Part of yesterday’s weekly staff meeting involved content planning for January and February, especially since our producer/coordinator extraordinaire Colleen Scheck will be taking maternity leave during this time. We try to identify people who can speak about potential topics of interest to us; we also try to determine what older programs we might rebroadcast during a certain week.
Our show with Pankaj Mishra has been on the short list for a potential repeat. In the final shakeout, “The Buddha in the World” remained for airing another month. But, with the mass killings in Mumbai, I wondered if this could be a helpful program even if it doesn’t directly address the militant factions who perpetrated these crimes.
In his conversation with Krista, he does provide a historical backdrop for Kashmir — having first traveled to the lush valley as a teenager and returning to the war-torn region as a journalist in 2000:
Mr. Mishra: I hope I made clear in the book how what may seem like completely unrelated journeys like going to Kashmir to find out about the political situation there, to find out about human rights violations there, to find out why 50,000 people have died in the last 10 years there, can be, in any way, related to a book about the Buddha or an exploration or the Buddha’s teachings.
But the fact that it’s these journeys, really, that made me think again about what the Buddha has to tell us today and also made me think, maybe, in more sort of analytical ways, about these assumptions that I, myself, as a journalist had, going into these places. Like when you go into a place like Kashmir, you go into a place like Afghanistan, what you’re really assuming is that what this place needs is a bit of democracy, a bit of, you know, nation-building of the kind we’ve already accomplished back in the West or in a place like India and everything will be fine. But what we don’t really understand is how these societies have lived, not just survived, but lived, even flourished, for centuries and centuries, and how they have arrived at their own particular forms of wisdom, their own particular forms of being together with many, many ethnic components. In the case of Kashmir, several religions coming together, several religions living together for…
Ms. Tippett: And you describe the first time you went there, that it was this incredibly peaceful place, also.
Mr. Mishra: It was, and it has been, I mean, remarkably peaceful for many centuries.
Ms. Tippett: Tranquil.
Mr. Mishra: I mean, the Islam that came to Kashmir was a sort of Sufi-inflected Islam. It was never a fundamentalist Islam. And of course, fundamentalist Islam is also a very, very modern phenomenon, so Kashmir wouldn’t have experienced that anyway. But they have this extremely tolerant variety of Islam there, which coexisted with the pre-existing Hindu and Buddhist traditions there for many centuries. And, once again, you have to ask yourself the question — and, I mean, it’s raising these questions which is important — why is it that Kashmir has become such a violent place in the last 50, 60 years? Why has this tradition, which is known for its great poetry and the beauty of its songs, the beauty of its architecture, why has it produced this horrible violence in the last 50 years? And only then, if you frame the question correctly, would you be able to see how this whole idea that we are going to modernize Kashmir, we are going to make Kashmir part of this new democratic nation-state of India. And, of course, they had a functioning economy. They had a functioning society, and suddenly it’s broken into by these foreign elements. And what do the Kashmiris do after several years? They take up arms. And they are, of course, supported by these radical Islamists in Pakistan and in Afghanistan who are also, in a way, suffering from the set of same phenomena.