Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What truly ails MSU,Baroda-New Arty Mullahs or Hindu Fanatics

I am amazed, sorry, perplexed at the way Parvez Kabir has described what can at best be described as a stand-off between a section of students of FFA (fighting for a genuine cause, now mired in political overtones, backed by whom, for what reasons, I guess known to all of us but the “naïve” and/or the infidel) and the University authorities (who are driven by whom, but “the naïve and the infidel”). Parvez’s description of this stand-off would have put to shame the historians (aha art historians too) who have described the great battles of past. Alas for they knew not the holy art of rhetoric as well, for there wasn’t an enlightened (sorry moderately enlightened) modern day Kabir amongst them.Yet one cannot dismiss the vital arguments that the learned columnist has raised (in his rather verbose and overtly passionate one sided version of the stand-off) but that it is a post modern battle, a guerilla warfare, a fight on streets just goes on to show that the writer has for the first time participated in protest of any kind whatsoever and he hasn’t heard of emergency either. Let us objectively and dis-passionately look at what this whole Baroda fiasco is all about in the context of Parvez Kabir’s description of the issue.I admire Parvez’s honesty in admitting that since he is a part of the protestors, he cannot present a balanced story. This to me would have been reason enough to let someone else who could have looked at this problem from a rational point of view, to present this story. Anyways it is the prerogative of the editor and so he has a right to do what he thinks is correct.
read full article here...http://artconcerns.com/html/readersPage.htm

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jashn-e-Azadi-Half truths and Mental Frames

Vivek has never been to Kashmir, he knows Kashmir as any other Indian would, through biased NDTV programs or through newspapers which don’t present the true picture either. Yet somehow what he asked me surprised me. At the end of the movie he inquired from me as to why the movie did not have even a byte from Mirwaiz(in Vivek’s opinion Mirwaiz is the tallest amongst Kashmiri separatists).I had taken Vivek with me because I thought he would relieve me of some boredom sitting through a rather long monologue cum endorsement session of two hours on Shahadat and Azadi.I half knew the answer for I was seeing it for the second time.The first time I had missed some initial 20 odd minutes because I wasn’t allowed into the auditorium for I might spoil the celebration of freedom(Jashn-e-Azadi).Wonder what censorship this was?I had to produce an e-mail invitation from the respected Director to get into the hall, for his authorities were strict on anyone who chose not to obey them. Anyways that’s past now but the spirit of celebration should continue….shouldn’t it…..
I left without answering Vivek.I was far too buried in thoughts of Jashn. I took the road back to my house, not my home dear, that’s already burnt, oh, way back in 1990, the Jashn of Azadi was being celebrated by torching my home in Bagat-i-Kanipora, in the night when we were all supposed to be celebrating Janam-Ashtami in the cool climes of our homes. The morning newspaper brought news of this celebration to the refugee camp which has been my existence since. I am sure a lot of people will say Jagmohan asked Pandits to leave, even for arguments sake taking that to be true, did it give a license to Sanjay Kak’s protagonists to burn my house and desecrate my religious places. I wondered, was that the way of celebrating freedom. Maybe the director believed it was. That’s why although he sat somber on the banks of Rembyaar in Shopian (while shooting for the movie), seeing the pathetic condition of a 5th Century shrine (of Kapalmochana which was now a broken Shivling, a desecrated spring and razed Dharamshalas) he did not deem it fit to be a part of the movie.

A woman whose goat was killed by the fire that engulfed her house and cowshed was shown grieving for her goat. I wondered what would have happened to Mather and Chander, my two cows, did the spirit of celebration (Jashn-e-Azadi) consume them too, wonder whether they were Hindu or Muslim, my father bought them from one Mohd Yusuf in my village.

My wandering thoughts much like the beard of my dear friend Masood often gives me sleepless nights in exile. This was destined to be one such night. I was instantaneously reminded of the curse of Lakshmi on us, Kashmiris

“Nilamata Purana 294-96. O lord, then angry Visoka cursed Kas'mira, "O wicked one, as I have been absorbed by you today by means of falsehood and you have informed Sati about my activities, so your people will be mostly liars, possessed of impurities, hired servants and dishonoured in the worlds.”

