(Dr. Abdul Ahad, 63, was born in Srinagar. He attended the Tyndale Biscoe Mission School in Fateh Kadal and the Multipurpose Higher Secondary School, Baghi-i-Dilawar Khan. He received his graduate degree from the Sri Partap College, Srinagar, and completed his post graduate degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Kashmir. He started his career as a lecturer at the Amar Singh College, Srinagar, but subseqyuently joined the state service and rose to the position of Director, Archives, Museums, Research & Public Libraries. At his retirement from the state service, he held the position of Commissioner-Secretary in the J&K Government. Dr. Ahad has written two interesting books: Kashmir to Frankfurt: A Study of Arts & Crafts (judged being the best book on Kashmir in 1986), and Kashmir Rediscovered. He has attended numerous seminars and conference at the state, national and international levels, and is a columnist writing in local dailies. He received the award of "Khilet-e-Mahjoor" in 2010.)
The Leadership Debate
The debate on Charismatic leadership has evoked an overwhelming response which is really heartening. But what I have discussed in my previous write-up (attached at the very bottom) has either been read in haste or not at all appreciated. The critics have tried to put words in my mouth by drawing far-fetched conclusions; attributing to me what hasn’t been my forte. To prove me incorrect, metaphoric, implausible, biased, wooly and coward has been their main thrust. By stating ardently that “in the last 800 years Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah is the only charismatic leader Kashmir has produced” they are plainly reflecting their ignorance of history and presenting a scary portrayal of medieval Kashmir; rejecting, thereby, the very existence and contributions of the outstanding, top ranking, charismatic leadership of the times; especially Budshah, Lal Ded and Nund Rishi. Also in their typical flamboyant way they attempt to mix up popular with charismatic leadership; more wittingly than unwittingly declining to differentiate the two less of morals than of expediency. The psyche and the social reality of a historically recognized conflict zone, immensely weighed down by unrelenting human rights violations, is totally different from that of a non-conflict zone characterized by independent, egalitarian settings, social security and Western outlook.
The two systems are poles apart. One is dependent, subservient, primitive and chained to a colonial system. The other is progressive, free, peaceful, democratic, independent and above all sovereign. Both throw up their own brand of leadership to resolve their peculiar problems and overcome tribulations: one yearns for freedom, independence, sovereignty and social justice and the other for economic reform, good governance, change and improvisation. A marked dissimilarity between the tow is, therefore, but natural. This glaring difference between the two needs to be adequately recognized and appreciated before writing about Kashmir and evaluating its leadership.
The contention that I have based my definition of Charismatic leadership on the propositions put forth by Nadler and Tushmun besides having used their idioms and phrases in my write-up is wholly untrue and grossly misconceived. My premise, my arguments and my conclusions are entirely my own; they are well grounded in history; especially Kashmir history. They are, therefore, creatively original enough to be incompatible with those of these writers who have written: Beyond the Charismatic Leader essentially for Business Executives to educate them how to win and influence their clients. There is no dearth of such books of alien origin; but the question is: are they really worthwhile in Kashmir context? The answer is no; Big no.
At the very outset of my article I have made it amply clear that these books and their writers have simply endeavored to recapitulate, reiterate and reinvent what was formulated, devised and discussed by the great scholars of different Civilizations long, long ago in distant past. For the sake of historical accuracy and amplification let me reproduce here the relevant paragraph which the critics have skipped over-- while going through my article--to keep up their natter in a merry little tune:
The book: “Beyond the Charismatic Leader” written by David A Nadler and Michael L Tushmun is “A product of painstaking research that speaks high of scholarly exertions of these political scientists, but is in no way the first of its kind on the subject. As a matter of fact it is a laudable and meaningful attempt to recapitulate systematically what the great scholars have already contemplated and marked out, long, long ago, as main components of unadulterated, stimulating and genuine leadership.”(Dr. Ahad: What Makes A Charismatic Leader? See at the bottom.)
There is no ambiguity in these words; nor are they in any way incomprehensible to lead readers astray and make them believe in fantasies and mundane gossip or rhetoric. These are lucidly intelligible enough to substantiate my point of view: that Kashmir leadership can best be evaluated through a local prism and native sources against the socio-political background obtaining in the Valley at the time of the leader we are writing about. They shed a flood of light on the subject which is as old as biblical times and vitally relevant in the Kashmir milieu burdened with a perennial conflict; a milieu that has been eagerly craving not for any democratic dispensation but for the restoration of its historical individuality that was compromised at the altar of political profit, power politics and shifting paradigms of social morality back in 1947 by those whose inanities and failures are historically too costly to be forgotten.
Yesterday’s events become today’s history. Today’s history is a rude awakening that acquaints us with unpleasant facts that have contributed to our past failings, collective despairs, national sufferings and emotional disturbances. Unmistakably enough its impact is markedly so overpowering that the genuine leaders draw important lessons to become more conscious to shape the future of their societies charismatically and responsively in a befitting manner and in keeping with the necessities not only of history but of geography, sociology and culture as well.
