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They Brought Harud To My Voice

By Basharat Ali

02 September, 2011

Freedom of speech and expression must be respected. All agree with that but it takes a great deal to make things work accordingly. Kashmir has always stood out as an exception to all such freedoms. Here words like freedom, rights, and duties exist only in the law books. The conflict of last two decades has left no shade of opinion unaffected. Rich and poor all have born the brunt. Directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly, everyone has suffered at the hands of INDIA and PAKISTAN. The ghost of killings, disappearances, rapes, torture, has perhaps knocked at the doors of every Kashmiri family. The stories here are similar. There is not a much of difference in the sufferings. Every family has sacrificed for the cause in one way or the other.

We are caught at the centre of a strange “love-love-hate” situation. We are caught in between the Indian jackboots and our own radicals, between Indian ‘babus’ and Pakistani ‘rajas’. Some here want Pakistan, some complete independence, some self-rule and some others autonomy. We are lost in the multitude of theories. Our intellectuals have left too much for us to choose from. Our task uphill is a tough one. I hate India and Pakistan to the same degree on the scale of hatred. India for illegally occupying us and Pakistan for mocking at that illegitimacy. One considers us their integral part but discusses us in the heart of their enemy. Second considers us their jugular vein but fails see the pain strangulating that vain. Both the nations, caught in the internal battles though, hold on to the idea that Kashmir belongs to them. It is evident now, after scores of failed discussions, that none of them want a solution but a share. A share both of them can use and exploit.

Since the armed rebellion that erupted here some two decades ago multi-colored leaders have surfaced on the “solution” platform. Their enthusiasm, that excitement, gave us an impression that tomorrow is our day. That tomorrow is yet to come. The dawn of our free Kashmir is yet to crack. There are ample reasons why it happened. It happened because of the dichotomy of our leaders. It happened because we were never organized. It happened because of the factions we manufactured. It did happen because of our dishonesty, because we never stood by our words. Every such leader who won the centre stage committed blunders. From Abdulla’s to Geelani’s, from Mufti’s to Farooq’s to Lones every one has committed his share of disservice to the people of his nation. We Kashmir’s are bad students of history all together. From leaders to followers, historians to students, journalists to writers all failed to understand it. I believe ours is the most unfortunate generation. As always, my understanding of the history contradicts. It speaks of the gun culture and I talk about stones. It speaks of genocide and I talk about disappearances. It speaks about TADA and POTA and I talk about AFSPAand PSA. It speaks of ‘90’s matriculates’ and I talk about ‘50%syllabus’ graduates. It speaks of ‘hartals’ and curfews I talk about ‘chalos’ and shut downs. Every time I try to come hard, it bounces back with more impulse. Generations have come and gone. History is written, rewritten, read and unfortunately forgotten. Our past is our shadow at the present. We answered the clarion call of the then political patriarch; we continue to do the same. We are bad students of history all together.

The phase of armed rebellion was well neigh paled into insignificance in 2008. Stones were the new weapons. Stone pelting, the latest invention. With this invention there emerged something Kashmir had long desired for; the powerful English writing. With that English writing we witnessed the boom of blog formation and website development. Ideas whatever were post; rumors too. Writing has never been a problem here. We have had the best ofwriters and poets in the past. Those who wrote in Sanskrit, Persian, Kashmiri and many other languages obsolete these days but English had a lesser share. Books were written by our own people, appreciable and satisfactory. Thos who were born here and studied outside, in India, returned with solid pen. This new era ignited a hope in many young Kashmir’s. The threshold was enough to begin, platform was wide open.Then came the autumn, suddenly. The HARUD in Kashmiri.

“In the last decade or so, literary festivals have caught the imagination of writers and readers alike in South Asia. There are events in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal that are now well-attended and even command a certain snob value” writes an online news magazine. This month another such event was to be held. The venue, all time controversial, KASHMIR. While in other events people of all shades of opinion participated without any questioning but here they had a problem. The mere use of the word “apolitical” brought all the bad names to the organizers. The event came under strong criticism by our educated class-their representatives. Again we ignored the history of our mistakes. We ignored how we have been fooling ourselves all these decades.

If I’m to discuss and describe this “apolitical” nature of that event then it only means that the stance is apolitical and has no interference or influence of any political group. This word to me is meaningless. There is nothing apolitical in this world. All things are political in nature. All shows in India or abroad are in one way or the other driven by political interests. Venues have always had a political affiliation. But to my utter dismay I don’t share that opinion with my representatives. My voice therefore has no value, no
recognition. It has never had. My representatives challenged the nature of this event. “This may be a tactic to show the world that all is well in Kashmir”. The decision was enveloped and the fate was sealed. To all this my reaction was lower my head, close eyes, bite my lips and think. In my heart I mumbled, “this may be or this may not be”. If we allow this festival here it may be a mistake but after all mistakes are steps up the ladder. At the end of it I lost. I lost to my representatives. YES I LOST TO THE SCEPTICS. I lost to those deciding my fate from far off places. Yes I lost to those of my representatives who fortunately or unfortunately were born here, studied abroad and live abroad. Formation of committees on economic reforms, begging for funds for development, all this is not a problem to them but a literary festival is. If this event had taught me only a single word I would have been more than happy. Had it send any message to the world that all is well in Kashmir I would have never bothered. WHAT HAS THAT WORLD DONE TO US ALL THESE DECADES? How has the conflict affected them? It has not affected India, or Pakistan. The turmoil of last two decades has left thousands dead, orphaned, widowed, homeless, how has that affected any nation? The report on human rights violations, disappearances, killings and mass rape has had no impact on any nation. Though they condemned these acts in the strongest possible terms and showed their solidarity. The best they did was not more than the lip service.

Don’t they know all is not well in Kashmir? Still I lost. I lost an opportunity to discuss human rights violations, killings disappearances, rapes and torture. I lost an opportunity to discuss MASS GRAVES. I lost an opportunity to learn. Learn to read, to write, to understand and to discuss. All I lost it because my representatives comprehend all this will not be discussed. I lost it to pessimism endemic. I lost it to those who gazed at one side of the coin. At other places the discussions were a success but here they failed right at their birth.

Yes I have lost to the sceptics. People living in New York and London are not only happy but proud too. I lost to the 200 eloquent writers and journalists. They taught me how apart from India MY VOICE ISSILENCED BY MY REPRESENTATIVES TOO. I know the politics of all this. I call it the politics of OPPORTUNITY. THEY BROUGHT HARUD TO MY VOICE. All those who claim to be my representatives think of my Kashmir as a prostitute. They come, take her on from the back, satiate their lust and go back to rejoice in open societies. Kashmir is exploited and then left alone to suffer, to burn.

I therefore take myself out from such people who don’t even spare their mother. I’m not from amongst them. I quit their shadow, their ill-educated canvass. Call me a traitor. Stone me. Kill me. I won’t budge. want to live this HARUD. I support this Harud. I support this festival.

Basharat Ali Director of Srinagar based YOUTH PARLIAMENT OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR.Can be reached at darbasharat@gmail.com.




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