Monday, May 24, 2010

‘I disagree what you say’

I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it

Naseer A Ganai
Someone has written:” Kashmir is a lovely place. We have bureaucrats which milk the system when they are in service...once retired, write for newspapers, spit on the same system blood of which runs their veins and veins of their children.”
Then he has mentioned names of two retired bureaucrats who write in newspapers. But the debate is not who writes what, where and when. The question is whether retired or serving government officials have no right to write anything.
Some argue that under service rules of JK Government they have no write to criticize the government and the government being their mai-baap they should always execute its orders with complete compliance. So, it is argued, even after their retirement they should pay homage to the government instead of commenting on its functioning beacuse they once served it.
But does it mean that whosoever enters into the government services loses his individuality, conscience, like we “pen pushers” lose when we join the second oldest profession in the world. That is journalism. First is prostitution.
The first thing about journalism in Kashmir, if at all it deserves to be called journalism, is that one learns how to lick the boots of State and, the powerful who run it.The State of Jammu and Kashmir is different. It has different history and culture. It has long history of oppression. And the State in the State of Jammu and Kashmir is monolithic entity. Its reach is really far reaching. No one understands it better than pen pushers masquerading journalists.Hence, they have sermon for everyone but not a comment on the State.
Journalism here is nothing, as it is elsewhere in India. It is all about, he said and he added. It is all about what sources said and what they predict. And in this kind of journalism, informed sources always reveal what the State wants them to reveal. It is all about what well placed sources perceive in the administration, police and security forces. It is all about telling people that Lord Jones is dead, who never knew that Lord Jones was alive. But does that mean ‘journalists’ here are incompetent lot and they don’t understand what is going on and what should be written and what shouldn’t be. They understand and know. But they have consciously decided not to write about the things which they perceive the State will not like. So they write what the State wants to hear and listen. That is: “all is well.” Some take moral high ground by writing against few entities of the State and thus try to give impression that they are taking on the State. It is termed as delusions of grandeur.
Years in journalism improves one’s analytical skills and the more senior you become, you write with such a precision about issues that one really feels that journalists are better judges to comment on social, political and economic issues.
Long back when in 2005 Khalid Hassan visited Srinagar, he presented such a picture of the city that I still shudder to think what has been made of Srinagar, the city having 2000 year old history.
He wrote: “There isn’t a sadder city than Srinagar...one of the most eerie experiences i have ever had was being driven in a car through the streets of city at around 10: 30 at night and finding them utterly deserted. Srinagar had turned into a ghost town. The city shits its doors soon after nightfall. All one came upon in the streets were packs of howling dogs that chased the car for varying distances and then gave up...Srinagar is ravaged city. It is also one of the most dusty cities that I have been to, which makes no sense because it is a city that lies beside one of the world’s most beautiful lakes and on either side of meandering Jhelum river. But the city has crumbled, Fifty seven years of conflict has taken their toll. There is no road in the Srinagar that is whole...” It was Khalid in 2005. He died in February 2009 in USA. The Government of India’s Urban Development Ministry declared the city as “dirtiest and dusty” in 2010.
The hard work of reporting years, experience of meeting different people and listening to them, reading, understanding issues, witnessing tragedies, killings, encounters-both fake and genuine, makes one a journalist. It gives him wider outlook to view things and comment upon it. He with ease talks about electricity, muddy roads, economics, and politics and people view the issues through his eyes. He becomes eyes and ears of people. But it might be true about other places. Here when we were asked to bend, we crawled. We acted and are acting as pen-pushers. This is our profession and we earn our living out of it. That is it. The idealism of Faiz and Jalib has no place here.
Many of our friends, colleagues who have been other side of the fence in 90s, jumped to this side when the State went after them. They switched their stand and become journalists. Nothing wrong with it. Everyone has right to be become a journalist. But they have audacity to call their metamorphosis as evolution but the irony is that they deny others the same right.
The accusation was that the retired people- some of them write so well, at least one of them in the instant case who is not nostalgic about his nostalgia- are writing against the State. That is lie. Here no one writes against the State. If sometimes it happens by defualt, it is called aberration as it never happens by design. There is no newspaper in the valley which will allow a writer to write what State doesn't like. Arthur Millar says a good newspaper is nation talking to itself. Have we one?
But having said that let me ask you a question. Has only journalists have this right to write whatever non-sense they want to write? Are others no body? Have 'other people' no opinion. No mind to think and analyse. Has God bestowed wisdom and knowledge to journalists alone that they consider themselves as Ashraful Makloqat and others Makloqat.
There is no denying of the fact that the academics in Kashmir don’t give damn to the writing on the issues. But is it not heartening that if in these sad times someone is writing on the issues and has ideas to express, he should be read and encouraged. Shouldn't he? Let he be criticized on what he has written not what he was.
Ours is a small place, here we know each other and we all have past. But that doesn’t mean we have no right to future. Let us write, let us all write and encourage good writing. Let us discuss the issues, issues of existence, of our survival, not history of men who write about the issues. Let us abide by what Voltaire says, “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fathers and sons

