“I have never heard of Agha Shahid Ali,” says Vice – Chancellor of Kashmir University(Greater Kashmir, March 24, 2015.)
How disheartening can it be! Before blaming him for not knowing the man who glorified Kashmir through his poetry, do we ask ourselves a few simple questions:
1. “Did we know anything about the VC of the University before he was made the same?” The answer certainly is ‘no’. How many of us knew him?
2. “Did our successive state governments ever try to promote art the way it should have been promoted?” No, it never bothered them. If our artists reached some stage, they did it either in exile or were rebels.
3. “Did any minister ever hand out funds for public libraries?” No!
4. “What if some other person tomorrow at the same rank feels sorry that he does not know anything about Maqbool Bhat?”
So, why point our fingers towards the hapless VC when even the students doing masters in English don’t know anything about him and the the students studying Politics do not know anything about Maqbool Bhat?
Now let’s stop blaming and questioning eachother and arrive at the solution of the problem and let me extend my viewpoint to the role teachers can play to get us through the challenges we are facing because they are the only community in whose hands the remedy of the problem hangs around.
And from here, let me dedicate this column to the teachers of Kashmir-
A teacher is a highly respected individual and enjoys the highest social status in any society. A teacher acts as an agent in the intellectual and behavioral development of humans. Mentalities of individuals and communities are exposed by the quality of education they receive. Kashmir has a rich history of producing great educationists and proficient teachers who have set examples by not letting teaching become a mere job of spending some hours around educational institutions. However, with the inception of violence and unrest, and more importantly the changing teacher-student relationships, our education system received a number of strains and as anticipated, communication on both sides of the teacher-student relationship got altered.
Teachers in the contemporary Kashmir have got a great role to play. Teachers are blessed with influence and intellectual acumen which should not be wasted. A teacher should be concerned about the social problems and should not turn his pupils into mere conformists but to nourish their political aspirations, they should be provided freedom to think upon different matters. The students should be exposed to extensive reading which will stimulate their political and social imaginations. Reflecting and acting upon social and political issues should not be a matter of burden rather the directions of positive change should be common to all. Sociologists alone should not be left to make efforts for the development of societies but teachers have to play their part as well.
Kashmir is also witnessing a sensitive stage where students should keep away from running after fascists and turn to their own men, own history and own literature. There should be no hesitation in making the school lawns and classrooms hubs of political thought and activity. Kashmir also does not need professionals with pithless careers rather it needs its people to be acquaint and active about the existing social problems.
“I will die, in autumn, in Kashmir
and the shadowed routine of each vein
will almost be news, the blood censored,
for the Saffron Sun and The Times of Rain.”
~The Last Saffron, Agha Shahid Ali
‘Know your heroes!’