I talk candidly. I speak what I believe in; and write without couching it in what they call as “diplomatic parlance”- perhaps I am yet to learn to draw a distinction, what I. A. Richards said in a different context between “statement and pseudo-statement”. I believe in sharing ideas and not foisting them on others. I respect others views, so believe in, others doing the same- and believe that is the trait of a vibrant society with higher goals in mind.
I was one amongst hundreds invited for a seminar by JLKF on Prof. Abdul Ahad Wani a revered teacher of the Law Department of Kashmir University, known during my student days at campus for his uprightness and commitment towards students. Notwithstanding being a student activist, I never had an opportunity of having a one to one discussion or interaction with him during politically crucial years of the seventies. Therefore, I knew very little about his political ideology and aspirations but many of my friends in the law department often called him a ‘firebrand’ largely ‘a rebel at heart and an anti-establishment’ teacher.
There was galaxy of poet laureates, writers, historians and legal luminaries on the dais and in the front rows. Speakers after speakers spoke about his political acumen, intelligence, articulation, competence and emerging as one of the most “powerful voice for independence” during early nineties. Eulogizing the role of Professor and his earning praise from many foreign journalists, American diplomats and British envoys during their visit to the state speakers quoted from the statements of the visitors. It was said that the American Assistant Secretary of State Rabin Raphael had hailed him as the brightest mind of Kashmir and British Shadow Foreign Minister; Kaufman had praised him for his brilliance and understanding of Kashmir problem in global context. During nineties Rabin Raphael was posted in US Embassy New Delhi and visited the state couple of times. For her statements on Kashmir, overwhelming majority in Kashmir counted her as a ‘friendly US diplomat’.
To my astonishment, I was also called to speak about Dr. Abdul Ahad. After having heard about his brilliance and commitment to the ‘cause’ from speakers in the company of the best minds of Srinagar, I felt humbled…humbled as a smalltime columnist that I did not know much about this brilliant professor who had been slain for his ideas and beliefs on the campus.
It set me thinking, and I said with all humility; let me reiterate ‘After having heard brilliant speakers I am reminded of a book titled Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration by Laleh Khalili. I am yet to see a book like this documenting the lives and sacrifices of the men who have stood for the right cause and sacrificed their lives.
Some years back in this column I had written about this book how Palestine author had emphatically emphasis the importance of the of the commemorating the important dates in a nation, And ‘In the process of revolutions, commemorations become spaces of mourning and celebration, as death becomes a way of living, or creating life, by other means.’ How remembering heroes of nations imbibes spirit of standing on the side of right cause in younger generation and infuses them to work with commitment for their cherished goals.
History of Kashmir is full of heroic tales and sacrifices but how many of these stories have been documented. Scores of people who exhibited courage of standing against neo-fascism during forties and fifties and fought heroic battles against the ‘dominant discourse’ were ignored by official historiographers. This was done with a design to perpetuate the neo-fascism and this neo-fascism was strengthened by a section of poets and poetasters who looked towards awards and concessions…I never considered those historiographers and poet laureates as intellectuals. I said, ‘In fact in contemporary Kashmir I am yet to see an intellectual. Those of the writers, historians and poets chasing awards could not be called as intellectuals’.
I also said that having seen some truthful, honest and brilliant write up by our younger generation during 2010 published in international newspapers from the Guardian to the New York Times or on the online news magazines from Open Democracy to Aljazeera, I am convinced that intellectually our future is in safe hands than it was during fifties and after.’
My statement about the state having suffering for “intellectual bareness” irked one of the speakers and he used some unsavory remarks…In his outburst he asked me to “stop writing”. I am not here to enter into debate with him but want to tell him that I have right to say what I believe- Let me say.
In this column I have more than once written that in contemporary Kashmir an intellectual of Jean Paul Sartre’s integrity, Russell’s caliber, Edward Said’s commitment and Eqbal Ahmed’s activism is yet to be born.
Let me cap this column with a quote from Noam Chomsky’ article, ‘Who is an intellectual’. “. There is no question in my mind that the intellectual belongs on the same side with the weak and unrepresented – Robin Hood, some are likely to say. Yet it’s not that simple a role, and therefore cannot be easily dismissed as just so much romantic idealism. At bottom, the intellectual in my sense of the word is neither a pacifier nor a consensus-builder, but someone whose whole being is staked on a critical sense, a sense of being unwilling to accept easy formulas, or ready-made cliches, or the smooth, ever-so accommodating confirmations of what the powerful or conventional have to say, and what they do…”
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