It is No Ghetto
I can only weep for this ignorance
NOSTALGIA BY ZGM
My birth burg, wrapped up in concertina, spools of razor wires, barbwire- besieged- a garrison town with thousands of helmeted, gun totting and baton wielding soldiers dotting every inch - looks like enactment of scenes from scores of Hollywood films on the second world and the nineteenth and twentieth century wars against French and British occupation in Libya, Algeria and Sudan that I have seen in my youth.
True, the cavalries, militia, soldiers, sepoys, bayonets and batons for past seventy nine years been as good a part of its landscape as hoopoes, swallows, cuckoos, dove and thrush perching on thirteen Chinars inside Jamie Masjid but with its new makeup looks alien to the people of my generation who grew up in its lanes and by lanes. My birth burg is being discussed and debated over by the New Delhi think tanks on the satellite television channels at prime time and then denounced as the condemned place- a ghetto spreading over six police stations. Many “media-wizards” on these channels have been seeing it as sanctuary of ragtag and bobtails- more dangerous than Sheikh Sin in SRs famous short story The Prophet’s Hair.
When many ideologues of New Delhi, who author India’s Kashmir policy denouncing people living in my part of city as pariahs and political lepers, called for ostracizing and booting down them I wept on our fate and laughed at their ignorance. Despite believing they were blindfolded to the realities I wished they had their childhood in this part of the city to know that it was no less than an open university in politics and international relations.
I was reminded of the graffiti and the posters that adorned walls of houses, mosques and lamp posts- that read no different than those on the facebook or websites about the political struggles and disputes around the world. I even today believe they were the primers of Kashmir politics that wittingly and unwittingly every child learnt, remembered and tried his hand at. I would not be exaggerating in saying that history and politics of Kashmir was spoon-fed to people of my generation, generation after and after in this part of the city. The graffiti and the posters that read ‘we want….’ ‘our demand…..; ‘………is our birth right’; ‘my leader…. Your leader….’ summed up Kashmir politics.
The beautifully written blurbs and bills in Urdu insides most of the shops besides “Aaj Naqad Kal Audhar” (pay to day credit tomorrow”, read, “Siyase Bahach Kirna Mina Hai” (no political discussion please.’ The blurb ‘no political discussion please’, could be seen prominently displayed in barbers, grocers, tailors and medicos shops. I do not know if the bills prohibiting political discussions were displayed under some government instructions or fear of the sleuths that in my childhood were nicknamed as 29/15 for their salary of Rs. Twenty nine and fifteen annas or it was a voluntary gesture to prevent hot political arguments between contending political workers often ending up in scuffles. These blurbs however testified that the society in my birth burg was politically vibrant and intellectually fertile.
Despite taboos there was hardly a shop in my childhood that did not resonate like classrooms with lectures and discussions on politics. It would be recapping what I wrote sometime earlier that I was not an exception, all the children in my age group learnt many lessons about Kashmir politics while having their haircuts on barbers shop- then all barbers in city spoke chaste Kashmiri and most of them for having being witness to an era were ace narrators of our immediate history.
The range of discussions on these shops that encompassed ‘Indo-Soviet Relation,’ ‘Pakistan getting caught in the cleft called SEATO and CENTO’, ‘US Interests in Kashmir’, ‘Clarmont House Boat meetings, Adil Stevenson episode’ and Loy Henderson would humble the primetime satellite- television- wits. I vividly remember having heard the epithets like ‘Radcliff conspiracy ’, ‘Edwina factor’, ‘the Rani-Raj Guru combine’ being discussed on these shops. Then I did not understand the nuances and niceties of these subject- but they often lurked in mind till I took them as part of my study. These topics of high academic merit and value having a bearing on the politics of the sub-continent were not discussed by academia but by common people and political workers professing different political beliefs inside these shops.
It is insulting to call the crucible of social and cultural ethos of this land as a ghetto and the womb of Kashmir freedom struggle as gutter of Kashmir politics. Every mohalla in this part of the city from 29th April 1865 has been scripting its own history of chivalry and courage. The first revolt against the feudal autocracy, against exploitation, intimidation and terror started on the same day from the Zal Dagar Maidan- it was here that twenty seven people were drowned alive. Hundred of denizens of this part of the city were arrested, whipped and tortured.
In great oral tradition the stories of the shawl makers who had raised banner of revolt like ‘Rasool Sheikh, Ali Pal, Qadooh Lala and Sona Sheikh who had died in Jammu jail reverberated in most of the shawl maker houses and passed on from generation to generation- many needle workers mentioned their names in folk songs while embroidering their shawls. I do not know if the stories of the heroes 1865- that I call the people’s hero are any more part of the folk songs or they have been replaced by more gruesome stories in our later day mottled history. I have also heard these names from Ghulam Hassan master needle worker in our Mohalla.
It was politically conscious Muslims of my birth burg that represented against the brutal tax system and discrimination to Lord Reading in October 1924. ‘The memorandum was signed by Khawaja Saad-u-Din Shawl, Khawaja Hassan Shah Naqashbandi, Mirwaiz Kashmir Molvi Ahmadullah, Mirwaiz Hamadani, Aga Syed Hassan Shah Jalali, Mufti Sharif-u-Din and Khawaja Hassan Shah—ironically all living from third bridge to sixth bridge of old Srinagar.
The six police station borough nicknamed as down town has many lessons to offer in democracy to the elite who been denouncing it as ghetto. It was in gathering of fifty thousand that they as back as 1931 elected with voice vote Khawaja Saad-u-Din Shawl, Mirwaiz Muhammad Yusuf Shah, Mirwaiz Ahmadullah Hamadani, Aga Hassan Jalali, Khawaja Ghulam Ahmed Ashai, Munshi Shamsudin and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah for articulating demands of Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir and for getting them justice. Ironically, all the seven representatives belong to down town.
It is not people of my generation only born in this part of the city that have inherited this great and glorious history of struggle but teenagers that were slaughtered for a sport.
I can only weep for the ignorance of the satellite television channel wits.
Lastupdate on : Sat, 3 Jul 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 3 Jul 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 4 Jul 2010 00:00:00 IST
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