Kashmiris were mourning the hanging of Afzal, a freedom fighter (previously armed) and a Mirza Ghalib aficionado, at India’s Tihar jail. They were shaking off the last vestiges of a coma-inducing curfew which was imposed to numb any arm-shaking, leg-moving, tongue-wagging or neck-raising reaction and the perpetual pain of occupation Kashmiris live in. And then…
Exchange a name here or there; the scene pretty much stays the same especially for the last 24 years
Kashmiris were mourning the hanging of Shaheed Afzal, a freedom fighter (previously armed) and a Mirza Ghalib aficionado, at India’s Tihar jail. They were shaking off the last vestiges of a coma-inducing curfew which was imposed to numb any arm-shaking, leg-moving, tongue-wagging or neck-raising reaction and the perpetual pain of occupation Kashmiris live in. Mudasir Kamran, a Kashmiri doctoral scholar of English in Hyderabad, was handed over to the police by the proctor for what is known as a minor tiff, nothing that warranted police intervention. Mudasir, as is an established lot of a Kashmiri person, was tortured in custody. He was later mysteriously found hanging in his dorm room. This opened the floodgates of more grief on the side of Kashmiris and more curfew and impositions from the side of Indian occupation and its stooge administration in the state headed by Omar Abdullah, who tries hard to make everyone believe otherwise (to everyone’s immense disbelief). Somewhere in North Kashmir’s Baramulla, Tahir Sofi, a postgraduate in Social Work is making ablution for Asr prayers. He was in mourning for Mudasir too. When he steps out for prayers, he is shot; an unprovoked, targeted shooting by the Indian forces. Hit in the head, Tahir dies on spot. More protests, more curfew.
ACT: NO NUMBER
For all purposes lost, ceaseless, vomit inducing
After this incident Omar Abdullah break into tears like a little schoolboy overwhelmed by bullies at the schoolyard. It seems the specter of his lapdog status hovers before the stooge like a ghost and he begins yapping. Insert here a line from an NDTV report which mocked his act as: “Read Omar wants AFSPA lifted from some places”. A local newspaper describes Omar as “visibly upset”. True to their partial loyalties this newspaper amplifies Omar’s performative bravado saying that he even refused to reply on the Governor’s address which is his constitutional responsibility because he was “hurt to the extent” (to what extent I fail to fathom, just short of not leaving that chair?) and that Omar has no words “to praise my own government”. Omar creates a straw man argument, several in fact, which only point to the delusions he is dealing with.
Omar’s monologic repertoire delves on his powerlessness saying the opposition is right by walking out, and he laments that “they can do it. I am equally pained and grieved but my chair does not allow me to take such step”. Boo hoo, Abdullah, just rise! And see who is sticking to whom? Let go of the chair, not that it will make any difference to me or any of my brethren or Kashmir or do we even care about who is sitting there.
Not enough; Omar is not done yet. He shouts through the veil of tears shed mainly ruing his lapdog status with India and more visibly on the good fortune that his opposition has at the particular moment (Godammit they always manage to look better than him). In a piece de excellence of high theatrical art Omar shouts, “Is this killing of innocents for what we are holding the national flag in our hand?”
This “holding of the Indian flag” at one end is the piece de resistance of Omar’s dynastic theatrics and at the other end it translates into hollow graves, mass graves, unidentified graves, disappearances and undue deaths for Kashmiris who have lost so many fighting and thinking for liberation. It’s a vomit-inducing scenario of holding the torch for those who murder Kashmiris wherever they can lay their hands on them (insert dry heaving from the audience here).
Omar makes an outrageous claim: ‘Mujhe har baar logon ko jawab dena padta hai. Har baar mujhe har goli ka hisaab dena padta hai.’ I am really wondering how this process of accountability which Abdullah alludes to happens. What is the mode of his answering: by curfews, by firing indiscriminately into protesting crowds, more than 1 lac deaths, 10,000 and over disappearances, PSA on 12-year-olds, or the revolving-door PSAs on young and old demographic alike, not to mention the twin demons of AFSPA and DDA which underline the de facto Occupation of Kashmir, its invisible and visible militarization and by constructing fascist documents like the recent Police Bill? I wonder how Omar envisages he answers people and how he thinks he accounts for every single bullet. I think he is referring to ex-gratia relief when he says ‘hisaab’ because in his lexicon, ‘hisaab’ will have to do with money. It has nothing to do with conscience or ethics or humanity.
Then continuing, Omar says something very odd, which for all purposes is an outrageous claim: “Mujhe har baar logon ko jawab dena padta hai. Har baar mujhe har goli ka hisaab dena padta hai.”
