Of Occupation and Resistance: Edited by Fahad Shah, Westland and Tranquebar Press, 2013, pp. 262, Rs. 395. [A Belated Review]
We helped create a movement and we discovered that simultaneously the movement was creating us. We expressed the movement, and in doing so we found that we were truly and authentically expressing our deep inner self. This seems be the first impression one gathers from reading this brave, myth-shattering book.
This book comes to us at a time when state apparatus coerces, threatens, cajoles, bribes and even kills people for daring to remember that which ought to be forgotten and erased from memory. The book reclaims the past that the corporatized, corrupt and pliant media in collaboration with a coy civil society that simply refuses to acknowledge. The simple act of re-membering [to borrow a word from Toni Morrison] under such perilous present is nothing short of a revolutionary act; an act of defiance and insubordination. A set of essays, short stories, testimonials and an interview provide, or rather redraws the tensed reality of Kashmir as lived and felt by those who wake up each morning to hear the gun speaking in the streets below their homes.
There are two Kashmirs: the Orientalized, picturesque Kashmir of India, of Bollywood, of tourists, and the Kashmir of the Kashmiris. All those who have contributed to this volume have given us a glimpse into the Kashmir of the Kashmiris. This isn’t a sanitized Kashmir of senile Bollywood artists but a Kashmir of coiled barbed wires dotted with bunkers. The present volume has some 27 short and crisp writings; reading them burns the throat. Those who have contributed in this endeavor are also the ones who have in some ways suffered because of the conflict. It has a testimonial of a peasant turned grave–digger named Atta Mohammed Khan who recounts with pity in his ‘I live with the dead,’ how he helped the local police bury some 235 bodies. He narrates that once the police had come with a body whose face had been disfigured and then the following conversation took place, “I asked the policeman: Why did you bring the body here? He replied, ‘We used to bury at Kichhama but there is no space left in the graveyard now.”[pp.71]
MC Kash, a rapper, in his ‘The life of a Rebel Artist’ recalls how as a young child he grew up playing a game called, “Encounter, Encounter.” And later he writes about how he decided to use rap music to bombard the veil of lies surrounding Kashmir. “I wanted to speak out against the atrocities, to be one with my people.”[pp.68]
Any book on Kashmir, one that is authored by them, will inevitably have a long list of barbaric methods of torture that is employed by the armed forces on the local population. Here are some: the introduction to this book informs us that International People’s Tribunal for Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir [IPTK] has already found 6,217 unmarked graves in five districts alone. [pp.10] In Bijbehera, 55 people had been shot dead when a peaceful procession, after Friday prayers, was machine-gunned the Indian soldiers [pp.56]. Again, Sheik Showkat Hussain in his Non-Violent Phase of Kashmir’s Resistance Post – 1947 writes that at the time when Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad was the Prime Minister, “the modes of torture would include pressing hot iron rods over the bellies of the detained and stuffing warm boiled potatoes into their mouths.”[pp.124]
Gautam Navlakha, the well-known journalist in his essay The Matter of Truth, Lies and Manufacturing Consent in a Conflict Area takes on the Indian administration for indulging in the dirty game of “perception management.” The objective of such an exercise is to metamorphose lies into truth and people into statistics. He writes with Chomsky-like disdain for injustice, “Who is at the receiving end of the state’s crackdown and who is persecuted? Who is assailed by bullets and who is bailed out? Who is detained and who is compensated? Who is chased and beaten and who roams free? Which truth is suppressed and which gets paraded as facts? Who are perpetrators of the crime and who is the aggrieved?” [pp.110] In the same essay, he asks that when even according to Army Chief the strength of infiltration has come down in 2010 compared to 2009 from 110 to 85 persons, how can the state explain the continued presence of such heavily armed troops, making Kashmir the world’s most militarized zone. “Militancy is said to be on the decline. Yet there is huge police and military presence in Kashmir.”[pp.107]
Caelainn Hogan in her essay Summer in the Valley reminds us about the mindless tourists who roam about Kashmir (usually these aliens are inspired by Bollywood Cinema that corrupts one’s imagination) and ask questions like: “How far is Srinagar from Kashmir?” [pp.114] David Barsaman, the renowned leftist in hard hitting journalistic piece informs the reader the rust that has set in Indian journalism, “Access to ministers in Delhi or corporate bigwigs in Mumbai are signs of their moral corruption and the desire to get ahead at the expense of reporting the truth. Thus they function as stenographers. They are lapdogs with laptops, and in most instances, become de facto instruments of the state and conveyor belts of propaganda.”[pp.240]
This book not merely reminds us of our crimes, but also gives us an opportunity to set the house in order. This book is a store-house of history, literature, journalistic prose and philosophy. It is a must for those who have grown up learning about Kashmir from India or Pakistan. Here is book where each piece is like a pistol shot in the middle of the concert.
Photo: Copyright@Ajay Goyal