Human wisdom can hardly play any hoax with history because this wisdom is itself shaped and influenced by the very historical forces in operation. Gigantically powerful and dominant, these forces constitute the very social reality of a given society and push to the forefront the persons of substance to make sensible decisions at critical junctures to lead it charismatically towards the goal determined by the requirements of the time and cherished by the masses. The judgments of these men of genuine wisdom and foresight, therefore, work in tandem with the forces of history to drive multitudes out of the barren wilderness of strife, dispute and despondency. An objective study of great upheavals, revolutions and freedom struggles that have occurred so far in the world history amply corroborates this view.
It is in the struggle for power that human wisdom generally withers to keep pace with the demands of history and collective aspirations of society. Unlike the leaders of Freedom Struggle the strugglers in power struggle remain largely infatuated and over obsessed with a burning desire for political office. In this pursuit they set in motion stratagems to hoodwink masses with whose support they come to power. They resort to pulling the wool over the public eye through vote bank politics; tricking the naive and the raw by building up mystique around themselves; making them ultimately pretty upset by the tricks of their trade. Smart and astute as they are, they succeed in becoming popular enough to ascend the peak. They dominate the scene as long as they are able to befool the public. By camouflaging their real intentions under the garb of “people’s uplift”, “emancipation”, freedom from want”, “self rule” etc; etc; they do extremely well to lure a huge number of followers and supporters into mystifying them as “charismatic leaders”. The huge popularity they enjoy, thus, baffles even writers to confuse it with charisma. The struggle they get entangled in connotes nothing but their growing appetite for power, clout, supremacy and aggrandizement.
But it is unlikely for the leadership to get bogged down in power politics in a feudalistic set-up where authority is monarchical and hereditary. The autocracy is traditionally opposed to sharing authority outside the royal, feudalistic household. The leaders don’t, therefore, proceed beyond raising their voice against autocratic atrocities. For their inherent boldness and courage besides good intentions of doing something unusual (other than coming to power) in an authoritarian raj they enjoy considerable public trust, support and love. With the passage of time the quotient of their popularity rises to unbelievable heights; making them mass friendly and result oriented and increasingly effective and relevant both socially as well as communally. But as soon as the situation tilts towards assuming political overtones the charismatic qualities of the leadership, begin to fade.
Likewise in a conflict zone with a long history of bloodshed the perennial crisis press forward a variety of spoilers--to climb the bandwagon of an institutionalized vested interest--who become instrumental in widening the scope of malfunctioning of movements. In such circumstances it is next to impossible to locate a charismatic leader. But for political expediency or other considerations some little fingers do tend to invent one. It is like making Kashur zafarani Kahwa out of Russian poplar leaves. Let me conclude by reproducing here some excerpts of my “poem” on the subject:
Charisma the great;
It is too late;
To lessen the hate;
Flourishing in tiny hearts;
For God’s sake;
Let you designate;
A leader who can truly eradicate;
The harsh memories:
Of infamous torture centers (Papa-2);
Where youth was scarred;
And incapacitated for life;
Of brutal rapes of old and young women;
Of disgraceful crack-downs;
Frequently conducted to humiliate people;
Of those goriest nights;
When elderly were dishonored;
Adolescents whisked away;
Never to return to their hearths;
Is this not an unvarying, unrelenting Agony?
Will the Ghost of Bloody Dispute ever cease to haunt Kashmir?
What Makes A Charismatic Leader?
(Exploring the elements that constitute leadership)
“Instrumental Leadership” is a well-written article which has kicked off an important debate on issues of charismatic leadership. The debate is more relevant and vital in the context of Kashmir situation. Whether or not Kashmiri leaders fulfill the criteria historically recognized as prerequisite for becoming cream of the crop--a visionary, creative and energizing leader-- seems to be the main endeavor of the debate to discern. It revolves round the premise that a charismatic leader is one who personifies all those merits that have been identified by David A Nadler and Michael L Tushan in their book: “Beyond the Charismatic Leader”. A product of painstaking research that speaks high of scholarly exertions of these political scientists, the book is in no way the first of its kind on the subject. As a matter of fact it is a laudable and meaningful attempt to recapitulate systematically what the great scholars have already contemplated and marked out, long, long ago, as main components of unadulterated, stimulating and genuine leadership.
The interest in understanding the issue of leadership—which they have rather rekindled now-- was awakened by the intellectuals of yore centuries before the emergence of Nation States; actually at a time when the human Civilization hadn’t yet made many strides and was still in its embryonic form on its way forward struggling hard to reach the acme of excellence. The foremost among them were Aristotle and Plato who delved deep into the subject and subsequently gave the world the model of a flawless leader who possessed tremendous potential to lead people through thick and thin and represented a wonderful combination of self-discipline, hard-work and honesty and foresight. The model was, subsequently, elaborated and perfected by their successors; more distinctively by Ibn-Khaldun and Arnold Toynbee. The conclusions which these scholars of stature have drawn after studying various Civilizations, especially the five major civilizations of the world, are now making rounds in Western and Asiatic Societies, of course in an adapted form, through the publications of contemporary social scientists.
