Sunday, September 4, 2011

Why ‘apolitical’ flights to Srinagar never take off

Why ‘apolitical’ flights to Srinagar never take off

Naseer A Ganai

Don’t ask question to anyone who wants to talk about Kashmir? That is a lesson from Harud.

Here they were asked some questions and they got so frightened that they described mere act of asking questions as an act of “sabotage” and in a way labeled all those who asked questions as “saboteurs.”

They even have names for them “Nelsonian vision.” Then they quote “another friend” and say that “Kashmir has turned from war economy to intellectual economy.” It is another matter that they forget themselves and the “another friend” whom they quote.

They went on and say that some of those who asked questions are not from Kashmir. So, they concluded, that they have no right to speak on Kashmir. Henceforth, they will ask a person residing in district Srinagar not to speak about Kupwara. You were enjoying in Srinagar when we were suffering in Kupwara. You don’t know anything about Kupwara. You shut your mouth, you hypocrites.


In this world, musicians, film actors, authors boycott festivals as “matter of conscience.” They promise they will return “if all are welcome” in your shows. Here they went to town to say that he is not coming about whom they earlier reportedly propagated that he is coming, he is coming.

Here only questions were asked. At other places they boycott such shows and they argue why they boycott. They don’t even ask questions.

English musician Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, who performed in the Jewish-Arab cooperative village of Neveh Shalom five years ago, calls fellow artists to boycott Israel.

Waters says in his arguments that Israelis "pay lip service to the idea that they want to make peace with the Palestinians, and they sort of talk around the possibility of a two-state solution, but in the meantime they're throwing people out of their homes in the Negev, in east Jerusalem. They're annexing huge parts of the West Bank. So all this talk is they're quietly getting on with taking over the whole of the land, and what happens then to the Palestinians?”

“And I'm really concerned about that, as was my father, interestingly enough. My father taught at St. George's School in Jerusalem from 1936 to 1938 and was very concerned even then, before the war, before the Holocaust, before all of that, about what was going on in Palestine. He died fighting the Germans in 1944."

He is not alone.

In May 2010 Elvis Costello cancelled a scheduled performance in Israel as a matter of "conscience." He wrote on his website: "There are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act ... and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent...I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security." . "I hope it is possible to understand that I am not taking this decision lightly... It is a matter of instinct and conscience."

So was it not a genuine to ask that why the festival in Kashmir was branded as “apolitical”. Is not participating in apolitical festival a political statement? Whatever you speak in apolitical festival, you talk about tragedies, human rights violation, anything under earth, but by being part of apolitical festival you have already stated your position. That all these things are apolitical including mass graves, killings, torture and your migration from Kashmir as well.


In spite of boycott to Israel, large number of artists, authors and musicians went to Israel and participated in the function over there. They still go.

A British author McEwan this year criticized policies of the Israeli State when the Israeli President was in audience and he got standing ovation from all including the President.

“His high-powered audience, which included the nation's president and the mayor of Jerusalem, responded in an unexpected way: They gave him a warm ovation, ecstatic that the renowned writer had even agreed to show up,” says a news report.

See how show up is important.

"If I only went to countries that I approve of, I probably would never get out of bed," McEwan said. "It's not great if everyone stops talking."

Boycott activists say, "When people come to Israel, it gives a false sense of business as usual… As long as this atmosphere goes on, the Israeli public will not be motivated to change things.”

Anyway, those who go to Israel have arguments in favour of going to Israel. They have belief in their arguments. They have conviction that they are right. So they go and participate.

But here situation is different. Those who organized and cancelled the show had no arguments. It seems they don’t know why they wanted to organize it in Srinagar, and why they cancelled it. That is why they were baffled when asked why? And in response they started hurling intellectual abuses.


Leave arguments aside, they had not even answers to few questions. They found escape route in cancelling the show and then start tirade against those wrote on the subject. They invented ghosts who threatened them and abused them during broad day light. By this they portrayed people who asked some questions in different light. That they want no one should talk in Kashmir except them. That is sad.


Here no write up or comment was posted that blamed the organisers of Harud festival, who are well known writers, for being responsible for policies of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Government of India. It would have been na├»ve to blame them for the same. They were asked simple questions but they were so engrossed in not changing their “apolitical political position” that they failed to provide answers to the one-liners. They could have invited people who shot and signed a letter to them for a debate in New Delhi before going to Srinagar. At least their addresses were there. They were not hard to locate.

That would have cleared the air. But they were so eager to catch Srinagar flight that in their eagerness they forgot that no “apolitical flight” has gone to Srinagar since 1947. Planes of such names even don’t take off. If at times they do, air in Srinagar smell politics in their apolitical politics and doesn’t welcome them as, we all know, air here has been always political and stressful. And it grounds all Srinagar bound ‘apolitical’ planes along with their passengers and crew.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In times of ‘normalcy’ related deaths

Naseer A Ganai

Taking a walk on the banks of Dal Lake is a sign “of peace and normalcy” in Kashmir.” And promenade of tourists on the boulevard is assurance of peace. Last year Prinyanka Chopra’s forays in dusty Down Town too were construed as a symbol of peace. What followed the visit, we all know.

