Geelani, Grandchild and A Gentleman

Geelani, Grandchild and A Gentleman

Pseudo Intellectual

Last month I was travelling to Chennai. In the plane, on the aisle, a middle-aged man of Delhi initiated a conversation to kill the boredom that was about to descend upon us in the skies. When he learnt I was a Kashmiri working in India, he took me for a moderate and non-Aazadi type Kashmiri. I told him that was not the case.

Back home, streets mourned for those who were freshly buried in graveyards, and homes were in grief for those in hospitals who had been maimed for the lifetime. At such an occasion, when one asks you about home, all you describe are the flames that engulf it. You do not move beyond that description because that becomes difficult and painful.

This Delhi’s gentleman, like most of his type, was quick to identify the problem and its solution. He did so without much anticipation and it seemed that he had been waiting all his lifetime to meet a Kashmiri and preach him his mantra.

His beliefs were deep rooted in his patriotic self. He could not be convinced. The curse of patriotism and nationalism is that it blinds you beyond reason.

The first thing he talked about Kashmir was a clichéd-media-created-propaganda about Geelani and other Hurriyat leaders. That overused punch line of India’s experts on Kashmir – Geelani’s own children live in luxury while the common man’s children die.

If you are a freedom lover and highly allergic to irrational conversations, then you can relate to the feeling I experienced when this gentleman uttered this sentence. But I found no reason to respond. His beliefs were deep rooted in his patriotic self. He could not be convinced. The curse of patriotism and nationalism is that it blinds you beyond reason.

Earlier this morning, I came across a long headline in today’s Indian Express that read: Kashmir Unrest: Hurriyat chairman Geelani has bandh calendar for every school except that of his grandchild

Little birds said the order to write this story came directly from the Delhi office of The Indian Express and its reporter in Kashmir was bound to obey. So that goes to tell how Indian media misses no opportunity to find faults in the just struggle of Kashmir and demoralize the leadership and the cause.

The headline tries to convey that Geelani, who along with other leaders have been issuing weekly shutdown calendars, absolves his grandchild – or his family for that matter – from the protests and shutdowns. That is very misleading.

Throughout the story, it is very evident that only after the school authorities ‘forced’ the students to appear in exams, Geelani’s grandchild, like hundreds of others, was compelled to sit in the test. Where does the Geelani’s role in the school’s decision surface from?

Geelani’s grandchild or his family is no special or extraordinary than any other’s. They are part of a social setup of which every ordinary person in Kashmir is a part. Also, Geelani’s family do not represent him. He stands for himself and is accountable for his owns deeds.

Here the story is not Geelani’s granddaughter appeared in exam despite a shutdown call but how government risked the lives of hundreds of students by conducting exams just to drape a façade of normalcy.

Little birds said the order to write this story came directly from the Delhi office of The Indian Express and its reporter in Kashmir was bound to obey. So that goes to tell how Indian media misses no opportunity to find faults in the just struggle of Kashmir and demoralize the leadership and the cause.

It is Indian media’s old practice to calculate faults of Kashmiris and turn a blind eye to the wrongs that are being done to the common people. It did not occur to Indian media that from last six years Geelani has been under house arrest with a hiatus of few months.

This is not new to Kashmir. Earlier Indian media ran news for days telling its passive audience how the children of Hurriyat leaders were living luxurious lives and studying abroad – which was mostly false. Even if they were staying abroad and not part of the freedom struggle, how does that make Geelani’s role as a leader, dubious? Geelani does not represent his children but the sentiments of those who are fighting for a just cause.

When I got off the plane, I asked this gentleman how he felt about Arnab Goswami. “He is the proud son of Bharat,” he said. I smiled and hurried away.

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Nobody Deserves To Die, Not Even A Stone-Thrower

Nobody Deserves To Die, Not Even A Stone-Thrower

Pseudo Intellectual

This is a war going on in Kashmir. Let there be no doubt in that. And in the act of resistance, for the sake of truth and justice, all those who participate and die are martyrs of the highest stature. Also, all those who die in such acts of resistance are innocents who were pushed to the extremes.

