What is humour? For centuries, philosophers, psychologists,writers and scholars—from Plato to Rene Descartes to Sigmund Freud to ArthurKoestler—have been trying to find a comprehensive answer. In simple language,humour refers to the artistic method used by an individual to show folly,vices, and shortcomings of certain elements in the society with the use ofridicule, irony and other methods. Most of the time, the purpose is to suggestimprovement. The most common means of expression is drama and literature, butthese days, it can also be found in different forms of media like visual arts,films, political cartoons, social media, as well as blogs. Satire and humourhas been a popular form of expressing political emotions like hatred, jealousy,love etc against the political establishments of past and present all over theglobe. In other words, it is an alternative mode of expression to bring forththe bad governance and selectiveism of government and its leaders.
There is an old Arab saying that 'Humour is to speech whatsalt is to food'. Satire and humour can be traced back throughout history. Therole of satirist in the words of Jonathan Swift is 'to mend the world 'as faras they are able,' 'correct vices and reinstate virtues.' Most of the writersbelieve that 400-word 'tongue-in-cheek' article is sometimes a lot morereadable than a 1,000-word opinion piece – and if written well, could be readby a lot more people. Sometimes satire can make a better point; can bring outthe ridiculousness of a situation in a much better way through creativeanalogies.The players like Jonathan Swift, Voltaire and Daniel Defoe were ableto write more straightforward and direct satires of their times. These writersexposed the sad reality of 'human cruelty', 'divine right of monarchs' and thecounter their political establishment by writing powerful political satires andhumours. Similarly, the book Unreal Elections is a beautiful satire on Indianpolitics that give funnier side of the politics amid the cacophony of heateddebates in India.
Same is true of Jammu and Kashmir. Politics and society inJ&K since the days of partition have undergone enormous change. In conflictridden J&K, where young people have grown up witnessing violence in theirpublic spaces, there are multiple problems. In fact the 'Politics ofK-Conflict' and the policies of New-Delhi vis-à-vis 'mainstream' and'separatism' gave birth to political satire and humour in Kashmir. The saga ofdestructions and the atmosphere of perpetual fear and frequent mourningsperhaps left little room for the funny bones to grow in the valley. However,people turn to humour for a temporary relief from the stress that the conflictdelivers.In fact, most of the people in Kashmir are having appetite forlistening the humours and satires that criticize the anti-people policies. Thelove for humour and satire among the people of Kashmir dates back to decades.The humour element has been inseparable for a Kashmiri society. The comedygenre in the Kashmiri Television industry goes back to Doordarshan days and has only grown andflourished with the entry of internet. Tyndale Biscoe one of the famousEuropean residents who later established a school in Kashmir wrote about thenature of Kashmiri humour in his 1921 memoir: 'The Kashmiris have a virtue, avery important one – viz. the saving grace of humour.'
However, with the arrival of social media and globalchanges; it is easier to generate the humour and satire and reach out to thelarger people. Facebook, Tweeter, WhatsApp, Tiktok, YouTube and Instagram andmany other social networking sites have further amplified the scope of satiresat present times in Kashmir. People now generally share those news items andcontent that take gentle dig at ongoing political establishment and its allies.The young generation of Kashmiri comedians has been producing humour ofdifferent genres from sarcasm and satire to dark humour, finding thousands oftakers online. Making memes and dubbing videos or writing witty jokes are nomore a part time activity, but a fully-fledged job of a talented army ofyoungsters cashing in on the art of making others laugh. Entertainment brandslike Jajeer Talkies, Kaeshir Joke, and Comedy Circus of Kashmir have thousandsof followers on social media platforms. These satirists force society tointrospect and to look into fads and fancies.
The content of the satire and humour is majority timesKashmiri but sometimes the material is in English, with a little Kashmirithrown in; sometimes it's the other way around. But the context is almostalways rooted in the political tussles of the troubled land.There are peoplewho are of the view that humour is the only way to bring back smiles andlaughter to the stoic faces of Kashmiris deprived of a normal existence. Thefact of the matter is that a smile is the 'most expensive commodity' in Kashmirthese days due to the unending violence in the region.
Tailpiece: Humour keeps us going. And for Kashmiris to endthe politics of silence, we need to be reborn as Nazir Josh, popularly known asAhad Razz, or 'Charlie Chaplin' of Kashmir.
Javid Ahmad Ahanger is doctorate in Political Science from Aligarh Muslim University.
Anayat Ullah Mugloo is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Political science, University of Kashmir.