Monday, September 29, 2008

We the People

They were hanging.There was hardly a peg,a tree trunk,an electric pole from where they were not hanging. They came in all sizes and colours. Some were made of old pherans and others of the colourful but torn summer dresses.The noose was tight.It almost ensured that the effigy dies the moment it is hanged..Entire valley had descended into a pall of gloom..People wore black bands and shouted slogans against Gen.Zia-ul-Haq. The day was marked by sporadic incidents of violence and curfew had to be clamped in many parts of Kashmir.
Meanwhile Pakistan went about its business normally.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged that morning.It was a move that evoked widespread condemnation the world over, but protests, only in Kashmir. While Bhutto was hanged in Pakistan, Zia was hanged in Kashmir.
As time passed by Zia became the hero of the masses. He was seen as an icon of resurgent Islam, someone who brought back faith to people and implemented Sharia as the law of land.Many years later when Zia was killed in a plane crash, Kashmir was again wailing and weeping. Many took to the streets.In seminars, held in his memory, he was called the Amir-ul-Moimeen(The leader of the Faithful),the true muslim, the upholder of Sharia. Everyone seemed to have forgotten that he was hanged many years back, in this land.
Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah (love him or hate him) was one of the tallest leaders of Kashmir(both literally as well as metaphorically).People loved him, sorry, adored him. It may be true that most Pandits did not like him yet he had his share of admirers or chamchas among Pandits as well, depending upon which side of the fence you are on. Kashmiris called him the Lion of Kashmir, an epithet that almost personified him. There were lakhs of people on the streets of Kashmir to attend his funeral. They were full of sorrow and wondered how the void created by his death would be filled. His grave was like a Dargah with people pouring out in large numbers to read Fatiya,place flowers and spray Itr(perfume).
Not many years later a movie named,”Omar Mukhtar-The Lion of the Desert” was screened in Kashmir. The screening led to violent protests and people bayed for Sheikh’s blood. They wanted to dig his grave and some even wanted to urinate on it. They all wondered why Shiekh did not fight the Indians like Omar Mukhtar, the Libyan Tribal Leader fought his opponents. A Lion it seemed had eclipsed another Lion.
The arrival of militancy saw many people calling Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah a traitor. They said the title of Sher-i-Kashmir was a title bestowed on the Sheikh by the Indians.Once again the voices wanting to dig him out of his grave got louder and shriller. Police and Para-Military Forces were now guarding the shrine of who was once “the greatest leader of Kashmir”.No one came to place flowers at his grave anymore. No one wanted to spray Itr on his grave.
Suddenly one day two young boys turned up with a small bottle of Itr.It was pleasant surprise for the Policeman posted there. They allowed them to go to the grave.The boys hurriedly emptied the contents of the bottle on his grave and left.As soon as the young boys left, the stench of urine filled the place. By the time the Police could react the two boys had vanished.
Tailpiece:Once a journalist asked Sadiq Saab(one of the Chief Minster’s of Kashmir),about his support base in the valley.Sadiq Saab replied 40 lacs.The journalist asked him about Sheikh Saab’s support base.The answer was still the same.The perplexed journalist asked him,What is the population of the valley.The answer was still the same.

Rashneek Kher

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Dead End

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