If you want to choke a debate, question someone’s ideology and political opinion, just do one thing, ask him what his children are doing and he will lose all his argument, whatever he may have.
This is old technique adopted by some people here who have opinion about nothing except people. They have been fairly successful in executing this archaic technique with new arguments. Often those who espouse pro-freedom cause and talk about right to self-determination and the independence are being posed these questions. Elsewhere, outside Kashmir those who talk about loot and plunder by the corporate giants in tribal areas are being accused of agents of foreign powers. They weave argument according to situation.
From Syed Ali Shah Geelani to Muhammad Yasin Malik, there is not a single pro-freedom leader who has not been chided for actions which have nothing to do with their ideology. Geelani has been asked not once but time and again what his sons have been doing over the years and what he has done for them. And Malik was literary hounded for marrying Mushaal.
There is no denying of the fact that people sacrifice themselves and everything dear to them for their respective ideologies and cherished dreams of freedom, liberation, independence, democracy, women rights, rights of tribal’s, secularism and human rights. There are people who devote their lives for these causes without knowing what happen to their children and family. Even they remained oblivion to what happen to them in personal life. They carried on. There are children who have immensely suffered due to the ideologies of their parents especially in Kashmir. In Kashmir you have hundreds of examples. The examples are in every lane and by-lane.
A father was killed here because his son was wanted militant. Son was killed here because his father was working for troops or it was perceived he was working for troops. People were killed on mere perceptions here. A sister was taken into custody for months together because her brother was wanted. Our trauma has no end.
Fathers and sons were killed because over the years this argument has percolated down that ideology of son can’t be different from the ideology of his father. That if son espouses cause of independent Kashmir, father might have played active role in convincing him about the truth of that cause.
It has been seen that the society and the State have denied personal freedom to the individual here. The State has gone after everyone who has had political opinion. It first ridiculed him, and when he refused to bend, it went after his family to crush him. The State has been fairly successful crushing individuals this way.
The society has never been sympathetic. Son here should marry in same gotra where his father wants him to be. Or daughter should not chose her partner herself, if she or he does so it is construed as sort of rebellion or betrayal in Kashmir.
So we should have sympathy for the people who pose questions of fathers and sons while debating political opinions. Because, they come from a society which even denies a freedom to chose a partner and a career to an individual here.
But the question is why ideology, political opinions and political goals should be made subservient to the actions of family members of the person having certain political ideology. Is it necessary for Geelani that his son should take oath on same thing which his father preaches day in and day out? Is it necessary for Malik that Mushaal should certify his political opinion of independent Kashmir and then it would be accepted as his political opinion? Is it? Do their opinions become valid only after they are certified by their relations? If this is so, then they are not subscribing to any ideology or opinion but to sham.
I think except in Kashmir, there might be no other place in the world where such bizarre questions are being posed and asked. They are being asked with the purpose. The purpose is to put the people having strong opinion about issues in defensive.
Sir Vidia Naipaul has no child and he has no regrets about the same. “No regret at not having children of my own. In fact, I would say it is constant cause for celebration for me. Take Graham Greene. When I was with him once he received a letter from his son. The son was ill, not seriously. But Greene’s whole face collapsed with concern at that letter. He said: you never lose this feeling for them no matter how old they get. I wouldn’t have wanted that,” says Naipaul.
Graham Greene was concerned and it was but natural. It is natural for us to be concerned about our loved ones. But at the same time actions of sons and relations of opinion makers have no relation with each other. You can’t bring relations in ideologies. They shouldn’t be used to contradict opinions of political leaders who have different opinion. Father’s ideology is not subservient to his son’s opinion and vice-versa. Let father have his goals and let son perceive different goals. This kind disagreement is necessary for growth of society. Otherwise we will be society of automatons.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

