Sunday, August 4, 2013

Of Himalayan cedars and ‘digital’ revolutionaries

By Naseer A Ganai

Sarcastically, they are called on-line revolutionaries, on-line jihadis, digital Che Guevaras, who give lectures on every issues and ask people how they should behave and talk.

They are accused of passing judgments on the character of every other person. These on-line ‘jihadis’ are derided for being in New Delhi and New York, as if it is sin to move out of the Valley. They are called burger-fed intellectuals as if eating burgers can turn you into a nincompoop from an intellectual. Or as if in the sacred book of revolution, it is written that burger eaters cannot be revolutionaries.
The biggest charge against them is that they are using pseudonyms and label people pro and anti-movement.

First accusation against them is that they are on-line revolutionaries. If that is true, it is a compliment. In these days when academics feels comfortable to talk about nothing in 5000 words when asked to comment about the present political situation, it is a huge thing to talk about revolution, even though online.

Writer and journalist, Ryszard Kapuscinski, in his book Shah of Shahs takes you to a person named, Mahmud, in pre-revolution Iran.
After coming from England to his homeland Iran, Mahmud was keen to understand what was going on in his country, which was at the brink of revolution.

Kapuscinski tells us that at the university Mahmud called on Ali Kaidi, his old companion, who had become a professor of Botany, a specialist in sclerophyllous plants. Mahmud asked him about the situation in the country. Kaidi thought for a moment and said that for years he had devoted all his time to sclerophyllous plants. He told him that sclerophyllous plants were found in the areas with specific climatic conditions…in winter, it was ephemeral species like the therophytes, while in summer it was the xerophytes.

These words meant nothing to Mahmud. So he asked his friend in a general way whether major events could be expected. Kaidi again thought and after a while began talking about splendid crown in the Atlantic cedar. “And yet,” Kaidi said, “I have examined the Himalayan cedar which grows in our country, and I must say that it is even more beautiful!”

The Ph.Ds awarded in different universities of the Valley in humanities and in social sciences departments indicate that situation is not better in today’s Kashmir. Here most people prefer to talk about Himalayan cedar when asked to comment about current situation.

In these times, if some people, though living in different places of the world, are talking about Azadi and economics of Kashmir after Azadi and trying to give answers to these questions, and asking about what kind nation state Kashmir should be after Azadi, they should be applauded for talking about the topic which we have avoided for long.

If they are debating whether strikes or voting help Kashmiris in any way, they deserve applause for debating these issues, which we often fear to bring in public realm. If they are debating statements issued by pro-freedom leadership, they deserve our appreciation for their courage. For long pro-freedom leadership has avoided debate and discussion around their deeds and statements. If they are doing content analysis of newspapers, why should it worry anyone?
There is nothing wrong in having an open debate. For long we have been discussing ourselves with outsiders and we have never felt any qualms about it. If anyone comes from outside and projects himself as a researcher, people without verifying his credentials, pour their heart out to him and tell him everything, hiding nothing.  Nothing. And if researcher happens to be of opposite gender, then sky is limit for her.

The leaders here find themselves at ease with researchers who come from outside Kashmir to study Kashmir, but they don’t disclose anything to Kashmiri researchers.

If educated class of Kashmiris is opening up to each other, it should be welcomed. A Kashmiri is a Kashmiri whether he is in New Delhi or New York. His heart bleeds for Kashmir and he or she has every right to express his opinion.

Expatriate Indians contribute more to India than Indians living in India. They determine what should be the policy of the United States of America towards India. No one in India says that they have no right to opinion as they are earning dollars in USA and don’t understand the pain and agony of common Indian. Why should a Kashmiri living and studying in USA, UK, Germany or in any other place of the world looks like an alien to fellow Kashmiri? This is strange.

A Kashmiri living in USA could live more comfortable life without thinking and posting his thoughts on Facebook or twitter.  It is their love for their motherland that prompts them to speak up. He or she belongs to this place, and rightly so, feels for this place. If you are away from your homeland, it doesn't mean you have no right to talk about it.
If his language is flawless, his argument forceful and his support for pro-freedom groups based on arguments and historical facts, why should it bother you? If he talks about the future of Kashmir, why should you call him an 'on-line jihadi' or 'on-line revolutionary'?
Recently when people tweeted about Gool incident one of the academic (read Himalayan cedar) had nothing but sarcasm in his store. ‘Now we will get Azadi through tweets,” he wrote.

This is not sarcasm, this is an insult to our fellow Kashmiris. After all we have all gone through pain and agony -- some of us physical pain and all of us through mental agony. Whether you are off line or on-line, you can never avoid this feeling of constant mental supervision.
That is why must talk. But we must not talk at each other. When Omar Abdullah is talking and talking bluntly about autonomy, when Mufti Sayeed is talking about self-rule, why should Kashmiri students in USA and other places be ridiculed for talking about Azadi, stone pelting, Islam, Pakistan and Azadi. .

If someone uses pseudonyms and likes to debate that way, nothing wrong with it. In a situation we are living in, if pseudonyms can save someone from the omnipresent arms of the state, why should we fret about it?

But then leveling charges of being a agent, paid agents and unpaid agent is something that degrades debate into a non-sense. And responding to such posts by naming people as digital Che Guevara’s makes mockery of whole thing.

Those, who debate far serious things on-line, if they malign friends and colleagues by calling them 'agents', it would do no good to anyone but it would only kill the debate. No one has a right to give certificates to anyone. Otherwise we will end up in a murky world of the land of agents where everyone will be suspect.

Kashmir is a land where Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was accused and charged for being a Pakistani agent. It is the land where Omar Abdullah called Mufti Muhammad Sayeed as New Delhi’s agent in Kashmir. It is the land where a police official once called journalists agents of RAW and IB. It is easy to label people and condemn. But it is difficult to keep the debate going. If you want a healthy debate, you must stop accusing people of being agents and digital Che Gueveras.

We must talk to each other. Otherwise in the ‘land of agents’ we will be left to discuss only who is an agent and who is not.