Naseer A Ganai
Paul Theroux in his book The Great Railway Bazaar gives this picture of drought hit Sri Lanka in 1970: “The current harvest was a failure, chillies were unobtainable, and the from the train I could see breadlines- hundreds of listless people in misshapen queues, waiting with empty baskets.” Then he says “It struck me practically insane in a country that was starving to death that thirty people should choose to attend a three-day seminar on American literature at which I would be principle speaker. I had not counted on the resourcefulness of the America embassy; when the seminar got underway I saw my alarm was pointless. The clever man who supervised the seminar had assured me there would be 100 per cent attendance, and this method was not very different from the family planner in India who gives a new transistor radio to every male who agrees to vasectomy. Here on the hungry Island of Ceylone, the American literature seminar included three huge meals, high tea, a free room in the New Orient Hotel in Galle, and all the whisky you could drink. Little wonder it was all attended.”
The Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Foundation organized a seminar ironically at Sheri Kashmir International Convention Centre in Kashmir. It was also well attended. The Foundation had brought masons, carpenters, labourers from Central district Kashmir Budgam with a promise of high tea and food at hotel Centuer. M.G Akbar delivered lecture on Islam, Indian Muslims and Pakistan. That idea of Pakistan is weaker than that of Pakistan. That Idea of India is stronger than the India. That India should grow at eight percent not only eight percent should grow. That India can’t grow without growth of Muslims. Interestingly whenever he uttered the name of Pakistan audience clapped.
He was followed General (Retired) V.P Malik. General Malik talked about China and Pakistan. He said that India should weary of China. Malik apprehended that as China grows economically it would start asserting itself. Riyaz Punjabi the vice-chancellor of University of Kashmir called for interaction between peoples of India and Pakistan. Tarun Vijay, founder chairman of the Mookerjee foundation described Punjabi as representative of Indian Ethos in Kashmir. There was no question answer session except brief interaction with journalist after lunch was served to hungry participants at 2: 15 p.m.
But why should have been there questions, who would have asked them. The audience was more concerned about the tea and lunch than listing to speakers. They were trying to see reason why they were brought here and except food they would see no reason. Thus, they would frequently enter into argument with the managers of the conference that why the food is not being served to them. Finally, lunch time was declared there was huge queue waiting for only vegetarian food. Some were disappointed over the vegetarian food but they were so hungry and they had no other choice.
First, why the function was organized in Kashmir after five decades? Mookerjee, as rightly stated by professor in Political Science Department of Kashmir University Gul Muhammad Wani, represents forced integration of the State of Jammu and Kashmir with the Indian Union. He challenged the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir State. And at time when National Conference is in power and seeks restoration of autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir State, why the function was allowed to organize in Kashmir and that too in Sheri Kashmir Convention Centre.
It seems seminar was organized to test the waters. The organizers were not bothered about the audience but about the reaction in Kashmir. Next year the BJP is going to organize it on bigger scale to frighten Kashmiris that India believes in Mookerjee’s ideology and Kashmiris have to accept this. Many of the speaker later interacting with journalists cited examples of China anf Pakistan saying “look how benevolent we are. We didn’t went for demography change as China did in Xinjiang.” This is the mindset.
Now let us presume organizers had good intention to start dialogue with Kashmiri youth as stated by Tarun Vijay. If it was so then why the bused audience, who were more interested and eager to have interaction with food than the ideas? Why seminar was announced only some hours before?
It seems the organizers of the seminar knew that educated class in Kashmir would beat any argumentative Indian in any field now. The Indians no longer would beat Kashmiris with ideals of democracy, liberalism, justice. Kashmiris have over the years seen them all. The hypocrisy of Indian educated upper and lower middle class. They see every day how Indian state translates ideas of democracy and justice on ground in Kashmir. That is why the organizers zeroed in on specific audience. The audience to whom English was Greek and food, and Centaur view was paramount. Long live democracy. Had someone shouted slogan of ham kia chatae there, Taurn Vijay would have got shock of his life. Even the bused audience would have shouted Azadi instead of peace.
In 2005 Congress organized a rally at the Sheri Kashmir Park Srinagar. The Congress leader Khem Lata Wakloo asked Congress workers to respond to her slogans. She raised slogan Ham Kia Chatae, congress workers shouted back: Azadi. Thrice she repeated her slogan reminding the workers that they should say peace. Thrice the workers disappointed her. They continued to shout Azadi. Finally Taj Mohideen, present Minister in Omar’s cabinet, forced Wakloo to sit down.
Tarun says he got audience from the University of Kashmir. Someone should remind him that next day students protested in the University campus seeking dismissal of the vice-chancellor for participating in Mookerjee seminar.