Following is a poem titled: ‘Hear me O scribe!’ that emerges out of my interactions with some young Kashmiris. It was a collective feeling amongst them that there was too much focus on the conflict, and as residents of the contested terrain, they became mere subjects for researchers. As one young student quotes a slogan used during many civil and political movements, it was ‘Nihil de nobis, and sine nobis’ (“Nothing about Us without Us”!). Their intent was not to accuse anyone but to question the ontology of the subject and object dichotomy; or in simple words, who can represent whom? This poem is an attempt to reflect upon the idea of representation and inclusion of voices from the field.
Hear me O scribe!
Cashmere, Káśmīra, or Kashmir
A contested land, barge into imagination as a ‘living hell’.
O Researcher! People from your tribe
Often come here, talking about our bane,
Discussing scholarship and commitment,
Talking about ethics, ontology and epistemology,
Vowing to record our plight and pain.
And now it’s you,
You want to record, transmit and convey our stories.
Tell me, what is your gain?
Or it is just for a name?
We are always under the ‘gaze’
Today it is you, otherwise, it’s the State.
Let me tell you,
I am a body, a mere object
For some, a geographical scale
Now, define this space, pick your theory
Add some words like critical, radical, subaltern, and geopolitical
Fit it in a framework, and present your story
Write a thesis, paper or a monograph.
Let me tell you
We are ‘children of conflict’
Who live in a cage, a beautiful jail!
Do me a favor, don’t expunge any word,
Ignore my wailed eyes and trembling hands.
Listen – what I say,
India is a symbol of opulence and muscles,
We live among draconian laws like AFSPA, and PSA,
Our voices are crushed, eyes shut, and pens are shackled,
But don’t reduce it to ‘bare-life’;
Life may seem disturbed or losing its rhyme.
But we don’t give up.
We aspire to be free,
We laugh, smile, croon and go out to dine
Without her (India), we will be fine!
We may seem to be struggling to find our voices,
Which is stifled and gagged.
We want to reach to those,
Who not only speak but act;
Who listen, imbibe and react.
Let me spit, what is our bane
It is injustice, violence, grief and pain,
And some memories buried in graves, bearing some numbers, not even a name.
Do me a favor
Just don’t represent me,
Do not make claim over my subalternity,
Share your space with me,
Let me put some fight
And then I shall arise to write what is right!
Yogesh Mishra has submitted his doctoral thesis entitled ‘Beautiful Prison: Geopolitics of everyday life in Kashmir’ at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Mohali. He is interested in everyday life and the body politics. Yogesh’s primary interest lies in the quotidian within its spatial and temporal settings. He pays attention to the mundane, prosaic, and the ordinary aspects of daily life to reveal the struggles and negotiations hidden beneath the apparent routine.