Tamasha-e-Yogi All Over – Developments and Lessons

In the month of March this year, a surprising development took place across the political center of India. Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu priest was chosen as the  Chief Minister of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh. Not many people knew about Yogi Adityanath. After the news was received across social media sites, many old videos of Yogi began to surface. In one of the videos, a speaker is seen asking Hindus to rape dead Muslim women. This is extremely horrifying. In another video, which has lakhs of views on YouTube (which Yogi would not have expected, of course, except for appearing as an unpleasant surprise), he warns Muslims of ‘Love Jihad’- the word used for interreligious marriages. He warns,”If you take one, we will take hundred; If you kill one, we will kill hundred.” A large crowd claps and answers loudly and merrily to his calls.
Yogi is fast. He is furious and vindictive. He wants to silence people. He knows all the “languages you would like to be answered with”. This rage rarely makes him a statesman.

Yogi and Indian Muslims:

The times are grave for all the Indian Muslims. What do I mean by this? I mean that an extreme right wing is in power. I also mean that democracy is being crippled and threatened. This is documented by Yogi Adityanath himself saying that when India becomes a Hindu Rashtra, Muslims will become second class citizens and that right to vote will be taken away from them. This, according to him, will hamper the communalization of politics in India.
This, however, should not be treated as a novel thing. Congress party has done no better. A slow persecution of minorities has continued for a long time now. Ghettoization of Indian Muslims is a fact. And generally, what has happened in Pakistan is no inspiration to all of us. But at least they are direct in declaring their country as an Islamic State, as Dr. Dibyesh Anand remarked once. They are not riding on the hollow notions of secularism. Pakistan, of course, has to face equal criticism, which is debatable in a separate article. To shorten my point, the great Saadat Hasan Manto comes to help,”Human beings in both countries are slaves, slaves of bigotry, slaves of religious passions…”
Certainly, disappointment is not the answer. Sadness should not take away anyone’s purpose and aspirations. All of us need to believe that we are as much human as anyone. We all carry a voice and our voice matters equally. The participation of Indian Muslims in the administrative system of India is important. Shyness cannot help. In 2012, a meager 3℅ qualified the prestigious IAS. In 2013 again, 3℅ made it to the civil services. In 2016 as well, the percentage remained around 3 percent. (Source: The Milli Gazette- May, June, 2016)
The share of Muslims in Indian politics is prominent. But sadly, the participation is dismal. The political action is not collective, but separate.
Indian Muslims need to identify their true leaders. They have miserably failed to produce someone like a B.R.Ambedkar. Unless life becomes better for the minorities, there can be no peace in India.

Yogi and Kashmir:

Some days ago, famous Pakistani writer Mohammad Hanif said that Modi was God’s gift to Pakistan. I revise his words in the context of Kashmir and say that Yogi is God’s gift to Kashmiri leaders.
There’s no one denying the effect the right wing government in centre can have in Kashmir. Our case, the case of Kashmir has kept the ‘Common Kashmiri'(to use the much hyped phrase) busy, hopeless and suspended for decades now. Prospects of a resolve to the issue are more remote than ever. An ugly right wing is at the helm of affairs in centre. I will not draw history because I would be losing my point. I believe that there are certain things at this juncture for all of us to observe. We all understand that Pakistan has a Muslim identity. India is not for from officially declaring itself as a Hindu Rashtra. How can we, as Kashmiris, be able to restore our identity. Kashmiri identity, I mean to say. Or will our leaders(both Mainstream and Hurriyat) prolong their differences resulting in the erasure of our identity?
The developments are alarming for Kashmiri leaders. At this stage, we should not display “politics of submission”. On the part of Mainstream, there is complete submission to India’s central policies and on part of the Hurriyat, there’s complete submission to Pakistan’s directions. The policies are more obscure and less analytical. When National Conference contends that their motive is to reclaim the position of 1953, how clear they are in their objects is self-evident and self-explanatory. How PDP’s “Self-rule” has become a ridiculous joke is also known to all of us. The Hurriyat has never come up with a significant document that could at least enlighten its own subjects of the models we could live under.
When all of us cry cultural aggression, what does that mean?
It means that we strive to restore our own identity. It means that we stay away from bigotry and religious passions. It means that we seek justice for Wamiq Faooq and Tufail Matoo. It means that we demand dignity, equality and justice for all. It means that we all carry out a march and seek justice for the mothers, wives and children of the disappeared. It also means that we condemn Nadimarg, Gawkadal and Chattisinghpora massacres in the same breath. It also means that we come out of our homes and fearlessly advocate the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits.

