What do you do when you find yourself the custodian of a series of errors, ancient prejudice, ossified bigotry and ingrained misogyny? Chances are that 90% of the time your mind, your being, your essence will want to side with the tribe. It takes courage to call out your own parents/elders for their fallibilities and to get creative about solving history’s errors. We did not create this conflict, we inherited it from our parents and grandparents.

The new generation of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran and the puny Kashmir were not responsible for how and what our forefathers felt or did. There may be a loyalty towards the context and situation of those times but the youth have other bigger problems to deal with – an increasingly fear driven, extremist-pandering world (read politically correct) and serious climate, food and population-resource problems. These problems are inevitably tied to political problems but considering most of South Asia’s problems are based on religion, ethnicities, caste, creed and gender discrimination – to the new generation raised on scientific principles and rationalism the conflict seems outdated.

That the Partition happened is a fact – whether it was a wrong idea or a good one shouldn’t be up for debate. The generation that bore the brunt of the largest mass migration in history – mass killings, abductions, sexual assaults, confiscation of property, loot, arson and countless other brutalities is slowly dying. The 1947 Partition Archive project is creating records of the testimonies of the indomitable strength of the human spirit – the wisdom of moving on despite the painful and horrendous memories and grief. It makes no sense to be wrapped up in the past be it a 67-year-old wound or a 26-year-old conflict. Most of us were not even born when these events happened and a concession needs to be made for the limitations of every period in history. The more globally the world gets connected the more we realise the follies and the more aware we become of universal human rights, democracy, liberalism and secularism.

So what do you do when you wake up and realise you are smack in the middle of a bloodshed that is not of your making and you had no part to play in this? I can speak for myself and here is what I did. When I realised my family’s opposition to my ‘choice’ of groom was not solely based on their particular proclivities but went beyond the regular ethnic divide of Dar/Syed, Shia/Sunni, Hindu/Muslim divide, it got me reflecting on the vehemence of opposition in the 20th century. Educated, partially liberal families talking about honor killings got me thinking of this particular hold that ideologies, religion, the community’s sense of honor in a woman’s body, the sentiment attached to a daughter born and being kept as an ‘amanat’ (keepsake for no better word in translation) until she’s off-burdened to the “right owner”; all of this made inroads into my mind.

And then you discover it is not peculiar to your own particular community but transcends borders and religions and ethnicities. Slowly, it emerges that the whole problem is because the region has given a wide berth for religion to be mixed with the state. And that has been the bane of the region and its myriad problems and conflicts. And the ‘deadwood’ of yesteryears won’t even let you think, plan or even conceive of new solutions for the conflict – because egos, all the past sacrifices, will go waste. I see it more as their fear of the industry of conflict winding up and they being out of jobs, hence the stalemates. The recent discussion regarding Gilgit-Baltistan to be made a province of Pakistan came to a standstill because of the refusal of the ‘Bab’ and the Pak envoy rejecting it. Now the more I read about the movement in GB, it comes across as the efforts of the lawyers of the area to integrate GB into the larger state. So what about the aspirations of these people, or does it hypocritically have to be confined to the ‘aspirations’ of the Kashmiri people as the rhetoric from across the border is always parroted. Forgetting that ‘Kashmiri’ is not just Muslim Kashmiris but Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, various tribes and castes and categories as well as residents smattered across the hills and valleys of the entire state of J&K.

I see many separatist views upholding the ‘postmodernist approach ‘that nation states fear diversity’ – this gives the reason to justify the demand for separatism. But if extended it to mean that the people of Jammu and Ladakh by virtue of this approach should also have a right to secession from J&K, the ‘Bab’ famously disagreed on national TV.

This is just a glimpse of the mess we inherited from our forefathers – the more one digs into the ‘imbroglio’ the more one realises no one wants a solution or is thinking of the ‘aspirations’ of the common people. The elite state political parties are all about power, and the national political parties are there just to ensure the Indian polity is kept intact and secure. The ‘second-party’ privy to the ‘bilateral’ talks is just there for the resources and the land not exactly for the people though it may appear so. The ‘diaspora activists’ shouting at the top of their voices in many foreign countries, far removed from the ground realities have just used it as catapults to launch their careers – the loudest being the ones who have never lived there or have migrated long back – the keyboard warriors appearing on TV talk shows and news outlets.

What it is like to actually live in a siege cannot be ever described in reams and reams of ink. The fear, the oppressive pressure of the very air, the paranoia, the ostracism that we practice of each other, the ‘Othering” in case the dominant narrative is not towed and propagated, and so on and so forth. The ‘us’ vs ‘them’, the microaggressions, the smearing, the slandering and the yellow journalism in the press which has its own agenda instead of being the objective pursuers of truth – all of this feeds into that fear and helps recruit more of the new generation waking to conflict.

Will there ever be a creative solution to the ‘imbroglio’? Yes, if the deadwood makes way for the future.

Arshia Malik is a Srinagar-based writer and social commentator with focus on women issues and conflict in Kashmir. She makes her living as a school teacher and is an avid collector of literature. She is currently writing a book about her life as a female in Kashmiri Muslim society    SOST TODAY   SOSTTODAY.COM

Published in The Nation on Feb 11, 2016