We are fighting a very complex war where even words are dangerously capable of bringing a drastic change. Our stories entail grief, inspirations and lessons of resistance. In no way should they infer a divide between those who act directly and indirectly in the resistance movement.

Since July 9 this year, around 70 people have been murdered by Indian forces. All of them were innocents in the first place. Some of them were murdered while they were participating in processions, some were fired at while they throwing stones, as an act of resistance, at the Indian forces, some were killed while they were just witnessing the India’s brutality being unleashed. All of them were innocents, we must understand that.

But in most of the news reports about the killings of civilians, we get to read that a certain civilian was killed even though he was not part of a protest or stone-throwing. “He was very innocent and never threw a stone” or “He never took part in any protest. He was just an onlooker when the protests were going-on” – these statements you might have read so often that you tend to believe that those who participate in protests and stone-throwing deserved to be murdered by the Indian forces.

It’s apparently a very simple statement but it tends to demonize those who participate in the protests. Does that mean those who raise the slogans, paint graffiti, sacrifice everything for the freedom struggle and resist by every means, throw stones at Indian establishments as their last resort, deserve to die because they are not innocents in the eyes of the society?

In an oppressed nation, those who are subjugated, those whose voices are muzzled, those who are not allowed to breathe, those who are denied a life with dignity are all innocents. It does not matter if they raise a slogan, throw a stone, pick up a gun or just watch all that is happening, unless they choose to be with the oppressed.

The oppressor knows no discrimination when it comes to unleashing the brutal murderers. All we innocent and oppressed people – those on frontlines and in homes alike – are the enemies of the oppressor. So let this war be equal for all, let us resist together and believe all the martyrs are innocents.

We will win this war. Today or tomorrow, that does not matter. The establishment of the tyranny will crumble, its arrogance blown into smithereens and the sun of freedom will blind those who blinded our people.

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Of Iftaar Parties, Journalism and Shamming

Pseudo Intellectual

The essence of a good deed is not in its manifestation but in its secrecy. The essence of a threat lies in its manifestation and not in its secrecy. Let me not sound ambiguous or mystify the simple shit. Let’s make it simple by naming and shaming.

Kashmir has set a world record this Ramadhan by holding maximum number of Iftaar parties, excluding the publicity stunts and money-minting events. It is pleasant to see how so many Iftaar parties being held by different people. But what pains me and us to see is that behind most of these parties lies the sole purpose of getting some media coverage…and maybe some money.

Now, take an example of Kathi Junction’s recent Doctor’s day celebration where the food joint hosted a group of doctors at Iftaar as a mark of respect for their marvelous and brave work they do to serve the humanity. That was all done in a good faith and without any underlying agenda, I believe. But a revelation today rubbished this whole generous act. The owner of the said food joint purportedly sent a ‘threatening message’ to an Indian newspaper’s (The Tribune) journalist that had not covered the Doctor’s day celebration at this food joint. Well! Wait, was not this party hosted to honour the doctors with good faith? What does crying over lack of media coverage mean then?

Let me break down this incident a little more to make the things clearer.

All the major local dailies – Kashmir Reader, Greater Kashmir and Rising Kashmir – published the news about the assembly of few doctors in a food joint. That was news to them, in form a PR though. (Remember my last blog, that every space in a newspaper is sacred? North does not remember.)

I do not hold grudges against these newspapers for I have already expressed my anguish in previous blog. I mean, if Sheema Tramboo’s M.Phill degree can be news, why can’t the breaking fast of a group of doctors in a restaurant be news? The definition of news has changed ever since the chain of cafes has emerged in our valley.

I do not defend The Tribune’s decision of publishing Army’s Iftaar party news either. But you cannot use this point as a basis to malign journalism just because a certain paper did not carry your news. Does that mean journalists have to get credibility certificates from these café owners? Does that prove that only if you carry a news item about a petty Iftaar party, you will be considered pro-Kashmir newspaper?

This message was sent by The Kathi Junction's owner to a journalist for he had not written about an Iftaar Party hosted at former's cafe.
This message was sent by The Kathi Junction’s owner to a journalist for he had not written about an Iftaar Party hosted at former’s cafe.

