Some years back, a top executive at a seminar organized by a group of mass communication graduates jeered at me for pouring out my heart. Living to my belief that “he who writes his story, inherits the land of that story”, I had said there was no Edward Said or Eqbal Ahmed or Franz Fanon or Mahmoud Darwish amongst us to tell the story of the land to the world outside. It was a lament. It was an expression of disapproval of our “poet-laureates” and men of letters who in their chase for honors and awards from the powers that be refused to see the bloodbaths next door. It was to stir the minds and hearts of our historians feeling shy of narrating contemporary story of the land. It was to prick conscience of “cloaked monks” in our university campuses taking up “sponsored projects’ for ‘satisfying their baser appetites’ rather strengthening the narrative of their land.
I admit my failure, my nib failed to pierce through the ‘Rhinoceros hides’ of “award-loving” crop of poets, writers and historians- you perhaps need to master genetic engineering to change them. Nevertheless, what gives me a sense of gratification is the birth of a whole crop of conscious young writers with high moral sense. Many of our young writers, poets and artists with their contributions have been strengthening the narrative of the land. Through their writings and works, they have been able to tell the woeful story of the land to the world. On seeing our young writers telling Kashmir story through the opinion pages of Christen Science Monitor, Washington Post, New Yorker, the Guardian and many other important newspaper has strengthened my faith that the day is not far away when we will have our own Edward Saids and Eqbal Ahmeds – credible voices that would be heard internationally.
True, many of our conscientious elders from Dr. Altaf Hussain to Dr. Abdul Ahad to Muhammad Sultan Pampori have written books that strengthening the Kashmir narrative but what is heartening to note is our young writers writing goo books telling lucidly Kashmir story. In just past two month a good number of books written by our young writers were published and released. These included “Wadi e Khoon-aab" by Ess Ahmad Pirzada- it is pioneering work documenting briefly life sketches of youth killed during 2010, this book needs to be rendered in English for a wider readership. Another book “Graveyard” penned by teenager Tawfeeq Ahmed Wani about situation as obtained during 2o10 was released in Transit Camp of the Central University and “Paining Voice”, a poetic collection by Irfan from Vasu was released in Islamabad. On Thursday, yet another important book, “Of Occupation and Resistance- Writings from Kashmir”, Edited by a young journalist Fahad Shah was released in a hotel at Srinagar. The release function was distinct for its huge attendance by students and youth.
The paperback book spreading over 264 pages published by Tanquebar Press, an imprint of Westland Ltd, priced Rs.395 needs to be talked in detail. It is collection of article by young writers and by some internationally recognized authors and Kashmir watchers. The introduction to the book titled, “Blood Will Be Avenged” , starts with a famous couplet by Faiz Ahmed- ‘Speak up, for your lips are not sealed.’ The introduction gives an overview of the contemporary Kashmir situation and provides some insight into the history of sixty-five old dispute that has emerged as nuclear flashpoint in South Asia. Like many other recently released books killings of students and youth during 2010 have also provided the warp and woof for this compilation. Stating, how revocation of order of allotting forest land in violation of environmental laws to Amarnath Shrine Board after agitation strengthened peoples belief in peaceful protests and how alternative means of resistance were gaining popularity Jammu and Kashmir in his introduction to the book editor writes, “ It is new wave of resistance that has pierced through every wall of oppression- protest through music, art, literature and social networking sites. Such forms of dissent have great reach, are viable, attract people and make them curious about the cause.” He illustrated his point of view by mentioning about the success of M.C. Kash song ‘I Protest’ during 2010 agitation. The song that became “Kashmir’s new movement anthem”, had attracted international attention.
The introduction also focuses on how authorities have been denying space to dissent by even cracking down on social media torturing and jailing the youth voicing views through social media. Articulating the apprehensions of youth about GOI wooing some resistance leaders for participating in coming elections for harming the Kashmir cause, the author writes, “Many youth have sensed this, and they are taking control of the situation….They are minute in number but their presence is everywhere.”
The book is different than many other collections of articles published earlier; the author has provided voice to the voiceless that have stories to tell. I see the essay, “I Live With The Dead” by Atta Mohammad Khan, gravedigger who has buried 235 bodies of unknown people as one of most revealing and important in the book. “Why I Am I Stone Thrower, by Hashim is another offbeat essay in the collection. This essay provides a deeper insight into a young mind, how beating of his doctor on his way to hospital for duty by armed forces made him a stone thrower. Telling his story very candidly he tells us that how this incident made him to understand the greater cause. “Tariq Bhajan, My Hero” by Saima Bhat, is subtle comment on the “armed resistance” in Kashmir and how the intra-militant organization fighting turned to be waterloo of this “struggle”.
In fact every essay in the book by our young writers, starting with “Pain of Being Haunted by Memories” by Showkat Nanda followed by many others like that of “The Portrait of Stone Thrower as a Blind Man” by Samir Yasir, and “Mausoleum of Memory Portrait of Resistance” by Uzma Falalk provides sinews to the greater Kashmir narrative. For both the writings by our young writers and contributions by eminent scholars like Mridu Rai, David Barasmian, Gautam Navlakha and many others, the book is an important addition to contemporary Kashmir literature