Yet another working day has been lost, as we mark Kashmir Day — as we have every February 5 for years. But the fact is that the occasion has lost all meaning. It simply becomes another holiday, tacked on to a calendar which has far too many on it already. Schoolchildren will rejoice, so will many others much older than them, but in reality, all the day means is a loss of working hours and time. Business suffers, as do all kinds of other commercial activities, further wounding an already staggering economy. And it is far from clear how this day, used for leisure, for family picnics or other similar activity, helps the people of Kashmir at all.
Yes, some rallies and marches will be staged. During them, the usual calls will be made for justice and peace in that troubled valley. But people, as a whole, have become detached from these activities. Concern for Kashmir is certainly not very high; nor is there any evidence at all that it peaks on February 5. The reality also is that people have too many immediate concerns of their own to be specially worried about Kashmir and its people. For them, there are too many anxieties based around their own troubles in times of soaring inflation and great political uncertainty. Indeed, surveys in the past have shown only limited interest in the entrenched issue of Kashmir, with people focusing attention on their own plight.
This should make us think about why we mark Kashmir Day at all. Yes, Kashmiri victims of abuse deserve sympathy; the Kashmiris also need to be able to determine their own destiny, as is their right. But will closing shops, offices and educational institutions at home for an entire day really help them in any way? Or will it just harm us? This is something that needs to be thought about with wisdom, given that simply observing yet another holiday does not seem to serve the interests of anyone at all, whether in Kashmir or at home.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2013.