It began from coffee-cup-journalism. The more unwanted and unworthy attention these cafes got, the more they deemed newspapers and journalism their own personal spaces which they could use and molest anytime they wanted. In the meantime, they developed such cordial relationships with the journalists that any good news about them is not ignored. It then resulted into a fame that has no basis except a mere illusion, which today’s threatening messages rendered asunder.

The issue here is not just if the PR item should have been published by the newspapers but how a businessman, for his own interests, intimidates the journalists for not having carried news about his publicity stunt that was disguised as a generous and kind act. This is an issue of how these businessmen look at the journalists – someone who can be bought, sold and insulted. This is the issue of the lost glory of journalists and the essence of journalism. Journalism is not for PR.

The fault lies with the journalists also who give undue and unwanted coverage to the businessmen who later consider media their property and use it to flourish their business at the cost of good journalism.

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Should We Condemn ‘Innocent’ SOG Killings

I and the Public Know

What all Schoolchildren learn,

Those to whom evil is done

Do evil in return.

~ W.H.Auden

Pseudo Intellectual

We live in a state of War. Let there be no doubt about it.

Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen rebels killed three Special Operation Group (SOG) personnel in Srinagar on Monday. SOG is the wing of Jammu and Kashmir Police that is instrumental in tracking down the rebels and killing them in encounters. Among other things, they are known for their brutal and myriad torture techniques inflicted upon the innocent Kashmiris. This should serve as a brief introduction for SOG.

Soon after the killing of three SOG men, the very humane, gentle and moderately-Azadi-loving people started condemning the killings on the humanitarian grounds. The arguments were that the slain SOG men were Kashmiris and grizzled. As if grey hair and white beards absolved humans of their sins and choices they make. If that were the case, Mufti Syed would be a saint by now for his grizzled hair. But he remains to be remembered for his likings for whisky. Whisky truth is bitter truth.

Age does not mean anything in war when you consciously take a decision to fight for a side. The slain SOG men were no doubt the Kashmiri and Muslims but they had consciously made a choice to support the occupier and kill their very own people. If their death should be condemned, what about the martyrdom of hundreds of young boys who died fighting these very men? This dilemma is for those who have misunderstood this war between the men from plains and the Kashmiris only. The war is between a rebel and an oppressor, his army, his stooges, renegades and all the collaborators. This is a war that has coerced the young boys to murder their own dreams and fight for the rights and freedom of their own people. This is a war of existence and when it comes to fight for it, men, women, children and old – all have shed their blood to manifest their existence.

The point is that we cannot shed the same tears for both the martyrdom of a young boy and the killing of an SOG man who in the very first place pushed the young boy to take up arms. One of the tears shed for the two killings is certainly fake. How does it make sense to feel sorry for both the oppressor and the oppressed? This dilemma can be overcome only if we shun our hypocrisy for a moment and look deeper into the system we are living in.


Another Tragedy

There are many journalists who keep the ‘tourism is the backbone of Kashmir economy’ myth floating to keep their masters in Delhi and elsewhere happy.  After the attacks, a journalist from Kashmir wrote a story in haste for the First Post arguing that the killings of three policemen had adversely affected the tourism sector in Kashmir.

Invoking tourism at such times when the concern is Human Lives and the political instability implies the side such reporters choose.

The Indian media has always tried to show the Kashmir though the prism of tourism. And the first thing they tell their ignorant audience at a time of killing is the setback that the tourism receives.

Finding different angles in a story is indeed a trait of a good journalist. But there is a very distinct line between being different and a stooge.


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Criticism for the sake of Criticism

Criticize for the sake of criticizing, that is to say Zaharbadas Zang Senin.

Pseudo Intellectual

With due respect, reverence and regards to the people to be talked about in this piece, I have to make and respond to some points that we all know but prefer not to say.

After the suicide of actress Pratyusha Banerjee, Rakhi Sawant held a press conference where she urged Modi to ban ceiling fans. Her logic was that banning ceiling fans would curb the suicides, because Pratyusha had hanged herself from a ceiling fan. Only Rakhi has a copyright to such logic. And we laughed at her idiocy.

