Webster dictionary defines “Invincible” as “incapable of being conquered, overcome, or subdued”. In the historical context, the word describes Kashmiris very appropriately. From the earliest times, Kashmiris have faced both manmade and natural calamities. They have faced floods, famines, earthquakes, epidemics and foreign aggressors. However, they have never been subdued or cowed down, neither by the natural calamities nor by the human oppression. They may have gone down sometimes but they rise again and again!
Kashmiris have been called timid, cowards, cheats, liars and greedy. Sir Walter Lawrence in the “Valley of Kashmir”, though mentioning the bad traits of Kashmiris states that these weaknesses are not by nature but due to an extremely long period of external suppression. According to him Kashmiris are good at heart and it is the survival instinct which has made them timid and cowardly. Tyndale Biscoe in his book, “Kashmir in Sunlight and Shade” observes that the amount of oppression Kashmiris have undergone over the ages, if the British had faced the same, they would have lost their manhood!
For over last four centuries, they have been oppressed by Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras. They were reduced to virtual wretches and lost all their good qualities. They did rebel to change their destiny many times but failed. The main misfortune of the people has been their betrayal by their own kinsfolk. There have been and there continue to be “Black sheep” within the Kashmir society ready to sell even their mothers for a price. All the foreign oppressors got a foot hold because of these local collaborators. The external oppressors always scout for ready collaborators by patronising the weaknesses of character in a person. They bring out the worst and suppress the good qualities. During last 68 years people on both sides of the divide have exploited the weaknesses of our character. Sir Walter Lawrence in his book the “Valley of Kashmir” while commenting on the character of local people observes that two generations of a just and strong rule will bring out the best in a Kashmiri. Unfortunately, we are still to see that just and strong rule!
However, there was some awakening and a possible emancipation during the last century in thirties. Had there been no partition, Kashmiris may have been able to regain their lost sovereignty. Even at the time of the partition they had a chance to reclaim their independent status but their leaders for their own vested interests let them down and put them in such a mess that there appears no escape from a virtual political whirlpool generated by their twowarring neighbours. Still people seem to be taking this untenable situation in their stride and continue with their daily lives. They continue to pine for ultimate emancipation.
The last year’s flood supposed to be the worst in a century severely devastated Kashmir especially its capital, Srinagar. Going through different parts of Srinagar one was terribly shaken by the extent of the devastation. There was general feeling that the city would take at least 10 years to recover. However, other day while going through the posh shopping areas of Residency Road and Polo View, one could never imagine that these are the same places which had seen almost total destruction! Anyone going through these areas first time can never imagine the status of these immediately after the last flood. The enterprising and invincible Kashmiris have taken everything in their stride and are going full steam ahead regardless of totally unsympathetic attitude of the authorities both at the state and the central level. In most of the affected localities people are busy trying to restore their properties and their lives on their own!
In fact, the Central Government has cut a practical joke on Kashmiris by giving aid which cannot even be called the proverbial peanuts! They had an opportunity of a lifetime to end the extreme alienation of Kashmiris due to harsh and repressive measures in vogue for last over 25 years. However, they seem to believe in cowing down and subduing people rather than winning them over. Probably they have forgotten the saying of the most famous illustrious son of Kashmir, Kalhana, “The country of Kashmir may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit, but not by the force of soldiers!” This should be evident from the thousands of mourners attending the funerals of the militants slain by the security forces in various encounters. The recent total shutdown to protest against the Sopore killings should be an eye opener. The new generation of Kashmiris is totally uncompromising and invincible. They are all leaders in themselves and take their own decisions. They are Kashmir’s future hope!