Thursday, November 25, 2010

The hecklers

Aesop, the Hellenistic slave, narrated a profound tale in the winter of 6th century BC. The story is simple but the message remains relevant 2700 winters later. A Bee, queen of the hive, buzzed her way to Mt Olympus to present Jupiter some fresh honey. Jupiter, delighted with the offering, promised to give her whatever she wanted in return. The Bee thought for a while and then said, “Please give me a stinger, so that I can hurt whoever might come to take my honey.”

Jupiter didn't quite like the Bee's desire to hurt people, but he had made a promise and had to keep it. So he answered: “I hereby give you the stinger you want, but use it at your own risk. For you may only use it once, and it shall break off in the wound you make. Thus you will die from the loss of it.” Right-wing Kashmiri Pandit groups have taken recourse to the stinger, over and over again. Cloaked in nothing but nuisance value, the loss is, in plain words, their very own.

I don’t frankly admire the Mirwaiz too much. I think he reeks of an elitist with all those expensive caps and well-pressed designer Kameez-yazars [Pathani dresses] but he is an important voice, however rapidly he talks on TV. The fact that some goon in ill-fitting pants will awkwardly lunge at the spiritual head of a huge section of Kashmiris is such a travesty. What compounds the pain further is the sight of neo-Nazi style fellow Kashmiris, cheering the mobsters on. Hell what have we become?

Heckling and assault on dissenting voices has become the new bench-mark of the largest democracy in the world. If instant 2-minute TV fame is your idea to spend a dull Thursday afternoon, then all you got to do is this: Rush to the nearest Kashmir seminar in town and behave like an undomesticated mare, kicking away at everyone. Bare your teeth menacingly and go ahead and smack the speaker. In no time the robot-like cameramen will have your attention. And Eureka: You are a nationalist. An ultra-nationalist, if you please. Friends can see you on telly. Simple.

One wonders if this is the educated, liberal, brainy, respected Pandits who once inspired awe. Not to mention an overwhelming majority of Kashmiri Pandits do retain their secular ethics and cultural upbringing. Somewhere in the melee (post the exodus, which is such a shameful chapter) several second generation KPs mingled with the rougher crowd. Soon they would become the flag-waving, uncouth, sloganeering jokers in the pack. What is transpiring at the moment is part of the same transmutation.

Lately it has become quite fashionable to dub anyone ‘enemy of the state’ as soon as something displeasing is said. Ofcourse there are heart-aches, ofcourse there is displacement, ofcourse there are serious disagreements but taking a passado at everyone who holds a position contrary to your own makes you a crack-pot. To shoot a man because one disagrees with his interpretation of Darwin or Hegel is a sinister tribute to the supremacy of ideas in human affairs -- but a tribute nevertheless, the literary critic Steiner said sometime back. One only agrees.

© Sameer