Fast forward to Handwara Killings. Five civilians were killed by Indian forces in Handwara after the ‘alleged’ molestation of a minor girl by an army man. There were protests, shutdown calls, curfews and other restrictions imposed by the government. Amid that turbulence, the families of the deceased were in mourning. No doubt they had given Kashmir five new martyrs, but they had a right to mourn, to shed tears on the unfulfilled dreams and shattered hopes.

Ironically, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who also heads the Home Department, visited the families of the deceased during one of those days when the whole district was put under curfew. And the families met her.

Let’s rephrase it: The families of the martyrs met the woman who heads the Home Department – the department that controls the J&K police department who were responsible for the killings and the creating the whole fiasco. It’s obvious that they were in grief and could not throw a shoe or stone at her (Something she had earned), they could have simply boycotted her.

Later that evening, the ailing old-man who is seldom free, Syed Ali Shah Geelani said, “These families should not have met her (Mehbooba Mufti). We need to overcome our weaknesses.”

But some people, who criticize for the sake of criticizing, lambasted Geelani for this comment because they felt like criticizing. It is cool to criticize, you see.

I have many disagreements with Geelani and his politics but this statement was very well put and a gentle reminder to every Kashmiri who claims to be a Tehreek Pasand. With due respect to the families of the martyrs, how does it make sense to meet and accept the condolences of the chief of murderers and then call her a symbol of occupation after she leaves? Geelani, for obvious reasons, used a very subtle word for this – weakness. But I tell you, my dear curious readers, this is not just a weakness but a big paradox that we are living in since decades.

I came across this article “Introspect Please” today wherein the respected author criticizes Geelani for criticizing the families of the martyrs for having met Mehbooba Mufti. She argues that Geelani must be thankful to them because they had given blood to the freedom movement.

But does giving blood to the freedom movement suffice? When Tufail Mattoo was martyred by the Indian forces, his family refused all compensations from the government. They were also in need of sympathies, empathy and condolences. But they chose not to live in paradox.

Having said that, I don’t mean any disrespect to the families of Handwara martyrs. But if they gave Kashmir new martyrs, whose responsibility is it to safeguard those sacrifices?

The families of the martyrs in Handwara were in mourning and Mehbooba Mufti, like any other opportunist Indian politician, rushed to feign sympathies so that she could tell her masters in Delhi that she was controlling the situation and despite killing the civilians, people were with her, expecting her to heal the wounds with her Healing Touch. At such a moment, the families would have found it hard to send her back from the door. They should not be blamed for this weakness. As Geelani puts it, this is our weakness, not just their. It is the time we overcome it or our sacrifices will be passed off as accidents.

The paradox is that we want Aazadi and end of occupation but at the same time relish the perks from the army and the government or participate in hordes in the gatherings of the pro-India politicians. The paradox is that we accuse pro-freedom leadership of bankruptcy and lack of strategy to take forward the freedom struggle, but do not stop participating in the elections and other such events that is later portrayed by Indian media as a referendum of Kashmir. The paradox is that we are witnessing the dismantling of two decades old army bunker in the Handwara Chowk – a symbol of oppression where dozens of civilians have soaked themselves in blood – and listen to the Sajad Lone, the son-in-law of India’s illegal occupation. (What does that make him, by the way?)

The irony is that this author criticizes Geelani for speaking a bitter truth at a time when it was most needed.

She further writes: “In a conflict zone, like ours, living a life of a political prisoner is much easier than that of a young boy whose eyes are hit by pellets, or of a teenager who can’t attend school and can’t ever have a decent source of income because of multiple PSAs.”

How do you measure sufferings: In kilograms or miles?  Living a life as a political prisoner is easier than… multiple PSAs? Both are the results of an occupation and both are severely unbearable. The young and the old alike are suffering. We should not draw stupid analogies like Chetan Bhagat – Oh that unworthy fuck.

Talking of criticizing for the sake of criticizing, I am reminded of another example.

During the NIT row, Geelani asked the local students to maintain harmony and not to fall prey of the conspiracies hatched by Indian agencies. This was a very positive message to ease the tension in the campus. But some people criticized Geelani for having opened his mouth on the issue. One of the kids went on calling him ‘firefighter of India in Kashmir’. I mean, seriously? If Geelani’s statement on NIT is ‘firefighting’ in favour of New Delhi, then Rakhi Sawant will marry Siddharth Kapoor. That is: Kuch Bhi.

