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.”
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