With this special issue of the IIC Quarterly, we hope to complete a trilogy on three major problem areas that have haunted India for too long: Pakistan, China and Kashmir. No aspect of our nation’s life, whether politics, economics, social and cultural movement, or literature and art, has remained untouched by the looming shadows cast by these perennial boojums. The time has come to make a fresh start and boldly confront the tangled skeins of a tapestry that has gone awry.
In putting this issue together, we were careful to remember that the state of Jammu and Kashmir has for too long been popularly referred to as just Kashmir, as if the Valley is the only troubled area in this region. Jammu, Ladakh, Poonch and Rajori, to say nothing of the two ‘Mickey Mouse ears’, which lie beyond the Line of Control, are equally a part of this glorious tiara. So why does no one speak of them and why are their pains and problems not worthy of the same attention as the Valley and Srinagar?
This is why the first part of the issue brings together essays on all these areas to familiarize the reader with the components that go to make up this state. The next section was harder to compile, simply because it deals with differing views on history, politics and autonomy. We at the Centre have always prided ourselves on providing a sane, liberal space for contested issues and this is why we tried to include essays that reflect the wide disparity between one set of views and another. Given the volatile and highly fluid situation and the fact that three Interlocutors have been mandated by the Government of India to provide a blueprint for future action, we deemed it wise to not provide prescriptions. Too many cooks are’ stirring this pot: one more may spoil the broth.
There is an equal need to hear the voices of ordinary men and’ women: not leaders and ideologues but those who can articulate the pain and despair of ordinary people caught in a macabre game of one-upmanship. It is foolish to create a hierarchy of pain for the loss of a home, of a loved one or even of peace of mind are common human conditions: how can one say my pain is greater than yours? There are no winners and losers among the suffering. How glibly we speak of India being one from Kashmir to Kanyakumari yet how mean we are about recognizing that oneness! This is why we end the issue by dwelling on its beauty and its art. The soft warmth of a Pashmina, the delectable aroma of its saffron-scented cuisine and the courage of those who are trying to keep the flock together remind us that this was the land of Sufis and mystics. That to let it go into the hands of the hate-mongers and barbed wire will decimate the glorious heritage it represents. At a time when the rest of the world is dividing itself on communities and religions, let us protect the only paradise that is a living museum of our past.
The two photo essays we have here are a reminder of that world: beautiful, ethereal and unlike any other. The cover - a variegated cornucopia of colours and images that artist Nilima Sheikh evocatively calls ‘Dying Dreaming’, is part of a set of brilliant panels she displayed some time ago, titled ‘Each night put Kashmir in your dreams’. As you feast on it, do remember to put Kashmir in your hearts and minds once again.