You are not getting my point exactly. Here I am trying to define those people who must not exist because their existence is called Rakhi Sawant – or Irrelevant, to be very precise. And what does Rakhi Sawant do? No! Not that, you naughty, naughty fellow. She tries to seek attention.

But then having observed this whole lot, I realized that this a separate section of our society that is dedicated and committed to criticize Geelani for his every act. He walks on two feet and he is criticized that as a leader he ought to grow a third leg. He eats very light meals but he is criticized that he ought to starve himself to death, and so on.

Rakhi Sawant wants attention, so she has an opinion about every-damn-thing. Therefore, she speaks Kuch Bhi, anything. In Kashmir, we have no dearth of likes of Rakhi Sawant. The only difference is that you cannot search for their videos in incognito mode of your web browser, because they don’t have that ‘thing’. Popularity, you filthy mind!

I don’t mean to say that Syed Ali Geelani is righteous nor do I deny that (Paradox, you see). The point is: Why cannot you speak some sense and come out of this Geelani-bashing-attention-seeking kick?

So many rebels have died in Kashmir, most recently in Pulwama district. Now imagine: if Mehbooba Mufti visits the families of those martyrs, how would that appear? Unless you have made some clear distinction between the Handwara martyrs and those in Pulwama, you should look at the both situations through the same prism. If the families of the rebels can boycott the Indian politicians, why cannot others do that for the same reason?

Geelani asked for introspection. Yes, he needs to introspect himself also. But should we be absolved from that? No. we, the oppressed people, have to decide that if we are to take the freedom struggle forward, we have to come out of the paradoxes and criticize only for the sake of progressing. Or we bound to fail.

World is already suffering because of Chetan Bhagat and Rakhi Sawant. May God save us from producing their ilk.

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Kashmir’s Coffee-Cup Journalists

My journalist friend does not have a story idea today. That is the worst thing that can happen to a journalist. Trust me, it pisses you off. And in a place like Kashmir, if you don’t get a story idea, you are not only pissed off but ignorant also. This place is full of stories, you just need to come out of cafes. Yes, let’s begin it.

Manu Joseph envisaged that proliferation of cafes and other places to hangout will make the valley happy and its youth prosper. That bastard emotion, you remember? But Manu Joseph was misled in his insights. He miscalculated it. The cafes did not make youth happy and prosper as much as it added colours to the lives of many journalists of valley. Free ideas and coffees and then bylines.

Before I proceed, let me address these journalists as coffee-cup-journos so that I don’t commit the sin of making a generalization.

One new café is opened in the city and there are more than dozen stories written on the “success” and “breaking the odds” in a volatile place like Kashmir and offering opportunities of employment. Not just cafes, just any shop, any damn shop and that becomes a news story (Not any damn shop actually. Only those shops where coffee-cup-journos get something at discount or free. Coffee or Baradari, what is the difference after all. Both are commodities in today’s age). What journalism are we witnessing?

When first few cafes opened in Kashmir, it was news then. But you can’t just write about every new café that is opened in Srinagar – unless it has something very unique to offer. (Not to Journalists, but to society). Every now and then, there are barrages of stories about anyone who starts a business venture in Srinagar. Why don’t you write about Ramzan Kak who renovated his tea-stall near Jehangir Chowk and has added Kulche to his menu? Well…Ramzan Kak does not offer anything for free and he makes no friends. Sorry, you are an un-newsy old man!

Journalism says to show and not to tell. Let me show you a few examples where you will agree with me (I am a non-entity, think again) that our journalists have found Manu Joseph’s happiness. I swear they have.

Showkat Nanda, an inspiring photojournalist and a wonderful person we have ever seen, was recently awarded the Magnum Emergency Fund Grant 2016. That made us all proud. One of the food outlets in the Srinagar decided to felicitate him. A few people gathered that included some students and journalists – reportedly. It is good if you wish someone and make them feel that we are part of their happiness. But does this small gathering and felicitation at a café qualify for news? If you are trying to say yes, then please tell me why should not it be a news that Showkat Nanda’s cousin’s young son’s friend’s father’s daughter’s brother-in-law’s cousin wished him on his success and prayed for his further success? I see no difference between the two! (Jenab, please WhatsApp me this distant person’s number and let me know if he owns a café.)

