Kashmiris need to be heard, not abused and kicked; SAHMAT on National Street Theatre day


Bare facts to Kashmir!

I have just switched off the idiot-box. Can no longer cope viewing shots of military-might over a civilian population. It gets much too un-nerving to view. Nostalgia overpowering, I recall in the early 1990s when the militancy had first taken off in the Valley, human rights activists together with writers and journalists had traveled to the Valley not just to document horrifying violations but also to cry halt to the State unleashed killings. But today there seems an uneasy quiet spreading around. Except, of course, in the television studios where the so-called ‘experts’ of the day come out with outrageous violent options. They haven’t even taken the trouble of seeing the ground realities in the Valley, yet they talk so very unashamedly of using military force against the civilian population. Have you ever heard of revolts getting crushed by the boot! Why aren’t we talking of the political solutions?

It’s time the masses of this country should be made aware of the ‘whys’ to this turmoil, to the ongoing unrest in the Valley, to those uncontrollable cries for Azadi.

Barring historians and social scientists, the rest of India or even the world has no clue that the State of J&K has a definite historical backgrounder to it. There’s been an ongoing haze to the recent history to this dtate. Why? Facts and relevant factors seem to have been deliberately buried cum bypassed or not allowed to come up by vested political interests. The late journalist, Ajit Bhattacharjea, had told me during the course of an interview, “People tend to forget that Jammu & Kashmir cannot be treated like any other state. It acceded to India on October 27, 1947, on the condition of being given internal autonomy. Though Muslims were in a majority, they supported accession and helped Indian troops resist Pakistan. But gradual erosion of the state's autonomy planted the seeds of alienation. Now, of course, the situation is messed up, so much so what Pakistan couldn't do in the last so many years, the fascist forces of India have done!”

I have before me historian G.M.D. Sufi’s two volumes titled Kashir - Being A History of Kashmir, From The Earliest Times To Our Own (Capital Publishing House). They carry details to the varying aspects related to the Kashmir region, right from its initial history to its geographical patterns to its arts and culture. But the volumes end around the Partition phase.

It’s about time Kashir volumes be revised, upgraded, updated, to the present day. Historian G.M.D. Sufi is long dead. Young historians should be given this charge. Let me add this forewarning: No hiring or recruiting of historians with right-wing political slants or biases. Why? For then, there’ll be every possible chance of facts getting twisted or diluted along political dictates. After all, today even roads are in the process of getting re-named, along the typical Right Wing strains that too many roads are named after Muslim rulers. Hopefully names and surnames of Muslim rulers are not taken off from historical books of J&K.

Books and volumes should be published, fitted with the crucial historical facts, so that we know the exact details to the very history of the State of J&K. If the historical haze gets somewhat cleared, there’d be a better understanding cum connect. Today the situation is such that anyone who chants the word Azadi is looked at with suspicion, if not booked! I fail to understand why do we jump at the very word ‘Azadi’!

Transparency could also help in the dialoguing process. To quote this one-liner of the Pakistan based physicist Parvez Hoodbhoy, “Its better to jaw-jaw than to war-war.” When I had met him (several years back he had come to New Delhi for the screening of his film on the conflict-related disasters in the Kashmir region) he’d told me during the course of an interview, “As a physicist, I try to understand the physical world in terms of science. As a social activist, I try to convince others that resolving conflicts peacefully is essential if we are to sustain human civilization in an age where science has created terrible weapons. Kashmir is one example of a terrible and needless conflict that has consumed tens of thousands of lives, caused immense human suffering, and could be the cause of a devastating nuclear war.” He’d also said that the very reason for his making the film was to bare the stark truth. To quote him,“I made this documentary film, together with my friend Zia Mian of Princeton University, to show people in Pakistan that there is a side to this conflict other than the one that my government chooses to show. And, similarly, to show Indians what horrific violence their government has inflicted upon the people of Kashmir… There have been positive changes. After years of lobbing artillery shells at each other across the LOC, the guns are finally silent. Just think from the point of view of a villager who lives in those areas. What a wonderful change that must be! Its true that there is no real change of heart on either side. But it is still good that Pakistan and India keep talking to each other even if nothing comes out of the talks. As someone said, better to jaw-jaw than war-war.”

And in the recently launched book on the life and times of the Jammu-based editor-journalist the late Ved Bhasin (Vedji & His Times –Kashmir: The Way Forward. Selected Works of Ved Bhasin, edited by Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal) there’s this full chapter titled, Jammu and Kashmir: Road Map for Dialogue, where this veteran journalist has listed several CBMs (Confidence Building Measures) which could prepare a ground for dialoguing to take off. However, there’s also a note of caution, “It needs to be emphasized that there can be no ‘peaceful negotiated Settlement’ of Kashmir without the full and active participation of all sections of the people of Jammu and Kashmir living on both sides of the divided line. No solution should be imposed on the people of J&K and it should emerge through a process of multilevel dialogue.”


Last fortnight on the National Street Theatre day, as I watched three plays staged by Delhi’s young on the premises of SAHMAT, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the college-goers are aware of the political tactics that are on to hoodwink and con the masses. These plays were stark in their portrayal of the political mess around, especially the play staged by Delhi University’s Kirori Mal College theatre group, The Players.

Perhaps, a large section of the young do realize the reality of the day yet their voices are either sabotaged or quietened by the political mafia. Tell me why is it that these plays are not enacted every day of the week? In a democracy, street plays should be the very happening ‘thing’ at each roundabout of our cities and towns. But it isn’t so! Hopelessness hits as you and I are made to sit in one tight corner in that apologetic way or attacked either on social media or all along the highways. Several activists and students lament that the space is shrinking or usurped by the high-handed right-wing mafia, unleashed from every possible format and nook and corner, right from the television studios to the corridors of power.

Perhaps, all that the young need is that space to unleash their thoughts and opinions and anger at what’s been happening. With this in the background, let me stress that to ban social media in the so-called ‘troubled states’ would only drag along disasters of the worst kind. As it is, we are living in such a horrifying atmosphere where the K (Kashmir) or M (Musalmaans) or I (Islam) or the R (Refuge-seeker) words are looked upon with suspicion of the weirdest sorts!

In fact, just yesterday I was asked to introduce myself and I said rather aloud: “I’m a Musalmaan – Dalit, trying to survive in a Hindu Rashtra ruled by a bunch of pracharacks and maha-pracharaks. Lets see till about when I survive before I am lynched and murdered by the ruling political mafia, on any given pretext -- cow trader, beef consumer, triple-talaq giver or taker, azaan-lover, mosque-goer for namaaz!”

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