Death of people in road accidents is also a sign of peace. It is nothing but normalcy-related deaths, which is being given wide coverage. At the end of the year, they tell us that more people die in road accidents than militancy-related incidents. Hence normalcy has returned to Kashmir. Instead of doing something serious to stop road accidents, they seem to be busy to count the number of deaths and injured in road accident for the larger interest of peace and normalcy.

In broad day light, a man was shot dead in the Lal Chowk. But authorities proudly declared it as normalcy-related death. Means, in times of normalcy a civilian can be shot dead near press enclave, few meters away from police gypsy.
The State Government, Central Government and its scores of agencies have been over the years so obsessed with their own definition of normalcy and peace that they do everything under the sky to ensure their “peace” prevails.

The Section 144 has been in force for years on the Srinagar streets and elsewhere to ensure that more than five people do not assemble. The Government fears that any assembly other than J&K Assembly is not healthy for democracy. The assembly of people has potential to infect democracy and there are chances of it getting diarrhea. That will make the whole democratic journey a long one given the condition of our roads and scarcity of loo’s along the highways.

So, for smooth running of democracy only selected-cum-‘elected’ members of the State Assembly should assemble in the House to talk about their own household matters. They usually talk about where their children should get placement and who else should get selected through recruitment agencies. They also discuss matters like which contractor should get which contract and which rich person should get land under Roshni.
And once they conclude the important session, the media announces that the Assembly functioned smoothly. And a number of bills were passed for the benefit of society including bill to increase salary of sitting and former legislators.
The bill, the radio newsreader says, was passed after a long debate in which the learned legislators stated that as long as legislators get fairly good amount of salary, there will be less chances of corruption in the society. Society means MLAs, MLCs, their daughters and sons, bureaucrats and their chamchas. Now the society also includes panchs and sarpanchs. Peace depends upon the wealth of ‘society’.

For people other than ‘society’, there are laws, big eyes, ears and long hands of the State.
The State authorities keep big eye on everyone who writes on Facebook. And it is all ears to who talks what and with whom on mobile. Their peace seems so fragile that they think it will be in tatters if someone posts something on his Facebook wall.

They fear that peace would go extinct in Kashmir if a boy tells his girlfriend on phone that he has lost peace of mind since she has started dating another boy. And that he would do anything to stop her another date. They think his activity could be a potential threat to peace and stability of Kashmir and in fact South Asia. And in order to ensure violence-free subcontinent they ensure he does not indulge in any stop-dating activity.
Thousands of people across the valley are craving for passport. However, the Government fears that once Kashmiri youth would get the passport, they will directly land either in Gulf or in any Western Country. There, they think, they will get audience of Amir-e-Qatar who will hug them and criticise India on human rights.

The state Government fears that in the United States of America, once Anjelina Joli will look at Kashmiri boy she will abruptly leave Brad Pitt and stay with him. She will then go for the campaign on Kashmir around the United States and get huge press coverage. In order to stop Angelina from falling for Kashmiri boy and taking up Kashmir cause, the Government prempts the whole plot by denying passport to the youth.
There are other fears. And they seem to be genuine in this age of technology. A 24-year old is being told that some 20 years ago his brother was militant and has died. This makes him ineligible for the passport. The thinking minds in the administration believe after getting passport, he would get direct access to the place where all dead are buried and then he will start talking to them. There are hundred percent chances that he might get information from the dead whether his brother got killed in genuine or fake encounter. Hence section 144.

However, the section that restricts the assembly of four people, has not prevented burglars to carry their worthy activities of robbing people during night. Even those residing in the Housing Colonies, conceived by illiterate land brokers with active support of learned clerks of SDA and SMC, complaint about surge in thefts and burglaries. The shopkeepers leave their shops in the evening as worried people praying for burglary-free nights ahead. People get depression by worrying about where to park their cars. Some have even sold their cars due to this worry. They fear if their car is stolen, where they will go to lodge a complaint.

At a time when police is busy in organising cricket matches and preparing ground for the big tournaments, there is no one with whom they could register a complaint about stolen cars. Not that by registering a complaint it will come back. But by registering an FIR there are chances of getting insurance money.

But peace in the cricket ground and the cricket has far greater significance than your complaint. It indicates that relations between the cricket playing kids and the organisers are at its best and it is an assurance to the world that it can sleep peacefully.

The State has arguments as well. The State authorities argue at length about arm-chair intellectuals, journalists and writers and accuse them of bringing abnormality to the State. They accuse them that they by their writings they ensure that situation should not remain peaceful in Jammu and Kashmir. They accuse the writers of being beneficiaries of the uncertain conditions in Kashmir. And they forget themselves.
It happens in places where state actors think that they are the state. They get the feeling that it is they who talk sense and all others are talking non-sense.

