By Inshah Malik
Rousseau 18th century philosopher, while making a comparison between man and an animal observes, 'Man is intelligent and free, the sole animal endowed with reason.' Animals are 'devoid of intellect and freedom, in every animal i see an ingenious machine to which nature has given senses in order to revitalize itself and guarantee itself, to a certain point, from all that tends to destroy or upset it. I perceive precisely the same things in the human machine with the difference that nature alone does everything in the operations of a beast, whereas man contributes to his operations by being a free agent. The former chooses or rejects by instinct and the later by an act of freedom, so that a beast cannot deviate from the rule that is prescribed to it even when it would be advantageous for it to do so, and a man deviates from it often to his detriment. It is not so much understanding, which constitutes the distinction of man from the animals, as it is his being a free agent. Nature commands every animal, and the beast obeys. Man feels the same impetus, but he realizes that he is free to acquiesce or resist; and it is above all in the consciousness of this freedom that the spirituality of his soul is shown. For physics explains in some way the mechanism of the senses and the formation of ideas; but in the power of wiling, or rather of choosing, and in the sentiment of this power are found only purely spiritual acts about which the laws of mechanics explain nothing.
Academia is a space where from times immemorial these specific characteristics of the human species have been nurtured, celebrated and perfected. However, in Kashmir, this basic right of human species is being denied. The academic space is fast shrinking. Recently, the alarmed state’s intervention has been about the concerned matters of academia, it has booked professors for ‘politicizing education’ others are under scrutiny on the questions of ‘morality’. In the very premise of the argument, it stands questionable if asking questions in relation to stone pelting is ‘politicization’, why then the very act of state’s intervention into academics at the same time is not considered ‘political’.
In Kashmir, everything is turning out to be a matter of ‘political concern’. The state is excessively alarmed after the recent rebellion from the ‘stone pelting’ youth. After the arrest of a University Professor for a paragraph on stone- pelting and stone pelters in the question, this time state has accused the Sahitya Academy Award winner, Dr. Shad Ramzan, a senoir professor at the Kashmiri department of Kashmir University for using an ‘obscene passage’ in a question paper, that asked students to translate it into Kashmiri. It is imperative to quote the passage for readers.
The passage reads: "From the ancient times, women have been concerned about the shape and size of their breasts. Breast development is the vital part of reproduction in human females. Unlike other mammals, however, human females are the only ones who develop full breasts long before they are needed to nurse their offspring."
The passage, as one can read is on the scientific lines of inquiry and “obscenity” is too broad a word for scrutinizing academia in this regard. First, the question arises what are the moral standards of a Kashmiri State? While it is boasting of a multicultural and multiethnic concoction, where from does it derive its moral ecstasy? If the standards are Islam then the question arises when and what part of state is supposed to use religious morality to back its scrutinizing mission? If it harbors from the civic religion that draws its inspiration from all existent moral beliefs then in that case, why such a passage be allowed even in the medical textbooks?
These moral underpinnings should not just apply to areas that state finds questionable but should also apply to the state. The example of the breach of such moral ethos are the corrupt state actors in police and elsewhere who have been perpetrators of gross immorality such as the wide spread sex scandals, one must ask why no action is taken against them if indeed state is serious about its ‘morality mission’.
What is prominently apparent is State’s visibility and reach that is mounting and is shrinking the academic space and ‘politicizing’. Historically, languages are a medium of inquiry and growth, considering such obscene passages in English then why shouldn’t they be written or read in ‘Kashmiri’? Is the idea to suppress the scientific facts and rationality, should the access of such information be denied to wider populations who deserve to benefit from it. Does Kashmiri as a language deserve to grow in its expression? In that case again, the space for the Kashmiri language to expand is no more accessible. Most of the work these days is a product of translation from one language into another. Kashmiri is one of those languages, which has benefitted from this process. Until very recently Persian was a source of great knowledge and had found many translations into Kashmiri. Does state then intend to promote censoring such work from other language sources, which has helped Kashmiri language to develop? At a time, when literature on HIV/AIDS and reproductive health manuals are being translated into indigenous languages world over it is unfortunate that government in Jammu and Kashmir is pursuing academics attempting to indigenize knowledge. Kashmiri people are less fortunate in learning in their own language while Bengalis learn subjects like Science and Mathematics in ‘Bengali’ and boast of India’s intellectual cadre without considering a passage on female breasts unworthy of translations. The State is not ashamed of trampling over women’s rights but talking about their breasts, it is.
Interestingly, the politicians have included on their interest lists, academics and are delivering free education concepts and analysis. If the ideas of homogeneity of educational discipline are so amusing and attractive for our new politicians, they need to get an update on the current debate worldwide on interdisciplinary studies.
However, we do not exist in a vacuum; our social realities are a part of our constructional realities. Our schools and colleges exist in a harrowing conflict zone, where 11 years old children are booked under draconian laws, killed brutally and made to live alongside criminals in jails. Education and academia serve only as a retreat and not serious business neither for people nor for the state. In the end the significant reality is, what goes on in Kashmir in any sphere is sheer politics installed and imagined by the state actors themselves.
Inshah Malik is a PhD scholar at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India. She has been working on Gender and ongoing conflict in Kashmir. She is also actively writing about people’s issues through various platforms. She is at present working on political economy of Kashmir.
Inshah is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.