Ajaz questions the quality of Kashmiri leadership who measure success by the amount of blood spilled on streets, rather than by accomplishments and societal gains. Fayyaz, as discussant, extends the argument that Kashmiri leadership is increasingly irrelevant as people lose enthusiasm for hartal politics
(Mr. Ajaz ul Haque, 40, was born in Srinagar. He completed his school and college education in South Kashmir. He is presently on the faculty as Producer in the University of Kashmir Educational Multimedia Research Centre (EMRC), and a columnist for the Greater Kashmir. In leisure time he enjoys reading.
Mr. Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, 48, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master’s degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. After working with Rashtriya Sahara and Kashmir Times in 1993-94, and later for 13 years as Srinagar Bureau Chief of Daily Excelsior, he is woking as Resident Editor/ Srinagar Bureau Chief of Jammu-based English daily Early Times since April 2009. He is also a filmmaker whose forte in audio-visual media is Kashmir’s composite culture, heritage, ecology and social issues. Since February 2008, he has been regularly anchoring Take One Television’s bi-weekly hard talk show “Face To Face With Ahmed Ali Fayyaz” which is watched by more than three million viewers in Srinagar, Jammu and other urban areas of Jammu & Kashmir.)
We Lose Life to Make Lungs Stronger
As calm seems to return, the question that one encounters is this. `What have we achieved after five months of shutdown’? Answers vary. Some incorrigible pessimists, (me included), put it as a pure loss. A hundred odd losing their lives, hundreds more their limb, thousands their job, thousands more their property. This way it frankly appears to be a simple case of subtracting people from people, property from property. In an equation like this, saints may foresee a profit in the ages to come, ordinary mortals see it as an accident that can logically result in loss only. It can have nothing to offer but a sense of deprivation and a craving to get back what we have lost. There is a counter-response to the question and that comes from some unswerving optimists who see hope even in the desert of hopelessness. They have a plausible point to base their argument on. They believe that it didn’t all go waste. It `highlighted’ the Kashmir issue at international level. It, they believe, shook India to the marrow. It mobilized a public opinion in favour of Kashmir. Since they didn’t suffer on any count, they are left to count the `blessings’ of a collective perversion that defines us as a nation.
No issues to join with them. Yes, may be these lives bear us fruit in the future and hope they do. Just a simple and straight question. Hypothetically speaking, if just one more death is required to see India out, who amongst us will choose to offer himself. Presume that only one more injury and we are free, whose body is to be selected for this `bliss’. If losing just one more job banishes India, who will be singularly sacrificing his job to make that happen? Will those, who seem to be gleeful about `highlighting’ Kashmir, have a bit to offer from their side? We will always love to borrow a fall-guy whose sacrifice can buy us the freedom we desire for ourselves. This chronic habit of seeing a martyr in a neighbour’s house has not gone and will not go.
Now the debate. Yes Kashmir has been in focus all these months for the simple reason that it made news. Even a calamity-hit region hogs the headline and invites media attention, but who will bring home a disaster to attract spotlight. No dispute, that Indian military occupation in Kashmir is responsible for all the violence and mayhem. No second thoughts, that state crushed a popular resistance by force. No denying, that police mowed down the voices of dissent on the roadside as brutally as it has done in the past. But why do we use this huge monster of state oppression as a fig-leaf to cover our own nakedness. Our blood is not that cheap to be offered for a mere news coverage even if it’s global. Nothing is worth the life of an ordinary human being. What we feel so triumphant about must be the moment of a devastating grief for all of us.
Truth has stung us always. Our failure or success painfully depends on the amount of blood spilt in the streets. What worries us, paradoxically, is not a life lost, but a life saved. Pity the nation whose people stay relevant as long as its streets are drenched in blood. The day stains are washed off, their relevance comes under question.
A parable to sum up. A character in a fiction churns out a unique poisonous substance which, if consumed, makes lungs stronger. His dangerous innocence sees it as a wonder drug since it rejuvenates an organ, no matter it ends the whole being. He offers it to his friend, gives him a hope and a caution along. `Take it, your lungs will grow stronger, but don’t mind it will kill you first’.
If an act `highlights’ Kashmir, but in the process, decimates us as a people, can we afford to lose our life to make our lungs stronger.
Kashmir columnists begin to question Geelani’s ‘obduracy’ versus the last Intifada death gets farther, scribes brace up to raise questions
Srinagar: As both, September 6th (when J&K Police and CRPF left five dead and nearly a dozen injured in an attack on the newly appointed IGP S M Sahai’s cavalcade at Palhalan) and September 13th (when 18 persons fell to bullets while demonstrating against a disputed incident of the desecration of holy Quran in USA) are fading out into the history, a small number of scribes and columnists have begun to raise questions with regard to five-month-long shutdown and stone pelting.
