(The Kashmir Society has become so corrupt that one feels the corruption has gone into the blood stream of the people!)
There was a time when word “corruption” would give a scary feeling. In fact, calling somebody corrupt was probably the worst abuse. Not now! It has become a word of daily usage to which all of us seem to have become insensitive. Corruption has spread like cancer in the entire society. No part of our daily life is free of this most terrible malaise. People are feeling suffocated and helpless before this scourge which has eaten into the vitals of our society. Some years back, Kashmir had been rated by Transparency International as the second most corrupt state in India. Corruption is not confined to material areas only but has affected both the political values and the overall morality of the society. We are faced with material, moral and political corruption. In reality, the corruption has virtually gone into our blood stream!
Why has Kashmir become such a corrupt place? There is one main factor and that is the readiness of Kashmiris to compromise. Once a person strays from the truth and is prepared to say that 2 and 2 make 5, corruption starts. The origin of this compromise goes back centuries in our history. However, it has seen real culmination in last half century or so. It has been often observed by a number of historians that the timidity and deceitfulness of a Kashmiri is due to his unending suppression by outsiders. He has never had a chance to grow in a totally free and healthy atmosphere. It is natural for a human being to develop an instinct of survival when he is faced with the forces bent upon annihilating him. For survival a person goes to any extent. For him morality, truthfulness, honesty, self-respect, and dignity lose all meaning. He has somehow to survive against all odds. Sir Walter Lawrence in “Valley of Kashmir” also talks about this misfortune of Kashmiris. According to him Kashmiris are not as bad as are portrayed by outsiders. The main cause for their pitiable situation is the centuries of slavery. A couple of generations living in a free atmosphere under an honest, just and a strong rule will bring the best out of a Kashmiri. But they never got that chance and the slavery has continued in one or the other form. Compromise has become part of our daily life. This has been taught to us by our leaders.
If one studies the history of Kashmir’s Movement for emancipation which started in 1931, a stark fact that emerges is the compromise by the so called leaders at every step! The leaders at that time had started the movement for total emancipation. It was to restore the independence and sovereignty which Kashmiris had lost four centuries back. Primarily movement was started by Muslims but subsequently it encompassed the entire population regardless of religion. The move had apparently been good as it had given a truly nationalist colour to Kashmir’s Freedom Movement. In 1946, a movement was started against the autocratic ruler asking him to quit Kashmir. However, in 1947 that movement was abandoned and the ruler’s accession to India was publicly endorsed. People had blind faith in the sincerity of the leader and followed him in spite of his political somersaults. Had he been truly nationalist and taken the third option of independence right from the start, the things would have been different. He did realise his mistake after sometime but then it was too late.People would have forgiven him but his own lieutenant stabbed him in the back. He opened the flood gates to corruption. A systematic campaign for character assassination was unleashed on Kashmiris. Money and muscle power were freely used to buy temporary loyalty of the masses. Spiritual and intellectual pursuits were replaced by material gains. Betrayal was rewarded and loyalty to principles was punished. Orwellian new speak was introduced and truth was banished. People were “disciplined” through the newly constituted “Peace Brigade”. It was Goebbels in action. A masterly use of carrot and stick! That in fact, has been the real beginning of corruption in Kashmir. Corruption was so much ingrained into the psyche of Kashmir that it was taken to be a normal way of life. Since that time, the slide into corruption has been fully accelerated.
There does not appear any chance of coming out of the pit! Repeated declarations, slogans, and promises by top politicians to remove the scourge of corruption sound hollow in the face of actual ground situation. Right from the traffic constable on the road side up to the top political bosses, the whole system is steeped in corruption. Bribes are not only gladly taken but also given without any hesitation or remorse. It has become a well-established routine for getting anything done in every government establishment or organisation. In some departments, the corruption has been institutionalised and it is taken to be part of the normal procedure. No one feels anything bad about it. Rather it is taken to be rightful cut of all concerned. The typical example is of engineering departments. The percentage cut from each contract right from the level of a junior engineer to chief engineer is fixed. There is no dispute about it. Paying of huge bribes through intermediaries for posting, transfer, and appointments at the administrative level as well as the ministerial level has been thoroughly debated but no cure found!
Apart from material corruption, there is exponentially growing moral corruption involving all sections of the society. Every second day one witnesses skeletons falling out of the moral cupboard. The second rank in corruption given to the state by the transparency international must be now higher than even the first rank? Can this corruption which has eaten into the vitals of Kashmir society be ever eradicated? The blood will have to be drained out and purified by a dialysis machine. Even then it can only be prevented from recurring if the top is clean. Honesty like water flows from top downwards. Unless we have the top honest and clean and that too with a political will, nothing will succeed. An honest top rung will not tolerate a corrupt bottom.In the present context an uncompromising, honest, and upright leader with courage of conviction and a political will to stand by the truth is the only solution to end the vicious circle of corruption. To refuse compromise involves sacrifice and suffering. Is anyone prepared for that? This is precisely what Kashmir has been waiting for. Will we ever get such a leader? God alone knows! Till the time that happens, the corruption is not going to go away. It will rather go on multiplying and eating into the vitals of our society.
Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir