Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Of Muniward resident, Mufti Sayeed and Mehboob Beg

Naseer A Ganai 

A resident of Muniward village in Islamabad constituency often pulls his hair in frustration. And he blames pro-India politicians for it. Whenever this man sees Mehboob Beg and Mufti Muhammad Sayeed or come across their statements or mug shots in newspapers, he looses his cool. Their speeches and statements are unbearable to him. The other day, he asked his psychiatrist whether there is place where he can avoid these two real life characters. “Yes in the graveyard,” the doctor replied.

Hopeless, he went back to his village.

The case history of this 35-year-old man goes like this.

A decade ago, the Department of Roads and Buildings (R&B) sanctioned road for Muniward village. The villagers were promised that the road to Muniward would be macadamized. The villagers’ joy knew no bounds.

For years together, every spring the villagers would start visiting nearest R&B office at Khanabal and continue their visits until autumn. The man was part of those village delegations. After over hundred visits, the work on the road was started. The columns of the dust from the crushed stones and smoke from the road roller were seen as an indication of changing times by the villagers.

However, the smiles on their faces waned soon after the R&B men left without macadamizing the road.

The surprised villagers were told sanction from the Chief Engineer is necessary pre-condition for macdmisation of road to Muniward. But the approval never came and the road awaits macadamization.

The villagers decided to visit their MLA, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed. They hired a mini-bus and came to Gupkar to reminded Mufti Sahab that Muniward forms part of Islamabad constituency and he is MLA of the constituency. Mufti was so engrossed in self-rule that it took some time for him to realise that he was MLA also. So what is the issue? Mufti asked nonchalantly as if philosopher Plato was disturbed by some unruly children in his academia.

The villagers informed him about the riddle of the Muniward road and all troubles and tribulations they had to undergo over the years to get the road. They informed him in humble way that the road needs to be macadamized.

Mufti remained silent for some time. The villagers had heard lot about Mufti Sahab’s statesman like silence. They were overawed by it and thought that the famed silence will solve their problem forever. Mufti broke his silence and started talking about nuances of self-rule and single currency. That self-rule will solve all problems of Kashmir. That once there will be self-rule, there will be joint council, the road to other Kashmir will be hassle free. And peace will prevail. But that peace will be with dignity. So on and so forth.

Somehow the Muniward resident felt he should draw attention of Mufti towards Muniward road and see whether it figures somewhere in Mufti’s self-rule. “So what about Muniward road,” the villager asked sheepishly. Mufti frowned and thus conveyed in dignified way that he didn't like his intervention. He paused and then said that the opening of Muzaffarabad road was the biggest achievement in past 60 years. Now the road is being also used for trade and commerce. The road would determine the future of Kashmir. The road will show the way. He continued to read from his Muzaffarabad road treatise. But all this dampened the spirits of the villagers, who returned to Muniward unhappy. Instead of Muniward, Mufti took them on the imaginary trip to Muzaffarabad road. That day, for the first time, the young man pulled his hair in frustration.

Fearing the 35-year-old should not take some extreme step, the villagers decided to visit Mehboob Beg. That day Beg was not at his residence in Sarnal Bala. They were suggested to come next month. And next month the delegation was lucky enough to found Beg in his house.

Unlike Mufti, Beg was not engrossed in thoughts. He was strolling in his lawn. They informed Beg that he is MP from South Kashmir. After that they informed him about the difficulties they are facing for getting approval to macadamize Muniward road.

Beg waved his hand as if was addressing a mammoth gathering at Sher-i-Kashmir Park. Beg said autonomy was the only solution of Kashmir dispute. He informed them about difficult times he had when his father Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg whom he referred Fakhr-i-Kashmir was in jail with Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. Beg told the villagers that he has not written the exercises on the wooden plank during his childhood for 12 years because of the imprisonment of Fakhr-i-Kashmir.

“There was none to write the introductory line on my wooden slate, which I could have copied,” Beg said. The difficult times were not over, Beg told villagers. The autonomy was our goal and we have to achieve it. Even in the parliament, Beg said, he talked about autonomy and referred to his speeches of the parliament.

Again this incorrigible Muniward resident had other thoughts. He interrupted Beg and informed him whether Muniward road figures in his autonomy.

Beg didn't like the intervention. It had halted his Churchillian speech. “Road, road, yes, yes,” roared Beg. Muzafferbad road was Fakhir-i- Kashmir’s brain child and now Mufti is taking credit of it. PDP is all lying. Muzaffarabad road was opened by India and Pakistan and Mufti thinks it was opened by him. All lies. He allowed villagers to leave his premise only after he completed his address.

That day Muniward resident cried again in frustration and pulled his hair again and again.


Friday, November 2, 2012

From Shafi Uri to Muhammad Shafi

Naseer A Ganai 

This great tragedy took place somewhere in 2010, at the height of uprising. Those were the times when TV channels would invite anyone from Kashmir to know, why Kashmiri youth were on streets.
Though they knew why they were on streets, they deemed it proper to listen from Kashmiris to give Kashmiris feeling that they don’t know. And Kashmiris enjoy feeling of being heard. They rejoice feeling of being listened. Kashmiris feel on cloud nine when their opinions are sought.
Those days, television anchors would ask questions and seeks answers. They would repeat similar questions to seek different answers. If the answers would not suit them they would rehash questions and try to answer them themselves.
The show must go on.
One evening a TV channel had galaxy of politicians from Kashmir. Perhaps Dr. Mehboob Beg, Muhammad Shafi, Muzaffer Baig and others. They all were all elated and were eager to speak.
So Mr. Muhammad Shafi Uri, asked the anchor, what is your take on the situation, why there is stone pelting, why people are on streets, isn’t it indictment of Omar Abdullah Government? What people are demanding? Why they are demanding Azadi? Isn’t casting vote after every six years an Azadi, freedom of choice? Will they get such an Azadi in Pakistan? Tell me Mr. Muhammad Shafi Uri why is National Conference not assertive? Why NC political leaders are not on streets? Where is Mehbooba Mufti? Why are not they in hospitals to inquire about injured? Mr. Muhammad Shafi Uri what is going in Kashmir, finally the anchor concluded his question-cum-essay and allowed Mr. Muhammad Shafi to speak.
Muhammad Shafi didn’t answer the essay. He instead went on and clarified to the anchor that he should pronounce his name correctly. “I am not Muhammad Shafi Uri. My name is Muhammad Shafi. I belong to Uri. But my name is Muhammad Shafi,” Shafi Sahab said calmly.
What followed next is immaterial. But in those times when people had even forgotten their names, Shafi Sahab should be given credit for reminding TV anchors how to pronounce his.
Shafi Sahab whether he acknowledges it or not is known as Shafi Uri. Even if he goes on reminding everyone that he is Muhammad Shafi, it would not change anything on ground. On ground and among people Muhammad Shafi is known as Shafi Uri whether he resides in New York or in New Delhi, whether he goes to Uri or not.
This is not an attempt deride or ridicule a politician of high repute. In National Conference he is perhaps among a few thinking politicians. Otherwise, majority of leaders in the NC don’t bother to think at all. Their level of thinking is such that they think they should not think too much as it strains kidneys.
But why politician of Muhammad Shafi’s stature refuses to own the suffix of Uri. Can’t it be construed as contempt for the place and the constituency where from he has been elected in the Legislative Assembly over the years?
This is not particular to Shafi Sahab only. It is said when NC comes to power its’ political class loses balance. The balance sheet of past four years of NC is indication how the party has behaved. When Congress asked it to bend, it crawled. The party announces elections then retreats. Chidambaram created history by chairing Kishtwar development Board’s meeting. This doesn’t happen all of a sudden. It happens when you allow it to happen. When you prefer Muhammad Shafi over Shafi Uri, you have to be ready for any eventuality.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Jao pehlay dili say pooch kay aao

