MARGINALIA: Let us ‘un-green’ our Valley

The colour green in many cultures and civilizations is deemed a colour of freshness and fertility, often associated with resurrection and regeneration because it is central to nature, and therefore also a colour adopted by environmentalists, who spread the message of going green across the world. The earliest known reference to the colour is in the ancient Greek civilisation and mythology. Green is the colour of love associated with both Venus, the Roman goddess and Aphrodite, the Greek goddess. In its most negative avtar, green is the colour of envy.

But here in Jammu and Kashmir, green, especially if it is accompanied with the heavenly star and a crescent is something that can make the government see red. That is why on Eid, earlier this week, two boys were arrested for wearing green shirts with a star and a crescent. The arrest was provoked by a complaint from a Hindutva activist, who claimed that green with a star and a crescent symbolised Pakistan flag. The police, which has been fed with abundant official paranoia against the public unquestioningly followed the illogical belief. Yet another teenager was arrested the same day for wearing what was deemed a Pakistani sports T-shirt, made in Ludhiana.

If people are now going to be arrested, not for what they are or what they do but for what they wear, why is it that manufacturers are allowed to produce such attires and then market them? Why is it that green with a crescent and a star, also coincidentally symbols of both Islam and Pakistan, should be deemed as offensive? There are a whole range of clothes and accessories in the Indian markets with flags and symbols of other countries – motifs of Canada’s maple leaf are popular, so is Britain’s Union Jack which Indians fought just over half a century ago. America’s stars and stripes continue to be hot favourites. So are T-shirts with imprint of Che Guevara, the Argentine Marxist revolutionary and guerilla leader who has inspired rebellion among youth across the globe. Even the motif of dragons, often associated with China, makes nobody red with embarrassment, then why the colour green? Does it not reflect the government’s excessive obsession with Pakistan so much so that everything – from colours and food to music and culture – is looked upon with a jaundiced eye? Where is this obsession going to lead us? Today it is illegitimising wearing green with or without a crescent and a star, tomorrow it may be a blanket ban on the colour green and perhaps, also the celestial bodies. Would there be an official directive soon to ban all trees and plants that are green? Would it be forbidden to watch the star and the crescent of the moon, except under express supervision?

The genesis of the absurdity of this exercise lies in the excessive paranoia that the government suffers from, this terror itself fuelled by excessive suspicions, distrust and insecurity. This paranoia neither begins nor ends revealing itself in colours or what people wear. The two Eid incidents are part of a larger canvas of random arrests and actions, merely based on suspicion or insecurity. Such arrests have been commonplace since 2010, with people being picked up to be detained or let off after a humiliating round of questions on the slightest of suspicion or for expressing their will on facebook and other social networking walls. It is the same paranoia at work when separatist leaders are kept under restrictions, practically round the year, even on occasions of Eid and weddings in their families.

The logic used is that the leaders would foment trouble even as the same old song of normalcy, whose one stanza revolves around irrelevance of separatists, is invoked every now and then to claim as an achievement of the government. If the separatists are so irrelevant, then how does the government expect crowds to be swayed by them into some kind of a provocation and outrage? And why if everything is alright and perfectly normal, public be so senseless as to be provoked. Any paranoia itself eludes any sense of normalcy in the first place. And, that is the first lesson for any government to learn, rather than go about shadow boxing out of a fear inspired by looming unknown shadows and putting absurd curbs on anyone and everyone who inspires a sense of insecurity – be it the way he or she behaves, talks, walks, looks or dresses up. This shear madness must stop!