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Fighting Winter Gloom in Kashmir

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Winter days in Kashmir have not always spelt gloom for me. In childhood, it was a homecoming for winter vacations from boarding school. In late adulthood, it is a respite from traffic snarls caused by pretentious LBW (lal batti wallah) vehicles of governmentality and a natural assertion of difference and identity as the pheran is donned and the kangri clasped. Then, when it snows like it has for the last week, it is as if crimes, ours and those against us, are blanketed by nature, by innocence.

But this is 2019 and there are dreary moments, mostly political. Whenever people huddle and review events, there is a sense of near desperation. There is no dearth of examples of such events. When a young “officer” of the bureaucracy resigned, and others threatened to, there was talk of a new front, fresh hope in another variant of youthful dissent. It proved misplaced as a pattern of self-cooptation of idea and individual revealed itself to be hale and hearty. Then there is the politician governor who legislates at will, unhindered and imperial. Par for the course, yet cause for some despair. The real dread lies in our improved and now common understanding of Delhi’s state building project in Kashmir. The dispute over our state used to be a seasonal political argument in Delhi, but in the last quarter century it has steadily become the cornerstone of Indian populist religious nationalism that has taken hold, deepening its complexity.

A weakened neo-liberal India too has come to realize that the idea of a secular, unitary and non-aligned India has been an untheorized, hazy and lazy smokescreen. We often forget that these concepts were novel for mid-twentieth century South Asia. They needed to be conceptually envisioned, practically defined and logistically (all of which is to say ‘constitutionally’) enshrined. This was not done after 1947; which is why India itself is at a dangerous cross-road. This is the view from Kashmir........

© Greater Kashmir