NORMAN — It was a long and hard struggle for Kashmiris to come out of the quagmire of illiteracy, political marginalization, cultural sterility and social decrepitude into the enlightening institutions of education, spaces of democratic debate, political enfranchisement, cultural revitalization and social progressivism.
For a long time, Kashmir remained a source of casual, unskilled labor, where they were treated as beasts of burden. When the first few Kashmiri Muslims to have obtained degrees at institutions of higher education — like the Aligarh Muslim University in British India, returned to the state in the 1920s — they were imbued with fresh and modern, at the time, ideas of nationalism, liberty and democracy.
We, Kashmiris, as a people, cannot afford to play havoc with the empowerment that critical intelligence gives us; the credibility that articulate expressions of our situation give us; the intelligence that we employed to create a national identity.
We have witnessed the militarization of the sociocultural fabric of Kashmir. We watch, with remorse, the clamping down of intellectual freedoms in Kashmir and the growing influence of extremist elements in that polity.
We mourn the erosion of women’s activism in Kashmir by reductive portrayals of their identities. We grieve the relegation of sane voices in civil society to the background.
Well-educated Kashmiris can give the clarion call for a much-needed social consciousness, for a society and polity that recognizes the need to revitalize stagnant political and bureaucratic institutions, for a democracy that would enable them to fully participate in institutions and rule of law that specifies the limits of jurisdiction and call for decentralization of power.
We educators and students must recognize and avail ourselves of the myriad political, sociocultural and economic forums that a good education can create for us.
To question inequities — the alteration of the political and cultural milieu by the forces of rampant corruption, state-sponsored institutions where young boys are indoctrinated in religious fundamentalisms of various hues and Pakistan’s shift in strategy that revolution has to be built in target areas by various means, including indoctrination and inducements — we require an education to resuscitate democratic institutions.