Saturday, May 08, 2010

Stone Age

A slapdash stone hit someone in Srinagar. The gent dropped dead. The mob dissipated. Newsmen rushed to the spot. There was hyper-activity on FaceBook. Boom was lowered. Syed Ali Shah Geelani was swiftly blamed, like an arrow that flies off a sharp archer’s bow. Omar Abdullah thought Geelani was solely responsible. His online devotees seemed to agree. Delhi-based television channels ran tickers that read: Geelani’s stone-throwers kill a man. Not the one to take it lying down Geelani came back with a quick explication: Job of Omar’s henchmen/India’s agents/elements bent to defame the freedom struggle. The verbal warfare was last continuing.

In reality Geelani – white as a druid – had called for a symbolic walk to the office of the meaningless United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan [UNMOG] in Gupkar. Bored military personnel from Chile, Croatia, Philippines, Korea and Uruguay are stationed at UNMOG. God knows, no one ever listens to these countries, leave alone, military observers on deputation from these countries. Kashmiris must have submitted a million memoranda in the last sixty years to the observers. The surprised blue-capped officers would step out of their sleepy office, over-hung by Chinar trees, and gingerly accept our pleas from inside the iron-grilled gate. No one knows what they did to our heart-felt epistles. That is still a multi-lateral mystery. Recycling can’t be ruled out.

The freshest march didn’t materialize. The separatists were arrested and released in the evening. These days no march is allowed. The million strong processions during the Amarnath land row were a chink in the armor, which exposed the state. Wary, the government does not permit more than four persons to assemble without reason, except for rented NC workers, who are ferried from Srinagar suburbs to wave little red plastic flags of the party – for example when Mrs Gandhi makes a sudden air-dash to Srinagar or when Omar wants to practice his Urdu-like Kashmiri. Democracy is very subjective. It does not ensure liberty to all. Or always.

Right now Madame Mufti sounds more separatist than the separatists themselves. Fearful that she may step on their sacred space, the pro-freedom blokes avoid her like bubonic plague. Over and over again they remind her that her dad as India’s home minister unleashed the hideous looking Jagmohan on Kashmir. With cold-calculated-cruelty governor Jagmohan went on to order the great purge that antagonized generations of Kashmiris. The year was 1989. Twenty one years later Kashmiris remember it like yesternight. The Muftis may be avowed adversaries of the Abdullahs, but for most plebeians, both are quislings.

Political divides aside the Kashmiri romance with stone throwing -- coming back to the latest frenzy – styled on the Palestinian Intifada has lost all its luster. True it used to be the weapon of the dispossessed – the oppressed – against the powerful, and hence lit upon huge symbolism in the conflict years. The defiance has now been sadly dented, notwithstanding what Geelani says. It is mobocracy. Random men, out on the streets on the drop of a hat, half-bricks, flints and cherts in hand, don’t seek instant-Azadi. They enjoy a field day. The adrenaline rush leads only to stone age.

© Sameer