What else explains so many gaveyards when we could have a thousand flowers blooming on the same land, I thought. What else explains Kashmiris being slaves for last 800 years? Sanjay Kak does mention our slavery of 800 years in his movie , what he however chooses not to mention is, who were the masters? Who enslaved us..he wouldn’t say? Half truths as they say can be more dangerous than complete lies. Pyare Hatash’s verses have been shown in a manner where an ordinary non Kashmiri viewer is made to believe as if he is also a protagonist of the Azadi. The translation of the couplet from Rajatarangni was wrong and again misappropriated. Calling Kalhana the chronicler of Hindu Kings was a mischief played in a subtle manner Therein lies the game of the movie maker, his adeptness at appropriating the content.

The magnum opus (sorry for my description, but I am yet to see a longer documentary, probably verbosity is a virtue with Kak) has its own figures for dead and exiled. The movie says two hundred Kashmiri Pandits killed and one lakh sixty thousand exiled. The first images that flashed in front of my eyes when these numbers were shown on the screen were of Brijlal(my father’s best friend) and Choti. Brijlal (a driver in Dept. of Agriculture) and his wife Choti were tied to a jeep in their native village and then dragged till dead. When we received their bodies they were chopped into small pieces as if someone had just brought meat from a butcher. Blood still was fresh in some of their veins as it had reddened the body bag in which we received them. What way to celebrate Azadi??? Kudos to the Robin Hoods who did this, kudos to the director for endorsing their way of celebration, sickness and creativity comes in such mental frames, I never knew. Beware… a lot of modern day Neros are around the corner.

When I asked Sanjay Kak the source of these figures he said he had obtained these from some Joint Secretary in MHA, New Delhi. The movie director being a respected man, I had no doubts that he had got them from GoI. When I asked him what’s the source of his figures, one hundred thousand killed in Kashmir since 1990, he strangely had no GoI statistics to support his figures. Who believes GoI anyway? I have received a reply to an RTI saying only 16455 civilians have been killed in Kashmir since 1990.Now who would believe that. If GoI would have been sacred as Kak wants us to selectively believe, we wouldn’t have the movie in the first place.

We have Yasin Malik as a lead character in the movie, someone around whom the movie revolves,(a savior, a Gandhian ,an ex-terrorist in new attire all rolled into one),giving us sermons, telling us how he treads the path of non-violence. There are flashes of Azam Inquilabi and Syed Ali Shah Geelani (as patriarchs) but it conveniently skirts other separatist leaders, leading anyone to speculate whether the self styled Che Guvera’s of today (based in Delhi) are keen to project Yasin Malik alone as a leader of the masses or is there more to it. His presence at the first screening raised a lot of eye-brows and the discussions revolved more around Yasin Malik than the movie itself, with heckled audience putting him in a fix over his past but then as they say ” Every saint has a past, every thief a future”. The lead character says India wants to impose Brahmanical Imperialism in Kashmir. Does our lead character even know the meaning of the term ”Brahman” or was that a borrowed metaphor from Arundhati Roy, which he did not understand but knew how to use.

One of the flashes in the movie says ”Kashmir is the most militarized region in the valley” Maybe it is. I remember as a kid once we saw a Policeman in our village. We literally walked around him to see what he looks like. For all of us he was an alien who had somehow fallen off his spaceship and landed at our village. It was a quite a sight for all of us and some fun too. What then explains the presence of army and para-military forces in the same village when till 1989 it hadn’t even seen a proper policeman. The movie does not mention why the army had to be placed there after 1989.Isnt it imperative for a film maker to show a complete picture and not half truths.

While I was almost sobbing at the images of graveyards, I was reminded of Abdul Sattar Ranjoor who was not allowed to be buried in the village graveyard by Sanjay Kak’s Robin Hoods’. The movie once again fails to present a balanced point of view and seems more like a mouth piece or propaganda machinery at work. It simply fails to take into account any divergent view from the agenda that the director (or whoever influences him) had set to. How else does one explain that no other point of view is reflected in the movie. Who can argue against the fact that a large section of the masses want Aazadi but it would be equally foolish to believe that no other point of view exists. Again half truths come to fore with consummate ease.