The picture of an ideal leader in his charismatic form is equally obtainable in Nilamatpurana; the earliest available source of historical information on Kashmir; a unique treatise that clearly sketches the picture of an ‘envisioning, energizing and ennobling’ iconic leader who was none other than NILA NAGA, the founder of Jhelum Valley Civilization that flourished on the banks of Veth or Vitasta. He was the first and foremost Kashmiri Patriarch of great consequences who with his unusual blend of intelligence, determination and character drove out of Valley’s womb the most dreaded people; the pretenders and imposters; the enemies of natives; and, thereby, laid the foundation of a safe and peaceful heaven on earth for human settlement. His moral substance and qualities of head and heart were so powerful, convincing, meticulous and ennobling that they inspired a galaxy of historical personalities like Avantiverman, Laltaditya, Budshah etc; to follow his footsteps and touch the peaks of glory, popularity and esteem. Thus by drinking deep of the intellectual ambience, furnished by this classic work on Kashmir, these leaders envisioned a prosperous, strong and peaceful Kashmir which they realized finally to lure a huge number of Central Asian Sufis and Scholars who settled here and enriched its ethos profoundly.
Alongside Nilmatapurana, Kalhana’s Rajatarangni , Vakhs of Lal Ded, Nund Rishi’s expositions and Shah-i-Hamdan’s Zakhirat-ul-Malook deserve to be equally credited for having widened the contours of the discourse on the qualities of leadership. The authors of these monumental works were the most innovative social engineers who had a strong urge to transform Kashmir by changing the outlook of its leadership. Their main thrust was on enlightenment which they believed is possible through the pursuit of knowledge; the attainment of moral ascendancy and; the rejection of arrogance: the qualities which the present “leadership” lacks so conspicuously and despises so amply and abhorrently. The watchword of their philosophy is an amalgam of: Vision, Virtue and Wisdom which is evidently absent among the contemporary “leaders”.
Lal Ded and Shiekh Noor-ud-din were prefect embodiment of these virtues that enabled them to become the genuine mass leaders; the legitimate people’s priests; the real harbingers of a great social change. The personal Charisma of these leaders continues to inspire every Kashmiri even after the passage of so many centuries. The quantum of esteem they are held in can only be gauged at Cherar-i-Sharief where an ocean of people is seen present to pay their homage. There is hardly anything that hasn’t received their attention: their repertoire encompasses everything from economics, politics, science, medicine, philosophy to environment; they have ably dealt with whatever came their way for rectification, renovation, restoration and innovation.
The insightful personality of these highly thought of leaders of bygone day’s immensely strengthened people’s faith in a bright tomorrow which they had envisioned for Medieval Kashmir. But after them no leader worth the name has so far appeared in the firmament of Kashmir to lead the people to their cherished goal.
Kashmir has yet to throw a leader who can deliver the way charismatic leaders have done to achieve their objectives. Not to talk of leaders like Gandhi—who is worth emulating and justifies the appellation of charismatic leader for his contributions and intrinsic merit that resonate even today to impact Indians to adopt Gandhi giri as a tool to fight injustice—even the likes of BAL Thakrey are unlikely to locate in its milieu. There is none to equal him in his traits: determination, dedication, allegiance to his motherland and anxiety for his people. Our environment is awfully weak to encourage the rise of such leadership. It is increasingly disposed towards cheering up a huge platoon of “leaders” who are easily comparable to proverbial Saed Makars. Their deceptive stratagems, dare devil stunts and dishonest dealings, which initially boost and botch us up with illusionary elixir of life ultimately make us disconsolate for our whole life. They are always on hunting spree to befool the common masses through their pretentions which quickly burst like bubbles or balloons within no time. Their motive is nothing but wealth, weapon and women.
Kashmir “leaders” are thriving on the agonies bequeathed to the masses of Kashmir by the partition for which both Nehru and Jinnah were responsible. Kashmiris are paying too heavily for their obstinacy, stubbornness and fierce political rivalries that struck a fatal blow to historic Indus Valley Civilization; fragmenting it to degenerate into an unprecedented bloodbath of innocent killings that finally gave birth to India, Pakistan, two Kashmir’s and Bangladesh-- how many more pieces are likely to emerge on the map of the world God alone knows. Their unwise policies have trapped them in the quandary of Dispute that has practically besieged the entire South Asia with an intense existential angst. To escape the repercussions of this colossal historical wrong is not possible till it is amicably and justly rectified.
Only Deedawars with enormous foresight and moral substance can lead the masses to throw off the shackles of servitude that is fortified, day in and day out, by none other than their own kiths and kin; the Local Sentries who uphold the tradition of guarding the colonial Cage religiously for their personal aggrandizement.
Such Deedawars do not come out of vacuum; they appear on the scene when the masses cease to listen to fakers; when they give up saying one thing and doing another; when they learn to shift the white from the black; when they shun their well-known receptiveness to fluctuations.
The people of Kashmir have to remake themselves to change their lumpish image that impels objective historians to portray them as big historical frauds; Soum Badzat Kashmiri.
Their inconsistencies, unsteady and ever-wavering attitude, disinclination to mend their ways, despite the multitude of tragedies they have gone through, are chief causes of their historical misfortunes, aberrations and humiliations. They need a dose of sweet nectar to defy their routine behavior.