Naseer A Ganai

One day in recent Assembly session Javid Mustafa Mir stood up and asked speaker of the Legislative Assembly Muhammad Akbar Lone about the fate of Trans-Islamic University bill passed by the Legislative Assembly last year. Mir informed Lone that Bill was sent to the Upper House and since then its whereabouts are not known. Mir asked the speaker that he should trace out the bill.
There and then the speaker promptly started ‘operation locate bill.’
The debate went on and finally it transpired that the bill was with the Chairman of the Legislative Council. He had to send it to the Joint Select Committee of both the Houses. But he has not.
The discussion went on and number of MLAs chipped in to put their point across. Finally Law and Parliamentary Minister Ali Muhammad Sagar stood up and informed the House that he would take up the matter with the Chairman of the Legislative Council and urge him to send the bill to Joint Select Committee of the House as soon as possible.
Now the matter has been resolved, the bill has been located and the Law Minister has given assurances that he would talk to the Chairman of the Legislative Council, announced Akbar Lone. But this didn’t satisfy Mir.
“This Assembly, this speaker, this law minister, that Council, that chairman are nothing. They have no value. The Minister should first ask Delhi whether they want this bill to be passed or not,” Mir said.
“Jao pehlay dili say pooch kay aao,” he shouted and left the Assembly.
This silenced both the law minister and the speaker. They perhaps know that Mir is right.
The story doesn’t end there. Delhi matters. And politicians know that Delhi matters. That is why they have two different speeches, one for Delhi and one for Srinagar. Here is an example.
During the Assembly session, national media was debating Sarpanch and Panch killings. One night a TV channel invited Muzaffer Hussain Baig, former Law Minister and senior PDP leader, for debate and discussion. During the debate Sajjad Lone stated that New Delhi has invested only in two families (Muftis and Abdullahs) in the State of Jammu and Kashmir and rest no one matters to it.
Sajjad seemed to be angry that why New Delhi didn’t invest on him. Irked by Sajjad’s comment, Baig in his baritone voice said, New Delhi has invested in the families because people follow them.
“Let us call spade a spade. Army and Police claim that there are only 100 militants. But they forget to tell us that more than 2000 militants are waiting for signal from their masters to cross over. This time they have found an opportunity to thwart electoral and constitutional process and have struck. They will do it again next time. It is not question of one family or other… Killers are killers, we must unite against them and use force of State and electoral politics to defeat them.” Baig said while giving his brief to Justice Arnob Gowsami.
Next day the same Baig addressed press conference at PDP headquarters in Srinagar and described militants as “freedom loving militants” and accused National Conference of killing Panches and Sarpanches.
Now let us move to the third and last story.
In the Assembly the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah took on BJP legislators and the Panthers Party MLA Harsh Dev Singh for raising the issue of reservation for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes in the Block Development Council (BDC).
“What are they seeking reservation for? There was no reservation in Sarpanch posts (but it was provided). Where were they then…Do this drama outside (the Assembly). You are not well wishers of the SC and ST people. You are scared of the Panchayat empowerment, but this process will not stop, you may try as much as you want,” the Chief Minister said. Omar said that elections will be held. The notification was issued.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, the New Minister for Kashmir Affairs, issued statement against BDC elections. On Monday Omar was in plane on way to Srinagar when an emergency cabinet meeting was called. In a way Congress summoned him in the cabinet. And the cabinet decided to postpone elections.
Had he heard Javid Mustafa Mir and had he talked to Delhi before announcing elections, things would not have been so embarrassing for him today.
“Jao pehlay dili say pooch kay aao.”

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Of Raja Muzaffer Bhat and lazy journalism

Naseer Ganai

Raja Muzaffer Bhat, former RTI activist and now a PDP leader is known to almost all journalists. All lazy journalists know him. Why? Because lazy journalists like me, who at times think about their profession more of a burden and less of a profession, prefer to have a working liaison with such people. You like such ‘activists’ because you get easy stories from them. Because during dry days they would provide you some story stuff which makes your day.

They also understand this compulsion of lazy journalists, and they provide them information that usually suits them. The day Raja Muzaffer started his activism as an RTI activist he also started having liaison with journalists. The activism of activists and NGOs is nothing as long as it is not reported by the press. Whether we understand it or not, Raja Sahab of Budgam understood it very well.

Initially, he would talk about RTIs and condemn the State Government for not coming up with the RTI Rules. He took all stakeholders along to motivate the State Government to come up with the Rules. That aspect of his activism cannot be ignored. Later, when the State Government came up with the Rules, he and other activists in his RTI movement started filing RTIs, mostly in Budgam district. All of us ignored it. Every second RTI was filed in the Budgam district.

However, one day RTI movement went out of Budgam and filed RTI regarding the Chief Minister and his chopper. The Chief Minister’s office responded that even for going to loo, Omar Sahab prefers to take State helicopter. We all filed stories about how Omar uses and abuses his chopper. But Raja Sahab was not satisfied with the reportage about his activities in Budgam district. He himself decided to write. And every other week he wrote articles about his activities. Every article carried his smart picture. Nothing wrong in it.