This wasn’t a movie on Pandits that’s what Sanjay Kak wrote to me. We can understand that, knowing well what and whom it is about. Wouldn’t it have been better if Pandits were simply not mentioned in the movie than have a falsified and intentionally biased version of Pandits’ pain and sufferings through a minute and a half screen appearance of their abandoned houses.It seemed like intentionally rubbing salt to their wounds. What also comes to fore is the lack of knowledge about the issue on which he has made the movie. His self hatred is clearly visible in the movie, he believes that Pandits have been unfair to Muslims during the Dogra rule. Maybe it is not entirely incorrect, but when I confronted him on his knowledge of Medieval Kashmir (when Hindus were persecuted), the same was found wanting. I cannot imagine writing a column without delving deep into the subject, but then Sanjay Kak is a different person, he can make a movie on Kashmir without even reading basic texts. A good documentary does not take sides, it simply documents and presents facts as they are, the director is never seen to be either endorsing or negating what he shows. When Sanjay Kak explains the meaning and essence of the term Shahadat, the swell of adrenalin is clearly audible in his voice, that’s when he moves from being a film director to an invisible but strong spokesperson of his concept of what constitutes the celebration of Azadi. To prove his point of view he has even borrowed footages which make it look exactly like the sexed up Power Point presentation that USA made to UN as their premise for attacking Iraq.

History is replete with neo converts going that extra mile to prove which side of their bread is buttered but I believe the Director wants to walk all through the Safar-e-Azadi(similar sounding names….wonder who directs whom)to prove his loyalty to the only leader of Kashmir, Yasin Malik.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"A Kafir"

I always wrote the best verse
The teacher would often say
This pandit boy will be a poet one day

My pen drew images
Of Kashmir,
Meadows and pines
Springs and brooks
Snow and shine

Alas, I forgot….I was a Pandit too,

Soon they will come
To take me away
To the cold street
And shoot me down
My blood will freeze
Before it oozes

My verse go numb
My voice, dumb
The azan would rise
And the warriors of God
Will soon find another
Voice to quell
Another pandit to kill

