Civil Society and Writers

Predilections of the ‘powers that be’ often do not synchronize with   those of the people.  The theme songs of the establishment and people are rarely same. Historically in our situation, the songs of the authorities and the people have hardly been harmonious. It in fact has been discordance, which has been permeating the notes of the two players.
There is a class of our literati that professed certain political beliefs, grew up with a particular mindset. This class largely remained insulated to the happenings in the state and the society and for such people culture becomes a ‘protective enclosure’ that prevents fresh air from entering at the door. I nurse no grouse against such a class of people, authors, writers and poets awarded by the authorities. Debating on the establishment recognizing them and awarding them is neither my subject nor my cup of tea. I have a different take.

 That ‘culture and politics, power and the arts are intimately linked,’ taking this premise, I in fact want to articulate different point of view. Irrespective of liking and disliking of the ‘powers’ history produces new voices. Whether the powers hear these voices or not they carry more weight than those under the ‘canopies’.  Our state in the post 1990 situation produced in the words of Edward Said, an impressive roster of newly empowered voices asking for their narrative to be heard’. Majority of these voices are comparatively much younger to those under the canopies. This new class of voices, could be largely called as ‘public intellectuals’ that “ insist on truth and justice, and give utterance not to mere fashion and passing fads but to real ideas and values, which cannot be articulated from inside a position of power.… and  advance human freedom and knowledge.”  However, the question that haunts my mind is that what our society has done so far to make their voices get louder and clear. For making, such voices heard there is need for vibrant civil society conscious of its culture, traditions and history. There is need to understand that culture, traditions, history, power and politics are dovetailed to each other.

Has our civil society ever been raising its voice against delinking rather uprooting generation after generation of our youth from their culture, traditions and history? History of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as a subject was scrapped from the school syllabi, lessons about rich culture and traditions of the state were torn off from   the textbooks.  The feudal autocracy against whose misgovernment and brutal tax system our fathers and grandfathers revolted did not dare to tamper with our traditions and culture. The Sikh monarchy (1819-1846), did attempt to play havoc with our culture, heritage and tradition but faced tough resistance- causing them to change twelve governors during twenty-seven years.  Contrary to this, the feudal lords had created institution for persevering the cultural identity and literary traditions of the state. The State Research Department tasked to preserve and translate Sanskrit and the feudal rulers created Persian literature, and the “popular” rulers of the state one by one destroyed these institutions. Religiously history of the state was taught in the government schools and in all missionary whether run by Christens, Hindus or Muslims. It was only in late seventies when teaching Kashmir history in schools   a section of bureaucracy discovered it as promoting sub-nationalism and chauvinism. The then knee jerking education ministry for winning goodwill in New Delhi without questioning removed the subject from the schools. Not only did government schools fall in line but also schools run by some politico-religious organization toed the official line. Neither political organizations nor the civil society raised an eyebrow against this policy.

On Kashmir struggle against feudal autocracy, I see Late Rashid Taseer’s many volume book “History of Kashmir Struggle” as a magnum opus but how many of new generation youth know about this contemporary Kashmir historian and how many of children have read their story. In vibrant civil societies,   people like him are remembered, and even rewarded. Remembering historians that have recorded facts dispassionately is not expected from the establishment-controlled universities but people’s organizations need to do it.   So is true of Shabanam Qayoom- man with sack of books in Urdu to his credit- his five-volume history on Kashmir with all its inadequacies is great material to know contemporary Kashmir history and to understands the intrigues and counter intrigues that have contributed to the uncertainties in the state.

It is hard reality that pen pushers and poets decorated by the establishment rarely become people’s voices. It is the writers outside the “protective enclosures”, which    tremendously influence the landscape of culture and politics. It is moral obligation of vibrant civil societies to hail and decorate its men of letter- representing  the people.

Two of young writers Basharat Peer and Mirza Waheed made Kashmir voice to be heard at the international level. True, there works were internationally acclaimed and they got best reviews in most prestigious newspapers in the world. World class writers commented on their works. They are expected to get international awards but   Kashmir civil society is yet to hail or decorate these sons of the soil.

The civil society- like Samanbal should think of introducing the Peoples’ Award- as prestigious as any other international award for honoring its own historians, writers and poets.
(Comment at Zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)