Nothing happens because of writers. Had writers been running the world, the United States and its billions of dollars should have preserved Iraq forever for the United States. So much was written on the American democracy in Iraq and the benefits of US soldiers patrolling the streets of Iraq, that too by the thousands of well-read, highly-educated writers on Iraq that the number of their write-ups exceeds population of Iraq. But that didn’t change perception on the ground in streets of Basra and Bagdhad.

Same is the case of Afghanistan. There is so much written material available on benefits of America's Afghan war for Afghans that if it is burnt in the streets of Kabul, it is suffice for Afghans to roost chickens on it for next ten years. But that didn’t change anything. The reality and perceptions of the people don’t change by writings, articles and Facebook posts. In a place where scars are deep, hearts are wounded and mind is in tumultuous State due to injuries and insults, write ups, articles, don’t matter. The Chief Minister Omar Abdullah didn’t quote write-ups in the State Assembly to say that Kashmir is an international dispute. He quoted historical facts. And historical facts don’t change by indulging in frivolous activities. It is the time to talk about resolution of what Omar referred to "an international issue" instead of finding normalcy in accident-related deaths.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Far away lyrics

Knowing the consequences of menace like stone pelting (which ironically finds some defenders far away from where it actually happens) he should sure have refrained from making it a point of discussion: Ajaz-ul-Haq in GK

Naseer A Ganai
In Kashmir a new argument is gaining ground. The argument is that those who are not at the ground zero have no right to talk about what is going on at the ground zero. Either they have to be part of the happenings or they should keep their mouth shut. The language is clear. Come and pelt stones if you are defending them from far away or be silent. You do not know its consequences.
Interestingly only the phenomenon of stone pelting is what this discourse is being applied and repeatedly applied upon.

If the same logic is applied to other countries and other conflict areas then Jews living in Russia, United States of America or in Eastern Europe should not talk about the state of Israel at all. They have no right to talk about the policies of Israel as they did not migrate to Israel. They have no right to discuss and lobby for the policies of Israeli State in the United States of America and other places. If they care for Israel they have to be in Israel or else they should maintain silence.
The same way, Palestinians living in exile in Jordon, Syria, Egypt for past five decades should just keep mum and should not talk about Palestinian cause. Why they left Palestine in the first place. They should not have. They should have remained in Gaza. No person who is not in Gaza should write and talk about Palestine. No one should pen some lines in support of Palestine from New York. How can they? They are in New York and Palestine is Middle East. How could they feel pain of Palestine while living in New York!
The Non Resident Indians should not talk about politics in India. They are not on the ground zero. They are in cozy houses in much securer United State of America. They cannot understand pain and agony of Indian masses. They cannot understand poverty. And their theories would not mitigate the pain of common Indians. The money they send to mother country does not matter.
Many more examples could be cited. Afghans who for past three decades are living as refugees in Pakistan and Iran have no right to talk about what has befallen their motherland. They should not be part of the debate about present happenings in Afghanistan and its future. And why should they. They were the people who fled away when Russian tanks entered Kabul three decades ago. They were the first to leave in 2001 when George Bush declared war on Afghanistan with the war bugle of "either be with us or you are against us". Only those have the right to talk about Afghanistan, who are in Helmand, Kabul and Kandhar. Rest have no business there. Is it necessary for an Afghan to be in Kabul to talk about Kabul? Is it necessary to be politician to talk about politics? Is it indispensable to be a militant to talk about militancy? Is it necessary to be a cop to talk about police? Writers rip institutions apart, they devour politicians with their writings, they make mockery of leaders still they never have been part of the politics. Can you isolate stone pelting or militancy or presence of armed forces or armed forces special powers act from politics? They are part of Jammu and Kashmir’s six decades long politics. You cannot isolate them from politics of Jammu and Kashmir. You cannot isolate stone pelting and condone a person who is against it and condemn the one who is for it on the criterion of distance of the speaker from the ground zero. That is no criterion to judge the argument.
If you do not have argument to counter the argument, then you should talk about something else. Instead of passing a judgment that you cannot write about the ground zero while being far away from it.

Accept the reality that you do not have an argument instead of denying one the right to write about his mother place. Those people who have been out of Kashmir have always been part of this society and this place. They equally feel pain of Kashmir as you and I who are here in the thick of things. Do not deny them the right of being Kashmiris. They have equal right to talk about the things happening in Kashmir as you and I have. We must learn to debate and argue on the basis of arguments rather than measuring the distance from which a speaker is speaking. Scores of intellectuals in New Delhi, Kolkotta, and Chennai talk and write about Kashmir. They are not Kashmiris. Still they have been vociferous about the Kashmir cause. But instead of appreciating their argument or condemning their argument, we have started a different exercise. That is to see what they select for their children and where their wards study. If this is the level of our debate then God save us. Yes we have every right to question articles and write ups but we have no right to condemn people on the pretext of their present address and school address of their children.