Thursday, October 20, 2011

Colonel's Legacy

The body dragging spectacle is on at the moment. People love gory TV. Qaddafi, the tyrant. Mad dog of the Middle East, Ron Reagan once dubbed him. Twitter crowd is rubbing their hands in glee: it is gag time again – bon mot, as they say in French. Each time someone dies or is knocked off by a US drone or NATO’s Brimstone missiles, a great menace is over; the world becomes a better place. And we can move on to the next target.

Mad old Qaddafi. He wasn’t in exile after all. Not in Niger. Not in the Algerian presidential palace. Not in Chad. He was not bluffing when he said I shall stay put in Libya. While alive Qaddafi rambled quite a lot. He confronted the Saudi king, putting His Highness out of countenance, in an important international conference in Doha two years back, the videos of which can still be found on YouTube. Ofcourse no one does that. You don’t talk down to the most important man in the world. Qaddafi was eccentric but in a very fearless way.

The Italians colonized Libya around 1912. They did a lot of shit in the beautiful African country as most occupiers do. If you perchance read history (which is a tad difficult on iPhones, I agree) you might come across a reference to the Turco-Italian War (Guerra di Libia in Italian) of 1911. Italy won the war and occupied Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica (roughly what constitutes modern day Libya). The first Libyan to fall to Italian bullets was Abdus Salam Bouminyar, grandfather of Qaddafi. Not a canine pedigree, exactly.

The truth is that Qaddafi was a flip-flop. The west never really trusted him, even after he voluntarily gave up his nuclear programme. With all the oil that Libya has (largest in Africa and ninth largest in the world) and his lifelong fascination to unite Africa, Qaddafi was always bit of a suspect. His female body guards and lapses into pitch-a-tent delirium, not to mention the stupid Green Book he wrote -- came in handy to call him a loony in garish clothes. Who pitches a Bedouin-style tent in the gardens of Baron Gustave de Rothschild's multi-million dollar mansion in the heart of Paris?

As long as he signed cosy deals with the Europeans, they welcomed him with official protocol at capitals and castles. Silvio Berlusconi used to come rushing to Rome's Ciampino airport to receive his ‘friend’ who came bearing goodies — oil and gas. So it appears a bit rich when the French rightwing nut Sarkozy says Qaddafi’s death has started a democratic process. Berlusconi used a Latin expression on hearing the news before quickly adding that the war is over. The Italian leader is a good seven-eight years older than Qaddafi and among other famous things, is best known for his sex party boast: eight is not enough.

Now that four decades of madness has come to an end (to use one of the cool expressions being bandied about) the uncouth rag-tag army of NTC, pushing each other to give bytes to Western TV channels, are no saints. Notwithstanding the praises they seem to be foregathering at the moment, an important 107-page report by Amnesty International late last month revealed that while Gaddafi forces committed widespread crimes under international law during the conflict, forces loyal to the NTC have also committed abuses that in some cases amounted to war crimes. Apparently they summarily executed the original 'Guide of the Revolution' after capturing him alive. No hermits here.

To cut the chase, Qaddafi proved to be a total screwball. But so was Bush. Thank the fathers of American constitution, a US president can serve only two terms. Yes Qaddafi bought soccer teams, spoke mercurially, was quirky sometimes, had simple-minded solutions for the most intractable problems like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Unify both, call it Isratine. Simple). He gave money to Colombia’s FARC and the IRA. Switched-over on the Lockerbie bombing issue. The legacy -- if any -- is both fractured and fragmanted.

In hindsight Qaddafi was a bad juggler. He sought a middle way between capitalism and communism. He tore pages from the UN Charter while speaking at the UN. In Libya he never came down off the high horse and ruled rowdily. Historians won't have problems dismissing him as a narcissist with a bohemian heart. Notably Qaddafi gladdened many a heart back home in Kashmir, much to the embarrassment of India, when he famously supported the idea of an 'independent state' for Kashmir. So much of an idealist in those African robes.

