Friday, July 03, 2009


Daem phuit chi gamitsh myaen nazar
yoot matsar kyah?
mei rov labith lol shahar
yoot matsar kyah?

~ Zarif A Zarif, Kashmiri poet

My gaze has been silenced
What frenzy is this?
I lost my city of love,
What frenzy is this?

We are in the middle of this cruel completeness. The motif is flickering at such a rapid pace that it is near impossible to fathom what is happening to us. Still coming to terms with the rape and murder tale coming out of South Kashmir and its elaborate, planned, devilish cover-up, bullets flew thick and fast in North Kashmir. In a matter of less than 40 hours, four boys were sent to their graves. Prematurely. Suddenly. Coldly. Kashmir has stopped keeping a count of its injured. That is a mere footnote in our pursuit of justice.

Still hours later the scene shifts again to South Kashmir. A kid, 16 is summoned to a nearby army camp. Youngest in his home, Basharat went hopping to the 36RR fortress, never to be seen again. Parents, like anywhere else in the world, furious and restless, started making frenetic noises. Neighbors joined in. Omar Abdullah, the new czar of Kashmir, who surrounds himself with a useless bunch of advisors, joined the chorus, albeit in his condescending style: Find the boy or his body. Thank you, Sir. How easily does the lexicon change in the valley? People, alive and laughing minutes back, suddenly change into bodies. Omar’s narrative is not only tasteless but pure apologetic. Kashmir is too dangerous a place to let things drift in such an insensitive manner.

Salah Mattoo, my childhood pal, wrote in the London’s The Economist: ‘The Indian constitution affords all her citizens right to protest, which no doubt is at the heart of Indian psyche as it stems from its history of fighting the British for her independence. In Kashmir there exists no outlet for people to express their grievances.’ Alas protests in Kashmir trigger a panic button in the government war-rooms and they go to any darn extend to break it. In reality, any elected government in Kashmir [and Omar is no exception] does not want to do anything to displease the off-reality hawks, who sit perched in Delhi. Suppressing the sentiment back home is directly proportional to your status in North Block.

A very strange spiral has engulfed us. Like an F-5 tornado. And things move round and round in it. Half-bricks and Hartals and Curfews chase each other. In the absence of mandatory crisis management infrastructure to deal with human rights violations, people resort to throwing rocks [styled on the Palestinian Intifada]. There is a freedom camp [split in the middle – one side of it is this old, tough boy Geelani, hugely respected but rigid and other side is this young, dubious boy Mirwaiz, moderate but inexplicit] with its politics of dissent and strikes. The only common factor is the karakul caps they wear. The government of the day, unsure of how to go about it [how, on God’s green earth, can a Jammu based car-dealer advise Sheikh Abdullah’s grandson, how to deal with a sentiment for which six million people and the Sheikh himself staked everything. Pray, How?] End-result: Mirwaiz and co, locked up in their palatial homes. Geelani, too dangerous at his age, put up in a hut-prison. Omar hops all over his fief, like a czar pontificating the futility of stone throwing, while his subjects continue to die, under his watch.

I don’t think removing CRPF [we never used to fear them anyway in Sopore] will do any good. It is time for the creation of independent institutions to monitor human rights violations in Kashmir. If Omar has nothing to fear he should back calls for allowing independent organizations like the Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others in Kashmir. No one trusts the government commissions. Two things, should they happen, may ameliorate the hurt to a large extend: disbanding of the thuggish SOG and removal of inhuman laws like AFSPA. Troop withdrawal can follow.

I used to love this beautiful, soft-spoken US-Kashmiri poet we had. Agha Shahid Ali. He died many years back and lies buried in Amherst, Massachusetts, close to the resting place of another great American poet Emily Dickinson.

An excerpt from a poem he penned on his beloved Kashmir:

Freedom’s terrible thirst, flooding Kashmir,
is bringing love to its tormented glass,
Stranger, who will inherit the last night of the past?
Of what shall I not sing, and sing?