Kashmir: Sajjad Lone Speaking at World Social Forum
Duration: 00:11:59; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 13.376; Saturation: 0.128; Lightness: 0.459; Volume: 0.136; Cuts per Minute: 1.168; Words per Minute: 135.204
Summary: This is an excerpt from WSF 2004. Panel discussion titled "Kashmir: Culture and Identity Formation" chaired by filmmaker Saeed Mirza. Other panelists include Balraj Puri, S. A. R. Geelani, Bhajan Sopori. Sajjad Lone leads Separatist People's Conference Party. He took over in 2002 after his father Abdul Ghani Lone was assassinated in 2002.
Earlier on we were obsessed with the beauty of Kashmir and now we're obsessed with the violence in Kashmir. I think Kashmir has seized to be a political problem. If you scratch the surface you will see that it is more of a psychological problem today than a political problem. There are Kashmiris, keen to get killed and we are not really sure why are getting killed. There are the Indian security forces in uniform, keen to kill and shoot at the symptoms of a problem but not really knowing why they are killing people. Then there is another country Pakistan who is keen to be part of the problem but doesn't know how to be a part of the solution. In order to really understand Kashmir, I personally feel, we have to try and see the point of view, the perspectives, how three different parties (i.e.) Kashmiris, Indians and the Pakistanis look at Kashmir. Mr. Bhajan Sopori said it is more beyond lakes, mountains, a beautiful place, cool climate. And the truth is that for India and Pakistan, Kashmir is a huge place of land which is bestowed with natural beauty, mountains and for them they could measure it, define it or quantify it in terms of miles and kilometers. For somebody like Mr. Sopori, it provides probably that philosophical push or philosophical inspiration with which he composes his music... And for me, I'm a Kashmiri Muslim: It's my land and belong to this place, it's my homeland. It's beyond miles and kilometers, it's everything.
Sajjad Lone begins an impassioned talk on the issues that Kashmir continues to face. In doing so he distinguishes his claim on Kashmir, as the place and the land to which he belongs. Unlike India and Pakistan, which have fought numerous wars and proxy wars over the land and it's people, the syntax of claims differs markedly. While Kashmir reveals the contested and fragile frontiers of Indian and Pakistani nationalism, in speech it is always interpolated as the territory upon which the nation claims ownership. By referring to Kashmir as his home Sajjad's claim transforms it from a site of ownership to an entity which has the agency of defining his identity as a Kashmiri. Hence, 'I belong to Kashmir' as opposed to 'it belongs to me/us/them'.
The complex dimensions of the Kashmir conflict are expressed in this strange dilemma that Kashmiris face. Since the nature of the dispute allows three possible positions: Pro-Pakistan, Pro-India and Pro-Independence there is a strange kind of self-censorship that operates within Kashmir. That is not to say that espousals of any of the above positions are not possible or genuine but the demands of political fine balancing imply that there isn't really any space within which to speak from. This explanation is perhaps an over-simplification but political self-expression requires tremendous adeptness and this leads to different strategies of balancing and counter-balancing. Whilst these negotiations manifest the dimensions of dispute and the way in which it plays out in Kashmir - the shifting and unstable nature of these definitions also implies the elusion of the self in case of self-definition of the Kashmiri identity. And Sajjad is constantly drawing attention to the necessity for Kashmiris to define themselves, instead of India and Pakistan.
What has happened in Kashmir is, that the way I define Kashmir could become a reason for me to get killed. Definition have acquired importance which probably in the civilized world, it's unbelievable that is it so important, the way you define a concept - can it define your fate in Kashmir. Before me, Mr. Manhas come to the podium and he made some observations. I'm sure, if he makes these observations in Kashmir, probably he could also lose his life. Or say the other extreme, say someone makes a voice in favour of liberation, in favour of merging with Pakistan, they could also lose their life. What we are seeing in Kashmir today is that, two countries (i.e. India and Pakistan) have tailored a set of definitions what 'this' political concept means. And we Kashmiris are battling Indian and Pakistani definitions on the ground. The source of definitions is not Kashmir, the source is India and Pakistan and Kashmir is the battleground where two opposing points of view battle each other in a savage and ___ manner. Now this is, I would not want to go beyond, now this is the problem and most of you have heard of this problem.