Hugely influenced by the iconic Eygyptain president Nasser, Qaddafi absolutely loved Nasser's pan-Arabist ideas and deep down probably wished to succeed him as leader of the Arabs. Sadly he could never make the transition. He remained a tribal with a golden pistol on him, always. The NTC foot soldiers are currently brandishing the Samuel Cummings small firearm.

©Sameer

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ants in pants of right-wing

The intolerance of the Hindu right wing just hit a new low. A few goons, boorish beyond belief, barged into the private chambers of the well-known Supreme Court lawyer and a fine gentleman, Prashant Bhusan, and assaulted him. Apparently Mr Bhusan had said that demands for a referendum in Kashmir are legit. In saying so he only quoted the promise made by independent India’s first prime minister, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, to the people of Kashmir.

Not only has it become terribly unfashionable to mention Kashmir in India these days but God forbid if you happen to speak your mind and toe a line, that is not in sync with the lunatic right wing, you are doomed. They will quickly send a few school drop-outs with pot-bellies and vulgar feet to your home -- to pee in your garden and threaten you with dire consequences for holding the mirror to them.

As they shout in a loutish, disgraceful manner while kicking an old man, breaking his reading glasses and tearing his shirt apart, you wish to tap the retards from behind and tell them that India published a White Paper on Kashmir in 1948 with multiple references to the issue of holding free and impartial plebiscite in Kashmir. What did this poor man do? He just stated the obvious.

And while you slap and beat him to pulp, reflecting the character of your Sena, do you even know, that the Constitution of India guarantees the right to freedom, given in articles 19, 20, 21 and 22 to him. Had you been to a school, you dimwit, they might have taught you that the framers of the constitution of this country -- that you have now set out to defend in the unwashed shirt of yours -- guarantee the freedom of speech and expression, as one of six fundamental freedoms.

For ignorance that blanks out your ilk, and for taking an eerie pride in beating everyone from poor autowallas in Bombay to respected gentlemen in Delhi, you deserve to rot in prison – because primitive minds sure require some downtime.

© Sameer

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Why bother?

The question we all should be asking is not who killed the NC bloke. People wouldn’t care less about how this guy kicked the bucket. Let me stick my neck out on this one. I don’t frankly think Omar had anything sinister to do with the mysterious death of the NC worker. Perhaps he dealt with the matter in good faith, but since he is wont to donnybrooks and controversies, it comes back at him. Always.

Now TV chaps have a habit of chasing inconsequential things and glamorizing pure poppycock. So day in and day out -- for the last one week we were subjected to this rather weird Rishi character, apparently involved in graft, talking with a new-found piety to poor TV chaps flying light, since it has been a somewhat normal season in the valley. Since nothing substantial is happening in Delhi at the moment, media had a field day in Srinagar.

This entire dramaturgy amounts to nothing. Indian media, when it comes to Kashmir, is mostly corn-fed. Forget about the theatre. I understand where our own unease stems from. Many of us don’t like the arrogance with which Omar talks down to people, notwithstanding his glib TV performances. We understand the disconnect. We know that the manicured lawns of Royal Springs can’t palliate the pain of parents who get sleepless nights thinking about the unmarked graves of Kupwara and elsewhere.

The singular tragedy is that we expect the prince and his courtiers to abdicate power and go on a vacation just because one of their own allegedly died in the castle. How unseasoned is that? Should we really get worked up whether a sitting or standing judge writes the time-line of what happened at Gupkar last week? How about getting started by counting how many accused in the killing of 118 kids -- last summer -- had charges brought against them? Did we not have commissions of enquiry set up after each of those despicable killings?