I am really wondering how this process of accountability which Abdullah alludes to happens. What is the mode of his answering: by curfews, by firing indiscriminately into protesting crowds, more than 1 lac deaths, 10,000 and over disappearances, the Public Safety Act (PSA) on 12-year-olds, or the revolving-door PSAs on young and old demographic alike, not to mention the twin demons of AFSPA and DDA which underline the de facto Occupation of Kashmir, its invisible and visible militarization and by constructing fascist documents like the recent Police Bill.
I am still wondering how Omar envisages he answers people and how does he think he accounts for every single bullet? The ex-gratia relief or the SRO 43 – those bureaucratic sops that are an insult to any human heart and which even when attempted never materialize (except when heavy bribes are given to those dispensing it and racking up decades). I think this is what he is referring to when he says “hisaab” because in his lexicon, hisaab will have to do with money. It has nothing to do with conscience or ethics or humanity.
After this, listen to what he says further: “Someone is hanged in Delhi. Someone takes the decision. Others execute it. And I am held responsible and answerable.”
This “someone” has a name, Omar, mind you. In your high-theatrics this might have been the epitome of your dialogue delivery finesse but we Kashmiris, to whom you “perform” as being answerable, the ones about whom you kid yourself that “jawab dena padte hain”, and those who have never asked you, or even registered you, are about to take offence. This “someone” cannot be equated with the “someone” in Delhi. They might be the same to you because it seems you have one and only one allegiance, which is to your chair.
Then in wake of Tahir’s death come curfew, street protests, and suspension of mobile internet services. The ban often follows close on the heels of, or even before, a curfew and other coercive mechanisms enforced by the colonial administration. The collective grief facilitated by modern communicative gadgetry which might translate into a grassroots movement against the occupation has become India’s bane in Kashmir while the same technology is its ‘shining’ elsewhere.
Make note that “someone” was Shaheed Afzal Guru, who began living after his death and we all know how that happened. How can you even muster the act of adding your voice to the clamor for the return of this “someone’s” body to Kashmir? And one more thing, we don’t hold you answerable or responsible – far from it. Do not delude yourself with that kind of importance. Kashmiris more than very well know what you are, what you can and cannot do. So do not worry; rest easy, don’t cry and warm the seat till the next act or for the next actor in this theatrical performance of political musical chairs.
Not directly related, terribly contextual, hilarity inducing which you might need to clean up the vomit
While all this is happening on the front stage, in the back-wings Greater Kashmir (my 25-year-old withdrawal symptoms include still reading it) reports that Gulam Nabi Azad is warning of a health hazard. The report quotes from a letter that Ghulam Nabi Azad, I reiterate a Kashmiri by descent and the former chief minister, who currently is the health minister of India, has written in response to a question about cellphone hazards. Azad claims that exposure to radiation from cell phone towers and phones can damage humans. This becomes Azad’s share of mandatory visibility in the broadsheet which seems to have worked out a beautiful ratio of showcasing the colonial apparatus’ who and what (the remaining 3 of the five W’s and the poor old one “H” of the pillars of journalism stay in its safe which grows increasingly large as its conscience shrinks).
I read this report with a morbid interest.
It seems Azad has really done his homework on this, referring to some 1,800 studies done on the cell phone hazard to humans. I may take the liberty of reproducing some impressively technical jargon here which point to the damage cell phones wreak – neurotoxicity, carcinogenicity, changing sperm morphology, fetus, neonate, and offspring autism, spectrum disorders and what not. He indicates strict monitoring and enforcement of revised radiation norms, absorption rate values, compliance “with the SAR value of 1.6 Watt/Kg averaged over a mass of 1 gram tissue” in contrast to “existing designs, which are compliant with 2.0 Watt/Kg averaged over a mass of 10 gram tissue”. So much human tissue exposed to hazardous. It seems Azad has so much to save.
Then in wake of Tahir’s death comes the curfew, the protests on the streets, and of course the suspension of mobile phone services. The cell phone ban often follows close on the heels of, or even before, a curfew and other coercive mechanisms enforced by the colonial administration. The collective grief facilitated by modern communicative gadgetry which might translate into a grassroots movement against the occupation has become India’s bane in Kashmir while the same technology is its “shining” elsewhere. If my memory serves me right, even the puny SMS in many cases has been suspended for a long time now in Kashmir. Confusingly enough there is a whole array of post-paid and pre-paid technicality, which is hard to understand when trying to figure out who or who cannot send or even receive text messages in Kashmir.
Anyway, the only reason I invoked this other second scene in this meta-theater was to suggest in lighter vein that India, in this case Azad (oxymoronic invocation of a name that means Freedom/Liberty, I know) might seem like saving us at a cellular level – chromosome by chromosome, tissue by tissue, only to kill us “whole”; a whole, full-grown killable Kashmiri body. Like the one of Afzal or Tahir and countless others only to arrange an entire unethical theatrical repertoire of occupation around us.
This piece first appeared in Kashmir Reader.