IAS and Conflict Resolution

Naseer A Ganai
Visit Dadsar Tral someday. In 1975 a young boy from the village was commissioned in the Army. His name was Muhammad Amin Naik. In 2008, Amin rose to become Major General in the Indian Army. The villagers speak high of him. They consider him as son of the soil who has done exceedingly well in his life.
However, the respect and love for Major General Naik has not brought any change in the mindset of people. They continue to be what they are: Kashmiris who look for solution of Kashmir dispute. There is reason why I say so. In 1990 armed insurgency erupted in Kashmir. From the village near about 100 joined the militancy. 50 have died in encounters. This happened despite one of them occupying high position in the Army.
In 1982, another person joined the elite club of Indian Administrative Service. His name was Khurshid Ahmad Ganai. Ganai was second topper in the Union Public Service Commission list that year. But does it made any impact on youth in Kashmir? In 1990 you had 1990 despite Ganai being second topper in 1982.
The IAS or for that matter Kashmir Administrative Services (KAS) should not be linked with conflict resolution. There are many people in Kashmir, who are averse to the overwhemling presence of non-Kashmiri bureaucrats in the State administration. They have different notion of resistance. Ironically, they see occupying top slots in the administration by Kashmiri Muslims as part of the resistance, never knowing that the administration is strongest arm of the state.
Over the past few years we have seen much activity from the senior Muslim officers of the State. They have been urging the youth to go for IAS and Kashmir Administrative Service. They call it real empowerment. They say, that too repeatedly, that if the youth fail to compete in the administrative services, there will be no other alternative for Kashmiris but to work as fourth class employees in the State’s administrative set up.
The perception is deep among Kashmiri civil servants who have over the years seen how non-State subject bureaucrats work in the State. They perceive them as biased and having myopic view of things.
These Kashmiri civil servants whether retired or serving, worked hard to motivate Kashmiri youth to compete in the competitive examinations. They made them believe that even in the given “adverse administrative atmosphere,” they can make it beacuse of their sheer talent. Shah Feasal topped the list and broke all myths about the incompetence of Kashmiri Muslim. It was message that Kashmiris can’t be pushed around. Showkat Parray rose from humble background and qualified the IAS. Thus proved that intelligence is not domain of any clan. The reaction in Kashmir particularly among the top officers to the UPSC results was overwhelming. They were happy.
There are reasons for it. First and foremost reason is Muslim presence in the State administration would continue even though it is meager. The second reason was it would prompt youth of Kashmir to compete in the exams and thus increase the number of Muslim in the administration which is dwindling.
To my mind there are various ways people here perceive resistance. Some concentrate on environment and they think its preservation is must and part of resistance. Some think that presence of Muslims in police and the administration could make difference to the people of Muslim majority State. Others perceive they can make change through their writings and Art. Others believe in hardcore politics, like separatists. So the qualifying of Muslim Kashmir in IAS could be seen as assertion Kashmiri identity which majority of Kashmiris perceive is under attack.
But it couldn’t be linked with conflict resolution. That would be what Prof Gul Wani of Political Science Department Kashmir says “far fetched.” “Let us give Ghulam Nabi Azad, Farooq Abdullah, Saif Din Soz, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed cabinet berths and top ministerial portfolios, will it make any change in Kashmir,” he asks. “It won’t.” “Then how come an IAS officer is going to change 60 year old polity of State,” he asks. He says Mufti Muhammad Sayeed was Home Minister of India and Mufti is always reluctant to talk about this very chapter of his life.
So to conclude, I will borrow quote from Prof Abdul Gani Bhat. Bhat when asked about Omer Abdullah’s advent into State politics some eight years back, he said “sun has long set on Kashmir, son rise or son set will not make any difference to it.” So let us talk about the resolution of Kashmir dispute instead of perceiving IAS selection as resolution in itself.