leaders is supposed to have been occurring in earlier episodes of the movement also. The first to be fatigued had been Sheikh Abdullah, the lion of Kashmir. In fact, he suffered pangs of fatigue right in 1968 according to the above mentioned columnist. 1975 was the culmination of the fatigue when he fell into the arms of Indira Gandhi throwing to winds his decades of struggle including 22 years of incarceration in Indian prisons!
Of course, fatigue is a human failing and no mortal can escape it. Fatigue is also often accentuated by frustration. However, the moot point is to locate the primary cause of the fatigue and to know the difference between the physical and mental fatigue. Any human who does not have a clear vision and a specific goal always gets frustrated and develops both the mental and the physical fatigue. People with a clear vision of the future hardly get fatigued! Take the example of a mountaineer. No climber ever gives up his expedition because of fatigue. He may be delayed or hampered by the vagaries of weather, difficulty of the route but never by fatigue. The main reason behind this is his will to go on as he has a clear and definite goal of reaching the summit. One is reminded of a famous verse of Dr. Iqbal, the poet of the East in which he says that an eagle that soars in the sky never falls from its flight due to fatigue!
If one scans the history of Kashmir’s freedom movement, it transpires that the goals given to the people at various stages were limited, sometimes vague and abstract. There never has been any attempt to give a clear and distinct vision of the future. The present awakening started with the presentation of a memorandum to the Viceroy regarding the rights of Muslims in Kashmir. The real impetus was given by the 1931 uprising but the goal had been to get basic rights. However, in 1946 for the first time there was open revolt against the autocracy when Maharaja was asked to “Quit Kashmir”. Unfortunately, the leader of that uprising joined the government of the same Maharaja and supported his accession to the Indian Union. The partition of the sub-continent confused the Kashmiris. They had a choice to join either of the dominions through their autocratic ruler. There was a third choice of remaining as an independent sovereign entity. Had the people supported the Maharaja for this third choice, things may have been different.
Since that first confusion, nobody has given a clear cut goal to the people. All speak of the basic right of self-determination but what happens once the choice is given? What is the best alternative for the people that can allow them to lead a life of dignity and honour? “Azadi” is an abstract concept. One has to give a material and practical shape to it. Once a goal is defined in precise and concrete terms, then the route to reach the goal has to be worked out. It is like a mountaineer. After having decided the peak he wants to climb, he surveys the most practical and safe route to reach it. Then he goes by stages through various camps on the mountain. However, he always has the vision of climbing the summit as the ultimate goal. Thus the first thing for a Kashmiri leader is to give a precise goal of a political set up in very concrete and lucid terms where a Kashmiri can lead a peaceful life with dignity and honour. What could be the ultimate set up? Integral part of India or Pakistan? Autonomous status or Self-rule? Independent sovereign state of Kashmir? A practically possible and sustainable set up has to be envisaged in the prevailing circumstances where Kashmiris could live with dignity and honour. A complete blue-print for that set up needs to be drawn and then a road map to reach that goal has to be charted out. A leader may not achieve that goal in his own lifetime but he can show the way and carry on as long as he is there. Once this objective is distinct and clear like a mountain summit, then there will be no fatigue. So, let a debate begin on chalking out the ultimate goal in definite and precise terms where Kashmiris will be able to live with dignity and honour! Abstract goals will give nothing but fatigue!