But then he started reporting for newspapers himself where R.M Bhat was quoting noted RTI activist and the Chairman of RTI movement Raja Muzaffer Bhat.  This too couldn’t satisfy him. Finally Raja Sahab felt that time has come when he should devote his energy and activities toward PDP. One day he announced his decision of joining the party. Good. Again nothing wrong with his decision. He has every right to choose any party or group he wishes to join. 

But his decision to join political party poses a larger question to journalism in Kashmir. Should we depend on the activists like Raja Muzaffer Bhat and others who have political ambitions? It was not that Raja Muzaffer suddenly woke up one day and decided to join a political party. He might have decided it long ago. You don’t take such decisions in a jiffy. He was waiting for the right moment to announce the decision. Doesn’t it indicate that all his activism about RTI and the RTI movement was focused? Focused towards developing and cultivating a vote bank? Focused to promote political ideology of the party he joined?  Focused to undermine his future political opponents through RTI activism? Was RTI activism used a political tool? Can’t we say that when his RTI movement filed RTI regarding Chief Minister’s chopper exercise, it was actually PDP trying to undermine the NC Chief Minister?

We wish good luck to Raja Muzaffer for his new voyage, in his new political avatar. But at the same time we should ask ourselves some hard questions. We have to give up this laziness, which allows others to use media for their self-promotion in the name of activism. It will not take any media organization in Kashmir more than ten minutes to file ten good RTIs every day. They have good, experienced reporters, they have computers, they have printers, and they have the staff which could post these RTIs. Despite having everything at our disposal, we still give good coverage to paper activities of activists having political ambitions and motives to settle their political scores. There are only two reasons for it, either we are lazy or we are devoid of ideas.  Let us come out of our laziness. Let us begin to think.

And let us change a bit.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

On loudspeakers

Naseer Ganai

There is so much noise in our lives. But we tend to forget it and move on. At times we presume it as music. Don’t we? All these years our body and soul has been subjected to so much violence that we forget these little little things. And rightly so.  

 Just take a walk on a road and see how every person who drives a car loves to horn. Honking is our all time favourite hobby. From judges to MLAs, bureaucrats’ to police official everyone who thinks he is someone here prefers to honk on people while driving. This has never been an issue here. Talk to any officials instead of engaging you in conversation, he shouts. Senior shout on subordinates and subordinates on their subordinates. Wives on husbands and husbands on their children. And children on each other.

But we tolerate it. While we drive we keep music on and drive at high speed. And when we bump someone off the road, we seek forgiveness and we readily get it. The victim feels it was his fate. “I am very sorry. God saved you,” the driver after a hitting person would plead. Means I tried to kill you but God saved you. We even forget this too and forgive people for such brazen acts.
  Bashir Ahmad Khan was once Chief Justice of the High Court. He was reprimanding police officials for noise pollution. That you are not stopping it. Fine drivers, fine all those who indulge in such activities. There is so much noise pollution in the air. This deafening noise is intolerable. This has to stop… Khan, however, could not continue his reprimanding discourse on noise pollution and its adverse effects on human body especially human ear. He had to take long pause as to the amusement of everyone in the Court vehicles in front of the High Court premises would stop and honk.
 Why should not they? Just see how alarm bells continue to ring when vehicles of judges drive on the roads, when MLAs move around, when politician walk around, when senior officials do rounds. When cavalcade of present and former chief minister’s move on the roads. Why do we alone hear noise of loudspeaker? No newspaper in the Valley will write a word against judges and the way they force their drives to drive their vehicles. Not a word. Their noise is music to them. Only noise is noise of loudspeakers. Why so? It is easy to target loudspeaker. Difficult to take on siren of a judge or chief minister.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pulpits of peace and harmony

Naseer Ganai

Often separatist leadership is being criticised for doing nothing. They are being condemned in private and public. There are people who don’t even stop talking about leadership crises. That the leadership has failed. That it has done nothing. That all miseries people suffer from are because of the leadership. Such talk never stops. But whenever situation demanded they have acted even though their critics never acknowledged it.

Last year we were standing on volcano. We would talk about it. We had worst fears about it. That one day this volcano of religious sectarianism will burst and it would bring worst out of Kashmir. The leadership, be it Syed Ali Geelani, be it Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, be it Yasin Malik, took the challenge. They assembled Ulema when they perceived that some forces were trying to play sectarian card in Kashmir. They interacted with Muslim scholars. They assembled them at one place. They tried to evolve a consensus. They did it early this year. They did it again and again.