PS: Do we qualify to unite as a people? How much we are able to throw away the disagreements between us will define who we are. It’s easy to be selective, but it’s hard to be just and reasonable. Let’s endure hardships and be just and reasonable.

Excerpts published in GK newspaper :
http://m.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/the-right-wing-roar/245663.html

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Kashmir – My Symphony 

Aarif Muzafar Rather

She ached over the summer, her voice lingering with desperation, asking me in a languid note,” When are we going to defeat ‘The Stone Age’?”

I became her militant poet, alchemizing my words into verses, imitating my favourite poets. My voice sprung with hope, retorting back in a militant voice:
When the times are black and the people tire

When the days are morbid and the people tire

When the chains get heavy and the people tire

When the power structure gets over one’s head and the people tire

When the storm is over the head and the people tire

When the people are tired, they rise

When they rise, they croon the songs of freedom

When they rise, the celebration of freedom is nigh

Just another summer, in this inhuman world- as we made our way to the busy autumn- we drew the certain:

The graveyards filled with the nameless, young men and children, those eyes of stones blinding the young men of their vision, the passion of our mothers reverberating the streets with the calls for freedom and what not.
“What else did it take people to bring about revolution?” she asked in a tone of overwhelming contradictions.

It felt to me like I was short of words, having no real face to face the reality before me. I wanted to gather my response, put into words my real state of facts and let her know that I had no hope of making her understand. I responded tenderly, “It takes character to bring about revolution.”

“What if they break our character too, like they broke our will?”

“Beloved Kashmir, character is not broken. It’s not to be crucified. The character is our identity. No matter what they do, they can’t break our identity. It will not be broken by blinding our youth. No matter how heavy the chains are and how long the walls of prisons are, we will write our identity with the blood of our hearts. In the prevalence of enormity, your character radiates. It burns with an undying passion.”

“But why did Shabir, the lecturer, have to die?”

“They were dearest to God and died defenceless. When desperation burns, look up into the sky, the stars there are our defenceless youth. They shine there with the brightest of hopes for us.”

“Was Yasmeen, the young girl, dearest to God too?”

“Indeed, our young women will show us light to the truth. They are the dearest children of God and are conspiring to find a better future for our homeland. They are the pictures of our resilience and epitomes of a truth that the world is blind to see.”

“But I keep thinking of a little boy with blinded eyes who has so much potential to be an Olympic shooter. Tell me, for God’s sake, is he the child of a different god. So many like him, I see every day, dying thousand times a day, were they children of a different god? Why did not God love them and take them to his own kingdom?”

I stayed silent, gentle at my own place, searching for words in the sky. The sky deepened leaving me sighing with a lonely sort of feeling. Again and again I begged for answers but there was none.

Link : http://m.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/kashmir-my-symphony/237967.html

Sombre Memories, Melancholic Thoughts

Aarif Muzafar Rather

http://www.aarifmuzafar.wordpress.com
The idea hit the absent tracts of my mind while I walked along the riverside: 
Public parks are like chronicles of things from which people derive their ancestry. They are a cradle to our melancholic existence.
The more I walked along the Jhelum bund, the more absorbed I felt in the times past. We were alone then. Two young people in love.

I imagined myself as a kindergarten child counting seconds of her recovery over her agony from reading a passage from The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk. We followed the articulation of the passages like two young travellers following a boulevard in the night that leads them nowhere. Kemal, the narrator, who is in love with Fusun, a beautiful shop girl, and is going to be married to the aristocratic Sibel, is in conversation with his father when his father narrates to him the story of his unrequited love. Just when we were about to reach the end of the passage, we both sighed, muttering on a hurtful note,“How terrifying life can be, how empty it all is!” until we found the same expression written at the end of the passage. We felt both surprised and hurtful until she muttered in a beautifully low voice that touched the corridors of my heart, “The language of love and sorrow, my dear, is the same to all the humankind.”

