The date of this evening’s function is accidental; the imagery is not. Yesterday was Muharram, observed with piety and fervour by many segments of our people and an occasion important enough to figure in the list of gazetted holidays.
Muharram is the anniversary of the martyrdom of a tragic figure in early Islamic history in a battle between justice and injustice. The image on the cover page of the book of a famous painting tells the story of the aftermath. It is an eloquent commentary on the subject of the volume before us.
The author knows Kashmir and writes about it from his perspective. His diagnosis and correctives in the concluding chapters are those of an administrator wanting to do good to a people whose virtues he has discerned in some measure. Like suggestions many times in the past, they would be cherry-picked to suit the rulers.
Equally telling is former governor N.N.Vohra saheb’s two observations in his Foreword: (a) that restoration of peace and normalcy will involve the sustained delivery of honest, efficient and accountable government, and (b) that it is of crucial importance that India regain the confidence of the people, especially the youth, who are frustrated, angry and cynical – they have lost faith in the policies, statements and promises of both, the state and central governments.
The most recent happenings in that unfortunate land are in the public domain, selectively for our own public and more truthfully for a global audience. They suggest an endeavour to induct democracy by undemocratic means, public trust through distrust, and freedom through un-freedom. It remains to be seen if such 20th century devices, written about by the historian Timothy Synder, would suffice.
Ours is a land of identities, of 4,635 communities 78 percent of whom are not only linguistic and cultural but social categories. We subscribe to the concept of a singular identity of Indian citizenship irrespective of caste or creed; this exists alongside the need to recognize and accommodate this plurality of identities. The idea of difference and the principle of equal dignity go with it. Part XXI of the Constitution depicts the diversity of the situations visualized and testifies to it explicitly. This is what accommodation of diversity in our polity and culture is all about. On the other hand, a simplistic idea of unity, seeking uniformity at the expense of diversity and that too selectively and open to suggestions of factional motivation, does not help the cause of national unity. It is contrary to our ethos and pursuing it can only promote distrust and discord. It should be eschewed.