Finally consensus was evolved on Sunday August 5, 2012 when noted columnist and academic Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain read out a resolution in a seminar organised by JKLF. Muslims scholars from different schools of thought attended the seminar. Dr Hussain read out that whosoever will be found involved in shrine or mosque attack, he is out of fold of Islam. Ulema attested the resolution. Thus with one stroke attack on any religious place was declared as un-Islamic act having no religious sanctity. Sunis endorsed it, Shias endorsed it, Ahli-Hadith endorsed it, Karwani Islami endrosed it, Jamaat Islami endorsed it. 

Dr Hussain read out second resolution. That no Ulema or Muslim scholar can use pulpit of any mosque or any shrine to speak or preach against any other religious thought or belief. Ulema attested this too. If Ulema adhere to the pledge, we will not see sectarian divide in Kashmir henceforth. We will have differences, disagreements. But they will be of academic nature. Nothing more. Earlier in the seminar Ulema spoke. They talked about religious harmony. They said how sectarian divide is going to create havoc in the society. They said they will not allow any such things to happen. A scholar took the audience to caliphate of Hazarat Omar Ibn al-Khattab (RA) when the Calipha advised his generals to give “amaan” to anyone who takes shelter in any religious places. Means all religious places are sacred.

Now on from the pulpits of mosques and shrines, we will hear everything about religion, society, morals and morality. But nothing about sectarianism. That my beliefs are the real and rest are false. Nothing that sort. Kashmiris need not fear. Leadership is responsive. So are religious scholars.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Gaun Ki Gori

Naseer A Ganai
On a wintery morning, a young teacher wanted to amuse his journalism students in the class. He started recollecting many incidents about the black humor of Kashmiris. This incident took place in Yari Pora village of Kulgam district. He was speaking in a manner as if he was witness to whole drama that unfolded on a pleasant summer morning outside Yaripora in the nineties.

A milkman of the village was on way to his home when he was stopped by troops. They asked him many questions: who he is, where is he going, where has he come from? This was not unusual. Those days every Kashmiri, even if they were not used to speaking Urdu, would practice at home how to answer those “who they are?” questions. Mothers would ensure that their sons would carry their identity cards along. The identity card was the only guarantee of your right to life. And questioning was a routine affair.

Even elders, with long white beard, would answer these questions in half-baked Urdu when they were dragged out in frequent crackdowns and raids. We all were witness to this mass humiliation. Children have seen humiliation of their fathers, and fathers were witness to humiliation of their children.

As the milkman was bombarded with the questions, he started fumbling. He was tense, nervous, and his heartbeat raced. And he had a reason to worry now.

In those times during crackdowns troops would keep a hand on your heart to know the speed of your heartbeat. If they felt the palpitation of heart has increased, it would mean that you are afraid of the situation. And that was an indication that you are the suspect.

Milkman’s mind started recollecting the meaning of milkman in Urdu. And promptly he came up with the Kashmiri translation of Milkman in Urdu.
“Sahab mein gaun ki gori hun,” he said.

The teacher didn’t elaborate on what happened to the Gaun Ki Ghori after the encounter. Instead, he went on to narrate another incident. This time from a village of Bandipora district of North Kashmir.

During a house to house search operation, the troops knocked on the door of a young farmer. He opened the door. Who is inside your house, they asked him. “Sahab, Baap hai, Harkat say hai” replied the farmer. His father had paralysis. The teacher didn’t elaborate this too and went on to narrate another incident. The students laughed.

All of this Kashmiris have forgotten. But what brought these incidents back to our life is the zoi-say-zalim FIR. The zoi-say-zalim FIR also brought back Kashmir to the international headlines (New York Times also carried the report.)

Now it has become a foreign policy issue as well. And really a real challenge for educationists and academics here who have to work hard to replace zoi. It is a daunting task. But given the repercussion of zoi at the State level and its implication at international level, they have to do something and replace it forever with some beautiful alphabet. After all Zoi will not be allowed to sabotage ‘peace’ and ‘tranquility’ of the State, and at the same time it will not be allowed to make Kashmir an international issue again. It is better to replace and bury it deep somewhere in unmarked graveyard so that other alphabets will not even complaint about its sudden disappearance and seek exhumation and DNA test to identify it at any stage.