Cooped up in a little apartment in New York, Mir Suhail, Koshur (Kashmiri for the uninitiated) artist extraordinaire, has been struggling, like the rest of us, to make sense of the arcane pandemic. Perhaps the talented cartoonist’s art ensures that he has better tools at his disposal in this endeavour than most of us. On the other hand, he shares a burden all Kaesher (Kashmiris) must bear—the India occupation of Kashmir and the utter lack of compassion for and solidarity with Kaesher by most of the global community. That probably balances out any advantages his art might supply.
Author: Arif Ayaz Parrey
Arif Ayaz Parrey was born and brought up between Islamabad and Anantnag, Kashmir. He studied law at Aligarh Muslim University.
On October 25, 1947, Vappala Pangunni Menon, India’s envoy par excellence, gifted a car to Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Dogra king of Jammu and Kashmir (hereon J&K). Or did he? The exact details of the events of that fateful era are lost behind a perennial fog of war. Some people say that the Maharaja had actually bought the car from the British. That it was one of the numerous vehicles used to transport Muslims of Jammu to the new, temporary border in Akhnoor and Ranbir Singh Pora, where they were disembarked, dismembered and massacred. The charons driving the vehicles would quickly turn them around to pick up and transport more people. The car was so efficient during the exercise, these people conclude, that the Maharaja thought it might impress even somebody like Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. So the Maharaja tried to gift the car to Menon; but he refused to take it, reasoning that it might serve more useful purposes in J&K. Alas! A written copy of the purported gift deed has not survived, so we can only speculate about the nature of the agreement. One thing is certain though, the car became a ubiquitous fixture in Indian-controlled J&K.
Arif Ayaz Parrey tells a short tale from Kashmir about Avtar Singh, a counter-insurgency officer of the Indian Army, wanted for the murder of the Kashmiri human rights lawyer Jalil Andrabi. On June 9, 2012, in Selma, California, he shot his family and himself.
More than a month has passed since India unilaterally broke the treaty of accession it had made with the last Dogra Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Amidst a complete communication blockade, only the foggiest and vaguest details of the situation on the ground in the state in general, and the Muslim majority areas in particular, have been able to waft out. This uncertainty has afforded “concerned” Indians an opportunity to once more pack their woollens (only the light ones, since it is still quite balmy in Kashmir, thank you very much) and book their air tickets (cheap, courtesy the blockade, delightful!) and travel to the ground on “fact finding” missions.
That in itself is not the problem. All are welcome to Kashmir—tourists, well-wishers, tourists masquerading as well-wishers and well-wishers pretending to be tourists. We are nothing if not hospitable. In any case, India has hundreds of thousands of troops in Kashmir. It is not as if Kashmiris have the power to stop Indians from visiting their latest Union Territory.
Kashmir has been an eyesore on India’s body politic for the last 72 years. The average life expectancy in India is only 68.5 years, so there is a danger the eyesore might become congenital. The latest attack on Indian armed forces at Lithpur in District Pulwoam, where a Kashmiri suicide bomber killed more than forty Indian soldiers, can become India’s “enough is enough” moment. While randomly beating and harassing Kashmiris working or studying in various parts of Bharat is a good beginning, it won’t be enough. After all, if killing more than 80,000 Kashmiris and making about 10,000 of them disappear has not taught them a lesson, what will a few beatings achieve? No, India needs to do more.This is my cue. Hear me out.
For long, Kashmiris have been captivated by the power of photography. But why? Why have so many of the world’s greatest geniuses with the camera produced some of their best work in Kashmir? Is it the unique tragicomedy of spectacular natural beauty and a gruesome conflict that has consumed generations? Why are there so many good photojournalists and photographers in Kashmir and why is their number on the rise?
Ever seen a dog trying to befriend other dogs?
No, I’m not talking about dogs in slavery, or, as some people like to call them, pets.
In recent weeks, as another cycle of protests dies down in J&K, there has been a surge in reports of incidents of looting, stone-pelting on civilian vehicles and, particularly, mysterious fires destroying schools and private property. No one knows who the perpetrators are…
“Khurram Parvez, in the front-row of human rights defenders in Jammu and Kashmir, has been arrested late last night from his home just down-street from Gupkar, the street the cream of collaborators, including Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, live and breath in. Khurram had just returned home after immigration authorities had stopped him from travelling to Geneva to attend the United Nations Human Rights session.
At Srinagar, Khurram works with the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). The group is criticised by large sections of Kashmiri society for inserting themselves at a very mild point in the political discourse in Kashmir. People are frustrated that JKCCS’s focus on mere human rights abuse (which people believe, rather mistakenly, rarely includes the right to self-determination) distracts from the main issue of azadi from Indian occupation. “
While the real sangbaaz are busy heroically fighting one of the mightiest armies in the world and their local stooges, some “unknown elements”, allegedly J&K Police Sangbaaz Association in collaboration with IB Stonepelters League, have been busy putting up fake posters in some localities in Srinagar to bring disrepute to the sangbaaz by showing them as misogynistic etc.
We made a few additional posters to demonstrate the name of the game. Check ’em out.
Arif Ayaz Parrey imagines the questioning of Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya by the Delhi police A thulla (passive aggressive term for a Delhi policeman)…
Generations of Kashmiris have already answered the rhetorical question, “Hum kya chahte?” (What do we want?) with “Azadi”—freedom from India. If there is to be any possibility of reconciliation, it cannot be answered with another question: “What about Kashmiri Pandits?” This latter question can be—should be—part of the answer to another question, “Azadi ka matlab kya?” (What does azadi entail?) But for that to happen, the first question must be heard, and answered.
Rumi always has the same questions for him. The first one is, “Can you understand Farsi?” Avtar nods, even though he does not understand the language. When he is awake, it always torments him that he is a liar even in his dreams. Rumi continues in Persian, which Avtar now understands because he has lied about it, “Do you know what murder is?”