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Arshid Malik

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

– Viktor E. Frankl

Kousar-Nag-ProtestsEnvironment in Kashmir is on the brink of disaster. I don’t have to check government stats when I say that because I am a local and a keen observer of what happens around me. The clues to the disaster started off during the early 90s somehow coinciding with the upsurge of armed rebellion in Kashmir. Everything was in shambles, who would save the environment, but at the same time I recall that around the same period of time some worthy environmental organizations worked up a tempo and began drives to clean up the surroundings, save the water bodies and all else but after a year or so they suddenly disappeared from the scene. And thereafter an onslaught began.

“Kashmiri people are very sensitive when it comes to matters related to the conscience” is what I come to hear in and around Kashmir valley. This is very delicate statement and needs to be treated very critically since sensitivities are involved. But then I am a Kashmiri and I don’t think that we are a conscientious people. We are savages when it concerns handling affairs on our own. Yes when someone else treads on our foot then our conscience is on fire. So, I would categorically say that we are free-style conscientious people.

The recent debate surrounding the pilgrimage of Kashmiri pundits to Kousar Nag turned fiery all of a sudden when the separatist camp “agendized” the topic. The separatist camp said that the pilgrimage route was eco-sensitive and that it would levy immense damage to the environment surrounding the route to Kousar Nag. They were so right in saying so. We ought to protect our surroundings and save the biosphere of the Valley which is under constant threat and undergoing deterioration at a surprisingly super speed. The administration of the state which had affected orders to allow the pilgrimage to be taken to Kousar Nag by devotees suddenly gave it a second thought since it had almost turned into a scourge and the whole issue I guess was swiped under the proverbial “carpet”. Well both parties acted wisely but I have questions that I want to put to both sides, the separatist camp and the establishment of Jammu and Kashmir, which is what they have done about salvaging the rest of Kashmir valley from environmental degradation. As far as the establishment goes they are faltering on every step and their mechanisms of operation are ridden with corruption at very large scales besides it has been proven during the recent elections that the people of Kashmir are not at all happy with the ruling parties. So, eventually the debate shifts to the other side which has held a major stake in all things concerning Kashmir valley and this time it is the environment surrounding Kousar Nag. Why is the separatist camp rounded off over a particular spot? It would only add to the dignity of our separatist leadership if they expanded their horizons beyond what involves the “other”. There is great need for the separatist leadership to step up and start talking about issues which concern the common man lest their credibility would recede to the point of complete annihilation over a stretched period of time.

I am not talking about Kousar Nag and the debate surrounding the pilgrimage and for that I beg the pardon of my readers since I have realized that politics is a dirty game and I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and I wash my hands every five minutes. I am here to talk about the welfare of Kashmir and its people and the role the separatist leadership of Kashmir ought to play vis-à-vis the same. Syed Ali Shah Geelani is an upright man and he needs to extend his righteousness to the rest of the spheres of life that concern the common people of Kashmir and since freedom is attained by degrees only since it is not a concept but a way of life which is to be obtained less ontologically and more practically. There is a great role that the separatist leadership can play in obtaining decent levels of freedom for the people of Kashmir if they extend their agenda beyond the paradigm of political freedom for Kashmir and its people. The leadership should formulate an agenda, a road map (using the term since it has been shelved post the debacles that have enveloped “Talks” till date) for the betterment of the people and the Kashmir valley as a physical entity. The leadership could involve the local youth for campaigns designed for preservation of the ecosphere of Kashmir, enhancing the possibilities for entrepreneurship for the disillusioned unemployed youth of Kashmir, de-addiction campaigns for the thousands of youth who have fallen low to resort to substance abuse, campaigns for the protection of the dignity of women with an emphasis on curbing eve-teasing, campaigns for enriching the written history of Kashmir which is more than missing on what actually the history of Kashmir is, besides a plethora of other activities that are very much needed now than ever.

So Hurriyat, as the meaning of the term suggests is freedom and liberty which are not confined to political domains but cover the whole sphere of existence of men, women and children and limiting the concept of freedom to mere rhetoric in my understanding amounts to insulting the very sanctity of the term “freedom”. The amalgamation of various separatist parties of Jammu and Kashmir is entrusted a role, a role of liberating the people of Kashmir and that liberation should begin with small steps. The struggle has to be re-evolved to a stature where it envelopes the well-being of the people.

Dear people, I must say one thing to you which has been riding my mind for what seem like eons now, which is – freedom that comes at the cost of subjugation or undermining of the “other” is not freedom at all.

For the reader: When I say environment I mean the whole sphere of existence of us humans.

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