Harud: In Memoriam
There are question to be answered by organisers, and opponents as well
STATECRAFT BY HAPPYMON JACOB
The multitude of narratives surrounding the Harud literary festival in Kashmir has exposed the many deep cleavages within the discursive space of Kashmir politics. If the existence of a multitude of divergent opinions and viewpoints can be seen as an indication of the wellbeing of the discursive space within a political community, then Harud, to me at least, has proven again that in spite of what has happened to and done to Kashmir in the past many decades, the Kashmiri knows how to speak his/her mind out and will do so: and hence any attempt to deny them that opportunity would have to be called tragic.
The stupidity of the Organisors
The organisors of ‘Harud-The Autumn Festival of Literature’ displayed utmost ignorance and stupidity – and I do not wish to mince words here – when they declared that the festival would be an apolitical forum and later when they decided to cancel it. First of all, if literature is to do with society, emotions, culture, life, impressions etc., how on earth can it be apolitical? Isn’t ‘apolitical literature’ an oxymoron, to say the least? If the organisors of the Jaipur Literature Festival consider literature to be an apolitical affair, they have no right to engage in anything to do with literature: they are at best corporate event managers of glitzy literary outputs if they think they are engaging in an apolitical act. Hence, if Harud was intended to be organized along the lines of a flashy corporate event, it’s better that we don’t have it because politics lies at the heart of literature.
The norm-setters of the society have told us that educational institutions are and should be apolitical, but are they and should they be? We probably have the finest and most informed political debates happening in our university and college campuses. I have, over the last decade or so, gained more political knowledge from the post-dinner public meetings conducted in JNU’s mess halls than from any clinically written textbooks of politics. They say classrooms are and should be apolitical, but are they and should they be? I teach issues relating to national security at JNU and every lecture I give at JNU’s School of International Studies ends up becoming a discussion/debate about the politics of national security.
The organisors also cited potential protests at the site of the festival as a reason for canceling the event. But what did they expect? Did they expect that Kashmir is as calm as the Dal Lake and that there would be no security threats and protests? Did they think that since the Indian state has tried to silence the Kashmiris for so long, they would be an obedient group of passive individuals who would say no more than what was required of them?
Why the opposition to Harud was misconceived
The organisors of the Harud Festival are stupid, why buy their stupidity? If claiming that a literary festival is an apolitical affair is stupid, then protesting against that stupid comment to the extent to making the organisors to refuse to host the much needed event in Kashmir is not wise either. While political criticism is, for sure, social service, critiquing something for the sake of it and/or then not doing anything alternative or parallel to rectify the mistakes is irresponsibility.
More so, was Harud indeed an attempt by the Indian state’s propaganda machine to paint the picture that all is well in Kashmir? The Indian government has of course tried to “normalize” Kashmir for many decades. It purchased local politicians, pumped thousands of crores of rupees into the state, micromanaged and manipulated politics there, and its policies led to the deaths of thousands of Kashmiris. But have all these attempts by the Indian state managed to stop the dissenting Kashmiris? No. Have these attempts by New Delhi convinced us that all is well in Kashmir? No. Did the misplaced sense of triumphalism in Srinagar and New Delhi regarding the ‘victory of democracy and the defeat of dissent’ in the Valley witnessed after the 2008 State Assembly elections stop the Kashmiris from taking to streets in protest against the killings of innocent Kashmiris in the summer of 2010? No. Did the visit of the Pakistani rock-band Junoon in May 2008 and their performance at the Dal Lake give us a feeling that all is well in Kashmir? No.
Had Harud been organized in Srinagar as per schedule, would it have meant that all is well in Kashmir and moreover would it have been a victory for the Indian state in Kashmir? No. Was the proposal to hold Harud in Kashmir by a non-governmental organization a conspiracy of the Indian state to paint an “all is well” picture of Kashmir? No.
Whose loss is it anyways?
At the end of the day, when the intellectual dust generated by the debates surrounding Harud settles down, we will need to ask ourselves an important question: who has lost most from the cancellation of the Harud festival? For sure, it’s a loss for art, for the young aspiring artistic-minded kashmirs and their youthful dreams, and most importantly, for our levels of tolerance. I wonder why it is that the intellectuals and writers who voiced their opinion loud and clear against holding Harud in Kashmir kept mum when some protesters there threatened that they would do anything to stop a particular person from coming to Kashmir to attend Harud. Don’t they believe in artistic freedom? Didn’t we hear them cry foul when the Hindutwa fundamentalists publicly posed death threats to late M. F. Hussain for his anti-Hindu paintings? Why is there a double standard?
(Happymon Jacob teaches at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Reachable at email@example.com).
Lastupdate on : Sat, 1 Oct 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 1 Oct 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 2 Oct 2011 00:00:00 IST
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