Friday, August 12, 2016

The Bourgeois Question and a summer in Kashmir.

As the saying goes, it is always easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them. In Anurag Kashyap’s film Gulaal, which I regard as one of the finest movies ever to have been made in Indian cinema, the rebel leader Dukkey Bana in his fiery speeches urges the Rajputana bourgeoisie that unless they empty their treasures, shed blood for the cause, freedom is a far off reality.


I'm fresh from Kashmir, so I allow myself to take some liberties. Being skeptical is certainly one of them. More than anyone, I kept questioning myself. Truth be told, I’ve never taken part in any Azadi procession, except way back in the spring of ’90, when almost entire Srinagar was on roads, leading a march to UN office at Sonwar. It was a surreal experience. Sitting atop on the shoulders of my elder cousins, I shouted, ‘Hum kya Chahte Azadi.’ That spring of ’90 had some other touch. In me that seed of Azadi was sown I’m sure on that bright spring Kashmir day. Why did we lose it then? Where did we fail? Why couldn’t we nourish it?


Coming back to 2016, this whole month, while I was on my vacation, and state imposed all sorts of restrictions, I managed to sneak a look at social media few times. The last time I checked, visibly irritated, I logged out soon. The glaring difference between what's on the ground and what's on social media disgusted me. Two lakh people took part in Burhan’s funeral, someone else quips deviously, 4 lakh did in Sheikh Abdullah’s. Remember, there were only 11 people on Karl Marx’s funeral.


One of my friends had checked-in at a restaurant in Delhi; Kheyn Chen or something of that sorts. Poor guy was rebuked. People are dying and you're dining. Fair enough. But the affluent class are having their tummies satiated with Maaz and Koker every day. Why then this tendency to turn suddenly into an activist on social media?


The supply has not stopped one single day. Early mornings, late evenings, domestic helps in our part of the forsaken Valley would go out and buy all such luxuries. I, for one, tasted some of the freshest vegetables in K in a long, long time. On early morning, with the grass still wet in our lawn, freshly plucked vegetables were being sold from Piaggio pick-ups. Elderly, mostly retired government officers (Ex-Engineers, Commissioners, HODs) in their snow white prayer caps, would flock together on a curve or a nook inside our lanes, discussing Rajnath Singh's latest blurb. They would quietly retrieve into their homes after another few minutes of meaningless discussion.


Moving on, everyone I met had only one thing to ask/ advice. When are you going back? Why did you come here at the first place? There is nothing left here. Beta, leave Kashmir as soon as possible.
It’s almost as if we have handed over the reins of Tehreek into the hands of few who decided to stay back. Keep the flame of Azadi alive, so to speak, while I secure mine and my children’s future.


The larger point that I’m trying to make is that in the many hues of narratives that Kashmir throws up, we are conveniently silent about this one: the bourgeois have to come out of their comfortable zones and join the call of Azadi. Against the will of the people India cannot hold Kashmir forever. May be not today, not tomorrow but one day India would have to leave Kashmir. We only have to read history. Replete with struggles against mighty powers, the will of the people always wins. In the French decolonization of Algeria, where a civil war was actually fought between the pro-Algerian colonists and the pro-freedom sections of society, the battle lines were clear. At the height of cold war, who would have imagined Russia’s disintegration? However, for us to realize this reality, it’s not just the proletariats who have to fight the battle. The Bourgeois must take part, and in a sustained manner.


Quoting the rebellious Dukkey again in Gulaal, 'Ager tum log aise he bachchon ko videsh bhejte rahe, tou mai krantikari kya Kashmir se laon?' He obviously would not know, we have already left K.