If 2010 appears too distant a memory, what about events that came to light this year, not too long ago. Apparently a government body endorsed the findings of all those tireless organizations -- which have been crying hoarse all these years -- about the presence of unmarked graves dotting rural Kashmir. But for an exception or two the findings registered nary a blip in the national media circus. And why should it? Salam Reshi, with his deliberate pauses, makes for sexy viewing. Middle class India does not care for rotting cadavers. It wants emotional porn on KBC and Bigg Boss.

The truth be told it is somewhat unfair to blame poor Rajdeep and that greasy hair– Arnoub – and the Times of India boys in Kashmir. The Indian parliament didn’t deem the matter of mass graves fit enough, regardless of the Atut ang raag, to be deliberated upon. Forget about the parliament in Delhi, the JK assembly speaker, a gent with large glasses and a notoriously short temper, simply turned down the demand for a discussion on unmarked graves. No sweat. Matter adjourned.

And as we hoof-it into another winter, there shall be layers of snow soon, followed by Harisa. And skiing tourists. In two months it will be two years from 2010 and who knows what hornet’s nest we stumble upon next. Already Mr G is saying: Show the slum dwellers the way to Jawaharlal tunnel!

© Sameer

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Of four-letter words

Kashmir Assembly

Scene I, Act II
Play: Who shouts louder?

Dramatis personae:
Akbar, the Abusive: Sharp-tongued, wildly gesticulating. Chair.
Moulvi: Opposition member with a huge fan following, throws fans occasionally.
Mehbooba: Leader of the opposition, will trade anything to be the Queen.
Omar: The scion, damned if he opens his mouth, damned if he doesn’t.
And the sundry.

The house is in session. There have been slug-fests -- drop-kicking, jumping on benches et al -- in the last few days for entirely different reasons.

Penultimate day. Enter Akbar in over-sized headmaster glasses. Slightly boorish, hair dyed charcoal black. More black than Prof Soz’s little moustache. Takes his seat.

Akbar: Let the proceedings begin, ladies.

Moulvi: I object. There are men also present here.

Akbar: Don’t rub me the wrong way. I know where you come from.

Moulvi: You are being partisan.

Akbar: How many parties have you changed? I have lost count.

[Laughs a sinister National conference laugh]

Moulvi [red in his ears]: This is such a shame!

Akbar: We have many shame. Oops, damn this English language. Bahut Sharam hai hamare paas. Apni fikir karo. Your party is shameless.

Moulvi: You sound like a farmer, who never went to school.

Akbar: I don’t have farm-houses like some people.

At this Mehbooba jumps to her feet and butts in. Scarf tighly around her face.

Mehbooba [to Akbar]: You must be the most biased farmer ever.

Akbar: Javo ji, kissi aur bagh me javo. I am the gardener here. And I will not let you pluck any peaches.

Mehbooba: Please remember you are not a national conference worker here, like the one killed yesterday. You are the chair.

Akbar: I am Al-baain. Plough. Get it. [Switches over to Kashmiri for easy cuss-word delivery]
Saeri meel chakvo aabas. [We will pour all your ink into water]

Mehbooba: It is clear. You are full of spite.

Akbar: Not a word will go on records, Mehbooba ji. Not a word.

Mehbooba: We haven’t spoken a word. What will you enter and not enter in the record?

Akbar: Shut up, I take no dictations from Muftis or Molvis. Akbar only gives dictations.

At which point Molvi gets supremely agitated and attempts to throw a fan at Akbar but Allah saves the speaker.

Omar: What was that? An earthquake. Lets move out of here.

Akbar: Beth jayiye. Sit sit. Billions of billious barbecued blue blistering barnacles, what a rude bunch I got here.

Akbar continues his rant. Beth Jayiye. By now all courtiers are up. There is noise, commotion. TV guys have got news of the day. They are pantomiming in front of the cameras. As if describing an assembly free-for-all is the most terrible thing in the world to do.

Diplodocus! Duck-billed platypus! Dunderheaded coconuts! Voices from the speaker’s chamber can be heard.

The yapping gradually dims out.

Curtains.

© Sameer