On our days in general, we would cross the footbridge near the historic SP Museum, enter our world of melancholy and feel overjoyed while walking under the shades of beautiful Chinars. It’s peculiarly beautiful how the two places look entirely different, separated only by a bridge. If one looks at the two places keenly, the one on the side of the museum is open or common, unbearable in summers and winters both, busied by a nonstop traffic and sorrowfully made ugly by the perils of unpleasant occupation.

The other side of the world is indescribable in the language of a poet. There is peace, wonder, love, enthusiasm, and above all melancholy. The shades of the Chinars make way to Peerzoo, the place Agha Shahid Ali had walked in his youth. I thought at times how he would have walked the road, lost in his own aura, smoking some different kind of a cigarette brand while sitting on a secret bund. Perhaps he had written his lament on Rizwan on the same bund; who knows! But it is certain that his fragrance still holds the place in a promise of hope.

On any dull day in my life, I would lay my hand on Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. While living in my dormitory I would enquire from literary zealots if they had read the book but every time I did the same it turned out to be a wasteful exercise. I so much wanted someone to discuss with me Toru Watanabe’s love for Naoko, the two characters in the novel. In this wasteful exercise, I would imagine myself as Toru and envy him so much that I took pleasure in naming places in Srinagar after those in the novel.

Certain places are unique without knowing why. I would call my woman during any time in the day, take her around the bund road and sit near the Lala Sheikh restaurant till she covered her face and made herself into a boy and enter the small café to drag hard on cigarettes between sips of tea. This always applied to any journey of Naoko and Toru. A few footsteps away, one could get the best coffee in the world and sip the same on ridges made above the bund while songs of Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan kept playing inside small cafes. This always made us feel like sitting on some peak on a large Japanese building as two young people. Alone. Far away from the world.

Every story has an end, but dear reader, my story has no end. This is no memoir, but a fiction. OK. We parted. But this won’t do. Let me finish it my way:

I visit the Jhelum bund sporadically, I visit the Jhelum park too. I sit across the bridge near RajBagh. The bridge too is a river now. Days are dull facts. Night is a countdown timer. Sky above is a blanket of black clouds. My life is taking path of all the beautiful novels. But I see the fragrance of hope while walking along the bund. I see Agha Shahid Ali talking to me, repeating the Persian phrase, “This too shall pass.” I imagine him repeating in his own aura, “This too shall pass.”

Link here:

http://m.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/sombre-memories/239027.html



Maqbool Bhat – The Man Who Taught Us The Meaning Of Freedom

“It’s 11th of February, 1984 and I am back from my office. After a week long tour through the dense forests of Bandipora, I decide to move home. Meanwhile, a strange kind of silence has masked the roads and near Gulshan Chowk, in the township of Bandipora, a certain group of people headed by Nizam-ud-din Bhat( now PDP Leader) are protesting against the hanging of Maqbool Bhat. Nizam-ud-din is in a dire rage narrating before the people tales of Maqbool Bhat. To my damned shock, almost none in the group knows what they are protesting against. Nizam-ud-din however, urges the group to move and condemn the hanging of the man who had died for his nation- The nation of Kashmir,” my father closes his eyes as he tries to remember what exactly was the time when the town wore this scene.
As my father told me this story, I stood in a kind of dilemma and began wondering whether it was real. ‘Did people really not know him? Was this a kind of treachery towards the great man?’ And today, when I find students of different tracks ignoring the man called ‘Father of Nation’, I feel that people have been treacherous towards him.
Decades have passed and we still do not know about the man who taught us the meaning of freedom. We are witnessing a stage where people are running after fascists and have forgotten their own men, own history and own literature.
When I read Maqbool Bhat today, I get a feeling that he arguably was the greatest leader Kashmir has ever produced. He was a leader of great character and pellucid caliber, a fact that is also endorsed by the mainstream political parties of Kashmir.
He was not a puppet of Pakistan, like most of our leaders have turned today and his struggle was only to get freedom from illegal occupation of both India and Pakistan. By hanging him, India rode on the impression of crushing the freedom movement in Kashmir but it only inspired people in vast numbers.
The speeches, journals, letters and sayings  of Maqbool Bhat aspire a feeling of proficiency in one’s mind. In his speeches, he has strongly ridiculed the ideologies of both India and Pakistan and has raised his voice for a healthy, affluent and educated Kashmir.
In one of his letters written to Mian Sarwar(an activist)  in Srinagar, a reader moves into a great bit of deepness. In the letter, Maqbool Bhat moves from hopelessness to hope and speaks the words of a true revolutionary. It is not a new thing to encounter despair in his words and it is inevitable at the same time, to feel mortified at the loss and sufferings Maqbool Bhat or in general, we people have suffered. He urges us to carry on however, “in this never ending conflict between truth and falsehood.”
Maqbool Bhat also tells about freedom,”When you make yourself believe that you are free, you are free.”
The government of India, after hanging Maqbool Bhat did not return his corpse and we in Srinagar have ‘two graves, two epitaphs’ delineating two freedom fighters, the other grave for Afzal Guru, who was judicially murdered by the same country. When the government of India sets him free, we will roam- from North to Srinagar and we will croon- the songs of freedom.