For five hot months of the year, hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani has bagged the credit of a mass mobilisation that, many believed, brought New Delhi literally on the ground over Kashmir. The octogenarian showed no mood of sharing the credit of Intifada-2010 with anybody in the Valley’s separatist camp—not even with die-hard Massarat Alam and Asiya Andrabi.
He enjoyed similar command and confidence even in Intifada-2008 when he publicly humiliated fellow icons of the “freedom struggle”, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik. Without paying any attention to the eagerly waiting ‘Azadi comrades at the 50,000-strong Tourist Reception Centre rally, Geelani yelled as many as 10 times: “ham Pakistani hain, Pakistan hamara hai” (We are for Pakistan, Pakistan is for us). He signed off the event and left the dais without even shaking hands with the young Mirwaiz, whose father held Pakistan’s banner high in the worst of times when Geelani served in the Indian legislature, and Malik, whose JKLF pioneered the armed struggle in 1987-88.
Shedding of tears by the “moderate” duo resulted in a small healing touch. Word of caution and advice of sharing some space with the colleagues poured on to Hyderpora from unknown quarters. Within an hour Geelani called media to his home to rectify “an error”. Adding insult to injury, Hurriyat’s Big Brother played down his 7-minute-long episode of “only me” as “a slip of the tongue” (Sibgat-e-Lisaani). This year around, he got a bigger suppliant in Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who sent his high profile envoy to win the detained separatist icon’s blessings at the Cheshma Shahi jail hut.
Even after his release, Geelani neither listened to Mirwaiz Umar’s advice of moderation not shared the “stage of unity” with him at Eidgah on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr, on September 11th. Much like Sheikh Abdullah, Geelani has not shown the trait of sharing credit. Now that the Ragda— colloquial phrase for the crass form of resistance— is over and nobody has died on Kashmir’s streets for Azadi in the last two-and-a-half months, Geelani is singularly at the receiving end of public criticism. He has been firmly arguing that 111 civilian deaths in the five-month-long stone pelting and shutdown have “highlighted the Kashmir dispute” for the world.
One of the widely read columnists, who also teaches at University of Kashmir and has never hesitated to wear his pro-freedom credentials, writes in an op-ed piece in a leading Srinagar daily on Sunday: “Yes Kashmir has been in focus all these months for the simple reason that it made news. Even a calamity-hit region hogs the headline and invites media attention, but who will bring home a disaster to attract spotlight. No dispute, that Indian military occupation in Kashmir is responsible for all the violence and mayhem. No second thoughts, that state crushed a popular resistance by force. No denying, that police mowed down the voices of dissent on the roadside as brutally as it has done in the past. But why do we use this huge monster of state oppression as a fig-leaf to cover our own nakedness. Our blood is not that cheap to be offered for a mere news coverage even if it’s global. Nothing is worth the life of an ordinary human being. What we feel so triumphant about must be the moment of a devastating grief for all of us”.
“Truth has stung us always. Our failure or success painfully depends on the amount of blood spilt in the streets. What worries us, paradoxically, is not a life lost, but a life saved. Pity the nation whose people stay relevant as long as its streets are drenched in blood. The day stains are washed off, their relevance comes under question”, he adds.
One hundred bereaved families, out of 111, have so far taken home ex-gratia relief of Rs 5 Lakh each in just weeks of the local newspapers highlighting them as the ones who were ready to sacrifice other of their sons for Kashmir’s Azadi. Much like in 2008, there are now traffic jams of the days of “civil curfew” called by Geelani. The other day only, he alleged that commercial transporters had been “purchased by the government”. All government offices and educational institutions remain open and most of the shopkeepers now defy the call for shutdown, of course, without making it a public statement of India’s victory or Hurriyat’s defeat. This has brought confidence back to the scribes who were known for their cynicism and pessimism towards the separatist leadership, though not essentially entire separatist movement.
Shooting salvo after salvo on Geelani— left, right and center— editors of two local newspapers—one in Urdu, another in English— have not only blasted Geelani in their own dailies, but have also made a well-circulated vernacular weekly their platform of attacking the separatist hawk and his methodology of carrying forward “Kashmir’s freedom movement”. Last week, Geelani called a full-length press conference to admonish his detractors, inviting them for a public debate over Intifada-2010 but only to the place of his choice.
“These writers have never penned a word against the atrocities done by Indian forces. We are fully aware of their history, geography and friend circle”, Geelani said about the critics while invoking the cliché insinuation of their being “India’s paid agents”.
Unlike the author of the op-ed piece, Geelani has an advantage over the weekly ‘Chattaan’ columnists. Both, alongwith the editor, have been part of two-decade-long ideological crusade against Jamaat-e-Islami, Hizbul Mujahideen and Pakistan.