But, my dear journalist friends have to file something. Since they could not get in touch with Showkat Nanda’s very distant acquaintance, they just wrote about the food outlet. Pretty obvious.

If you don’t believe me, read these stories here:

“A little attempt….” But it qualified for news. This Journalism. Claps.

(Et Tu, Kashmir Reader! Then fall journalism)

No, wait. Where are you going? There is much more to it.

I don’t know how many thousand boys and girls are working outside and Kashmir. But for our journalists, it is a story if they find a Kashmiri girl who is doing well outside valley. Because the word ‘success’ is news at a time when your mind is completely devoid of story ideas. (Why are not journalists born with a bag full of story ideas that would last till they become editors?)

A girl left Kashmir after 2010 agitation. She worked hard and now she is making her parents proud. Great. Another girl, who has been brought up during peak years of militancy in Kashmir (as if we were sent to Disney land during that period) is also outside the valley pursuing her dream-career, journalism. Great, again. But are not there hundreds and hundreds of such examples among both boys and girls? Why does it make a news then? What is the point that the author actually wants to put forward to its readers? (Mujhe Chod Do mere haal pe, Zinda hoo’n Yaar Kaafi hai, Please!)

Here is the link of the story:

My cousin passed his 10th exam recently – first among his siblings, since his two sisters are in primary school – someone please do a story on him.

The tile: Girls Stand for change in Kashmir.

Sorry? Which Change? What was the editor smoking when he thought of this headline?

The author wants us to believe that once these girls set their foot outside valley to pursue their dreams, they were free. OK. And then he asks them about their idea of revolution that they and Kashmir carve, to which all of them unanimously answer (strange that they say it unanimously) “A revolution of ideas and innovations.” OK. Thank you Sir. Now I understood what you are trying to make me believe. Manu Joseph’s happiness? That bastard emotion, again!

And then everyone is under obligation to share this news, because… Baradari.

There are numerous such stories that we come across daily. Pasting all the links won’t be feasible and possible.

Let’s understand that cherishing success has a limit, beyond which it becomes burp – that when comes out, smells pretty bad, like Arnab’s words.

Every single column of a newspaper is sacred. A single line wasted is its desecration. There are better and more important stories to cover. There are stories that need to be told on priority basis. There are people whom nobody knows about but they carry with them secrets of success. Go, find them and write their stories. If you can’t do that, then don’t write at all.  Journalism is not on sale for a cup coffee or Baradari, for that matter.

I am not saying that journalists should not write success and inspiring stories but there are other arenas where they can find inspiring stories. And you can find those stories only if you quit spending most of your time in cafes and start travelling to place where stories are decaying, where people have no idea of what a journalist is capable to do. How many of you have actually interviewed the fisher women and asked them how they manage to feed their large families? That is not a success story or an inspiring story? Oh! Fisherwomen don’t give free fish and they can’t read newspapers. Sorry.

There is a scam in almost every sector, from SMC to PDD, from PHE to Health Department. Dig out and aware the masses through your stories. An old man travelling to Srinagar all the way from Kupwara does not give a shit to how many new cafes and shops have been started in city, all he cares about is his case that has been pending in some office for months or years. If your one story can make his case get solved any sooner, you will be serving journalism well.

Sometimes there is a very thin line between advertisement and a story and these coffee-cup-journos have eliminated that line. Someone does a very ordinary thing and there is a line of journalists ready to report that. (Dopnas Mokhtai, Naaw lagun hai gow Naar lagun)

I deeply respect all the owners of cafes and other shops that often make to news. They are doing a really great job and business. I wish them luck and more success. But for sake of your business, don’t use journalism and journalists to write what readers are not always interested in. Let you do your business and let journalists serve the society in their own way. Freebies and good journalism can’t go together.

What if one day Ramzan Kak decides to make friends with coffee-cup journos and offer them discounts? Tauba Tauba!