What to say…
The renowned American columnist Bob Considine is known for writing the shortest column on record. It simply read: 'I have nothing to say today'.
Bob was too honest to reveal his mind. Perhaps Bob's disgust within and without had reached a flashpoint: he felt wordless. Without being utterly irrelevant or bafflingly obscure, he candidly made such a historical and honest confession.
Without drawing any parallel with a columnist of Bob's repute, it does at times appear quite grueling and challenging for every columnist to comment on anything under the sky. The so-called instant, stir-fry solutions, or just simple knee-jerk responses to local as well as global dilemmas do not always fit in. Columnists do usually find themselves in a creative predicament. This, notwithstanding the kind of assessment, an American writer Westbrook Pegler holds about them: "Of all the fantastic fog-shapes that have risen off the fog of human confusion since the big war, the most futile and at the same time the most pretentious is the deep-thinking, hair-trigger columnist or commentator who knows all the answers just off-hand and can settle great affairs with absolute finality three or even six days a week". That's why, of all the bizarre and disturbing creatures that link up with newspapers and magazines, none seem as preposterous as columnists! From writing copiously for four days or compulsively just once per week, they are the ones who unreasonably presume that their columns are going to create a hell of a difference in the chaotic world!!
All this becomes more intricate for those writing from a conflict area where subject and substance of happenings is wrapped in various layers. The columnists living in a conflict, that too a deadly one, have a tricky job to deliver. Comments, analyses, criticism and observations have to be arduously framed and forced. Nothing can be risked to fob off any of the line. It goes without saying.
And with so much going around, there is a deluge of silent interpretation. The unruly and intractable nature of multiple players as well as problems, leaves comment no more free. Columnists simultaneously do speak and remain hushed. At times, a strangely invisible reproach makes their words blurry.
Year 2009. Shopian Upheaval. The celebrated journalist Prem Shankar Jha wrote in Tehelka columns about the role of Kashmiri intelligentsia. Calling them "chronically disaffected", he went on to say-"Two decades of unceasing violence and the creeping advance of communal sectarianism have cost the Kashmiri intelligentsia its syncretic humanist culture. Kashmir has thus been doubly despoiled" ( 20th June, 2009).
The fact is that columnists from Kashmir don't write while sun shines outside. It is quite demanding to pen down words when life around is dancing death; when moon never smiles on poor ravaged souls; when all promises of world fall asunder; and when beauty of life is mysteriously murdered.
As such, he commentators and analysts of Kashmir can discern the contours of any event happening here far better than those hailing from Delhi tor anywhere else for the very fact that they themselves have been a part of the violent turmoil. The so-called Kashmir experts, passing sweeping judgments while sitting on the fence, have actually despoiled the picture of Kashmir by their distorted and biased research and analysis. And it's, in fact, they who are the 'disaffected lot' since no one in Kashmir takes them seriously. The blinkers of bloated patriotism creep in their columns, even as they may swear as 'most liberal' observers. The scene remains no different in their television news studios. They continue to shout specious narratives.
Yes, objectivity is the first casualty in Kashmir. Something inevitable. The people who report and write Kashmir don't breathe in isolation chambers. Alive and kicking to their immediate ambience, they are just responding the way it ought to be. Perhaps no one from outside knows how awful it must for them to report as well as not to report certain things. This painfully harsh decision makes them chronically and covertly mutinous within.
Comeback. Year 2016. Another Uprising. Amidst all hue and cry, all gore and mayhem, there are possibly many instances when columnists from Kashmir too felt like scribbling: Nothing to say today. With murders and maiming; killings and camaflouges; disgrace and humiliation; and more horrendously, the daily dose of interposed pity and helplessness, there is virtually nothing to say by now.
Bottomline: Every day, every month and every year in Kashmir endows a souvenir of clamor, compunction and cruel consequence. Of loss and longing. Beyond this, what to say. Period.