Sajjad Lone says that it is imperative for all regional differences - among Pandits, Muslims, Paharis, and Ladakhis - to be worked out. The initiative for reconciliation, he says, must come from within J&K. He makes references to upcoming talks between the NDA government and the Hurriyat Party. No other government has met with Separatist leaders before.
He seems to be urging for a creative solution and realistic expectations to establish lasting peace. He urges Indians to empathize and identify with the pain of Kashmiris, referring to the LOC, which separates POK and IJK as the "bloody" line of control which cleaves the states and lives of family within the state. The history of the Partition of the subcontinent has left us all with a complex legacy. Layers of contradictory feelings in relation to 'the other' and places and lives which were once undivided.
While Sajjad appears hopeful and urges for greater psychological union. Perhaps the bus service between Srinagar and Muzzafrabad is a step in this direction. However, peace within this region and Indo-Pak relations always seems fragile.
The point today, which is most important is what is the way forward, how do we reconcile these differences, are we in a position to end violence? I think it's the Kashmiris themselves who would have to take the first step and that'll be a step of realism. Whether it's the Kashmiri Pandit, Kashmiri Muslim, the Pahari, the Gujjar, somebody from Jammu, somebody from Ladakh, the reality staring at them should not be ignored at this stage. We are happy that in the last two weeks, after a very long time, we have seen an exhibition of civilized behaviour, so it seems till date, by two countries (India and Pakistan) who seem to be eternally at each other's throats, killing each other, attacking each other. For a change, they behaved in a civilized manner. In a few more days, one more historical step would be taken, when people from Kashmir and representatives from Kashmir would be meeting and who don't accept the Indian constitution would be meeting the home minister of India. We have to try to create pressure, within India, and we have tried within Kashmir, pin hope against hope, hope against hope as if the whole nation is desperately waiting for success of these talks, waiting for peace to come, waiting for peace to prevail for that we have to look at things beyond geography that whether this piece of land belongs to you or whether this piece of land belongs to me. I think more than anything, we have to look at things like psychological union, we have to psychologically unite because as Mr. Bhajan Sopori said there are some things that transcend boundaries. If I have some sort of feeling for you, and if you live on the other side of the border, this demarcating line, this bloody border which is literally the line of blood not the line of control it will not stop me from empathizing with you. For that the people of India would have to psychologically communicate with the people of Kashmir, try and empathize with them, with their pain, the outrage they have against the state of India - not the people.
Line of Control
Offering clarifications, that it is the state of India and not its people that Kashmiris are outraged with, Sajjad once again returns the issue of self-definition. He cities the difference in perspective that is revealed when he as a Kashmiri refers to Kashmiri aspirations and the Indian Government refers to them as grievances. However, the linguistic possibility is also true when both Indian Government and Kashmiris use the term aspirations. The scope of those aspirations, however, continues to be a matter of dispute.
With regards to 'resolution', he states that even if all regional constituencies within the state of J&K were to unite they would not be able to establish peace without the cooperation and political will of more powerful states, i.e. India and Pakistan. Hence, any solution to the Kashmir conflict is only possible when both India and Pakistan cooperate and can agree to solutions. And 'solution' too is a slippery term.
You know, I as a Muslim Kashmiri have nothing against the people of India. It's the state of India, I might have aspirations, and it is not able to appreciate or satisfy. Now, it is such a quagmire of definitions - now I said aspirations and if we have an Indian gentleman from the Indian establishment he will say he has grievances. See the differences between how we project a point of view. So what I'm saying, basically is that we will have to look at ways which are not traditional. We have to go beyond traditional ways to try and see if we can psychologically unite each other, philosophically communicate and go beyond border disputes, go beyond geography. For that magnanimity will have to be in abundance. And who will have to be magnanimous? Of course, it'll have to be India and it will have to be Pakistan. They are the ones who can change things on the ground. If these two countries get together the truth is that today, we have Mr. Zafar Mehnaz who is a Pahari, there is Mr. Oberoi there who is a Kashmiri Sikh, Mr. Balraj Puri, there is a Pandit Mr. Bhajan Sopori, I'm a Kashmiri Muslim, he's a Doda if we all were to come together I would like to, in my humble capacity, like to differ with Mr. Zafar. The truth is that, if we all were to get together, the truth is we can do nothing because there are two big powers: India and Pakistan. And their standards of morality in dealing with people, that even if we come together in millions or even if the whole population comes out together, if they decide to enforce something against our will, they can.
