Kashmir has captured the collective attention of the country again. And for distressing reasons. Killing of a terrorist, curfew, stone pelting, deaths, pellets, muzzling of press, Pakistani insinuation, it has all the ingredients to make a situation volatile, tense and largely unwarranted.
I often wonder what does it all mean to the average Odia or the average Kannadiga sitting thousands of kilometers away from the site of action, having never read anything intellectual (are we supposed to use that word these days, without fearing derision?) about nuances of the Kashmir conflict, having fed each night with a pill of 'nationalism' from TV newsrooms, receiving Whatsapp forwards drawing differences in a tabular form between a Kashmiri terrorist and a newly minted Kashmiri IAS officer.
Whatever it is, the situation is one of grief. The normal life that the average Indian was going on about has time and again been shattered by unfortunate incidences in the 'heaven on earth'. Clinically, there are 5 stages of grief. I have attempted to place the average Indian in these stages.
Primarily the average Indian is in the first two stages. The first stage is shock and denial.
It is shocking for most, depicted by many 'highly qualified' people on Facebook and Twitter, to learn that Kashmiri people are pelting stones at our security forces over death of a militant who had taken up arms against the Indian state. This juvenile thought of shock does not seem to go away even after decades of strife in Kashmir.
Denial of problem perhaps is the biggest problem that both people at large and establishment face. A lull in Kashmir can send government machinery into complacency leading to closing of many channels of peace. If people deny the average Kashmiri his voice, if the Arnab's shout down the Kasmiri panelist accusing them of treachery, if we deny that the problem in Kashmir is genuine it will remain gridlocked and will alienate more Kashmiri's than ever.
The next stage of grief, anger.
This the average Indian has in plenty vis-a-vis Kashmir. How can they come on streets like this despite the Indian army helping them during floods? Let there be another flood. How can thousands come in a funeral of a terrorist? Bomb them all. The anger is just there to subsume all sense, subsume all sanity. That it is going to bring out something meaningful is extremely doubtful.
We are just going round and round in these two stages.
If our worldview of Kashmir is to be changed, our grief over that integral part of India, needs to move to stage three, that of depression & detachment. In detachment can one observe well. It is not just philosophical, but practical. In detachment from the rhetoric that has been blaring since decades regarding wrongdoings of the past that we can move forward.
It would then lead to dialogue & bargaining. If there is one word that Kashmir will understand, that Kashmir wants, it is dialogue. Dialogue and more dialogue, among various stakeholders, more regularly and in a conducive environment. Bargaining chips can be drawn only when there is dialogue and when the dialogue moves forward into meaningful action.
The final and the most warranted stage of grief is acceptance. The average Indian is far from this stage which is a prerequisite for return to meaningful life. Acceptance of the fact that there are separatists who need to come on table, acceptance of the fact that much political ground needs to be covered to get the Kashmiri to the so-called mainstream, acceptance of the fact that decades of living in forces controlled place can scar one badly and sometimes beyond repair and multitude of such acceptances can bring peace in Kashmir and to others in the country.