Tailpiece:
I am writing to you from ‘The Country Without A Post Office’
Where you no longer are
We are with the resistance you offered-
Against the balmy political dozing
Against the bawds of occupying class
Against the erroneous leaders of our homeland
Your memories, your photographs, lie painted here
In our hearts, in our minds

Letter to ‘Ghalib’ – Son Of Mohammad Afzal Guru

Dear Ghalib,
Hope my letter finds you ‘victorious’ as your name translates to. It really is hard for me to write to you but I will try at least, to draw my emotions and love on paper.
Some years ago, on this day, your father was judicially murdered by a country well-known as the world’s largest democracy. The facts of his case were disproved to in vain arguments of ‘collective conscience’ and ‘national interest’.
As you know as well, how your mother and you were denied the last meeting with your father, how the execution letter sent by the government of India reached you two days after the execution and how the corpse of the martyr was denied by the government of India.
Anyway, I am not writing this to remind you of the cruel show of the Indian state but to tell you a few tales.
As a student, I have learnt to be inventive. I try to create something out of the books, the real life experiences, in the middle of the night, during the blaze of the day. Likewise, I tried to write on the case of your father viz, the case origin, facts, judicial developments following the case, etc. but I must tell you that I always draw blank because I begin to think of you. It is not that I succumb to fears and pressures but to emotions and annoyance. By and by, I struggle to write.
Once I discussed the case with a friend of mine who lives in London. Due to his charisma, I thought I would yield better results and suggestions as he shared the thoughts on social networking sites. But it was all in vain. Perhaps it is the strange nature of the case or maybe they too think of you.
You may on this day be remembered of the brutish complexion of the killers of your father and it may lead you to a state of despondency, as human nature is. But remember that hope sustains you and me, the universe.
Back in my university, one of my professors approached me once to prepare an analysis on cases following Afzal’s hanging. In one of the cases it was held,”Unexplained delay is a ground for commuting death penalty to life sentence.” In another case, it was held that there will be no Afzal Guru like execution(concerning the gap between the communication of rejection and actual execution of the death sentence.) I chose not to write. Was my writing going to bring back your father? No!
In these hard and sensitive times, it is impossible to see what lies ahead for us. One seems locked and the question that nags one’s mind is,”Where should I go?” And the answer to this question should be given by your bravery to move ahead in life.
My grandfather told me once,”Do you know why most of the brilliant people fail to deliver(through their lives)?” He always talked to the point during his conversations and I being a kid those days straightaway answered,”No.”. And he said in response,”They stick to the tough times of despair in lives and ultimately fall to life’s challenges.”
You are young and energetic. Build “Ghalib” as life approaches. There are a lot of promises in you. Do not forget that you are not alone.
Be happy.
Much love,
Aarif M. Rather
( Published here-
https://mobile.authintmail.com/2015/opinion/letter-afzal-gurus-son-ghalib-63419 )
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( Plus –
http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/2015/Feb/10/a-letter-to-ghalib-13.asp )
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… Doomsday That I cannot witness

They welcome me into the Paradise, the Hoors I cannot count. A Hoor gazes at me whom I am very weak to describe. I too look at her like I looked at sky in times of solitude and despair.
But then I see you Ami, crying, rending your grey sweater which Abu had bought you on the eve of Eid. I can see the soldiers lathi-charging the crowd in the thick of which you are being consoled by our neighbours.
I see you didi, finding hard to sleep. I see you writing verses for me that I want to snatch out of your hands, run down the stairs, hide inside the wardrobe, read them in leisure and dance to the beats of an unknown song. I can read the lines:

I have prayed for your longevity
I have prayed for your happiness
My buoy-jigar:
You are my zuv-jaan
You are my dil-jigar.

