Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Frenzy Returns

We are now faced with the fact, my friends that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.
~Dr Martin Luther King Jr, iconic leader of America’s civil rights movement, ‘Beyond Vietnam’ address, Riverside Church, New York, NY, April 4, 1967.

A fear of the awkward looms. Last year around the same time a new-found furor floated about. Fresh slogans were coined. Millions marched. The frenzy returns this season. Kashmir is agitated like an active volcano, brimming with broken promises, chunks of deceit, voting machines, lordly corrupt leaders, rusty bullets, cherry-color blood. Tulips. It imploded, yet again this June. Does this month symbolize anything for us? Perhaps. Perhaps not. The imperial British formally accepted the idea of Pakistan – a separate homeland for Muslims of the Indian subcontinent on June 3, 1947. Six decades on Kashmir still gets these June jolts. At the moment a charade of democracy is on display in Kashmir, a place overhung by Chinars and smoked over by fumes of our moral mildew.

Early June, when it smells of green apples in countryside Kashmir two cheerful girls – Asiya and Neelofer – went giggling to their tiny orchard and simply melted into the evening. A frenetic search yielded no results. Next morning, as if by magic, both girls appeared near a depth-less canal – bruised, battered, repeatedly raped and killed in cold blood. In Kashmir rape is rare as goblins. Despicable as it is, the incident soon turned murky. The doctor, who conducted the post-mortem, told Kashmiri newspapers that the two ladies were gang-raped.

In the post-mortem report, the doctor added, they mentioned that the injuries and samples collected from bodies clearly suggested rape and murder. A friend who has access to the pictures of the two girls was quite unequivocal: ‘Third degree gang-rape, around a dozen times - multiple times after death’. A strike was swiftly called to condemn the horrible act. Tempers frayed.

Like most conservative societies in the world Kashmiris are extremely touchy about two things – our religion and identity. Add honor to the list. I agree it is an arguably naïve stance to take in a modern world but back home in Kashmir we have been living in a timeless warp forever. To make matters worse the 38-year old CM [much is made of his age] proved that he is as inept at gauging the pulse of people as his notoriously colorful dad. Adding fire to the fuel, Omar attempted to sweep the muck under the proverbial rug.

He declared in a press con that primary findings indicated the girls were neither raped nor murdered. It was prima facie a case of drowning. [In ankle-deep water]. In pre-judging the findings Omar was not only plain condescending but utterly insensitive too. [The victims families have since gone on a hunger strike, seeking justice for their daughters]. Public sentiment smoldered. Sensing trouble Omar changed tack and conceded that ‘something has happened there’. Yes, Mr CM – multiple rapes on two young girls -- our girls -- their helpless cries piercing the sad air of their small village. Dying a most painful, brutal death next to – [who knows may be inside] a CRPF camp. Pray, when will you guys stop being smug and stop living in denial?

An investigation was ordered. Justice Jan is going to look into the matter and shall report to his neighbor [lives next to Omar] in 30 days. Is that going to ameliorate the hurt? Rather than coming out with a forceful statement, assuaging the victims’ families and at least sounding a little more empathic, an insane police force has been let loose against those protesting human rights violations. Instead of making a candid, passionate appeal, what you get to hear from the chief minister’s office is the same old trite, banal, moth-eaten crap: These are communal forces, vested interests, anti-development, political rivals out there to get me. The trigger-happy cops and paramilitary forces, whose only vocation in life is to fire tear gas canisters at school kids, occasionally successfully comatosing some of them with a direct hit, roam aimlessly like wild creatures.

Often enough the state uses brute force to get over with a given situation. In reality, nothing goes away. It simmers slowly. And it comes back. You think it is over, as the very brilliant British-Pakistani intellectual Tariq Ali once said, while it isn't. The administration is choosing to go after anyone -- having especially singled out Syed Ali Geelani -- who dares look them in the eye and say the uncomfortable truth to their face. It is an irony. The Jammu based English daily Kashmir Times is far more pragmatic and insightful in its coverage on the Shopian incident while Kashmir based English papers are editorializing the futility of resistance. I reckon many ideological constructs lead people to take the kind of political positions they take but we can't truly afford to decontextualise our economic well-being from our legitimate aspirations.

Tulips without stipple isn't exactly beautiful. The stipple is our very cherished honor.