The morning news would read
A KAFIR dead on a cold street

The poem was originally posted here

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A voice called Majboor


Yeh Majboor kya naam hai? was almost a curt remark from my would be wife when her father showed her an article titled ‘The Forgotten Tirtha of Bheda Devi’ by Arjun Dev Majboor. Years rolled by, after her inquiry on Arjun Dev’s pen name, there was little that we heard of Majboor but his verses in Koshur Samachar. His verses reflected sorrow, anguish and uncertainty, but unlike many other poems in the kashmiri section, there was a fragrance of an unlikely dream and effervescence of an unlikely trait that one would call hope. We read more about him and his works, whilst we were in Ahmedabad. One day as I was sifting through the Internet Edition of Greater Kashmir(an English daily published from Kashmir)I came to know about a book written on Arinmal by Majboor. The newspaper carried a story on his remarkable zest (despite his ill health )for unmasking the cloud of doubt that Arinmal (a seventeenth century Kashmiri poet) had intentionally been clothed with by some scholars based in Kashmir. After almost two years of this newspaper report we got a chance to go to Jammu to attend a marriage, what else! The search for Arinmal took us (me and my wife) to various places some boring and some not so boring. Eventually somebody told us to get in touch with one Mr.Sagar who might have a copy of the book. I called Mr.Sagar and asked him if he had a copy of the book, which thankfully he did not have but he had something I would thank him ever after for. To my amazement he had Majboor’s phone number and he told me Majboor had shifted to Jammu from Udhampur. It took me some persuasion from my own soul to conceal my joy of finally getting the book, but destiny had more in store for me than just that. I called the number that Mr.Sagar had given me. Soon I was talking to someone I had known through his poems. After exchanging pleasantries I requested Majboor for a copy of the book. I was pleasantly surprised when he invited us (me and my wife) over for lunch and to get a copy of the book. I instantaneously accepted the invitation, actually jumped for it. The prospect of meeting him set butterflies in my stomach. It was a pleasant winter afternoon when we reached Majboor’s non-descript house in Bohri.We were led into the inner room of the house where we first saw Majboor in person. He looked very much like the picture I had seen of him in Koshur Samachar, except for the pale face and frail physique. Probably all had not been well with his health. He was glad to see us and it showed on his face, but to say the same for us would be an understatement. We were extremely excited. Soon we got talking over hot cups of kehwa. We traveled back in time to see a young boy and his quest for knowledge taking him to the most unlikely places where our mundane lives seldom take us to.He got nostalgic about his childhood and his years of adolsence.His art of story telling transported us to the springs of Zainapora where Majboor spent his childhood and the aura which bore its first imprints on his nubile mind. My wife wanted to know about his book on Lala Lachman (a 19th century bard and poet). She was particularly interested in knowing about “Gade Dhogul” one of the relatively unknown poet’s reflections on the society of the day he lived in. Majboor’s humility was at its full display when he took time and pains to narrate to us the story and the pun involved in it. We moved on to his interactions with Rahul Sankrityan (one of the greatest scholars of the last century)and thus came to fore, what really had transformed Majboor from a simple village boy with a quest, to a man who had come of age. Majboor told us about the time he spent with Rahul Sankrityan at Lahore and how he started to look at things differently and how his interactions with Sankritian evolved him. After meeting Rahul Sankrityan, Majboor was a different man. He was someone who had the legacy of Kashmiri scholarship and tutelage under one of the most balanced icons of communist philosophy. Soon we had lunch in his room which was served on wooden chowki(the low kashmiri table,where one can sit on the floor and have food on).There was a story to them also. These chowkis were one of the very few things that Majboor had managed to carry with him, when he had to leave his motherland, his Zainapora (his land of thousand imaginations).We were equally impressed by his desire to unravel the glorious past of Kashmir.I had read an article by Majboor in Vistasta(an annual magazine published by Kashmiri Pandit Sabha, Kolkatta)about his visits to Kapteshwara, Ganghobeda and Narastan. Painful as it is to know about the places of pilgrimage that people of our generation might never get to see, the vicarious pleasure of someone having seen them is the only refugee for souls like us. Majboor went into great details to tell us about his experience on visting these ancient temples and pilgrimage sites. Bewildered, I thought Maslow should have visited India before revealing his pyramid of needs to the students of psychology. How despite his limited means of income Majboor listened to his heart and traveled on the path which many would not dare to venture on. In the course of our discussions with Majboor we discovered he was an agnostic, a trait not uncommon to the emancipated. The sun was setting on the parapet of Majboor’s rented accommodation probably indicating the ephemeral nature of the houses that we live in and also the metaphysical sense of how time was about to end on the once great Kashmiri scholarship. Or maybe it was time for poetry. Majboor recited to us one of best pieces of work –Raaz Hamsas Kun. It was his longing for his motherland on the wings of wax, probably a flight of fancy which was not to happen but in the realm of imagination. The recitation was immaculate and poetry profound and haunting. By the time he finished reciting the sun had set and the firmament bore the look of a day that passed by both literally as well as metaphorically. Our eyes were moist and taste of the poem lingered in our subconscious for months. With heavy hearts we sought his permission to leave though our feet would not follow our heads. Majboor wanted us to stay over so did we, but we mere mortals had some mundane duties to attend to and bread to earn for our bodies, surely our souls had their meal. On the flight back to Delhi, me and my wife wondered how many youngsters know about Majboor. It was a moment of contemplation that we soon forgot when we got entangled in the web of our lives. We remained in touch with Majboor over phone and soon he expressed a desire to have some of his poems put to music. It was indeed a great thought to take his poems to the masses. The choice of the composer was unanimous, who else but the great maestro himself. Pandit Bhajan Sopori was really forthcoming and helpful in this endeavour. Shamima Azad and Abdul Rashid Farash lent their voices to the poems. The album called Alaav has already hit music stores across the nation. There is very little for me comment on the lyrical content and musical excellence of the album. My favourite however remains “Gayam Vaensa Vanan yath dastanas,dazeth khoth varake varkay aasmanas”. The poem is based on the legendary Gunadi, the author of Brihstkatha.When he recited his verses to the king, the king because of his ignorance ,simply dismissed the verses as ordinary. Gunadi enraged by the kings behaviour went to a jungle and recited his poems. All the birds and animals of the jungle came to listen to him. Even trees bowed their branches to listen to the beautiful verses which the king dismissed as ordinary. Then Gunadi burnt all his verses and the pages went up in the air. Majboor’s despondency is reflected in the verses as is Gunadi’s while burning his verses. The truly great do not sing paeans to the establishment. This was as true of Gunadi or Mirza Ghalib as is of Majboor.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


(Albanian poem of exile written by Blerim Kasneci and translated by Zana Banci and Anthony Weir)

I am old sorrow and past predicament.
Now, without identity in a streetnameless to me,
I am a stranger:
I am longings, I am fears.

The past is years dissolving into memory.
The past is emigration, flight;
the present: yearning and homesickness
dissolving into years.

I am the wandering childlonging to belong
to his lostchildhood
and not be outside the present,
always withdrawn, apart.

I am the homeless child
who grew up in displacement
living in homesickness
and sickness of the heart.

Dead End

Dead End
The road to what was once my home in Kashmir....zuv chum bramaan ghare gachehae..