I see you Abu, I see you asleep. You are so hard a creature! Like Ami, you do not burst. I wonder how you survive. I get a feeling of the burning sensation inside your heart. But I wonder how you survive. I see you consoling Ami. I see her dumb and deaf. I see her dry eyes that shed oceans of tears. I hear the unknown song that touches the depths of her heart:

Yaeli ha loal chon chum yivaan
Vaenij ha fatnas chem yivaan
Myaani yaaro tche maa’re kaerthas
Ha balyaaro dagaa tche kortham
(When I miss you
    My heart is about to burst
    My friend, you have killed me
    My beloved, you have deceived me)

“Spare me Hoor, for God’s sake, spare me for a moment. I want to go back to my Ami, tell her that I am alive and convince her that we will meet again in paradise.”
I see you uncle, I see you leaving the home for bride’s home. I see you holding the mini-turban that you had promised to bring me on your marriage. I see you kissing it again and again.
“Give me a hug uncle. Hold me in your arms for a thousand years. I miss you uncle.”
I can feel shivers running down my spines as someone misses me terribly. She is lost in her thoughts:
I regret. I have always troubled you. I have in the end fallen into the dangerous side of the line of love. It kills me. Every moment.
But I must tell her that I am not angry with her. I never was. What was the fun of loving her then!
I see you brother, reading my books. I see you skimming through the pages of the stories.
“You must read. There is nothing great in this world except reading stories. A world is stored inside them.”

Peace to the martyrs of Kashmir!

( Published here –
http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/2014/Dec/3/doomsday-i-cannot-witness-3.asp )
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This time, I died in autumn

I die in every season in Kashmir.
I wake up to the chirps of birds that fly up over the cherry trees; to the scent of beauteous flowers and to the fuss of children leaving home to play cricket.
The unique first rays of the spring sun drive me to the mustard fields where my beloved is waiting amidst the buzz of bees. Ah! It’s charm all round.
I am seldom reminded of the cruel winter that just passed by and I ignore every fact of my existence thanks to father’s words,”It will not happen again. Live positive.”
I tend to forget what happened in the winter when Maqbool and Afzal were murdered, when Zahid and Wamiq were taken away from me and when Tahir was fired from point-blank range. I remember the night when I vanished in darkness running for my life. Winter has been very cruel and I try to live to the fullest the spring of love and hope.
I hope to continue with the charm and a lovely climate is awaited. Serene lakes, ripened fruits, bright meadows is what describes me. I bunk my classes to go for ‘apple-picking’.
They tell me,”Summers are harsh everywhere except Kashnir.”
But I die again as ‘The Stone Age’ begins. This time I do not have count of how many I lose. I lose them in Tufail and Nisar, Rafiq and Bashir, Suhail and Hilal. I die for it does not matter who I am. I may be Khan, I may be Peer, I may be Dar, I may be Mir, I may be Sheikh, I may be Rather, I may be Wani, I may be Mattoo, I may be Syed, I may be Shah. Doesn’t matter!
Autumn is awaited and I tie up my cricket kit. I go across South Kashmir, I move towards Srinagar City, I come back to the cricket stadium of my town because I do not want to miss any action.
I get to home late in the evening on the roof of a bus and I have every right to defend my late coming to the home thanks to the trophy I have won.
I get up again to capture the gold across ‘Char Chinari’. I want to cherish the lovely autumn fall across Polo View in Srinagar.
I take my dad’s car to get my hair cut in the evening and on may way, a doomsday occurs that I cannot witness myself. I am told about it by the Hoors in the Paradise. This time, I leave in Faisal and Mehraj.
I am a human. I hope again. I hope for a warm winter, under siege it may be.
Tailpiece:
I die again…
There is no end to my death
I die everyday
I die in the season of autumn
I die everyday.

(Published here-
http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/2014/Nov/12/this-time-i-died-in-autumn-14.asp )
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