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Tunnel Vision

Jawaharlal Nehru with political leader Sheikh Abdullah

In the 60s, when Kashmir was being governed by Bakshi Gh Mohammad after his mentor Sheikh Abdullah was removed from power and incarcerated for the next 11 years by Delhi, a close associate and an MLA of his party, Satkooji sb, while addressing a political rally had famously impressed upon those attending the rally to “spread his message through the length and breadth of the entire world” – which for him had conjured the stretch – “from Langate to Lolab, from Handwara to Hadipora, from Kulangam to Watrigam, in all parts of the world, according to his view of the big world! For the nonstarters, the maximum distance between the indicated locations happens to be no more than 25 kms!

The point is that Satkooji sb’s idea of the vastness of the world is not vastly different from that of those in Kashmir now – about 30-40 years after that event – even as most of them have widely travelled to know better that what exactly it takes for someone to be declared an “international figure”.

Which is why I am afraid that I may be pilloried for expressing myself on an issue arising from the above story that has to do with a morbid tendency which afflicts a sheer majority of us, here in Kashmir. The reference is to the reckless use of ‘superlatives’ in situations where milder and more appropriate adjectives may be used to describe a person who is the center of the stage, say as a chief guest or as a speaker in a public function here.

The unseemly excitement of the host/moderator while introducing the ‘VIP’ as an ‘internationally acclaimed author scientist/thinker/philosopher whose contributions have revolutionised the world’ merely serves to reveal an utter lack of understanding of what it takes for someone to be bestowed with the honour of having ‘international standing’ and what that appellation is actually supposed to entail. The sobriquet of Sher-e-Kashmir (the lion of Kashmir) being attached to Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, of course as a consequence of him standing up to the Dogra ruler – in spite of his willingness to meekly capitulate to the deceitful ways of Pt Nehru – is symptomatic of the same collective mindset.

That may partly be for reasons of sycophancy, but more to the point, that is largely on account of a lack of exposure to the world beyond our home/hearth/workplace. I am of the firm view that, barring a small chunk of Kashmiris including well trained/travelled academics/artists/IT professionals etc., who may perhaps deserve that appellation but again with appropriate qualifiers, there are those for whom the epithet of ‘internationality’ is apt but only to the extent that the adjective ‘international’ has been attached to the ‘Sheikhul Alam airport’ in Srinagar, which as one knows too well, does not fly a SINGLE flight to an international destination! Still no worries, as we have sufficient reasons to continue to claim international status as long as our own international airport is there to bear that appellation for us to take a cue from. That clearly amounts to the collective pathology besetting the Kashmiri community: Tunnel Vision!

PS: Koshur chhu teutoi international yoota international yetiukh airport chhu!!!

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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Written by M A Sofi


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