Referring back to the title of the panel discussion, Sajjad argues that India, Pakistan and Kashmir all seem to emphasize, perhaps exaggerate their cultural identity in manner that makes it extremely problematic. But he also says that while the onus is on Pakistan and India to be magnanimous, Kashmiris too have to be realistic. These are all rhetorically sound arguments but one does wonder what it explicitly implies.
This eternal dance of death has to end somewhere. We have to know why we are dying. So, if India and Pakistan exhibit magnanimity, we the people of Kashmir have to exhibit realism somewhere. We have to be realistic; we have to see, which way the world is moving. That is the essence; that is the only way we can protect our culture, we can protect our identity. Culture and identity, as they have written, which is I think the main topic Culture and Identity. Strange thing culture and identity, they give you recognition, they identify you but an overdose of culture and identity can also be a problem. That's exactly what we have in India and in Pakistan and the Kashmir issue overall if you see. These are overdoses of culture, overdoses of identity. We, maybe as Kashmiris, have over emphasized, romanticized our culture to an extent wherein we decided to take up the gun and what happened in the process is something which all of you know. Regionalization, was the motive that we could see or feel at the recent SAARC conference. I believe, we should have enough moral courage to suggest as... the two leaders a fraction of what they said, mean it and implement it on the ground. I think that could provide us with a solution in the longer run.
politicization of culture
politicization of identity
Before concluding his talk Sajjad talks about the migration of Kashmiri Pandits. One can't help but remember Agha Shahid Ali 'Farewell'. The issue of the migration of Kashmiri Pandits is vexed one. Indeed the question of representing Kashmiri Pandits is an extremely difficult one. In 1990, during the Governorship of Jagmohan, Kashmiri Pandits felt an imminent threat to themselves. They were a minority community who did not identify with the mass sentiment. Those who could, migrated to Indian metropolitan cities, the others had to migrate to refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi. Sajjad seems to urge Pandits to return to Kashmir and expresses regret at their departure. While he does say he would like to accept responsibility and say that he failed them, he also states that he could prevent his father's assassination either suggesting that it's not easy to affix responsibility in such times. The Pandits have not had the means to express their pain, their disappointments within the concerns of the mainstream and hence the only Pandit voices one tends to hear are those that have amplified their language in order to be heard. Sajjad urges them, despite their pain, to not act as impediment. Agha Shahid Ali, in his poem says, 'Your memory gets in the way of my memory'. It is difficult to envision solutions to such conflicts, with each side bearing a traumatic memory, yet there must be creative solutions. In spite of this, Lone seems hopeful.
The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. I might not have participated in it, but I could not stop the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. I, somewhere, failed them. But at the same time Kashmiri Pandits should also understand that I personally could even save my father from bullets. He got assassinated. If I did not have the power to save my own father, how could I provide security or guarantee to them at that time, at that stage. We failed them. The need of the hour is that the Pandits should not fail us now. The pain that has been inflicted on them, should not prolong too much, it should not be an impediment in the future. Whatever pain has been inflicted on them, maybe we might not be able to compensate it but let it not be an impediment in the future. We have to think of a bright future because there is no way other than that, we have to think of a bright future. The only way for that is that the pain of the past should not become an impediment for the future. All I can say is that someday they will have to bring us under the debt of magnanimity by agreeing to return. With these words I thank you for patiently listening to me and just hope I have been able to convey that all we Kashmiris and Indians and people from the civilized world should strive to end violence. Because as a Kashmiri, having witnessed 14 years of violence all I can tell you is that no cause, no cause can be justified or is sacred enough to justify violence. Because the first casualty in the violence is the cause itself. Thank you.